Memorandum submitted by Sinn Féin
Sinn Fe«in is pleased to forward our submission
to the above inquiry.
The party would appreciate some further information
regarding the time-frame involved in the committee coming to its
If the committee's function is purely to engage
in a limited and narrow approach to the widespread use of threat
and intimidation used by certain parties to the conflict, which
has resulted in people having to be relocated, then it would be
our view that the Committee is embarking on an extremely narrow
approach to what is a highly complex issue.
The people of the North of Ireland are emerging
out of a highly divisive and traumatic conflict, which saw deep
wounds being inflicted by all parties to the conflict. The role
of the committee should lie in ascertaining whether it is in the
interests of conflict resolution to embark upon a holistic inquiry
that can help a process of national reconciliation, or a piecemeal
inquiry that can only add to wounds that are only beginning to
We would appreciate an early indication regarding
whether the Committee intends to respond to our request for the
terms of reference of this inquiry to be extended to include a
thorough inquiry into the effect of 30 years of conflict, as well
as the role of a variety of organisations and agencies responsible
for threats, intimidation, forced relocation, torture, incitement
to hatred and deaths.
Sinn Fe«in welcomes the opportunity to
put forward its views on the above matter to the Northern Ireland
However, we are concerned at the admission in
your letter of 9 October, that you have been asked to "extend
a specific invitation to Sinn Fe«in to make a submission".
We would want to be assured that this is not
a political manoeuvre to infer that only Sinn Fe«in has a
responsibility for, or involvement in, or knowledge of "paramilitary
intimidation"? Have others with knowledge of this issue,
or who have, by word and deed encouraged threats and intimidation,
or whose armed forces have been directly involved in intimidation
also been asked to make submissions, for example, the British
Government, the UUP, the DUP, the PUP or the UDP?
For the purpose of public record, we wish to
make it clear that Sinn Fe«in is responding to the committee's
invitation as a democratically mandated political party that has
growing electoral support throughout Ireland.
We are also responding as a party that represents
communities in the north that have been devastated by threats,
intimidation, pogrom, and murder over a protracted period.
It is our firm view that the terms of reference
of the Committee for this inquiry are too narrow. The majority
of people who have been forced from their homes over the past
30 years of conflict would unquestionably fall outside the narrow
definition under investigation by the Committee.
Fundamentally, the terms of reference ignore
the consequences of British Government policies, repressive laws
and the actions of the various branches of its military intelligence
and paramilitary forces.
It would be a complete travesty of justice for
the Committee to ignore the effect of the combined role of these
agencies, which have been responsible for hundreds of deaths and
thousands of injuries.
Britain's role in the North of Ireland has also
led to major social dislocation and to a climate of intimidation
and violence far greater than that created by any other party
to the conflict.
We believe that by excluding the Government
from any scrutiny of its policies, function and role in the North
of Ireland over the past 30 years would represent a loaded presumption
for the Committee to take as its starting point. It could only
be viewed as damaging to the Committee's stated objective. It
is bound to be treated with cynicism by the international community.
Most importantly it will be viewed by those
who have been on the receiving end of state violence, whether
direct or indirect, as yet another cynical PR instrument being
deployed by the State to bury its own discredited role in this
We would like to draw the Committee's attention
to a number of specific points:
UUP policies in power at Stormont between 1921
and 1972 created and reinforced structured political and religious
discrimination against Catholics. The evidence is to be found
in decades of reports by the Fair Employment Agency/Commission
and other human rights groups. It is also to be found in the words
of and the legislation passed by Unionist leaders.
The divided society, the imposition of a second
class citizenship on Catholics, the denial of voting rights, the
discrimination and sectarianism which this encouraged led to many
people being forced to leave their homes for Britain, the South
of Ireland, the USA, Canada and Australia in the hope of finding
a better life than the one they faced at home.
This form of intimidation and that by the State
contributed enormously to the 30 years of conflict that grew out
of unionism's inability to come to terms in the sixties with the
ideas of equality, justice and democratic rights.
Unionism has never acknowledged the wrongs it
committed in pursuit of domination.
DUP policies have fostered fear and contributed
enormously to an atmosphere of threat and intimidation.
In the past, we have seen it publicly allied
to paramilitary organisations, for example during the 1974 and
1977 "loyalist workers strikes", as well as with masked
and uniformed groups as they took over small towns like Lisburn
In the 1980s it played a key role in establishing
and encouraging Ulster Resistance, a paramilitary organisation
for which the UDA and UVF imported weapons from South Africa.
Ulster Resistance still holds most of its substantial share of
this weapons consignment.
In addition, the anti-Catholic rhetoric of Mr
Paisley has helped to foster sectarianism as well as fear and
The largest single dislocation of population
in Europe since the Second World War, and prior to the recent
conflict in the Balkans, occurred in Belfast between 1969 and
It resulted from pogroms against nationalist
areas by the RUC and loyalist mobs, politically backed by the
then UUP controlled Stormont regime. It was made worse by a British
Army that saw its role as defending the status quo, and by the
introduction of internment in 1971.
Nationalist families continued to flee their
homes as loyalist murder gangs, many of them working in collusion
with the British Army, British "dirty tricks" units
and the RUC, colluded in the mass killing of Catholics, frequently
using mutilation and torture.
Collusion has remained throughout the last 30
years a constant tactic employed by the British state in an effort
to terrorise and subjugate Irish republicanism and nationalism.
In its more recent manifestations, through people
like Brian Nelson, a publicly acknowledged British agent working
with the UDA/UFF, it has involved:
conspiring with loyalist paramilitaries
to carry out assassination;
taking part in assassinations;
providing thousands of files held
by the British Army and RUC over to loyalist death squads;
providing personal details on people's
movements, car registration numbers, places of work and so on
to agents, some of them at the highest levels of the loyalist
providing specific information on
specific individuals who the British State wanted killed, for
example, Human Rights lawyer Pat Finucane;
assisting in, through its agents,
the importation of weapons via South Africa in the late 1980s,
which then saw a dramatic increase in the ability of loyalist
death squads to kill Catholics and republican activists;
failing to prevent loyalist assassinations;
assisting in the commission of killings
by loyalist death squads, for example, by ensuring that no other
British Forces were in the vicinity, lifting check-points etc;
failing to investigate such killings
failing to inform individuals that
they have been targeted for assassination; and
refusing to provide individuals targeted
for assassination with the nature of the details held by the loyalist
Various organs of the British State, such as
the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and
the Secretary of State for "Northern Ireland", have:
failed to prosecute those responsible
for such killings;
failed to prosecute or otherwise
discipline those members of the British Forces involved in collusion;
used Public Interest Immunity certificates
and claims at trials and inquests to withhold information concerning
allowed members of the British Forces
to carry out illegal acts, whether in conspiracy with loyalist
death squads or not, with impunity and hindering official investigations
of those acts.
As a direct consequence of these government
policies, pursued by different governments over a 30 year period,
thousands of individuals and families have fled from their homes
believing they were vulnerable to attack. Many left the north
of Ireland. Some moved to Britain, most moved to the south of
Ireland or abroad.
The British Government has never acknowledged
these political refugees and their plight has been ignored.
The Special Powers Act played a key role in
coercing Catholics into accepting unionist domination for decades.
It played out its destructive and repressive
role in the attacks by the RUC on the civil rights campaign of
the 1960s and early 1970s, and the pogroms of that period.
Scores of people were killed, tens of thousands
forced to flee and hundreds of homes torched.
The British Government made use of the Special
Powers Act and then replaced it by a range of other repressive
laws that allowed it to suspend the normal rules of justice, including
rules governing coroners inquests and the suspension of jury trials
and their replacement by the discredited Diplock Court system.
Under international human rights law, the right
to a fair trial is guaranteed. Under the terms of ordinary law
a person should be deemed innocent until proven guilty and people
should have the right not to implicate themselves
Fair trial guarantees under international law
also include the right to legal representation and the right to
be heard by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal.
All these principles have been stood on their
head under the EPA and PTA.
The Diplock Court system and the "conveyor
belt" legal and judicial system which passes for a justice
system in the north, combined with the lower standard of evidence
allowed under the repressive legislation, is incompatible with
the right to a fair trial.
It has also encouraged and defended widespread
and systematic abuses of human rights.
Using internment, several thousand people were
held in the 70s by the British Government without trial or apology
or recompense for their detention.
In an effort to secure written or verbal "confessions",
which under the Diplock system are sufficient for proof of guilt,
thousands of men and women and children have been tortured, brutalised
and degraded in interrogation centres. According to Steven Greer
and Anthony White in "Justice under Fire": "In
the common law the prosecution had the burden of showing that
any confession which it wished to use in evidence was given voluntarily.
In Northern Ireland the Emergency Provisions Act altered this
rule to place the burden on the accused who wishes to challenge
the admissibility of a confession".
Consequently, every major human rights agency
in the world, from Amnesty International to Helsinki Watch, have
accused the British Government of employing torture, summary execution
and of extensive violations of human rights.
The British Government has the distinction of
having been found guilty before the European Court of Human Rights
more often than any other signatory since 1950.
Commenting on all of this, Kadar Asmal, a former
lecturer in Law in Dublin, Chairperson of Ireland's Anti-apartheid
Movement and currently a government Minister in the South African
"The whole administration of justice is
perverted and the vocabulary of dissent itself is prostituted.
The use of special courts, where 10,000 people have been prosecuted
and found guilty from 1973 to 1988, the use of supergrasses, the
deliberate adoption by the administration of what one judge in
Northern Ireland called `the final court of appeal'the
lethal use of firearms to remove people who are embarrassments
to the policies of the administration: all of these measures have
been criticised or condemned by a series of governmental or unofficial
international inquiries or by the invocation of international
The British Government has used a sophisticated
version of the famous Coercion Acts of the nineteenth century
in order to deal with the situation in the north of Ireland. The
British Government has shown scant regard for international opinion
and international and domestic legal standards. My contention
is that the United Kingdom is behaving and has behaved in the
North in the same way that colonial powers exerted their sovereignty
in the old-fashioned empires."
This has resulted in almost 400 people killed
directly by British Forces in disputed circumstances.
Seventeen people, mainly children, have been
killed by plastic bullets. Thousands more have been seriously
hurt, some left disabled for life.
Over a thousand Catholics have been killed by
loyalist death squads, and many of these were the result of collusion
with British Forces.
Since 1969, over half a million homes have been
forcibly entered and searched by British forces.
Millions of pounds in compensation have been
eventually paid to families whose homes have been wrecked and
human rights ignored and abused. Many others received nothing.
Not one member of the RUC has been
convicted of killing or torturing anyone;
The handful of British soldiers convicted
of murder have all been released from prison after a short period
of time, subsequently reinstated in the British Army and, in several
instances, actually received promotions.
Sinn Fe«in would submit that the combined
range of repressive government policies, pursued with vigour over
30 years, has done more to contribute to an atmosphere of fear,
threat and intimidation than any other single party to the conflict.
It is impossible to quantify the physical, psychological,
emotional and financial cost of all this. Suffice to say, it has
been enormous and will remain an enormous challenge to put right
in the transitional period ahead.
Sinn Fe«in's position is very clear on
the issue of the small number of criminals, anti-social elements,
informers and British agents who have left their homes in nationalist
and republican areas over the years. We, who were the targets
of exclusion orders under British law for decades, are opposed
to exclusion orders of any kind.
Equally, we are opposed to violence, threats
and intimidation being used against individuals involved in anti-social
activities against the community. The absence of a representative,
accountable and non-partisan policing service and credible judiciary
has been detrimental to society as a whole and has contributed
to incidents of community retribution against anti-social elements.
Given the failure of the Policing Bill to deliver
on the above, Sinn Fe«in will continue to support alternative,
community-led Restorative Justice programmes which seek to resolve
the problems of criminal and anti-social behaviour in a non-violent
way, involving the community, the perpetrator and the victim.
The peace process and the Good Friday Agreement
attempted to tackle these matters, as well as the underlying causes
of conflict in Ireland.
Through the negotiations leading to the Agreement,
Sinn Fe«in sought to put in place a new human rights and
equality ethos, backed by effective legislation, which would effectively
tackle all of these matters.
We also sought to replace the current discredited
criminal justice system and police force with new systems, institutions
and organisations that would enjoy the support of all sections
of our people.
Regrettably, on the evidence to date, the British
Government has and is failing to live up to its commitments on
these issues. It is undermining the hopes of a better future free
of the threats and intimidation of the past.
The British Government has also failed to recognise
the importance of meeting the needs of the victims of its various
military, paramilitary and intelligence agencies. For example,
in what can only be described as a crass decision, the government
appointed its Security Minister in the North, Adam Ingram, as
the Minister for Victims. How should the families of the 400 victims
of British forces view this appointment? What does it say about
the sensitivity of this government to nationalist and republican
In setting out to examine the cause and effect
of intimidation in the North of Ireland it is imperative that
the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee looks towards the raft
of international, and independent research available. We believe
that this will support our view that a narrow approach to this
issue would amount to a disservice to the need for truth, accountability
If the deliberations of the Committee result
in a report that is selective and blind to the wider implications
of intimidation, then the Committee will be complicit in a biased,
It is our contention that given the absence
of a proper and adequate response in the past to the needs of
citizens whofor whatever reasons and in whatever circumstances
have been forced to leave their homethat this should now
be properly addressed.
The Committee should consider recommending the
establishment of an internationally based Independent Public Inquiry
to examine the issue of displaced persons as a result of the conflict.
The inquiry should be jointly convened by the
Irish and British Governments. It should look at appropriate policies
and services, as set out in the Appendix to this memorandum, which
such individuals require, ie alternative accommodation, financial
or counselling support.
Any inquiry should include people who have moved
form the north to the south of Ireland and to other countries
such as the USA, Canada and Australia.
Sinn Fe«in looks forward to a positive
response to our recommendations from the Committee.
In recent months the UDA/UFF and the UVF have
been involved in a bitter feud that has left seven men dead, many
more injured and several hundred families driven from their homes.
The response of the public services was to set
up a round the clock monitoring and emergency service. They have
responded quickly, and generally efficiently, to the crisis created
by these two warring loyalist factions.
Some of the statistics available at this point
128 households have been rehoused
to date and a total of 259 have received Housing Executive assistance;
the statutory Displaced Families
Group has been established to meet with families displaced by
the recent inter-feuding in the Shankill Road;
purpose: to ensure that the range
of statutory agencies and community groups work to reduce tension
at interfaces and provide quick-response services;
it consists of NIHE, the Social Security
Agency, North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust
and the Belfast Education and Library Board;
additional staff have been appointed
by NIHE and it has extended opening hours to include weekends;
in recent days the Minister for Finance
and Personnel has found an additional £2 million to help
Regrettably, in the past British Ministers with
responsibility in the north did not ensure such a comprehensive
response was made available in relation to the eviction of families,
most of whom would have been Catholic.
We need to draw on the lessons learnt in recent
months and ensure that in the event of dislocation of individuals,
that public services respond with equal speed and in a similarly
18 December 2000