Justice and truth is least colluding state can offer

Posted By: January 22, 2016

Allison Morris. Irish News (Belfast).
Thankfully most of us will never have to experience the pain of losing a loved one in violent circumstances.

But if we ever did the expectation would be that the person responsible would be held to account for that murder. Not in a vengeful way but by being subjected to the full rigours of the law, facing a trial that would be open and accountable and receive a sentence that befitted the severity of the crime.

The loss of liberty should be the very least a person should expect for taking the life of another.

Over the years I’ve interviewed hundreds of people who have experienced tragic loss but I could count on one hand those who felt justice should come in the form of capital punishment or that they would in some way feel the loss less if the person responsible met a similar fate.

I’m not a believer but those who have faith almost without exception seem to cope with tragedy better. Maybe it’s the belief that they’ll meet their loved one in the afterlife or just that God will guide them through the toughest of times.

But even faith can’t help heal an obvious or blatant injustice, the belief or knowledge that the death of your son, daughter, mother, father or brother was preventable.

Take that one step further and imagine that the state, those responsible for overseeing the justice system you have put your faith in, have not only refused to investigate your loved one’s death but have actively participated through the use of an agent.

Frank Mulhern is a man who is pained and carries with him images of the last moments of his son Joseph’s death. It is an event he lives over and over again in his head, he knows how many times he was shot and he knows that the first bullet didn’t kill him.

He knows this because he was told by the IRA agent known as Stakeknife, the man who headed up the organisation’s ‘nutting squad’ tasked with ‘internal discipline’.

In an organisation such as the IRA this means investigating alleged informers.

Joseph Mulhern was shot dead in 1993, and left face down with his hands tied behind his back on a rural road in Co Tyrone just yards from the border.

He had been missing for 10 days prior to that and had been interrogated by Stakeknife, widely believed to be west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci.

Frank was told his son confessed to being

an informer, he was told he compromised

IRA operations.

IRA men have since come forward to say that it was impossible as the 22-year-old was not privy to that level of information.

Why he was singled out for such brutal punishment we may never know.

But along with 23 other people, a figure that could rise to as many as 50 victims, he was killed nonetheless.

Conflict is brutal, people who join organisations such as the IRA are warned that they could face a lifetime in jail at best, an early death at worst.

For the victims of that organisation there might be little sympathy for those who choose that way of life.

But if what we know about the agent Stakeknife is shown to be true then Joseph Mulhern wasn’t just murdered by the IRA but by the gunman’s main employers in this case, British military intelligence.

Despite the stigma still surrounding the accusation of ‘tout’ in some areas and the fear whether real or perceived, Frank has shown bravery and come forward and made a full written statement.

He’s not alone, other families have found their voice and followed.

And yet Stakeknife remains a free man. We know that the investigation is wider than that – we know it takes in his handlers and those in government who approved such murderous behaviour.

That does not excuse leaving families such as the Mulherns in limbo.

There’s no such thing as closure for those who lost a child in conflict but there can be truth, there can be justice and there can be recognition of hurt.

That’s the least a state that colluded in murder can do to make amends for the murder of people such as Joseph Mulhern.