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Bloody Sunday, election, Irish, Ireland, British, Ulster, Unionist, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ahern, Blair, Irish America

Stevens wants his report published

(by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times)

Lord Stevens has called for the publication of his controversial report into collusion between the security forces in Northern Ireland and paramilitary groups.

"We recommended publication of our report in as full a form as possible. I expect that Robin Eames will talk about that in due course".

Stevens says he made the recommendation in meetings last August with Lord Eames, the former Church of Ireland primate, and Denis Bradley, the former deputy chairman of the Policing Board. His comments have not been made public until now.

Eames and Bradley have been charged by the British government with finding a way to address the legacy of the troubles and recover the truth of what happened. It is likley that one of their main recommendations may be that the British government lifs the veil of secrecy on its own undercover dealings.

The IRA and other bodies could then follow suit.

Eames and Bradley held four days of meetings with Stevens and his inquiry team last August. The talks were described as "productive" but no further details were provided.

Stevens, the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, led three investigations into the collusion, including allegations in relation to the murder of Pat Finucane, a Belfast solicitor, in 1989. The Stevens group is liaising with the Historic Enquiries Team, which is reviewing all the deaths during the troubles, and a number of public enquiries which open in 2008.

There is frustration in policing circles with the cost and slowness of public enquires and this explains some of the pressure for the publication of information without the need for lengthy court procedures.

At a recent meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board Sir Hugh Orde, the PSNI Chief Constable, told some members that he would consider the publication of the Stevens report and other documents. "I was pleased with this development and would want to see publication supervised by an independent body who would not be hamstrung by official secrecy legislation" said Dolores Kelly, an SDLP representative who was present.

Orde has already agreed to make two secret reports on alleged shoot to kill incidents available to John Lecky, the Belfast coroner, for private study. The reports, by John Stalker and Colin Sampson, cover incidents in the 70s when terrorist suspects were gunned down in controversial circumstances by a secret SAS trained undercover unit under the command of the RUC Special Branch.

Alex Attwood, an SDLP representative with an interest in human rights and intelligence issues, gave the initiative a guarded welcome.

"What goes into the public domain should be subject to independent assessment. The story of the troubles it must be one developed by independent people, not an in house version that the British government or the IRA might want" Atwood said.

"The more that can be properly published the better off we are but it cannot be an alternative to a deeper truth recovery process."

December 25, 2007

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on December 23, 2007.