In the late 1980s and early ‘90s British terrorist groups in the north-east of Ireland began to justify their attacks on the Irish nationalist population in the contested region – and elsewhere – by briefing the domestic and international news media with intelligence information supplied to them by the UK’s “security forces”. Literally thousands of documents from British military and police sources were produced by the UDA-UFF , UVF and other terror factions naming individuals and locations targeted by so-called “Loyalist” gunmen and bombers. In essence these organisations were stating in public what was long accepted in private: that they were functioning as an integral part of Britain’s counter-insurgency war against the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army and the communities which supported it.
Under pressure at home and from overseas, notably from the governments in Dublin and Washington, the UK authorities permitted a limited investigation into what they characterised as “leaks” under the leadership of Lord John Stevens, a senior police officer from Britain. The subsequent Stevens Inquiries, as they are now known, stretched on for years, becoming notorious for the obstruction, falsehoods and intimidation that Stevens and his team of English detectives were confronted with in dealing with the locally-recruited Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the British army, and the security service MI5. In one of the more bizarre incidences the team’s research room in the vast and heavily-defended RUC base at Carrickfergus was firebombed following the disabling of the smoke and heat sensors, the severing of the internal telephone lines, and the removal of fire-fighting equipment, setting the investigation back by months. While John Stevens initially failed to undercover hard evidence of what the British termed “security force collusion”, over a decade of investigations led him to conclude that “collusion” had not just been widespread but in many cases had been the norm.
Now a BBC TV documentary, “Panorama: Britain’s Secret Terror Deals”, has outlined the staggering scale of co-operation between the British Forces in Ireland and their terrorist counterparts in the fight against (P)IRA. It was not one “bad apple”, or many bad apples, as most British politicians and journalists used to claim, but rather it was the policy of the UK state itself: to shoot, bomb and terrorise its own supposed citizens.
“British security forces had thousands of agents and informants working inside Northern Ireland paramilitary groups, the BBC’s Panorama has learned.
The undercover operatives were recruited by the Army, MI5 and Special Branch and many were involved in criminality and murder.
Ex-Met Police commissioner Lord Stevens said the agents caused huge problems in Northern Ireland.
The government says collusion with paramilitaries should never happen.
Lord Stevens led three government investigations into the security forces in Northern Ireland and has revealed the scale of the counter-intelligence operation for the first time.
Lord Stevens also told BBC Panorama that thousands of agents and informants were recruited during the Troubles, and that just one of the agents – Brian Nelson – may be linked to “dozens and dozens” of murders.
During his investigations in Northern Ireland, Lord Stevens and his team arrested 210 paramilitary suspects. He says that 207 of them were agents or informants for the state.”
Let us just pause there for a moment and contemplate those last two sentences. Of 210 suspected militants arrested in the Stevens Inquiries, 207 proved to be agents of the British state. That is they were individuals working for one or more branches of the British military, paramilitary or intelligence forces in Ireland.
From the Guardian newspaper:
“Lady Nuala O’Loan, the former police ombudsman in the region, branded informers who were allowed to commit crimes including murder while in the pay of the British state as “serial killers”.
O’Loan said the state allowed their agents to kill. “They were running informants and they were using them.
“Their argument was that by so doing they were saving lives, but hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people died because those people were not brought to justice and weren’t stopped in their tracks,” she said. “Many of them were killers and some of them were serial killers.”
Commenting on these latest allegations of collusion between paramilitary organisations and their security force handlers, Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s programme director for Northern Ireland, said: “The breadth and depth of collusion being alleged here is truly disturbing. Killing people targeted by the state, using intelligence provided by the state and shooting them with guns provided by the state – if all this is proven, we’re not talking about a security policy, we’re talking about a murder policy.”
The programme, Britain’s Secret Terror Deals, focused on links between the RUC, army and MI5 with the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force, but also explored allegations from the families of those killed by the IRA that in some cases those involved in murdering their loved ones were informers for the British state.
Panorama’s reporter Darragh MacIntyre also revealed that an AK47 assault rifle used in a sectarian massacre of Catholics in 1992 ended up in an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London to mark the carnage of the Troubles.
The weapon was used in the UDA killing of five Catholics in a betting shop on the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast.”
In a statement from Amnesty International it is pointed out that the:
“…British security forces (army, MI5 and Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch) operated with thousands of agents and informants working inside paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, with many of these individuals directly involved in criminality and murder.
Just one of the paid army agents, Brian Nelson, provided assassination targets for the three main Loyalist paramilitary groups – the Ulster Freedom Fighters, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando – as well as providing weapons for the killings. Nelson was involved in importing hundreds of AK47s, grenades and rocket launchers from South Africa in 1988, with the weapons then channelled to the illegal paramilitary groups.”
Of course those weapons smuggled in from apartheid-era South Africa were procured through the help and co-operation of the UK intelligence services, mainly MI5 and elements of British military intelligence.
If you have been reading or following An Sionnach Fionn for the last four years none of these claims will be new to you. I have been reporting the history of Britain’s counter-insurgency war on this island nation in a series of articles and posts going back to 2011. From British torture-centres to British death-squads ASF has examined and detailed them all. It is good to finally see the corporate news media – whether in the UK or Ireland – finally catching up and doing a job they should have done decades ago. For when it comes to sustaining and prolonging the Long War of 1966-2005 they are as guilty as any politician or soldier. On any side.
Update: The BBC documentary “Britain’s Secret Terror Deals” is below (this video is hosted on YouTube, not ASF).