British Prime Minister Tony Blair has told Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams it is “unacceptable” that members of the PSNI police colluded in sectarian and other paramilitary murders and that it “must never happen again”.
Blair has not commented directly on the content of a report last week by the North’s Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan, which implicated members of the PSNI (formerly RUC) police in up to 18 murders.
The killings investigated by O’Loan’s office were carried out from 1992 to 2003 by a north Belfast death squad led by RUC/PSNI Special Branch agent Mark Haddock.
Following a meeting at Downing Street, Mr Adams said Mr Blair had expressed concern that these things had “happened on his watch”.
The West Belfast MP said he had pressed Mr Blair for the need for the British state to acknowledge what had occurred. Mr Adams said that some families wanted public inquiries and some families wanted prosecutions.
“Whatever the outcome the British state has to acknowledge it did this. And in my view.. did it to defend the union.. so what price the union?”
According to Mr Adams, Mr Blair accepted “that there is a huge problem and that it is now coming to the surface”.
But he warned: “The jury is still out as to whether the British government is going to get to grips with this issue.
“Mr Blair did seek to persuade us that they are dealing with this. He said it was unacceptable and he intends to ensure it never, ever happens again.”
Mrs O’Loan last week said that members of the RUC paid almost eighty thousand pounds sterling to leading UVF paramilitary Mark Haddock to work as an agent and permitted his gang to carry out at least ten murders.
Mr Blair was also presented by Mr Adams with a number of other cases where it is members of the British Crown forces were involved in colluding with loyalist death squads.
He was given a letter from the widow of County Donegal Sinn Féin councillor Eddie Fullerton who was gunned down by the UDA in May 1991 at his home near Buncrana.
A copy of the Barron report into the May 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings which killed 27 people and were carried out by the UVF was also handed over.
Mr Blair received a letter from the Reavey family about the killing of three brothers by the same gang.
“The O’Loan report lifted the lid on only a small aspect of the collusion policy,” Mr Adams said.
“There is a responsibility and an obligation on the British government and state to acknowledge what happened.”
NEW DUBLIN/MOMAGHAN EVIDENCE
Meanwhile, a former British Army agent is thought to have fresh evidence that the British army colluded in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
The convicted unionist paramilitary claims that he worked for the Military Reconnaissance Force (MRF), a clandestine British army intelligence unit, in the 1970s, and that his MRF contact told him “something big was going down” in Dublin shortly before the bombs exploded.
The man, who uses the pseudonym ‘John Black’, claims that he and 30 other unionist paramilitaries were given military training by the MRF at Palace Barracks, outside Belfast, from 1971 until the mid-1970s.
Black told The Sunday Business Post that, during the 1974 loyalist Ulster Workers Council strike, called to prevent power-sharing, his MRF contact gave him advance warning of “something big” happening in Dublin.
“He told me that something big would be happening in Dublin and it would help the strike,” Black said.
“They were his words to me, and at the time it was good news as far as I was concerned,” the former UVF man said. ‘‘A short while later, the bombings happened and it was obvious that this was what he had meant.
“I was a bit shocked at the scale of it, but at the time it was seen as a strike against the enemy.”
Black also said his MRF handlers were aware of unionist “romper rooms” in Belfast, where Catholics were tortured before being murdered. “They wanted us to hit Catholics, to put pressure on the IRA to stop. They encouraged the romper rooms and sectarian killings in general,” he said.
“When ‘jobs’ were going down, we would sit in with the MRF guys and listen in on the radio as they put in ‘out of bounds’ calls to the local military and police. That meant the UVF could get in and out of Catholic areas and be assured they wouldn’t be stopped. I was really part of a militia.”
The MRF was wound down after the IRA attacked and killed an undercover MRF operative in west Belfast, in October 1972. However, it continued to operate in various guises until the mid-1970s.
Margaret Urwin, spokeswoman for Justice for the Forgotten, a campaigning group for victims of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, said that, if the claims were true, they were extremely significant.
“If what this man is saying is true, then clearly it is of huge importance and it needs to be investigated,” she said. “There is already a hugely substantial body of evidence, which strongly points to collusion between the British and the bombers.”
* Sinn Féin is to hold a conference on collusion to step up political pressure on the British government to establish public inquiries, it has been announced. The one-day event slated for February 10th is intended to provide a forum for a number of campaign groups and victims’ relatives.