Unfinished Business

'Unfinished Business: State Killings and the Quest for Truth'  by Bill Rolston
(Beyond the Pale Publications £12.99)

(BTP can be contacted at Conway Mill, 5 Conway St, Belfast BT13 2DE. Website

One in ten of those killed in the last 30 years of 'the troubles' were murdered by the State and of course, few if any of the Army, RUC, UDR, FRU or the British Intelligence undercover squads were ever charged let alone jailed for these murders. All the higher profile cases are here in this handy compendium. Bloody Sunday, the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, Louis Leonard, Seamus Ludlow, Gary English, Julie Livingstone, Nora McCabe, John Downes, Michael Tighe, Aidan McAnespie, Fergal Carraher, Kevin McGovern, Robert Hamill, Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson.

Rightly, Rolston doesn't just restrict himself to 'innocent civilians' but includes a number of high profile cases where Republican volunteers have been gunned down during the 'shoot to kill' murders – McKerr, Burns, Toman, Grew, Carroll in Co. Armagh, Mairéad Farrell, Danny McCann and Sean Savage in Gibraltar, Patrick Kelly at Loughgall, Pearse Jordan in Belfast and Diarmuid O'Neill in London.
         After a brief summation of each of the murders Rolston concentrates on the other victims – the families and loved ones who have had to endure malign indifference, demonization and harassment at the hands of the 'security forces' and who have had to struggle for years to achieve even a modicum of recognition and dignity. For many of these people the campaign against plastic bullets and other victims' groups was the first experience they had ever had of grassroots political involvement. There were very few out there to help – honorable exceptions being Clara Reilly, Des Wilson, Fr. Raymond Murray, Jane Winter, Sr. Sarah Clarke, Bill Rolston and Don Mullan.

After reading this book one is inexorably drawn to the position that there can be no cosmetic tampering with or merely 'Pattening' the RUC. The depth of sectarian bigotry engrained in the force runs too deep to be excused on the 'odd bad apple'. The systematic abuse of the victims' families by virtually every RUC man or woman who taunted, vilified and persecuted them through the years is still ongoing.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the book is the 'fate' of those responsible for the State killings. Take one example – the murder of Nora McCabe, murdered by a plastic bullet fired at close range from an RUC landrover on the Falls Road on July 8th 1981. Nora is one of 17 people, eight of whom were children, killed by plastic bullets fired by the British Army and the RUC. She had just gone round the corner to buy a packet of cigarettes. It was 7.45 a.m. There was tension in the area. It was on the radio that Joe McDonnell had become the fifth hunger striker to die.
         Two armed landrovers cruised up the Falls Road. There was a puff of smoke from the back of one them and Nora McCabe fell, shot in the head with a plastic bullet fired from ten feet. She died later that day in the nearby Royal Victoria Hospital of massive head and brain injuries. She was 33 years old and left a husband with three young kids.

At the inquest, which was finally held November 19 1982 there was a blanket denial by the RUC that they had shot Nora McCabe, despite numerous eye witnesses. The Officer in charge of the patrol was Chief Superintendent James Crutchley, who admitted that he had given the order to fire a plastic bullet – but at invisible 'rioters' thirty yards up Linden street. They had come under fire from 'petrol bombers.' The other officers were not named.
         The coroner James Elliott was about to exonerate the police when, to the consternation of all, Pat Finucane, the barrister appearing for the McCabe family, produced a video tape which had been taken by a visiting Canadian film crew which clearly showed the murder in all its gory detail and confirmed the eye witnesses story. The inquest was hastily adjourned. The tape was sent off to be verified. A year later, Superintendent Entwhistle, after travelling to Canada shuffled into court and admitted, sheepishly that the tape was genuine and showed that there had been no petrol bombs, no rioting and that Nora McCabe had been casually shot from the back of the second landrover.

Open and shut case? At least one officer charged with murder and the Chief Superintendent indicted for perjury? Don't be naive. The Director of Public Prosecutions found, as always, that there was no case to be answered by the police. On 21 December 1984 in the House of Commons Douglas Hurd, the Tory minister in charge, admitted that the 11 police officers were still serving in the RUC. Three had been promoted, including one to Assistant Chief Constable – former Superintendent James Crutchley.

Buy this book and lend your voice to the clear and unambiguous demand – disband the RUC!


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