PSNI Stone Journalists For Turning Stones

Anthony McIntyre shares his thoughts on the British police arrest of two Northern journalists.

Yesterday, journalists Trevor Birney And Barry McCaffrey were arrested. Their captors, the PSNI aided by fellow British cops from Durham, are determined to ensure that no stone is turned that might expose the force to the harsh truth of its involvement in killings on an industrial scale while it operated as the RUC. Both journalists were behind the documentary No Stone Unturned which the PSNI resents and wants to see buried deep within the bog of the past. 

The journalists are the target of a focused and deliberate British state operation. Their hounding  resonates strongly of the RUC pursuit of journalist Ed Moloney in a bid to shield its own involvement in the political assassination of lawyer Pat Finucane. Then as now the British police stalked not those responsible for state assisted assassination but those who sought to turn the stone and reveal the muck that lay beneath.

Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey have for at least two decades performed a valuable public service by revealing to society information powerful forces would rather see lying and decaying beneath the stones. Those who attempt to cloud the matter by stating the truism that journalists are not above the law, wilfully miss the point.

It is only through the efforts of people like Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey that society is better protected from the law enforcers behaving above the law. They help protect the rule of law from arbitrary law breaking law enforcement agencies. When the law will not uphold the law what law does society have?
The PSNI nom de guerre is nothing but a fig leaf behind which the ethos of the RUC is protected, likely leaving many to see in the P perfidy rather than progress. 

The RUC and establishment can't handle the truth. Looking to close down and intimidate all those who don't accept their narrative - Councillor Séanna Walsh.
The police targeting of the two investigative journalists is a substantial threat to any process of truth recovery and the democratic concept of the law being above the police and not the other way round.  It is a brazen assault on transparency and accountability. A journalistic colleague of the arrested men, Malachi O'Doherty has argued:
The appropriate response to the arrest of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey is to follow the case closely and to watch their film.

No better way to find out what the PSNI do not want you to know.

Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

10 comments to ''PSNI Stone Journalists For Turning Stones "

  1. They haven’t gone away , y’know.

  2. Very disturbing behaviour, not only on the part of the PSNI but also the Shinners, as individual members have said "journalists aren't above the law, you know" on Twitter.

    Even more intriguingly, Balaclava Street has tweeted the following: "Ordinarily something like this would seriously alarm me, but having seen first-hand the consequences for one of those accused - wrongly - by this film, I don't feel like getting worked up about it."

  3. Christopher,

    do not be surprised to hear the same Shinners say Bobby Sands was not above the law you know

    Balaclava Street may yet have cause to eat his words if ever they come for him. This is the problem with a partisan approach to journalism

  4. A Durham constabulary spokesman said “...The theft of these documents potentially puts lives at risk and we will follow the evidence wherever it leads us...”

    Perhaps he means via asbestos contamination ?

  5. DaithiD,

    until it leads them to state involvement in mass killings and then it will be move on - nothing to see here

  6. Can't have it both ways, an Amnesty covering ALL is the only way forward.

    There are hard truths for Republicans too you know.

  7. We all expect the work of journalists to be precarious in places like Russia, but it's a major blow to see journalists targeted in the UK and the United States. Until there's some real consensus about how to expose the truth of the Troubles, with prosecutions or the writing of history, journalists will be walking into a minefield. It's fairly clear agents of the British state colluded in the murders of Ronnie Bunting, Miriam Daly, Pat Finucane and many more. We can add Loughinisland to the long and depressing list. Even in the states we were shocked by that massacre of innocents. The Republic of Ireland's victory over Italy, a cause for much celebration, had this backdrop of blood. Good on the journalists who helped make No Stone Unturned. We are told by Agent Orange here in the United Stats that journalists are "the enemy of the people" and just plain un-American. How ridiculous, how dangerous. Journalists have been forced to muster a little extra courage in this land of corruption and cover-up. The same goes for those who ply their absolutely essential trade in the UK and Ireland.

  8. Steve R,

    relax, there's likely to be parity in the way the past is not prosecuted. Considering the 'letters of comfort' furnished to Republicans, and which led to the 2014 dropping of the case against John Downey for the high profile Hyde Park bombing of 1982, it seems that an invisible agreement, not to prosecute the past, was part of the settlement negotiated between the Provisional leadership, the British and Irish governments.

    Sure, there'll be some tinkering about around the edges, the odd arrest, interviews and even occasional criminal trials but most likely much of this is all for the optics. Injured parties will have to attempt the civil route if they wish these matters settled.

    (It emerged at Downey's hearing in 2014 that he was also wanted for questioning over the killing of two UDR soldiers in a landmine explosion outside of Enniskillen in 1972. I've heard that operation discussed and heard allegations that the kill was significantly higher on the night ... the target having been an unprotected canvass topped truck carrying squadies back to their St Angelo base after an evening's socialising in local hostelries ... and that the charge was detonated without ever realising that the UDR foot-patrol was in the vicinity. Its even possible that Downey's kill count was the highest of the campaign.)

  9. HJ,

    ".. wanted for questioning over the killing of two UDR soldiers in a landmine explosion outside of Enniskillen in 1972. I've heard that operation discussed and heard allegations that the kill was significantly higher on the night"

    Why would the establishment downplay the kill count? Surely it would have suited their narrative in '72 to emphasize the danger?

    Agree with the rest of what you say though.

  10. Steve,

    I'm confident we can agree that the first casualty of war is 'truth'. I've no wish to add to the inevitable distortions, however I do believe British fatalities were minimised especially in the early years. Whether that was to try and keep the lid on it by denying any psychological boost of 'spectaculars' to the insurgents or to keep the Unionists and the folks on the 'mainland' soothed is up for debate. Both motivations would probably have been at play.

    I'm not suggesting that it will affect the price of cabbage much at this stage, but I am of the opinion that if an investigative journalist or researcher, who knew their way through the labyrinths of Kew, were to examine and attempt to verify reported accidental deaths of serving squadies during the early seventies, whether in the UK, Germany or elsewhere and then correlate that information with whether their regiments had units stationed in N.Ireland at the same time and then were to cross reference to incidents in the locations where those units served we would find examples of where casualties were minimised.

    Distortions are part and parcel of 'low intensity operations'.

    (The Downey case is interesting in the context of prosecuting the past, not just because of the high profile operations he was allegedly responsible for, but also for the fact that the Brits had a possible 'out' on their letter of comfort. The letters were an 'as of now' statement. They were a declaration that no charges or warrants were pending for an individual at a particular point in time. As I understand it they did not make provision for new evidence or information coming to light. Technically if they had pursued the finger-print evidence in the Enniskillen operation, revealed by the HET they may not have been in breach of the terms under which the 'letters of comfort' were agreed.)


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