OLIVER'S ARMY

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

The Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove

Shoot-to-Kill & Collusion

 

‘Not long ago we ruled the world

With cane and bowler hat

Now all we’ve left is Ulster

And we’ve trouble holding that.

The public school taught us to rule -

We’ll keep those natives down

So don’t call us tyrannical -

We’re loyal to the Crown.’

Verse from an Irish poem

 

Throughout the history of winning and holding the Empire, Britain’s military forces had acquired a reputation for using irregular forms of warfare to stifle dissent, crush rebellions and generally gain advantages for British economic and political interests. Some of these were outlined in 1896 by a serving army officer, C. E. Callwell, in his book Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice. This ‘counter-insurgency’ tradition was carried on into the 20th century by soldiers like T. E. Lawrence, who helped lead the Arab revolt against the Turks during the 1st Word War, and Orde Wingate of Chindits fame, who organised Special Night Squads of Jewish police in Palestine to attack Arab villages and camps just before the 2nd World War. The operations of regular troops were strictly defined in special army manuals like Notes on Imperial Policing (1934) and Duties in Aid of the Civil Power (1937).

During the 2nd World War, with Britain hard pressed in Europe, a secret military unit was set up to organise and support anti-Nazi opposition in occupied territory. The Special Operations Executive (SOE), which trained and armed resistance movements, was ‘responsible for offensive subversive activities which did not involve the use of officers or men wearing uniforms’. Two of its leaders, J. F. C. Holland and C. M. Gubbins, while young officers, had served in Ireland at the end of the 1st World War. During the Anglo-Irish war, both Holland and Gubbins had been impressed by the IRA’s campaign of guerrilla warfare, much of it orchestrated by Michael Collins, and subsequent SOE training was often based on the lessons they had learned: ‘What Collins did in Dublin had a noticeable impact, in the end, on British secret service methods ... Irish resistance ... showed the rest of the world an economical way to fight wars.’ [1]

British military and intelligence experts had been especially impressed by the way Collins had organised the IRA’s undercover campaign and were keen to adapt similar forms of covert action for their own use. While SOE was mainly concerned with helping and establishing espionage networks in German-occupied Europe, they also recommended the formation of ‘commando squads’ and other special forces. The Special Air Service (SAS) was created during this period for operations behind German lines - cutting supply lines, general harassment and creating havoc. SAS personnel were specially picked and trained to be self-reliant and ruthless.

After 1945 the West was faced with a series of colonial revolts in various parts of the world, and while the imperialist forces had an overwhelming superiority in terms of military capability (soldiers, weapons and technology), they suffered humiliating defeats in places like Indonesia, Algeria, Mozambique, Angola and Vietnam. In a prophetic article, Henry Kissinger wrote in 1969 that in guerrilla warfare: ‘The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose’. This represented an attempt by the imperialists to understand the concepts of the ‘protracted warfare’ strategy used by Mao Tse Tung in China and subsequently adapted, to their own circumstances and conditions, by liberation movements throughout the world. This form of guerrilla warfare could render the vastly superior military capability of the imperialist forces impotent, as the insurgents maximised their ‘intangible’ resources of time, space and will against the imperialist’s ‘tangible’ resources of weapons, technology, logistics and vast numbers of soldiers and police. The gradual increase of urban guerrilla warfare proved especially difficult for the West’s conventional forces to defeat and they looked for other means to combat it.

1: War and Society - Historical Essays in Honour and Memory of J R Western,
from an essay by M R D Foot on The IRA and the Origins of SOE,
Pal Ellele 1973.

 

 

Counter-Revolutionary Operations

After the 2nd World War the SAS were almost phased out, but were saved by the spate of small wars in British colonies – which included Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and Aden. Many of these counter-insurgency campaigns were conducted by men trained or influenced by the SOE, who quickly realised the usefulness of special ‘counter-revolutionary’ units. Especially, if they operated clandestinely and worked closely with the intelligence network, but outside of the normal army chain-of-command.

A pattern had emerged during the previous ‘Emergencies’ (colonial conflicts were never referred to as wars), as the counter-revolutionary operations began and reinforcements of British troops arrived. The British authorities always tried to maintain an appearance of ‘normality’ and therefore preferred to operated under the existing civil law – although they were quick to implement ‘emergency legislation’ to facilitate their requirements. In 1969, this was outlined in volume three of Land Operations, the Army’s secret training manual, entitled Counter-Revolutionary Operations – which ironically started with the famous quote from Mao: ‘Political power comes from the barrel of a gun’. Time Out magazine obtained a copy of Land Operations and stated:

Most importantly the manual shows that central to Army thinking is the close integration of the civil powers, the military and the police. Once this happens, in the interests of national security, political opposition to the government becomes identified as ‘the enemy’ [my emphasis] ... ‘(The) fundamental concept (is) the working of the triumvirate, civil, military and police as a joint and integrated organisation from the highest to the lowest level of policy making, planning and administration’.[2]

As well as the presence of armed police and soldiers and the all-pervasive surveillance, it was intended that total social control should be exercised over the disaffected population. From the planning and building of roads and dwellings to the handing out of grants, all aspects of public life was to be open to input and manipulation. The media should also be managed, to ensure that the establishment’s view of the situation predominated. From the military’s point of view the key elements of this strategy were:

  1. Ensuring that ‘emergency’ legislation was enacted that 1] enabled ‘subversive elements’ to be imprisoned with a minimum of difficulty; and 2] tailored the judicial system to allow the security forces to carry out their operations legally.
  2. The strengthening of local police and militia and the co-ordination of army operations with them.
  3. Building a large intelligence-gathering and surveillance network.
  4. Organising secret psychological warfare , ‘dirty tricks’ initiatives and covert assassination squads, which included controlling - and sometimes forming - other ‘loyal’ clandestine indigenous forces.

Conventional military units and the colonial police - the ‘Security Forces’ - were seen as the main factors in stabilising the conflict, using heavy levels of state-force to repress dissidents. Meanwhile, special units like the SAS and other secret forces would provide a more selective cutting edge by ‘taking the war to the enemy’ and fighting ‘terrorism with terror’.

2: Time Out,
10-16 Jan. 1975.

 

 

The SAS in Aden

Aden was also one of the colonial conflicts where there was extensive use of special forces and in his book, The SAS: Savage Wars of Peace, Anthony Kemp outlined the background to the use of the SAS in Aden:

In early 1966 A Squadron was back in Aden, ostensibly for training, and Peter de la Billiere set up a so-called close-quarter battle school which taught accurate pistol-shooting. He selected a group of his men who, disguised as Arabs, were to sally out in small groups into the town, looking for targets. If prisoners could be taken and interrogated that was a bonus, but essentially the purpose was to meet terrorism by terrorism. These squads became known as keeni-meeni, from the Swahili word for the slithering movement of a snake through the grass. During the early 1960s the SAS had recruited a number of excellent Fijians and they proved particularly suitable for the work as their skin colour was similar to that of the local population. Others who had black hair and swarthy complexions were also chosen.[3]

George Lennox, an ex-Royal Army Ordnance Corps corporal, remembered the use of the SAS in Aden: ‘I know that the Special Air Service were called into Aden, to act undercover, covertly to act in an overtly provocative role. The SAS and other volunteers who were stationed inside Aden and who could speak the language were dressed up as Adenis, with chocolate colour on their faces. They went out into the streets and they had names of suspected so-called terrorists and those who were heading the then-illegal political opposition groups and they had instructions to search them out and to assassinate them, kill them.’ Lennox continued:

Inside Aden you had two main political opposition groups, one was the National Liberation Front (NLF) and the other was the Front for the Liberation of South Yemen (FLOSY). The two had different political approaches, political interests which they were representing. ... The SAS’s role inside Aden was to create confusion within both political organisations. They would go and bump off a couple of the FLOSY guys and this would be put out by the Army press as being an inter-group fight. And of course this would make the FLOSY group take retaliation and go and seek out the NLF and bump off a couple of their people.[4]

In Aden, regular soldiers were not informed about the operations that the SAS were conducting and they only became aware when incidents happened. Like this ex-para, who remembered a time when ‘things were hotting up and the dirty tricks department were in the thick of it’:

Although the Al Mansura district was sewn up tight, one night a bomb exploded at the house of a local political leader who was against the British troops. His wife, son and three local policemen were killed in the blast. The only vehicle reported as being in the area that night by the soldiers was a Landrover carrying men from the SAS and the Army Special Branch. A few nights later, when four Arabs were spotted carrying weapons, a gun battle lasting 15 minutes occurred - until a message came over the radio to cease firing, as they were friendly troops. When the smoke cleared it was discovered that they were SAS men dressed as Arabs.[5]

3: The SAS: Savage Wars of Peace,
by Anthony Kemp,
Signet 1995.

4: British Soldiers Speak Out on Ireland,
statement by ex-soldier George Lennox,
Information on Ireland 1978.

5: Ibid - British Soldiers Speak Out on Ireland,
statement by ex-para,
Information on Ireland 1978.

 

 

Politics by Other Means

In the nineteenth century the Prussian General and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz wrote that ‘War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means’. If we were to divide up the protagonists of the Northern Ireland conflict into sides depending on their political aims we would have to include the British Government and their security forces as well as unionist and loyalist political and paramilitary organisations on the same side - united in defence of the status quo.
Ranged against them were various nationalist and republican political and paramilitary organisations determined to win civil rights and to undo partition and to reunite Ireland. We all know that over the past three decades republican organisations have carried out various violent acts which have killed and maimed many people. What is not so well known is the extent to which the other side in the conflict, Britain’s security forces and the loyalist paramilitary groups, used bombings and shootings in efforts to achieve their aims – or about the amount of collusion that occurred between them.

George Orwell observed in Politics and the English Language that ‘Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable ...’. Those words would have been a good characterisation of British ‘politician speak’ about killings in Northern Ireland. In 1988 David Roche, the Chief Executive of the Irish Information Partnership, wrote a letter to the Independent commenting on a front page story in that paper: ‘I refer to your front page article today, “Amnesty Inquiry enrages Thatcher”, in which the Prime Minister has been quoted as saying that “I hope Amnesty has the same concern for the more than 2,000 people murdered by the IRA since 1969”. This is the second time in recent weeks that the Prime Minister has given a wildly inaccurate figure for the number of deaths caused by the Provisional IRA. The other occasion was in an interview with ITN News (18 February) where she stated that the figure was in excess of 2,600 deaths.’ Roche’s letter continued:

The Irish Information Partnership informed the Prime Minister that the figure she had given was inaccurate ... In view of this we are concerned that the Prime Minister has continued to use inaccurate figures. May we point out that between 1969 and 1987, there were 2,629 conflict-related deaths in Northern Ireland. Of these, a total of 1,065 deaths were caused by the Provisional IRA. Other nationalist paramilitaries were responsible for a further 440 deaths. A further 663 deaths were caused by loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces caused 305 deaths. In the case of 156 deaths, the agency was unidentified or unclassified.[6]

The IRA clearly launched a terror offensive against the state forces, killing over 900 members of the security forces. Their shooting and bombing campaigns also killed many civilians, but the vast majority of IRA killings were revealed in the full glare of a hostile media and swiftly condemned. On the other hand killings by the security forces were often overlooked, or excused - and those of loyalist organisations disregarded. A closer look at the deaths statistics revealed by the Irish Information Partnership show that just over 57% were caused by republican organisations - with the Provisional IRA responsible for just over 40%, while just under 37% were caused by the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries. However, if we turn to civilian casualties we find that republicans caused just under 38% of civilian deaths, while the security forces and the loyalists were responsible for nearly 53% (over 600 civilians were killed during this period by loyalist paramilitary groups alone).

Other casualties have occurred since then, but responsibility for the deaths has remained roughly the same: Republican organisations, notably the Provisional IRA, have caused more than half of the deaths. But just under half have been caused by those wanting to retain Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom - Britain’s security forces and the loyalists. With the killers of the largest number of civilians being loyalist paramilitary groups.

6: Independent,
2nd April 1988.

 

 

The Dirty War

In the mid-80s, Tony Parker interviewed a number of soldiers serving in Northern Ireland for his book Soldier Soldier. Sometimes, the soldiers spoke about incidents that showed up the contradictions inherent in their situation. A captain told Parker about one of his men being badly wounded and about a visit by the soldier’s father, who had fought with SOE during the 2nd World War:

One of my soldiers was injured and his parents came over to visit him in hospital. On the drive back to the airport when they were on their way home, the man’s father wanted to talk: one of the things he mentioned with considerable irony was that he’d been with SOE in France in the war. He said the skills and techniques and dedication which he used there were exactly the same as those being used by the terrorists here now that had caused the near-killing of his son.[7]

Over the years of the conflict people in Britain sometimes became troubled by reports and rumours about killings and ‘undercover operations’ by their security forces in Ireland. While this rarely led to protests, it did, however, lead to much unease. Like these words from the historian Bernard Porter:

Between 1970 and 1972 Kitson served in Northern Ireland as commander of a brigade in Belfast. He may have been largely responsible for the setting up and development of ‘Psyops’ units there. If he was not, then somebody else was. By all accounts this side of the army’s work expanded enormously over the next ten years, and involved some techniques which could be described as devious. That may be putting it mildly indeed. Among the ‘tricks’ attributed to various British intelligence agencies in Northern Ireland in the 1970s - army intelligence, MI5, MI6, British Special Branch, RUC Special Branch - were torture, for which Britain was censured by the European Human Rights Commission in 1976; murder, faked to look like ‘sectarian’ killings; the planting of bombs in Dublin in 1974 ...; homosexual seduction and blackmail; ‘black’ propaganda and disinformation; ‘shooting to kill’; fabricating evidence; and ‘covering up’.[8]

The undercover conflict became known collectively as the ‘Dirty War’. Many ex-soldiers, now in civvy street away from the ‘safe’ military environment, began to question things they had witnessed. Some veterans, like this ex-marine who had served a tour of duty in Belfast in the early 70s, were prepared to talk about their experiences:

We were stationed in North Belfast. At this time the Protestant paramilitaries were at the peak of their sectarian assassination and bombing campaign. Nevertheless all our activity was directed against the Republicans. Local Catholic pubs were being bombed frequently, and yet in the week following four attacks not one Protestant suspect was brought in. But all the time we were picking up Catholics.[9]

During this period, at the end of 1971, a loyalist bomb exploded at McGurk’s Bar, a Catholic pub in Belfast, killing 15 people. The army and the police immediately blamed the IRA, claiming the bombing was a ‘own goal’ - and this fiction subsequently appeared on the front pages of British papers. In 1975 Lieutenant-Colonel George Styles still maintained, in his book Bombs Have No Pity, that the IRA was responsible. Seven years after the explosion, in 1978, UVF member Robert James Campbell was convicted and given 15 life sentences for the bombing.

My own interest in the ‘dirty war’ was heightened during my research for my previous book, Hidden Wounds, about the psychological problems suffered by many Northern Ireland veterans on their return to Civvy Street. [10] It became clear that some ex-soldiers kept ‘guilty secrets’ locked in their minds, which often returned to haunt them after they had left the army. An example was Graham, who had completed a tour of duty in Belfast with an infantry regiment in the early 70s. It was a volatile time and Graham, a senior NCO, had been given responsibility for briefing patrols about to enter hostile nationalist areas - and checking and de-briefing them when they returned.

One day an officer had ordered him to make sure that on no account were any soldiers to enter a certain street. Although he was given no explanation, Graham complied and passed this order on to his patrol. Later, a Catholic pub in this street was destroyed in an explosion and the soldiers who rushed to the scene, including members of the patrol, helped to dig bodies out of the wreckage. When the patrol returned some soldiers screamed at Graham demanding to know why they had been warned not to go in that street - and if those in authority had known about the bomb. When I spoke to Graham many years later it was clear that those same questions were still preying on his mind. Perhaps the full truth of many occurrences from the ‘dirty war’ will never be revealed, but surely conscientious British people should question if, how and why they happened. Taking a look at the counter-revolutionary operations of the state forces will help our quest for answers and understanding.

7: Soldier, Soldier,
by Tony Parker, interviewing captain Frank N.,
Heineman Ltd. 

8: Plots and Paranoia,
by Bernard Porter,
Unwin Hyman Ltd 1989. 

9: Chris Byrne, ex-Royal Marine,
British Soldiers Speak Out On Ireland,
Information On Ireland 1978.

10: Hidden Wounds - The Problems of Northern Ireland Veterans
in Civvy Street
,
by Aly Renwick.
Barbed Wire 1999.

 

 

Emergency Legislation

In the north of Ireland, after troops became involved, the British authorities were faced with a usual problem – how to imprison large numbers of militants when there was no hard evidence against them. The answer was an old favourite, internment, and in August 1971, using the existing Special Powers Act (SPA), the Tory government, under pressure from unionists, introduced it once again. However, this time it provoked worldwide protests and the authorities then looked to change the judicial system, as Peter Taylor outlined in his book Beating the Terrorists?:

The government realised that internment, which was both politically and morally unacceptable, could not last forever. But if internment was to be ended, other ways had to be found of locking up the paramilitaries. Clearly, the existing judicial system, which was indistinguishable from that in the rest of the UK, with its juries, witnesses and rules of evidence, was, as it stood, an ineffective alternative.

Lord Diplock was then appointed to review the judicial system and his recommendations were incorporated into the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act of 1973, which replaced the SPA. This new judicial system was totally different from that in Britain and the new emergency legislation suspended liberties that had taken centuries to consolidate. Under the Emergency Provisions Act people could be held for three days without being charged and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, passed in 1974, permitted seven day detention periods.

This emergency legislation allowed the army and police to arrest for questioning, a power unknown to common law. In the Diplock Courts, which handled ‘terrorist’ charges and the judge sat alone, statements obtained by ill-treatment were admissible as evidence and the burden of proof now lay with the accused to prove their innocence. Confessions obtained by physical or psychological force, at interrogation centres like Castlereagh, were crucial to the new policy. These, or the verbal testimony of a policeman that a suspect had made a confession, formed the basis of 80% of the convictions. The Diplock Courts had a 94% conviction rate and more than 7,000 people had passed through them by the end of the 70s.

Nationalist in the North called the new system the ‘conveyor belt’, because this summed up the way prisoners were processed from their arrest through brutal interrogation, then the Diplock Courts and finally to the H Blocks or Armagh prison. Once again, an attempt had been made to criminalise Irish resistance to British rule and the prisoners, who took part in numerous prison protests that culminated with the two tragic hunger strikes, were fully aware that they were resisting the criminalisation of not only themselves - but also of the whole republican struggle.

 

 

Waiving the Rules

In 1976, the Troops Out Movement organised a group of British trade unionists to visit Dublin and Belfast, where Father Desmond Wilson, a community worker in West Belfast, spoke to the delegation: ‘ I met recently a number of barristers and we discussed a number of problems. They told me quite dispassionately that, “ Yes, we know there are innocent people imprisoned ” , and when I said, “ Can you do anything about it? ” they said, “ No, we can do nothing ” . They were twiddling their wine glasses and reminiscing, and at that moment I came as near to despair as ever I came, because the professional classes in this country have accepted that it is necessary to put innocent people in prison for the common good ’. [11]

This situation was created by linking British military counter-revolutionary strategy to an already biased unionist judiciary. The US-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights stated: ‘Instead of acting independently as a bulwark between the state and the individual, Northern Ireland’s judiciary has in many respects become part of the state’s enforcement apparatus’. In 1986, Patrick J. McGrory, a lawyer who worked in Northern Ireland, wrote about the abuses of the law and court system: ‘The English are proud of their legal system, and the Chief Law Officer is hardly likely to admit that it is being used in one part of the Kingdom in a manner which would never be tolerated in the other.’ McGrory continued:

He might consider it would alarm the British public to know the wide powers of arrest and search, detention and interrogation, given to police, and even soldiers, over citizens. He might think they would be horrified to learn that witnesses have been called to the box wearing masks, or disguised in false wigs, beards, moustaches and dark glasses. He would certainly not be keen to emphasise that police and soldiers have sworn false evidence to courts, on the orders of superior officers, to serve some perceived requirement of security, whether or not the course of justice was thereby perverted. Indeed, the cynical manipulation of the legal process by some members of the security forces, particularly the military, was at one time an important feature of life in the courts of Northern Ireland. The soldiers, when they arrived in Northern Ireland, were put into the streets to do the work of policemen - a task to which they were wholly unsuited. They did not expect that their words and actions, which were quite frequently coarse, brutal and illegal, would be closely scrutinised in courts - and they did not like it. With that famed adaptability which is said to be the virtue of the British soldier, they improvised a method of dealing with this new danger - they lied. They did so with such frequency and, eventually, with such skill, that many people went to prison as a result of it.[12]

McGrory’s view of the way the military used the courts was confirmed by ex-soldier Brian Ashton who had served a tour of duty in Derry. He told about an incident where ‘Bernadette Devlin was arrested on the way to Derry to speak at a meeting. The news had obviously reached the Bogside, and there was a riot on Free Derry Corner of about 200 people.’ Ashton continued:

Some of our battery went in there to disperse the riot, and a sergeant major was badly injured with a fractured skull. The next day, the officers were very angry about this situation, and said we had to prove to Derry that we were in charge. So we were instructed to go onto the streets of Derry and to keep people on the move. And if anybody was stood still and refused to move they were arrested. And people were giving explanations that they were waiting for their girlfriends, or waiting for a bus, but if they didn’t move they were arrested. Then the next day they were taken to court. Now two or three soldiers were told to get together and get the evidence sorted out. Not necessarily the soldiers that arrested them, but soldiers picked at random. And the people that were arrested got sentenced to six months in jail, and the only thing they were guilty of was standing on corners and refusing to move.[13]

Many more nationalists and republicans were stitched-up on much more serious charges and ‘put away’ for long periods. As the prison population shot up Criminalisation became a new form of internment, made ‘legal’ by the veneer of the new legislation. Under police primacy, after Ulsterisation, ‘the troubles’ were then said to be caused by ‘Mafia-like criminal elements’ - who should ‘all be locked up’.

11: Full text in Ireland Voices for Withdrawal,
Information on Ireland 1980. 

12: Law and the Constitution: Present Discontents,
by Patrick J McGrory,
A Field Day Pamphlet - number 12. 

13: Full text in Ireland Voices for Withdrawal,
Information on Ireland 1980.

 

 

Soldiers & the Yellow Card

In Northern Ireland, after the implementation of the Hunt Committee’s recommendations to disband the B-Specials and disarm the RUC, British troops became the main force for ‘law and order’ on the streets. Many soldiers had experienced one, or several, of Britain’s previous colonial wars and gradually they started to crack down on nationalist areas. The soldiers were told that they could use ‘reasonable force to prevent a crime’ and these instructions were given out to soldiers as a ‘Yellow Card’:

The Army issued guidance to its soldiers as to what reasonable force actually was, in the form of a Yellow Card. These were given to every soldier, some being taped to rifle butts. The Card, amended in 1980, stressed that, ‘Firearms must only be used as a last resort’. It told soldiers that they must challenge somebody unless an engagement had already begun or if doing so ‘would increase the risk of death or grave injury to you or any other person’. Opening fire is correct only if the other person ‘is committing or about to commit an act likely to endanger life and there is no other way to prevent the danger’. [14]

The authorities let it be known that these guidelines were meant to stop the troops transgressing civil law in Northern Ireland. But in past colonial conflicts British soldiers had regarded Yellow Cards, or similar instructions, as little more than a joke. It soon became evident that this tradition was being carried on in Ireland. Chris Byrne, an ex-Royal Marine, served in Belfast in the early 70s and remembered that : ‘ In the Orderly Room of Tac. HQ was kept all day-by-day records of the unit’s operations in the area.’ Byrne continued:

I remember in particular the Sniper files which documented the hits and misses of unit snipers. The shooting of unarmed suspects by Army snipers was carried out with the full knowledge of Commanding Officers. And even in those cases where the sniper claimed the man was armed, the secret positioning of the sniper and his likely distance from the target preclude the possibility of giving any effective warning which is required by the Yellow and Blue card regulations.…[15]

On many occasions soldiers ignored the Yellow Card instructions they had been issued with and often innocent people were killed or injured. The following are five examples, that also show how the courts dealt with the soldiers involved:

  1. In December 1972 William Bell, a 30-year-old Protestant Housing Executive plumber, working on a house beside the ‘peace line’ in the Ardoyne area of Belfast, was shot dead and another man injured by British Army soldiers who mistook them for snipers. The Army said the men were believed to have been holding weapons - which turned out to have been tools and piping.[16]

  2. In February 1973 Kevin Heatley, a 12-year-old Catholic, was shot dead by a British Army soldier in Newry. The Army claimed that they had come under fire but local people disputed this. A year later 22-year-old Corporal Francis Foxford, serving in the Hampshire Regiment, was jailed for three years for firing ‘an unaimed shot without cause or justification’. Three months later Foxford’s sentence was quashed on appeal in the High Court. The boy’s father, Desmond Heatley, suffered from depression after his son’s death and was found dead in Newry Canal at the end of the next year.[17]

  3. In August 1976 Majella O’Hare, another 12-year-old Catholic, was shot dead by a paratrooper as she walked to her local chapel in South Armagh. The army immediately blamed her death on ‘gunmen’ claiming that two or three shots from an automatic weapon had been fired at a foot patrol, who had not returned fire, and that a young girl had been found injured. When this version was contradicted by local people the army then said that Majella had been killed in ‘crossfire’. A soldier was later tried for unlawful killing, but escaped conviction apparently because of his ‘belief’ that he had fired at a gunman, even though none were present.[18]

  4. In July 1981 Daniel Barrett, a 15-year-old Catholic, was sitting on the front garden wall of his home in Havana Court, Ardoyne, when he was shot dead by a British Army soldier firing from an observation post in the nearby Flax Street Army base. Later his father and two sisters who had suffered ‘nervous shock’ through witnessing his death received £42,250 compensation, but the MoD refused to admit liability.[19]

  5. In August 1982 Eamonn Bradley, a 23-year-old IRA man, was shot dead by soldiers of the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment in Shantallow, Derry. Local people said Bradley was taken by the soldiers from outside of the Shantallow House Bar to some waste ground and there was forced to the ground and shot in the head. A year later two soldiers, 19-year-old Private Bailey and 22-year-old Private Jones were charged with Bradley’s murder. One soldier’s statement said he had opened fire because he believed Bradley was about to reach for a gun and a army major testified that he would expect a soldier to open fire if he believed he was about to come under fire from a suspected terrorist. Although the Crown admitted that the use of firearms in this case had not been reasonable the soldiers were acquitted on the grounds that unjustified use of force had not been demonstrated.[20]

In previous colonial wars, especially Kenya, the Army’s killed-to-wounded ratio was abnormally high. In Northern Ireland it was much lower. One reason for this was the first-class medical treatment that was available to victims after shootings. But the most important factor was that in Northern Ireland soldiers’ actions came under greater scrutiny, especially after the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry. Westminster did not want another propaganda disaster and officers came under pressure to take more notice of the civil law and give some weight to following Yellow Card instructions.

In reality, while paying lip service to obeying the Yellow Card instructions, military cynicism prevailed: ‘While senior officers are always at pains to stress the Army’s adherence to the law, attitudes to the Yellow Card and the principles of minimum force which it embodies tend to vary lower down the chain of command. According to one officer, “The Yellow Card rules are typical of things which are repeated so often in the Army that they become meaningless”.’ [21]

On the one hand, some regiments interpreted the guidelines as allowing their soldiers to use a great deal of force that fell just short of being lethal. On the other hand, it is clear that many units considered themselves to be above such instructions and laws. For his book Big Boys ’ Rules, Mark Urban interviewed some officers with that type of attitude: ‘ Officers who were interviewed for this book, particularly those who had been involved in ambush-type operations, consider there to be an unspoken bargain. “ I always told my soldiers that nothing would happen to them so long as they could justify their actions by the Yellow Card ” , says one. The implication is that the justifications for opening fire can be pieced together afterwards ’.

14: Big Boys’ Rules,
by Mark Urban,
Faber and Faber 1992.

15: Chris Byrne, ex-Royal Marine,
British Soldiers Speak Out On Ireland,
Information On Ireland 1978.

16: Belfast Telegraph,
12th May 1972.

17: Irish Information Agenda,
Irish Information Partnership, 1986.

18: Extracted from Ireland: The Propaganda War,
by Liz Curtis,
first published by Pluto Press 1984.
Updated edition republished in Belfast by Sásta 1998.

19: Irish Information Agenda,
Irish Information Partnership, 1986.

20: Ibid - Irish Information Agenda,
Irish Information Partnership, 1986.

21: Big Boys’ Rules,
by Mark Urban,
Faber and Faber 1992.

 

 

Shoot-to-Kill

In his book Low Intensity Operations Brigadier Frank Kitson pointed out that during the insurgency (armed) stage of any struggle: ‘The problem [for the Army] of destroying enemy armed groups and their supporters consists very largely of finding them.’ He then detailed how ordinary uniformed Army units could assist by building up background information. In the north of Ireland the army quickly set about developing a widespread intelligence network and soon every unit proceeding on a tour of duty had its own intelligence section:

Over the years, the army’s intelligence structure has been built up into what it is today. Each visiting battalion (about 550 men) has an intelligence section of, say, three officers, six NCOs and 25 men. Then, each of Northern Ireland’s three brigade areas has a permanent intelligence unit which is about 20-strong and usually headed by a major. At the top of the structure is the head-quarters intelligence unit at British Army HQ in Lisburn. This is about 50-strong, and is commanded by a lieutenant-colonel or, on occasions, a full colonel who is known as “Colonel GS Int”.

Military intelligence personnel are also stationed at Castlereagh Interrogation Centre, where they liaise with the Special Branch, and at RUC headquarters in East Belfast. The latter team, designated the SMIU (Special Military Intelligence Unit), run some special projects and are in contact with the top levels of the RUC. Intelligence personnel are either members of the Intelligence Corps or have completed a course at the army’s intelligence centre at Ashford in Kent. The latter usually spend two years in intelligence work.[22]

The importance of intelligence work was drummed into all soldiers about to commence a tour of duty. Once in Northern Ireland, the troops set about gathering a mass of information on nationalists in the areas they were sent to dominate: ‘For the Army, intelligence became a high priority. Every soldier is now trained in intelligence work before his unit is sent to Ireland. Once there, one of his major tasks is to find out as much as possible about the people in the area in which his unit operates. Sometimes as many as one-fifth of each battalion are engaged in full-time plain-clothes intelligence or covert surveillance operations.’ [23] Information from look-out posts, cameras, helicopters, random identity checks, interrogations, house searches and covert surveillance fed the security forces computer-based intelligence-gathering:

If intelligence runs low in an area many people may be arrested at random and interrogated. Although the statistics for the number of arrests made by the Army has been concealed carefully from public view since direct rule, it is known that very large numbers of arrests have been made using the four-hour provision of the 1973 Emergency Powers Act. According to the NCCL, 2,000 people were arrested between March and July 1973 in Derry alone, one person being arrested twenty-eight times. In Belfast the story was similar. And according to the Observer, ‘Most young men in areas like the Falls Road assume that if they are picked up by soldiers, they can expect to be kicked and punched’.

... While the propaganda machine continued to assert that the battle was against a small minority of men of violence, in reality a large proportion of the Catholic population was hostile to the Army. The Army recognised this and have treated the Catholic community accordingly, amassing a vast amount of information on it. Everyone who has an actual, historical or suspected connection with the IRA seems to have been arrested, on average, every nine months. The Army also conducts routine four monthly checks on the occupants of each house in selected areas. Even minute details such as the colour of the wallpaper are recorded.[24]

This vast intelligence-gathering network was then linked to the information from spies and informers. which was all used, as the war became more intense, to set up shoot-to-kill operations. The British governments were very reluctant to admit that the SAS were involved in ‘peacekeeping’ in Northern Ireland. It wasn't until 1975 that the politicians felt it expedient to admit their use and announced that squads of SAS troops were being sent to ‘trouble spots’. Westminster hoped that the SAS would be more selective in their kills and therefore defuse criticism of such army actions:

For more than a decade, the thrust of the British military effort against the IRA has been based on intelligence, on securing the sort of accurate information - from a mix of informers and surveillance - that will allow them to predict, and intercept, IRA operations. The cutting edge of the strategy is known to everyone as shoot to kill - and it is effective. Of the 90 or so IRA Volunteers listed as killed in action between 1978 and ’89, almost half were shot in circumstances where they were hopelessly compromised - some in mid-operation, some approaching arms dumps.[25]

After the SAS had carried out a series of killings in Northern Ireland, the Guardian reported the comments of an Army major: ‘Some people believe in selective internment, I believe in selective assassination.’ [26] In his book Big Boys’ Rules, Mark Urban stated:

Many SAS soldiers sum up their attitude to the use of lethal force in situations like Ulster saying: ‘Big boys’ games, big boys’ rules’. In other words, any IRA man caught with a rifle or bomb can expect to be shot, whatever the Yellow Card may say. The saying is, according to a member of the Regiment, their ‘justification for killing people’.[27]

Highly adept in ‘terrorist’ skills like infiltration, sabotage and assassination, the SAS had become the army’s elite counter-revolutionary killing force. Recruiting only from serving soldiers in other regiments, the SAS remains the smallest, but probably the most active, unit in the British Army. The SAS often operate in civilian clothes, disguised as nationals of the country in which they are serving, and all are intensively trained for close-quarter killings - a deadly art in which they specialise. It was not long, however, before the SAS carried out a shoot-to-kill operation which focused attention on their use of lethal force.

22: Irish Times,
article by David McKittrick,
22nd April 1980.

23; The Technology of Political Control,
by Carol Ackroyd, Karen Margolis, Jonathan Rosenhead and Tim Shallice,
Pluto Press 1980.

24; Ibid - The Technology of Political Control,
by Carol Ackroyd, Karen Margolis, Jonathan Rosenhead and Tim Shallice,
Pluto Press 1980.

25: The Phoenix,
6th Oct. 1989.

26: Guardian,
19th Feb. 1979.

27: Big Boys’ Rules,
by Mark Urban,
Faber and Faber 1992.

 

 

The Killing of John Boyle

On 10th July 1978, John Boyle, a sixteen-year-old Catholic, was exploring an old graveyard near his family’s farm in County Antrim, when he discovered an arms cache. He told his father, who passed on the information to the RUC. When the report reached the British Army, they decided to set up an SAS ‘stake out’. The next morning John was helping his father and elder brother with haymaking in a nearby field, when he wandered off to the graveyard to see if the guns had been removed. John Boyle was then shot dead at the site of the arms cache by two SAS soldiers who had been waiting undercover, a short distance away. His father and brother, who rushed to the scene after hearing the shots, were arrested and taken into custody:

The army press office issued a statement saying that ‘at approximately 10.22 this morning near Dunloy a uniformed military patrol challenged three men. One man was shot; two men are assisting police enquiries. Weapons and explosives have been recovered’. By shooting dead John Boyle, the SAS had severely cramped the RUC’s style. Information about arms from a Catholic family was a rare prize, and now the British army had shot the source of the information. The RUC swiftly issued a statement denying that the Boyle family were connected with ‘terrorism’.

Now the army press office somersaulted in an attempt to find a new justification for the shooting. They put out a statement saying that ‘two soldiers saw a man running into the graveyard. They saw the man reach under a gravestone and straighten up, pointing an Armalite rifle in their direction ... They fired five rounds at him. The rifle was later found with its magazine fitted and ready to fire’. The army now also admitted that their first statement, saying the soldiers had challenged three men, had been inaccurate. A warning would have been ‘impractical’ in the circumstances, they said. The authorities were reluctant to charge the soldiers involved. They eventually did so the following February, after details of the pathologist’s report ... appeared in the press and caused an outcry. Two SAS men were then tried for murder. [28]

On the first day of the two SAS men’s trial, in Ballymena Magistrates’ Court, seven unidentified men in civilian clothes appeared in the dock. Charges against Alan Bohan and Ronald Tempedley for the murder of John Boyle were read out, but the two weren’t identified and none of the seven answered. At the end of the day’s proceedings it was stated that the two SAS men had been granted personal bail, and were to remain in military custody. All seven men then rose and left the court by a side entrance.

Angry journalists asked court officials and detectives to identify Bohan and Tempedley but their requests were refused. Heated arguments then broke out with the pressmen saying the hearing lacked any credibility. Eventually, as the court was cleared, protesting journalists left shouting ‘Sham’ and ‘Disgusting’. The trial result was also a travesty of justice:

The trial revealed that, contrary to the army’s statement, the rifle had not been loaded. The judge was unable to decide whether in fact John Boyle had picked it up. The judge concluded that the army had ‘gravely mishandled’ the operation and that Sergeant Bohan - the only one of the two accused SAS men to give evidence - was an ‘untrustworthy witness’ whose account was ‘vague and unsatisfactory’. He nevertheless found them not guilty: their ‘mistaken belief’ that they were in danger was enough to acquit them, he said.[29]

Gerry Fitt MP raised the issue of the John Boyle killing in the House of Commons: ‘When he [Fit] raised the point of the use of minimum force and the instructions of the yellow card, he was shouted down by Conservative MPs. Mr Mason [Labour’s Northern Ireland Secretary] said that some soldiers were killed by hesitating. The shadow Northern Ireland spokesman, Mr Airey Neave, nodded vigorously at Mr Mason’s remarks.’ [30] Fitt had questioned if the killing of John Boyle was compatible with the instructions given to soldiers about the ‘use of reasonable force to prevent a crime and in making lawful arrests’. After Roy Mason had rubbished Gerry Fitt’s question in the House of Commons, the Irish journalist David McKittrick, who produced the Northern Notebook for the Irish Times, wrote:

Roy Mason himself has always been attracted by the glamour of the SAS, dating back to his days as Minister of Defence. He speaks glowingly of their capabilities and it came as little surprise a year ago when he announced that many more soldiers were to have special training in ‘SAS-type activities’. We are now seeing the fruits of that policy: shoot-outs and killings, sometimes in dubious circumstances, with soldiers often acting with more enthusiasm than attention to detail.[31]

Two months after the John Boyle killing the SAS made another ‘mistake’, this time their victim was a Protestant. On 30th September 1978, James Taylor, a 23-year-old civil servant, was shot dead by undercover soldiers whilst out duck shooting. It was clear that John Boyle and James Taylor had been offered no chance to surrender - and their cases offered clear proof that SAS soldiers were carrying out a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland. Various other non-combatants were mistaken for IRA members by the SAS and shot dead. In every case the SAS could have detained their victims - but, instead, pumped volleys of shots into their bodies, usually at close range. Afterwards, SAS soldiers tried to justify their killings by saying they had fired because they felt their lives had been in danger.

28: Ireland: The Propaganda War,
by Liz Curtis,
first published by Pluto Press 1984.
Updated edition republished in Belfast by Sásta 1998.

29: Ibid - Ireland: The Propaganda War,
by Liz Curtis.

30: The SAS in Ireland,
by Raymond Murray,
Mercier Press 1990.

31: Irish Times,
15th July 1978.

 

 

Gibraltar & Belfast

The shooting of actual IRA members was easier to justify. In the rare event of witnesses, or when those killed were found to be unarmed, the SAS invariably claimed that ‘sudden’ or ‘suspicious’ movements were made, which they thought indicated that the victims had been about to ‘produce weapons’ or ‘bomb-firing devices’. It became, in the end, a formula for justifying shoot-to-kill assassinations - first the killings, then the justifications, which were often taken up and expanded upon by a triumphant British media.

On the afternoon of Sunday 6th March 1988 three IRA members, Danny McCann, Mairead Farrell and Sean Savage, were shot dead on a Gibraltar street. An SAS assassination squad had been flown out to the island to kill the IRA team, who had been under surveillance from British Intelligence for some time. Eyewitnesses said two of the IRA members had their hands in the air, trying to surrender, when they were shot down. The SAS men had made sure of the killings, firing more shots into their victims’ bodies as they lay on the ground.

Senior pathologist Professor Alan Watson gave evidence after examining the bodies: ‘Savage was a mess. His twenty-nine wounds, said Watson, suggested ‘a frenzied attack’. He had seven wounds to the head, five to the back, one to each shoulder, five to the chest, three to the abdomen (‘and lying there in the depth of the navel itself was a piece of grey distorted metal presumed to be a bullet’), two to the left thigh, two to the right arm, one superficial to the left arm and two to the left hand...’ [32] No weapons were found on the bodies and no bomb was found on the island. The IRA did state that Farrell, McCann and Savage had been on ‘active service’, but it was clear that they could have been arrested, rather than shot down.

The bodies were flown back to Ireland in a welter of recriminations - and tension continued to rise as preparations were made for their funerals. On Wednesday 16th March, as mourners gathered in Belfast, the usual heavy security force presence at republican funerals was absent:

Several thousand spectators and mourners turned out for the funeral at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, where the three were to be buried in the corner of the ground reserved for republican martyrs. About 1.15pm, as the first coffin was about to be lowered into its grave, a man began to lob grenades and fire a pistol into the crowd. Mourners chased him from the cemetery and on to the motorway nearby. Often he turned to fire at his pursuers, crying: ‘Come on, you Fenian fuckers’, and ‘Have some of this, you IRA bastards’. A mourner told the Times: ‘He seemed to be enjoying it. He was taking careful aim and firing at us, just as if he was shooting clay pigeons’. After the crowd caught up with him, he was beaten unconscious and would have been beaten to death had not the police intervened to carry him away.[33]

The police, watching from a distance, had made no attempt to intervene until the crowd had caught their attacker. Three mourners died during the attack and many more were wounded, two critically. One of the dead was IRA member Kevin Brady. His funeral took place three days later and, once again, the security forces were keeping their distance when a Volkswagen Passat car ran into the front of the funeral procession. Expecting and fearing another loyalist attack, the mourners escorting Brady’s cortege up the Falls Road reacted violently, when the car’s occupants were seen to be armed:

The car contained two British soldiers in civilian clothes, Corporals Derek Wood and David Howes of the Royal Corps of Signals, who were dragged from the car, beaten, stripped and shot dead, amid shouts of ‘We have got two Brits’. Spokesmen for the British army said they could think of no reason why Wood and Howes had driven to the funeral, other than misplaced curiosity. Mrs Thatcher described their deaths as, ‘an act of appalling savagery ... there seems to be no depths to which these people will not sink’ .[34]

Tragically, as so often happens in Northern Ireland, event had followed brutal event. Over a fortnight, starting in Gibraltar and ending in Belfast, 8 people were dead and 68 wounded. However, in Britain, even the Irish dead could not claim an equal sympathy: ‘The last two deaths ... imprinted themselves on the British imagination in a way the first six never could. They were young British soldiers killed in view of press and television cameras; the most enduring image from that time shows one of their naked carcasses full-length on the ground like something from an abattoir, with a kneeling priest administering the last rites.’ [35] Many SAS killings were deliberately provocative and often led to increased levels of tension and violence.

32: Granta 25, Autumn 1988,
Gibraltar by Ian Jack.

33: Ibid - Granta 25, Autumn 1988,
Gibraltar by Ian Jack.

34: Ibid - Granta 25, Autumn 1988,
Gibraltar by Ian Jack.

35: Ibid - Granta 25, Autumn 1988,
Gibraltar by Ian Jack.

 

 

The State Hit-Squad

Those conducting operations during the ‘Emergencies’ in various parts of the Empire were the mainly public school-educated British officer class - who often displayed an attitude of arrogance and indifference towards those against whom their soldiers’ actions were aimed. They are also the people who have written most of the history of these wars. When the Gulf war loomed in 1991, Margaret Thatcher, ‘wanted a fighting general’ to lead the British forces. Her choice was Peter de la Billiere, a veteran of Korea, Malaya, Brunei, Aden and Oman, who had spent most of his service with the SAS, becoming commander of the Special Air Service Group from 1979 to 1983.

Lavish press coverage made de la Billiere a national ‘hero’ during his command of British forces in the Gulf. Subsequently he wrote two best selling books about his service life: Storm Command, about the Gulf conflict, and Looking For Trouble, about his earlier exploits. In the latter book de la Billiere wrote about the John Boyle killing, in what he describes as the Dunloy incident:

Our soldiers had found a weapons cache in a grave, and had staked the site out, lying up for several days and nights hidden in a wet ditch at the edge of a churchyard. One night a man appeared, lifted the top of the grave and took out a semi-automatic weapon, which he pointed in the direction of the watchers. They, thinking that he had seen them and was about to shoot, opened fire and killed him. Clearly the dead man had been a member of the IRA; but he was only sixteen, and probably a low-grade operator. The IRA opened up a vociferous propaganda barrage, producing pictures taken seven or eight years earlier, when the youth was singing in a choir, and presenting us as having killed a choirboy.[36]

After the SAS had shot John Boyle the Rev. Ian Paisley, the local MP for this North Antrim area, visited the Boyle family. Paisley, an implacable opponent of the IRA, afterwards stated, ‘I feel that the army, even at this late stage, should be prepared to simply state that a terrible mistake was made.’ In his book, Big Boys’ Rules, Mark Urban wrote: ‘Many RUC officers considered the Boyle episode at Dunloy to have been an extraordinary display of ineptitude by the Army.’ [37] The main critics of the SAS action at Dunloy were the RUC and anti-republican politicians like Ian Paisley and Gerry Fitt. In his book de la Billiere claimed that the incident had occurred ‘one night’, when even the Army’s statement had recorded it as occurring ‘at approximately 10.22 this morning’. The difference between his record of the John Boyle killing and all other versions is astonishing. But it is probably his history of the event that will prevail in Britain.

Because of the clandestine nature of the conflict in Northern Ireland both the IRA and the SAS used close-quarter shootings to kill many of their victims. The difference between the organisations, however, was in their ideology and reason for fighting. If it is true that one person’s ‘freedom-fighter’ is another person’s ‘terrorist’ and vice-versa, then it is also true that one person’s ‘SAS hero’ is another person’s ‘state-terrorist’. The SAS has become a cult unit for many British people, fed a diet of ‘heroic actions’ by a sycophantic press. In 1995, at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool, Michael Portillo, the Defence Secretary, delivered a xenophobic speech against ‘European interference’ in British affairs:

He urged schools to teach the history “of this remarkable country ... the real history of heroes and bravery, of good versus evil, of freedom against tyranny. Of Nelson, Wellington and Churchill”. And in a sideswipe at the European Court of Human Rights’ criticism of the SAS killing of three suspected IRA terrorists in Gibraltar, he said: “Around the world three letters send a chill down the spine of the enemy - SAS. And those letters spell out one clear message: don’t mess with Britain”.[38]

The speech won him a standing ovation from the packed Tory faithful. SAS hero-worshipping is often led by the ‘great and the good’ within British society, who have used the unit as a state hit-squad - against any threat to establishment interests.

36::Looking for Trouble,
by Peter de la Billiere,
Harper Collins 1994.
For a profile of De la Billiere and the SAS, see Lobster 30,
December 1995, article called The Myth of the SAS, by John Newsinger.

37: Big Boys’ Rules,
by Mark Urban,
Faber and Faber 1992.

38: The Times,
11th Oct. 1995.

 

 

The Miami Showband Massacre

Most recruits to the UDR and RUC came from hard-line loyalist areas, where many people hate Catholics. Like other settler communities, many of the ‘Protestants of Ulster’ came to define themselves in racial contrast to their native neighbours. In their eyes Catholics were lazy, furtive, devious, dirty and disloyal - while Protestants were industrious, resolute, honest, clean and loyal. When sustained by this sense of identity, unionist / loyalist culture and ethos becomes centred on feelings of sectarian hatred towards Catholics:

In May 1984 George Seawright, a representative of Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, caused a storm when he said the money spent on educating ‘Fenian scum’ would be better spent buying incinerators and burning Catholics and their priests. Seawright refused to withdraw his remarks, saying there would be ‘no retraction, no apology, no compromise and no surrender.’

This view of Catholics as an inferior and contemptible species leads logically to indiscriminate sectarian murder campaigns: several hundred Catholics have been murdered by Protestant paramilitaries for no other reason than that they were Catholics. ... Loyalists have even composed triumphalist songs to celebrate the killing of Catholics, who are often described by the derogatory term ‘taigs’. They exulted over the burning of Catholic houses in Bombay Street, Belfast, in 1969 with the words:

On the 14th of August
we took a little trip
Up along Bombay Street
and we burned out all the shit
We took a little petrol
and we took a little gun,
And we fought the bloody Fenians,
till we had them on the run.

Another loyalist ditty, also set to a popular tune, went:

I was born under the Union Jack,
I was born under the Union Jack,
If guns are made for shooting,
Then skulls are made to crack.
You’ve never seen a better Taig
Than with a bullet in his back.[39]

Within such a xenophobic society, racism is often watered down or patronisingly expressed by those at the top, while those at the bottom give full vent to their hatred and fear. After Ulsterisation the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) was expanded and began to carry out operations across the North. Over the next decades a steady stream of UDR members were convicted of various sectarian crimes against Catholics. UDR men were convicted for the bombing of the Biddy Mulligan bar in London’s Kilburn area in December 1975. Also in 1975, a UDR armourer was jailed after admitting that weapons in his control were used by the UVF and then swapped around to avoid ballistic detection.

In 1976, Sergeant James McDowell and Lance-Corporal Raymond Crozier were jailed for 35 years for their part in the Miami Showband Massacre, which took place the previous year. Both had worn their UDR uniforms to stop the band’s van, in a hold-up which left three band members dead– 29-year-old Francis O’Toole, 33-year-old Brian McCoy and 23-year-old Anthony Geraghty - and the three others wounded. UDR soldiers Wesley Somerville and Morris Boyle blew themselves up when the bomb they were trying to plant in the band’s van exploded prematurely. All four were members of the UDR’s 11th Battalion which was based at Portadown and Lurgan. Death notices from UVF units in Portadown, Lurgan, Dungannon and Antrim, which subsequently appeared in the Belfast daily paper the Newsletter, described the dead UDR men as ‘comrades in arms’.

Under the mounting litany of convictions and allegations laid at the door of its members, the UDR adopted a process designed to hide the perpetrator’s service in the Regiment: ‘When soldiers get into trouble they are frequently forced out of the Regiment at the earliest opportunity. Thus, if the UDR connection comes to light, the offender can be distanced as a ‘former’ member.’ [40] In 1979 Edward McIlwaine was jailed, along with other members of the ‘Shankill Butchers’ gang who specialised in abducting and murdering Catholics, for offences he committed while in the UDR, from 1974 to 1977:

The controversy over McIlwaine drew from the Regiment an admission that by March 1979, more than thirty of its members had been convicted for serious terrorist offences, the frankest count published up to that time. Five had been found guilty of murder, five of manslaughter; ten for arms and explosives offences; four for serious assault; and another nine for other terrorist type offences. At the end of 1989, the Armed Forces minister, Archie Hamilton, told Seamus Mallon, MP, that in the previous four years seventy offenders had been dismissed or had resigned from the Regiment, sixteen voluntarily, having been involved in an offence; fifty-four being discharged after being convicted and imprisoned.[41]

39: Nothing But the Same Old Story - The Roots of Anti-Irish Racism,
by Liz Curtis,
first published by Information on Ireland 1984,
republished by Sásta 1998.

40: The Ulster Defence Regiment - An Instrument of Peace?,
by Chris Ryder,
Mandarin 1992.

41: Ibid - The Ulster Defence Regiment - An Instrument of Peace?,
by Chris Ryder,
Mandarin 1992.

 

 

The Final Court of Justice

After Ulsterisation 94% of the RUC came from the Protestant sector of the population. Kathleen Magee, who worked with the RUC for a year while researching a book, said: ‘Policing by its nature is a heavily masculine occupation. The stereotypical qualities associated with streetwise American cops are upheld in real life policing. Characteristics of the ‘John Wayne’ type, involving toughness, courage and unshakeable nerve are still regarded as the credentials of a good police officer.’ Magee continued:

Indeed, the parlance adopted by RUC members was often lifted straight from American cop serials. The expression, ‘Let’s do it to them, before they do it to us!’ taken from Hill Street Blues, was used by one constable before going on patrol. And a sergeant describing a film he had seen said: ‘The best line was when Sly (Sylvester Stallone) says to the guy, “This is where the law stops and I take over”’.

Such rhetoric, while apparently harmless, implies that in some circumstances, police are above the law. And when confronted with evil they are almost entitled to take the law into their own hands. ... Police forces always embody and magnify the elements of bias already existing in the society they police; the frustration experienced by the Northern Irish community following 22 years of violence is bound to be magnified within the ranks of the RUC.[42]

Magee’s conclusion was that ‘anti-Catholic sectarianism, no matter how the RUC authorities condemn it, would seem to be inevitable within the force.’ In the early 80s the RUC were accused of carrying out a number of shoot-to-kill operations, which attracted increasing levels of interest, speculation and condemnation. As part of the Ulsterisation process Special Mobile Support Units (SMSUs), backed up by E4 intelligence units, had been set up. They were trained by the SAS and it was the SMSUs who were suspected of having carried out the killings. In 1984, John Stalker, then the Deputy Chief Constable of Manchester, was appointed by the Government to investigate the killings. Stalker was to look into three specific incidents that resulted in the shooting dead of six unarmed men by the RUC, during a five-week period two years previously.

In the first incident, on 11th November 1982, three unarmed IRA members, 21-year-olds Eugene Toman and Sean Burns and 31-year-old Gervaise McKerr were shot dead by the RUC at a roadblock outside Lurgan. The RUC claimed that the men’s car had failed to stop and struck an officer. It was estimated that 109 shots were fired by the RUC with only one car window remaining intact. Toman’s body was found outside the car. Nearly a year later the Armagh Coroner, Mr Curran, criticised the DPP for the unexplained delay which was frustrating him in his public duty to hold a inquest as soon as possible. A fortnight later it was reported that three RUC men had been suspended from duty and would be charged with the murder of Toman:

In April 1984 three RUC members, 26-year-old Constable Frederick Robinson, 35-year-old Constable David Brannigan and 28-year-old Sergeant William Montgomery stand trial for Toman’s murder. All give addresses at RUC headquarters, Belfast, and it is established that they are from the headquarters’ Special Mobile Support Unit (SMSU), and known to have received training from the SAS. During the trial it becomes apparent that an upsurge of IRA activity in the Lurgan/Craigavon area had resulted in the SMSU being sent to deal with the situation. At the trial RUC Senior Deputy Chief Constable, Michael McAtamney tells the Judge, Lord Justice Gibson, about the SMSU: ‘Once you decide to fire, you shoot to take out your enemy’. ‘Do you mean permanently out of action?’ Gibson asked. ‘Yes’, McAtamney replied. Defence evidence included assertions that the opening of a door in the car in which Toman, Burns and McKerr were travelling had sounded like a gun being cocked and that shots fired by the RUC at the car had looked like gun flashes of shots being fired back.

At the end of the trial Lord Justice Gibson, sitting alone and without a jury, acquits all three RUC men. Gibson went on to praise the RUC men for their courage and commended them for bringing ‘the three deceased men to justice, in this case the final court of justice’ (my emphasis). Gibson went on to criticise the DPP for bringing charges against the RUC men; ‘Those who brought the prosecution on such evidence undoubtedly did not take into account that these men’s personal security was at risk ... The case is going to have a more widespread effect upon other members of the police and indeed the armed forces generally. When a policeman or soldier is ordered to arrest a dangerous criminal and on the basis of that order bring him back dead or alive (my emphasis), how is he to consider his conduct now?’ Responding to criticism of Gibson’s verdict the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Prior, stated that there was no shoot-to-kill operation and that ‘the law is the same for all, regardless of whether they are police, soldiers or civilians’.[43]

42: Irish Times, 6th Feb. 1992,
by Kathleen Magee who worked as a researcher
for Professor John Brewer ’ s book Inside the RUC,
Clarendon Press 1991.

43: Irish Information Agenda - Volume One - Update 1986,
by Helen Dady, Marian Larragy, Thomas Lyne and Michael McKeown,
Irish Information Partnership 1987.

 

 

A Police Force Out of Control

The second incident occurred on the 24th November 1982 when 17-year-old Michael Tighe was shot dead by the RUC at a hayshed near Lurgan and another youth, Martin McCauley, was injured. Tighe and McCauley had found three old - pre-1917 origin - rifles and were examining them when the RUC men burst in and shot them. It was later revealed that the shootings had occurred during a ‘stake-out’ operation, which had been recorded by a hidden listening device:

Two years later McCauley was charged with possession of arms in suspicious circumstances and tried. McCauley denied the charges and said he and his friend Michael Tighe had entered the hayshed because they had found an open window. Whilst inside they had discovered the old guns and then heard shots. After responding to shouts to ‘come out!’ he was hit as he moved towards the doorway. After a second and third burst of gunfire he was unable to raise himself as his arms were paralysed. He was then hit on the skull and dragged outside where he was questioned about guns and explosives. McCauley said one of the men who had shot them suggested ‘finishing him off’. An RUC Sergeant ‘X’ said he and others were ordered by a superintendent and an inspector to use a cover story to protect an informer and conceal Special Branch involvement in the operation. They had been instructed to say they had seen a gunman running into the shed. They were also told this was covered by the Official Secrets Act.[44]

In the third incident on 12th December 1982 two Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) members, 21-year-old Roddy Carroll and 30-year-old Seamus Grew were shot dead by the RUC in Mullacreavie Park, Armagh. The RUC said that the INLA men’s car had failed to stop at a roadblock, instead accelerating through and striking a police officer. The RUC claimed they then gave chase for five miles before catching the car and, believing they were about to be fired on, killed the men. Both Grew and Carroll were unarmed:

Just over a year later 29-year-old Constable John Robinson, a former soldier and member of the RUC headquarters’ SMSU, was tried for Grew’s murder. The Crown contested that there was an absence of ‘reasonable care’ shown in the way Grew died, but not in the case of Carroll. Forensic evidence showed that four of the shots that killed Grew were fired from a distance of between 30-35 inches. There were powder burns as well as bullet wounds on the corpse. During the course of his testimony, Constable Robinson revealed three facts:

    1. That the version of events put out by the RUC concerning Grew and Carroll’s car crashing through a checkpoint was false and was concocted to provide cover for other undercover operations.
    2. That Robinson and other RUC men involved in the shootings had received a briefing by senior RUC officers which amounted to the establishment of a false account of the shooting.
    3. That these previous false accounts were invented to provide cover for an undercover RUC surveillance unit which was operating inside the Irish Republic on the night of the killings.

Robinson was later cleared of murder, his statements at the trial had not been contested by the Crown in court. But an alleged RUC informer, living in the Republic, had fled north seeking protective custody and was given a new life at an unnamed destination by the RUC. A Panorama TV programme, which backed up most of Constable Robinson’s statements, also claimed that members of the RUC SMSUs carry non-standard weapons and are trained by the SAS, with surveillance and penetration of paramilitary forces provided by the undercover E4 and E4A units. Meanwhile the Armagh coroner, Mr Gerry Curran, who had been appointed to hold the inquest into the deaths of Grew and Carroll resigned his post because of ‘certain grave irregularities’ in the RUC files concerning the case.[45]

John Stalker concentrated his enquiries on the second incident which took place at the hayshed, outside Lurgan, where Michael Tighe was shot dead. His investigations proved that Tighe was not connected to any republican group and he knew a tape existed on which was recorded details of the killing. Stalker afterwards told of the dilemma that faced him: ‘I took stock of what I had discovered and what I should do about it. I was faced with a choice. I could accept that war - especially an anti-terrorist campaign - will throw up an occasional civilian casualty, or I could pursue the tape vigorously because of the higher principles involved.’ Stalker continued:

I recognised the arguments, but eventually the single most influential factor in my deliberations was the effect on my team that any compromise of honesty on my part would have had. I had chosen these officers because they were intelligent and sharp investigators. They are also the next generation of senior officer. They would have known that I was running away from a moral and operational question that would one day catch us all up if I ignored it. As an individual, I also passionately believed that if a police force of the United Kingdom could, in cold blood, kill a seventeen-year-old youth with no terrorist or criminal convictions, and then plot to hide the evidence from a senior policeman deputed to investigate it, then the shame belonged to us all. This is the act of a Central American assassination squad - truly of a police force out of control [my emphasis].[46]

44: Irish Information Agenda - Volume One - Update 1986,
by Helen Dady, Marian Larragy, Thomas Lyne and Michael McKeown,
Irish Information Partnership 1987.

45: Ibid - Irish Information Agenda - Volume One - Update 1986,
by Helen Dady, Marian Larragy, Thomas Lyne and Michael McKeown,
Irish Information Partnership 1987.

46: Stalker,
by John Stalker,
Harrap 1988.

 

 

Bombs in the South

British intelligence organisations always had agents in Dublin, but they became more numerous and active after 1969. In late 1970 two brothers from Birmingham, Kenneth and Keith Littlejohn who both had long criminal records, were recruited by MI6 and sent to Dublin to infiltrate the Official IRA and act as agents provocateurs. Shortly afterwards, one of the Littlejohns’ controllers, John Wyman, was arrested in Dublin along with another British agent, Patrick Crinnion, who was a detective in the Irish Special Branch. In December 1972, as anti-IRA repressive legislation was being debated in the Irish parliament, two car-bombs exploded on Dublin streets killing two people and wounding 83. In the aftermath of this violence the second stage of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill was swiftly passed in Dáil Éireann. Later, Dublin newspapers printed details of alleged SAS involvement in the bombings and the former Irish Prime Minister, Jack Lynch, said that ‘he was “suspicious” that they had been caused by British agents.’ [47]

Towards the end of 1973 the British and Irish governments together with representatives from the Unionist and Alliance parties and the SDLP held a meeting to discuss the increasingly desperate political situation. This resulted in the Sunningdale Agreement which set up a ‘Council of Ireland’ and a ‘power-sharing’ administration in the north. Loyalists were opposed to both and organised the Ulster Workers’ Council strike to bring them down. In a scenario reminiscent of the Curragh mutiny of 1914 the Labour government ordered the Army to combat the loyalists. But the Army had no interest in becoming involved in a major conflict with Protestants and some officers were influenced by anti-Labour feeling in right-wing establishment circles back home.

James Miller, who was recruited by military intelligence and sent into the UDA said ‘ he had been pressed by his Army “ handlers ” to push in 1974 for a strike of Protestant workers. ’ [48] Soldiers were observed fraternising with loyalist paramilitary pickets and propaganda designed to discredit Wilson ’ s government was covertly issued by members of the intelligence services. Merlyn Rees, the Northern Ireland Secretary, who was sure his policies were being undermined by subversive elements in Military Intelligence, said: ‘ It was a unit - a section - out of control. There ’ s no doubt it reflected the views of a number of soldiers - let ’ s go in and fix this lot, and so on. But it went on, and that it went on from Lisburn and it went on from the Army Information Service and those associated with it, I have no doubt at all ’ .[49]

When the ‘strike’ did not produce an immediate result a spate of sectarian murders of Catholics occurred in the North. This violence culminated in the South when four car bombs exploded on crowded streets in Dublin and Monaghan, killing 33 people and wounding nearly 300 more. Eleven days later the Power Sharing Executive collapsed and Direct Rule from Westminster resumed. No one was ever arrested or convicted for the killings in Dublin and Monaghan.

Nineteen years later ITV broadcast a First Tuesday documentary which shed light on ‘the worst atrocity of the troubles’. The bombings, which were carried out by loyalists based at Portadown, had been executed with ‘military precision’. The Dublin bombs had exploded within 90 seconds of each other and were of a sophisticated design and make-up that was thought to be beyond the loyalists’ then capabilities. First Tuesday presented evidence which suggested that the loyalist paramilitaries were ‘being run’ by a secret British Army ‘special duties team’ who were then called 4 Field Survey Troop - adopting the name of a seemingly harmless Royal Engineers unit as cover - and later 14th Intelligence. During their TV programme First Tuesday broadcast a statement from a former soldier of 4 Field Survey Troop, who said: ‘We were a specialist unit with training in surveillance and anti-surveillance, silent weapons, breaking and entering. We were also trained in weapons for sabotage with explosives and assassination. We also crossed the Irish border with explosives to booby-trap arms dumps and for other missions.’ [52]

47: The SAS in Ireland,
by Raymond Murray,
Mercier Press 1990.

48: Daily Mirror, 30th Jan. 1992,
Special Report by Paul Foot.

49: Hidden Hand - The Forgotten Massacre,
First Tuesday,
broadcast on ITV on 6th July 1993.

50: Ibid - Hidden Hand - The Forgotten Massacre,
First Tuesday,
broadcast on ITV on 6th July 1993.

 

 

Counter Gangs

In 1970, Brigadier Frank Kitson was posted to Belfast to command the 39th Infantry Brigade. He had first come to prominence as a young Military Intelligence officer in the ‘Emergency’ in Kenya where he was attached to the police special branch and initiated new methods of intelligence gathering. He also pioneered the use of ‘counter gangs’, which included mobile groups of loyalist Kenyans and ‘turned’ guerrillas who carried out clandestine armed actions. Throughout his army career he continually sought out techniques and tactics to counteract ‘subversion’.

In his book about the SAS, Who Dares Wins, Tony Geraghty, the Sunday Times defence correspondent, described one of the Army’s tactics in Belfast: ‘By the spring of 1971, following the emergence of the hard-line Provisional IRA and a bombing campaign averaging two explosions daily, the authorities had become desperate to penetrate the terrorist network. The Army did so by adopting the ‘counter-gang’ tactics developed during Kenya’s Mau Mau campaign by Kitson.’ Geraghty continued:

Ten proven IRA activists, including one who was a recently demobilised soldier of the Royal Irish Rangers, were arrested and given the choice between long terms of imprisonment or undercover work for the British Army. They opted to join the British. Commanded by a Parachute Regiment captain they were known as the Special Detachment of the Military Reconnaissance Force (or more colloquially, as ‘Freds’). Their guardians were ten volunteers for plain-clothes duty from the British Army. The ‘Freds’ lived in one half of a semi-detached married quarters in the heavily-guarded Holywood Barracks, while their British guardians occupied the other half.[51]

This early attempt to run counter gangs in Belfast did not prove very effective. Unsurprisingly, the ‘turned’ IRA men were mainly concerned with their own interests and safety and they were often found to be unreliable by their British masters. The Military Reconnaissance Force’s main task was to combine ‘intelligence gathering’ with ‘aggressive patrolling’. This involving the SAS, often in civilian clothe, taking part in assassinations and undercover operations against the IRA.

British intelligence organisations had not given up on counter-gangs and had quickly realised that the various loyalist paramilitary groups, though often unstable, were ready-made for this job - so set about infiltrating and controlling them. Ironically, the first victims of this tactic were youths in care at the Kincora Boys Home in Belfast. It had come to the attention of the intelligence organisations that William McGrath, a leading loyalist who worked at Kincora, was sexually abusing the boys. McGrath’s organisation, Tara, was then strongly linked to the UVF and his abuse was allowed to continue in exchange for his co-operation. Tara espoused a right-wing ideology and sought to influence other loyalist groups, at one time attacking the UVF for ‘being influenced by Marxist ideas’.

Loyalists were aware and fearful of this manipulation by the intelligence services: Some Volunteers suspected, as early as 1971, that the Tara leader was influenced by them [the intelligence services]. In 1982 a former Tara member claimed Tara had been specifically conceived by a section of the ‘ ultras ’ in intelligence services in London. There seems little doubt that Loyalism was peppered by people under the influence of various elements in the security services.

... Some of the dirty tricks appeared to be aimed at destroying the independent or Socialist thinking of working-class Loyalists. Socialism, even of a mild type, involved a lessening of the historic relationship between Unionism and Conservatism and it could be made to look like a weakening of the link with the United Kingdom.[52]

McGrath was a leading instigator of the campaign against the ‘moderate’ Terence O’Neill and in 1974 he procured a shipment of guns from Holland to arm his supporters. McGrath was also instrumental in building links with the apartheid regime in South Africa - who, many years later at the end of 1987, dispatched a large consignment of arms to loyalist groups through the auspices of another later British agent, Brian Nelson.

51: Who Dares Wins,
by Tony Geraghty,
Arms and Armour Press 1980.

52: Seeking a Political Accommodation -
The Ulster Volunteer Force: Negotiating History
,
by Roy Garland,
A Shankill Community Publication 1997.

 

 

Agents and Death Squads

In 1988, the then Labour MP Ken Livingstone was contacted by a loyalist prisoner, Albert Baker, who asked the MP to visit him: ‘In June 1972, at the age of 22, Albert Baker deserted from the Royal Irish Rangers at Warminster and returned to Belfast where he rejoined the UDA, having previously been a member before serving in the Rangers. Within a year he was in prison, having confessed to the murder of four men, for each of which he received a life sentence with the recommendation that he serve at least twenty-five years. In three of the killings Baker shot his victims in the back of the head because the UDA had told him that even if they survived they would be brain damaged and unable to identify him.’ [53] In July 1988 Livingstone travelled to Frankland maximum security prison in Durham to interview Baker:

Whilst in prison Baker had continued to attract publicity with his claim that he had been coached by the police in how to give evidence, much of it false, against his UDA colleagues, whilst withholding anything that would implicate the RUC. He also claimed to have been visited in Crumlin Road gaol by the then junior minister for Northern Ireland, William van Straubenzee, to discuss arrangements for housing him and his family after early release and was promised he would never be in gaol with other terrorists. When asked by the journalist Paul Foot to confirm or deny the details of the visit, Mr van Straubenzee unconvincingly suggested that it was too long ago for him to remember.[54]

Baker’s incarceration at Durham ensured his separation from other loyalist prisoners who were imprisoned inside Northern Ireland. In Frankland Baker confirmed what many people had thought for some time - that there were links between loyalist paramilitary organisations and members of the security forces. News of these links had emerged from time to time. For instance City Limits reported in 1982 that: ‘Suspicions of an internal cover-up, and of police links with loyalist murder gangs in the case of the assassination of nationalist counsellor John Turnly, have led to the dispersal of RUC plainclothes units in County Antrim. Further revamping of the RUC in the area is expected to follow an internal inquiry.’ [55]

Baker told Livingstone why he had decided to talk: ‘I’ve been in prison for sixteen years and I don’t really care now. I believe the public should know what was going on.’ Baker then told Livingstone about loyalist paramilitary connections with British Intelligence: ‘I have never mentioned it to anyone before but as far as I and other members of the UDA were concerned, we were operating for the UDA, but we had close links with the British Intelligence Services.’ Livingstone was also told about Paul McCartan, a 52-year-old Catholic who was killed by Baker. McCartan was snatched in East Belfast, taken to a UDA club, tortured and then shot dead. Baker callously explained the attitude of the killers: ‘ McCartan was nobody, just a Catholic. It was just to keep the pot boiling, to frighten the Catholic community and the IRA’ . [56] Baker went on to tell Livingstone about the links between the UDA and the RUC:

The arms we were getting to do the assassinations were coming from the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
... Our contact, ‘C’, a CID man, was one of ... twenty-one top detectives assembled to combat the Loyalist assassination squads in Belfast. But ‘C’ was the man who was passing all the information to the UDA. He was our deep penetration officer, the UDA officer who was also a member of the CID. One other policeman who was handing over the weapons was Inspector ‘F’. He handed over Sterling sub-machine guns, pistols, revolvers, ammunition and magazines.

We were led to believe that those officers handing over the weapons were getting their orders from higher authority. But the public did not know that weapons were going missing from police stations.
... Half the assassinations in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s wouldn’t have been committed without RUC backing. Half the people who died in those assassinations would be alive today if the RUC hadn’t supported the assassination teams. The RUC knew the assassination teams - every single one of them.[57]

The RUC became a law unto itself and both the Stalker inquiry into shoot-to-kill operations and the subsequent Stevens inquiry into collusion were subject to evasion and non co-operation. Stevens’ inquiry was set in motion after a loyalist paramilitary group justified its killing of a Catholic man by showing reporters security forces documents which named the victim as an IRA suspect:

A major political controversy developed yesterday following the revelations that the Ulster Freedom Fighters - the cover name for the Ulster Defence Association - had killed a Roman Catholic man after obtaining security force documents which named him as an IRA suspect. Loughlin Maginn, 28, a father of four, was shot dead at his home in Rathfriland, Co Down, last week. The authorities acknowledged yesterday that documentation shown by the UDA to a BBC reporter, naming Mr Maginn and others, appeared to be genuine.

Loyalist paramilitary leaders said they frequently received approaches from members of the security forces offering information on known or suspected IRA and INLA members. ... The revelation that loyalist groups - principally the Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force - have access to confidential security force material has, however, come as no surprise to the authorities. It has been acknowledged for years in security force, loyalist and republican circles that the UDA and UVF receive a stream of allegedly secret intelligence material. Security documents have often been found in searches of Loyalist homes and offices, though such discoveries are given little publicity.[58]

In a preliminary report Stevens indicated that he thought the RUC had not known about some loyalist actions. But later an explanation for this appeared: ‘It subsequently emerged that the police’s lack of knowledge about some loyalist operations was due to the fact that military intelligence, who had well placed informers in loyalist paramilitary groups, failed to pass on information to the RUC out of fear that there were too many ‘hard loyalists’ among senior police officers.’ [59] As their investigation continued the Stevens inquiry team were subject to harassment and intimidation which culminated in their operations room in a RUC safe area being destroyed by a fire. The RUC claimed that the fire was accidental, but afterwards, when members of the team visited RUC canteens, the Billy Joel song We didn’t start the fire was repeatedly played on the jukebox.

53: Livingstone’s Labour,
by Ken Livingstone,
Unwin Hyman Ltd 1989.

54: Ibid - Livingstone’s Labour,
by Ken Livingstone,
Unwin Hyman Ltd 1989.

55: City Limits,14th to 20th May 1982,
by Philip Sanders.

56: Livingstone’s Labour,
by Ken Livingstone,
Unwin Hyman Ltd 1989.

57: Ibid - Livingstone’s Labour,
by Ken Livingstone,
Unwin Hyman Ltd 1989.

58: Independent,
31st Aug. 1989,
by David McKittrick.

59: Fortnight, no. 337 supplement –
An Audit of Democracy in Northern Ireland,
by Steven Livingstone and John Morison.

 

 

Political Murders

On the 25th of February 1977 a 49-year-old RUC Sergeant, Joseph Pat Campbell, was shot dead outside Cushendall police station. Sergeant Campbell was one of the few Catholics to have joined the force and the IRA was immediately blamed for the killing. Senior RUC officers, including Sir John Hermon, attended his funeral. After his murder it gradually emerged that Campbell had become alarmed by ‘undercover operations’ in his area and had sent written reports complaining about them to his superiors.

Two months after Campbell’s murder, William Strathearn, a 39-year-old Catholic chemist from Ahoghill, near Ballymena was shot dead late at night outside his shop. Three years later, two RUC men, Sergeant John Weir and Constable William McCaughey, were convicted of Strathearn’s murder. They named the man who pulled the trigger as ‘the Jackal’ - a notorious loyalist killer. They also confessed to playing a part in Sergeant Campbell’s murder and again named the Jackal as the ‘trigger-man’. Later, Campbell’s son Joe said:

What happened to my father was an outrage. My mother did all she could to persuade the RUC to tell her the truth but she was misled, manipulated and deceived at every turn. ... I now know that my father was murdered by fellow [RUC] officers in collusion with a Loyalist terrorist. And we have begun to understand why, in the eighteen months leading up to his death, he had become a changed person. He must obviously have uncovered some damning evidence of illegal activities and collusion between the RUC and the Loyalists, a discovery which ultimately led to his death. It is profoundly contemptible that not one senior officer shared his respect for the law or came to his aid. We now want to know who sanctioned his murder because it appears that three successive Chief Constables have conspired to conceal the truth.[60]

Most people in the legal system had played along with the Criminalisation policy, turning a blind eye to its abnormalities and picking up their large fees. There were however a few brave lawyers who were determined to defend their clients against the system. Two of the most prominent were Patrick Finucane and Rosemary Nelson who were dedicated to the cause of justice and human rights. They were both murdered by loyalist paramilitaries after being subject to verbal abuse and death threats from members of the RUC.

Patrick Finucane, a prominent defence solicitor, was shot at his home on 12th February 1989. Just before the murder an RUC man told one of Finucane’s client that: ‘You will not be having Mr Finucane as a solicitor much longer.’ Ten years later, in 1998 a United Nations report said: ‘Outstanding questions surrounding the murder demonstrate the need for an independent judicial inquiry. So long as this murder is unresolved, many in the community will continue to lack confidence in the ability of the government to dispense justice in a fair and equitable manner.’ The then British government rejected this plea, saying that such tribunals were reserved for matters of urgent public importance only.

Rosemary Nelson was killed on 15th March 1999 by a bomb which had been attached to the underside of her car. The ‘Red Hand Defenders’ claimed responsibility for the attack. Nelson had also been subject to RUC death threats and was due, two weeks after her murder, to meet a police watchdog body about this intimidation. Two years before in Portadown, in the early hours of 27th April 1997, Robert Hamill, a 25-year-old Catholic, had been kicked to death by a mob of thirty loyalists. This occurred within 200 yards of an RUC station and in full view of a police Landrover, occupied by four armed police, who ignored pleas for help during the attack. Rosemary Nelson, on behalf of the Hamill family, was preparing to bring private proceeding against six suspects and the RUC, when she was murdered. After her death graffiti in Lurgan proclaimed: ‘ROSEMARY NELSON - THE PEOPLE’S VOICE - MURDERED BY THE RUC’.

60: The Committee - Political Assassinations in Northern Ireland,
by Sean McPhilemy,
Roberts Rinehart 1998.

 

 

Arming the Loyalists

The full reports from Stalker and Stevens were never published. Stevens was however responsible for the arrest of the UDA’s Director of Intelligence, Brian Nelson, and in early 1992 his trial opened in Belfast. It subsequently emerged that Nelson was being ‘run’ by a secret British Military Intelligence organisation called the Force Research Unit (FRU). His job in the UDA was to select - and compile information on - nationalists targeted for killing by the UDA. The FRU supplied Nelson with information compiled by the security forces on those selected for assassination. The murdered solicitor Patrick Finucane was one of the people on his lists:

Concerns were ... expressed in a 1993 report by the New York based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane (who had represented many defendants in Diplock courts and Sinn Féin in a number of judicial reviews) that there were consistent allegations of investigating police officers threatening detainees - and via them their lawyers - with loyalist paramilitary contacts.[61]

Nelson had 1,000 security forces files of ‘suspects’ in his possession at the time of his arrest.

In January 1988, Nelson had been instrumental in bringing into Northern Ireland a large consignment of arms procured from the white South African regime: ‘Two hundred AK47 automatic rifles, 90 Browning pistols, around 500 fragmentation grenades, 30,000 rounds of ammunition and a dozen RPG7 rocket launchers disappeared without trace ...’ [62] Nelson’s FRU handlers had detailed information on the arms shipment but claimed they ‘lost track’ of it as it arrived in Northern Ireland. The weapons were distributed among various loyalist paramilitary groups, who then embarked on a sectarian killing spree. During the next six years over 200 people were murdered in nationalist areas with these arms.

At his trial, Nelson was given a minimum sentence of ten years after a deal was struck between him and the British authorities (he, like Albert Baker, was also allowed to serve his time in a British jail). Many charges were dropped in exchange for Nelson not revealing his links with British Intelligence. The judge, Basil Kelly, a former Attorney General for the Unionist government at Stormont, said Nelson was a man who had shown ‘the greatest of courage’. A Military Intelligence Colonel, ‘J’, appeared for Nelson as a ‘character witness’ and the DPP received a letter sent on behalf of the Tory Cabinet Minister, Tom King, praising Nelson and saying he was a valuable agent.

The sympathy shown to Nelson stands in sharp contrast to the British government’s attitude towards the Belfast civil rights lawyer Patrick Finucane. On the 17th of January 1989 in the House of Commons, Douglas Hogg, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office said: ‘I have to state as a fact, but with great regret, that there are in Northern Ireland a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA.’ Less than four weeks later Finucane was murdered. His brother Martin believes that aspects of the killing suggest that it was a co-ordinated operation: ‘Police roadblocks near his home were lifted shortly before he was killed. The gun used had been stolen from an army armoury. There are strong indications that Brian Nelson, a double agent employed by the British intelligence services, played a part in his death.’ [63] In 2004 an RUC informer, Ken Barrett, was tried and convicted for Patrick Finucane’s murder. But, while the trigger puller was convicted, the shadowy string pullers of the state machine remain undetected.

61: The Committee - Political Assassinations in Northern Ireland,
by Sean McPhilemy,
Roberts Rinehart 1998.

62: Sunday Tribune,
12th Jan. 1992.

63: Submission by Martin Finucane to the
Northern Ireland Human Rights Assembly,
London April 1992.

 

 

The Whistle-Blowers

In 1921, during the Anglo / Irish war, F. P. Crozier had resigned his command of the Auxiliaries because his attempts to discipline this force and the Black and Tans - and to stop them carrying out atrocities - were thwarted by his military and political masters. Crozier later wrote that he knew ‘from his own experience in Ireland’ that:

The money class, through their representatives in Parliament, after they have embarked on any criminal undertaking for the strengthening of the Empire - as was the case in Ireland in 1920-21 - will stick at nothing and stoop to anything to blacken the character of any Crown official or responsible officer who may refuse to obey, protest against treachery, or by his honesty impede the work [of state terrorism].[64]

A half century later, there was once more conflict in Ireland - and the politicians and the media were again excusing ‘excesses’, carried out by Britain’s security forces. Some commentators have tried to claim that the brutality, torture and killings carried out by soldiers, the police and other state-agents were the actions of a few ‘bad apples’. But that would only hold good if the authorities speedily stopped bad practices brought to their attention. So let us look at what happened to three whistle-blowers in the past few decades.

The first concerns Captain Fred Holroyd, who was a career officer with an impeccable record in the British Army. At the start of Ulsterisation, Holroyd was working as a Military Intelligence officer in Northern Ireland, where his work brought him into close contact with the RUC. He said: ‘Often we would arrest loyalist terrorists caught in the act and hand them over to the RUC. Then, shortly afterwards, the same individuals would be seen walking the streets free to continue their activities.’ Holroyd remembers private discussions with his army colleagues: ‘It seemed to us that the predominantly Protestant RUC was inveterately biased and this attitude appeared to be responsible for many miscarriages of justice.’ [65]

Holroyd was also aware of SAS and MI5 covert operations and when he protested about the army and police use of state-terrorism he was himself subjected to ‘dirty tricks’. In the end he was forced out of the Army, as Paul Foot recorded in the Mirror:

In 1975, military intelligence officer Fred Holroyd complained that the Army were involved in assassinations and even in the murderous bomb attack on the Miami Showband pop group. Holroyd was whisked off to a mental hospital ... [and] was forced to resign from the Army. Captain Holroyd was a patriotic, conservative soldier. In his recent book War Without Honour he accepts that British troops in Northern Ireland must take sides - for the Protestants, against the Catholics. But that doesn’t mean, he says, that police and troops can co-operate with murder groups. He concluded: “If the State allow themselves to act with the same degree of brutal illegality as those they are commanded to defeat, then in a sense they are shown to be losing the battle”.[66]

The second case concerns Dr Robert Irwin, a police surgeon who had worked for the RUC for ten years - three of them at Castlereagh. In 1977 thirty Belfast solicitors had protested to Roy Mason, the then Northern Ireland Secretary, that ‘ill-treatment of suspects by police officers, with the object of obtaining confessions, is now common practice’. The next year an Amnesty International report concluded that ‘maltreatment of suspected terrorists by the RUC has taken place with sufficient frequency to warrant the establishment of a public enquiry to investigate it’. Mason and the authorities reacted by claiming that any injuries were ‘self-inflicted’ and launched a propaganda offensive to support this view.

In 1979 London Weekend Television broadcast a Weekend World report on the torture and ill-treatment of ‘suspects’ at the RUC’s Castlereagh Interrogation Centre. The Weekend World TV programme came in the midst of the furore over this issue and included an interview with Dr Irwin - who said he had seen between 150 and 160 people with injuries at Castlereagh:

‘There are injuries which could not be self-inflicted’, he said. ‘Ruptured eardrums, I would say, being one of the most serious could not possibly be self-inflicted’. His words carried particular weight not only because he had an authoritative inside view, but also because he was known to have great respect for the RUC and had a reputation of being ‘steady as a rock.’[67]

Immediately the RUC and the authorities launched a smear campaign against Irwin, trying to undermine his statements and claiming that the doctor was ‘foul-tempered’, ‘sour and bitter’ and that he was ‘a drunk’. When this did not work, and Dr Irwin was seen to hold his ground, the authorities leaked to the press that Irwin had ‘domestic problems’ because his wife had been ‘raped a while ago’ (the rape was said to have been carried out by a British soldier on undercover work, who was spirited out of Northern Ireland to avoid facing charges). Dr Irwin became ‘distressed’ when confronted with reporter’s questions about the rape: ‘The Irwins had kept this traumatic event to themselves, but now had to suffer the indignity of it becoming front page news, and seeing the words “MY RAPE NIGHTMARE” splashed across the front of the Daily Mail a couple of days later.’ [68]

The third case concerns the Deputy Chief Constable of Manchester, John Stalker, who had persevered with his shoot-to-kill investigation against a background of RUC opposition and handed his interim report to the RUC chief, Sir John Herman. Stalker said: ‘I unequivocally recommended prosecutions, and backed up those recommendations with hard facts and new evidence. My report also made it absolutely clear that I suspected that other, very senior, officers had certain accusations to answer.’ Stalker was then dramatically ‘relieved of his duties’ in dubious circumstances ‘at the very moment that he was about to gain access to material which would be highly embarrassing to the RUC’. Fourteen years later Ian Aitken, in a Guardian article, wrote about Stalker’s removal from the inquiry:

Half-way into the inquiry, Stalker was suddenly removed, amid false suggestions that he was corruptly linked with a Manchester businessman called Kevin Taylor. Stalker himself was in no doubt that he had been getting too close to the truth in his investigations of the RUC, and had to be stopped by whatever means available. True or false, it is a fact that his friendship with Taylor led to Taylor’s prosecution for fraud. It was this trial which collapsed ignominiously and led to Taylor’s action for damages for malicious prosecution.[69]

The case against Taylor collapsed in 1990, but by that time he had lost his business and home. Five years later more than £10 million of taxpayers’ money was paid by the police to settle Taylor’s malicious prosecution claim. Kevin Taylor was thought to have received £2.3 million. This would have remained secret but for the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, chaired by Chris Mullin MP, who three years later demanded details. In a letter to the Committee the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, David Wilmot, wrote: ‘The “global sum” for damages and costs in the Taylor case was £10,593,573.90.’ John Stalker was reinstated, but disillusioned he left the police force soon after.

These three examples show that, once again, the military, police and political leaders did not act to stop the practices exposed by the new whistle-blowers. Instead, the hand of the establishment can clearly be seen in the attempts to cast doubt on the character - and destroy the credibility of - Holroyd, Irwin and Stalker. The authorities’ role in the cover-ups - and shutting-up of dissenting voices – is also transparent.

64: The Men I Killed,
by F. P. Crozier,
Michael Joseph 1937.

65: War Without Honour,
by Fred Holroyd with Nick Burnbridge,
The Medium Publishing Co. 1989.

66: Daily Mirror,
30th Jan. 1992,
Special Report by Paul Foot.

67: Ireland: The Propaganda War,
by Liz Curtis,
first published by Pluto Press 1984.
Updated edition republished in Belfast by Sásta 1998.

68: Ibid - Ireland: The Propaganda War,
by Liz Curtis.

69: Guardian, article by Ian Aitken 4th Sept. 1998.
Also see The Guardian for 3rd Sept. 1998 article by Duncan Campbell.

 

 

The Days of the Jackal

Guerrillas, in internal conflicts and colonial wars, sometimes describe themselves as ‘fish’ swimming in a ‘sea’ of support from the disaffected population. Counter-revolutionary experts, having difficulty catching the guerrillas, speak of ‘dirtying’ the water in which the ‘fish’ swim. This often means launching clandestine attacks on the population sustaining the guerrillas, in the belief that due to this intimidation and the subsequent fear, their support will vanish.

Some soldiers and policemen at the sharp end of these conflicts, perceiving themselves as being held back by the politicians, invariably complain that ‘their hands are tied’, that they are ‘fed up and tired of acting as targets for terrorists’ - and that their government should ‘free them’ to ‘go after the enemy’. Official counter-revolutionary strategy and the desires of the local security forces to ‘fight back’ then comes together, meshing into a policy of helping, manipulating or even instigating vigilante groups who would carry out the ‘dirtying’:

Quite often a threatened regime may prefer that volunteers rush into the breach - without formal authorisation - doing for the state what the state prefers to avoid doing itself. Thus, in Brazil, off-duty policemen murder “known” criminals, and in Guatemala groups such as Ojo por Ojo (Eye for an Eye) and Mano Blanca (White Hand) murder opponents of the regime with impunity.

... In Northern Ireland, with the visible decay of the former system of Protestant predominance (capped by the suspension of the regional assembly at Stormont in 1972), an ill-organised but persistent campaign of random murder of Catholics was adopted for the preservation of “a Protestant state for a Protestant people”. These murders are founded on hatred and fear - fear of the Catholic Church, of incorporation into a united “Papish” Ireland, and of the prospect of being “sold out” by London.[70]

Loyalist attacks on nationalists, while clearly against the law, did not threaten the existing status quo. Indeed, as an article in the Independent newspaper suggested, some in the security forces often saw such actions as the best way to back it up:

Senior loyalist paramilitary sources yesterday confirmed ... that information on republican suspects had been given to them over the years by numerous contacts in all three security forces in Northern Ireland - The Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Army and the Ulster Defence Regiment. The sources claimed that many people killed by loyalist groups had been named to them by security force contacts, who in many instances had supplied the names, addresses, photographs and car numbers of suspected republican activists.[71]

While this information was sometimes passed on by individual soldiers and policemen, it happened far too often for it to be anything but systematic. There were other clear signs of collusion. Father Raymond Murray is a well-known crusader for human rights and has written, some with Father Denis Faul, many books and pamphlets on the violation of human rights in Northern Ireland. Father Murray said that his researches had revealed a common pattern in many sectarian murders of Catholics:

The security forces are present before the shooting, but disappear when the murder takes place. The army then comes on the scene, goading Catholics and harassing them. Relatives are often not informed by the RUC of the death, or are told in a very callous way. Deaths are not properly investigated and relatives who know about the last hours of the deceased are not interviewed. Very few arrests are made, and prosecutions are even rarer. Such a situation leads to further sectarian violence, with revenge killings following one another.[72]

This aspect of collusion was verified by the journalist Nicholas Davies in his book, Ten-Thirty-Three, about Brian Nelson: ‘Nelson’s UDA gunmen were able to operate with impunity, somehow never being stopped or caught by either RUC or army patrols while carrying out their murderous evil deeds. On most of those occasions it was obvious that the FRU had put out a restriction order on the area to ensure the UDA gunmen would not be stopped by the forces of law and order.’ [73]

In the First Tuesday TV documentary about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, some of the men involved in the Miami Showband massacre were named as the perpetrators of the bombings. It was also suggested that SAS personnel were involved in ‘running’ the Portadown loyalists who had carried out the atrocity. In Land Operations a detailed description of the uses for the SAS is given:

225. SAS.
SAS squadrons are particularly suited, trained and equipped for counter revolutionary operations. Small parties may be infiltrated or dropped by parachute, ... in order to carry out the following tasks:

    1. The collection of information on the location and movement of insurgent forces.
    2. The ambush and harassment of insurgents.
    3. Infiltration and sabotage, assassination and demolition parties into insurgent held areas.
    4. Border surveillance.
    5. Limited community relations.
    6. Liaison with, and organisation, training and control of, friendly guerrilla forces operating against the common enemy. [My emphasis].[74]

While section c lists sabotage and assassination as SAS skills, the last section, f, clearly shows that some SAS men were trained to run counter-gangs. On First Tuesday, Fred Holroyd, the disaffected former army captain who had served as a military intelligence officer in Portadown in 1974, spoke on the programme about the loyalist paramilitaries: ‘We ran them, we were running the organisation hands off, because the leaders belonged to us. Atrocities were allowed to be carried out by the Protestants, we knew who they were, we had information, and no action was ever taken against them.’ [75] Holroyd once searched some UVF men in Portadown at gunpoint and removed from one of them a Luger pistol, which he handed over to the RUC. Later the same day he again bumped into the UVF men and discovered that the special branch had given the Luger back the same man he had removed it from. This UVF man was called Robin Jackson, who was better know by his nickname - ‘the Jackal’:

Born in Donaghmore, Co. Tyrone, Jackson, was a former member of the UDR. It has ... been alleged ... that he was ‘handled’ at various times by both military intelligence and members of the RUC.
... On May 7, 1974, James Devlin and his wife were shot near their home at Edendork, with Jackson alleged to be the gunman. Ten days later he reportedly played a part ... in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. He was also said to have planned the attacks on the Reavey and O’Dowd families in January 1976, which left six members of the Catholic families dead.

... By the mid-1980s Jackson, under the title ‘the Jackal’, regularly featured in newspaper stories which reported his alleged role in a number of killings. ... His last victims were reported to have been in 1991 when three Catholics, including Eileen Duffy and another teenage girl, were shot at a mobile shop in Craigavon. After that his UVF mantle was said to have passed on to Billy Wright, the loyalist known as ‘King Rat’ who was later killed by the INLA.[76]

At the end of their documentary, First Tuesday revealed that ‘the Jackal is said to have killed at least 30 people.’ When a RUC superintendent was asked why the Jackal had never been arrested or questioned, even after he had been named as the killer in a murder trial, the policeman replied that this was ‘a matter of operational strategy.’ The Jackal, First Tuesday said, ‘was and is protected by the security forces in Northern Ireland.’

70; Transnational Terror,
by J Bowyer Bell,
AEI-Hoover Policy Study 17, Sept. 1975.

71: Independent,
31st Aug. 1989.

72: Submission by Fr Murray to the
Northern Ireland Human Rights Assembly,
London April 1992.

73: Ten-Thirty-Three - The Inside Story of
Britain’s Secret Killing Machine in Northern Ireland
,
by Nicholas Davies,
Mainstream Publishing 1999.

74: Land Operations Volume III - Counter Revolutionary Operations,
Ministry of Defence 29th Aug. 1969
(Revised in 1971 and 1973 and at regular intervals afterwards).

75: Hidden Hand - The Forgotten Massacre,
First Tuesday,
broadcast on ITV on 6th July 1993.

76: LOST LIVES - The stories of the men, women and children
who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles
,
by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney and
Chris Thornton, Mainstream Publishing 1999.

 

 

State Terrorism

In the north of Ireland, since 1969, over 700 people from nationalists areas have been killed by loyalist attacks. Often, the security forces either turned a blind eye, provided information that allowed the murders to be carried out, or even directed and controlled the killings through agents they had planted in loyalist organisations. SAS and RUC shoot-to-kill operations and loyalist death squads were designed to demoralise and intimidate republicans and the nationalist population who supported them. The random murder of Catholics, especially, spread fear and reduced morale.

There are two discernible strands which trace the roots of much of this violence to the use of state-sponsored terrorism:

  1. The first stems from the fact that Northern Ireland was formed from the threat of violence from Carson’s illegal army, the UVF. Since then, and throughout its time in power, unionism has not hesitated to harness loyalist sectarian violence. There has always been strong links between the state forces and loyalist paramilitary groups - with some policemen / soldiers having dual membership of state and ‘terrorist’ organisations.
  2. The second can be traced to the developments of counter-insurgency by Britain’s military. Ironically, this partly came from attempts to adopt IRA guerrilla warfare tactics from the Anglo-Irish war, which in turn led to the SOE in the 2nd World War and the setting up of the SAS. Counter-insurgency techniques were honed during the succession of colonial wars from 1945 and compiled into Land Operations - Volume III - Counter-Revolutionary Operations. The use of counter-gangs required the building of close links with loyalist paramilitaries - a relationship that often stretched from turning a blind eye to active collusion.

Using loyalists to kill by proxy enabled British politicians to adopt a superior moral attitude, blaming the conflict on ‘Irish tribalism’. The words from Mao, at the start of Land Operations, were followed by another quote: ‘If you wish for peace, understand war, particularly the guerrilla and subversive forms of war.’ That second quote came from Sir B. H. Liddell Hart, who rewrote the official Infantry Training manual after the 1st World War. At the end of the 2nd World War a new breed of officers emerged, who were determined to combat what they perceived as the menace of nationalism, socialism and communism. It was these officers who championed shoot-to-kill, assassinations and collusion as a crucial part of their counter-revolutionary tactics.

Much clandestine work and many of the ‘dirty tricks’ operations went on without ordinary members of the security forces being aware of them. Indeed, some policemen and soldiers, like sergeant Joseph Campbell and captain Fred Holroyd, were opposed to state-organised terrorism. In August 1969, the bewildered looks on the faces of many of the British soldiers as they were first deployed on the streets of Derry and Belfast was real enough. But behind them was an officer elite - using Land Operations Volume III as their blueprint - who would be as ideologically committed to obtaining a victory in the coming conflict as either the republicans or loyalists. As troops patrolled their unit’s ‘patch’ and manned their look-out posts, it was quite likely that the SAS and RUC special units were setting up shoot-to-kill operations. With the special branch, military intelligence, MI5 and MI6 operating undercover, gathering information and recruiting informers and supergrasses, and helping or running loyalist counter-gangs. These activities were sanctioned at the highest levels in the British Army and Government.

Many British people regard with scorn those third world countries where oppressive regimes use state-run hit squads to get rid of ‘subversives’ or unwanted members of their population. After all, in ‘banana republics’ where the military blatantly justify or cover up such killings this can only be achieved with a corrupt system of government, and a compliant population who turn a blind eye to such events. On the 4th of June 1998 the Guardian carried a tiny article on an inside page: ‘One of Northern Ireland’s least known but most active terrorists died quietly in his bed at the weekend of cancer, it was revealed yesterday. Robin Jackson, known as the Jackal, who was 52, was involved in the murders of up to 100 Catholics.’ That level of killing would put Jackson on a par with the biggest serial killers the world has known.

Since 1969 in Northern Ireland - a part of the United Kingdom – many hundreds of people in nationalist areas have been killed by Britain’s security forces or by loyalist attacks. RUC sergeant Joseph Campbell and civil rights lawyers Patrick Finucane and Rosemary Nelson were murdered, while whistle-blowers Fred Holroyd, Dr Robert Irwin and John Stalker were smeared and silenced. British agent, Brian Nelson, not only organised and directed loyalist killers, but he also ensured that they were armed with modern weapons from South Africa. At the time Nelson was working directly under the control of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which meets regularly in Downing Street. Robin Jackson, the Jackal, was known to have played a part in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. He was named as the ‘trigger-man’ who killed William Strathearn and RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell and was involved in the murders of untold numbers of other Catholics. While British politicians at Westminster glibly spoke about peacekeeping, members of their security forces were engaged in a Dirty War against the nationalist population, protecting and running agents like Brian Nelson and mass killers like Robin Jackson - ‘the Jackal’.

 

 

......................© 2004 Aly Renwick / TOM....................

 

Now read the last chapter - twelve - of Oliver’s Army
Truth Peace & Freedom

Towards a Democratic Solution of Ireland's English Problem