The news that the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains has received no information whatsoever regarding the whereabouts of Captain Robert Nairac’s body is deeply shameful and dishonourable to the IRA in its original guise and to the IRA now, entirely subsumed into the Sinn Fein party.
Between 1977 and 1980 I had occasion to regularly meet the then Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Basil Hume, OSB. As a Benedictine monk he had been Abbot of Ampleforth Abbey and in charge of the prestigious Ampleforth College where one of his students was a young Robert Nairac. He told me that Nairac had been wedded to the OTC in Ampleforth – the Officer Training Corps – and had wanted to become a soldier.
Nairac’s elderly parents had a flat in Westminster which meant that, as Catholics, they could call Basil Hume for support and help. Cardinal Hume asked me to use whatever offices I could to try to have Captain Nairac’s body returned for a Christian burial and to ease the pain of his elderly parents.
Years later, in the early 1990s, I asked Martin McGuinness to see what he could do about this matter as the nascent peace process was making ripples. I told him about the Cardinal Hume request of years before and asked him to confront the South Armagh murderers of Nairac. He later told me he had made contact with South Armagh IRA personnel but had gotten nowhere, a view I found difficult to believe.
Three years ago I contacted the Dublin-based National Graves Association – an Irish republican group which has for many decades received the cooperation of the British Home Office in repatriating the remains of Ireland’s ‘executed patriot dead’ from British prison yards.
I asked the NGA to consider as a matter of reciprocal honour calling publicly upon the IRA to return the body of this fallen soldier – my appeal fell on very deaf ears. There is no honour in the NGA.
An ‘in the know’ republican working in The Pat Finucane Centre explained to me that Captain Nairac’s body would not be returned until it was absolutely clear that the British were going to cease the prosecutions of republicans for ‘legacy’ crimes. While the threat of prosecutions was still possible, Captain Robert Nairac’s remains would continue to lie in an unmarked grave, he said.
In fact, there are two possible explanations for the IRA Army Council’s failure to return Captain Nairac’s remains – the Provos are holding his remains as a bargaining chip to gain some big concession from the British government or, alternatively, there is a hard-line group within the IRA Army Council which wants to punish the SAS for its deadly shootings of IRA volunteers in Gibraltar and in Loughgall and it has decided never to return his remains.
In 1995, Belfast Sinn Fein councillor and historian Tom Hartley broke with bitter Irish republican tradition and attended a Second World War commemoration at the Irish National War Memorial at Islandbridge in Dublin. He was endeavouring to signal the dawn of a new mindset among some republicans to comprehend honour and remembrance.
On July 1st, 2002, and some two hours before the official ceremony, the somewhat tougher Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Alex Maskey laid a wreath at the cenotaph in Belfast and later on July 1st, 2008, Tom Hartley, by then Sinn Fein Lord Mayor himself, made the same gesture.
By 2014, Belfast’s First Citizen and Sinn Fein’s first post-Revolutionary Socialism millionaire, Martin Miller, actually attended the full commemoration ceremony.
The strategy behind this choreography had a number of aims. One was to divide Unionists into two camps – those who saw the republican fist holding a genuine olive branch, and those who still saw it as grasping an Armalite.
A second aim was to begin the process of bringing fallen IRA shooters and bombers into the elysian panoply of official war dead remembrance even though IRA combatants did not fight according to the accepted laws and customs of war and were guilty of torture and murder of civilians and what amounted to crimes against humanity.
The IRA Army Council that was authorising these duplicitous remembrance efforts was fully aware that it was all the while withholding the body of fallen British soldier, Captain Robert Nairac, who had been captured in South Armagh and subsequently tortured, extra-judicially executed and disappeared – contrary to the Geneva Convention.
The IRA then added his corpse to the large number of ‘disappeared’ persons – disappearances the IRA had denied for many years and whose denials were blatant lies.
It is most extraordinary that the IRA demanded the release of all of its prisoners and letters of comfort for its On The Run volunteers as conditions for its participation in the so-called peace process while the British made no demand for the return of its disappeared soldier, Captain Nairac.
The IRA showed more regard for its combatants than Tony Blair and Jonathan Powell – who negotiated directly with the IRA – showed for a fallen British soldier.
Gerry Adams – while you have proven to be electable to parliaments in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, your character has remained stained with dishonesty and lack of integrity toward IRA victims, duplicitous regarding human and civil rights and wilfully bigoted in your ‘break the bastards’ statement in Enniskillen.
Suggesting to you that you make the call to your cult minions to return Captain Nairac’s body is undoubtedly contrary to some project or strategy of the IRA Army Council.
Will either of your new minions, Mary Lou or Michelle, or the ambitious John O’Dowd find the integrity to call upon the IRA – now totally subsumed into the Sinn Fein party – to do the right thing and return Captain Nairac’s body for a Christian burial?
Justice? Equality? Respect?