By Gerard Gallagher (for the Blanket)
Last week the UPRG/UDA explained how it hopes to transform itself from a war footing, littered with allegations of criminality, to a positive influence in promoting a reconstituted image of loyalism. In the intervening week, the UDA has expelled Gary Fisher and Tommy Kirkham from the south-east Antrim branch. The expulsion of these two senior figures is the clearest indication yet that the UDA/UPRG is intent on pursuing an apparently ‘legitimate’ non-violent path.
In an ironic twist to the apparent eventual outcome of the political process, strange parallels between those who it was thought could never be reconciled are beginning to emerge. Once the darling of loyalists, Ian Paisley is no longer the icon that he once was. Similarly there are those on the opposite side of the line with severe difficulties accepting Sinn Féin’s current position.
This interview speaks to a man who once would have been considered an implacable enemy of loyalism, but who contends that he and his fellow travellers were never sectarian and are intent on building bridges between republicans and loyalists, unionists and Protestants. He also says that he feels that his beliefs and those of loyalists have now got more in common with those of the leading nationalist party in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin.
Danny McBrearty became a republican as a youth. He has recently become the Chairman of an organisation called Ex-Pows Against RUC/PSNI and MI5. The organisation, comprised mainly of former republican prisoners contend that the change from the RUC to the PSNI is a cosmetic one. Furthermore they claim, that the current Sinn Féin leadership have betrayed their original principles and that since the mid-1980’s until the 1994 IRA ceasefire, viewed as expendable the lives of IRA personnel, as they systematically and deliberately wound their war down.
“My first experience of the RUC was during the Battle of the Bogside in 1969. I was knocked down by a RUC armoured vehicle and almost had my foot severed. It took a six hour operation to save it,” Danny McBrearty said.
“I joined the republican movement in the early 70’s,” Danny continued, “was arrested in 1974 and jailed first in the Crumlin Road and later Long Kesh. I was released in April ‘76, just before the end of political status. I was there during the burning of the prison, as was my brother George (later shot dead by the SAS in 1981) and it was a very worrying time for myself and my family.”
McBrearty said that on his release he reported back to the republican movement and found himself back in jail by 1978, on what he described as a “trumped up” charge. He took part in the fledgling blanket protest, until released again in 1979.
“The charges against me this time were dropped, and with hindsight we know that this was basically a method of interment by proxy,” Danny said.
McBrearty spent the next seven years ‘on the run’. He entered the USA via Canada, and was arrested at a bus terminal in New York State that was under surveillance by the FBI. During this time Danny estimates he was shifted around 6 or seven different prisons in the USA, for what the US Governmment told him were “security reasons”. McBrearty also said that the FBI attempted to recruit him as an informer, offering him $500,000 and plastic surgery as part of a witness protection programme.
Crucially, Danny McBrearty says that he has learned in subsequent years of visits to the USA, by murdered, self-confessed IRA informer Dennis Donaldson, who was allegedly there months before to reorganise republican contacts in the USA. McBrearty says he now personally does not discount the possibility that American security forces had been alerted to his presence.
Deported back to Dublin in 1987, he went to England in 1989 and was arrested over the Deal bombings, in which 12 people died. McBrearty said that forensic teams claimed that his hands tested positive for RDX, a constituent component of Semtex explosives.
“The release of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six meant that media focus was quite rightly concentrated on innocent Irish prisoners. My charges were fabricated anyway, but they were immediately dropped, and so I was released through the side door of Brixton jail without a word after five months,” McBrearty said.
Previous to this point McBrearty recalled the famous 1986 Sinn Féin annual convention, in which the republican movement split over the move to abolish political abstentionism from Stormont and the Dail. It was here that he claims that prominent members of the Sinn Féin leadership attempted to coerce him into ‘persuading’ someone into removing their name from the papers for election to the party’s ruling executive. And, that this was in order to load the vote in favour of the prevailing faction. Moreover, he contends that two extremely prominent Belfast Provisionals, one still in a very high Sinn Féin leadership position, gave him a direct Army order to do this.
It could not be disobeyed.
The man told not to stand for the Ard Comhairle meeting was subsequently executed by loyalists in his Donegal home on May 25 1991.
Danny McBrearty said: “I wish to state that at no point did I leave the republican movement, they left me. I was gradually ostricised and replaced by ‘Yes’ men whom the leadership could be sure would acquiesce and implement this strategy. The GFA (Good Friday Agreement) is where we are at now and the policing issue is a part of that. I contend that Sinn Féin were deceitful over their approach to this stage and went back on everything they stood for. In effect, as a result of the Hume/Adams talks, John Hume succeeded in establishing two SDLP’s. The current Sinn Féin leadership systematically abandoned the principles of the last 35 years, and are attempting to airbrush the last 35 years. This includes support for the PSNI, who are comprised of 75% of former RUC members. And, despite Sinn Féin’s claims, the PSNI is in our belief totally controlled by MI5.”
To illustrate his claims concerning the PSNI, last Wednesday outside the City Hotel, members of Ex-Pows Against RUC/PSNI and MI5 were photographed handling what they claim were illegal Grade A narcotics, they say were confiscated from a known drug dealer in the Creggan area of the city. The organisation was there to protest at a meeting of the Foyle District Policing Partnership. The drugs were, the organisation claim, were seized at the behest of concerned local people who claimed Ecstasy tablets were being openly sold whilst PSNI patrols passed by close at hand. The drugs were later handed over to the Northland Centre to be disposed of.
Danny McBrearty says that what he expects to get from his organisations campaign given the current high levels of support for the political set-up in Northern Ireland, is the following : “Firstly I cannot stress enough that the campaign is totally peaceful. We simply want to expose the lies told by the Adams/McGuinness leadership and bring out the message that republicans were sold out and humiliated, and bring back some self-respect to the ideology. In effect we state that the RUC/PSNI is a British instrument of political control who put their relationship with certain anti-social elements ahead of those of the community.
“We believe that sections of the unionist and loyalist community are being subjected to the same harmful influences and control, and that there are areas of commonality between our communities that could and should be explored to the benefit of everyone. The same social problems and lack of resources exist within working class communties and the current policing and justice system must be radically altered in order to make improvements. This does not exclude respect for each others culture or political beliefs.”