By Jude Collins
‘Unquiet Graves’ was on RTÉ ONE last night and it made for hard viewing. Take this exchange between a loyalist and a reporter:
“The plan that was decided on was to shoot up a school…”
“When you say ‘shoot up a school’, do you mean to kill the primary children in the school?”
“Children, teachers – yes.”
That particular piece of devil’s work was never put into practice, but not because the will to do so wasn’t there. The film is based on Anne Cadwallader’s book Lethal Allies and looks at the killing of over 120 civilians in Counties Armagh and Tyrone. These killings were done by the Glenanne Gang, which consisted of a group of loyalists in close contact with the RUC and the UDR. Sometimes the RUC and the UDR withdrew from an area for a short time, so that the loyalist killers could go in, do their bloody work and withdraw, at which point the ‘security’ forces would take up their shielding-the-innocent role again. Sometimes the RUC and/or the UDR would be directly involved in the planning and execution of these lethal attacks on innocent Catholics.
Fathers Desmond Faul and Raymond Murray were among the first to speak out about these killings. They kept a record of violent deaths within the ‘murder triangle’ and brought them to the attention of the RUC Special Branch. “The RUC Special Branch apparently is a no-go area as far as investigating these killings are concerned. They have a 100% record of failing to catch those involved” Faul observed.
Maybe the most heart-rending was the case of a widow, now an elderly woman, who told of two killers coming to her door and asking for her husband. When he went to the door, she could hear him saying “I’m going nowhere with you. Whatever you have to say, say it here on the doorstep.” That was followed by shots and a burst of automatic fire. The woman remembers being in the kitchen and her legs “going from under” her, as she curled into a terrified ball.
A month later the RUC called and said she was to come with them to Belfast. When she asked if she could bring someone with her, they refused. They drove all the way to a police station in Belfast, “with never a single word out of them.” She was then told to go into a room and look at a line of men and say if she recognised any. She looked at the second one and almost collapsed again. When she spoke to the policemen and told them, they said that wouldn’t do, she must go back in and put her hand on the person she recognised. She forced herself to go back in but when she came to the killer she was physically unable to put her hand on the man. Her words would have melted a heart of triple steel.
It’s a hard fact, but there was a logic to the Glenanne Gang collusion. The policy of loyalists was literally to terrorise the Catholic population –“Any taig will do” – so that they would withdraw their support and sympathy for the IRA. There’s also a logic to the RUC and UDR working with these killers. The loyalists hated the IRA, the RUC and the UDR hated the IRA – so why not join forces? My enemy’s enemy is my friend.
That hellish logic breaks down when it encounters another hard fact: the RUC and the UDR were paid out of the public purse to protect everyone, regardless of their religious or political beliefs. That they could take the money and go on planning further killings is a betrayal of everything that makes us human.
And maybe even worse: to this day the authorities deny that they were involved in large-scale killing such as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings ,or small-scale killings such as the execution on a roadside of two young lads driving home from an All-Ireland football semi-final.
To Jeremy Paxman’s famous “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?” we might add “Why are these murdering bastards murdering us and avoiding prosecution?”
The film clips are old; the injustice of cover-up is as fresh as this September morning.