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Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher ignored the advice to stay away from Northern Ireland; to stay away from the dark tunnels and tangled webs of its violent past.

He has now assembled a team of fifty detectives. There is a London Headquarters for Operation Kenova and the Boutcher team has a constant presence in Northern Ireland.

Since his appointment last June he has been here many times.
Those who have been arguing in recent times that legacy investigations are a lopsided look into a decades-long conflict should read the Boutcher brief.

“Operation Kenova is investigating a number of serious offences with regards to the abduction, torture and murder of a number of people who were accused by the IRA of being informants,” he told this website.

“The investigation will pursue all of those responsible whether they were members of the security forces or the IRA in whatever capacity they may have contributed to these awful crimes,” he continued.

“The victims and their families have a right to an investigation that is permitted to get to the truth wherever that lies,” he said.

The word “permitted” is deliberately chosen by the Bedfordshire Chief Constable. He knows obstacles will be put in his way. Those who know him say he will not tolerate such obstructions or excuses.

Boutcher is investigating a string of IRA killings, the suspected role of the Army Agent ‘Stakeknife’ and what was known across the intelligence agencies.
His investigation will also put IRA ‘internal security’ and the orders from its ‘army council’ and elsewhere under an investigative torch.

This is not just about the suspected role of an Agent, and what his handlers and others in the intelligence agencies knew.
It is about who in the IRA were responsible for taking, holding, torturing and murdering those whose bodies were then dumped at roadsides and on country lanes.

In other words, it is an investigation in the widest possible frame that will look not just into the corners of intelligence, but also at those hidden places within the IRA organisation.

Freddie Scappaticci – a republican interned in the 1970s – denies he was the agent Stakeknife. Boutcher intends to speak to him, but won’t say when.

His investigation team is recovering documents held across the intelligence agencies, cataloguing and analysing that material, speaking to potential witnesses and taking statements.

This investigation will go to the top of the intelligence agencies and go to the top of the republican movement. The direction of the investigation is obvious.

So, those arguing that there is a lopsided or one-sided scrutiny of Northern Ireland’s past; that there is a scapegoating of soldiers who once served here and little focus on the terrorists, are not looking at the wider frame.

The newspaper headlines and political commentary on a small number of military cases ignores investigations such as Operation Kenova, ignores other arrests and ignores the potential for a loyalist supergrass trial somewhere down the track.

The military cases have caused panic; Tory and unionist panic at a time of political uncertainty.

There will be elections on March 2, and then there will be another negotiation, part of which will be another attempt to agree the structure into which legacy investigations will be placed.

This would involve both an Historical Investigations Unit and an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval.

These things are part of what is called the Stormont House Agreement, which has since become a disagreement.

Republicans have concerns about the use of British National Security to withhold information, loyalists have argued that you cannot have both investigations and information retrieval and there is no clear understanding how the IRA would contribute to such a process.

Post-election it will be back to the drawing board. Another negotiation about an issue that, for the best part of a decade, has proved impossible to settle.

Given his intervention at the weekend, there will be those who will hold the very firm view that Secretary of State James Brokenshire cannot and should not chair such talks.

“It’s made a difficult situation almost impossible,” a senior republican commented.

In the course of negotiations, investigations such as Operation Kenova will continue.

Those whose focus is on a small number of military cases, are not looking at the wider frame.

They are missing the point; missing the wider context, looking one way but not the other.

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  1. Panic is a very misleading word in this piece. Everything about the present revisionism of Crown Forces involvement in murder both overt and covert points to a highly organised campaign led by a professional org – Mi5 perhaps.
    The number of children killed in daylight by Crown Forces is conveniently forgotten in this campaign of lies and Alternate Facts. BBC local evening news in the midst of this “panic” managed to do a week long series on this particular subject. I do not recollect such a project on this programme ever before.
    As for the past – its now making our future more than ever. The future is bleak.
    There is only one solution to the past now – to draw a line under it as cleanly as possible. Amnesty to allow us all to move forward would not be a new thing in this conflict(*see below).
    Victims need to be consoled and recognised and Eames Bradley went some way to lay the groundwork for this. Unionism – in perpetual Revision mode – played the Decent People want law and order card and hence Eames/Bradley report was binned.
    When you believe your own propaganda as Unionism does you can be become arrogant and lose sight of the wood because of the trees.
    The only person ever sentenced to death during the troubles had his sentence commuted because of intense efforts by Unionism – because he was a Unionist terrorist who had killed a cop.
    *Unionism was glad enough at the start of the killing to grant an Unconditional Amnesty to the killers – 95% of whom were RUC & B Specials.
    Revision of the past is a part of any Colonial State such as UK.
    Its importance to Unionism is simple – they now have come to believe they were always innocent bystanders and victims and cannot bear to contemplate the truth.
    This lie is easily debunked as the conflict began with mass destruction of homes and other property in Nationalist areas or property belonging to Nationalists in marginal areas.
    There was mass expulsion of Nationalists from Unionist areas. In fact it was Europe’s biggest refugee problem since WW2.
    Most victims were Nationalists including a child shot dead in his bed by a battlefield weapon.
    Its all in Lord Scarman’s report!
    The next couple of years saw an Illegal curfew by Crown Forces on the Falls Rd and shooting by them of several civilians.
    The first major Bomb atrocity of the conflict by Unionist/Covert forces on McGurk’s Bar.
    Two months later the first major shooting atrocity was Bloody Sunday.
    On this foundation of State crimes against the Nationalist community a conflict built a momentum of its own – and thrived upon it – because the State was a very slow learner and constantly battered and angry Nationalists became more ruthless, cruel and violent

  2. Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom: Liam Holden in 1973 in Northern Ireland, for the capital murder of a British soldier during the Troubles. Holden was removed from the death cell in May 1973.[23] In 2012 his conviction was quashed on appeal

  3. “The investigation will pursue all of those responsible whether they were members of the security forces or the IRA in whatever capacity they may have contributed to these awful crimes,” he continued.
    Were loyalist killers not involved in our troubles, and why are they not being investigated?

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