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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Inability to deal with past is one of peace process’s greatest failings

Posted by Jim on October 25, 2017

Allison Morris. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, October19, 2017

The collapse of the Gary Haggarty ‘supergrass’ trial was a depressing end to a process that cost millions of pounds and caused an immeasurable amount of pain and suffering to the families of those murdered and targeted by the loyalist and his cohorts.
The inability to deal with the past is one of the great failings of the peace process and the Haggarty case a glaring example of that failing.
The de facto amnesty that ran for the early years after the signing of the peace accord made it appear as though the past was an easy issue to manage.
So relieved were we all that there was no sustained violence on the streets that for many years those families who never received any help, justice or recognition were forgotten about in the initial warm glow of peace.

They suffered quietly, silently and with great dignity. Many have since died of old age or broken hearts.

The emotional battering, the long-term, generational trauma victims’ families have endured should shame all those in authority.

Promising people justice when it’s impossible to deliver heaps trauma upon trauma. Leaving victims without answers, using them as a political negotiating tool and making them feel like a financial burden is an immoral way to end any conflict.

Haggarty was never going to be the answer to getting justice for the victims of the Mount Vernon UVF.

A low-life, murdering criminal of the worst possible character he was a dud witness. However, what the case did do was lay bare the activities of that particular group of loyalists and in turn the police officers that recruited them.

The 200 charges he pleaded guilty to, including five murders, and the 300 further offences taken into consideration paint a picture of a man who was involved in weekly and at times daily criminality.

And all while [ Haggarty was] working as an RUC Special Branch informer alongside Mark Haddock, another agent who led the ragtag gang of murderers, almost all of whom were in the pay of the State.

To use people like Haggarty as a prosecution witness is madness. Any defense barrister worth his wages would have torn his evidence apart.

Investigating murders during the Troubles was no easy job and the RUC detectives tasked with that worked in unique and dangerous circumstances.

But when the killer was sitting in the passenger side of a police officer’s car with his hand out waiting for a brown envelope of cash, well that would have made the job considerably easier and that is what the Haggarty case revealed.
Every murder carried out by the Mount Vernon UVF was arguably preventable given how infiltrated they were and completely solvable given how much information was available.

This week The Irish News carried an interview with the Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson, a woman who gets what is needed and who understands the issues and – like those who have lost – is frustrated by how little has been done to help those in need.

The people she deals with come from all walks of life, from those killed by members of the security forces in disputed circumstances to the widows of soldiers and police officers, murdered during the conflict.

Almost all – and this is important to emphasis in the current misreporting of the past – have been failed and denied justice.

The reality is few have any hope of their day in court. Evidence was not retained and as the Haggarty case demonstrated the only witnesses available are often those who were involved.

What Ms. Thompson did say is the victims she deals with want and need the truth and recognition of hurt, and that doesn’t need to take place in a courtroom.
And they deserve that. Whether their loved one was shot dead by loyalists or blown up by the IRA, murdered by a soldier or police officer or executed by a State informer, they all deserve to be given what information is available and apologized to for being failed.

Haggarty may have been an appalling witness but he did give thousands of pages of testimony during his time in custody. That testimony could give answers to his victims’ relatives. They deserve to see it and they deserve an apology for this shameful time in our history.

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