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Sunday 4 April 2004

Maybe it's time to release all the secrets of the Troubles

IMAGINE how the following report plays among the ordinary law-abiding Ulster Protestants: "Sinn Fein Justice spokesman Gerry Kelly said: 'The Cory report is a damning indictment of British rule in Ireland. It reports on the British government killing of citizens with impunity. This is a scenario usually associated with repressive dictatorships. In any democracy in Europe, the government would have fallen.' " 

Let's ignore the fact that there isn't any other democracy in Europe with a government mad enough to have agreed to any such investigation without being sure the judge would do a Hutton, and instead let's concentrate for a moment on Gerry Kelly, champion of democracy. 

Now, I admit that in 1973 Kelly didn't kill with impunity. For his part in bombing the Old Bailey and Scotland Yard, killing one and injuring 250, he received two life sentences. Ten years later, escaping from the Maze, he shot a warder in the head. 

In his A Secret History of the IRA, Ed Moloney describes Kelly as "a ruthless and fearless IRA operative", who, after his escape, went back on active service until his recapture in 1986. On his release in 1989, Kelly was made IRA adjutant general - "largely," says Moloney, "because of his fearsome reputation" and on Gerry Adams's recommendation. 

Your average law-abiding Prod (AL-AP) knows all this, and looks at Kelly's cold, hard eyes on television and shudders lest he end up, as Sinn Fein intends, as Minister for Justice. 

Your AL-AP doesn't believe that it's right that the State should collude in murder, but on the other hand, having lived through decades when judges and farmers and nurses and doctors and children and housewives, as well as police and soldiers, were being killed by the likes of Kelly, thinks it's hardly surprising some members of the security forces sometimes did bad things in retaliation. 

Your AL-AP believes (rightly) that Pat Finucane - like his siblings John (killed on active service) and Dermot and Seamus, both of whom served long prison sentences - was in the IRA, although in a backroom, but senior, capacity. And your AL-AP will also dislike Rosemary Nelson because of her high-profile activities on behalf of the unpleasant ex-convict Brendan MacCionnaith of the Garvaghy Road and will have heard the rumours alleging her closeness to someone they are convinced is a notorious assassin. 

Although believing it to have been unquestionably wrong to murder either of them, your AL-AP is revolted at the way in which the Sinn Fein propaganda machine has transformed two solicitors who were republican sympathisers into human rights lawyers and secular saints and so is pleased that David Trimble has drawn attention to their "clear terrorist connection". 

Your AL-AP thinks Billy Wright was a vicious, murdering scumbag and couldn't care less how he died, and is baffled as to why, considering there are 1,800 unsolved murders, so much fuss is being made about deficiencies in the investigation of Robert Hamill's death. 

Your AL-AP thinks it unbelievable cheek for an Oireachtas sub-committee to demand that the UK hold yet another public inquiry - this time into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings - and wonders how the republic gets away without having inquiries into how the State helped to arm the Provisional IRA and turned a blind eye for decades as bombs were made in the Republic for delivery in the North. 

Your AL-AP believes the Bloody Sunday inquiry is an unmitigated and grotesquely expensive disaster that will please no one but the lawyers, and notes that Pat Finucane's old firm, Madden and Finucane, has so far made £6.7 million representing some of the families. 

Your AL-AP thinks that whatever the Government promises, all these new inquiries will also cost taxpayers a fortune and do nothing but harm, and notices that Sinn Fein is now demanding a whole series of other inquiries. 

Most of all, your AL-AP has tried, and failed, to understand how republicans have managed to create a hierarchy of victims in which, it seems to the world at large, the only dead worthy of concern are republicans or their sympathisers. 

Your AL-AP notes that the Prime Minister, gob-smacked by Cory, is now - very late in the day - toying with the notion of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee, but does not believe that republicans would either tell the truth or genuinely seek reconciliation. 

So what's to be done? 

Well, in the Irish Times on Friday, Professor Paul Bew pointed out that most of the new information emerging from the Bloody Sunday inquiry has come not from cross-examination, but from the "unprecedented release of sensitive documents". 

He is one of those historians who, like me, is beginning to wonder if the only fair way out of this poisonous mess is for both governments to release all material relating to the Troubles and let everyone fight it out on a level playing field.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards