British Occupied North of Ireland

Britain’s Very Own Own Crimea In Ireland

British terrorists of the UDA-UFF on parade in the north-east of Ireland.

British terrorists of the UDA-UFF on parade in the north-east of Ireland. The organisation remained a legal grouping until the 1990s when Britain was forced by international pressure to ban it. However it continues to enjoy relative immunity from prosecution.

Military jeeps driven by masked men wearing combat fatigues drive through the darkened streets of a city while hysterical crowds scream “Bring out the guns!” before confronting local paramilitary police. A week later over a hundred masked and uniformed men invade a local community, ransack homes, setting some on fire, driving people onto the streets before again confronting paramilitary police officers this time with sustained violence.

The Ukraine? Crimea? Transnistria?

No, this is Western Europe and this is Britain’s rotten colony in the north-eastern corner of Ireland. A medieval anachronism in a modern world. So why do we put up with it when we know what the solution is? The same solution that ended the greater part of Britain’s historic colony on our island nation and centuries of misrule. “Northern Ireland” is simply the rotten afterbirth of British imperial ambitions and it is time to flush it into the sewer of history where it rightfully belongs.

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Time For Truth, An Fhírinne Anois

With thanks to the Mirror, a powerful video from the Irish victims support organisation “Relatives for Justice” which campaigns for truth and openess in relation to the former conflict in the north-east of Ireland. Though focused on those who suffered at the hands of the British Forces and their terrorist allies the pain and suffering on display here is applicable to all the victims of the Long War regardless of nationality or allegiance. Please watch it in full and share with your family and friends on your social media networks.

Tweet #Time4Truth and #AnFhírinneAnois.

British War Hysteria – The Hibernoban!

British military helicopter brought down by ground-fire from an Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1990s

British military helicopter brought down by ground-fire from an Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1990s

So to another round of Fantasy Troubles as the news media in Britain, with a nod and a wink from domestic “security sources”, launch a febrile attempt to whip up some old fashioned anti-Irish hysteria in the lead up to Christmas. And how are they doing that, you ask? Why, by claiming that Irish insurgent groups in the north-east of Ireland have allied themselves to the Taliban of course. From the London Independent newspaper:

Republicans in Northern Ireland look to Taliban for weapons

Taliban-inspired technology is boosting the capacity of dissident republicans to wage war against the security services, with the discovery of advanced weaponry never seen before in Northern Ireland, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.”

Oh, so it’s “Taliban-inspired” rather than Taliban-supplied as the headline implies.

“The degree of technical sophistication is “unprecedented”, and experts are warning that it is part of a worsening picture that could include a sustained bombing campaign.

Police managed to foil an attack which had been planned in South Armagh using what the Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) described as two “mortar type” devices. Dissident republicans had planned to bring down a helicopter using the rocket launchers, which took army bomb disposal experts three days to examine.”

Er, would that be the same make of mortar that the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army deployed in the Occupied North of Ireland in the 1990s to bring down British military aircraft including a helicopter landing at a military outpost in Crois Mhic Lionnáin in 1994?

“In the wake of the discovery, security sources approached Democratic Unionist MP Jim Shannon with their concerns. The weaponry, found in August, was unlike anything seen in Northern Ireland before. It is understood that it could be detonated remotely using an infrared laser – a tactic used by the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

Ordnance triggered by infrared lasers? As in a 1992 (P)IRA ambush of a vehicle patrol by paramilitary police from the later disbanded RUC, an event that occurred twenty-one years ago in the Irish town of An Iúraigh?

“He said the “deeply worrying” discovery confirmed that there are links between people in Afghanistan and Pakistan and those that made the bomb and mortar attack weapon in Cullyhanna.”

French TV crew are shown a mortar being prepared for an attack by a Volunteer of the Irish Republican Army, British Occupied North of Ireland, early 1990s

French TV crew are shown a mortar being prepared for an attack by a Volunteer of the Irish Republican Army, British Occupied North of Ireland, early 1990s

Oh yes, Commandant Mahamad Ó Néill, spokesperson for the GHQ Staff and Army Council of Óglaigh na hÉireann! But wait, maybe it is actually those ungrateful Irish peasants in British military khaki who are the real culprits.

“Independent MP Patrick Mercer, a former army officer who has served in Northern Ireland, speculated last night that another possibility was that military personnel who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq may be responsible for passing on details about the technology. “I have heard about this. This is all to do with light-sensitive devices,” he said. “But of course it’s no more or less than the fact that they’ve got people coming back from Afghanistan who have served over there who are able to pass on this expertise. There are many Irishmen serving in all branches of the services. It’s not unknown for loyalties to be split.”

Speaking under condition of anonymity, a senior military figure who commanded troops in Northern Ireland, admitted: “It is almost inevitable that ‘leakage’ of military skills from ‘us’ to ‘them’ happens over time and is disturbing and definitely of concern to the hierarchy.””

So the British admit that during the thirty years of the Long War the Irish Republican Army successfully infiltrated or cultivated agents in the British Armed Forces? And that this is happening again with contemporary Irish Republican insurgents who have less than a tenth of the strength or resources of the (P)IRA?

“But it is possible that “information exchange” between dissidents and the Taliban is taking place, according to Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan. “We did see in the past co-operation between Islamist extremists in the Middle East and the Provisional IRA.”

Earlier this year The IoS revealed how dissidents are using armour-piercing horizontal mortars similar to those used by the Taliban.”

The same horizontal mortars that the Irish Republican Army employed throughout the late 1980s and ’90s? The same weapons which successfully drove British Army vehicle and foot patrols off many rural roads in the north-east of the country and onto helicopter gunships?

So where is this fantastical (and farcical) British warmongering coming from? And why now?

Death Squad Britain – The Past That Won’t Stay Hidden

Force Research Unit Britain's notorious death squad in Ireland

Gunmen from the Force Research Unit (FRU), Britain’s notorious death squad in Ireland during the Northern War, pose with their weapons, 1980s

Regular readers of An Sionnach Fionn will know how many times we have examined in detail the activities of Britain’s various official and unofficial forces participating in its thirty year long counter-insurgency war against the Irish Republican Army and others in Ireland. Of the official forces perhaps the most infamous have been the covert units of the Military Reaction Force (MRF) and the Force Research Unit (FRU), collectively forming the heart of Britain’s “death squad culture” that permeated its campaign in the north-east of the country during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s.

In typically hesitant style the more liberal and open-minded parts of the British news media have finally caught up with everyone else in publicising the uncomfortable aspects of their nation’s Dirty War in this nation. From the Guardian newspaper:

“Claims that members of an undercover army unit shot unarmed civilians in Northern Ireland during the 1970s have been referred to the police, according to the Ministry of Defence.

The allegations against the Military Reaction Force (MRF) are contained in a BBC Panorama programme, Britain’s Secret Terror Force, to be broadcast on Thursday evening.

Seven former members of the plain-clothes detachment – which carried out surveillance and, allegedly, unprovoked attacks – have spoken to the programme. The existence of the MRF is well known but its unorthodox methods and the scope of its activities have been the source of continuing speculation.

Their weaponry was not always standard issue. On one occasion, the programme reports, a Thompson sub-machine gun was used. The men drove Hillmans and Ford Cortinas with microphones built into the sun visors; some were cars that had been stolen and recovered.

All the soldiers, however, denied that they were part of a “death” or “assassination squad”.

After 18 months’ duty, the MRF was dissolved in late 1972 following army concerns about the adequacy of its command and control structures.”

The Irish Times also reports on the revelations albeit in a more blunt fashion than their British counterparts:

“The British army ran an undercover unit that operated a sanctioned shoot-to-kill policy in Belfast during the Troubles, it has been claimed.

Former members of the Military Reaction Force (MRF) said that they killed an unspecified number of IRA members and shot them regardless of whether or not they were armed.

The force killed at least two men in drive-by shootings who had no paramilitary connections and injured more than 10 other civilians…

Panorama reports that there were several drive-by shootings carried out by MRF soldiers in which people were killed and wounded – even though there is no independent evidence that any of them were armed or were members of the IRA.

The force comprised about 40 men hand-picked from across the British army who operated in west Belfast for an 18-month period between 1971 and 1973, including all through 1972.

The MRF was the forerunner to other similar plainclothes undercover British army units that operated in Northern Ireland. Panorama said the overall commander was an army brigadier.”

Maria McGurk murdered by British state-controlled terrorists at McGurk's Bar

12 year old Maria McGurk, murdered by British state-controlled terrorists in 1971 at McGurk’s Bar, Belfast, Ireland. Another victim of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland

The replacement unit for the out-of-control MRF was the soon to be equally uncontrollable FRU, the killers behind the 1989 murder of the Irish civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane, an assassination for which the British prime minister David Cameron publicly apologised in 2012. I described the rise and fall of the MRF last year:

“In the early 1970s this band of out-of-uniform soldiers terrorised Irish Nationalist communities in the north-east of Ireland, in particular the city of Belfast, carrying out or organising random drive-by shootings of civilians, murders, kidnappings and bombings.

In its most infamous operation the MRF arranged for terrorists from the British UVF to attack McGurk’s Bar in Belfast on the 4th of December 1971 with a parcel bomb that demolished the building killing fifteen, including 12 year old Maria McGurk, and wounding seventeen others. In the aftermath of the atrocity the British Forces used the excuse of “follow-up operations” to swamp local neighbourhoods with troops and paramilitary police who carried out destructive house-raids and multiple arrests or detentions.

In other words the MRF was a British military death squad. Its purpose was simply to cause murder and mayhem in the Irish communities of the north-east that continued to live under the British Occupation by killing innocent and “guilty” alike. However the MRF’s reckless nature eventually brought about its own downfall and its operations were uncovered by the Intelligence Unit of the Belfast Brigade of the Irish Republican Army in mid-to-late 1972. After extensive surveillance units of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Belfast Brigade attacked soldiers of the MRF at two different locations in the city on the 2nd of October 1972, killing or wounding several and causing panic in the British Army as intelligence operations over the following weeks effectively collapsed.

By early 1973 the now discredited MRF was disbanded but its tactics, techniques and most of its personnel went on to become part of the Special Reconnaissance Unit (or the SRU though it was also known by the cover name of the 14th Intelligence Company) and the Force Research Unit (FRU). All of them contributed to the evolving culture of Death Squad Britain.”

The latest news on the murder squads comes just hours after a senior advisor under the British legal administration in the North of Ireland publicly suggested that all investigations by paramilitary police relating to events before the signing of the Belfast Agreement of 1998 should be stopped. And this a few weeks after revelations that those self-same police were examining the possibility of prosecuting British soldiers for the murders of fourteen Irish citizens in the city of Derry during the Bloody Sunday Massacre of 1972. Not unrelated to this are the detailed accounts of the activities of the British Terror Factions in parts of the north-east of the country publicised in recent days where soldiers and policemen by day acted as gunmen and bombers by night (or as one British ex-police officer / terrorist memorably put it last weekend: “It had nothing to do with the UVF – it was only a bunch of policemen involved!“).

James Cromie murdered by British state-controlled terrorists in the McGurk Bar Bombing

13 year-old Irish child James Cromie murdered by British state-controlled terrorists in the McGurk Bar Bombing, Belfast, Ireland, 1971

From 1969 to 2001 over 51% of all those killed by the British Occupation Forces in Ireland, military and paramilitary, were non-combatant civilians. In the same period over 85% of all those killed by the British Terror Factions in Ireland, the proxy forces of Britain’s counter-insurgency campaign, were non-combatant civilians.

Which begs the question: in the so-called “Troubles” in the north of Ireland who exactly were the “terrorists”?

(With thanks to An Lorcánach and others)

From Drogue Grenades To IRAMs

An Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army moves through Belfast, the Volunteer in the middle holding an anti-armour “drogue grenade”, British Occupied North of Ireland, c.1980s

An Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army moves through Belfast, the Volunteer in the middle holding an anti-armour “drogue grenade”, British Occupied North of Ireland, c.1980s

There are a couple of recent articles in the At War blog of the New York Times that are quite interesting. The first examines the use of conventional weapons and explosives by the various Iraqi insurgency groups fighting against the United States and other foreign militaries in the country from 2003 to the present time (in particular of course, 2004-2011). One of the commercial weapons described is the RKG-3, a generic term for a series of Soviet-era hand-thrown anti-tank grenades notable for their use of a small parachute to drag or “float” the grenade so that its explosive force was directed downwards against the thinner upper armour normally found on military vehicles. An improvised version of this weapon was of course devised by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army in the 1980s with the “drogue grenade”. This consisted of a small metal casing (a can or tin with a tubular plastic handle) packed with explosives and in later models a shaped conical head which deployed a miniature polythene “tail” from the handle when thrown. They were normally dropped or launched from a height (windows, bridges or embankments) and were moderately effective against armoured vehicles or “roof observers”.

The second article looks at non-commercial munitions, in particular explosive ordnance. Remember when the Irish Republican Army started deploying major explosive loads in the early 1990s, especially during the infrastructure attacks in Britain? One of the excuses employed by helpless British officials with a panicked media was the claim that the IRA was “running out” of commercial explosives, primarily Semtex-H, and that the use of improvised explosives was actually a sign of “desperation”.

“When homemade explosives first came into wide use in Iraq, American military officers initially thought it was a sign that the insurgents were running out of conventional or “military-grade,” munitions. That assumption had no basis in fact. What it did signal was that the enemy had realized that bulk explosives were more valuable and, in certain situations, more lethal.”

A counter-insurgency war, like the insurgency itself, is all too often a case of the true believers clutching at straws.

Meanwhile Brown Moses re-examines the phenomenon of Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions or IRAMs, fairly indiscriminate weapons that have become a favourite tool of area denial (or terror when used against civilians). These are an increasing part of the Syrian government’s arsenal which once again raises the question of why the loyalist forces of the billion dollar Assad regime have come to rely so heavily on “DIY” munitions?

British Terrorism In Ireland – A Return To War?

British terror faction in Ireland threatens Irish schoolchildren and their parents in north Belfast, Ireland 2013 (Íomhá: The Irish News, via Bangordub)

British terror faction in Ireland threatens Irish schoolchildren and their parents in north Belfast, Ireland 2013 (Íomhá: The Irish News, via Bangordub)

At the start of the summer rumours began to circulate in media and political circles that factions of the British terror gangs in Ireland, principally within the UVF and UDA-UFF, were agitating for a series of “one-off strikes” on Irish civilian communities in the north-east of the country if those communities succeeded in halting some of the planned July 12th marches by the Protestant fundamentalist Orange Order. At the time I didn’t pay much heed to the claims. Such whispers regularly make an appearance and in the hothouse politics of the north they often die down just as quickly as they flare up.

However the very active role played by known British terrorists in the violence surrounding the July 12th events, in co-operation with some local lodges of the Orange Order and a number of prominent Unionist politicians, made the allegations seem somewhat more credible. Now we have a number of media reports that give further credence to the claims of growing unrest in the ranks of the British separatist militants. From the Sunday World newspaper, via Seachranaidhe, :

“…It has been reported in recent days that there are now splits emerging in the ranks of the two main loyalist paramilitary organisations, the UVF and the UDA, with some hawks in both organisations wanting to break their ceasefires and ‘go back to war’. That was underpinned by the huge haul of UVF guns discovered hidden in a glen in South Belfast a fortnight ago… [and] …the UVF, who staged a sinister show-of-strength at its annual Brian Robinson commemoration parade in the West of the city yesterday. There were also reports yesterday of masked UVF men firing a volley of shots in the Shankhill Parade area on Friday night, as a preview to yesterday’s parade.”

We also have reports from the Newsletter that British terrorists have issued death threats to children and parents from the Irish Nationalist community whose schools are situated in those areas perceived as being British Unionist territory.

“Police have confirmed they are investigating reports of a threat allegedly issued by a loyalist paramilitary group to Catholic schools in north Belfast.

A man claiming to be a representative of the Red Hand Defenders group contacted the Irish News on Friday to say “military action” would begin on Monday morning if the parents, pupils and staff of three Catholic schools in north Belfast did not take the threat seriously.

The man is said to have made it clear parents, pupils and teachers are not welcome at the three schools which he added were in “Protestant, unionist and loyalist areas”.

He said the threat had been “reactivated” due to “attacks on the Protestant, unionist and loyalist community in recent months”.”

As Bangordub points out the silence from the political leaders of the British Unionist minority in Ireland in relation to this (and other recent threats and acts of violence) is deafening. More that that it is revealing of the decades old axis of Unionist politics and Unionist terrorism.

The North-East Of Ireland: Convergence

The Irish blogger “Endgame In Ulster” asks why is the political establishment of the British Unionist community in the north-east of Ireland in crisis? The answers make it obvious.

The north-east of Ireland: the "Catholic" and "Protestant" populations

The north-east of Ireland: the “Catholic” and “Protestant” populations

The north-east of Ireland: the British Unionist and Irish Nationalist votes

The north-east of Ireland: the British Unionist and Irish Nationalist votes

Ireland’s 800 Year Culture War

An Ghaeilge

An Ghaeilge!

Recently a trilingual Danish acquaintance of mine, somewhat familiar with Ireland, asked me why is it that most of the political leaders of the British Unionist minority in the north-east of the country are so vociferous in their antipathy to the Irish language and equal rights for Irish-speaking men, women and children in the region. The simplest explanation I could give was also the most obvious. Irish is the indigenous language of the island of Ireland, a language tied up with two thousand years and more of Gaelic civilization that predated the British invasions and colonisations of our country, and which for centuries existed in parallel with and in opposition to the British settlements on this island-nation. It naturally became a symbol of native resistance to foreign rule and a target for extermination along with those who spoke it. For some in a community who believe themselves to be descended in the main from those self-same British invaders and colonisers Irish-speakers remain the ultimate bogey-men, the hewers of wood and drawers of water who could at any time rise up and turn on the bringers of British rule and British civilization.

The extreme if influential fringe of the British Unionist community, along with their numerous media apologists in Ireland and Britain, hate Irish and hate those who speak Irish simply because it reminds them of some uncomfortable historical truths. Truths they would rather see redacted from the history of Ireland and of western Europe. Invasion, occupation, colonisation and annexation are hardly attractive qualities to have in the record of any people’s history. Genocide, linguicide and culturecide do not make for media-friendly spin. So its best to simply censor them from the record, to follow the route of a Stalin or Pol Pot and begin with a Year Zero. The history of “Northern Ireland”  began in 1921 and naught but a few notable battles proceeded that. Hence the whiter-than-white boys and girls of NI21, the newest liberal Unionist party in Ireland, disparaging (the wrong sort of) history and memory as they gear up into action.

So the Irish language and associated culture or any sense of an indigenous Irish identity, however tenuous or however open and all-encompassing, must be crushed under foot. Ground into the dirt. There can be no compromise, no sharing, no outreach. This is the ultimate “culture war”, one that goes to the very heart of Irish nationhood on the island of Ireland.

Much of the ideology of political Unionism as expressed in Ireland is clear: British identity is English-speaking, English-reading, English-thinking. Anything else, anything other, is foreign and alien. The Irish language by virtue of not being the English language is contemptible, repulsive, inferior. Irish-speakers by virtue of not being English-speakers are contemptible, repulsive, inferior. The age-old anti-Irish racism of British colonial culture on the island of Ireland is what drives the hatred of Irish among a cadre of Unionist leaders and their immediate followers. Ancient wars, ancients feuds, ancient blood-letting.

While some may believe we have moved on from those times they are fooling themselves. 21st century Ireland is still the same battle-ground as 12th century Ireland. The war is all around us.

NI21 – Or NI1921?

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland – The Last Remnant Of The British Colony In Ireland

People are speculating that the newest “moderate” British Unionist party to be announced on Thursday by Basil McCrea and John McAllister will be named “NI21”. This is taken as a reference to “Northern Ireland 21st Century” and the Unionist-leaning media in the north-east of the country (and elsewhere) is going all weak at the knees at the thoughts of this brave new dawn for Unionism in Ireland. The only fly in the ointment may be the fact that “NI21” can also refer to the “official” establishment of the apartheid state of “Northern Ireland” in 1921. A state created through the overthrow of the democratic wishes of the vast majority of the people living on the island of Ireland by a British separatist minority using violence and the threat of violence.

NI1921”. Not so much a step forward as a nod backwards.

A Fake Economy In A Fake State

A fake shop in Enniskillen in the British Occupied North of Ireland

A fake shop in Enniskillen in the British Occupied North of Ireland – a fake economy to match a fake state (Íomhá: Bryan O’Brien. Irish Times)

The benefits of Britain’s continued colonial rule over the north-east of Ireland? Fake shops for a fake economy. From the BBC:

“Fermanagh is having a £1m makeover as it prepares to host the G8 summit and the world’s media in June.

For the last month shoppers have had to dodge ladders and scaffolding as dozens of painters have given a fresh coat of paint to 150 shops and businesses in Enniskillen.

Some empty shops and restaurants in towns and villages throughout the county have also had photographic images attached to their windows to make them look like thriving businesses.

One, a former butcher’s shop in Belcoo, appears to have an open door leading into a shop stocked full of fresh meat, but it has been locked up for more than a year.

These “fake” shop fronts have made headlines on the other side of the Atlantic.

Critics say it is a shallow attempt by the council to make the place look better than it actually is and an attempt to put a mask on a recession that has hit the local area very badly.”

A fake state with a fake economy based upon a fake democracy. Welcome to “Northern Ireland”!

Of course turning Enniskillen into a paper-thin, feel-good studio set for the international news media is nothing to the lock-down that is going to take place in the county of Fermanagh (and neighbouring counties) in a few weeks time. Thousands of British troops and police – paramilitary and otherwise – are about to descend on the county in a veritable Army of Occupation not seen since the worse days of the Northern War. Phones lines, mobile signals, internet traffic and road communications are to be restricted or blocked altogether. In some areas people will be confined to their homes or districts. Gangs of heavily armed gunmen – or British soldiers if you prefer – will be roaming the highways and byways of the county training their weapons on any of the local citizenry tempted to protest their open-air incarceration.

And why? So that the government of Britain can fool the international community into believing that Ireland is British? And our government, Rialtais na hÉireann or the Government of Ireland, and the Sinn Féin component of the power-sharing regional government in the north-east of the country is going along with it? Ah well, it will be another good day for British rule and misrule in Ireland that they can chalk up with the other recent good days handed to them on a platter.

 

Ireland’s British Troubles

Joint footpatrol of British UDA terrorists and British Army soldiers

Joint footpatrol of British UDA terrorists and British Army soldiers, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1970s

Interesting revelation from court documents released in Belfast (via the Detail), where Ciarán Martin, the former Security and Intelligence adviser to British prime minister David Cameron, admits that British terrorist groupings operating in Ireland during the conflict in the north-east of the country did so with the backing and support of Britain, perhaps up to the highest levels of government. Writing in a redacted letter to PM Cameron, dated July 8th 2011, Martin admits in relation to the 1989 assassination in Belfast of the Irish human rights lawyer Pat Finucane that:

“Even by Northern Ireland standards the facts are grisly. Moreover, in terms of allegations of British state ‘collusion’ with Loyalist paramilitaries, this is the big one… whilst we know of no evidence of direction or advance knowledge of the murder by ministers, security chiefs or officials, exhaustive previous examinations have laid bare some uncomfortable truths.

Paid state agents were directly involved in the killing, including the only man ever convicted of involvement in it.

[official investigations paint]…a picture of a system of agent-running by the RUC’s Special Branch and the Army’s Force Research Unit that was out of control… There is plenty of material in the public domain to this effect. …the evidence available only internally could be read to suggest that within government at a high level this systematic problem with Loyalist agents was known, but nothing was done about it.

It’s also potentially the case that credible suspicions of agent involvement in Mr Finucane’s murder were made known at senior levels after it and that nothing was done; the agents remained in place. These two points essentially aren’t public.”

In a follow up letter, dated July 9th 2011, the special advisor and Cameron confidant states that the prime minister:

“… like virtually everyone else outside MoD [Ministry of Defence] shares the view that this was an awful case and as bad as it gets, and was far worse than any post 9/11 allegation.”

The issue of Pat Finucane’s murder by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a British terrorist organisation in Ireland long known to have been controlled by Britain’s Intelligence services, drew an official apology from the London government earlier this year, and was recently discussed again by the United States Congress and its Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Of special significance in all this is the UDA’s former status as the largest and most active British terrorist group on the island of Ireland while simultaneously being a legal paramilitary organisation under British law and jurisdiction. Despite its involvement in hundreds of gun and bomb attacks (and the demands of the International community that it be banned) the terror faction was able to openly organise, recruit and train in the north-east of Ireland and in Britain; frequently with the assistance of serving or former British paramilitary police officers or soldiers. Its notoriously public headquarters in the middle of Belfast city was a regular venue for interviews with gunmen and bombers by members of the International media, and its overall existence was based on a continuous supply of money, arms and intelligence data from the British military and security services.

Without the UDA, and the other British terror factions, Britain’s counter-insurgency war in Ireland would have been impossible. And that is why no one seriously doubts that support for these groups came from the highest levels of the British government and across all party political divides and ideologies.

More here from the Pat Finucane Inquiry Campaign.

Margaret Thatcher – She Came, She Saw, She Failed

Margaret Thatcher touring the British Occupied North of Ireland in 1981 wearing a beret of the UDR, an infamous British Army militia responsible for scores of terrorist attacks during the 1970s, '80s and '90s

Margaret Thatcher touring the British Occupied North of Ireland in 1981 wearing a beret of the UDR, an infamous British Army militia responsible for scores of terrorist attacks during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s

As a citizen of Ireland there is only one Margaret Thatcher that I remember. From the archives of the Guardian newspaper:

“Margaret Thatcher horrified her advisers when she recommended that the government should revive the memory of Oliver Cromwell – dubbed the butcher of Ireland – and encourage tens of thousands of Catholics to leave Ulster for the south.

A year after she was nearly killed in the IRA’s 1984 Brighton bomb, the then prime minister expressed dismay at Catholic opposition to British rule when they could follow the example of ancestors who were evicted from Ulster at the barrel of a Cromwellian gun in the 17th century.

Lady Thatcher’s extraordinary solution to the Troubles has been disclosed by her advisers at the time of the negotiations on the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement.

Sir David Goodall, then a diplomat who was one of the most senior British officials negotiating with the Irish government, told a BBC four-part documentary, Endgame in Ireland, that Lady Thatcher made the “outrageous” proposal during a late night conversation at Chequers.

“She said, if the northern [Catholic] population want to be in the south, well why don’t they move over there? After all, there was a big movement of population in Ireland, wasn’t there?

“Nobody could think what it was. So finally I said, are you talking about Cromwell, prime minister? She said, that’s right, Cromwell.”

Lady Thatcher’s “outrageous” plan did not stop at reviving the memory of Cromwell.

Sir Charles Powell, then her private secretary, told the programme that she also called for Northern Ireland’s border with the republic to be redrawn.

“She thought that if we had a straight line border, not one with all those kinks and wiggles in it, it would be easier to defend,” he said.

The zigzag border is notoriously difficult to patrol. But Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, then cabinet secretary, told Lady Thatcher of the folly of her idea.

“It wasn’t as simple as that because the nationalist communities were not all in one place, not all in Fermanagh and Tyrone and South Armagh and so on,” he told the programme.

“There were many in Belfast, and the idea of partition in Belfast or moving large numbers of population didn’t seem to be very attractive.”

However, she would not abandon her idea and called for a “security zone” on both sides of the border to help the British army and the RUC to chase IRA terrorists who used to slip over the border after attacks in the north.”

Over on Bloomberg News Timothy Lavin offers an analysis of the effects on Ireland of Thatcher’s premiership:

“…the conflict did not bring out the best in her.

It showed how the character traits for which she is best remembered had some very dark consequences, and how her celebrated “resolve” often came at a brutally high human and moral cost. In Northern Ireland, in fact, that resolve directly obstructed the cause of peace.

The most illuminating example is the hunger strike in the Maze (or Long Kesh) prison from 1980-1981. In many obituaries published today, the story goes that Thatcher “faced down” Irish Republican Army hunger strikers, as the BBC put it. By “faced down” they mean “let them starve to death.” This is often treated as a victory of democratic determination over terrorism.

But history shows quite the opposite: Thatcher’s uncompromising treatment of the hunger strikers led only to an increase in terrorism and the ascension of the IRA as a potent political force.

Violent deaths related to the conflict rose to 101 in 1981 from 76 the year before, including 44 members of the security forces. Injuries rose to 1,350 from 801. Shootings increased to 1,142 from 642, and bombings reached nearly 400 that year. Far from demonstrating that the IRA’s struggle was a lost one, Thatcher only intensified its opposition to rule by what it considered an ever more brutal occupying force.

The other significant consequence of Thatcher’s unyielding position was that public sympathy for the hunger strikers quickly morphed into political support for Republicanism. Bobby Sands, one of the strikers, was elected to the British House of Commons for Fermanagh-South Tyrone while imprisoned. His victory “undermined the entire shaky edifice of British policy in Northern Ireland, which had been so painfully constructed on the hypothesis that blame for the ‘Troubles’ could be placed on a small gang of thugs and hoodlums who enjoyed no community support,” wrote David Beresford in “Ten Men Dead.”

In 1983, Sinn Fein — the IRA’s political wing – gathered 13.4 percent of the Westminster vote in Northern Ireland, compared with 17.9 percent for the moderate nationalists of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Gerry Adams, then Sinn Fein’s vice president, was elected in West Belfast over the moderate Gerry Fitt. For the British government, these were ominous omens. Today, Sinn Fein is the largest nationalist bloc in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fourth-largest party in the parliament of the Irish Republic.

Still, “a crime is a crime is a crime,” Thatcher insisted at the time. “It is not political, it is a crime.”

This was to deny reality, especially as international sympathy for the strikers surged. But Thatcher never took a particularly realistic approach to the hunger strike, or to Northern Ireland generally.

[she was] …someone who could occasionally show a staggering indifference to human suffering.”

As Levine continues in the Comments underneath:

“…it isn’t hard, in this case, to differentiate between what violence is “political” and what isn’t. The men in the Maze prison didn’t become political prisoners because they went on a hunger strike. They became political prisoners because they were arrested — often without trial — for violence or activism intended to overthrow what they viewed as an oppressive political order and an illegal occupation.

Let me be clear: This doesn’t make violence a legitimate response.

But the fact that the political order in Northern Ireland at the time violated Catholic civil rights on a grand scale is beyond dispute. And the IRA itself was an objectively political organization: Its terrorism, although reprehensible, was intertwined with a legitimate movement for Catholic civil rights and a party, Sinn Fein, that adhered to an overt platform of political objectives. (Roughly the same platform, as it happens, that Irish revolutionaries had been asserting for 800 years.) Most crucially, the IRA’s intended targets were the military and security forces of occupation and other paramilitaries — not civilians.”

My own feelings on hearing of her passing are best summed up in this post by Football Clichés and another by author Terry Glavin. Like other British leaders who brought war to Ireland she has passed but we the Irish people have endured.

More Accounts Of Death Squad Britain

General Sir Frank Kitson, the British Army's death squad supremo in Ireland during the 1970s

General Sir Frank Kitson, the British Army’s death squad supremo in Ireland during the 1970s

Veteran Irish journalist and author Ed Moloney and his colleague Bob Mitchell continue their investigations into the Military Reaction Force (MRF), a British Army death squad that operated in the north-east of Ireland during the early 1970s. Its notoriety and reckless nature (with carloads of heavily armed undercover soldiers carrying out random drive-by shootings of the civilian populace in the city of Belfast) eventually led to its replacement with a number of other covert groups including the infamous Force Research Unit or FRU. By examining the 1972 attempted assassination of Brendan Hughes, Officer Commanding D Company, 2nd Battalion, Belfast Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (and widely regarded as one of the most effective and thoughtful field commanders of his generation), Moloney and Mitchell have uncovered new evidence of the British Army’s modus operandi during the early years of the war in the North of Ireland. Evidence which corroborates Brendan Hughes own testimony of events from that time.

The military mastermind behind the introduction of the MRF and other covert units was the British death squad supremo, General Sir Frank Kitson GBE, KCB, MC & Bar, DL. On the basis of his “successes” in Ireland he rose to become Commander-in-Chief of the British Land Forces and Aide-de-Camp to the British head of state in the 1980s. In this BBC news-documentary from 1975 examining “war gaming” exercises Kitson can be viewed in action. The nature of the exercise, as described by the BBC Panorama programme, show that the concerns and ambitions of the British Army leadership in the 1970s ran far beyond the conflict in Ireland:

“Filmed at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, this programme offers a fascinating insight into officer training. Six years in Northern Ireland have given the British Army unique experience in counter insurgency and internal security techniques. Sandhurst recognises that the Army’s Ulster experience could – one day – have to be used in Britain, and there is a need to train officers for that possibility. So imagine a world where Scotland has left the United Kingdom, where some English cities are thinking of following suit and where law and order is breaking down in our towns. It may seem far fetched, but the recruits of Sandhurst are presented with just such a scenario.”

If you have difficulty viewing the documentary due to your location try installing Tor on your device (video guide here). The new investigation by Ed Moloney and Bob Mitchell, using redacted British military records, can be read in full here.

UPDATE: Here is the BBC 1975 Panorama documentary featuring Kitson, via YouTube (indirect link I’m afraid).

Unionism Closes Ranks

Anti-UDR poster highlighting the British Army's links to British terror gangs in Ireland

Anti-UDR poster highlighting the British Army’s links to British terror gangs in Ireland

Interesting to note that the DUP leader Peter Robinson and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt have agreed a joint “Unionist Unity” candidate, Nigel Lutton, for the Mid-Ulster by-election, and the furore that has emerged around it. Lutton is a former liaison-officer with the Northern Ireland Police Fund, a former volunteer with the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (run by the British Ministry of Defence), a former British Army reserve soldier, a co-ordinator with the group South Down Action for Healing Wounds, a member of the Orange Order (the anti-Catholic, Protestant fundamentalist society) and a former researcher with the DUP.

He is also the son of Frederick “Eric” Lutton, a former member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary or RUC, the British paramilitary police force in the North of Ireland disbanded under the Irish-British Peace Process and the Belfast Agreement of 1998. Frederick Lutton had resigned from the RUC shortly before he was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army in May of 1979. Around the time of his killing rumours in the local Irish Nationalist community insisted that Lutton had been forced to resign by RUC management due to concerns about his family connections.

In fact his brother, Joey Lutton, was a British Army soldier with the Ulster Defence Regiment or UDR during the same period, a militia raised from within the British Unionist community (and also disbanded in the wake of the Belfast Agreement). This particular Lutton was convicted in 1979 of participating in a number of terrorist atrocities carried out by a British terror group known colloquially as the Glenanne Gang. It was made up of members of several British terrorist organisations, principally the UVF and UDA-UFF, most of whom were also former or serving soldiers and police officers with the British Army, UDR and RUC.

Joey Lutton’s offences included his involvement in the May 1976 bomb-attack on Clancy’s Bar that left three Irish civilians (Felix Clancy, Sean O’Hagan and Robert McCullough) dead and several others wounded, and a subsequent gun-attack on the nearby Eagle Bar resulting in the murder of Frederick McLaughlin and the wounding of numerous others. Lutton was widely suspected of involvement in a number of other murders in the Armagh region, many of which were carried out using ammunition and weapons later traced back to British Army stocks.

In 2007 the DUP MP David Simpson, who is a cousin and close associate of the “Unionist Unity” candidate Nigel Lutton (as well as an Orange Order member and proponent of “Creationism”), used legal immunity granted by the British parliament to claim in the House of Commons that prominent Sinn Féin politician, Francie Molly, was suspected of involvement in the assassination of Nigel Lutton’s father, Frederick.

Francie Molly is the Sinn Féin candidate in Mid-Ulster and Nigel Lutton’s opponent.

A “Unionist Unity” candidate is just about right.

Britain’s War In Ireland – Learning The Lessons

Bloody Sunday Massacre, Derry, Ireland, 1972

Bloody Sunday Massacre, Derry, Ireland, 1972

The Irish journalist and author Finian Cunningham examines the conflict in the north-east of Ireland during the late 1960s and early ‘70s and draws some lessons in relation to France’s present military intervention in Mali. His description of the origins and early years of the Northern War are particularly noteworthy:

“This week sees the anniversary of one of the worst massacres in modern Irish history, when British paratroopers murdered 14 unarmed civilians in cold blood.

On 30 January 1972, the British troops opened fire on a civil rights march in Derry City, Northern Ireland’s second city after Belfast, in full glare of the international news media.

Half of the victims that day were teenagers, shot in the head or in the back by British snipers. Some of the fatally wounded were shot multiple times as they tried to crawl to safety. Others were cut down in a hail of bullets as they tended to those lying wounded, bleeding on the ground.

One iconic image from that horrific day shows a Catholic priest, Fr Edward Daly, holding up a bloodstained white cloth, pleading with the British soldiers to cease-fire as he helped carry a dying youth.

Bloody Sunday, as it became known, was a watershed event. From then on, the conflict in Northern Ireland exploded. Some 3,000 people would lose their lives in the ensuing decades of violence – a huge death toll for the tiny population, equivalent to 240,000 in Iran or 900,000 in the United States.

Many Irish citizens, outraged by the British army slaughter, went on to join the ranks of the newly formed Provisional Irish Republican Army, the armed guerrilla movement that would kill hundreds of British troops and police and take the war to the very streets of London, with massive bombing campaigns in the British capital and other major cities.

Prior to the arrival of the British troops, the British-controlled Northern Ireland saw an outbreak of violence in the summer of 1968 when Nationalists began agitating for equal civil rights under the corrupt pro-British Unionist administration. Peaceful demonstrations by Nationalists were subsequently attacked by Unionist gangs and paramilitaries, aided and abetted by the sectarian state police force. Many civilians were killed as Nationalist communities were shot at and burned out of their homes and workplaces in reprisals over their political demands.

The Unionist-dominated province of Northern Ireland brought international disgrace to the United Kingdom, and the London government was obliged to post thousands of British soldiers “to restore order”. At first, Nationalist communities welcomed the British troops when they were deployed in August 1969, believing the army to be affording protection from marauding Unionist paramilitaries and police.

When the British army went into Northern Ireland in 1969, it soon became apparent that the intervention had nothing to do with protecting Nationalist civilians, under the boot of the Unionist statelet, and everything to do with suppressing the political challenge being posed by Irish separatism, which wanted to dismantle the British partition of Ireland and to create a united, independent country, free from London’s political control.

The pretext used by London for despatching troops to Northern Ireland concealed its real purpose. That agenda was to target the Nationalist population with state terrorism for political ends. Whereas in previous years, the Unionist paramilitaries could rely on the collusion of the local police force to terrorise, from 1969 onwards these forces had the full might of the British army to ramp up the violence against Nationalist civilians and thereby intimidate them from supporting political opposition to the British government’s presence in Ireland.

The year before Bloody Sunday, in August 1971, British paratroopers shot dead 11 unarmed civilians in the Ballymurphy area of West Belfast. Among the dead was a 50-year-old woman, Joan Connolly, who had been standing peacefully on the street. Another victim was a priest, Fr. Hugh Mullan, who was shot dead while trying to assist a man wounded on the ground. [ASF: Click on the link for more on the Ballymurphy Massacre]

On 9 July 1972 – six months after Bloody Sunday – British troops again shot dead five unarmed Nationalist civilians in another area of West Belfast, Springhill. Three of the victims were children, including 13-year-old Margaret Gargan, who was shot in the head by a British sniper as she was walking to her home. The two adults who died that day, Patrick Butler and Fr. Noel Fitzpatrick, were killed with the same bullet, it ripping through one man’s head into the other. One of the survivors of the Springhill massacre later told how, as he lay wounded, bullets were ricocheting off the ground near his head, fired by British soldiers who had taken up position in a nearby timber yard that overlooked the residential neighbourhood.

On another occasion during that year, a friend of this author told how when he was only a young boy he witnessed his father and a neighbour being shot at by British troops, while they were painting the family home in West Belfast. The neighbour was blown off the ladder when a high-velocity round slammed into his upper leg. It was fired by British soldiers dug in a couple of kilometres away on the Black Mountain looking down on the housing estate. Just one of countless acts of gratuitous violence committed against the civilian population by British troops.

During these gun attacks on Nationalist communities, the British army would often work hand-in-glove with Unionist paramilitaries, or death squads, as they fired into family homes, indiscriminately killing the occupants. That secret policy of collusion between British forces and Unionist death squads would later be refined with even more deadly impact.

It should be noted that this wanton state terrorism by British forces was taking place in a part of the United Kingdom, where there was supposedly the rule of law, human rights and due process.”

Bloody Sunday Massacre, Derry, Ireland, 1972

Bloody Sunday Massacre, Derry, Ireland, 1972