07 March 2006



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How the British Government got away with murder

by Maxine Williams


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Mairead Farrell

When IRA members Mairead Farrell, Daniel McCann and Sean Savage were shot dead by the SAS on a sunny afternoon in Gibraltar their deaths were immediately welcomed by the British government, the Labour Party and the press. They acclaimed the killings as a 'victory' against terrorism. The bodies of the three were flown back to Ireland and there too the enemies of Republicanism hounded them to their graves. The RUC and British Army obstructed the passage of their coffins through the mourning Six Counties. A Loyalist gunman attacked the funerals, killing three people.

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Sean Savage

In the six months before the inquest into the Gibraltar shootings began the question of whether they had been victims of a British shoot-to-kill operation was debated. The controversy was fuelled by witnesses and evidence flatly contradicting the British version of events. The British government responded with an unparalleled cover-up.

Six months later, when the inquest jury returned its verdict of lawful killing, there was intense relief in Downing Street. Mrs Thatcher's government had meticulously planned and worked to ensure that this was the verdict reached. It is not surprising that they should attach such importance to the Gibraltar inquest. It was one of the rare occasions on which British activity against Irish people had been subjected to such serious international scrutiny.

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Daniel McCann

Had the inquest decided that the three were murdered, the effects for the government and its strategy in Ireland would have been incalculable. Not only would the British government and its forces have been made to account for their murderous actions in Gibraltar, but also the questions that remain unanswered from previous shoot-to-kill operations and the Stalker affair would have been placed at the centre of public debate. The British government simply could not allow this to happen.

Barely had the spent cartridges been gathered from the streets of Gibraltar before the government began its campaign to prevent such a disastrous outcome. The machinery of disinformation swung smoothly into operation. The next day's newspapers were full of the government's story. The Daily Telegraph was typical:

'British soldiers... shot dead three high ranking IRA terrorists... in Gibraltar yesterday, shortly after the gang had planted a massive car bomb... shooting broke out when the three were challenged.'

The government had made sure that the public's first and most significant impression was that three armed IRA members had been shot having just planted a massive bomb.

Only on the day after the shootings did the House of Commons hear Geoffrey Howe admit:

'Those killed were subsequently found not to have been carrying arms. The parked car... did not contain an explosive device.'

>>>Read on

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