Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum submitted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary



  1.  The Committee has asked that I produce details of contacts between Mr Vincent McKenna and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

  2.  The following list summarises records held at RUC Headquarters of contacts between RUC officers, Mr McKenna, FAIT and other organisations he was associated with.


    (i)  April 1996—Mr McKenna wrote to the Chief Constable, on behalf of an organisation named "Verus Justice" at Queen's University Belfast. He invited the RUC to send a representative to a debate "Flashpoints" on parades' issues. The invitation was declined.

    (ii)  March 1997—FAIT complained to the RUC via NIO, in relation to two alleged, paramilitary shebeens (illegal drinking clubs) in West Belfast. The complaint was examined by the local police commander who reported that the complaint was unfounded. NIO were advised of this.

    (iii)  April 1999—Mr Sam Cushnahan of FAIT wrote seeking a meeting with the Chief Constable to discuss the creation of an anti-intimidation unit in the RUC. This followed FAIT's submission to the Patten Commission. The Chief Constable initially agreed to meet FAIT but was later unable to do so. A Chief Inspector from RUC Community Affairs Branch did however attend a meeting at which FAIT discussed their submission to the Patten Commission.

    (iv)  June 1999—Mr McKenna wrote to NIO expressing concern at threats made to him. NIO requested that RUC carry out a security assessment. This was completed and NIO later admitted Mr McKenna to the Northern Ireland Key Persons Protection Scheme.

    (v)  In September 1999, a member of the public wrote to Downing Street expressing concern at threats to Mr McKenna from various paramilitary groups. These papers were passed from the Prime Minister's Office to the NIO and then the RUC. The RUC responded listing attacks on/threats to Mr McKenna and agreeing that there was a serious threat to Mr McKenna, who had recently been admitted to the Northern Ireland Key Persons Protection Scheme.

    (vi)  In July 2000, Mr McKenna wrote to the Secretary of State, as a representative of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Bureau. He complained of an alleged amnesty for wanted terrorists. NIO referred the correspondence to the RUC, who confirmed that if wanted persons were detected in this jurisdiction, they would be arrested.

  3.  In addition to these contacts, at the request of FAIT a Chief Inspector from RUC Community Affairs Branch did meet Mr Sam Cushnahan on several occasions around the end of 1997 to discuss restorative justice issues. The Chief Inspector later delivered a presentation to a small FAIT meeting on the RUC's views on restorative justice. After Mr Cushnahan left FAIT, RUC Community Affairs had no further contact with FAIT.


  4.  In addition to the contacts listed above, over a number of years the RUC has also become aware of threats to or attacks on Mr McKenna. These included:

    1 April 1998—Alleged threat reported in newspaper;

    18 July 1998—Allegedly attacked by six men at Ormeau Road, Belfast. During the course of this attack McKenna alleged his life was threatened. As a result of police enquiries, one person was later charged with common assault and threats to kill. He was convicted in respect of the common assault charge only, on 18 July 1998.

    27 July 1998—Alleged threat reported in newspaper;

    16 November 1998—Crude incendiary device delivered to Mr McKenna at the FAIT office;

    20 March 1999—Mr McKenna found a trip wire device at his home;

    3 September 1999—Mr McKenna received a hoax device in the post;

    5 September 1999—Mr McKenna received two threatening telephone calls to his home, stating "PIRA are going to kill you".

  5.  At each stage Mr McKenna may have had discussions with police on these attacks and his personal safety. It is clear that the RUC also carried out a formal assessment of Mr McKenna's security, as it would for any other person who was the subject of serious threats or attacks. The results of this were reported to the NIO, who admitted Mr McKenna to the Northern Ireland Key Persons Protection Scheme.


  6.  It is, of course, possible that Mr McKenna, on occasions, contacted other RUC officers in respect of specific issues, eg individual cases of intimidation. Unfortunately:

    (i)   such contacts would not necessarily have been recorded formally by the officers involved;

    (ii)  even if they were recorded, the records will be somewhere among 54 possible local filing systems. These are not computerised and attempting to recover any records will be both time consuming and costly.


  7.  As I indicated in my oral evidence to the Committee, the RUC contact directly with FAIT and Mr McKenna was very limited.

  8.  Our general approach is that we are prepared to meet or work with any group of law-abiding members of the public, if we consider this will contribute to our overall aims as a police service. FAIT adopted a very high profile on issues of paramilitary exclusions and intimidation, especially in the media. The RUC was frequently asked by the media to comment on or respond to such issues and did so in line with our general policy of openness on such issues.

  9.  Clearly we were aware of FAIT's activities through the media and other sources, but the RUC did not have any formal or informal relationship or system of co-operation with FAIT. Indeed, FAIT only formally approached us on the occasions outlined above. Perhaps this is not surprising. As I indicated in my oral evidence, it is often our experience that the victims of paramilitary attacks are reluctant to speak to the police. FAIT may have considered that, for their own reasons, they did not wish to be seen to work too closely with police but that must be an issue for them.

  10.  Had FAIT approached us directly asking that we co-operate in any programme or venture, we would have considered this on the same basis as an approach from any other voluntary group. In this context we would have had regard to:

    (i)  the objectives of FAIT;

    (ii)  the details of their proposal;

    (iii)  the nature of those involved in the organisation.

  11.  As already indicated, so far as I can establish, the RUC was never formally approached by FAIT nor did the RUC seek any relationship with that organisation, Verus Justice or the Northern Ireland Human Rights Bureau.

  12.  Had FAIT approached us we would have wished to examine any proposals exceptionally carefully and maintain an "arms length" relationship with that organisation.

4 January 2001

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