Madam, - Nuala O'Loan's report should serve as a wake-up call for those in denial about RUC/PSNI collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries. The report is shocking in its clarity about the manner in which certain police officers, who handled agents in the UVF, ignored or colluded in murder and other serious crimes conducted by a UVF unit in North Belfast with the knowledge and consent of their superiors all the way up to assistant chief constable, at least.
The report's contents will not surprise observers of events in the North in recent decades, but there are a number of alarming aspects to the revelations. Firstly, the collusion investigated related only to a small neighbourhood in Belfast; it is extremely unlikely that such practices were confined to this area alone. Secondly, it indicates that the security forces were helping to undermine the peace process at a time in the 1990s and later, both before and after the Belfast Agreement, when the IRA was mostly on ceasefire.
Can anyone doubt that similar activities were being perpetrated, on a widespread basis, during the 1970s and 1980s when the "Troubles" were at their height and such collusion was widely alleged by nationalist and republican politicians? It is indeed ironic that it was persistent pressure from Raymond McCord, a member of the unionist community, for the Ombudsman to investigate his son's death, that led to the opening of this particular can of worms.
This investigation does not relate to a period in the dim and distant past; the events took place just a few years ago and some of the participants are still serving officers in the PSNI. Not only that - both serving and retired police officers, including some of very senior rank, refused to co-operate with the inquiry, did not preserve crime scenes, destroyed evidence, and "mislaid" files. The late Lord Denning's "appalling vista" continues to unfold.
Given all of the above, I am confused by the attitude of the DUP. Activities more appropriate in a banana republic, where security forces aid right-wing death squads, are accepted as a necessary part of the "dirty war" against terrorists. Loyalist paramilitaries, who have never disarmed, are allowed to participate in drug dealing, beatings, robberies, murders and other serious crime without voluble criticism. Yet the IRA and Sinn Féin are castigated every time renegade republicans outside their control engage in less serious criminal activity.
Why aren't politicians in the Republic pointing out the DUP's double standards? Are they too politically correct to do so? - Yours, etc,
Madam, - Congratulations to Mr Raymond McCord for his courage and determination to discover the facts concerning the murder of his son. We should be glad also to have an ombudsman of the calibre of Nuala O'Loan, who is doing so much to restore confidence in Northern Ireland's system of justice.
There were many fine men and women in the RUC who were killed or disabled during 30 years of what English generals and the PIRA referred to as "war". Dirty things happen in a war. Nevertheless, in order to retain some kind of sanity in society, combatants serving in their own territory should be amenable to the law of that territory and if they have been involved in heinous acts of violence they should be arraigned before that law. The cases of Raymond McCord Jnr and others would seem to have been complicated by the destruction of evidence, possibly because persons of high rank - and not all of them in the police - could be implicated.
Where there is prime facie evidence let there be a fair trial. Where evidence does not exist because it has been destroyed yet affidavits may be produced which imply guilt, let there be a public inquiry. The McCord family is not alone in suffering from the state's failure of the state to discover what happened, and why, to their family members. Let us, for example, now hope that the Finucane family will have an independent public inquiry into the murder of husband and father, Pat Finucane. For how many more years must they wait before the truth is revealed to them?
Under Sir Hugh Orde we may be thankful that confidence in policing is beginning to improve. We can only hope that Sinn Féin members will vote to support accountable policing, law and order at the forthcoming ardfheis and that, thereafter, they will use their considerable dialectical expertise to ensure that there will be accountability at every level of law enforcement. - Yours, etc,
Consensor, New Ireland Group,
Madam, - I quote your front-page report of January 23rd: "Channel 4 last night put it to Sir Ronnie that when Mrs O'Loan was referring to 'the highest levels' of the police he therefore must have been included in the criticism. 'I would refute that absolutely and categorically,' he said."
I hope such a senior policeman as Sir Ronnie Flangan knows the difference between denial, the assertion that a charge is untrue, and refutation, the proof that a charge is untrue. Unfortunately, many journalists do not know that vital difference and thereby accelerate the dumbing down of the English language.
So far it would seem that Sir Ronnie merely denies that Mrs O'Loan included him. Whether or not he can refute the suggestion is another matter entirely. - Yours, etc,
Madam, - Nuala O'Loan is not prepared to say whether her findings were the "tip of the iceberg" ("Report a nightmare account of a serial killer", Gerry Moriarty, January 23rd). However, since her report, though restricted to the Mount Vernon UVF, covers 10 to 15 murders, the implication is clear.
Over the years I believed that Sinn Féin exaggerated the amount of collusion in Northern Ireland. I now feel that it is becoming clearer and clearer that Sinn Féin actually underestimated the gravity of the situation.
It is preposterous to think that some of these officers are still employed in the PSNI. I would say, however, that this is the time for Sinn Féin to join the policing board and be in a position to contribute to policing policy in the future. - Yours, etc,
Madam, - I would like to congratulate police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan and her team on the excellent and exhaustive work they have done in bringing into the open an account of RUC collusion that cost many lives.
I hope it will encourage the nationalist people of Northern Ireland to join the PSNI and make it a force for all of the people. - Yours, etc,