There’s been a discovery of new evidence into collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the North revealed over the past week.
The Pat Finucane Centre discovered documents at the Public Records Office in London earlier this year while carrying out joint research with Justice for the Forgotten, an organisation which represents families of those killed in a number of loyalist attacks in the Republic including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 and the Dublin bombing of 1972.
During several days at the Public Records Office in January this year the PFC uncovered a secret official intelligence briefing titled ‘Subversion in the UDR’ and other significant memos and papers.
The ‘Subversion’ report was prepared for the Joint Intelligence Committee, the most senior committee of its kind at Westminster, and came to a number of startling conclusions about collusion in the UDR in the early ‘70s.
These include the estimate that up to 15 per cent of members were loyalist paramilitaries and that the UDR was the single largest source of stolen weaponry for loyalist groups.
I expected a massive outcry in Dail Eireann with politicians calling the British government to account. I also expected that our state broadcaster, RTE, would have this as the top story of the day with extensive coverage devoted to the issue on all our national stations.
Astonishingly this story, one of the biggest scandals to hit these islands in recent years, confirming that the British government was aware of large-scale collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries from as early as 1973, did not even merit a mention on our main radio or TV stations.
Furthermore, the silence from the government and main political parties in Dail Eireann was deafening.
How could this story, showing that Downing Street knew that significant numbers of soldiers were linked to loyalist paramilitaries as far back as 1972, be ignored?
Had for example a newspaper carried a story saying that Sinn Féin were suspected of being involved in a bank robbery or some other illegal activity one could guarantee that people like justice minister Michael McDowell and others would have been shouting from the rooftops.
Now here is a situation where clear and meticulously documented evidence has been exposed on how those at the very highest levels of power within the British establishment were aware of collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries from a very early stage in the Troubles and nearly a year before our capital city was ripped apart by bombers, believed to be loyalist paramilitaries, and no one says a word.
Michael McDowell when speaking at an Oireachtas hearing in 2004 said he believed there may have been collusion between security forces in the North and the loyalists involved in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. So why is Mr. McDowell so quiet now that he has been made aware of evidence backing up his suspicions, after all he is very quick to attack and practically destroy the lives of some people, such as Frank Connolly, on little or no evidence.
For many these revelations come as no surprise, even the fact that those at the very highest level of power in London knew about it is something many have suspected for years.
The collusion file contains a detailed report on ‘Subversion in the UDR” including estimates that five to 15 per cent of Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers were linked to loyalist groups, while intelligence documents show more than 200 British army weapons were passed to loyalists, stating that “the best source of weapons and only significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups was the UDR”.
This is the first time evidence has come to light that shows, not only the scale of collusion, but also that the British government was aware of it at such an early stage. Astonishingly, instead of doing something about it the British government went on to increase the regiment’s role and presence in many nationalist areas where tensions were already very high.
Proof that these documents were forwarded to Downing Street is abundantly clear with the inclusion of minutes of a Whitehall meeting where Margaret Thatcher was briefed on how security forces in Northern Ireland were “heavily infiltrated”.
These minutes are from a meeting when the prime minister of the time, Harold Wilson, and his secretary of state, Merlyn Rees, briefed Margaret Thatcher as leader of the opposition.
A crucial section of the minutes, marked ‘confidential’, reads: “The secretary of state said that he was more worried by the current sectarian murders than by the bombings in Belfast.”
This scandal shows how hypocrisy and disrespect for the rule of law lies at the very heart of the British establishment, with successive prime ministers not only turning a blind eye to terrorist activists within the ranks of their security forces but actually giving these state terrorists even more power and opportunity to murder. So much for claims by successive British prime ministers that “we don’t do business with terrorists”- on the contrary they not only did business with them but they actually helped and facilitated them at British taxpayer’s expense to commit crimes and take the lives of innocent people.
This matter is so serious that it merits not only the attention of our own government but also the attention of the international community. The British government should be taken to the International court for its role in the facilitation of war crimes.
The fact that state agents, paid for by the people to protect the people, were allowed to collude with loyalist to facilitate murder and attempted murder is outrageous.
Alan Brecknell, a researcher for the Pat Finucane Centre, lost his father in a gun and bomb attack a bar in Co Armagh in 1975.
Members of the UDR and RUC assisted loyalist paramilitaries in this and many other attacks.
Commenting on the revelations Alan said, the importance of these documents cannot be exaggerated.
Imagine for instance if it emerged that the US federal government, including the President, were aware that the National Guard was heavily infiltrated by the KKK, that up to 15 per cent of guardsmen were also Klansmen and that the National Guard was the single largest source of weapons for the Klan and yet despite this the National Guard was put on frontline duty in black communities during unrest.
This is what successive British prime ministers did. In fact the role of this regiment was expanded.
State collusion with loyalist paramilitaries is a trend that emulates campaigns by secret service campaigns in other parts of the world, like Chile, Colombia, and even the former apartheid South Africa.
In 1994 Amnesty International’s Head of Campaigns, Dan Jones, addressed a conference at Conway Mill entitled States under Threat - Collusion and Infiltration.
He said: “Most follow the South African model of counter subversion - Get someone else to do your fighting”.
He said that in Guatemala, Amnesty had found evidence that the secret service was arming the local village militia and then passing on information about potential targets.
If something had been done at the start many lives could have been saved including the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 as well as the lives of courageous solicitors like Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson.
Ironic that this information has come to light as a result of the efforts of the Pat Finucane Centre established in memory of someone who died as a consequence of this collusion.
Why has the exposure of this outrageous scandal merited so little attention and why is it being ignored by so many.
Our national media consider items such as the birth of actor Tom Cruise’s baby worthy of primetime news space but almost ignores a real national public security issue touching the lives of so many Irish people. Our politicians and government ministers who are constitutionally obliged to protect our interests and our wellbeing seem to turn a blind eye to the whole affair.