Posted By: August 22, 2013

Jim Gibney. Irish News ( belfast). Thursday, August 22, 2013
“TRUTH will out “is a phrase most commonly associated with people who have
experienced a travesty of justice as in, for example, the Bloody Sunday massacre or
in the case of the Birmingham Six who were framed for the IRA Birmingham pub
bombings and sentenced to life in prison. It took many years of campaigning for
truth and justice to triumph over the British government’s obsession with protecting
its forces at all costs, regardless of the damage to the institutions being given a
chance of nationalist acceptance by the peace process. Two weeks ago in unique
circumstances a government minister – in this instance Caral Ni Chuilin – exercised
her ministerial authority to embolden those searching for the truth about the
circumstances of the deaths of three people, killed by British forces and loyalists.
Ms Ni Chuilin personally handed over to the human rights body Relatives For Justice
(RFJ) and KRW Law, public documents relating to the inquests of Paddy McAdorey,
Michael Donnelly and Sarah Larmour. At one level it was the simplest of actions by
minister Ni Chuilin towards relatives – a gesture that was within her jurisdiction
and authority and which clearly showed her personal and ministerial commitment to
helping those searching for truth and justice. It should have been above reproach
(or so one would have thought) following the involvement of the attorney general
John Larkin who stated in the High Court last week that Ms Ni Chuilin would continue
to discharge her legal powers “faithfully and conscientiously, as she has done”. As
the culture, arts and leisure minister Caral Ni Chuilin is Keeper of the Records. At
another level the minister’s actions were highly significant and far-reaching.

And this can be seen by the extraordinary and swift response from the British
government which tried to impose what amounted to a ‘gagging order’ in the form of
an injunction on KRW Law and RFJ preventing them passing the documents to the
relatives concerned. The British secretary of state Theresa Villiers and the PSNI
chief constable Matt Baggott sought, in a midnight courtroom without legal
representatives of RFJ and KRW Law present, to impose these restrictions.

Their action was not just an affront and an attack on the relatives’ right to know
the truth about the killing of their loved ones; it was also a brazen assault on the
democratic integrity of the executive and the democratic authority of ministers to
exercise their judgment as ministers. The actions of Villiers and Baggott can be
seen as a challenge to the executive’s democratic mandate.

In effect this is a power struggle between a new dispensation and those like
minister Ni Chuilin (who are eager to help people denied truth) and those in the
dark recesses, the discredited ‘old’ establishment, who continue to deny truth and
justice to families of victims. In many ways it is an uneven contest. The British
government has a battery of legislation preventing the truth and RFJ knows only too
well: the use of Public Immunity Certificates; the discredited Historical Enquiries
Team; the Legacy Unit inside the PSNI staffed by former RUC Special Branch officers;
interference in the Ombudsman’s office to prevent the full truth in three cases of
multiple killings – the bombing of McGurk’s Bar, the bombing of Claudy village and
the Loughinisland massacre.

Mark Thompson, the director of RFJ, described the actions of Caral Ni Chuilin as
“hugely important” in the search for truth. The documents in question were
accessible, in the public domain in the Public Records Office. Two years ago RFJ
discovered and made public documents relating to the massacre in the Ormeau Road
bookies. Judge Cory and Lord Stevens had revealed that the weapon used in this
atrocity had been provided by RUC Special Branch who then claimed that they had
‘deactivated it’. One document revealed that the weapon was in “perfect working
order”. This revelation was extremely embarrassing to the British government, the
RUC and the PSNI. According to Mark Thompson: “The old guard have identified a chink
in their armoury and are trying to close it down.” To paraphrase John F Kennedy: a
state that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open
market is a state that is afraid of its people.