Guest Post by Sammy McNally:
On Wednesday, the 12th December, the Right Honourable David Cameron, Prime Minister, presented the findings of the De Silva review on the murder of Patrick Finucane to the British Parliament – and by all accounts, the packed Commons, was completely shocked by what the Leader of the Conservative Party had to say.
In Ireland and particularly in Nationalist Northern Ireland the contents of the De Silva review hardly came as a surprise – after all the review built on the Stephens enquiries and Cory report which had substantiated the claims of collusion and Nationalist politicians and commentators had long accepted that collusion was an integral part of the modus operandi of the security forces.
The former leader of the SDLP, Mark Durkan, pointed out, that he had repeatedly raised the issue of collusion with successive Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and the Finucane campaign had been taken up by the Irish government, Amnesty International and the United Nations.
So how could British MPs have missed out on the public debate and all those investigative current affairs programs reporting on collusion issues over so many years? How could they have not heard what those whistle blowers from inside State agencies had said? And how could they have remained insulated from the considerable body of evidence already in the public domain and which was the basis for the De Silva Review?
Well of course , we must remember that this limited ‘investigation’which was now before parliament, was not entered into voluntarily by Britain but rather resulted from a ‘concession’ to Irish Nationalism forced out of a previous government who were eager to keep the ‘Peace Process’ on track. I think it reasonable to suggest that British parliamentary surprise at what was going on in the north of Ireland was at least in part due to MPs not being particularly interested and at least in part down to denial – with a large dose of naivete thrown in. In matters concerning ‘our boys’ it is simply not the done thing to ask any potentially awkward questions.
This is after all the parliament that was so easily duped into entering into what is widely regarded as an illegal war in Iraq simply because a dodgy dossier was waved in their general direction and the same parliament that sent its troops to Helmand Province in 2006 without a proper debate, with the hopeful words of the then Defence Secretary (John Smith) that they might return again “without firing a shot”.
This is a parliament that has had stories of abuse coming out of Ireland for over a hundred years and had run an empire, as empires are run, solely for the benefit of its own people – and as British MPs should well know a British empire omelette, like any other omelette, doesn’t come without cracking a few (indigenous) eggs.
Hansard (the record of British parliamentary proceedings) is littered with references to MPs expressing surprise and shock (and occasionally regret) that their overseas ‘peace keeping’ (in Ireland and elsewhere) might have left more than a little to be desired.
As MPs listened to the catalogue of horror their shock did appear to give way to a genuine sense of shame and embarrassment – borne perhaps from the apparent realisation that unlike in the past – that this collection and presentation of horrible facts could not be simply dismissed as a few bad apples and perhaps (hopefully) realising that just repeating the hubristic mantra that – British defence forces are the best in the world – would perhaps not be appropriate – for the time being at least. This one was simply too big and too damaging and embarrassing to just go away.
Before David Cameron took to his feet to deliver the report, the Labour Leader, with reference to the Tory leader’s antics in the Bullingdon Club, reminded him that he once enjoyed ‘wrecking restaurants’. A low blow indeed, by Ed Milliband, after all that was many years ago and Dave has clearly moved on and put that past behind him. Dave has expressed his regret over those days and one can well imagine he may well have needed to offer his sincerest apologies on many occasions.
But, apologising to the proprietors of trashed premises is one thing, apologising to the family of Patrick Finucane quite another and when unaccompanied by what even most British commentators view as necessary (i.e. a public enquiry) it sounded, from this remove, to be completely hollow.
Back in the day, Dave no doubt accompanied those apologies with the Bullingdon motto of ‘Pay for any damage’ but in parliament Dave informed (a no doubt relieved) House that Britian could not actually afford to properly investigate state involvement in the murder of Patrick Finucane (and numerous others).
Listening to events unfold on the BBC Radio Five live(who provided excellent coverage in parliament and then cut to the Finucane Family press conference) it was difficult not to contrast the heartfelt words of Geraldine Finucane with the stage managed, damage limitation exercise(which failed to meet Britain’s international commitment to a public enquiry) that we had just listened to in Westminster.
The Finucane family having watched the parliamentary proceeding from the public gallery and digested the review’s findings expressed their ‘disgust’and informed the media that they would be pressing others, including the Irish Government, to try and get justice – and the thought of further uncomfortable revelations and discussions might just assist those British MPs, heading back to the shires for their Christmas break, to pay a bit more attention in future.