By Danny Morrison (for the Andersonstown News)
Within just a week of publishing its findings the fallibility of the Independent Monitoring Commission became easily demonstrated if one considers how it would have reported had it been established in 2001, with the same punitive powers and using the same jaundiced criteria it was to use in the Tohill affair.
Once Jim Monaghan, Martin McAuley and Niall Connolly were arrested and charged in Bogota on 11 August 2001 the British would have asked for a report and the IMC would have swung into action and contacted the Colombian paramilitary police and the CIA. It would have spoken to President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia and General Fernando, the Chief of the armed forces, who would have told the commissioners that the men were absolutely guilty as charged.
It would have spoken to the American embassy official that carried out the forensic tests, which ‘showed’ that at the time of their arrest the men were covered in traces of cocaine and numerous types of sophisticated explosives. It would have consulted many lurid sources, and journalists such as the Colombian-based Jeremy McDermott of the BBC or the then ‘security expert’ for the ‘Irish Times’, Jim Cusack. It would have noted from these sources that there were satellite photos of the trio making ‘barrack busters’ and there were in existence taped radio transmissions between FARC commanders about the ‘three gringos being on their way’. Had they checked out the ‘Daily Telegraph’ they would have found that it was actually a small nuclear-type device that Jim Monaghan was working on for use in London.
It would have taken evidence from the Minister of Justice and former Irish attorney general Michael McDowell to the effect that his sources - impeccable but, understandably, anonymous - had told him that the three were definitely passing on their terrorist know-how.
Within weeks of its investigation - for why wait two and a half years for a trial to confirm only what we already know! - the IMC would have told us that the IRA was involved in training FARC guerrillas in “terrorist acts, the handling and manipulation of explosives and the fabrication of non-conventional weapons.”
The IMC would have faithfully repeated what journalists and unionists had said, that no foreign traveller would dare go into FARC territory for fear of being kidnapped (except, that is, an envoy from the Pope, the deputy head of the New York Stock Exchange, the Queen of Jordan and, eh, Mo Mowlam, amongst many hundreds).
And based on all these sources, the Independent Monitoring Commission would have got it absolutely, totally wrong, when one considers the actual ‘not guilty’ verdict of a casehardened Colombian judge, operating within a tainted judicial system where the conviction rate is around 100%.
The IMC would have done its job of ignoring government and unionist breaches of the Agreement whilst providing the pretext for fining Sinn Féin and driving Sinn Féin out of the executive and handing its two ministerial posts over to unionists.
Given the context in which the IMC was established it has one purpose and one purpose only. Given that it reports to the British government (let’s cut the nonsense that Dublin or its flunkey is an equal in this relationship), given that the British nominated two of the IMC’s appointees and that they are the more senior of the quartet, only a fool would think that the IMC is ever going to report then act on the failure of the British government to live up to its responsibilities.
Its sole purpose is to concentrate on Irish republicans and provide propaganda for the British. Make no mistake about it, the war goes on: the actions and demands of the British and the unionists illustrate how both lust for the symbols of victory where they failed to attain the substance, failed to defeat the IRA and the republican cause.
Republicans are the target because - unlike the SDLP and Dublin - they refuse to back down on the issue of accountable, proper policing and refuse to kowtow to the British reneging on the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement. The SDLP becomes more pathetic by the day - acting out the logic of its stance, best illustrated by the Fitt-like speech of Seamus Mallon in the House of Commons where he derided the IMC fine imposed on Sinn Féin.
The aloofness of the IMC report shows that its authors have no understanding of the political culture within the nationalist community. The IMC’s McCarthyist edict has rightly alarmed community groups, many of whose best workers are ex-prisoners and often members of Sinn Féin. The report said:
“No organisation, statutory, commercial or voluntary, should tolerate links with paramilitary groups or give legitimacy to them. In particular, societies and other similar organisations should make every effort to satisfy themselves that none of their members are linked to paramilitary groups. If there is any suspicion that they might be, then the onus should be on the person concerned to show there is no basis for that suspicion, not on the organisation to act only if it is proved. We will examine this whole issue in future reports.”
In IMC land we are all guilty even when, like the Colombia Three, proven innocent.