Constáblacht Ríoga Uladh – CRU (Royal Ulster Constabulary – RUC)

The Dirty Secrets Of A Dirty War Get Even Dirtier

Joan Connolly, a fifty year old Irish mother of eight murdered by British troops during the Ballymurphy Massacre of 1971

Joan Connolly, a fifty year old Irish mother of eight murdered by British troops during the Ballymurphy Massacre of 1971

In the “better late than never” category Britain’s Left-leaning newspaper, the Guardian, has published a special investigation by Ian Cobain into the infamous Ballymurphy Massacre of August 1971. During the course of three days rampaging British troops in an isolated Irish Nationalist enclave on the edge of West Belfast murdered ten civilians, 9 men and boys and one woman, while wounding dozens more. If you are a regular reader of An Sionnach Fionn you will have read my own description of the terrifying events that summer some forty years ago. You will also be aware that the government in Britain has refused to hold an official inquiry into the war crime, largely on the grounds that it would not be in the public interest do so. That would be the British public interest, of course.

“One of the most tragic and controversial episodes of the conflict in Northern Ireland will be relived in a Belfast courtroom on Friday when a preliminary hearing is held into the deaths of 10 people shot dead more than four decades ago.

All 10 were killed in one small neighbourhood of west Belfast over little more than 36 hours in August 1971 during the disturbances that were triggered by the introduction of internment without trial.

Drawing upon hundreds of pages of contemporary witness statements, police reports and pathologists’ records gathered for the inquest, the Guardian has reconstructed the events surrounding the killings.

What emerges is a picture that is complex and confused, but which points to a prolonged killing spree by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment, several months before troops from the same regiment massacred protesters at Derry on Bloody Sunday.

Among the nine men and one woman fatally wounded in the streets around Ballymurphy between the evening of 9 August and the morning of 11 August were a local priest, shot twice while giving the last rites to a man who had also been shot, and a 44-year-old mother of eight, shot in the face.

At least eight of those who died appear to have been shot by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment. A ninth was shot by a soldier from a different regiment, while the 10th was shot by an unidentified sniper, possibly a soldier. Another man died of heart failure, allegedly after being subjected to a mock execution by soldiers.

Unlike on Bloody Sunday, however, no journalists were present, no camera crews captured the events, and there was no international condemnation of the killings.”

Chief Superintendent Harry Breen, killed in the 1989 ambush at Baile an Chláir by an Active Service Unit of the South Armagh Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. His suspected links to British terrorist factions in the north-east of Ireland have gone unreported by both the Irish and British news media

Chief Superintendent Harry Breen, killed in the 1989 ambush at Baile an Chláir by an Active Service Unit of the South Armagh Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. His suspected links to British terrorist factions in the north-east of Ireland have gone unreported by both the Irish and British news media

Meanwhile the Guardian also reports on new revelations surrounding the assassination by British terrorists of Sergeant Joseph Campbell, a paramilitary police officer with the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), in 1977. A recent investigation by the Police Ombudsman in the north-east of Ireland has discovered that the planned killing of (the Roman Catholic) Campbell was known before hand by senior commanders in the RUC who did nothing to prevent it. In fact there is considerable suspicion that they permitted the shooting to go ahead in order to protect corrupt and terrorist-supporting men within their own ranks.

“Campbell had been a well-known and respected police officer in the County Antrim community for many years. The shooting took place on the evening of 25 February 1977 and since then his widow and children have campaigned for more information about the circumstances surrounding his death.

The Campbells have always believed their father was murdered by one of the most notorious loyalist paramilitary killers of the Troubles – Robin “The Jackal” Jackson. Jackson was an assassin for the Ulster Volunteer Force, whose targets were mainly Catholics living in the so-called murder triangle of North Armagh and Tyrone.

Since Campbell’s murder there have been allegations that the police officer was shot dead because he discovered links between Jackson and a rogue member of RUC special branch who was organising criminal activities including armed robberies in County Antrim.

The police ombudsman is currently involved in a legal battle with the PSNI over its refusal to allow him access to sensitive historic files on unsolved Troubles crimes.”

If the name of the gunman Robin “The Jackal” Jackson seems familiar to you that is because we discussed him before in relation to the killing of RUC Superintendent Harry Breen in a 1989 ambush by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army. In a sworn affidavit to a tribunal set up by the government of Ireland an ex-RUC officer-cum-terrorist, Sergeant John Weir, testified that Harry Breen supported the campaign of violence and mayhem by British militants in the mid-Ulster region, led most notably by Jackson. Throughout the 1970s and early ’80s serving and former British police officers and soldiers in the so-called Glenanne Gang staged a series of gun and bomb attacks against the local Irish civilian population in the counties of Armagh, Tyrone, Monaghan and Fermanagh, a region soon dubbed the “Murder Triangle” by the contemporary news media.

The more we uncover the secrets of Britain’s “Dirty War” in Ireland, the dirtier it gets.

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The Torture Files

Photo taken by civil rights activists of an Irish civilian tortured by the British military interrogators in the Occupied North of Ireland, 1970s

Photo taken by civil rights activists of an Irish civilian tortured by the British military interrogators in the Occupied North of Ireland, 1970s

So the News and Current Affairs Department of RTÉ, our self-proclaimed “national broadcaster” (no sniggering, please), has suddenly become aware that there were two sides to the conflict that raged in the north-eastern part of our island-nation during the 1970s, ‘80s and 1990s. Yes, the war wasn’t solely caused by Irish Republicans (actually it truly began with British soldiers-turned-terrorists back in 1966) and the British Armed Forces participated in it too (y’know, the same ones we used to shoot at during the War of Independence when they patrolled the streets of Dublin and Cork – and Belfast and Derry). RTÉ’s much-hyped documentary broadcast last night revealed the levels of government-authorised torture inflicted by Britain on Irish citizens living in the fifth of our country retained under the British Occupation following the 1916-21 revolution (y’know, the one that was staged and fought on the streets of Dublin and Cork – and Belfast and Derry). The programme was titled “The Torture Files” and the horrifying stories contained within were presented as if something startlingly new and unbeknown to the people of Ireland (except, y’know, the fifth of our population forced to live under the British Occupation despite having supported the same historic struggle fought on the streets of Dublin and Cork – and Belfast and Derry).

Of course the revelations were anything but new or unbeknown. If fact they were widely reported for decades though you might have missed all that if you had relied on RTÉ for such information any time between 1968 and 1998 (or even 2014!). God be with the days when the apparatchiks of the Workers Party controlled the news and current affairs output at Montrose, when state censorship was second to ideological censorship enforced with an iron fist by a closed coterie of journalists and editors. They all thought the same, they all talked the same. Though of course that is not too hard when most of them were screwing each other too (one way or another). Ah, wine and coke parties in Dublin 4; look at us with our beards, our manifestos, our white lines and our ABBA albums too. Fun, fun, fun in the know-nothing sun (of the empire upon which it never sets… ahem).

Here at An Sionnach Fionn, gadfly of the establishment, such items of historical enquiry have been a regular feature for the last three years. Again and again accusations have been levelled, proof has been offered, yet the critics cry: oh no, that cannot be true, it would simply be too dreadful a vista to contemplate…

Yet it was and is true. All of it.

So here are some select highlights from the campaign for truth waged by one lonely blog against the closed face of Irish media denial:

From Ireland To Iraq – The Same Army, The Same Abusers

Former British Agent Admits Irish Citizens Were Waterboarded

The Murder Machine – The British War In Ireland

Dirty Secrets Of A Dirty War

Pat Finucane – A Victim Of Britain’s State-Sponsored Terrorism In Ireland

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

Ulster Resistance – Unapologetic British Terrorism In Ireland

The Truth About Ireland’s British Troubles

Death Squad Britain

Death Squad Killers In The Land Down Under

No Investigation Into A 1971 British War Crime In Ireland

Only A General Amnesty Will Yield The Truth

The Continuity RUC

The RUC, the notorious disbanded forerunner of the PSNI, show their respect for funerals in Ireland by smashing and shooting their way through one. These are the scenes the Continuity RUC would love to have back, hey boys?

The hated RUC, the disbanded forerunner to the PSNI, show their respect for funerals in Ireland by smashing and shooting their way through one. These are the scenes the Continuity RUC would love to have back, hey boys?

In an unprecedented move the Police Ombudsman for the north-east of Ireland, Michael Maguire, is to sue the Chief Constable of the PSNI, the region’s paramilitary police force, over his organisation’s repeated failures to cooperate with enquiries into dozens of killings carried out by British terrorist groupings and others during the 1966-2005 conflict. From an investigation by The Detail:

“NORTHERN Ireland’s Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire is to launch a legal action against Chief Constable Matt Baggott over the failure to provide information on major investigations including killings from the Troubles.

The dramatic move follows long-running complaints over delays in the police supplying of documents and intelligence to investigators reviewing allegations of security force wrongdoing.

The ombudsman is understood to have instructed former Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales Sir Keir Starmer to seek a judicial review of the police conduct.

The police said they had met their legal obligations but had to balance the release of sensitive information with the right to protect life, a duty which it said it took “extremely seriously”.

The dispute centres on recent and historic cases, but The Detail believes that the list includes the 1994 Loughinisland massacre, where loyalist gunmen killed six people as they watched the World Cup in a Co Down bar.

In a statement to The Detail the ombudsman’s office said investigations into the circumstances surrounding more than 60 deaths “have now been stalled by a PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) refusal to provide certain material”.”

At the start of May the same news and current affairs website revealed that John Leckey, the north-east’s senior coroner, had officially complained that his investigations into historical deaths during the Long War were being being starved of resources by the British state.

The Great Irish Media Cover-Up


Ian Paisley addresses a militant rally while wearing the beret of the Ulster Resistance, the 1980s’ British terror faction in Ireland.

The pretence that the media establishment in Ireland is anything other than anti-Republican in terms of its collective political ideology has pretty much gone out the window over the last week. The arrest and prolonged detention without charge of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD by the PSNI, the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland, in relation to the 1972 death of Jean McConville has been manna from heaven for the conservative press. With Sinn Féin predicted to do well in upcoming European and local elections across Ireland the opportunity to reverse that electoral steamroller has been seized upon and the propaganda is coming fast and thick from the party’s opponents. If anyone was under the illusion that we on this island nation have a free and pluralist media they will have been bitterly disappointed. Instead we live in a country under the axis of a media consensus that Fox News or other right-wing pundits in the United States could only dream of. There is an old Irish political term known as “Felon Setting”. At its most basic it means setting someone up, through public announcements or actions, for arrest and imprisonment by the British colonial authorities in Ireland (or elsewhere for that matter). In times past it was one of the gravest charges in the Irish political lexicon. The number of revolutionaries who paid with their freedom or their lives through this process of labelling is countless. Our history is replete with examples and more often than not it was fellow Irish men and women doing the labelling for their own personal, political or financial advantage.

So rather than fair and balanced reporting or level-headed analysis we have had the media acting as judge, jury and executioner. It says much for the parlous state of journalistic ethics in Ireland that even some of the press in Britain have proved more rational in their reporting than their Irish equivalents or that one must turn to the United States to escape the ideological feeding frenzy at home. The latest example of that latter phenomenon comes from the Irish Independent newspaper which has published some long public photos implying that these prove that Gerry Adams was linked to those allegedly behind the killing of Jean McConville. It reeks of desperation and displays the utter contempt the media have for the intelligence of their own readers. However, just to show how these things can be turned on their head, here are some examples that display the double-edged nature of the the sword the journalistic establishment is attempting to wield. Sic pilum iactum est!

Pictured above is Ian Paisley, the former leader of the DUP and First Minister in the north of Ireland, wearing the maroon beret of the Ulster Resistance (UR), the British terrorist organisation he helped found in 1986 with the co-operation of a number of known militants from within the British Unionist community. The UR participated with others in the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Ireland from southern Lebanon to rearm the British terror factions in the country during the mid-1980s. These armaments were procured through the Whites-only government of apartheid-era South Africa under the aegis of the British Security Service MI5 (and the tacit permission of the Israeli government) and were used to carry out hundreds of gun and bomb attacks over the following decade. Amongst the more notable victims of the British-procured weapons was the civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane, murdered by a UDA death squad in Belfast controlled by British Military Intelligence.

In the first image below we have Peter Robinson, the current head of the DUP and First Minister, marching alongside other uniformed members of the Ulster Resistance including a convicted terrorist. Robinson himself was convicted in an Irish court of militancy in 1986 after he led five hundred extremists in a cross-border “invasion” of the small village of Clontibret, a Crimea-style stunt that earned him his stripes with his peers. Underneath that we have the DUP politician posing with an AK47 assault rifle during a visit to Israel, close to the Lebanese border. From this same region some years later Unionist terrorists under the direction of Britain’s intelligences services smuggled hundreds of AK47s to Ireland. In the third image Robinson is pictured with former DUP party member and local candidate John Smyth Jr. The same Smyth who is the son of DUP councillor and convicted terrorist John Smyth Sr. and who was himself later tried and found guilty on charges of conducting terrorism.

Peter Robinson leads Ulster Resistance militants in a rally

Peter Robinson leads Ulster Resistance militants in a rally, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1987, including Noel Little, UDA terrorist and arms smuggler

Peter Robinson with an automatic assault rifle

Peter Robinson caught on camera in late 1984 during a visit to the Israel-Lebanon border with an AK47 automatic assault rifle similar to the weapons later smuggled from the region to rearm British terror factions in Ireland

Former DUP member John Smyth Junior pictured with his party leader Peter Robinson in 2010

Former DUP member and now convicted terrorist John Smyth Junior pictured with his party leader Peter Robinson in 2010. He is the son of DUP councillor John Smyth, who was similarly convicted of British terror attacks in the 1970s.

Only A General Amnesty Will Yield The Truth

Jean McConville, a Belfast woman suspected of being a British Army informer, was arrested and executed by the Irish Republican Army in December 1972 and her body hidden as one of the so-called “Disappeared” until August 2003

As the impact of the arrest of the veteran activist Ivor Bell continues to reverberate within Republican circles there is a lot to agree with in this analysis by Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe:

“Ivor Bell is awaiting trial in Belfast on charges he aided and abetted the murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who in 1972 was abducted, shot, and secretly buried by the IRA after she was accused of being an informer.

Bell’s lawyer said Bell was innocent, but acknowledged that Bell was the man referred to as Mr. Z in a series of tape-recorded interviews made by a researcher hired by BC to compile recollections of republicans and loyalists who fought in Northern Ireland.

That researcher, former Irish Republican Army volunteer and prisoner Anthony McIntyre, told me from Ireland that he expects police to knock on his door any day. If they do, they’ll be wasting their time. “I wouldn’t even tell them hello,” he said.

Neither will Bell, 77, who was a senior IRA commander before his star dimmed…

Bell was among a group of IRA veterans who opposed the compromise accepted by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in 1998, effectively ending the Troubles.

Now, police would love Bell to implicate his former comrade turned foe, Adams, who has repeatedly denied involvement in McConville’s murder. Adams says BC naively allowed McIntyre, who openly opposed his leadership, to interview former IRA members who were inclined to implicate him for political reasons.

McConville’s children believe that Adams was behind their mother’s murder and insist he face justice. But this debacle has never been about justice. It’s about politics, specifically about sticking it to Adams and his party…

…the prosecution is so biased and politically motivated as to undermine all credibility.

The police in Northern Ireland have shown no interest in the other half of the oral history project: interviews with loyalists, who presumably could shed light on state-sanctioned murders they carried out with the covert assistance of the police and British military.

Ed Moloney, the journalist who oversaw the Belfast Project paid for and archived by Boston College, called Bell’s arrest “a cheap publicity stunt” by police and prosecutors who know that the oral histories, given to an academic by people who were neither under oath nor given legal warnings about self-incrimination, will not stand up as evidence in court.

As critical as he is of the authorities in Northern Ireland, Moloney said it wouldn’t have gotten this far if the US Department of Justice had rebuffed British authorities who asked their American counterparts to gain custody of the BC tapes, or if BC officials were willing to risk fines and even imprisonment to defy the government.

What a mess. An American university has been unwittingly and unwillingly used by a foreign government, with the acquiescence of the US government, to build a criminal case.

Oral history and academic freedom are dead and gone.”

The author Ed Moloney has suggested on several occasions that the pursuit of the forty-year old McConville case by Britain, and particularly by the PSNI or the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland, has more to do with the settling of old scores than any concerns over justice delayed. During the Irish-British conflict from the late 1960s to the early 2000s the RUC, the much-feared predecessor to the PSNI, incurred thousands of casualties amongst its officers while combating the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army and others. Though that came to an end with the Peace Process of the late-to-mid 1990s the negotiated settlement also brought about an end to the RUC. However despite promised reforms many hardcore RUC men were kept within the ranks of the new PSNI or subsequently rejoined it when the political spotlight moved on to elsewhere. Under their influence, and that of some senior British government officials, retribution upon former opponents has become a primary impulse of law and order in the north-eastern region of Ireland.

This post-conflict vendetta is one that anti-Sinn Féin elements of the Irish and British media have proven eager to pursue with little thought for the consequences (which in this case is a not inconceivable eruption of renewed armed conflict). Nor is SF itself blameless. Elected members of the party, notably Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, have been less than honest with their electorates and the Irish people as whole. While there were good reasons for their obfuscation during and in the immediate aftermath of the war those reasons are looking increasingly threadbare now that we have had over a decade of (near) peace. Furthermore Sinn Féin’s willingness to see former, now rival, Republican comrades and colleagues thrown to the PSNI wolves is less than edifying.

All this is not to excuse the Republican movement of any wrongdoing when it comes to the central issue of Jean McConville’s death. It is clear that after a considerable debate McConville was executed/killed/murdered by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army on the orders of senior officers within the organisation, her body hidden and her relatives left with no (honest) account of what had happened. Repeated claims by the news media in Ireland and elsewhere that McConville was killed because she had lent aid to a British soldier wounded outside her home by a sniper are completely unfounded. It simply never happened, as a 2006 investigation by the Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan made clear. Indeed the belief that such a gesture of simple human decency would elicit the ultimate penalty says much about the wilful ignorance of the conflict by observers both in Dublin and London. While the O’Loan examination went on to find no evidence of McConville communicating with the British Forces, and specifically denied that she was a known informer, it did reveal that the British Army had initially insisted that her disappearance was a hoax or later that she had willingly deserted her children and was living elsewhere in Ireland. Whether that reflected poor intelligence or something more sinister has never been established (certainly such rumours may have originated with the IRA in an effort to confuse any potential investigation though local people were aware of her execution and the reasons behind it within weeks).

Unfortunately Britain has prevented access to selected British Army records relating to this period by journalists and members of the McConville family which is why so much of the case remains in the realms of speculation. In an unprecedented move the so-called “war diaries” of the First Gloucestershire Regiment, which was garrisoned in the Divis area of Belfast where McConvile lived, have been placed under an embargo until 2059. Of the nine British Army units to have toured in the locality during the early 1970s the “Glosters” are the only unit to have its records sealed for a remarkable span of one hundred years.  To compound the suspicions of many the Gloucestershire Regiment was noted in contemporary media accounts  for its “gung-ho” counter-insurgency tactics, actively confronting both Republicans and the civilian population in general, while boasting within army circles of its intelligence gathering capabilities. Remarkably in 2012 the former ombudsperson Nuala O’Loan admitted that the existence of the Gloucestershire war diaries were kept hidden from her initial 2006 investigation and that they now must be made public.

However, that aside, we do know that back in the early 1970s no serious investigation was carried out by the RUC into Jean McConville’s disappearance until some considerable time after her death (and that the subsequent investigation was thrown off track by the misinformation supplied by the British military – and the First Gloucestershire Regiment in particular – despite the RUC’s more informed sources who correctly guessed what had happened). The evident reluctance of the British to address the disappearance of Jean McConville in 1972/3 remains the subject of much discussion, both fair and unfair.

A rare photograph of a soldier from the First Gloucestershire Regiment taken inside the Divis flats, Belfast 1972, the home of Jean McConville. The "walkie-talkie" radio he is using is of the same type that McConville was allegedly caught with by (P)IRA, possibly a Stornophone model.

A rare photograph of a soldier from the First Gloucestershire Regiment taken inside the Divis flats, Belfast 1972, the home of Jean McConville. The “walkie-talkie” radio he is using is of the same type that McConville was allegedly caught with by (P)IRA, possibly a Stornophone model.

The Irish Republican Army is adamant in its counter-claim that Jean McConville was a paid informer who had been arrested and warned about her activities following the discovery of a British-supplied military radio transmitter (a so-called “walkie-talkie“) in her possession several weeks before her death. Though we cannot be sure it seems likely that she was seized by the IRA’s Belfast Brigade the day before her known disappearance, interrogated (perhaps beaten) and then released, almost certainly in relation to the uncovering of a replacement radio transmitter at her home. That would match British military reports and statements from some of her family relating to the discovery of a woman likely to be McConville in streets near her home in a state of some distress and confusion the day before she was abducted. With overwhelming evidence of her spying in its hands the local Brigade HQ Staff of the IRA discussed what to do next, in part spurred on by fears that Jean McConville would be spirited away to safety by the British now that her cover was truly blown or that she had further knowledge to impart to the enemy (her son, Robert McConville, was a member of the Official IRA and detained in the infamous Long Kesh concentration camp at the time of her death. During this period the OIRA and PIRA were bitter rivals, especially in Belfast and McConville remained a committed Republican activist going on to serve with the insurgent INLA).

Jean McConville’s refusal to heed the warnings given her and suspicions that her actions had already caused losses led to a majority favouring the death penalty. This resulted in her seizure the next day by female Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army and her eventual transportation across the border to the spot where she was shot dead and buried in a pre-dug grave. Or at least we can suppose that is the sequence of events. The truth is, of course, that everything to do with the killing of Jean McConville is supposition. We simply don’t know what happened during that dreadful period some forty years ago. However, as yet, no one has produced a plausible reason for the controversial killing of a mother of ten from an intensely close-knit community beyond that offered by the killers themselves. Nor have the circumstances surrounding the uncovering of her alleged spying been examined in any detail with some fingers pointing to family members as the source for the IRA’s information about her covert activities. Finally, if the allegations did prove true what of the British Army’s role in persuading an impoverished widow to risk her own life in return for financial gain, even after she had been discovered by the very people she was informing on?

The only legitimate way to end yet more years of speculation and anguish for the McConville family is for the governments of Ireland and Britain to agree a general amnesty that will allow all participants to the conflict, willing or otherwise, to give truthful testimonies free of fear or repercussion. Only then will we learn the truth about Jean McConville. Or about Gerry Adams.

Pat Finucane – A Victim Of Britain’s State-Sponsored Terrorism In Ireland

A memorial to Pat Finucane, the Irish human rights lawyer assassinated by British state-sponsored terrorists in the Occupied North of Ireland, 1989

A memorial to Pat Finucane, the Irish human rights lawyer assassinated by British state-sponsored terrorists in the Occupied North of Ireland, 1989

On the 12th of Februaray 1989 the respected Irish civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane was sitting down to a Sunday dinner in his north Belfast home with his wife Geraldine and their three young children. Pat was a northern Roman Catholic from a large working-class Nationalist family and Geraldine a northern Protestant from a middle-class Unionist background both of whom had met and fallen in love while attending Trinity College in Dublin. Suddenly there was a hammering at the front door of the house as two masked gunmen used a sledge-hammer to smash their way in. Both men were members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (or UFF), the largest British state-sponsored terrorist group in Ireland which operated under the legal cover of a militant Unionist group known as the UDA which the British government refused to declare illegal until 1992, two decades after it began a campaign of terrorism against the Irish people.

Pat and his wife rose from the table but as he stepped into the doorway of the kitchen a series of loud bangs rang out. The impact of two bullets striking his torso slammed the 39 year old father of three back into the room and he dropped helpless to the floor as Geraldine, also wounded, fell into an adjacent corner of the kitchen. As the screaming children, two boys and a girl, scrambled under the table to hide themselves the British terrorists rushed forward firing a total of twelve rounds into Pat’s face at almost point blank range from a Browning 9mm automatic pistol taken or supplied by the British Army, rendering his head virtually unrecognisable. The gunmen then ran from the house leaving the slain lawyer, his injured wife and traumatised children behind lying in a pool of blood and gun smoke.

Within hours of Pat Finucane’s death political and media circles in Belfast and Dublin were awash with rumours and accusations of British state involvement. The speedy declaration by the UFF that they had murdered the lawyer simply added to the rumour-mill, as the terror-gang’s role in Britain’s counter-insurgency war in Ireland was common knowledge. Soon the lengthy record of death threats against Pat by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the notorious paramilitary police force the British government later agreed to disband as part of the Peace Process, became known.

After years of high-profile scandals the pressure from human rights groups (including Amnesty International), the government of Ireland, the United States’ Congress and other International partners, forced the British state in 2001 to arrest and try a suspect for the killing, one William Stobie. This former British soldier was already known to be a UFF armourer and supplier of weapons but he was also revealed as an agent of the RUC liaising within the UFF on their behalf. His eventual trial for participating in Pat Finucane’s murder collapsed in chaos and embittered by the process he pledged to publicly name the RUC police officers behind the UFF terror campaign. Within months he was dead, shot down outside his home in December of 2011 before he could give any further details. Various British terrorist factions claimed credit for his assassination though many questioned the true identity of his killers.

Nick Greger, a leading British fascist, poses with the infamous Johnny Adair, a former senior British terrorist with the UDA-UFF terror group

Nick Greger, a leading British fascist, poses with the infamous Johnny Adair, a former senior British terrorist with the UDA-UFF terror group

In contrast a second man suspected of involvement in the killing, the infamous British terrorist Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair, managed to escape arrest for the murder despite evidence of his participation. Adair, a former skinhead and Neo-Nazi who boasted of deriving sexual pleasure from killing Irish men and women, fled to Britain in 2003 as his opposition to the Peace Process and push to control the lucrative drugs trade in the north-east of Ireland led to internecine warfare amongst the British terror gangs. There he became a close associate of a number of Far Right extremists, including leaders of the National Front, Combat 18 and the BNP. However before his exile a British government investigation by the London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens revealed that Adair had become close friends in the 1990s with the then head of British Army Intelligence in the North of Ireland. Through this relationship British Intelligence officers passed on dozens of files to the Unionist death squads, as well as weapons and financial “assistance”. For many years after fleeing Ireland, despite no employment or visible means of income, Adair and his family continued to live in relative affluence and safety in Britain.

A third suspect, Ken Barrett, was arrested and charged in 2004 for the murder of Pat, some fifteen years after the assassination. However the PR disaster for the British state deepened when it was revealed that Barrett was a former RUC police officer and another serving agent of the RUC in the UFF terror group. His previous open boasts to the media of having been directed and assisted by the paramilitary police in the murder only added to the British government’s woes. In 2006, after serving just two years of a 22 year sentence for Pat’s murder, Barrett was released from prison in the North of Ireland and immediately travelled to an unknown destination in Britain.

But now it seems that one of the darker episodes of Britain’s “Dirty War” is being brought a little further into the light after a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Britain forced the British government to initiate and publicise the findings of a new report by an internal investigative panel led by Sir Desmond de Silva, a former United Nations’ war crimes investigator.

Though, as will be seen, the report still manages to conceal more than it reveals.

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

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

The key conclusions include the following acknowledgements:

  • There was a continuous supply of information from the British state to the British terrorist groups in the North of Ireland over a period of many years. In fact, concludes the report, by the mid-1980s up to 85% of all intelligence information gathered by the UFF / UDA alone was supplied to them by the RUC, British Army and the British Security Service (MI5).
  • The British authorities took no action in relation to numerous intelligence reports which outlined a number of future terrorist attacks by the Unionist gangs, with the paramilitary police and Intelligence services ignoring or concealing such information.
  • British agents employed or working on behalf of the RUC, British Army and MI5 played “key roles” and actively “furthered and facilitated” the murder of Pat Finucane and others.
  • Following the murder there were no attempts by the RUC or British authorities for a long period of time to investigate or arrest known suspects belonging to the UFF / UDA for their participation in the assassination.
  • Serving or former members of the RUC, British Army and MI5 Army persistently lied or attempted to deceive investigators. Several senior British Army officers provided  highly misleading and inaccurate information.

From RTÉ:

“A review into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 has found that actions by employees of the British state “actively facilitated” the killing.

Mr Finucane was shot dead by loyalists [British terrorists] in front of his wife and children in February 1989.The report by Desmond de Silva concluded that there was no “adequate framework” for the police and security forces running agents in loyalist and republican gangs.

Mr de Silva said people whom the RUC Special Branch viewed as “thorns in the side” were not warned when threats were made against them.

It found that the British army and Special Branch had advance notice of a series of planned UDA [UFF] assassinations, but nothing was done.

Mr de Silva found that employees of the state and stage agents played “key roles” in Mr Finucane’s murder.

Mr de Silva said “agents of the state were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder”.

He wrote that while there was no “over-arching state conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane,” there was collusion in his killing in terms of the passage of information from members of the security forces to the UDA, the failure to act on threat intelligence, the participation of state agents in the murder and the subsequent failure to investigate and arrest key members of the West Belfast UDA.

The publication of a report provides “the fullest possible account of the murder of Mr Finucane and the extent of state collusion”, British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

He added: “It cannot be argued that these were rogue agents.”He said the degree of collusion exposed was “unacceptable” and said in a message to the family: “I am deeply sorry.” Last Sunday, RTÉ News published details of a 2003 inquiry which showed the RUC had recovered the murder weapon and gave it back to the British army to facilitate its destruction.”

The government of Ireland, whose constitutional duty is to protect the life and property of the citizens of Ireland, has pledged to push for a full independent and international enquiry into the assassination, as also outlined by RTÉ:

“Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has told the Dáil that the Government will continue to call for a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.

Mr Gilmore said that Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine has worked tirelessly on uncovering the truth in her husband’s murder.

The Tánaiste said British Prime Minister David Cameron had shown determination to get to the truth and that his apology to Mrs Finucane followed on from his apology in the wake of the Lord Saville Inquiry.

He gave credit to the acknowledgement by Mr Cameron of the systematic failures in the murder inquiry.

He said that an inquiry need not be open-ended but could be done in a timely fashion.

The Finucane family have said “the dirt has been swept under the carpet” and described today’s report as a sham and a whitewash.

The family said the worst thing about the Desmond de Silva report is that it is a “suppression of the truth”.

The family again called for a public inquiry, and said the case was the “most controversial”, demonstrated the most state collusion and was a case the British “state had most to hide”.

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott is to discuss the de Silva report with the Police Ombudsman and the Public Prosecution Service to see if more people should be held to account for the murder of the solicitor.

He said: “The murder should never have happened. There was a catalogue of failure which needs to be assessed to see if people should be held accountable.”

In a statement, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the de Silva report and David Cameron’s statement acknowledge the “shocking extent of state collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane and the efforts to subvert and frustrate subsequent investigations into that murder”.

He welcomed Mr Cameron’s “clear condemnation of the nature and scale of collusion, and his firm public apology to Geraldine Finucane and her family for all they have endured”.

He continued: “I note that the Prime Minister has indicated that various authorities in Britain and in Northern Ireland are expected to consider the report.”The murder of Pat Finucane was one of a number of cases which gave rise to allegations of collusion by the security forces.

It is a matter of public record that the Irish Government disagrees strongly with the decision by the British government last year not to conduct a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.

Mr Kenny said the Government’s position “has consistently been in accordance with the all-party motion adopted in the Dáil in 2006 which called for a full, independent, public enquiry, as recommended by Judge Cory.”That position is unchanged”, he said.

He said the Government has also supported the Finucane family in their efforts “to ascertain the full extent of collusion behind Pat Finucane’s murder and the subsequent investigations”.

Mr Kenny said he spoke with Mr Cameron this morning before the House of Commons statement, and repeated these points to him once again.

He said he had also spoken to Mrs Finucane today, adding that he knows the family are not satisfied with today’s outcome.”

Of course, despite all the evidence presented, some people are still prepared, eager even, to defend or excuse away the murder of an Irish citizen and a member of the Irish legal profession. Can there be anything more degenerate than the perverse views of the Neo-Unionist apologist historian Ruth Dudley Edwards in the Telegraph?

“…let’s bust the myth that Finucane was a human-rights lawyer.  A human-rights lawyer is someone who disinterestedly protects people from abuse by the state or by terrorists.  Pat Finucane didn’t do that.  He was an IRA lawyer who worked for terrorists against the interests of justice.

The early 1970s in Northern Ireland were terrible times that pushed towards violence many who in a normal world would have led peaceful lives.  Finucane was one of those.  Although Northern Irish, at the expense of the British taxpayer, he studied law at Trinity College, Dublin.

After his death he was canonised by republican propagandists and turned retrospectively into a human-rights lawyer.  It turns my stomach that this man was murdered, that members of the security forces colluded with it and that the murder was carried out in front of his family.   But journalists and commentators should not carelessly adopt the language of propagandists.  Finucane was a lawyer who was a faithful servant of a terrorist group that carried out in his lifetime many hundreds of vicious murders that he himself condoned.

The British state has admitted its wrongdoing.  It’s time to close the book on Pat Finucane.”

Former British Agent Admits Irish Citizens Were Waterboarded

Photo taken by civil rights activists of an Irish civilian tortured by the British military interrogators in the Occupied North of Ireland, 1970s

Photo taken by civil rights activists of an Irish civilian tortured by the British military interrogators in the Occupied North of Ireland, 1970s

I’ve written before on An Sionnach Fionn about the widespread use of torture, both physical and psychological, by the British Forces in the North of Ireland, particularly during the 1970s and ‘80s. Thousands of men, women and children suffered various forms of abuse at the hands of British Army and British paramilitary police interrogators in military and police bases across the north-eastern part of Ireland during the first two decades of the conflict. From beatings in the cells to bound and hooded men being thrown out of hovering helicopters a few meters above the ground the records show countless accounts of brutality. Later these practices of torture were modified through the use of “special techniques” – psychological torture to you and me. The first victims were known as the “Guinea Pigs” and the effects of their treatment remains with them to the present day.

Incredibly, just as with the use of torture by the United States in its so-called War on Terror, all these actions were given official, legal sanction by both the British government and the British judiciary. What other nation in the western democratic world would permit the legalised torture of people it claimed were its citizens? What other nation would permit the creation of torture centres for the incarceration and “processing” of people it claimed were its citizens? Well, up to the 2000s that is.

Interestingly, despite numerous specific cases being catalogued and reported on by several international investigations (including by the United Nations Committee Against Torture, Amnesty International and the US Congress), the British state continues to deny that any campaign of systematic abuse occurred in the first two decades of Britain’s Dirty War in Ireland. Even a condemnatory ruling by the International Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg brought little recognition from British authorities. Yet, every now and again, things slip out that reveal just how widespread and matter-of-fact the practices of torture were.

Eddie Carmichael, an Irish Republican prisoner beaten by British troops guarding the infamous Long Kesh concentration camp in October 1974

Eddie Carmichael, an Irish Republican prisoner beaten by British troops guarding the infamous Long Kesh concentration camp in October 1974

The latest is a tiny, if informative, admission by Harry Ferguson, a former agent with the British Intelligence Service or SIS (colloquially MI6), now turned writer and historian. Here he is in the Huffington Post UK discussing the use of torture by the United States and its proxies, when out trips this admission:

“As to the morality, British reasoning is simple: we don’t use torture because it doesn’t work. Like the CIA we had to learn the hard way. In Northern Ireland, IRA terrorist suspects were waterboarded in the 1970s. Even using such techniques, it took time to overcome the subject’s resistance and by then the intelligence gained was virtually worthless. Intelligence is nothing if it is not timely.

Instead modern spies are taught that interrogation is a game of time – and it is something that those IRA suspects who were water boarded understood just as well. From the moment an agent is picked up and his loss is reported, the service is working to establish who and what might be compromised. Other agents will be moved, codes will be changed and, if necessary, entire operations will be closed down. You are not trying to hold out forever. You are holding out for as long as you can. You know that every minute before you break can be counted as another life saved.”

Of course what Ferguson fails to point out is that the majority of the Irish “suspects” formally tortured by the British Forces in Ireland between 1970 and 1979 were entirely innocent people. In fact, an estimated 80% of the men, women and children in that period who were “interrogated in depth” (the official British euphemism) were later evaluated as having had little to no information to impart. Which makes those interrogations less about seeking out counter-insurgency intelligence from enemy combatants than punishing and intimidating the civilian community which hosted them. One by one.

Finally, you may wonder why I use the words “formally tortured” in the paragraph above? That is because the British Forces inflicted thousands of informal tortures throughout the British Occupied North of Ireland, and throughout the lifespan of the conflict. Take this recent account from the Irish singer and celebratory Brian Kennedy of his childhood in Belfast under the British regime, and the casualness of abuse by the British troops – even against schoolchildren:

“Brian recalls how he himself felt the ire of British soldiers.

‘One asked me something and out of pure contrariness I started answering him in Irish. He put his gun right to my balls and he goes, ‘Paddy, you better start speaking in English’.’

Did he have a hatred for the British back then?

‘I hated how scary it was. They could stop you at any time and ask you were you were going, when you were coming back — and clearly I was going to school. They got into an awful habit of making you take your shoes off and socks off to search you in the freezing cold in the morning. Then they would say all these awful things about your mother, about your sister — and that was just so you could get beyond them to get to school.’”

He later forgave his abusers and moved on, finding indeed in Britain itself a career and liberation of sorts. Well away from the coal face of the Irish war zone, though.

So, that was then, and this is now. But what has changed? Have the British officially admitted the use of physical and psychological torture against thousands of Irish citizens who found themselves trapped under continued British jurisdiction in the North of Ireland? Has the Irish government, their government, sought redress and compensation for their grievances? And what of the torturers? Not one British subject has served one day or even one minute in prison for the campaign of terror unleashed in the military and paramilitary installations in the north-east of Ireland. Indeed many have instead found themselves promoted or rewarded within the British Armed Forces, paramilitary police (the then RUC and its PSNI successor) and Intelligence community (MI5, MI6 and all the other abbreviations).

And, to borrow a phrase from elsewhere, they haven’t gone away you know.

The Murder Machine – The British War In Ireland

Several weeks ago I examined the acquittal in a British-run court in the North of Ireland of the long-time Irish Republican activist Colin Duffy. Following years of imprisonment while awaiting trial (colloquially known as “internment on remand”) he was found not guilty of the killings of two British soldiers shot dead during an attack on the Masserene Military Base outside Belfast by the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA). For Duffy and his supporters it was a validation of his claims to innocence and further evidence of a campaign of persecution conducted against him by the British state since the late1980s.

In the light of those developments I examined some of Colin Duffy’s history, in particular the attempted murder of Duffy and two other Republicans some twenty years previously. In March 1990, shortly after attending an appointment at a British paramilitary police base of the then Royal Ulster Constabulary (later reformed as the Police Service of Northern Ireland), Duffy and his companions, Tony McCaughey and Sam Marshall, were attacked by a group of British terrorists. Leaping from a car two British gunmen opened fire with a hail of bullets from automatic assault rifles wounding Sam Marshall who fell to the ground, while Duffy and McCaughey narrowly managed to escape. The badly injured 31 year old father was then shot to death as he lay defenceless on the street.

Returning to their vehicle the terrorists sped off, apparently “escorted” by a second car identified by several witnesses as a red Maestro. In 1999 a news documentary for the BBC revealed that the second vehicle was in fact a registered undercover car manned by members of British Military Intelligence and that a number of soldiers were present both on foot and in other vehicles observing the attack. These revelations further fueled already existing allegations that the assassination attempt was the result of co-operation between elements of the British Forces in Ireland and their British terrorist counterparts. The Irish Examiner now brings us the latest revelations in this ongoing scandal:

“…undercover British soldiers were at the scene of a high-profile killing carried out by loyalist paramilitaries in the North, a dramatic new report has revealed.

The revelations centre on a controversial attack where three republicans were ambushed minutes after they left a police station in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in 1990.

Former republican prisoner Sam Marshall was killed in a hail of automatic gunfire, but the presence nearby of a red Maestro car, later found to be a military intelligence vehicle, sparked claims of a security force role in the killing.

The presence of the Maestro, and questions over how the loyalists knew when the republican trio would be leaving the police station, sparked major controversy in the 1990s and led the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) and government to deny anything suspicious had taken place.

A review of the unsolved case by the police Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has now found:

  • At least eight undercover soldiers were deployed near the killing, with their commander monitoring from a remote location;
  • The armed military intelligence personnel at the scene were in six cars, including the noted red Maestro;
  • Two plain-clothed soldiers with camera equipment were in an observation post at the entrance of the police station as the three republicans arrived and left;
  • Two undercover soldiers followed the republicans on foot, and were within 50-100 yards of the attack, but said they did not to see the killing in which the gunmen fired 49 shots;
  • After the two masked loyalists jumped from a Rover car and started shooting, the troops did not return fire, claiming it was out of their line of sight and too far away, but alerted colleagues who launched an unsuccessful search for the killers. Despite being in a republican area, the soldiers make no reference to feeling at risk from the gunmen.
  • The killers’ guns are believed to have been used in four other murders and an attempted murder. Weapons of the same type have been linked by police to seven further killings and four attempted murders carried out in 1988/89;
  • The RUC found gloves near the gang’s burned-out getaway car, but the gloves were subsequently lost;
  • The RUC sought to deny the existence of a surveillance operation by giving “misleading or incomplete” statements. But RUC Special Branch had briefed the undercover troops;
  • Investigators could not rule in, or rule out, that the RUC leaked information to the loyalists.”

In a further twist to the story it has now been revealed in the Irish Times that the rifles used in the attack were part of a consignment of weapons from Apartheid-era South Africa smuggled into Ireland by British Intelligence agents to arm the British terror groups operating here.

“The guns used to kill Sam Marshall were from a haul smuggled into Northern Ireland by a top security force agent, the murdered man’s family has claimed.

Brian Nelson was a leading member of the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and a prized asset of military intelligence.

He has been linked to a string of controversial killings, including the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989.

…the family obtained a copy of the original RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) report on the killing, after the document was handed to a US court as part of an extradition case in 1993.

* It confirmed the guns were VZ58 automatic rifles, similar in appearance to the infamous AK47 weapon.

* Victims groups have said the rifle model was among a consignment smuggled into Northern Ireland for use by loyalist paramilitaries in the late 1980s with the help of Brian Nelson.

* The rifles formed part of a major arms shipment from South Africa and the entire stockpile has been linked to 95 of the estimated 225 loyalist murders carried out in the six years following the arrival of the cache.

The family further claimed that by comparing information with other victims of loyalist violence, they have directly linked the guns that killed Sam Marshall to four other murders and an attempted murder.

The Marshall family has also questioned whether the description of a man seen acting suspiciously near Lurgan police station on a previous bail signing by the three republicans matched that of Robin Jackson.

The leading UVF member, known as “The Jackal”, featured in a recent HET report on the murder of members of the Miami Showband pop group in 1975, which pointed to collusion by security forces.

Rosemary Nelson, a Lurgan solicitor who took up the Marshall family’s case, was killed by loyalists in 1999 amid allegations of state collusion.”

Britain’s war in Ireland. Pitiless, remorseless, unending.

Guns For Hire – From RIC To RUC

In the 1920s, following the British defeat in Ireland’s War of Independence, many serving members of Britain’ paramilitary police force in Ireland, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), went on to become “guns-for-hire” throughout the waning British Empire. What they failed to do in Ireland, the defeat of an anti-colonial revolution, they attempted to do in many an outpost of the Pax Britannica. The most infamous of these ex-RIC officers were the former gunmen of the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve (the loathed Black and Tans) and the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (the notoriously barbaric Auxies). Many ended up in the Middle East fighting with Britain’s Palestinian Police Force, the Transjordan Frontier Force and other paramilitary outfits against Arab and Israeli nationalists while others served in India and the Far East.

A decade after Britain’s compromise peace in the North of Ireland some former members of the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of the country, the hated Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), are once again turning up in Britain’s overseas conflicts, in an eerie rerun of history. Journalist and Irish civil rights activist Eamonn McCann touches upon this in an article for CounterPunch:

“Norman Baxter may find policing in Kabul these days more congenial than policing in Belfast. The former RUC and PSNI Detective Chief Superintendant is one of a number of senior Northern Ireland police officers who have decided that the new, reformed force is not for them, have taken redundancy and signed up with a private firm of “security consultants” with a contract from the Pentagon to help train the new Afghan police force.

Since leaving the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2008, Baxter has spoken and written of his anger and frustration at changes which have seemed to him to belittle the sacrifices of Royal Ulster Constabulary in the long fight against the IRA and at policies brought in under the peace process which he believes now hamper the force in its continuing fight against terrorism. A year and a half ago, Baxter joined New Century, founded and led by Belfast-born Tim Collins, a commander in the Royal Irish Rangers.

He has been joined in the upper echelons of New Century by a cluster of colleagues, including Mark Cochrane, former RUC officer in charge of covert training; David Sterritt, a 29-year RUC/PSNI veteran and specialist in recruitment and assessment of agents; Joe Napolitano, 25 years in the RUC/PSNI, retiring as a Detective Inspector running intelligence-led policing operations; Raymond Sheehan, 29 years a Special Branch agent handler; Leslie Woods, 27 years in the RUC/PSNI, with extensive Special Branch handling the selection, assessment and training of officers for covert intelligence-led operations. And many others.”

The whole article is essential reading for anyone wanting to know why the echoes of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland continue to rumble so loudly. And why it continues to be unfinished business.