By Martin Galvin
The British may think it time for self-congratulations after arresting respected republican icon lvor Bell. With one stroke the crown muted the Westminster outcry over its bartered OTR immunity certificates, placated unionist adherents and sent a sinister warning to potential independent republican candidates or campaigners. All the while the British continued long fingering arrests for Bloody Sunday or collusion murders towards oblivion.
On St Patrick’s Day a constabulary delegation originally put out of the New York parade due to Irish American opposition, was reinserted, amidst the ‘England out of Ireland’ banners, after public pleas by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness for the new constabulary. Within days this new constabulary repaid them in old RUC form, by selectively targeting a 77-year-old veteran republican who was with one or both in negotiations with William Whitelaw.
The arrest of Ivor Bell on 1972 charges, contrasted with the failure to arrest any Bloody Sunday 1972 troopers, despite overwhelming evidence in hand, should end any questions about the one-sided immunity or impunity granted those who murdered while wearing British army or constabulary uniforms.
Independent republicans are told they have a democratic right to contest. elections and put their political analysis beforethe voters. Some point to Jim Allister as the proverbial tail wagging the DUP unionist dog on issues like the Long Kesh U-turn. They ask whether independent republicans at councils or Stormont could lead other nationalist representatives on prisoner and justice issues. It has been suggested that Gerry McGeough’s arrest at the vote count and imprisonment at Maghaberry had more to do with his election campaign than with events 30 years earlier. It must now be asked whether Ivor Bell’s real crime is daring to lend his name to Ciaran Mulholland’s campaign. This case opens a legal Pandora’s Box which will effect more than Ivor Bell. If the Boston tapes are deemed credible evidence, sufficient to imprison Ivor Bell, should we not expect the same evidence to be used against others? Who else is named on these tapes? Once we had the ability to turn every British injustice into a campaign which made the crown end, or at least pay a costly political price for its injustices.
The Blanketmen were locked away in Long Kesh but they broke Thatcher and her attempt to brand them criminals. Internment, Castlereagh confessions, supergrass trials and more were broken by such campaigns. We highlighted the wrong, enlisted support from human rights activists and gradually forced nationalist representatives to stand with us or be proven complicit in British injustice.
Can we unite to fight and defeat this injustice now? Must others stand in the dock because we lost our ability to do so?