The Politics of Lying: Implications for Democracy

By Lionel Cliffe; Maureen Ramsay et al. | Go to book overview

10
Shoot to Kill

Maureen Ramsay

There is no shoot to kill policy, there never has been, and as far as I am concerned there never will be.

( James Prior, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Guardian, 12 January, 1984)

The nationalist community has repeatedly made allegations that at various times during the current 'troubles', the British Government, via the British Army and local police forces, has authorised or at least endorsed a 'shoot to kill' policy in Northern Ireland. The term 'shoot to kill' refers to the unlawful killing of known or suspected Republican activists through their deliberate engagement by security forces in armed confrontation. The existence of a 'shoot to kill' policy has always been vigorously denied. This chapter will first outline the context in which alleged 'shoot to kill' incidents have occurred. It will then examine in more detail some notorious shoot to kill cases to assess whether official denials are attempted cover-ups to conceal the truth and if so, whether they are justified.


The context of the alleged 'shoot to kill' incidents

Northern Ireland was artificially created in 1921 when Britain decided to partition Ireland into two separate political entities — the Irish Republic, a sovereign state, and Northern Ireland, with a degree of internal self-government and a federal relationship with Great Britain. This was seen as a pragmatic solution to the conflicting demands of the Unionist and Catholic populations. Partition confirmed the conflict within the six north-east countries between the largely Protestant, unionist and loyalist majority (approximately one million) who wanted

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