In a significant advance for victims of collusion, a committee of the Dublin parliament has definitively announced its finding that British Crown forces colluded with unionist paramilitaries to carry out a series of gun and bomb attacks in the 26 Counties.
Victims’ families last night welcomed the findings contained in the committee’s report but expressed disappointment that it had fallen short of ordering a full public inquiry into the killings.
‘Britain’s murder brigade’, which contained both soldiers and RUC police, and was based in South Armagh, is believed to have been behind most of the UVF attacks covered in the report.
The attacks looked at by the committee include the bombing of Dublin Airport, two bars in Monaghan and Louth, and an attack on the Miami Showband, a touring music group.
Their findings were based on public hearings on the fourth report by Justice Henry Barron.
Committee chairman Sean Ardagh said that members had been left in “no doubt” that widespread collusion had taken place in a series of attacks in the 26 Counties in the 1970s.
Maura McKeever, whose father Jack Rooney was among two men killed in the 1975 Dundalk bombing, said: “Although the committee did a great job, we’re still convinced that a public inquiry is necessary to get at the full truth.”
Alan Brecknell, a researcher for the Pat Finucane Centre whose father called on British Direct Ruler Peter Hain to “release the documents which to date have been withheld from the Irish Government, NGOs and families”.
“It’s time to come clean on the links between the northern security forces and loyalist paramilitaries,” he added.
Official British Army documents from London’s National Archive suggesting between five per cent and 15 per cent of the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) were also unionist paramilitaries formed part of the bulk of evidence reviewed by the committee.
Mr Ardagh said the committee was convinced that collusion had taken place in “many if not all of the atrocities” investigated in the final Barron report.
“We are horrified that persons who were employed by the British administration to preserve peace and to protect people were engaged in the creation of violence and the butchering of innocent victims,” he said.
“The committee believes that unless the full truth about collusion is established, and those involved either admit or are fixed with responsibility then there cannot be closure for the families.”
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he had been in contact with the British government, adding it was “essential” that it examines the report findings and cooperates with “all investigations into the serious issues that have arisen”.
He said that the attacks had taken place in a “dark and tragic period of the history of this island”, adding that the findings of the latest report were “deeply troubling” and painted “a very disturbing picture”.
Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain said that Ahern should accept no more excuses from the British government and should press for full disclosure about the role of collusion in its war in Ireland. He called again for the Taoiseach to demand a special summit meeting with Tony Blair devoted solely to the issue of collusion.
Deputy O Caolain said the report was “yet another nail in the coffin of British government credibility on the issue of collusion”.
“Successive reports and investigations, including today’s, have shown how unionist paramilitaries were used by British armed forces, including the British Army, the RUC and MI5, as surrogates in their war.
“Civilians in Ireland were deliberately targeted in order to terrorise the entire nationalist population.”