By Theo Russell
EXPLOSIVE new evidence on British state collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries during the conflict in the north of Ireland has been revealed in a new book, Lethal Allies, based on research by the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), a 100-strong unit of the Police Service of Northern Ireland set up in 2005 as a result of the Good Friday Agreement.
The authors, Anne Cadwallader and Alan Brecknell of the PFC, were in London last week for a meeting at the House of Commons, but a meeting with the secretary of state was turned down.
The new research shows that Margaret Thatcher was fully briefed about extensive Loyalist infiltration of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) in 1975 by senior Army officers and the north of Ireland minister. Not only did she take no action to stop collusion, she simply carried on heaping praise all the security forces involved in the conflict.
The same goes for Sir John Charles Hermon, the then Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and then Defence Minister Lord Carrington, who both had full details of collusion but did nothing about it.
The first source to break the collusion story in the 1970s was Private Eye magazine.
According to Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams in his Léargas blog:In the days since the book has been published a succession of unionist politicians and former RUC officers have denied, denied, denied.” As Cadwallader points out, many of those politicians were themselves members of the RUC or UDR.
Many new documents were found in a secret RUC safe and at the Public Records Office in Kew, but many are still withheld and a further 66,000 are yet to be seen. The researchers say that between five and 15 per cent of RUC officers were also members of Loyalist paramilitaries.
Cadwallader said that officers from the HET are “appalled” at the new revelations, adding that: “Not every policemen, judge or UDR member was corrupt. Many lost their lives because of the collapse of Catholic confidence in justice, law and order.”
But there was widespread and criminal corruption of the justice system. At the trial of three Loyalist members of the RUC for the attack on the Rock Bar, Granemore, Lord Chief Justice Lowry said they were motivated by “the feeling that more than ordinary police work was needed, and justified, to rid the land of the pestilence which has been in existence”.
The book covers dozens of killings in the “murder triangle” by the notorious Glenanne Gang, a loose group police officers, UDR soldiers and Ulster Volunteer Force members.
A farmhouse in County Armagh was used as a base at which bombs were made and used in the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings, which killed 33 people, and the Step Inn in bombing in Keady, Armagh which killed two people.
When the RUC uncovered a large quantity of weapons at the farm in 1978, the owner, James Mitchell, an RUC reserve officer, was convicted for possession but let off with a suspended sentence. The Army knew all about the farm but ended its surveillance there on orders from above.
Almost all the Loyalists’ guns came directly from British state forces. The UDR kept detailed counts of weapons going “missing” at a rate of hundreds a year, but made no attempt to recover them. Just one of these “missing” guns was used to kill 11 people.
Now we can see the absolute hypocrisy of the British in pointing the finger at Muammar Gaddafi for supplying Libyan arms to the IRA. Now we can understand fully why republicans felt quite justified in resorting to armed struggle.
The Glenanne Gang’s victims included two prominent members of the SDLP, which resolutely opposed the IRA’s actions, and a 16-year-old Protestant boy mistaken for a Catholic.
Robert John “The Jackal” Jackson, a UVF member thought to have murdered between 50 and 100 people, was charged early in his “career” with possessing a gun silencer, but was acquitted after the RUC tipped him off about the evidence. His “career” continued for another 20 years, and he died of natural causes in 1988.
A report can be seen on the Channel Four News website by searching “Historical Enquiries Team exposes Northern Ireland collusion”. But according to Cadwallader, plans for a BBC documentary were dropped on the grounds that it wasn’t “current affairs”, which apparently didn’t apply to the current BBC series on the Cold War.
The families of the Loyalists’ victims are now demanding justice in the light of the new evidence, and many new complaints have been lodged with the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman along with many new legal cases. Their lawyers say an open apology and acceptance of responsibility would, in many cases, be acceptable.
But the British government owes a sincere admission of guilt and an apology to all the people of Ireland for these appalling crimes carried out in the name of defending “the rule of law”.