In the latest essay in our series on the legacy imbalance, JIM NICHOLSON MEP says that despite the number of self-styled ‘human rights’ lawyers in Northern Ireland, there are few of takers to highlight terrorist torture in the way Ireland was so keen to help the Hooded Men (see beneath this article links to the rest of the series):
The decision by the Dublin government to appeal the initial judgement in the ‘hooded men’ case was as unwise as it was unwelcome.
Back in March the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) — by six to one — rejected a request to find that a number of men detained by the Army in Northern Ireland in 1971 suffered torture, in a case brought by the government of the Republic of Ireland.
At the time there was a degree of bemusement at Martina Anderson’s comments that: “It is clear the five cruel techniques that the British State used against 14 men is torture. Justice will be heard.”
Given her past as a convicted IRA terrorist, one would have thought she would be loath to criticise anyone else about ‘cruel techniques’ and ‘torture.’
Amongst the thousands of IRA victims were cases of people being abducted, held, tortured and murdered.
Some were left at the side of lonely border roads.
Others were dumped in unmarked and secret graves.
Unlike the ‘hooded men’ they were not alive to tell the tale in a courtroom.
The IRA was promoted, endorsed and justified by Sinn Fein for decades, and still is to this very day.
Many people will now be asking if the Irish government would be prepared to take such a stand for the victims of the IRA.
Given the number of self-styled ‘human rights’ lawyers in Northern Ireland, one would have thought there would be no shortage of takers to highlight undoubted instances of crimes against humanity – including abduction, torture, murder and the targeting of civilians.
The Republic continued to take this case after the overwhelming decision in March by the ECHR, in which only the Irish judge issued a dissenting opinion.
Dublin tried to get the case referred to the ECHR appeal court, the grand chamber, but failed yesterday in that bid.
The pursuit of this case by the Republic’s government highlights one of the anomalies of the ongoing legacy consultation.
Unlike the UK government, the Irish government is not compelled to provide all information and what they do provide will be redacted before investigation meaning organisations such as the Irish Directorate of Military Intelligence, the Irish government and the Garda can remove vital information that could implicate it members.
Questions therefore arise as to just what mechanism would be put in place to appeal against information from the Irish government that is redacted prior to investigation?
The lack of reciprocity from the Republic of Ireland when it comes to these proposals is a major flaw.
This is one of the many issues that are undermining the proposed Historial Investigations Unit (HIU) along with issues around the hundreds of murders and attacks which took place in Northern Ireland but originated in the Republic, not least the Omagh bomb.
It also seems to ignore the fact that many IRA attacks in border areas ended with the Republic being used as an escape route and the fact that for decades the Republic was the venue for numerous IRA arms dumps and training camps and a place of refuge for republicans on the run from the security forces in Northern Ireland, most notably Martin McGuinness.
When one factors in the suspicions about the involvement of senior politicians in the Republic in the late 1960s and early 1970s — not least the arms trial — and adds to that the findings of the Smithwick Inquiry into the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintentdent Bob Buchanan in an IRA ambush in March 1989 in south Armagh as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station, it is clear to us that the authorities in the Republic of Ireland have a major role to play, and not the bit part they seem to have been allocated thus far.
We also have cases where crimes were committed in the Republic but which originated in Northern Ireland.
Cases such as Captain Robert Nairac GC, Denis Donaldson, Jean McConville and the other disappeared will not be investigated by the HIU and neither will the Irish government convene anything similar to investigate these murders.
Give the rigour with which Dublin has pursued the case of the ‘hooded men’ surely it is not unreasonable to ask them to take up the cudgels on behalf of the countless IRA victims and highlight their cases to the European Court of Human Rights?
• Jim Nicholson has been an Ulster Unionist MEP for Northern Ireland since 1989
• Morning View, page 20
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