By Jamie Bryson
It is always necessary to set out at the start of any legacy discussion my clear view that the killing of all innocent civilians during the conflict in Northern Ireland, started by the IRA, is to be condemned. No sensible person would have wanted to see the death of any innocent person, or would celebrate such a tragic loss of life (of course, Sinn Fein regularly celebrate the terrorism of their IRA colleagues).
The regret and condemnation of the loss of all innocent life is an entirely different proposition than the notion that those who called themselves an ‘Irish Republican Army’ and slithered about shooting people in the back of the head and planting bombs in any way fall under the heading of innocent victims. They do not.
In relation to innocent victims, the Combined Loyalist Military Command, speaking on behalf of all the loyalist organisations, expressed “abject and true remorse to all innocent victims” in 1994. That was the right thing to do.
The Police Ombudsman has today (Friday 14 January 2022) issued another politically charged report in relation to the RUC and loyalists. The report acknowledges it has no statutory remit in relation to the UDR, yet nevertheless goes on to make findings in relation to the UDR with some dubious ‘justification’ for this clear self-expansion of statutory powers.
In addition, the Ombudsman appears to deliberately seek to circumvent the clear ruling of Lord Justice McCloskey (endorsed by the Court of Appeal) by simply renaming “collusion” as “collusive behaviours” and making the same determinations anyway. Later in this piece I will return to that particular case, and the scandalous nationalist network assault on a High Court judge.
The ‘collusive behaviours’ finding in the recent report does not derive from any objective standard, rather it is simply another politically charged piece of terminology deployed as a substitute for ‘collusion’, which has now been determined to be beyond the lawful scope of the Ombudsman’s statutory duties.
It should be noted that there is almost a frustration which seeps out through the Ombudsman’s report that they are constrained by statute; it seems they simply want a free for all to enable the deployment of even more politically charged ‘public statements’, and findings based upon a subjective and ever-changing standard.
Naturally nationalist legacy activists, and surrogates in the media, have heard the dog whistle of ‘collusive behaviours’, and taken up the mantle of simply reporting this as a finding of collusion anyway.
Plainly, there is no such offence as ‘collusion’. It is a politically charged descriptor contrived by nationalist legacy activists as a broad heading to be flexibly applied to an ever-changing menu of scenarios.
As if that contrived standard wasn’t absurd enough, the Ombudsman as set out above has now substituted it for the new standard of “collusive behaviours”, of which she plainly purports to make determinations. The ‘evidence’ for this finding is in fact little more than conjecture, supposition and identifying prima facie perfectly innocent engagement between people who live in the same community as having some nefarious purpose.
For example, RUC officers weren’t allowed to socialise with loyalists? Why not?
Is it the case that every loyalist is by default persona non grata until proven otherwise? Is the loyalist community some kind of underclass, to be viewed with only derision and suspicion?
There is precisely zero chance the Ombudsman would have represented republicans in this way. It should also be noted that there is another two-tier nationalist standard on such issues. If a nationalist’s association with prominent IRA members is pointed out (such as, for example, Pat Finucane’s links to the IRA) as evidence of ‘collusion’ with the IRA or worse membership of same, nationalists and their surrogates dismiss such a suggestion, usually with a good degree of victimhood and ‘most oppressed people ever’ syndrome.
However, if a RUC man has a pint with a loyalist all of a sudden it is cast iron evidence of a state sponsored conspiracy to launch a ‘death squad’. It is notable how loyalists were ‘death squads’, whilst republicans were simply ‘volunteers’.
Littered throughout the report is tittle tattle, speculation and intellectual leaps of epic proportion in order to cobble irrelevant and separate threads together to enable the Ombudsman to deliver a ‘collusive behaviours’ finding. This is less an effort in intellectual honesty or faithful adherence to the law, and more a politically motivated use of the office, and of course given the powerful nationalist elite network, this kind of ‘good deed’ leads to the network being mobilised to endorse and credential any public servant who uses their office appropriately. And when I say appropriately, I mean in advancement of nationalist objectives.
I should say something about that important ruling by McCloskey LJ in Hawthorne and White’s application. The nationalist network, especially those engaged in legacy activism, realised that his judgement would seriously constrain the politically motivated legacy campaign, and would prevent the Ombudsman from taking on the purely political role such as that it had adopted in the Loughinisland case (the Ombudsman was actually participating and assisting in making a documentary being produced by nationalist activists, with all sorts of conflicts of interests littered throughout it).
And so, the network swung into action deploying various surrogates in the media to contrive a recusal application, based upon an entirely false allegation which suggested potential bias on the part of McCloskey LJ. In short form, the conspiracy went like this: nationalist legacy activists involved in the litigation misrepresented a previous case McCloskey LJ had acted in whilst in private practice. Knowing (and being advised by senior Crown Counsel) that this was no basis for a recusal application, they instead ‘leaked’ this allegation to surrogates in the media who promptly published articles making the false claim that McCloskey LJ had previously represented one of the applicants (he had not).
Upon publication of the co-ordinated media articles, the nationalist network mobilised their other surrogates in media, law, academia and most importantly their army of online ‘activists’ (trolls) to whip up a storm around this false allegation.
The next stage was even more remarkable. They then managed to (without much effort it appears) coerce the Ombudsman into replacing his senior Crown Counsel with none other than Barra McGrory QC, the former DPP who was the IRA’s solicitor of choice, particularly in relation to the OTR scheme.
I should note that Mr McGrory is yet to satisfactorily explain who his actual client was, or who paid him, for this role in the OTR scheme. As all names simply came via Gerry Kelly (according to Mr McGrory’s evidence to the NI Affairs Committee), it seems he (convicted bomber Kelly) was the client acting as an agent for a plethora of IRA terrorists.
The professionalism and impartiality of the previous senior Crown Counsel caused him to refuse to involve himself in the political machinations being contrived. Mr McGrory had no such concerns, and so he waded into the case making a recusal application based on a “perception of bias” due to the media coverage. It is of course trite to point out this was coverage generated by nationalist activists themselves.
Whilst refusing the politically motivated recusal application, McCloskey LJ nevertheless did voluntarily step aside. He should never have done so and rather should have faced down this nationalist campaign.
The Ombudsman presently has before them an application to investigate conduct on the part of the PSNI (not historic, but rather in the here and now) which includes Human Rights violations (as determined by the Policing Board Human Rights review) perpetrated against loyalists. It will be very interesting to see that when it comes to a nationalist endorsed police service (the PSNI) engaging in Human Rights abuses against loyalists, whether the Ombudsman is as diligent in taking on this case.
I for one won’t be holding my breath.