‘National Security’ no longer a British argument for not genuinely addressing the Past – by Sinn Fein’s Sean Murray

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Over the past number of days British Secretary of State James Brokenshire has been scene setting for potentially another attempt to resolve the outstanding issue of the British government’s imposed veto on disclosure of information to victims’ families.
The impasse around this issue ensured that no agreement on legacy was forthcoming at the Fresh Start talks.

The British government attempted to justify their proposed veto on disclosure on the grounds of compromising their ‘national security,’ a vague, non-defined and flexible concept designed to prevent any disclosure of information unacceptable to the British state.

During the process the British government outlined two key ‘concerns’, i.e. the prevention of harm to individuals derived from their Article 2 obligations and the protection of current and lawful operational methodologies.


Both these concerns were clearly addressed by Sinn Féin, in consultation with families and the key campaign groups, in the two options paper Sinn Féin presented to the British government during the talks and outlined as guiding principles to inform any appeal mechanism. We would also acknowledge a requirement not to prejudice the administration of justice by jeopardising a potential prosecution through disclosure under the direction of the DPP.

Not only did we address these two stated concerns, we also requested, in subsequent meetings with the NIO after the end of the Fresh Start talks, that the British government tell us of any further ‘concerns’ to allow us to examine the potential for developing additional principles to alleviate any obstacles. To date none have been forthcoming.

Yet on Friday 9 September, James Brokenshire informed the British-Irish Association that a balance must be struck between comprehensive disclosure to families and his obligations to protect lives.

Sinn Féin, the key campaign groups and the NGOs and the families they represent have clearly addressed this issue of balance, while acknowledging the British Government’s Article 2 obligations. It remains for the British government to acknowledge and act on their Article 2 obligations to provide maximum disclosure to victims’ families of all political persuasions or none.

Clearly, the British government is still intent on voicing the usual mantra around ‘national security’ as a pretext for withholding information; information which doesn’t compromise any of their stated concerns. A new approach is required, laced with fresh and imaginative thinking, if we are to narrow the gap and resolve any outstanding legacy issues.


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  1. What have Republicans put forward for delivering on their obligations? Martin McGuinness has claimed that he will be ‘forthcoming.’ The Smithwick Tribunal set a very uncomfortable precedent for those of us seeking an ‘honest,’ Truth!

  2. Brian,
    In responding to this article I, as always, point out that I am speaking as an individual and only for myself.

    I find it interesting, but not surprising, that this week’s Spotlight programme has caused such a stir. And it’s a stir that impacts many lives. Above all I think we should not lose sight of the fact that EVERY life lost or destroyed was/is a human being. We are one community, albeit with many divisions, but one section or any other did not develop in isolation nor beam down from outer space. In the run-in to what might turn out to be a crucial period for proposed legacy structures it appears that some are scene setting and felon making.

    It’s interesting to me that Spotlight can dedicate a special edition to an anonymous accuser (who might well have been anyone – MI5 operative?) who delivered nothing more than black propaganda reminiscent of the 1970s without a single balancing reference, such as to the Panorama programme where clearly identifiable soldiers talked about being involved in attacks here.

    I also wonder why you list Libyan Arms without listing South African Arms, Downing Street without Miami Showband, Thiepval without Sevastipol Street or Castlereagh without Torture. Although you don’t list it another example might be the alleged ethnic cleansing of protestants along the border without being balanced by the killings carried out by the Glenanne Gang. All of which need to be addressed. And not only the incidents where there was loss of multiple lives, but also the 100’s who were killed individually.

    On this site recently Sean Murray said a new approach is required while Winston Irvine stated that no process can succeed without the inclusion of loyalists (I paraphrase). I agree with both.

    I certainly don’t buy into the one narrative – there are many, and I’ve not heard a locally based perfidious narrative yet.

    But lets for one second accept that the Spotlight programme was accurate and that there was perhaps 800 agents/informers operating at any one time. Then consider that, if true, virtually nothing happened without intelligence agencies involvement. When this has sunk in then consider what this does to the statistics regarding who was ACTUALLY responsible for what.

    The actions of the illegal combatant groups are pretty well known and they all appear positive on engaging in a truth recovery process. The same cannot be said for the ‘legal’ forces who continue to be in public denial despite several mountains of evidence. What would it do to Spotlight or statistics if responsibility was redistributed, such as moving deaths caused by the Glenanne Gang, Stakeknife, Brian Nelson (and 800 other agents at any one time) etc etc etc into the Westminster Governments portfolio?

    Collusion is not an illusion – neither is/was it one-sided.
    A balanced and honest approach is needed from all sides and it’s needed urgently.

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