UVF man links FRU to New Lodge massacre
UVF man links FRU to New Lodge massacre

A former unionist paramilitary has revealed that British military handlers organised and took part in a gun attack that left six Catholic men dead.

The attack took place in Belfast, in 1974, during a period in which he worked with British military intelligence. The man, who uses the pseudoynm ‘John Black’, said he was a member of the death-squad which opened fire on civilians in the New Lodge area of North Belfast on February 3, 1973.

Six unarmed men from the New Lodge area were killed during the 45 minute attack.

The six killed were Jim Sloan, Jim McCann, Tony Campbell, John Loughran, Brendan Maguire and Ambrose Hardy. Black said that a member of the British Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) led the three-man team that night and told the paramilitary UVF to be on stand-by for the attack.

The FRU have been linked to the killing of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989 and high-level collusion with unionist paramilitary death squads. The role of the FRU in Britain’s ‘Dirty War’ in Ireland has never been admitted or acknowledged by the British government.

Black, who served two prison sentences for UVF activities and is in ill health after a stroke three years ago, said he would stand over his claims in a public forum.

The families of the victims said the claims opened the possibility of legal action against the British government.

The deaths were the subject of a community-based public inquiry in 2002. It was led by an international panel including human-rights lawyer Gareth Peirce and American lawyer Ed Lynch. The inquiry found evidence of British army collusion in the night’s events.

The inquiry dismissed the British government’s official version of events, which said the deaths were the result of a gun battle with the IRA. Black said that his FRU handler, ‘Mike’, phoned him on the day of the shootings. ‘‘He rang and told me that something was planned for that night, and our role in it was to create the impression that the New Lodge was under attack from loyalists,” Black said.

‘Later I listened with him to the military radio until a code came over it, which was the cue for us to start shooting. Me and two other UVF men were positioned in an entry close to Edlingham Street, beside the New Lodge and Mike was in charge. The four of us fired shots for around 15 minutes, then we went to a different point at Edlingham Street where regular British soldiers were firing into the area.

“We stood with them and Mike fired shots from there.” Black said that the attack was designed to draw the local IRA into a gun battle with the British troops, who were using a new night vision telescope, known as a ‘star-scope’.

Spokesman for the families John Loughran said he was hopeful that Black’s claims could help ‘‘uncover the truth’’.

‘‘It is the families’ view that these killings were sanctioned at the highest political levels in Whitehall,” he said. ‘‘Now that this has been acknowledged by someone involved in the murky underworld of British military intelligence, this must be considered as new evidence. This is the basis for a new investigation into the killings of six innocent men.”

* A memorial event to mark the 34th anniversary of the killings took place at the weekend.

Speaking at the event, north Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Caral Ni Chuilin said it was high time that the families of those murdered were told the truth. She said Sinn Féin remains determined to challenge any attempt to cover up and dismiss any killings.

“The British government has yet to accept culpability for this atrocity.

“This was a carefully crafted political act to attack us as a people, our way of life and our very existence,” she said.

“The link between state murders and the killings highlighted recently in the O’Loan Report on collusion, is that political direction for the murders of so many of our people was endorsed at the very highest political level.

“Of course we knew about this, we knew that unionist politicians also knew about it and said nothing, some nationalist politicians knew about it and said nothing and worse still, the Irish government knew about it and said nothing.

“They said nothing about the fact that when it came to state murder, no one would state the truth. The truth costs nothing.”

* Relatives of Seamus Ludlow have criticised “stalling tactics” in relation to the re-examination of files on his murder ordered by the 26-County Garda police commissioner almost 12 months ago.

It is widely believed that his killers, including two British soldiers, were and still are being protected by British Crown forces. Garda police inexplicably failed to pursue the case despite possessing information on the killers, and falsely claimed Mr Ludlow had been shot by the IRA because he was an informer.

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