Police chiefs in North said there was no law ‘against telling lies’ (The Irish Times)

John Stalker affair and shoot-to-kill policy cover-up were major topics of conversation

Senior police chiefs in Northern Ireland during the 1980s said there was no law “against telling lies” when pressed about the suspected cover-up of an alleged shoot-to-kill policy, according to newly-released State files.

In documents marked “Secret”, an Irish diplomat reported back to Dublin about a meeting with his “usual contact” in Belfast, who had sources among paramilitaries, politicians and police.

During the meeting on April 7th, 1987, the Irish government’s secret contact said he had attended a dinner hosted by the then Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) chief constable, John Hermon, which was attended by a number of senior officers.

The “Stalker affair was a major topic of conversation”.

The contact said when asked “whether the RUC’s actions amounted to a conspiracy to obstruct the course of justice” that one of the senior officers replied: “There’s no law in the land against telling lies.”

According to the document, Hermon “explicitly supported him on this”.

Controversial episodes

During the dinner, the RUC officers engaged in “a sustained character assassination of John Stalker, saying he had not done detective work since the Moors killing 20 years ago and that he was a shameless publicity seeker who had left all the hard work to his deputy, Thorburn”, the contact said.

In what was one of the most controversial episodes of the Troubles, Stalker was asked to investigate a suspected cover-up over the RUC killings of six unarmed men in 1982.

The then deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police was taken off the case at the moment he believed he was about to obtain an MI5 tape of one of the shootings.

‘Particular criticism’

The Irish government contact said a “particular criticism” of Stalker by the RUC chiefs during the dinner was that he “had revealed to the media the existence of MI5 bugging devices”.


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