British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers has been condemned by the families of victims of the conflict after she accused them of a “pernicious narrative” in alleging Crown force collusion and state killings.
In an attempt to address widespread concern over Britain’s continuing cover-ups over its ‘Dirty War’ in the North, and most recently the Shankill Road bomb in 1993, Ms Villiers went on the offensive.
“It wasn’t the RUC [police] or the [British] Army who planted the bombs at La Mon, Enniskillen, or the Shankill, or pulled the triggers at Loughinisland or Greysteel,” she declared in a keynote speech on legacy issues at the Ulster University.
While her government continues to refuse to release documents that would prove or disprove collusion, citing ‘national security’, she claimed there had been a disproportionate focus placed on the actions of the RUC and British Army.
Villiers claimed that the British State was involved in only ten per cent of the deaths in the conflict, and that the Crown forces had “saved hundreds of lives”. She rejected claims of “endemic” Crown force “misconduct”.
Her remark on the Loughinisland massacre particularly dismayed the families of those victims, as a report by the Police Ombudsman is to be released shortly.
Emma Rogan, whose father Adrian was one of the six men killed in the pub shooting while watching a soccer match, said there were questions to be answered about the weapons used in the attack, the role of state agents, as well as the police investigation.
Her lawyer, Niall Murphy of KRW Law, said that to make such an intervention prior to the publication of the ombudsman’s report “calls into question the judgement of Ms Villiers”.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Chris Hazzard called on Villiers to apologise to the Loughinisland families.
He pointed out that the assault rifles used in the attack were from a consignment of weapons brought in by British Military Intelligence and its agent Brian Nelson, and there was strong evidence that the involvement of two state agents had been covered up.
“This is a total insult by the British government to the victims and their families,” he said.
“Maybe Ms Villiers should read some of the files the British government refuse to disclose to learn what happened at Loughinisland or indeed actually meet with the families who have lost their loved ones.”
East Derry Assembly member John Dallat of the SDLP accused Villiers of “rewriting history” by failing to acknowledge the role of the Crown Forces in the various atrocities. His colleague Mark Durkan MP said Villiers was attempting to ‘airbrush’ the responsibility and liability of the British state and forces acting in its name.
Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney said Villiers’ latest speech had “deepened, not lessened” the impasse on dealing with the past.
“The fact is that the British state has tried to absolve and distance the actions of its forces and agents from having any responsibility for the conflict, and the suffering experienced by all sides.
“Lifting a block on information about the actions of state forces and agents over 40, 30 or 20 years ago poses no threat to British national security by any definition.
“There is no actual or arguable way in which disclosure about the involvement of British soldiers in the Ballymurphy Massacre; the role of unionist paramilitary state agents in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings; or the assassination of Pat Finucane by unionist state agents could undermine British national security in the present-day geopolitical context.
“Margaret Thatcher personally approved and presided over numerous state-sanctioned assassinations. The national security pretext is about trying to keep the focus of information disclosure away from Downing Street, and the most senior levels of British state decision making.”