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GERRY MORIARTY, Northern Editor
Irish Times
30 Jan 2013


The killing of Official IRA commander Joe McCann, who was shot dead by British paratroopers in the Markets area of central Belfast over 40 years ago, was not justified, according to an inquiry by the North’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

McCann was viewed as a leading IRA member by the British army and RUC. Aged 24, he was shot as he was running away from British soldiers in April 1972 after being spotted by RUC Special Branch officers. He was in disguise and unarmed at the time.

‘Should have been arrested’

His wife, Anne, and four children yesterday acknowledged that he was a senior IRA figure but asserted the HET report established that he could and should have been arrested rather than shot. “He should have been arrested at the time,” said Ms McCann, who now lives in Galway.

McCann was something of an icon among republicans in the early days of the Troubles.

He took the Official rather than the Provisional IRA side as the IRA split into two factions in 1969/1970. He was involved in the 1972 attempt on the life of the then unionist Stormont minister John Taylor, now Lord Kilclooney, who survived to lead an active political and business life.

The interim HET report noted how RUC special branch officers recognised him in the Markets area and sought the assistance of British paratroopers who were nearby. When confronted, McCann ran, and evidence at the time from a police officer, soldiers, an anonymous witness and a local shopkeeper “was that they shouted at Joe to stop or they would open fire”.

The HET report continued: “One of the soldiers then fired two warning shots into a wall above his head. He did not stop and all three soldiers fired at him as he ran, hitting him with two or three bullets.”

As he lay dying he said to the soldiers who were searching him words to the effect, “ ‘you’ve got me cold, I’ve no weapon’,” the report added.

The HET found that the original investigation into the killing was “flawed” and overall they ruled: “Even though one of the soldiers said he thought Joe was leading them into an ambush the HET considers that Joe’s actions did not amount to the level of specific threat which could have justified the soldiers opening fire in accordance with . . . standard operating procedures.”

By Vincent Kearney
2 May 2012

Families of people killed by the Army during the Troubles have called for an independent review of claims that the Historical Enquiries Team gives former soldiers preferential treatment.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott has asked Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary to carry out a review after criticism in a University of Ulster report.

However, relatives of some of those killed say that is not good enough.

Soldiers killed more than 150 people in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s.

The killings were investigated by the Royal Military Police, but nine years ago a court ruled that those investigations had been inadequate.

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET), set up as an independent mechanism to review all deaths during the Troubles, established an independent team of former police officers from outside Northern Ireland to re-examine the deaths.

Dr Patricia Lundy is a senior lecturer at the University of Ulster who spent more than two years reviewing how the HET conducted the investigations. Her findings, published last month, made uncomfortable reading for the team.

She has produced a report which questions the independence of its work.

“I don’t believe it is independent. The research indicates that the interviews with soldiers are not impartial, they are not effective and they are not transparent,” she said.

She claimed the HET gives soldiers special treatment by providing them with much more pre-interview material than in cases where republican or loyalist paramilitary killings are being investigated, and criticised the fact that soldiers were questioned as witnesses rather than as suspects.

“It is of considerable concern that there appears to be inequality in treatment where state agencies, in this case the military, are involved, compared to non-state or paramilitary suspects,” her report states.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott responded to her claims by asking Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary to carry out a review of the HET’s investigative processes.

Relatives of a number of people killed by soldiers met Patricia Lundy in west Belfast on Wednesday to discuss her report and the chief constable’s response.

The meeting was organised by the campaign group, Relatives for Justice, which has said the HMIC is not independent because it is a police oversight body.

One of those attending was Margaret Kennedy. Her mother, Maura Meehan, and her aunt were shot dead on the Falls Road in October 1971 when Margaret was nine years old.

She has met the Historical Enquiries Team to discuss the killings, but is not not satisfied with their response.

“I have no confidence in them whatsoever,” she said.

“Our family has been engaged with the HET team trying to get things sorted. They actually know the names of the soldiers involved in my mother’s shooting and know where they are, but they haven’t interviewed any of them.

“We need an independent body to come in so that families will have more confidence. The HMIC is not independent.”

Shauna Carberry, a legal case worker with Relatives for Justice, said all of the families the group represents have the same view.

“They all feel very let down. Many of them had overcome many, many personal hurdles in order to come to the HET table, so for them this is a grave disappointment,” she said.

“Their confidence in the HET is very much at an all-time low and I think that confidence will only be restored if there is a fully independent review.”

Her preferred option is Criminal Justice Inspector Michael Maguire, who last year produced a report that was highly critical of the office of the Police Ombudsman.

The HET will not comment on this issue until the review is completed. But it has pointed out that there have been a number of cases where families of victims of army shootings welcomed apologies from the government and Ministry of Defence after the team rejected the original military version of events.

They include the family of 23-year-old Aidan McAnespie, who was shot dead as he walked through an army checkpoint in Aughnacloy on his way to a GAA match in February 1988.

The soldier responsible claimed he had fired his gun accidentally, but that claim was dismissed in a report published by the Historical Enquiries Team.

The police insist the HMIC is the appropriate body to conduct this review because it is familiar with police investigative processes and therefore best placed to make an assessment.

Matt Baggott’s move has also been endorsed by the Policing Board, which has representatives from all the main political parties as members, including Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

The issue is expected to be discussed at a meeting of the Policing Board on Thursday.
April 05 2012

Independent inspectors are to examine claims the police’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) does not properly investigate Troubles killings carried out by soldiers.

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott has asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to conduct the review of the HET cold case unit in response to the concerns raised in an academic report.

Dr Patricia Lundy, from the University of Ulster, claimed HET investigators acted differently when interviewing former soldiers and ex-paramilitaries. She said military personnel were treated more favourably, were often questioned as witnesses instead of suspects and were afforded more disclosure of material prior to interview.

The HET, which is investigating more than 150 cases involving soldiers, has rejected the criticism.

Mr Baggott informed members of the Policing Board that HMIC will now assess investigative practices within the HET. He stressed that the HET had done some great work in pressurised circumstances and many families were very satisfied with their work.

“That said, I absolutely recognise there are public concerns and concerns around the families in relation to the recent report and it’s important for me as chief constable that I seek an independent way of having a look at those concerns and validating the investigations that involved military personnel,” he said.

The region’s top police officer said Policing Board members would be consulted on the terms of reference of the HMIC review. “We will take that forward,” he said. “I do acknowledge the public concerns and I acknowledge the need for reassurance for the families and for an independent look at these issues.”

Sinn Fein board member Gerry Kelly said the matter could hit public confidence in the HET. “There is clearly a concern that there is a different approach being taken in interviews when the team has been dealing with soldiers or ex-British Army and civilians and it’s this comparison of approaches which I think is an issue of some public confidence,” he said.

Board chairman Brian Rea added: “The Historical Enquiries Team was established as a mechanism to address the issue of historical murders. It is important that the structures and investigative practices of the HET are assessed to ensure the required standards are met and there is consistency of approach.”

The latest crime statistics were also made available at the monthly meeting of the PSNI’s scrutiny body. They showed that burglaries are down by more than 11% from this time last year (1,303 fewer) and the detection rate for serious sexual crimes is up from 19.6% in 2011 to 25.6%. Allegations of incivility by police officers are down by almost 9% – with 54 fewer recorded in the last 12 months. The time officers spend on the beat has increased by almost two hours a shift – a consequence of a drive to cut down on red tape within the PSNI.

By Vincent Kearney
3 Apr 2012

The independence of the Historical Enquiries Team in investigating killings by soldiers during the Troubles has been questioned.

A report from the University of Ulster has claimed soldiers are given favourable treatment and said the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) does not investigate the cases properly.

The aftermath of the Ballymurphy attack in 1971

The HET is reviewing more than 150 killings by soldiers between 1970 and September 1973. It has rejected the criticism.

Among the deaths being looked into by the HET are those of 11 civilians shot dead over a three-day period in Ballymurphy.

All the killings were originally investigated by the Royal Military Police, but nine years ago a court ruled that those investigations had been inadequate.

The HET set up an independent team of former police officers from outside Northern Ireland to re-examine what happened.

Dr Patricia Lundy is a senior lecturer with the University of Ulster and spent more than two years reviewing how the cases are re-investigated.

She has produced a report which has questioned the independence of its work.

“I don’t believe it is independent. The research indicates that the interviews with soldiers are not impartial, they are not effective and they are not transparent,” she said.

She claimed the HET gave soldiers “special treatment” by providing them with much more pre-interview material than in cases where republican or loyalist paramilitary killings were being investigated.

Dr Lundy also criticised the fact that soldiers were questioned as witnesses rather than as suspects.

“It is of considerable concern that there appears to be inequality in treatment where state agencies, in this case the military, are involved, compared to non-state or paramilitary suspects,” her report states.

“There are examples in paramilitary-related history where suspects have received significantly less fulsome pre-interview disclosure. There is no clear rationale for this less favourable differentiation in treatment… the evidence suggests soldiers are given preferential treatment.”

Dr Lundy has called for an independent assessment of the HET investigations by Criminal Justice inspector Dr Michael Maguire.

Belfast-based solicitor Padraig O Muirigh said he shared the concerns raised in the report.

He represents the families of those killed in Ballymurphy, and a number of others, including the mother of Frances Rowntree, an 11-year-old killed by a plastic bullet fired by a soldier in April 1972.

“It is a matter of grave concern if these killings have not been independently investigated because these are some of the most controversial killings of the conflict, ” he said.

“The HET process appears to depend on the voluntary co-operation of soldiers who are then treated as witnesses rather than as suspects.

“The HET isn’t sufficiently independent to deal with such cases. I think the best approach is to have a totally independent unit dealing with British army cases.”

The HET has rejected the criticism.

It pointed out that there had been a number of cases where families of victims of army shootings welcomed apologies from the government and Ministry of Defence after the HET rejected the original military version of events.

They include the family of 23-year-old Aidan McAnespie, who was shot dead as he walked through an army checkpoint in Aughnacloy on his way to a GAA match in February 1988.

The soldier responsible claimed he had fired his gun accidentally, but that claim was dismissed in a report published by the Historical Enquiries Team.

The HET is directly accountable to the chief constable and Patricia Lundy’s report will be discussed by the Policing Board on Thursday.

In a statement, the PSNI said the Historical Enquiries Team “has delivered a high degree of satisfaction to families during the past six years”.

It said the chief constable recognised that concerns have been raised regarding some aspects of HET processes, and that he’ll respond to those issues when the report is discussed by the Policing Board.

The statement said he will also consider commissioning an independent review of HET processes.
March 27 2012

The police ombudsman’s office will double the number of staff working on historical Troubles cases following a £10 million funding injection, it has been announced.

Almost 40 people will address more than 100 incidents referred by police and members of the public.

Ombudsman interim chief executive Colin Lewis said: “It was obvious to me that the office simply did not have the resources to complete its historical investigations in a timely manner.

“The Department of Justice, accepting this, has approved the release of additional money, which is excellent news, particularly for many families who have been waiting patiently to have issues related to the deaths of their loved ones investigated.

“This decision brings some much-needed clarity to the task ahead.”

The extra funding over six years comes as the ombudsman’s office prepares for the announcement of a new ombudsman. Al Hutchinson departed in February following a series of critical reports about relations at his office.

The ombudsman’s director of historical investigations Paul Holmes said the extra money would allow restructuring of the unit, one section dealing with individual matters, another with complex cases and one supporting people connected to the cases.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the PSNI spent more than £4 million on the first loyalist supergrass trial in Northern Ireland for more than 25 years.

Twelve men were acquitted of all charges against them after a judge branded two main prosecution witnesses liars and ruthless terrorists. The trial, one of the most expensive ever held in Northern Ireland, relied on the evidence of supergrasses Robert and Ian Stewart.

Nine men involved in the Ulster Volunteer Force trial were acquitted of the murder of Ulster Defence Association leader Tommy English, including alleged former UVF leader in north Belfast Mark Haddock.

18 Mar 2012

An Ulster Unionist MLA has expressed concerns over the future of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

Danny Kennedy said gaps in the PSNI budget could affect the body which investigates unsolved murders.

“The chief constable has recently outlined a substantial hole in the policing budget equating to £25million,” he said.

“It is important that we receive assurances around the work of the Historical Enquiries Team.”

The Newry and Armagh MLA said he would be seeking a meeting with Matt Baggott to discuss the matter.

“The funding for the HET runs out during 2012-2013 and the operation of this body costs £6million a year,” he said.

“The HET are currently working their way through the unsolved murders of the troubles and there are many families who are waiting for the truth to be uncovered.

“Any reductions in the HET budget will primarily affect administration staff, depleting the numbers and quality of the team.

“We may also see many reports into atrocities, such as the Enniskillen bomb, delayed or postponed. This news will be of great concern to the families who will be affected.”

17 Feb 2012

The family of a Derry teenager shot dead by the Army 40 years ago have dismissed a report into his killing as a “whitewash”.

Manus Deery was shot dead in the Bogside in 1972.

The Army maintain a soldier in a lookout post on Derry walls fired at what appeared to be a gunman about 200 metres away, missed, and that the ricochet fatally injured the teenager.

His family have always disputed the Army’s version.

They have now also criticised the Historical Enquiries Team report into the teenager’s death.

Mr Deery’s sister Helen said she wanted the case re-opened.

“With the information which they were given it is near impossible to come back with the same report that I now have,” she said.

“Letters with different dates, they didn’t even get my mother’s name right the second time round.

“They got it wrong the first time round and I made them take note of that and they came back the second time with her name still wrong.

“It’s a whitewash.”

10 Feeb 2012

There has been a call for the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) to bring forward a review of the original police investigation into the murders of two RUC men in June 1997.

Constables John Graham and David Johnston were shot dead in Lurgan.

Constables John Graham and David Johnston

They were the last police officers to be killed by the IRA in Northern Ireland.

The call follows a meeting between the families of the two victims and the DUP MP for Lagan Valley, Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mr Donaldson said he was planning to meet the HET soon and was hopeful of obtaining a full review of the RUC investigation.

He said: “The police were pursuing a number of lines of inquiry and it’s unfortunate prosecutions were not secured but I think it is timely for the HET to look again in order to determine if the case can be strengthened to the point were prosecutions are possible.”

The HET is working through 2,500 unsolved cases from three decades of the Troubles, largely in chronological order from 1968.

The two policemen were shot dead on foot patrol at Church Walk in Lurgan, a month before the IRA renewed its ceasefire ahead of the Good Friday Agreement signed the following year.

Constable Johnston’s mother Thelma said: “I just want justice for my son and Pearl Graham’s son.

“Before she died she said to me ‘you keep fighting’ and that is what I am trying to do. To find out who were the perpetrators would be great.”

Mr Donaldson said the PSNI have told him the case remains open.

In 1997, prominent Lurgan Republican Colin Duffy was accused of the murders, but months later the charges were dropped because the Director of Public Prosecutions said the evidence was insufficient for a reasonable prospect of a conviction.

He has always denied any involvement.

A claim from Sinn Fein that ex-RUC officers are investigating cases they were involved in has been rejected by the Historical Enquiries Team.

Hundreds of retired officers have been re-employed by the PSNI after leaving with Patten redundancy packages.

Gerry Kelly claimed there was a conflict of interest within the HET

The government’s spending watchdog is to investigate the PSNI’s re-hiring of retired officers as civilian staff on temporary contracts.

Gerry Kelly has claimed there is a conflict of interest within the HET.

“Let me say that the board has become very frustrated at the lack of information which is why we need to go to an investigation here.

“Our job is oversight, it is to hold the police to account,” he said.

The Policing Board was told last month that there are currently 304 retired police officers back working for the PSNI on temporary contracts.

The PSNI has defended the practice, saying the experience of the former officers was valuable and it was only a temporary measure.

By Mark Simpson
2 Feb 2012

**Video onsite

The family of an English soldier shot dead in a republican part of Belfast at the start of the Troubles have publicly thanked the local people who tried to save his life 41 years ago.

Private Paul Carter was shot by the IRA in 1971.

His relatives were told no-one tried to help him, and attempts were even made to steal his rifle.

It was also rumoured that local people tried to run off with the body of the 21-year-old soldier.

However, four decades later, a report by Northern Ireland’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has revealed that people near the Falls Road in west Belfast did help the dying soldier, as he lay on the ground close to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Not only did two men run to his aid from the Falls Road, but they risked their lives in doing so.

The report said: “Two men, who were close by, ran down the road to where Private Carter was lying and carried him to the casualty building inside the hospital.

“As they were doing so, they heard a second burst of gunfire but continued to carry Private Carter to safety.”

The report has been a source of comfort to Private Carter’s family, who live in Brighton, Sussex, in the south of England.

The soldier’s sister, Trudie Baker, said: “We were told that somebody tried to take his rifle from him while he lying, bleeding to death. That was not true.

“The way it was told to us, he was on his own, and that wasn’t the case.

“He wasn’t just left to die. To me that has made a huge, huge difference. To find that somebody wanted to help him, and a lot of people did, that was just invaluable for me.”

More than 200 soldiers were killed in Northern Ireland between 1971 and 1973. It was a frenetic period for the military.

Private Carter was serving in the 2nd Battalion, The Queen’s Regiment, based at Glenravel Street in Belfast.

On 14th September 1971, he was guarding an Army lorry which was delivering medical supplies. He was hit twice in the chest by an IRA gunman.

At the time, his family back in England found it difficult to find answers to their questions.

His sister said: “We tried as a family to find out what had happened. We spoke to the regiment about what had happened and basically it was always a bit of a brick wall – ‘Well, he died while on duty’ they said.

“Yeah, of course he did. But every family needs to know the circumstances around that. For instance we wanted to know whether he had body armour. He didn’t have body armour. The Historical Enquiries Team found that out for us.”

The HET was set up at the end of 2005 to re-examine all of the deaths in Northern Ireland during the Troubles – police officers, paramilitaries, civilians and soldiers.

The team consists of police officers from forces across the United Kingdom, including West Yorkshire, West Midlands and Greater Manchester.

So far, they have reviewed almost 2,000 deaths. A written report has been sent to the families of the people who died, outlining the known details of the killing and the number of prosecutions, if any, which took place.

The HET is headed by former Metropolitan Police commander, Dave Cox.

He said: “It’s a bit of a departure because most police forces would recoil with some shock at the thought of writing down everything about a case and giving it to a family.

“Some people take a lot of comfort and value from what we do. Some people find the process rather traumatic, and some people don’t want to engage. But it’s a very much an individual choice.

“We’ve recovered paperwork in probably 95% of cases. Sometimes, police files are missing, because police stations were blown up.”

After a reviewing a case, the HET can refer it back to the PSNI crime operations department for further investigation and possible prosecutions. This has happened on 22 occasions.

In most instances, the passage of time means there is very little hard evidence available and no prospect of anyone being convicted.

In the case of Private Carter, no-one was ever arrested, and, realistically, the murder will never be solved.

However, for Trudie Baker, finding out that he did not die alone brought her some consolation after 40 years of grieving for her older brother.

Ed Moloney
The Broken Elbow
16 Jan 2012

–There is a poignant letter in today’s Irish Times from a Fr Joseph McCullough about the way his 17 year-old brother’s 1972 killing in Belfast has been treated by the authorities down through the years, from the days when the RUC controlled policing through to the modern PSNI and Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

He writes: “Like most, if not all, murders of this kind, it remains unresolved. My brother’s killing was never investigated, and requests from my family for relevant reports and information have drawn a complete blank from the RUC/PSNI. They informed my family that no paper work or forensic reports in relation to Patrick’s murder exist. They were apparently destroyed in a police station fire!”–

>>Continue reading the article

9 Jan 2012

A witness at the UVF Supergrass trial in Belfast has claimed detectives from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) twice paid him money after he made statements about some of the accused.

Keith Caskey, 41, received a severe beating in New Mossley.

It happened in January 1996.

He was designated a hostile witness by the trial judge, Mr Justice Gillen, because there were two distinct versions of his story.

In one version, which agrees with his statement to the HET, Mr Caskey said he was driven by three of the accused, Mark Haddock, Darren Moore and Alec Wood to New Mossley, expecting to receive a punishment beating for antisocial behaviour.

He claimed, in his evidence for the prosecution, that he also saw two others, David Smart and Philip Laffin.

He testified that he was taken to a nearby alleyway, his head covered with a pillow case, and he was then beaten by six men wielding baseball bats, pickaxe handles and hammers.

He received multiple injuries to his legs, arms and head and was in hospital for several weeks, and used a wheelchair for some time afterwards.

But when cross examined by defence barristers, Mr Caskey insisted that the HET had written the first statement for him and he had simply signed it.

He insisted he had no memory of the incident at all, and certainly could not remember the identity of any of his attackers.

He further alleged that an HET detective had given him £50 on two separate occasions.

The court heard that Mr Caskey had been an alcoholic and drug addict for several years, was still a heroin user, and that he had no confidence in his own memory.

He stated that he had no wish to give evidence and went as far as to tell the court “I’m not reliable here at all”.

The trial began in early September 2011, and is expected to finish hearing evidence on Tuesday.

It is one of the biggest and most expensive criminal trials in Northern Irish legal history.

All of the 14 men accused deny all the charges against them.

Much of the trial has been taken up by the testimonies of Robert Stewart and his brother Ian. They have admitted UVF membership, and already served more than three years for their part in the murder of the UDA man Tommy English on Halloween night 2000.

Mr English was shot dead in front of his wife and children at his home on the Ballyduff estate at the height of a loyalist feud between the UVF and UDA.

Under legislation called the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, the Stewarts have signed an agreement committing them to giving truthful evidence about the men in the dock.

In such cases, so-called “assisting offenders” can have their sentences reduced in return.

In the case of the Stewart brothers, both have avoided the prospect of a further 19 years in jail, providing they are seen to have kept the agreement.

They handed themselves in to police in August 2008, and underwent more than 330 police interviews in total, some of them at secret addresses outside Northern Ireland.

By Liam Clarke
Belfast Telegraph
Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Computer software used by the US military to locate Osama bin Laden will help create the most comprehensive record ever of Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) plans to leave behind a sophisticated computerised record of every single incident in the Troubles which will be handed over to the Government in 2014.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson believes it could form the basis of a Troubles archive for historians. He hopes to discuss the issue with the Stormont Executive in the coming year.

The HET is re-investigating every single Troubles-related death in Northern Ireland and providing an individual report for the relatives of each killing.

Now Dave Cox, the team’s director, has revealed that it has put every incident recorded by the RUC on a unique database where trends and patterns can be analysed with the software.

Each day for most of the Troubles, RUC duty inspectors recorded everything of significance that happened in their areas.

Mr Cox said: “In effect, what we have is a personal diary of the RUC on a day-to-day basis through the Troubles – that level of detail gives context to the killings.

“Analysing it in retrospect has provided us with evidential opportunities that weren’t obvious at the time, and I believe it will be of considerable value to historians.

“We used the same i2 software which the Americans used to catch Osama bin Laden to pull all this together. It provides a very powerful analytical tool which we have developed for our purposes with the support of the company.”

The record takes the form of a map. Atrocities flash up as dots, colour coded for groups thought responsible. Click on one and a link to other related incidents and gun histories opens up.

In all, 3,260 killings in Ulster between January 1, 1969 until the signing of the Belfast Agreement in April 1998 are covered in what is the world’s largest cold case review ever.

It includes deaths caused by paramilitaries and security forces.

The HET started work in 2005 and aimed to complete its work by 2009. The first few years were largely taken up with collating the records of every killing in the Troubles, but the work of analysis is now proceeding quickly. Some 1,856 reports on individual deaths have so far been completed or are about to be delivered.

Some killings have been taken out of historical sequence, but as a rough guide the probe has reached the mid-1980s.

Reports on the IRA’s Enniskillen poppy day massacre in which 11 died in November 1987 and on the killing of eight IRA men and a civilian in Loughgall by the SAS are due soon. But some reports from the early 1980s, for instance the murder of census taker Joanne Mathers in Londonderry in 1981, are not yet completed.

At first there was suspicion of the HET, a police initiative set up by ex-PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde to deal with the past. As time went on it gained acceptance.

Attention is now focusing on its legacy to the province.

This month Mark Durkan of the SDLP asked the Secretary of State if he thought “that more could be done to draw out the issues, patterns and lessons that can be learned from the HET’s work, which at present has gone only to the families and not to the wider public”.

Mr Paterson said: “The HET is building up an extraordinary archive of knowledge.”

He added: “Down the road, this might be a matter that is well worth discussing with the devolved Executive to see whether the HET can form the basis of an archive for historians.”


The cost of some Troubles-related inquiries:

• £195m – cost of Bloody Sunday Inquiry

• £70m – original budget for inquiries into deaths of Robert Hamill, Billy Wright and Rosemary Nelson

• 40 – the number of cases reviewed by HET monthly

• £40m – projected cost of HET

• 90% – satisfaction rating of families who receive HET reports

Henry McDonald
The Guardian
25 Dec 2011

Northern Ireland’s first police ombudsman says independent unit with powers of search and arrest would bring ‘huge efficiencies’

Northern Ireland’s first police ombudsman has called for a single unified body to deal with all the unsolved crimes of the Troubles and arrest suspects even in cases that are decades old.

Nuala O’Loan, who as ombudsman from 1999 to 2007 exposed the state’s use of informers who killed while in the crown’s pay, said such an inquiry unit should also be granted full powers of prosecution.

Most of the 3,269 murders committed during the conflict since it began in 1969 remain unsolved. More than 30,000 people were injured, many seriously.

In an interview with the Guardian, O’Loan said she was convinced that the police had deliberately destroyed evidence in “a lot” of killings involving the security forces. “That will inhibit the possibility of a full investigation.”

As up to a dozen loyalists await the verdict of a trial triggered by her investigation into the actions of state agents in the Ulster Volunteer Force, O’Loan said there could still be a “limited number of prosecutions” over deaths in the Troubles.

But the former ombudsman, now Lady O’Loan, stressed that a “Waking the Dead” style unit investigating Ulster’s recent conflict would not be tantamount to a truth commission like that which dealt with the apartheid era in South Africa.

“There should be one unified operation to deal with the past and it must be independent,” she said.

“It is not a truth commission because it would require that all the parties to the conflict tell the truth and I see no evidence that the parties are ready for that yet. And I am not sure that they ever will be.”

The victims were owed something, she said, and that should be a single independent historical investigations unit.

“This unit should have full police powers to arrest, to search, to seize property and material, anything relevant to the investigation.

“If you had all those powers and a single unit you would get huge efficiencies because we would not have three organisations doing the same work effectively trawling over the same ground.”

At present, crimes of the Troubles are examined by the historical enquiries team and the legacy branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Families of murder victims unhappy with investigations can ask the police ombudsman office to intervene.

O’Loan said dealing properly with Northern Ireland’s recent violent past would undermine the justification for the armed campaigns by the Real IRA and other dissident terror groups.

Revealing the truth and the reality behind all the armed actions of the Troubles would remove the argument for further violence, she said.

“I think if we are to manage the problem of the Real IRA we have to deal with the historic problem of criminality, murder etc in our time.

“I know that people say this will disturb the peace process by investigating the past but we are moving on and we need to do so on a sound, just basis.”

Referring to the loss of her unborn child in an IRA bombing while she was in a class at the University of Ulster, O’Loan said thousands more had been affected by the violence beyond the families of the 3,200 plus killed. She said that up to 150,000 to 200,000 people in Northern Irish society would have been damaged in the conflict.

“The impact on the whole of the community given that figure is huge. When you have a situation where there are people who can see others still walking down the street whom they know committed murder, that is not the foundation for a just society.”

The human rights campaigner denied she was “kicking at sleeping dogs” in her demand for the single unsolved crimes unit and creating the conditions to destabilise the political settlement in Northern Ireland.

“You would argue that the investigations the police ombudsman’s office have carried out have set people free,” she said. “In the case of the loyalists in North Belfast, as a result of these inquiries in that area ordinary people are freer than ever from the paramilitaries. It has changed the balance of power.”

She accepted that in many cases there would not be prosecutions of killers because evidence might have been destroyed in explosions at police stations or at the forensic headquarters the IRA blew up in 1990.

In addition, anyone convicted of a Troubles-related crime before the Good Friday agreement of 1998 is subject to a de facto amnesty under the peace accord and would not spend long in prison.

Truth and justice regarding the Troubles, however, may be sacrificed for pragmatic political reasons, O’Loan warned.

On her suggestion for a unified investigatory body with powers to arrest and prosecute she added: “I have seen nobody who wants to do that.

“My reading of what the politicians are saying is that they would much rather bury this stuff; that they want to live in the present. But the problem with living in the present is that if you don’t deal with the past then you don’t learn from it and you don’t prevent it from recurring.”

Three different approaches

The police ombudsman’s office

The office was established at the end of the 90s and any member of the Northern Ireland public can demand an inquiry into police malpractices or failings during or after the Troubles. The office has been at the centre of major controversies over crimes including the single biggest atrocity, the Omagh bomb massacre. O’Loan investigated claims that the RUC and Garda Síochána ignored tipoffs about the bomb plot in 1998 because they were more concerned with protecting their agents and sources inside the Real IRA. In Operation Ballast, O’Loan explored the role of police agents in the North Belfast UVF who were involved in crimes including murder, even while on the state’s payroll. Ballast led to the first so-called supergrass trial based on the evidence of a terrorist-turned-crown witness, which has put up to a dozen loyalists in the dock. As a result there will now be a second trial in 2012 using another supergrass, which could involve even more senior UVF figures.

The historical enquiries team

With more than 100 investigators and a budget of about £32m, the HET only reviews cases about the deaths and disappearances of loved ones during the Troubles. It has reopened files on more than 100 cases where British troops were involved in fatal shootings and has also investigated IRA atrocities such as the 1972 bombing of Claudy village in Co Derry, which found that a Catholic priest played a central role in transporting the bomb that killed nine civilians. HET, however, has no powers of prosecution.

The legacy unit

This section of the PSNI can carry out arrests and recommend prosecutions over past crimes carried out since 1969. Its results have been patchy and in some cases the wrong suspects have been arrested.

14 Dec 2011

Ulster Volunteer Force member Robin Jackson – who claims he was beaten into confessing to involvement in the Miami Showband Massacre in 1975 – was warned by police that his fingerprints had been found on a gun used in the killings, the Historical Enquiries Team has found.

The families of those killed have released conclusions from a review, after cold-case investigators said it was “deeply troubling” that British Army involvement in the attack could not be ruled out.

Three members of the Showband were killed on July 31, 1975, as they travelled back to Dublin after playing a gig in Banbridge, Co Down.

They were flagged down at a bogus army checkpoint at Buskhill, near Newry, in the early hours.

The review found: “To the objective, impartial observer, disturbing questions about collusive and corrupt behaviour are raised. The HET review has found no means to assuage or rebut these concerns.”

The gunmen, who were wearing UDR uniforms, instructed the band members to line up at a ditch and state their names and addresses.

Two of the attackers were killed when a bomb unexpectedly exploded as they placed it in the back of the band’s van.

The remaining gunmen then opened fire on the Miami Showband – shooting Tony Geraghty eight times in the back, while Brian McCoy was shot nine times and Fran O’Toole was shot as he lay on the ground face up.

Other band members pretended to be dead in order to escape being murdered.

Hours after the shootings, the UVF released a statement which said the loyalist paramilitary organisation was “justified” in taking action and “the killing of the three Showband members should be regarded as justifiable homicide”.

Jackson – also known as ‘The Jackal’ – was arrested and questioned about the massacre and he claims that, during a police interview, he was told to “clear as there was a wee job up the country I would be done for”.

One of the survivors, bass player Stephen Travers, said: “The most alarming finding concerns the involvement of Robin Jackson, aka ‘The Jackal’ – a notorious UVF member.

“The HET found disturbing evidence that Jackson was tipped off in May 1976 that his fingerprints had been found on a silencer attached to the Luger pistol used in the Miami murders.”

Jackson was arrested at an early stage in the inquiry, but was released without charge.

Three members of the UDR were convicted for the massacre.

Thomas Crozier, James McDowell and James Somerville all received life sentences, but were later released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Survivor Des McAlea said he was disappointed no one was ever charged with his attempted murder and he would pursue that with the Public Prosecution Service and the PSNI.

Both Mr Travers and Mr McAlea said one of the gang on the night was more authoritative than the others and spoke with a “posh English accent”.

Although the HET believes that man was McDowell, the survivors remain adamant the man was from England.

The families also said they want the issue of Robert Jackson’s involvement particularly to be pursued.

Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd said figures like Robin Jackson stand in the way of an independent truth commission.

“It was well known that Robin Jackson was an agent for the British state, that he was allowed to kill Catholics with impunity throughout Mid-Ulster and beyond and that some of these killings were actually facilitated by the forces of the state.”

“This speaks volumes about the British state’s involvement in the conflict and rather than claim, as they did, that they were impartial observers or some sort of peace keeper, they were in fact up to their necks in facilitating and possibly encouraging sectarian killings and much more.”

The HET report has been described as “vindication” for the families of the Miami Showband members by SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly.

“It again confirms what many people suspected; that there were very serious failures in the RUC in terms of investigating serious crimes in the past.”

“The enormous question about why Robin Jackson was allowed to carry out this terror and inflict so much pain on victims over such a long period of time must be answered by the State as we cannot help but think if he had been put behind bars some people’s lives may have been spared,” she added.

The report has been submitted to the Police Ombudsman, and Alliance Justice spokesperson Stewart Dickson said he believes it serves as a “wake up call” for the Secretary of State to put in place talks on how to address the past.

“The findings of this report are extremely troubling, though we have to acknowledge the reforms to policing that have been made since that time.”

“I also believe that it is absolutely crucial that we have a comprehensive process in place to address the legacy of the past. We need an overarching strategy to help meet the needs of victims and survivors and help build a shared future,” he added.

The Belfast Telegraph’s revelations about the Enniskillen bomb and Loughgall shootings contradict the republican narrative of the ‘armed struggle’, argues Henry McDonald

Belfst Telegraph
10 Dec 2011

Liam Clarke’s illuminating revelations in this newspaper about the IRA’s actions in two seminal incidents in 1987 that arguably marked major turning-points in the Troubles prove an old trope – the one that advises you to be careful what you wish for.

When the Provisionals and loyalists’ armed campaigns effectively ended in 1994, the ‘war’ switched from being a conflict waged with bullets and bombs to a battle of history.

The Provisionals, in particular, attempted to re-shape their ‘armed struggle’, not so much as total war to drive the British out, but, perversely, as some kind of logical extension of the civil rights struggle.

This shift was presaged on the day of the IRA cessation, August 31, 1994, when Gerry Adams addressed the faithful on the Andersonstown Road. Adams told a crowd gathered to celebrate the IRA announcement that we had been “on our knees” before the Provisionals’ offensive started.

The innuendo being that somehow the ‘armed struggle’ was purely reactive, a response to the repressive measures of the British Army and the structural discrimination of the unionists.

Since the ceasefires that changing narrative has become mainstream republican orthodoxy. Of course, it is blindingly obvious to state that thousands of young nationalists embraced the IRA campaign due to humiliating treatment by the security forces and the hostility of the unionist establishment that made them feel excluded from society.

However, it is a perversion of history to ignore that there were those who made free choices; who wanted a united Ireland and were prepared to kill (and die) for it.

Part of this ‘battle of history’ was to demand a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission. The focus for mainstream republicans was trained on killings directly carried out by members of the security forces, or loyalist murders in which there were suspicions of collusion.

The problem with the Northern Ireland conflict, unlike South Africa, is that the former was not quite literally black and white.

The violence and pain inflicted in the Troubles came from a multiplicity of quarters, rather than the grand narrative of the Apartheid struggle, where a privileged white minority cruelly oppressed the black majority.

Liam Clarke’s exclusive reports on two Historical Enquiries Team (HET) investigations – into the 1987 Enniskillen massacre and the wiping out of the east Tyrone IRA brigade’s most active unit the same year – have, in their different ways, disturbed the narrative the Provisionals have sought to create a mythos from regarding the Troubles.

On the Enniskillen bomb, it appears the HET has concluded the IRA unit deliberately targeted civilians at the town’s war memorial. The HET report found that the bomb had been placed at the side of the cenotaph, where civilians and members of the Royal British Legion were gathered.

In addition, the HET also uncovered a parallel plot to explode a bomb in Tullyhomin, 20 miles away, which, if it had detonated, would have killed members of the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade.

Shortly after the atrocity, the IRA insisted the carnage had been the result of a mistake and the unit responsible was stood down. Yet it now appears the plot factored in the loss of civilian lives.

Clarke’s second revelation concerned the SAS ambush seven months earlier in which eight IRA members and one civilian were killed. The Loughgall shooting was the biggest blow to the IRA since the War of Independence.

The HET report into Loughgall has found that the IRA team attacking the town’s police station fired first. The conclusion caused political furore among the families of the dead IRA men, who have always insisted their relatives were victims of a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy.

Because the investigation seems to be suggesting that there may have been grounds for the SAS firing back (whether the families like it or not), the HET has provided the SAS with some moral cover.

Republicans and unionists will never agree over the truth behind the latter incident, which, it could be argued, started to convince a number of top figures in the Provisional movement that the ‘armed struggle’ was a futile, counter-productive cul de sac.

The loss of IRA activists, like the notorious Jim Lynagh, also removed a potential source of serious armed opposition to the ‘peace camp’ within the Provisionals.

But one thing is clear: the inquiry culture that has become so prevalent in post-Troubles Northern Ireland can take even its greatest enthusiasts all kinds of directions they didn’t expect to travel in.

The HET’s conclusions over the Enniskillen massacre paints those responsible as, at the very least, guilty of callous disregard for civilian life and, at the worst, as viscerally sectarian.

In relation to Loughgall, the HET line is quite stunning, because it actually aids the SAS story, rather than those on the receiving end of their firepower.

For political actors on either side who would seek to use inquiries to re-write history, these bit-by-bit explorations into the past have a double-edged quality: they can inflict as much damage on them as on their opponents.

Unless there is some kind of overarching truth commission that allows for a full excavation of what actually happened over the last four decades, then this will continue.

But does anyone really think that some of the new vested political interests in Northern Ireland are genuinely ready to open up all the files – given that they could be cause for major embarrassment, or further controversy?

By Brónagh Murphy
Cross Examiner
December 6, 2011
**Via Newshound

The family of a young Newry man who was shot dead by the British Army almost 40 years ago have said the recently published report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) into the killing has helped them come to terms with their loss.

The HET found that Sean Ruddy, who was shot dead with two of his friends by a British army undercover unit in Newry in October 1971, “was a tragedy which should not have happened”.

On Monday last, the Ruddy family, through the Pat Finucane Centre, released details of the team’s report into the shooting of 26-year-old Mr Ruddy and his two friends, Robert Anderson (25) and Thomas McLaughlin (27).

Sean Ruddy’s brother, Arthur, a former Newry and Mourne SDLP Councillor, said the four-year long investigation by the HET vindicated the family who always maintained their brother’s murder was unlawful.

The HET found that the army had been acting on intelligence that the IRA was planning to carry out a bombing mission in the area. Heavily armed soldiers were lying in wait on the roof of the Woolworth’s building when the three victims made an impromptu attempt to rob two men lodging cash at a nearby bank’s night safe.

Hearing the commotion the soldiers mistakenly believed the unarmed men to be the IRA team and opened fire. No attempt was made to arrest the men despite an arrest team being deployed in the area at the time. All the soldiers involved in the operation refused to co-operate with the HET inquiry.

Arthur Ruddy says the HET report “tells the story of the killings and provides important new information about the circumstances surrounding them”.

“The HET report reveals that the soldiers were sent out to intercept IRA men,” he said. “Indeed the information suggests that the soldiers were there for one purpose: to kill people. As soon as Sean and his companions drew adverse attention to themselves outside the bank, they were sentenced to death.”

Paying tribute to his late brother, Pat, who raised the case with the HET and who did not live to see the result, Mr Ruddy added: “It is our hope now that this report, which confirms that our brother Sean and his two companions were needlessly and ruthlessly killed, will help us finally to come to terms with this tragedy.

“The tragic loss of our young brother has been a shadow in the life of our family for 40 years.”

The Ruddy family thanked staff at the Pat Finucane Centre who supported them through the HET process.

Liam Clarke
Belfast Telegraph
**Via Newshound
5 Dec 2011

IRA planted second Poppy Day device 20 miles away which would have killed children, but it failed to go off

A major report into the Enniskillen Poppy Day massacre has found that the IRA deliberately targeted civilians with a no-warning bomb.

The report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has also concluded that the terror group had planned another and possibly more serious atrocity, just 20 miles away on the same day.

If this second bomb had detonated it would have killed a number of children.

Survivors of the November 1987 bombing expect the damning report to be published early in the new year and have been given some clues to its contents.

“It will not bring total closure but it will help us deal with the past. I believe we will get some answers as to what the mindset was that day. The IRA tried to say it was the Army they were blowing up that day; everyone knows It was innocent civilians,” said survivor Stephen Gault.

Mr Gault, who was 18 at the time, was injured and his father Samuel was killed in what is regarded as one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles.

An IRA statement claimed the bomb – placed in a building overlooking the cenotaph on Remembrance Day – was a remote control device intended to catch a passing military patrol.

They denied that civilians were the intended targets.

However, the report found that civilians and British Legion veterans were generally gathered on the side of the war memorial where the bomb was placed.

The report says this could have been observed at previous events.

It also found the bomb was detonated by means of a timer, not a radio signal as the IRA had previously claimed.

The explosion killed 11 people – none of them members of the security forces – and injured 63 as they stood around the town’s cenotaph. A 12th victim, local headmaster Ronnie Hill, died in 2000 after lying for 13 years in a coma.

The atrocity caused widespread revulsion. Feelings hardened against the bombers after survivor Gordon Wilson’s daughter Marie died in hospital from her injuries.

Mr Wilson appealed for communal reconciliation and no “dirty talk of revenge”, saying that he would pray for the bombers.

The IRA apologised the next day. Later its Fermanagh unit was formally stood down.

There were then attempts to distance the IRA leadership from what had happened by blaming it on rogue members acting without proper clearance.

But the bombing was a sanctioned IRA operation involving several units and a high degree of co-ordination. The bomb itself was made across the border. It has been estimated that up to 30 people were involved in the terrorist operation.

“The soldiers never formed up on that side of the cenotaph. The British Legion would have been their closest target. That was where civilians stood.

“If they had done their homework they would have known they were unlikely to get soldiers there,” Mr Gault said.

The HET has also found that the IRA had planned a second attack at Tullyhomin, a village 20 miles away. This larger bomb, which failed to detonate, was placed under a bridge. If it had gone off as planned it would almost certainly have killed members of the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades assembling at the war memorial.

Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister, is believed by the security forces, most historians and many republicans to have been in the IRA’s Northern Command, which sanctioned the attack.

However, he has consistently denied being an IRA member at this stage. Despite demands by unionists, including Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, that he be questioned, he was not interviewed as part of the HET investigation.

During his recent presidential campaign in the Republic he told RTE’s Ryan Tubridy: “The people who did this held up their hands and apologised for what they had done and it’s right they apologised, because what they had done was totally and absolutely wrong.”

December 5, 2011

This article appeared in the December 3, 2011 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

Pat Finucane Centre
2 December 2011

Human rights groups the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) have raised serious concerns as to how potentially inaccurate information, allegedly reflecting findings of an unpublished report by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) into the Loughgall killings, has been published in today’s (2 December 2011) media, without families being informed.

CAJ acted on behalf of the families when this case was taken to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and, together with the PFC, have continued to assist the families since then.

Brian Gormally, Director of CAJ said:

“We have serious questions to ask as to whether and why someone from within the security establishment has made claims as to the content of the yet unpublished report into the killings at Loughgall.

“The families do not yet know what is actually contained within this report or whether it represents a full independent investigation. However, we are conscious of the risk that the first headline usually sticks in the mind of the public, regardless of what full and accurate picture subsequently emerges. The fact that the families of the deceased learned of these claims in today’s media, is of great concern to us.”

Paul O’Connor, Project Manager of the PFC, says:

“We do not know where this information has come from or whether it is correct. There are serious ethical questions as to why family members were not informed that an article was to appear in the media. No serious efforts were made to inform the families of its release.”


2 Dec 2011

An investigation by the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team has found the SAS was within its rights to shoot dead eight IRA men during an attack on a County Armagh police station.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the report has concluded the IRA unit opened fire first in the incident at Loughgall RUC station in 1987.

The scene at Loughgall after the 1987 attack

A civilian was also killed during the incident.

It had previously been believed that the SAS had fired first.

The shootings at Loughgall RUC station were among the most controversial of the Troubles.

Eight members of the IRA’s so-called ‘East Tyrone brigade’ were shot dead by the SAS in a fierce gun battle at Loughgall on 8 May 1987.

They were killed as they approached the station with a 200lb bomb, its fuse lit, in the bucket of a hijacked digger.

The IRA men who died were the East Tyrone IRA ‘Commander’ Patrick Kelly, 32; Declan Arthurs, 21; Seamus Donnelly, 19; Michael Gormley, 25; Eugene Kelly, 25; James Lynagh, 31, Patrick McKearney, 32 and Gerard O’Callaghan, 29.

A civilian, Anthony Hughes, 36, was killed and his brother badly wounded when they were caught up in the crossfire.

The brother of Sinn Fein’s Barry McElduff wife was one of those killed.

“I’m not going to disown Patrick Kelly or any of the other people killed at Loughall,” he said.

“If it was a war then the British government are wrong – they have said all along it wasn’t a war.

“They were bound by the laws of democracy, law enforcement and all of that, and if that’s the case then they should have attempted to arrest them.”

Previously it was reported that the soldiers fired more than 600 bullets with the IRA men firing 70 shots.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the Historical Enquiries Team has found that members of the IRA unit opened fire as they approached the police station.

Investigators are believed to have concluded that the IRA members could not have been arrested safely.

It is understood the full findings of the report are due to be released within weeks.

In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the British government should pay £10,000 compensation to each of the families of the IRA members killed in the Loughgall incident.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile


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