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.’ 
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,
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:
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:
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,
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:
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:
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’:
3: The SAS: Savage Wars of Peace,
4: British Soldiers Speak Out on Ireland,
5: Ibid - British Soldiers Speak Out on Ireland,
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.
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 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.
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:
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:
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:
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.  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,
8: Plots and Paranoia,
9: Chris Byrne, ex-Royal Marine,
10: Hidden Wounds - The Problems of Northern Ireland Veterans
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?:
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 ’. 
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:
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:
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,
12: Law and the Constitution: Present Discontents,
13: Full text in Ireland Voices for Withdrawal,
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 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:
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:
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”.’ 
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,
15: Chris Byrne, ex-Royal Marine,
16: Belfast Telegraph,
17: Irish Information Agenda,
18: Extracted from Ireland: The Propaganda War,
19: Irish Information Agenda,
20: Ibid - Irish Information Agenda,
21: Big Boys’ Rules,
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:
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.’  Information from look-out posts, cameras, helicopters, random identity checks, interrogations, house searches and covert surveillance fed the security forces computer-based intelligence-gathering:
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:
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.’  In his book Big Boys’ Rules, Mark Urban stated:
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,
23; The Technology of Political Control,
24; Ibid - The Technology of Political Control,
25: The Phoenix,
27: Big Boys’ Rules,
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:
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:
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.’  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:
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,
29: Ibid - Ireland: The Propaganda War,
30: The SAS in Ireland,
31: Irish Times,
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...’  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:
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:
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.’  Many SAS killings were deliberately provocative and often led to increased levels of tension and violence.
32: Granta 25, Autumn 1988,
33: Ibid - Granta 25, Autumn 1988,
34: Ibid - Granta 25, Autumn 1988,
35: Ibid - Granta 25, Autumn 1988,
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:
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.’  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:
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,
37: Big Boys’ Rules,
38: The Times,
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:
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.’  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:
39: Nothing But the Same Old Story - The Roots of Anti-Irish Racism,
40: The Ulster Defence Regiment - An Instrument of Peace?,
41: Ibid - The Ulster Defence Regiment - An Instrument of Peace?,
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:
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:
42: Irish Times, 6th Feb. 1992,
43: Irish Information Agenda - Volume One - Update 1986,
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:
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:
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:
44: Irish Information Agenda - Volume One - Update 1986,
45: Ibid - Irish Information Agenda - Volume One - Update 1986,
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.’ 
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. ’  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 ’ .
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.’ 
47: The SAS in Ireland,
48: Daily Mirror, 30th Jan. 1992,
49: Hidden Hand - The Forgotten Massacre,
50: Ibid - Hidden Hand - The Forgotten Massacre,
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:
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’.
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,
52: Seeking a Political Accommodation -
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.’  In July 1988 Livingstone travelled to Frankland maximum security prison in Durham to interview Baker:
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.’ 
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’ .  Baker went on to tell Livingstone about the links between the UDA and the RUC:
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:
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.’  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,
54: Ibid - Livingstone’s Labour,
55: City Limits,14th to 20th May 1982,
56: Livingstone’s Labour,
57: Ibid - Livingstone’s Labour,
59: Fortnight, no. 337 supplement –
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:
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,
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:
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 ...’  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.’  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,
62: Sunday Tribune,
63: Submission by Martin Finucane to the
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:
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.’ 
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:
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:
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.’ 
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:
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,
65: War Without Honour,
66: Daily Mirror,
67: Ireland: The Propaganda War,
68: Ibid - Ireland: The Propaganda War,
69: Guardian, article by Ian Aitken 4th Sept. 1998.
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’:
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:
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:
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.’ 
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:
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.’  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’:
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,
72: Submission by Fr Murray to the
73: Ten-Thirty-Three - The Inside Story of
74: Land Operations Volume III - Counter Revolutionary Operations,
75: Hidden Hand - The Forgotten Massacre,
76: LOST LIVES - The stories of the men, women and children
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:
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