Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Brazil reveals its secrets - time for Ireland to do the same.

Presidential minister of Brazil Dilma Rousseff has announced the declassification of secret state papers which cover the period of military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985. Her announcement follows a lengthy campaign by hundreds of families whose relatives and loved ones were either assassinated or "disappeared” during this period. The secret files, which consist of thousands of documents, come from all sections of the Brazilian military and police in a period when left wing activists and politicians were held under continuing surveillance; a process which often led to the arrest, torture, murder and disappearance of those under suspicion. State agents of the dictatorship were also often acting on the basis of false or maliciously supplied information when targeting their victims.

Minister Roussef , who was herself a former activist and “guerrillera”, and was persecuted under the old regime stressed that the declassification process was an important step for the development of democracy. The minister also admitted to feelings of great emotion and pointed out that the papers were an integral part of the history of Brazil. "They will become an important focus for reflection in our society”, she added.

Of particular interest, are the papers from the archives of the Servicio Nacional de Inteligencia which detail the activities of spies and informers in all sections of Brazilian life during the dictatorship. Documents from the Consejo de Seguridad Nacional, meanwhile, contain investigations into the activities of parliamentary and political activists who subsequently fell into the hands of what amounted to a state apparatus for the abuse of human rights. Another important aspect covered by the papers is the profiteering and self aggrandizement which took place within sectors of Brazilian society where businessmen, politicians and members of the security forces took advantage of the dictatorship to line their own pockets.

There are critics of the government of "Lula" da Silva and his Workers Party (no relation to the tiny Irish party of the same name) who point out that the most sensitive of documents will not be made public and that therefore the declassification process is neither complete nor satisfactory. They also point out that the Brazil has been dragging its heels over declassification of secret state documents in comparison with other South American countries.

This blog correspondent has made the point previously that it is amazing that there is no campaign in Ireland for state papers (North and South) to be declassified and open to perusal by members of the public. In the North, there is every likelihood that state papers would reveal yet more corruption and abuse of power within the ranks of Unionism; whilst in the South, any thorough scrutiny of secret police files would almost certainly reveal an unofficial policy of collusion between the Garda Síochána and the RUC. Judge Henry Barron's recent report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombs of 1974, for example, revealed that senior Special Branch officer Det. Insp. Frank Murray of Portadown RUC was a frequent visitor to Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. The “legendary” Murray and his superior in RUC Special Branch Chief Superintendent Harry Breen have long been accused of collusion with loyalist paramilitaries; not just by this author and other writers, but also by some of their own former police colleagues including Sgnt. John Weir who was himself effectively both a police officer and loyalist paramilitant.


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