Dirty dealing encourages false line of thinking
We know that British security services and armed forces conspired with loyalist terrorists to kill republicans, members of Sinn Féin and the IRA; that they allowed, even encouraged, loyalists to kill relatives of republicans and solicitors who acted for republicans; that they allowed loyalists to kill innocent people to protect the identities of agents. We know they allowed agents in their pay to be killed by other agents in their pay.
We know all this because Lord Stevens told us so in general terms when a minuscule fraction of his last report was released on April 16 2003.
We know that none of the people who sanctioned all that killing will ever be brought to justice.
Most who were absent from the Mull of Kintyre Chinook helicopter crash have either been promoted or retired.
The Conservative politicians who authorised the dirty war are dead or gone to the House of Lords, where they will be joined by the best the DUP could offer as candidates for that House.
We know all this but we don't know the half of it. To be more accurate, we don't know 99% of it since Stevens was allowed to release only one per cent of his 3,000-page report.
We also know that there are what have come to be known as 'securocrats', people in the British administration who never agreed with the peace process, who worked in the 1990s to frustrate it and then continued to try to stymie the political process which brought Sinn Féin centre-stage in politics.
Some of them are still in senior positions. You can see from the briefings given to certain newspapers and journalists that there remains strong opposition in some circles to the developments of the last decade or so.
All this dirty dealing encourages a false line of thinking which blames the British security services for every sensational event that affects politics here – the Castlereagh burglary, Stormontgate, the killing of Denis Donaldson.
It's fertile ground for conspiracy theorists. The furtiveness of the British state means no-one can prove MI5 or the SAS or FRU (renamed the Joint Services Group) isn't the culprit, no matter how bizarre the claim.
And bizarre these claims are. Let's take the suggestion that British security services were involved in the murder of Donaldson.
Of course they have the expertise, manpower and equipment. However, we are being asked to believe that 48 hours before the British prime minister was due to issue a joint statement with the taoiseach, elements in his own security services decided to embarrass him by killing a man in another jurisdiction, a killing which could have derailed the policy initiative the prime minister had been working on for months. As Tony Blair would say, "Really?"
There is a crucial difference between the nefarious activities of the British security services and RUC before 1997 and now.
It's this. During the whole disastrous period of Conservative governments from 1979-97, British policy was exclusively directed at defeating the IRA and producing a victory for the state's security policy. Even the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed by Thatcher because it promised closer security cooperation with the Republic.
Since Labour came to power, led by one of the most ruthless and powerful prime ministers in British history, wielding gigantic parliamentary majorities, policy has been directed at producing a political resolution of the problem here.
Conspiracy theorists ask us to believe that this most powerful prime minister would permit a group of his government employees opposed to his policies to commit crimes against the state and in another state for the express purpose of wrecking his policy.
Unfortunately for that argument, this is a prime minister who has exercised more control over Britain's security and intelligence services than anyone in living memory.
Is he not accused of doctoring intelligence material to suit his own policy on Iraq? Is he not accused of appointing his own candidate to head MI6?
Yet the conspiracy theorists would have us believe that where Ireland is concerned, Blair allows some class of free-booters to try to destroy his goal of settling the Irish question, perhaps the only potential success left to his premiership.
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