Irish Republican News · January 17, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Secret papers reveal one-sided war

Top-secret British military documents reveal the British Army’s failure to tackle unionist paramilitary death squads during one of the darkest periods of the conflict.

The reports marked ‘Confidential’ show that in the six months between September 1975 and March 1976, 15 times more nationalists than unionists were arrested in connection with so-called paramilitary attacks.

This came despite an even spread of activity between republican and unionist groups. The British Army arrests, known in military terms as ‘screenings’, were illegal.

They involved British soldiers swamping areas and arresting as many locals as possible in the hope of uncovering information.

During the period, 1,876 nationalists were arrested compared to just 118 unionists.

Of the nationalist arrests, 853 were made in Belfast, 665 along the border and 358 in Derry. Eighty-seven of the unionist arrests occurred in Belfast, 21 in the border counties and 10 in Derry

Between September 1975 and March 1976, the IRA and INLA killed 93 people, while unionist death squads killed 82.

Although the death count was almost even the arrest count was totally out of proportion.

The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), which uncovered the documents during a trawl of the British National Archive, say they show that in the eyes of the British army the IRA was the “only enemy”.

“These statistics show that it was absolutely clear from the point of view of the British army that there was only one enemy - the IRA,” said the PFC’s Paul O’Connor.

“They vindicate the claim that loyalist violence was in support of the security forces and that the only enemy were Republicans.”

The period between September 1975 and March 1976 was one of the darkest during the Troubles.

During the six-month period loyalist death squads were responsible for a series of infamous killings.

UVF murders of the three Reavey brothers and the loyalist Millfield massacre of four workers at a bottle plant in West Belfast.


Meanwhile, the British government is facing renewed calls to come clean about the British army’s role in undercover attacks on unarmed civilians during the conflict in the Six Counties.

West Belfast grandfather Hugh Kenny and three of his friends were seriously wounded by a plain-clothed British army patrol on the Glen Road in June 1972.

The British soldiers who shot him -- members of the infamous and highly secret Military Reaction Force (MRF) who also directed loyalist death squads -- were charged with attempted murder and possession of a machine-gun. However, they were acquitted when the case went to court.

Secret British military documents have revealed that even before the trial began British army chiefs were expecting a “not guilty” verdict to be returned.

Talking about how to deal with public reaction, a British military defensive brief states: “In the more likely case of a not guilty verdict then it is more appropriate and seemly to restrict comment as far as possible.

“It may again be emphasised that the army’s actions are at all times measured against the law, and express gratification that the courts have found Sgt Williams not guilty.”

More than 35-years on from the attempt on his life, Hugh Kenny is still desperate for the truth about the shootings to come out.

He said: “The British government should come clean about the military’s role in undercover attacks on unarmed civilians.

“My friends and I were just standing talking and the next thing was that bullets were flying everywhere.

“I was hit in the stomach, Jim was shot in the chest and Joe was hit in the arm. Tommy Shaw was lying in bed in his home and a bullet went through his window and hit him in the leg.

“It was indiscriminate shooting - if the soldiers had not been arrested I have no doubt loyalists would have got the blame.”

The shootings occurred at a time when IRA leaders were planning ceasefire talks with the British government in London.

“If loyalists had been blamed on the shooting there would have been no ceasefire,” added Hugh.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News