Republican News · Thursday 19 August 1999

[An Phoblacht]

Secret payments point to collusion

By Laura Friel

Recent documents linking the RUC and the NIO to payments made to the families of two men murdered by loyalists in the 1990s have this week reignited the collusion controversy. The documents revealed RUC complicity and the role of British military intelligence in the loyalist murders of Terence McDaid and Gerard Slane. Further information also exposed the role of the Northern Ireland Office in the ensuing cover up.

At the time of the muders, the RUC publicly declared they knew nothing about the killing of McDaid or Slane while the force secretly paid compensation to the murdered men's widows. The McDaid and Slane families had sued the British Ministry of Defence after it was revealed that British army agent Brian Nelson played a pivotal role in the killings.

Neither families knew of the RUC's compensation liability and the covert payment, believed to be half of an estimated 50,000 to each widow, has only just now come to light. In a submission to the Patten Commission on the future of Policing by the Police Authority for Northern Ireland (PANI), that group referred to a compensation settlement sought by the RUC in the early 1990s.

According to the document, the substantial payment was requested by the RUC for the families of two people killed by paramilitaries. PANI refused the RUC application for the compensation payment because the RUC failed to provide a satisfactory explanation ``about the nature of the RUC's liability''.

In a further revelation, the document states that when PANI refused the Northern Ireland Office stepped in to pay the RUC's liability share. The willingness of the NIO to collude in the cover up of what can only be described as a serious crime against humanity begs its own questions.

Terence McDaid (30) was shot dead when masked gunmen burst into his family's North Belfast home in May 1988. Five months later, Gerard Slane(27) was shot dead when loyalist gunmen burst through the door of his West Belfast home in the early hours of the morning.

British army collusion in both killings emerged during the trial of Brian Nelson. When Nelson was inadvertently arrested by the Stevens Inquiry team investigation allegations of Crown force collusion with loyalist killers, the British army agent ignored his handlers' orders and revealed his role.

Working under cover for British military intelligence, Nelson acted as the UDA's chief intelligence officer. In his UDA role, Nelson provided vital information to loyalist death squads in the identification and selection of their victims. While an agent, Nelson also played a pivotal role in rearming and reorganising loyalist paramilitaries into a more effective killing force.

In 1992, Nelson faced a range of charges including five of conspiracy to murder. Charges of murder relating to the killing of Terence McDaid and Gerard Slane were dropped in a last minute deal brokered with the Crown Prosecution Service.

Nelson pleaded guilty to 20 lesser offences in return for the withdrawal of the two murder allegations. However at trial it was acknowledged that Nelson had played a ``vital and indispensable role'' in the Slane and McDaid killings.

It was on the this basis that the families of the two dead men, sued the British Ministry of Defence for compensation. The RUC's role in the killings has never been exposed. Their liability would have been most likely to have escaped detection had it not been for a few lines in PANI document complaining to the Patten Commission that denied proper information the role of the Authority was reduced to rubber stamping RUC requests.

In light of these most recent revelations, Teresa Slane and Maura McDaid are calling for the full disclosure of RUC collusion in their husbands' deaths. The two widows are being supported by Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

The murder of Pat Finucane in February 1989 bore all the hallmarks of the two earlier killings. The role of Brian Nelson in the killing has engendered international attention for over a decade. The Finucane family has always alleged RUC collusion in the murder.

``These revelations,'' says Sinn Féin Assembly spokesperson Bairbre de Brun, ``once again highlight the extent to which the RUC is connected to loyalist death squads. The out of court settlement and subsequent details regarding the Police Authority lay bare the extent to which the RUC and British army engaged in a cover up. The sole reason that such a cover up took place can only have been to hide the extent of collusion which took place between the killers of the two men and the RUC and the British army.''

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