A film which exposes a horrific plot to massacre Catholic children and nuns at a school has premiered in Belfast. It also reveals the rationale behind MI5’s most shocking target.
The notorious Glenanne gang consisted of RUC/PSNI police, British soldiers and loyalists paramilitaries. It has been linked to up to 200 murders of innocent civilians in the north of Ireland, including the Dublin/Monaghan bombs, in which 33 lives were lost, the Miami Showband massacre, and dozens more.
The movies carries interviews with two former RUC officers and members of the gang. A number of others are confronted, including James Mitchell, an RUC man whose farm was used as a base for their activities in the 70s and for arms importation from South Africa in the 1980s.
As part of this wide-ranging investigation, the documentary by Sean Murray recounts how British intelligence attempted to persuade the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) to attack a Catholic primary school in County Armagh in the mid-1970s.
The film features interviews with John Weir (pictured), a former RUC Sergeant and self-confessed member of the loyalist Glennane Gang.
In the film, Weir, who now lives in South Africa, confirms that British intelligence urged an attack on a Catholic primary school in Belleeks, County Armagh.
“The plan that was decided on was to shoot up a school in Belleeks,” he says in the film, adding that “children, teachers” would have been the targets. Weir said the plan was designed to force the north of Ireland to “spiral out of control.”
The Dublin/Monaghan bomb attacks, the worst massacre of the conflict, arose from a similar plot two years earlier. A total of 33 civilian lives were lost when the same gang drove across the border and carried out a series of no-warning bomb attacks.
The film’s creator Sean Murray said British military intelligence wanted to foster a “civil war” in Ireland.
“From their vision, such a war would be quite short; they thought they could have a quick, short and sharp process of cleansing out the IRA.”
He believes British intelligence ‘hawks’ were looking for a “gloves-off approach” to tackle the IRA. “It’s quite revealing the UVF were unwilling to go through with this.”
The new statements confirm allegations made in the past by another gang member, former RUC man Billy McCaughey, now deceased.
Mr Murray noted that all of Weir’s statements had been corroborated by the police Historical Enquiries Team.
He said that Weir in granting the interview was engaging in a “cathartic process - I think he was trying to get as much information off his chest as possible”.
He added: “Without him, I’m not sure a lot of families would get some semblance of truth.”
* The film is based on Anne Cadwallader’s book, Lethal Allies which recounts the story of the Glennane Gang. It draws on investigations carried out by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team, a division of the PSNI, and on declassified papers and official reports. It can be purchased here