A wave of outrage has followed the decision by the new British Direct Ruler to sign a secrecy order covering files on the death in 2020 of 14-year-old Catholic boy Noah Donohoe.
Noah’s naked body was found in a storm drain in a loyalist area of north Belfast, six days after he went missing, the apparent victim of a racist or sectarian attack.
The range of items that the gagging orders cover include “intelligence documents” and files on the PSNI’s actions, investigations and investigative materials.
The ‘Public Interest Immunity’ (PII) certificates are so named because they are ostensibly in the public interest. As first reported by IRN last week, those on Noah were signed by Sailesh Vara as one of his first actions in Ireland.
Vara was appointed as Direct Ruler less than a month ago by the disgraced outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he struggled to sustain his government in Downing Street. So far, Sinn Fein, the IRSP, People before Profit and a number of independent councillors have all denounced the move.
The scandal of sectarian policing in the North had resurfaced in the mainstream media last month over the news that members of the force have still not been disciplined for the sick sectarian abuse of the remains of a Catholic suicide victim five years ago.
The news of the apparent cover-up in Noah’s death quickly prompted protests outside the PSNI’s Strand Road base in Derry and in Strabane, where Noah was born. A rally is also to be held outside Belfast City Hall on August 13 at 1pm.
A PII certificate is normally used to suppress information related to conflict actions, and its use has added to fears of a major cover-up and concerns that unionist paramilitaries played a role in the death.
The area has been a terrifying one for nationalist children in recent years, and they continue to be threatened with offensive slurs including KAT – an acronym for ‘Kill All Taigs’ (Catholics) – appearing on a children’s play park as recently as this week (pictured, left).
“The only thing we can say for certain about responsibility for Noah’s death is that every component of the British State is lying about it,” said Eamonn McCann, of People before Profit.
Speaking at the protest outside the PSNI Strand Road Barracks in Derry, Mr McCann said it was very important that people came out in public and expressed their anger at the way Fiona Donohoe had been treated in relation to her son.
“Here is a clear example of the State condoning, in effect, the murder of a child, almost certainly a sectarian murder, which we can’t say for definite and we can’t say it for definite because we are not being told the facts. Tell us the truth and be done with it. Let the blame fall where it may,” he said.
Sinn Fein’s Justice Spokesperson Gerry Kelly has come under pressure to quit the Policing Board in protest at the move. He said the situation was “deeply concerning”.
“I am again calling on the PSNI to withdraw this application, because the Donohoe family deserve answers, not secrecy and cover up,” he said.
He said the PII certificates have only one purpose, they “were and are extensively used to hold back information in conflict legacy cases
“This inquest is about the death of a 14-year-old child. It is not conflict related. We will continue to stand with the Donohoe family in their campaign for truth, transparency and accountability.”
Offering support and solidarity to the Donohoe family, the IRSP also condemned the certificates as “a vital component of the unaccountable intelligence led policing in the North of Ireland”. They said they continue to be used to conceal evidence, facts and protect state agents involved in serious crimes.
“The IRSP call on all political parties and organisations to demand the PSNI and British Secretary of State to immediately withdraw not only this PII but outlaw their use in the North of Ireland.”