Ben Lowry: The sweeping definition of collusion has helped a pro IRA narrative

Even a child could see the problem with a definition of collusion so sweeping that both an attempt to support or an attempt to shatter a terrorist group are classified as the same
Even a child could see the problem with a definition of collusion so sweeping that both an attempt to support or an attempt to shatter a terrorist group are classified as the same

Consider two situations that have come to be known as ‘collusion’ between the security forces and terrorists during the Troubles.

In the first situation, the security forces loathe a terrorist organisation and allow an informer to operate within it.

The informer is so important in the paramilitary group that the security forces prize him highly.

He has, they believe, given them priceless information that has saved lives on a grand scale.

It is, of course, his trusted role within the terror group that is helping the state glean this crucial data about the murder and mayhem it is carrying out.

For that trust to continue, however, the terrorists need to assume that he is still a committed member. Therefore he continues to play a role in its illegal operations.

Then it comes to the knowledge of his handlers that the agent has been involved in a massacre.

If he is tried, and his role isn’t revealed, he will be jailed for decades, despite having saved much life.

If he is exposed as an agent to avoid such a fate, his worth as a source of information will collapse.

In the second situation, the security forces sympathise with a terrorist group and want it to murder people. Thus the state forces orchestrate killings and give information.

An intelligent child will see the difference between these two scenarios.

In one, sec forces collude with an agent to thwart a terror group and save life. In doing so, they make unpalatable, perhaps seriously illegal decisions.

In the other, security forces collude to increase murder, to end life.

It rather suits those political factions who defend terrorists to conflate these scenarios and imply that NI security forces tried to promote murder in the Troubles.

Government ministers and ex security force figures over the years have accepted such a sweeping definition of ‘collusion’. They were trying to show how fair they were and open to criticism of the state, but they have been played for fools.

It has merely bolstered the pro IRA narrative of the Troubles.

The definition of collusion clearly now needs to change. Some of us said as much as soon as the Loughinisland report came out last year, and before (see link below).

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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