29/05/2008

Intelligence Law-Breakers 'Cost Innocent Lives'

A former top cleric has claimed that the security forces had "on occasion" acted outside the law. Lord Eames said the state must now admit to illegal activity that led to the deaths of innocent people.

He and the co-chair of a special victims' consultative group on the past, Denis Bradley, have outlined key areas that need to be addressed if NI is to move forward.

Lord Eames claimed, "through handling of intelligence it could even be said innocent people were allowed to die".

The ex-leader of the Church Of Ireland, Lord Robin Eames and Denis Bradley will now deliver their Consultative Group on the Past in Northern Ireland's formal report in the summer to the NI Secretary of State, including a number of recommendations.

The group have been holding a series of public meetings around Northern Ireland to get different perspectives on how to deal with the past.

Lord Eames said what many had great difficulty in coming to terms with was that "the State not only sought to be an honest broker during the conflict but also played a combative role and, in this context, sometimes went beyond their own rules of engagement".

He added: "We cannot ignore that, in fact, the state sometimes acted illegally.

"If we are to move out of the past in a healthy way then the state itself needs to acknowledge its full and complex role in the last 40 years."

He said the group's final report would make suggestions on how that could be done, while Mr Bradley added that intelligence gathering and using informers was almost inevitable and had saved lives and stopped atrocities.

However, Mr Bradley, the former Vice-Chairman of the NI Policing Board - and a former priest - added: "The scale of the use of informers throughout the conflict corroded the fabric of our communities and the constant pressure now exerted for information about informers to be revealed only serves to further undermine the well being of communities to a degree that could be poisonous.

"Would the republican community like to have to tell an ageing mother that her martyred son was actually an informer? That is what full disclosure could mean."

He said the group was committed to addressing the legacy of the past "in a way that will promote a greater goal of reconciliation within and between our people".

"We recognise that reconciliation remains an elusive and contested concept.

"For some of us this will mean being reconciled to the fact that our future is together, that we do share the land and its resources and a common sense of belonging to this place."

The group said victims may not be able to get justice in the courts because of the passage of time and lack of evidence and he called on republicans and loyalists to declare that the violence of the past would never happen again.

See: McCord Killers Taken To Book

(BMcC)

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