Kelly explained his position succinctly and unambiguously. 'I am not against the use of informants and I’ve never said that ... of course police services operate on the basis that they gain information.’ And as he had publicly called on 'people to bring forward information ... it would be a complete contradiction for me to say I am against people giving information.’
Gerry Kelly has managed to overcome many contradictions in his political journey in order to make possible the hue of his politics today, but refraining from supporting the recruitment of informers is a contradiction too far for him.
There is nothing at all surprising about Kelly’s stance. It is wholly consistent with his party’s open support for the British police, even if some sleight of hand is used by party spin doctors to pretend that the police force it supports is not a British one. It is depicted as a form of cloud policing, where authority is not really rooted in Britain but out there somewhere in the clouds. This is really just a way of clouding what in fact it is that is being supported.
Sinn Fein knows exactly what it is supporting. It has no lingering doubts that information from informers on republicans will go straight to MI5 who will, if they consider it a military necessity, use it to coordinate the type of operation that took place in Gibraltar where three unarmed IRA volunteers were executed in the street. At the very least it will end up in juryless Diplock courts.
Sinn Fein has merely embraced what all other former republican parties have – that long tradition, reviled by republicans, of Irish citizens informing on republicans to the British that stretches back even further than the barrister Leonard McNally of the United Irishmen.
More recent history shows the Sticks, whose clothing Sinn Fein now wears, making no secret of their support for the British police. Party luminary Cathal Goulding, a onetime IRA chief of staff, was in 1983 calling for people to support the supergrass system. It is a logical step to take for those who politically support the British police. It would be incongruous to demand that the police force being endorsed be denied access to informers. No security institution is going to refuse information that is advantageous to it particularly in an era that places great emphasis on intelligence led policing.
So in all of this it is not Gerry Kelly who is the cause of surprise but former Sinn Fein member Frank McGirr, whose brother, an IRA volunteer, was shot dead by the beneficiaries of informer services in 1983. McGirr was “so annoyed with Gerry Kelly” that:
I am a member of Sinn Fein no longer from today. I don’t support informers. Informers are low lives. Thirty-one years ago my youngest brother Colm was murdered by the SAS on December 4 at Clonoe and that was due to police informers.Frank McGirr, while nursing a serious and legitimate grievance, seriously needs to reflect on how much attention he has actually paid to the party of which he was a member. It has for the past 7 years consistently supported informing. The heroes of the revolution are not the republican prisoners in Maghaberry but the people who helped put them there.