Republican leaders 'should apologise' to families of alleged informants killed by IRA

Freddie Scappaticci
Freddie Scappaticci -Credit:Pacemaker

The republican leadership could show a “different face” by delivering a specific and agreed apology to the families of alleged informers killed by the IRA, Chief Constable Jon Boutcher has said.

MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee were told a previous apology given by Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill did not meet the criteria set out in the Operation Kenova interim report.

The report examined 101 murders and abductions linked to the Provisional IRA’s internal security unit (ISU), which was responsible for interrogating, torturing and murdering people suspected of passing information to the security forces during the Troubles.

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The report called on the republican leadership to apologise to bereaved relatives and victims of the ISU and those who suffered under linked campaigns of intimidation against them.

On the same day the report was published, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Ms O’Neill said she was sorry for all loss of life during the Troubles without exception.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart asked Mr Boutcher, who formerly headed up the Kenova operation, if he thought Ms O’Neill’s apology went far enough to meet the recommendation in the report. Mr Boutcher said he was pleased the First Minister had spoken publicly on the day of the report’s publication.

Referring to apologies, he said: “They should be done once and they should be done properly and they should be done with the support and involvement of those victims. That is something I think we are yet to see.”

Judith Thompson from the Kenova Victims’ Focus Group said the statement made by the Sinn Fein vice-president was a “look in the right direction”.

She added: “It wouldn’t meet the criteria for an apology as it would be accepted in any kind of international law or previous Northern Ireland practice.

“In that you have to be specific about who you are apologising to, you need to be specific about what you are apologising for. It has to be unequivocal, it has to include all aspects of the activity you are apologising for.

“It needs to be delivered in a way which is agreed with and led by the wishes, needs and rights of those who are harmed. So, that is a process that hasn’t started yet in the way it is envisaged in this report. I don’t think what was given would constitute an apology in those terms.”

SDLP MP Claire Hanna said: “I thought the Sinn Fein vice-president’s remarks were very inadequate, insufficient and non-specific.”

Mr Boutcher also told MPs that the actions of the IRA’s internal security unit “took evil acts to a new level”.

He said: “The IRA committed these murders, the IRA commissioned the internal security unit, the IRA intimidated families in ways which have been described to me that even with my background, have sort of reset my frame for what awful things one human being will do to another.

“I pick on the point around the lack of acknowledgement or specific apology from the republican movement into the detail of these cases. They could show a different face by doing that sort of apology.”

The Kenova interim report also said the UK Government should apologise to the victims of informers. Sir Iain Livingstone, the current head of the investigation, said the Government is looking at that recommendation.

Mr Boutcher said he had been a “little bit disappointed” with the response of the Government to the interim report so far but hoped it would say more when the final report is delivered.

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