Socialist Worker

Britain’s crimes in Northern Ireland covered up

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2754

Mural to republican Bobby Sands in Belfast

Mural to republican Bobby Sands in Belfast (Pic: Sonse/Flickr)

The government’s plan to announce a bar on prosecutions of soldiers who killed in Northern Ireland was due on the same day as the inquest report into the Ballymurphy massacre. That saw British soldiers kill ten people in 1971.

This was not a coincidence—it was a deliberate insult.

The acquittal last week of two soldiers charged with the murder of an Official IRA commander in Belfast in 1972 shows why.

The soldiers admitted shooting the unarmed Joe McCann as he ran away.

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The police never investigated.

The judge ruled their confessions couldn’t be permitted as evidence because they didn’t know it could be used against them. The state hadn’t gathered any other evidence, so the trial collapsed.

The soldiers were going to argue that they were within the British Army’s rules of engagement.

In Northern Ireland in 1972, the British Government, the police, and the British Army denied operating a “shoot to kill” policy.

The soldiers probably could have proved that there was an operating shoot to kill policy against known republicans.

It would highlight the one sided nature of Britain’s role.

This is why the British establishment has closed ranks—to ensure that no elderly soldier defends himself in court by arguing that shooting unarmed people was an officially sanctioned policy.

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