With Preacher Tony Blair taking almost daily to the pulpit to spread his gospel, it is hardly surprising that he is sounding more and more like the Ulster Democratic Party's Reverend Ian Paisley when it comes to moving the peace process forward in the beleaguered province. According to the Prime Minister, thanks to spreading the word about Iraq's WMD, the world being a better place without Saddam, and we should all be happy about his Cassandra-like abilities, Britain should now make the Provisionals and Sinn Fein see the light of day when it comes to their disposing of their weapons of mass destruction, and following a course of the redeemed in future.
According to the Labour government, the militant nationalists should have long ago concluded that the only impediment to the establishment of a permanent peace in the province is their refusing to recognize the basic facts on the ground. Six months ago in The Guardian, Lord Hattersley called upon the PIRA's Army Council to wake up to reality, and recognize that its war was finished. In today's Independent, Secretary of State Paul Murphy has expressed mild optimism about prospects of the resumption of local self-government in Northern Ireland if only the Provisionals spread the word among the movement's faithful that the conflict with the Unionists is over.
Of course, the knee-jerk reaction by Blair's vicegerent in the province is part of the concerted effort to draw a line under the conclusions of the Hutton Report, and move on with the domestic agenda. Murphy, actually, had been unable to do anything about the peace process as long as the war process against Iraq was heating up, as the results in November's elections demonstrated, for fear of arousing anxieties within Britain's armed forces, especially among the special forces, and intelligence operatives whose capabilities were considered so essential if the aggression was to be successful.
While the delay played into the hands of the more extreme elements in Ulster's community divide - Sinn Fein and Paisley's Party - Stormont's government felt that time was on its side in resolving, or removing the most pressing issues against forward movement - the PIRA's decommissioning of its weapons caches, and declaring that it was totally committed to a peaceful path in achieving union with the Republic.
In so assuming, Murphy's administration thought that the nationalists would simply forget about the 1982 Shoot-to-Kill murders; the complete frustration of John Stalker's effort to bring the murderers to justice; the complicated dealings of 'Steak Knife', the British Army's most important mole in the PIRA, in stopping the shipment of arms for various offensives by the Provisionals while promoting culls within the armies of both sides; the plea bargain with the UDA's Briain Nelson, another mole that the British had in the loyalist camp, to prevent the investigation, and prosecution of other British-planned and assisted murders; the failure to act on the three investigations conducted by Sir John Stevens into Britain's dirty war in the province, and the investigations by an Irish and Canadian judge into other killings being apparently just more wasted effort.
Britain, in short, has its plate more than full when it comes to doing things to help move the peace process forward, and it should stop lecturing others, and start doing something productive itself. Sinn Fein and the Army Council are not ignorant of the past's legacy, and what needs to be done for progress to occur. Unfortunately, London just believes, in Colonel Blimp fashion, that it can just sit tight about all these scandals, and, yet, somehow muddle through.
Take the Stalker affair, for example. Greater Manchester Police's Deputy Chief Constable had been most reluctantly appointed in March 1984 to investigate six murders in Northern Ireland during the fall of 1982 - the so-called Shoot-to-Kill ones. Despite the most dogged resistance by the Royal Ulster Constabulary's Chief Constable Sir John Hermon, MI5, the Home Office, and the MoD, Stalker no sooner was on the verge of getting the MI5 tape which would facilitate the first prosecutions of the culprits than he was suspended from the inquiry on the ground that he was criminally connected with one of the suspects, Captain Simon Hayward!
Hayward had gone to Ulster in autumn 1982 to carry reprisal killings for the decimation of his Life Guards colleagues, their horses, and other Army personnel by PIRA nail bombs in Hyde Park the previous July, as he acknowledged in correcting mistakes about his Ulster career in his explosive autobiography - for Thatcher's Conservative government -Under Fire: My Own Story: "The first was not until 1982 when I was attached to the Coldstream Guards as a Company Operations Officer during a four-month emergency tour to South Armagh." (p. 40)
By the time of Staker's suspension in May 1986, Hayward's second tour of duty in the province, and apparently a reassessment of the performance of Swedish bodyguards protecting statsminister Olof Palme at the end of February 1986 had become so explosive that Thatcher's government could no longer risk Stalker's handling the cases. In Ulster, Hayward had, it seems, led the South Detachment of the 14 Intelligence Company's shootings of Francis Bradley and Seamus McElwaine. Moreover, he had outed Frank Hegarty, a PIRA quartermaster of weapons caches, so that the plan to make it appear that the Soviets were on the move when Palme was assassinated could be documented - what led to Hegarty being executed by the Provisionals.
Accodring to Establishment disinformation agents, Stalker's replacement, West Yorkshire's Chief Constable Colin Sampson, resolved the matter by concluding the inquiry, and calling for the prosecution of many RUC officers. In doing so, they overlooked, though, that Hayward's role had been completely forgotten in the process, and the officers were not prosecuted for reasons of national security about the MI5 tape when Michael Tighe was murdered, as Lord Mayhew explained to Peter Taylor, author of Brits: The War Against the IRA: "A lot of intelligence matters would have been brought out that would have been very deleterious to the intelligence operation that was essential in the circumstances of the time." (pp. 252-3)
The operation that the former Attorney General was referring to was the cull of the unarmed Provisionals on the Rock the following March - what was planned to get rid of 'Steak Knife' whose role in stopping the arms shipment on the Eksund the previous October was considered so vital that London redirected, through Nelson, Hayward's attempt to assassinate him - for setting him up in Sweden a year earler on a drug-smuggling charge - at harmless Francisco Notarantonio's expense on October 9, 1987.
And so it goes, and when will Britain get relevant?