Ireland Commissions Another Police Self-Investigation

Mark Kennedy (centre) at Shell to Sea protest in Co Mayo

Mark Kennedy (centre) at Shell to Sea protest in Co Mayo

The Irish government has ordered a report on British undercover officer Mark Kennedy’s activity in the Republic. Any hope that this might be useful is obliterated by the most cursory look at the detail.

The police will investigate this police wrongdoing. They will only look at Kennedy, even though three of the other 16 known officers – John Dines, Jim Boyling and Mark Jenner – were also in Ireland. Who knows how many of the remaining 100+ unknown officers went there too?

This self-investigation mirrors the Scottish government’s recent announcement – get implicated police to investigate, give them a narrow remit that is incapable of seeing the full picture, nobody gets disgraced by their systematic human rights abuses being exposed.

The same pattern was followed in Britain five years ago. A year after Kennedy was exposed in 2010 there were 12 separate inquiries going on, all of them run by police or their satellite bodies such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission. None of them were allowed an overview to see systemic issues, even if they had been that way inclined. It was designed to protect the people in charge and portray Kennedy as a rogue officer.

Ireland’s justice minister Frances Fitzgerald asked the gardai to investigate this month. However, the Department of Justice already have a report. In 2011 they got the gardai to investigate Kennedy’s actions. They’ve had the completed report for over five years but are refusing to publish it.

WHAT WAS KENNEDY DOING THERE?

Ms Fitzgerald gave some detail of the secret report to the Dail last month, responding to questions from Sinn Fein.

Refusing to even name Mark Kennedy, she said

‘The report indicated that An Garda Siochana was aware of the presence of the person in question on a number of occasions between 2004 and 2006. They had established no evidence that while in this jurisdiction the person in question was involved in criminal activities’

The claim is somewhat tenuous. Kennedy was arrested during the 2004 Mayday demonstration in Dublin. In his excruciating 2011 documentary he points himself out in a newspaper clipping of black bloc demonstrators.

‘There’s a photograph of me in one of the Sunday newspapers, the headline says something like “Anarchist Terrorists Come to Dublin”, and there’s like five of us in this picture linking arms.’

Mark Kennedy at Dublin May Day protest, 2004

Mark Kennedy at Dublin May Day protest, 2004

Kennedy was back in the Republic in June 2004 for protests at George Bush’s presence in the country.

He visited several more times over the following two years, including participating in the Shell to Sea gas pipeline protest in Co Mayo.

Commissioning the new report is proof that the Irish government is under pressure and feels it must respond. But, as with the Scottish investigation, and the heap of earlier ones from the same mould, it is not credible.

BIGGER QUESTIONS

Frances Fitzgerald is meeting British Home Secretary Amber Rudd this month. Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has asked for Rudd to be questioned about British spycops in the Republic. Specifically:

  • Who authorised Mark Kennedy’s trips to Ireland?
  • Who sanctioned the list of Irish campaign groups that were to be targeted?
  • Were any convictions in Ireland secured by evidence or actions carried out by undercover British police officers?

How much were the gardai involved? They have already admitted they approved Kennedy’s visits in advance (though claim they did not direct him), unlike the Police Service of Northern Ireland who say they were kept unaware of Special Demonstration Squad officers in their jurisdiction.

Did police in the Republic merely rubberstamp all British requests without asking what they were authorising? Or did they – like German police – have a contract and pay for Kennedy to be in their country?

Whose orders was Mark Kennedy acting on? What about the other British spycops? Which Irish citizens were spied on? Which Irish campaigns were stifled? How much Irish taxpayers’ money was spent getting British agents to undermine the work of Irish citizens?

STARTING WITH THE WRONG ANSWER

The Irish government’s decision to keep their 2011 report secret indicates that the new one for public consumption will omit important details. Looking only at Kennedy plays into the myth of him as an isolated figure. The truth is that there’s nothing Mark Kennedy did as a police officer that wasn’t done by others before him. Far from being rogue, he was textbook.

We need to know about the creation of the archtype and the actions of all those who lived it. They were part of a long-term strategy approved from on high. That is now understood as a plain fact. It is why we are having Lord Pitchford’s public inquiry. That only covers events in England and Wales, but the same officers committed the same abuses elsewhere, and it should be taken just as seriously.

We do not need to be insulted by yet another report saying that Kennedy did some bad things but there was no systemic problem. We cannot be placated by more assurances from the abusive organisations that there was nothing malicious in their intent, lessons have been learned and we can all move on. The more they give us decoys and keep secrets, the more guilty they look.

We need to know the names of the groups that were targeted. We need to know who gave the orders and why. Anything less from state agencies is collusion with the counter-democratic deeds of the spycops.

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