Hearing was landmark on the road to truth

The relevance and importance of the need for continued U.S. involvement so as to seek a just peace in the North of Ireland was evident at the recent congressional subcommittee hearing on British state sponsored violence and collusion chaired by Congressman Bill Delahunt. Entered into the congressional record was the testimony of two families who have been so greatly impacted by both state sponsored violence and collusion.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians was very proud that the hearing was a direct result of a 2007 visit we made possible while working with the Belfast-based Relatives for Justice.

Along with Irish Northern Aid we helped fund and sponsor the first ever joint visit by Catholic and Protestant families who lost loved ones to acts of British collusion.

Catholics Pauline Davey-Kennedy and Theresa Slane, and Protestants Paul McIlwaine and Raymond McCord, briefed members of the House of Representatives, Senate and the state Department on the murders of their family members.

Following up on Nuala O’Loan’s ground breaking Police Ombudsman’s report, the visit confirmed the fact that collusion was not “republican propaganda,” nor was its effects isolated to the Catholic community.

Father Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus should be commended for his efforts to make the hearing a reality. At the hearing, Raymond McCord returned to Washington to testify regarding the murder of his son Raymond Jr. and John Finucane testified regarding the murder of his father Patrick Finucane.

Past AOH Sean McBride honoree and New Jersey Congressman, Chris Smith, aptly summarized the testmonies as “a son fighting for justice of a murdered father and a father fighting for justice of a murdered son.”

Memorable portions of McCord’s testimony included his disclosure that in a 2008 review of his son’s case in Stormont, when a vote was to be taken on supporting the cause of justice for his son, unionist politicians walked out of the assembly.

McCord told the committee that when confronted with the evidence of his son’s case, Ronnie Flanagan, the former head of the RUC/PSNI, had stated that murderers did work for the RUC, a position refuted by the 2007 Ombudsman report.

McCord also testified that Flanagan’s successor, Hugh Orde, maintained a leader of a loyalist paramilitary group on the PSNI payroll for 15 months as a paid informant.

In his own words, McCord stated: “my government and police did not help.” Throughout the twelve years since his son was murdered, McCord has never wavered in his quest for justice for his son, this despite constant death threats and harassment that has included threats to murder his other sons, not to mention the repeated destructions of his son’s headstone.

 John Finucane’s testimony continued his family’s courageous and unrelenting pursuit for the truth in the murder of his father, human rights and defense lawyer Pat Finucane.

Perhaps the most notable example of collusion, overwhelming evidence suggests that Finucane’s murder was sanctioned from the highest level of the British government.

The British government policy of collusion was rampant in the North of Ireland from the 1970s on. It inflicted pain, suffering and loss across the entire society.

Despite the fact that state collusion has been reported consistently in official reports from Stephens, to Cory to O’Loan, the British government and security forces continue to follow a policy of initial denial of the facts following by the continuous stalling of the inevitable truth.

This policy was characterized at the hearing by Congressman Smith from new Jersey as the British belief that “if you delay it long enough, it will go away.” Smith warned the British that pursuit of the truth “will not go away on this side of the Atlantic.”

If the British government thinks that its continued denial of the truth will be accepted it needs to listen to some of the statements made by members of Congress at the hearing reaffirming the commitment of members of the U.S. House of Representatives to expose the truth.

More from Congressman Smith: “We should not be here today. It is only because the British government has not lived up to Good Friday Agreement and Weston Park and the British lack of ability to tell the truth.”

Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy from Ohio: “Truth of the killings must be made public.”

Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey: “No one should be threatened by the pursuit of the truth.
The people of the North deserve the truth so they can move on.”

Congressman Eliot Engel of New York: “Complacency has set in, those that accuse McCord/Finucane of living in the past are facing their own inconvenient truth.”

Finally, committee chairman, Congressman Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts fittingly added that “this is just the tip of the iceberg. What else has gone on?”

What else has gone on? The families of those murdered, and the victims wounded, or unjustly treated because of British collusion are the ones who can answer that question.

Thanks to the work of groups like Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Center, those people have the ability to seek help in their quest for the truth. The AOH is proud to support their work. McCord and Finucane are among the best known names that are seeking justice and truth, but all of those that have been affected deserve the same justice and truth.

The past must be addressed. The British policy of deny, deny, deny then delay, delay, delay, must come to an end. Britain has proven that justice cannot be governed by a British legal or justice system, a system that complains more about the cost of inquiries but that does not understand that the truth costs nothing. Such a system will not deliver justice.

What is needed is an independent international truth commission that answers to no one but the truth. The continued failure to address the truth will contribute to a society where bigoted leaders of today can look to the past and rationalize their actions, not only of that past, but of today. A society of equals cannot be built on a foundation of lies.

 The hearing in Congress, a hearing at the highest levels of our government, removes the airbrushing that the British government gives the subject of collusion.

The end goal of this process must be to not only hold the gunman and handlers, who are a dime a dozen, accountable, but to hold accountable those in the government and security forces that authorized and promoted the policy of collusion. If we can accomplish that, the truth will be told.

The writer is the Ancient Order of Hibernians National Freedom for All Ireland chairman Sean Pender.

"The Irish Echo". December 2 – 8 2009.