The Green Ribbon Review of the Year 2006

Following on from last year’s precedent, here’s a look back at the last twelve months as chronicled on the Green Ribbon.


The start of the year saw the Peter McBride campaign bringing its case to Westminster, with an early day motion launched by SDLP leader Mark Durkan calling for the government "to affirm that human rights abusers, killers, rapists and bullies are permanently excluded from military service." The motion would eventually win the support of 55 MPs from all major parties.


The early part of the year also saw Justice for the Forgotten and the Pat Finucane Centre visiting London to consult newly released.documents from the 1970s as part of their research on state collusion with loyalists. Among the significant files which turned up was one on Plain Clothes Army Patrols in Northern Ireland.


The issue of state collusion with loyalists in the mid-1970s was intimately linked with the domestic political role of the security services at the time, an issue that would be raised in March by a BBC documentary with new evidence on the Wilson plots.

Other notable posts this month highlighted some parallel reflections from historians Charles Townshend  and Owen McGee about the relationship between the dynamics of the UK and the rise of Irish republicanism.

Finally, a Comment is Free piece by Mick Fealty prompted some thoughts about the changing terms of the economic debate in Northern Ireland.


This month saw a number of developments linked to Tim Spicer mercenary outfit Aegis: The company took out an injuction against whistleblower Rod Stoner, the Mirror reported that it had employed an army instructor accused of bullying at Deepcut, and relatives of Peter McBride met US diplomats to discuss the Pentagon’s contract with Aegis.

April also saw the UUP come out in support of the SNP’s call for regional variations in corporation tax, reflecting a debate that would grow later in the year.


The Pat Finucane Centre published Subversion in the UDR, one of the documents uncovered at the National Archives earlier in the year, to coincide with a series of articles on the issue by the Irish News.


The now-defunct Daily Ireland published my piece on the another document from the National Archives: Army Plain Clothes Patrols in Northern Ireland.

England’s World Cup campaign prompted something of a debate on national identity, to which I responded with a short essay on the English question.

Times writer Dean Godson claimed that the late Fr Denis Faul had told him that Martin McGuinness was a British agent, an allegation that prompted a series of posts here on the Godson family’s historic role in the theory and practice of psychological warfare.


In response to a piece by Jonathan Friedland in the Guardian, I argued that the left should back an English Parliament.

The left-of-centre case against an English Parliament amounts to the
claim that by subverting political democracy in England, New Labour is
preserving social democracy. The record shows that in reality,
England’s democratic deficit has only served to drive English politics
to the right.

There were further collusion-related developments this month. The Barron report into the Dundalk bombing of 1975 linked the attack to the loyalist Glennane Gang, which included members of the security forces.

The Tories revealed that their policy of English votes for English laws would not apply to Northern Ireland MPs unless there was a Stormont deal, a stance which I argued would create a perverse disincentive to reach agreement.


The Green Ribbon highlighted a paper by Aegis analyst Dominick Donald for the Royal United Services Institute, which argued that mercenaries should muscle in on the humanitarian role currently played by aid agencies as means of securing government funding.


The Green Ribbon looked at the conjunction between the Labour leadership handover and the Scottish elections, and offered four scenarios about how these twoentwined events would play themselves out.

The MOD denied my Freedom of Information request
concerning the Jean Charles De Menezes case.

The Oireachtas began a series of hearings on the Barron report into the Dundalk bombing of 1975.Senior Gardai officers testified that they suspected collusion between the British security forces and loyalists at the time.

This month saw the release of Iain Dale’s guide to political blogging in the UK. The Green Ribbon made it in at number 52 on the list of non-aligned blogs. And yes, there are more than 52 non-aligned blogs in the in the UK!


The Pat Finucane Centre told the Oireachtas of claims that the UVF leadership blocked an army intelligence plan to attack a primary school in Belleek.

A group of MPs hosted a talk by Professor Vernon Bogdonar entitled ‘Is there an answer to the English question." The answer seemed to be ‘don’t ask it.’

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain launched a study on the potential for an all-island economy, as the local parties lobbied for a cut in corporation tax.

SNP leader Alex Salmond called for the British-Irish Council to become the basis of a Partnership of the Isles.

The Sunday Times reported, correctly as it turned out, that Tim Spicer’s Aegis was bidding for a British security contract in Afghanistan.


A panel of international human rights experts found that there was state collusion in a number of loyalist attacks in the 1970s. An Oireachtas Committee was to produce similar conclusions later in the month.

A report by the Economic Research Institute of Northern Ireland explained why the UK-wide corporation tax regime is a problem for the north.

The Witanagemot Club launched a petitition for an English Parliament on the Downing Street website. I followed their example with a petition against proposed changes to the Freedom of Information Act. The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade called for every journalist to sign up. There’s still time to follow his advice.

The Foreign Office security contract in Aghanistan was awarded to Armorgroup. The Pat Finucane Centre called for Aegis to be banned from future bids for British contracts.


A police interview over cash for peerages and the halting of the Al-Yamamah fraud investigation marked an ignominous couple of days for Tony Blair, and arguably for British politics as well.

With speculation about a 2007 election in the air, the Green Ribbon mulled over the possibility that the results of Scottish elections could encourage Gordon Brown to go to the country.

There may be one or two more bits and pieces to come before January, but for now Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!






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