The Troubles with Harry’s Game continue...

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Prime Minister David Cameron has been given credit, in some quarters, for apologising to the family of Pat Finucane over the role British security forces played in the 1989 murder of the Belfast solicitor.

Undeserved credit.

Given that Sir Desmond de Silva’s report into the killing, published last week, unequivocally stated that
collusion took place, Cameron had little choice in the matter.

The state wants this thing over, and it is the role of the sitting PM to facilitate that final brisk sweep under the carpet.

Finucane’s widow Geraldine, who along with the couple’s three children, watched Loyalist gunmen shoot her husband dead as the family breakfasted together, and was herself wounded in the attack, has been gracious enough to accept the PM’s apology, but is otherwise refusing to now quietly push-off.

The report is “a sham”, she insists, “a whitewash” designed to deflect blame onto “defunct agencies” and “deceased witnesses”.

She is demanding a full public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

A demand I doubt will be met and, even if it were, the outcome would merely be further, more detailed, more nuanced, obfuscation.

As the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday made plain, the state has no interest in laying totally bare its
activities during what we still, bizarrely, know as ‘The Troubles’ (an innocuous name for a dirty civil war which claimed thousands of lives across Ireland and mainland Britain).

Ignorance is bliss. And widespread, particularly this side of the Irish sea.

For example, before engaging in any debate on this conflict it is helpful to pose one simple question.

An uncomfortable question, yet crucial in establishing knowledge and understanding of the issue.

Asked to identify the single most murderous day of this war, I have found the most common reply, by a huge margin, is one single word.


A telling answer. For while the death toll of this Real IRA atrocity – 29 innocent men, women and children – remains shocking, August 18, 1998 was not the struggle’s darkest date.

On May 17, 1974, four car bombs were detonated in the Republic – three simultaneously in Dublin, one 90 minutes later in the border town of Monaghan – killing 33.

Innocent men, women and children.

A largely forgotten – by us – massacre for which nobody was ever called to account. An Irish government report published in 2004 concluded that a UVF gang out of Portadown was responsible and that British security services colluded with the bombers. It has since emerged that at one point they even had them in custody.

Obviously no inquiry has reached any such conclusions over here. So no strategic apology required, then.