One might well regard it as forty years and several hundred deaths too late but RTÉ, Ireland’s public service broadcaster, seems to have finally recognised the need to investigate and report on the details of Britain’s historic “dirty war” in the north-east of the country. Perhaps it is the passing of an older generation of British-sympathisers within the corporation, men and women who formerly maintained a censorious grip on the network’s news and current affairs department, which has allowed ordinary journalistic ethics to come to the fore, free of ideological concerns? Or perhaps it is simply the times we live in, a post-invasions’ world, where the cynicism and disbelief created by the fatuously-named “War on Terror” has inspired others elsewhere to look again at the received narratives they were fed by those in positions of authority? Guantanamo today was Long Kesh yesterday, ISIS in the present was the UDA in the past.
Whichever the case RTÉ’s latest feature-length documentary, “Collusion”, has stirred up considerable interest and anger at home – while being studiously ignored in the UK. The programme focuses on so-called “collusion” by the British Forces in Ireland – military, paramilitary and intelligence – with their terrorist counterparts in the militant British or Loyalist factions in the north-east. The term, of course, is a soft-soap description for state-sponsored terrorism, one the news media uses because they are reluctant to claim explicitly what they would have no hesitation in claiming were the nations concerned Iran or Syria. Being a moderately powerful western European nation-state allows Britain to assume an air of innocence while engaging in murder and mayhem in the shadows. Ireland was to the UK what Ukraine is to Russia. The British were simply more subtle – and underhand – in the ways they went about conducting their covert war.
“The British government must face up to its responsibilities in the face of “overwhelming evidence of collusion”, a Northern Ireland victims’ group and a human rights organisation have said.
The Pat Finucane Centre and the Justice for the Forgotten group made the call following the broadcast last night of an RTÉ Prime Time programme…
The programme collated numerous cases where British state forces allegedly colluded with loyalist paramilitaries, going back to the 1970s and running right up to the late 1990s and early 2000s.
It covered cases such as the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, which claimed 34 lives, the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, the “Glenanne Gang”, operating in Mid-Ulster during the 1970s, and the Mount Vernon UVF gang which was allegedly involved in numerous killings from the 1990s.
It also follows on the recent BBC Panorama programme,Britain’s Secret Terror Deals, which examined the extent of British security force collusion…”
In this preview by the regional Belfast Telegraph we are told that:
“A top RUC officer raised the issue of paramilitary collusion personally with Margaret Thatcher but his concerns were ignored, an explosive new documentary will claim.
Former head of Special Branch Raymond White said that the message he received from the then Government on the use of agents in the dirty war was “carry on – just don’t get caught”.
The British Government’s attitude to running agents and the extent of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces over three decades will be examined next week in a special RTE documentary, Collusion.
The documentary also features:
An interview with former British Security Minister Michael Mates who conceded that the scale of collusion was much greater than he imagined when in power.
Claims from a member of the gang responsible for the Dublin/Monaghan bombings that the intention was to foment a civil war.
An interview with former PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde who said a former head of the Army’s secret Force Research Unit (FRU), Gordon Kerr, should have been put on trial.
Claims from former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan that senior British Government officials attempted to pressure her into halting her investigation into new murders involving collusion.
Such was the extent of collusion in the 1980s the programme claims that an RUC Special Branch officer tipped off a UDA brigadier about an informer – placing the man’s life at risk.”
However there is a familiar name for ASF readers in a related article from the Belfast Telegraph:
“A former RUC officer who was a member of one of the most murderous gangs of the Troubles has said he believed loyalist paramilitaries would have the backing of the security forces in the event of a civil war.
John Weir served in the police but also took part in terrorist activity carried out by the notorious Glenanne gang in south Armagh in the 1970s.
But he told the RTE documentary Collusion that the threat of all-out war at the height of the violence was not a concern.
There were also claims the UDR was lending weapons to the UDA, and ex-Historical Enquiries Team chief Dave Cox said there was a “serious problem” within the former regiment.”
This of course is the same John Weir who made a witness statement to the Gardaí in 1999 detailing the involvement of high-profile RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen in terrorist attacks on the Irish nationalist community during the 1970s and ’80s. Breen was killed in a (P)IRA ambush in 1989, and later eulogised by much of the Irish and British press following the “Smithwick Report”, refusing – quite literally in RTÉ’s case – to examine the controversies dogging the officer’s career.
Perhaps in another forty years Ireland’s national news media might get around to reporting on that particular – and officially sanctioned – case of “collusion” in action?
Update: To view the television documentary “Collusion” please follow the link to watch it on the RTÉ Player.