I’m just off the Nolan Show, where my old sparring partner Malachi O’Doherty (actually he’s younger than me) was worrying about Gerry Adams maybe not having told the police quickly enough about a conversation he had with his brother Liam. You’ve probably read about the case in the papers or heard about it on radio or television. What you’re much less likely to have heard about is an article that appeared on the Guardian website yesterday. It’s about a gap in information too.
Only on a bigger scale. A much, much bigger scale. It seems the British Ministry of Defence has been unlawfully withholding thousands of files (that’s right, thousands) that should have been declassified under the 30-year rule. A lot of these documents concern what happened here in the 1970s and 1980s. In what has to be the understatement of the year Huw Bennett, who was an expert witness in that Mau Mau court case a while back, where the British government ended up forking out compensation for barbaric treatment of Kenyans - Huw says “ It [the withheld information] has major implications for understanding our past”. Right. And the HET is particularly interested: “There could potentially be documentation about every case we are interested in”.
Mind you, the British Ministry of Defence has previous on this. Eight years ago it said it couldn’t release tens of thousands of files because they were stored in a building where they’d found asbestos. Later they said they couldn’t move some of those files into the National Archive because they had been destroyed “as a result of water damage”.
You get the drift? If it’s a piece of information that Gerry Adams might or might not have given to the police earlier, it’s headline stuff. If it’s countless files being held illegally by the British Ministry of Defence, it literally isn’t worth mentioning. But sure why would they? Yes, the British Ministry of Defence is in breach of the Public Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act; but hey, the law provides no sanctions for such suppression.
If you’re going to steal, steal big. If you’re going to conceal, conceal big. It’s safer that way. It’ll also be less talked-about.