Evidence 'final proof' for nationalists

THE emergence of the first documented evidence of large scale collusion and government knowledge of it, represented “final proof” for nationalists of a long-standing grievance, according to one media observer. As the story unfolded it sparked a lengthy debate on the north’s leading internet platform for political discussion.

Mick Fealty, editor of the Slugger O’Toole site said the publication of the documents saw contributors post more than 250 comments within two days. The Slugger debate, he said, seemed particularly important to nationalists. He noted how some sought to use the new information as a “silver bullet” – using it to support a range of nationalist theories over the troubles – but he pointed to one contribution that summed-up the wider nationalist reaction. “It went along the lines of saying, some nationalists thought they were going insane, because it was never conclusively confirmed that there had been this kind of dual membership going on between the UDR and loyalist paramilitaries,” he said. “But finally now they had got official confirmation of what they had known, but which was being officially denied. “There is a sense that for this longterm grievance, finally they have proof, not only that the British government now know about it, but that it knew about it back then. And we are talking about the times of the Miami Showband and so on.”

The Irish News had exclusive access to the documents and carried a series of detailed reports across two days of special coverage. The publication of the documents sparked a dispute over their contents, with Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the DUP and Ulster Unionist Party clashing over the issue.

Victims’ groups representing those bereaved by loyalists and security forces said that after years of campaigning on individual cases they were shocked at the “revelations”, adding that the arming of loyalists “has now been acknowledged in official documents”. Among the groups to speak out were the Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten, who discovered the documents buried among public records office files, and who have since passed them to the police Historic Enquiries Team.

After the first day of Irish News coverage the story was taken up by the Press Association (PA) news agency. Its stories are fed to media outlets throughout Ireland and Britain. The PA story was carried by The Belfast Telegraph, UTV online, The Examiner, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express. The Guardian, The Irish Times, The News Letter and The Sunday Business Post all wrote their own follow-up stories.

RTE reported on the emergence of the documents in their in-depth news programme, This Week.

BBC Northern Ireland did not carry any news coverage on the emergence of the documents. A BBC spokesman said, however, that The Irish News reports were mentioned in Radio Ulster’s early morning newspaper review.