Dublin silent on SDLP’s Irish army files fears

The SDLPs Colm Eastwood and Alex Attwood speak outside Stormont Castle during talks in which Dublin and London briefed MLAs on their plans
The SDLPs Colm Eastwood and Alex Attwood speak outside Stormont Castle during talks in which Dublin and London briefed MLAs on their plans

The Irish government has declined to comment on SDLP concerns that Irish army intelligence files may not be made available to Troubles legacy investigations.

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood made the point to the News Letter after UUP MLA Doug Beattie revealed that Dublin and London briefed MLAs they intend to take starkly contrasting approaches on disclosure to the proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU).

He is particularly concerned Dublin will withhold information on “the complicit role [of] the Irish government” in border IRA murders.

Mr Attwood, by contrast, believes Dublin will disclose more information – however, he is also concerned that Irish military intelligence files will be withheld from the process.

The Irish government advised MLAs, he said, “that any limit on disclosure [by Dublin] would both be rare and in relation to the protection of life”.

Mr Attwood said: “These are very high thresholds that the Irish government has set and which should give everyone reassurance that disclosure will be fulfilled. This is a very different approach from that of the British government. London plans to build a national security veto meaning whatever they want it to mean.”

This runs the great risk of “a coach and horses” disclosure requirements, he said, and so nobody should suggest that there is “any equivalence” in the approach of the Irish and British governments on disclosure.

Dublin has responsibilities of disclosure under human rights law, he said, and must do its own assessment before disclosure, but such decisions will be open to legal challenge.

“The SDLP has asked the Irish government to confirm that any information, including information held by Irish army intelligence, will be fully shared with relevant Irish authorities when the disclosure processes are being managed. The question has arisen and it requires a proper answer,” he said. The Irish government declined to comment.

Mr Beattie said the UK briefed MLAs during recent Stormont talks that it will provide “every scrap” of relevant information to HIU, while Dublin said it will only respond to specific HIU requests.

In addition, all Irish files will be censored by Garda before release to HIU, while UK files will be handed over uncensored, he said.

Mr Beattie also said Irish police will decide what information is released by Dublin, whereas in the UK decisions will be made by its government. Dublin has declined to comment on his claims.