Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Gary Kent

  Assuming that the paramilitary wars are over, there's still some major unfinished business such as the issue of paramilitary exiling. There are widely divergent estimates of those who have been driven from their homes and from their country during the Troubles.

  Peter Mandelson recently quoted figures which show that 335 people were exiled in 1998 and 256 in 1999, of whom 57 people left permanently in 1999. There were more Loyalist than Republican expulsions in this period.

  These figures only refer to those who come forward. Many probably just up sticks. By a reasonable guesstimate, the total number of exiles over the past generation could number 9,000 people.

  The most well-known are those who worked for the State. One of these is Willie Carlin, a former MI5 and Army agent within the Republican Movement. From 1974, he infiltrated Sinn Fein in Derry and became Sinn Fein Treasurer in Derry as well as close confidant of Martin McGuinness. He still sympathises with the party.

  Then Michael Bettaney, the errant MI5 officer who was convicted of espionage, betrayed Carlin to Provo prisoners in England. Carlin fled and now lives somewhere in England, presumably fearing the long hand of IRA vengeance, like Eamon Collins who was brutally bludgeoned to death and Marty McGartland, who miraculously survived two IRA murder bids, one at the hands of the recently deceased Terence "Cleaky" Clarke.

  The exiles issue could become an easily understood litmus test of paramilitary good faith. In the understated words of the Victims' Commissioner, Ken Bloomfield: "It would be a strange aspect of any society attempting reconciliation if convicted prisoners were able to return home while unconvicted people felt unsafe to do so".

  This is Carlin's starting point too. "IRA and UVF members who were jailed saw themselves as prisoners of war and they are being released. If, say, the Republican Movement had incarcerated people in the Bogside, they would now be released. But people like me who worked for military intelligence and on behalf of the British Government aren't yet seen in the same sort of category."

  But not all exiles are like Carlin. Some are deemed—by the dogs in the street—as responsible for anti-social activities including joy-riding, burglary and sexual offences.

  No one pretends that all the exiles are angels, although Carlin rightly says that "everyone is a different case".

  Anywhere in these islands, there would be a ready market for action against those joy-riders who, for instance, have begun to buzz pedestrians in West Belfast.

  But there are some basic principles about justice. The suspect has rights to legal defence, appeal and proportionate punishment. Yet, many people remain permanently exiled for crimes of which they are, in principle, innocent, because they have not been proven guilty by any due process.

  But Carlin draws a sharp distinction between people like himself who did a job in a war and the "hoods". He feels that the UVF and the IRA could recognise that people took different positions in war-conditions and that such organisations can learn to forgive but the housewife on the Falls or the Shankill will find this harder. He says that such people need reassurances that the boozed-up, drug-taking thug who terrorised and burgled their neighbours won't just go back to what he knows best if he returns from exile.

  And it must be clear that those who campaign on exiles should assist the process of reforming the policing and criminal justice systems to maximise their legitimacy.

  Nonetheless, ending the war must mean wiping the slate clean with the exiles. And exiling is inextricably linked with "punishment" beatings as part and parcel of a strategy of fear and tension to enforce paramilitary authority.

  The decision of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee to investigate "relocation following paramilitary intimidation" could flush out some authoritative figures and testimonies and give a voice to the exiles.

  For public opinion can affect paramilitary organisations. In 1999, Amnesty International was invited to monitor "punishment" beatings and the IRA stopped the beatings within days.

  But pressure from within Northern Ireland is the most important and potentially effective way of altering the behaviour of paramilitary groups. The official Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission should get off the fence on non-state abuses of human rights and focus research on exiles, as could Amnesty.

  We will know that the war is over when the exiles can go home without fear of paramilitary retaliation.

30 June 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 19 July 2001