25 February 2006

EDITORIAL: Bomb revelations are not surprising

Daily Ireland


The revelation that the British security service, MI5, withheld crucial intelligence information in the lead-up to the Omagh bomb in 1998 will come as no surprise to those familiar with the machinations of such shady organisations. The fact emerged during an investigation into an FBI agent who was working as a double agent inside the Real IRA at the time of the attack.
To MI5 and the other agencies of British intelligence, the lives of ordinary people are of little concern in their efforts to achieve their broader goals – in this case the undermining of republicans and the destruction of republicanism as a political force. The nameless, faceless individuals who pull the strings behind the scenes care no more about the death of 29 innocent people than did the people who planted the bomb.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan tied the news in with the recent decision to expand MI5 operations in the North. “Allowing MI5 to have a lead role in intelligence in Northern Ireland would be like appointing Herod as children’s commissioner.” He’s right, of course, but it is also true to say that none of the various intelligence arms of the British state is any less cynical and callous. Spies and spooks lie and hide and cover up – it’s what they do. And it has been an unwritten rule that no matter what they do, no matter what outrage they commit in the ‘defence of the realm’, they will not be brought to book, unless, of course, they blow the whistle, at which point they will very speedily feel a hand on their collar.
The families of the victims say the failure to come forward with vital information that may have stopped the bombers in their tracks is criminal negligence. Clearly, it is just that. But the prospect of anyone from MI5 ending up in the dock for their role in the Omagh carnage is slim to non-existent. It would be nice to think that those who kept this information to themselves with such devastating results will some day be made accountable for their actions, but that won’t happen. It would be nice to think that the British will stop lecturing the rest of us on morality, but that won’t happen either. This is the same British government, remember, which continues to stick two fingers up to the Irish people and to the basic concepts of justice and fair play by refusing to co-operate with the Oireachtas inquiry into the Dublin/Monaghan bombs. The Irish government says Sinn Féin still has a number of hoops to jump through before it can be considered a coalition partner, the issue of ‘criminality’ in particular.
Would that it would be as forthright in telling the British that the dirty war needs to stop and that the spooks and spies need to be sent home, not increased in number.
The Irish government is the only one of the players in this drama with any power to do anything about all this. The longer the Irish government continues to turn a blind eye and treat such behaviour as acceptable, the more the British government will feel free to indulge in it.

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