Hoodwinking the citizens; Raytheon, Invest Northern Ireland and Derry City Council
anti-war / imperialism |
Sunday October 15, 2006 23:22 by Eamonn McCann
Raytheon's own 'how to find us'
In an indymedia.ie exclusive 'preview', veteran civil rights activist and journalist Eamonn McCann, publishes here the piece submitted to the Derry Journal for his weekly column this coming Tuesday. The story has huge ramifications for the future of democracy at local government level, as well as the global struggle against the US military industrial complex. This is why McCann, a member of the Socialist Workers Party and one of the "Raytheon 9", has asked for this article to be 'scattered far and wide'.
When did Raytheon give Derry City Council assurances that the company’s Derry plant would not engage in arms-related production?
In statements last week, representatives of the SDLP and Sinn Fein referred to the assurances and complained that Raytheon has reneged on them.
The statements followed a meeting on Monday between representatives of Raytheon and the leaders of the council parties. At this meeting, it seems, Raytheon admitted that the plant at Springtown was engaged in the manufacture of software for military systems. That is, the company apparently confessed to having acted in bad faith.
Monday’s meeting had been arranged following the revelation in the North West Telegraph (acknowledgement of our Telegraph colleagues’ performance on this story is in order) that Raytheon involvement in arms-related production in Derry had been discussed at meetings between company representatives and officials of Invest Northern Ireland in 2004 and 2005. Documents obtained by the Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act portrayed the company as having viewed any assurances given to the council as meaningless.
Minutes of the meetings suggest that Invest NI officials shared this attitude to the assurances.
Indeed, there is no indication in the minutes that any of those at the Raytheon/Invest NI meetings were conscious of the assurances having been given. There appears to have been an assumption that the council could be brought onside to support arms-related production.
This is strange, given that the position of the council had been set out in two separate, detailed motions passed earlier in 2004.
A joint SDLP/Sinn Fein motion to a special council meeting on January 7th 2004 recalled that, “Council had received assurances that the Raytheon facility here in Derry would only be engaged in activities that had civilian applications...Council acknowledges that Raytheon’s core global business is the arms trade....Council wants no part of that trade in this city. In particular, we declare our opposition to the development or production of weapons or any software whose end use is a military application and if it is shown that Raytheon have broken their understanding to engage in only civilian work in Derry, then Council’s position will change.”
The motion---introduced after councillors had heard a presentation from Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign spokespersons Richard Moore and Angela Hegarty and Green MEP Patricia McKenna---was passed by 20 votes to nil with three abstentions. As well as 23 councillors, town clerk Tony McGurk and chief administrative officer Bobby Dobbins were present. The motion mandated Mr. McGurk “to immediately write to Raytheon outlining the concerns raised and seeking answers to those points."
Three and a half months later, on April 27th 2004, the council returned to the topic when SDLP leader Pat Ramsey proposed the suspension of standing orders to allow discussion of newspaper reports the previous week citing affidavits from two former Raytheon employees that they had carried out work on a military project at the Derry plant. The project was the Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) system, which has recently been rushed into service ahead of schedule in Afghanistan on account of the deteriorating position of NATO troops fighting in the country.
The minutes of the April 2004 meeting record Councillor Ramsey saying that it was “imperative that Raytheon immediately clarify the nature of their work in Derry. He pointed out that if the company was engaged in such work, this would be in breach of an assurance given by the company when it originally located to the area.”
Councillor Ramsey was supported by Gerry MacLochlainn of Sinn Fein, who “pointed out that...the company had explicitly stated that it would not engage in military work.” The council then passed (17 votes to five) a resolution along the same lines as in January: “Council accepts the location of Raytheon facility in Derry on the basis that it would be engaged in activities that had civilian applications, not military ones; if the basis of Raytheon’s acceptance had changed, the Council’s position would change. Council again calls on Raytheon to immediately clarify the nature of their work in Derry.”
In addition to councillors, nine council officials, including Mr. McGurk, were in attendance.
Four months after this meeting, seven and a half months after the January council meeting, on August 23rd 2004, Stephen Lewis, manager of Raytheon’s Derry plant, and a colleague met with Jim McConnell, a senior official of Invest Northern Ireland and another Invest NI man to discuss the involvement of the Derry plant in the British Ministry of Defence’s JETTS project. The Raytheon website describes JETTS (Joint Effects Tactical Targeting System) as an “an electronic software based toolset for use by military headquarters staff to manage and coordinate the sensor-to-shooter cycle...The aim is to improve the operational capability in the battlespace by enhancing the combat effects of tempo, simultaneity, surprise, tactical agility, lethality and survivability, all whilst reducing fratricide.”
This was war production, plain and simple, obviously incompatible with the January and April council resolutions. Yet while the Raytheon and Invest NI representatives are recorded referring to the importance of council support, bizarrely they do not refer at all to the council’s position as formally set out in the resolutions.
McConnell’s minute of the meeting records: “Key issue for NISSC [Northern Ireland Software Systems Centre---the Derry plant] on this contract will be the attitude of the council. Both the MoD and [Raytheon] will be looking for acceptance in principle that the council have no objections regarding this work. NISSC to write to the council, and Alan McCormick [Raytheon’s UK Director of Engineering] will be planning to meet Tony McGuirk (sic.) to update him and see how best to move forward. Company will not issue a press release."
There is no mention of the company having received a letter from Mr. McGurk outlining the council's concerns, or of any letter in reponse answering the points raised.
McConnell's minute continues: “I offered Invest NI support, initially via Kevin Helferty (Invest NI’s senior Derry official), or if necessary to include Leslie Ross [head of Invest NI’s Clients and Business Group]. Company to assess timing and best presentational strategy.
“This is a key contract regarding the future of NISSC....However, if the council is reluctant to back the project, then the future of NISSC is uncertain.”
These are remarkable sentiments. On the face of it, there was no “if” about the council’s position on the JETTS project. Nor, judging from its public statements, was the council “reluctant to back” the project. “Totally opposed” would have been more apt. Somehow, Raytheon bosses and Invest NI officials appeared to have gained an impression that the council’s policy on arms-related production wasn’t to be taken seriously.
Among questions which arise are: Did Raytheon seek, and did it obtain, “acceptance in principle that the council have no objections regarding this work”? Did the envisaged meeting between Alan McCormick of Raytheon and Tony McGurk of the council take place? When? Was anyone else present? Was the meeting minuted? What was the outcome and to whom was the outcome reported? Which elected representatives, if any, were informed that these exchanges were under way? Were council officials or councillors aware of Raytheon’s strategy of secrecy? (“Company will not issue a press release.”) On what basis did Invest NI, an industrial development agency answerable to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, offer Raytheon the services of two senior officials, apparently to help in “presentational strategy” to advance arms-related production which the relevant elected body had voted overwhelmingly to oppose?
Five months after this meeting, 12 months after the first council resolution on Raytheon, on January 27th 2005, Raytheon’s Stephen Lewis, McConnell of Invest NI and colleagues met again, at Raytheon’s Derry office. Again, the minutes were taken by McConnell. They contain no suggestion that any of the questions arising from the previous meeting had been answered---or asked.
The minutes begin: “Steve Lewis reported that he had a positive meeting with the Mayor of Derry [Gearoid O'hEara of Sinn Fein] re. the relationship with Raytheon and Derry Council. The company will continue its policy of maintaining a low profile whilst continuing to work with local charitable initiatives.”
Many companies involved in controversy opt to keep their head down and play up commitment to local good causes. What’s unusual in this case is that the company appears to have felt able to treat the controversy as a matter of no importance. Seemingly still unfazed by the council resolutions, the meeting noted that, “In terms of business areas, C21 and Homeland Security were 2 large markets which were opening up and providing possibilities for Raytheon.” The C21 is a twin turbofan aircraft, essentially a military version of the Lear business jet. Homeland Security refers to the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” initiative to extend and strengthen surveillance, detection and security systems against perceived threats to US interests.
Intriguingly, the apparent contradictions between the positions of the company and the council had not prevented “positive” contact between Raytheon and Mayor O’hEara.
Three months after this meeting in Derry, McConnell and Leslie Ross of Invest NI and Alan McCormick of Raytheon met once again, for lunch at Dean’s restaurant, Belfast, on April 27th 2005. “The meeting had been arranged with the objective of McCormick giving us an update on the business..,” McConnell recorded. “McCormick thanked Invest NI for its support during this period, including our input to the Derry Council situation. It appears that the current mayor (Sinn Fein) is very supportive.”
The first question arising concerns the reference to Invest NI’s “input to the...Council situation?” Who at Derry City Council was in receipt of Invest NI’s “input?” What did this consist of? What gave Raytheon to believe that, despite the tone and content of the resolutions of January and April the previous year which his party had co-sponsored and supported, Mayor O’hEara was “very supportive” of the company?
It may be that Gerry O’hEara’s position was here woefully misrepresented. The point is, Derry people are entitled to know the truth of it. They are entitled to answers to all the questions arising from the documents now available.
Confirmation of Raytheon’s continuing involvement in arms-related production came on February 27th 2006, when NIO Minister Angela Smith told a Commons committee that, “(Raytheon's) Northern Ireland operation is involved in leading-edge work in phased array radar system and the development of leading-edge software for civil and military air traffic control systems. The company has participated in major MoD contracts, including the ASTOR and JETTS programmes."
On May 15th last, the CEO of Raytheon International, Thomas M. Culligan, introducing a new head of Raytheon’s UK operation, declared: “Ongoing efforts on several key programs, including ASTOR, JETTS, Precision Guided Bombs and UK Javelin, are critical to our customers’ success and Raytheon’s.”
Not only is it clear that Raytheon’s Derry plant is dependent on war production for Western armies, this has been evident for some time. It is two and a half years since the workers’ affidavits referring to production for the ASTOR system were published and then debated by the council. It is just over two years since Raytheon representatives talked of writing to the council and arranging a top-level face-to-face meeting to discuss work on the JETTS system. It is nine months since Minister Smith confirmed the involvement of the Derry plant in these two lines of work.
The notion that Raytheon’s betrayal of its word to the council came as a “bombshell” ---as one local newspaper suggested last week---is puzzling.
On the other hand, if the information did come as a bombshell, it is puzzling that councillors havn’t reacted with greater public fury to their discovery of the calculated contempt which Raytheon has displayed towards them as elected representatives. Why seek further talks---assurances?---from an outfit which, on their own account, has treated them like dirt and whose word cannot be trusted?
Puzzling, too, that there has been no comment from councillors on the suggestion in the Telegraph documents that senior council members and officials were complicit with the company in treating the assurances as meaningless.
Most puzzling of all is the mystery surrounding when and where the original assurances were passed by Raytheon to the council. We have the word of Councillor MacLochlainn that these assurances were “explicit.”
What Raytheon representative delivered these explicit assurances to which representative of the council? What form did the assurances take? A written document? A minuted statement? Where and when did these events unfold?
These are a few of the many questions emerging from this affair which demand to be answered. If answers aren’t forthcoming, cynics among us will continue to suspect that senior councillors, council officials and Raytheon representatives have all along been engaged in a joint exercise to bamboozle the people with smoke and mirrors, nudge and wink.
Good works. Stephen Lewis (Manager, Raytheon) Dr George Wilkie (Director, CSPT), Rachel Doherty (Senior Process Engineer, Raytheon), Dr Stephen Cross (Director & CEO, Software Engineering Institute), At the 2003 Launch of the SEI, University of Ulster, Ma