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Policeman appeared on TV displaying captured IRA weapons after SAS operation

Irish Times
4 Dec 2013

Judge Peter Smithwick said: “Either the IRA did have an extraordinary piece of good fortune, or Harry Breen [above] was the target of this operation. I believe that the evidence points to the latter conclusion.”

The fate of Chief Supt Harry Breen, the most senior RUC officer to be killed in the Troubles, was sealed the day he appeared on television displaying the IRA weapons recovered after the SAS ambush at Loughgall that killed eight IRA members and an innocent civilian.

That was the implicit finding of Judge Peter Smithwick in his monumental 1,652-page report into the murders of Chief Supt Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in an ambush just north of the Border near Jonesborough in south Armagh on the afternoon of March 20th, 1989.

‘Classic IRA operation’

Three IRA members previously and privately in a statement and without the benefit of cross-examination informed Judge Smithwick’s tribunal that the killings were a “classic IRA operation” that involved “no help from anyone at all”.

Judge Smithwick made clear yesterday he did not believe them. His inquiry did not uncover “direct evidence of collusion” but found that one or more unidentified members of the gardaí operating in Dundalk did collude with the IRA, providing information that helped lead to the deaths of the two policemen.

But Chief Supt Breen was the chief target, Judge Smithwick appeared certain. Between August 1988 and the time of the ambush in March the following year Supt Buchanan had travelled on business to Dundalk station 20 or 21 times and was not targeted by the IRA. The judge could only identify one of those occasions – in February 1989 – in which Chief Supt Breen was with him.

Based on his “pattern of travel” IRA members could have tried to kill Supt Buchanan several times but it was Chief Supt Breen they wanted.

‘Target of this operation’

Referring to March 20th, Judge Smithwick reported: “Either the IRA did have an extraordinary piece of good fortune, or Harry Breen was the target of this operation. I believe that the evidence points to the latter conclusion.”

His central findings kept coming back to Loughgall. He believed “that the vast majority of the evidence suggests that the intention was to abduct and interrogate these officers”.

“In the latter respect, the evidence keeps pointing back to the desire of the IRA to acquire information as to how the British security services had gotten advance warning of the IRA ambush on Loughgall police station in May 1987,” he reported.

An IRA informant is almost certain to have tipped off the RUC or MI5 or British army intelligence about the planned Loughgall attack. That led to the IRA’s single worst loss of life when eight men were killed by the waiting SAS, with an innocent man also killed in the relentless gunfire. Judge Smithwick was of the view that the IRA wanted to interrogate Chief Supt Breen to establish the identity of that informant or possibly informants.

The evidence to the tribunal indicates that the IRA may also have had revenge on its mind. In a written statement to the tribunal in February three anonymous IRA members said the “instructions to the ASU [active service unit] were to intercept the car and arrest the occupants, but if that was not possible then they were to ensure that neither occupant escaped”.

The IRA said the two unarmed officers “died instantly in gunfire”. That account did not quite tally with eyewitness evidence given to the tribunal last year. A scrapyard worker who saw the incident described the gunmen letting out “a big roar like a hurrah” as they left the scene, while a schoolteacher said Chief Supt Breen tried to surrender but he was gunned down. She said he “put his hands up and they shot him”.

Chief Supt Breen went on television after Loughgall displaying the IRA weapons recovered from the scene. The IRA said he was so “very well known that this image was etched on every republican’s mind”. June Breen, the officer’s widow, in a statement told the tribunal she felt it was wrong that he had been asked by his superiors to display the weapons as it exposed him to additional danger.

She recalled how on the morning of his death she was ill in bed and that her husband told her were it not for the fact his deputy was off he would stay at home to mind her.

Two officers came to her door

That evening she remembered preparing chops for their dinner and later how two officers came to her door to say he was dead.

“It was very hard to take at the time and sometimes remains so,” she said. Ms Breen also told how her husband had instructed that were he to be killed, the then RUC chief superintendent Sir John Hermon should not attend his funeral. She did not say why. That was the sad human dimension to the killings.

In terms of fallout it seems unlikely that there will be a major negative political dimension to the Smithwick report.

The judge found there was Garda collusion but that it was localised and, it seems, at a low-ranking level. Such corruption is hard to come to terms with, but will hardly damage British-Irish or North-South relations.

Belfast Telegraph
10 Dec 2012

Michael Finucane said he was not surprised to learn the gun that killed his father was given back to the British Army by the RUC

A pistol used in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane was handed back to the British Army by the RUC, previously unpublished papers show.

New details about collusion between the RUC and the loyalist killers who targeted the 38-year-old in 1989 have been revealed in a report.

The unseen chapter from the Stevens Inquiry is highly critical of the RUC’s “inadequate” investigation in the case and found officers deliberately destroyed vital evidence, while exhibits and records could not be found and fingerprints at the scene were not compared against suspects.

It stated one of two murder weapons, a Browning pistol, was recovered by police but then given back to the British army, from where it had previously been stolen by loyalists.

Mr Finucane’s son Michael said he is not surprised by the revelations.

“Unfortunately, many other families are in a similar position to ourselves where they are finding out after the fact because the material has been held back for so long, that what they were told was a diligent and efficient and effective investigation was in fact anything but,” he said.

Four chapters of a report by Sir John Stevens were published in 2003.

In the newly-released nine-page chapter six, entitled Murder Investigation, Mr Stevens criticised the handling of the murder weapon by the RUC.

“This was not a case of administrative oversight, or even some loss occasioned by a lack of care,” he wrote.

“I believe it was a clear and deliberate decision to relinquish control of a key exhibit, resulting in the destruction of vital evidence.

“The lack of records has prevented the identification of the person responsible for this decision.

“The potential consequences of this particular disposal are obvious, with allegations made from the start of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

“The face that the firearm, when recovered, was found to have originated from the army no doubt fuelled that suspicion.”

Stevens added the decision not only compromised a key exhibit, but also put any solider using it legally at risk of being implicated.

Chapter six was released following a four-year battle by RTE reporter Richard Dowling under the Freedom of Information Act in the UK.

Its contents emerged as a mural to commemorate the continuing legacy of Mr Finucane was unveiled close to where he grew up in west Belfast and days before a new report into his death is published.

His widow Geraldine has vowed to keep up a campaign for a full public inquiry into the gun attack regardless of the findings of the review, being carried out by Sir Desmond de Silva.

The Catholic father-of-three was shot dead when loyalist UDA/UFF gunmen used sledgehammers to burst in through the front door of his home in north Belfast in February 1989.

Chapter six also examined the RUC’s handling of the investigation into Brian Adam Lambert, a Protestant killed by loyalists who mistook him for a Catholic.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams described Mr Finucane as a remarkable, extraordinary and courageous Irishman.

He also condemned the British government’s repudiation of the 2001 Weston Park agreement between the Irish and British governments which endorsed a public inquiry and their setting up of the de Silva review.

“Whatever the outcome of the de Silva review all of us have a duty to fully support the Finucane family’s response to it. The family’s demand for a full, transparent and accountable public inquiry is reasonable,’ Mr Adams said at the unveiling of the mural.

The politician recently revealed the de Silva review has also uncovered a loyalist plot to kill him.

29 2012

A person who gave information which may have led to police shooting dead an unarmed IRA man in Northern Ireland almost 20 years ago was later murdered.

The death was revealed by Belfast coroner, Brian Sherrard, ahead of the opening of an inquest into the death of Pearse Jordan.

Pearse Jordan shot dead by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 1992

The 23-year-old was shot in west Belfast in 1992.

His death is one of a number of so-called shoot-to-kill incidents which are being investigated.

While discussing legal matters ahead of next month’s inquest into Mr Jordan’s death, Mr Sherrard said: “There was also some post event information concerning the murder of a person who was thought perhaps to have given information that led to the death or to the operation that culminated sadly in the death of Mr Jordan.

“It was not my view that that, in and of itself, added anything to the inquest and the task that we will face.”

The coroner has been considering 21 files of largely irrelevant material from the Lord Stevens Inquiry into security force collusion.

Mr Sherrard said two documents had emerged which he had considered relevant and which will be distributed to Mr Jordan’s family’s legal representatives.


“There was one officer who was scrutinised to some extent in the course of Lord Stevens’ inquiry but eventually nothing arose with regard to that,” he said.

He said the two documents were picked out by him as he had cause to scrutinise them further.

“Ultimately I felt that there was no relevance to them,” he added.

Barrister for the Jordan family, Karen Quinlivan QC, said she wanted to see them to consider whether further representations should be made.

His case has been delayed because of a string of legal challenges which led to a hearing in the European Court of Human Rights in 2001.

Mr Jordan was shot dead by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 1992.

It was part of a series of events known as security force alleged shoot-to-kill incidents.

The inquest into Mr Jordan’s death is due to start on 6 June.

There is still a series of other matters outstanding including anonymity applications for 11 witnesses at the inquest and the granting of state Public Interest Immunity Certificates, which can prevent the disclosure of information if it would damage the public interest.

An inquiry into security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries by former Metropolitan police chief Lord Stevens revealed the material, which was passed to Mr Sherrard recently.
May 27 2012

Police officers from around the world have attended a church service in Belfast marking the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Most of the 1,100-strong congregation at St Anne’s Cathedral was made up of widows, parents and relatives of deceased RUC officers, as well as disabled and retired members.

They were joined by senior figures including First Minister Peter Robinson, Justice Minister David Ford and Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

The RUC was formed on June 1, 1922, and was awarded the George Cross (GC) in 2009, before it was replaced by the new-look Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2001.

Former Church of Ireland Primate Lord Eames told the inter-denominational event: “The image of the RUC GC as a family in which each part shared the other’s burdens has become even more clear as time has passed.

“The place of the RUC GC in the history of Northern Ireland is assured as our society has moved forward, even as we continue to see the scars so many lives still carry.”

Senior officers from the FBI, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Australian Federal Police and a number of forces from Britain attended.

The service was conducted by the Dean, the very Revd John Mann, assisted by senior clergy from the four largest denominations in Northern Ireland.

The Order of Service contained a special message of support from the Prince of Wales, Patron of the RUC George Cross Foundation. Organisers said a member of the Victoria Cross & George Cross Association also travelled from Australia to take part.

A total of 312 RUC officers were murdered and more than 10,000 injured, with 300 seriously disabled.

13 Feb 2012

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 who became a star of the British tabloid press in 2003 for a stirring speech he is said to have delivered to troops in Kuwait on the eve of their advance into Iraq. (The only record comes from an embedded Daily Mail reporter who claims that she took verbatim notes of the desert oration.)

The inclusion in New Century of a contingent of former NI police officers, as well as British soldiers with experience in covert operations in the North, indicates that Collins’ involvement in Iraq and now in Afghanistan hasn’t occluded his interest in affairs back home. Writing in the Daily Mail a few days after the Real IRA gun attack in Co. Antrim in 2009 which left two soldiers dead, he declared: “The emasculation of the old Royal Ulster Constabulary, once the world’s most effective anti-terrorist force, is largely to blame for this shambles…In its new guise as the PSNI, the force is so riddled with political correctness that many good old-fashioned coppers…have simply been sidelined. Nowadays, these old RUC professionals who haven’t been driven out work for MI5 as collators or clerks but take no part in operations. This is a disgrace.”

Collins’ rationale for throwing the doors of New Century open to those in the RUC/PSNI who hankered after the old days and the old ways is easily understandable. He will have anticipated that the techniques and experience which the RUC and British security services developed over 30 years combating the Provos and other paramilitary groups will have equipped them with the special skills needed to mentor Afghans training to fight the Taliban once Nato forces have left.

Baxter, a high-ranking officer who had become chief liaison officer between the police and MI5 in the North, will have been a natural. 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.

Experience in the North is the single most common factor among recruits to senior positions with New Century.

New Century’s presence in Afghanistan and the involvement of veterans of the Irish conflict briefly surfaced in the mainstream British media last June when a former RUC man working for the company was killed in action in Helmand. Ex-RUC officer Ken McGonigle, 51, a father of four from Derry, died in an exchange of fire with two escaped Taliban prisoners.

Baxter had been a relatively well-known policing figure in the North for some years, regularly interviewed to provide a police view on security matters. His most prominent role had been to head the investigation of the Omagh bombing in August 1998, the most bloody attack of the Troubles. It is widely accepted now that the Omagh investigation was botched to an embarrassing degree – although there is no agreement on where blame lies. Baxter is not alone in believing that political considerations and the protection of security service “assets” North and South were major factors in the failure to bring the case to a conclusion

After leaving the PSNI in 2008, he was able to speak out with less restraint. He took a particular interest in the alleged involvement of senior Sinn Fein figures in IRA activities in the past.

The fact that the policing changes had been specifically designed to coax Sinn Fein into acceptance of the Northern State and thereby into a share of Executive power did nothing to sooth the disgruntlement of police officers resentful of reform. Baxter’s particular animus against Gerry Adams came through in a column in the Belfast Newsletter on March 30 2010, in which he urged the PSNI to launch a new investigation into the Sinn Fein leader’s alleged role in the 1972 abduction and killing of Jean McConville, the mother of 10 whose “disappeared” body was finally located on a beach in Co. Louth in 2003. He appears to have been the first figure of any note – certainly the first with a media presence and extensive police connections – to call publicly for action to subpoena video tapes held by Boston College, Massachusetts, in which two ex-IRA members claim that Adams, as a senior IRA commander in Belfast, had ordered the killing of Mrs. McConville and others of the “disappeared”.

Baxter’s intervention came within 24 hours of the publication on March 29 of “Voices From The Grave ”, the book by Ed Maloney based on interviews with senior IRA figure Brendan Hughes and UVF leader and Progressive Unionist Party politician David Ervine. Both men had recently died, allowing Maloney to publish the material: he had given assurances that none of it would be used while they were alive. The same assurance had been given to more than 20 other former paramilitaries, most of them ex-IRA, who had been interviewed by Maloney and his researcher Anthony McIntyre – himself a former IRA prisoner – and the tapes lodged with Boston College.

In the book, Hughes, once a close personal friend and paramilitary comrade of Adams, told that the man who was now an internationally respected figure had orchestrated the abduction and killing of Mrs. McConville.

“Although Brendan Hughes is now dead,” wrote Baxter in the Newsletter, “his evidence, which was recorded, may provide evidence which could lead the police to build a case for criminal proceedings.” His intense personal feelings were evident in his description of a recent appearance by Adams in a Channel 4 religious programme as “sickening” and in a suggestion that Mrs. McConville may have heard herself condemned “from the lips of a demon of death”.

The level of hatred – it is not too strong a word – of Baxter and many of his colleagues at the new status of individuals they had striven to extirpate from Northern Ireland society was unconcealed. “Sinn Fein and the IRA have a record of human rights abuse that would equal some Nazi units in the Second World War, and yet they currently wear the duplicitous clothes of human rights defenders with such ease.”

The pursuit of Adams and others will be seen by Baxter and his colleagues as unfinished business.

Baxter will have been well aware that a taped record of a conversation with a man who had since died is no basis for charging a senior political figure – or anyone – with murder. In the Newsletter, he urged Mrs. McConville’s family to try instead, or as well, to bring civil proceedings – where the standard of proof is less daunting than in a criminal case. Referring to Mrs. McConville’s daughter, he made a public appeal: “Helen McKendry should not be left in isolation to seek justice for her mother through civil proceedings. Civic society and democratic politicians should come together in a campaign to financially and morally support the McConville family.”

His bitter experience heading the Omagh investigation might have put the option of civil proceedings in Baxter’s mind. He had come to believe that shadowy forces had contrived to thwart his efforts.

At Omagh library in February 2006, Sam Kinkaid, the most senior detective in the North, told a meeting of relatives of the victims that MI5 had known months in advance that a bomb attack was planned for either Omagh or Derry, that one of those involved was an Omagh man whose name was known and that the bombers would use a Vauxhall Cavalier. MI5 passed this information to the gardai in the South, he went on – but not to the PSNI in the North. Baxter was seated alongside Kinkaid as he spoke, nodding vigorously. Kinkaid resigned from the PSNI the following morning.

Meanwhile, the Garda Special Branch had been running an informer who supplied information about a series of planned cross-border bomb raids by the Real IRA. Gardai decided to let a number of bombs through so as not to compromise the identity of the informer. Police in the North were not told about this. So there were no special security measures in place in or around Omagh when the bomb in a Vauxhall Cavalier was parked in Market Street on August 15, 1998.

Even after the explosion, with 29 people dead, none of this information was passed to Baxter’s investigation either.

The only person eventually charged with the Omagh atrocity was Sean Hoey, an electrician from south Armagh. He was acquitted in November 2009. The trial judge, Mr. Justice Weir, then launched a scathing attack on the investigation, accusing the police of “a slapdash approach” and condemning two named officers for “reprehensible” behaviour.

Remarkably, however, none of the relatives of the victims interviewed afterwards blamed Baxter or the men under him. Victor Barker, whose 12-year-old son James had perished in the blast, placed the blame much higher: “It is the appalling inefficiency of (Chief Constable) Sir Ronnie Flanagan that has meant that Chief Superintendant Baxter has not been able to secure a conviction”.

Many of the families were at one with Baxter in believing that the investigation had systematically been stymied by senior figures in policing and politics who had reason to be nervous about the full facts emerging and whose political agenda may have taken precedence over the safety of citizens and the pursuit of the perpetrators.

A number of families took Baxter’s advice and initiated a civil case for compensation against four men they believed had been involved in the bombing. In 2009, the four were found to have been responsible. Two were cleared on appeal. But the families were able to express some frugal satisfaction that at least they’d seen somebody held publicly accountable for the devastation which had befallen them.

It is hardly fanciful to trace Baxter’s loud advocacy of civil proceedings against Adams back to the Omagh experience which had confirmed his belief that “the world’s most effective anti-terrorist force” had been prevented from winning its war against the IRA by the machinations of people with no stomach for the fight. Getting Adams now, whether by civil or criminal proceedings, was a part of getting even.

It was against this background that the British authorities launched legal action to recover the Boston tapes. The suggestion came from the Historical Enquiries Team, established in 2006 to re-examine more than 3,000 unsolved cases of Troubles-related murder. The 100-strong team included Mike Wilkins, head of the Special Branch in Warwickshire in England until seconded to the HET in 2006. He had become HET chief investigations officer by the time he left in September 2010 – to join Baxter as training coordinator for the Afghan project. This was six months after Baxter’s call in the Newsletter for a new police investigation into the McConville case. The interconnections between these events have, inevitably, provided fodder for fevered speculation in Republican circles and on blogs and websites over recent months.

To the dismay of Maloney and McIntyre, Boston College decided not to contest a lower-court order to hand the tapes over. The archive is now in the custody of the court while Maloney and McIntyre continue legal action to try to prevent the material being passed on to the PSNI. It is a matter of speculation what the implication will be for Adams and others who have left paramilitarism behind if the tapes are handed over.

As he looks back on more than 30 frustrating years policing in the North, even as he assumes his new and more wide-ranging – and enormously more lucrative, one imagines – role in the global war on terror, Baxter may take grim satisfaction from the fact that he has some of his old enemies still in his sights. He may be cheered, too, by the thought that he won’t be confronted by the same defeatist attitudes and dark maneuvers in the freewheeling fight in Afghanistan as he faced in the constrained circumstances of Northern Ireland, that this time the good guys will get to win. Of course, he could be wrong about that.

Irish Times
10 Feb 2012

SMITHWICK TRIBUNAL: BRITISH MILITARY intelligence determined the IRA could not have simply seized a spur-of-the-moment opportunity to follow and kill two senior RUC officers as they left Dundalk Garda station, the Smithwick Tribunal has been told.

Retired brigadier Ian Liles who spent 36 years in the British army – 14 of them in senior intelligence positions in Northern Ireland – said about 70 IRA members or sympathisers were involved in the murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan.

The officers were shot in an ambush in south Armagh and the tribunal, which is examining suggestions of collusion between the IRA and members of the Garda in Dundalk, has been told the gunmen may have just been fortunate in spotting the RUC officers.

But yesterday Mr Liles said British army monitoring of IRA radio use in the area had detected a “heightened” and “unusual” level of radio signals from about 11.30am. Mr Liles said the signals indicated the IRA “was on the move” from about 10am. This was before Chief Supt Breen left Armagh to meet Supt Buchanan in Newry, and before both men crossed the Border just before 2pm. They were the most senior RUC officers to die in the Troubles.

Mr Liles said there was discussion in security circles that notice of the operation would have been given to the IRA.

He said security among the IRA in south Armagh was “water tight” and from early in the day “dickers” or watchers would have been monitoring local roads – very likely unknown to one another. He said he believed three possible routes the RUC officers might take on their way back from Dundalk had been “covered” by IRA squads.

The dickers would have been monitoring the roads from early in the day to ensure they were “clean” of RUC or British army personnel. He said the IRA would have never gone into an area without doing so. In addition to the watchers and the assassins, there would have been those who supplied the guns from secure locations.

He said the IRA looked after their guns, keeping them in secure, environmentally protected conditions. “Beaters” would check the hedges in the area for British army undercover personnel before arms were retrieved, he said.

Mr Liles said RUC Chief Supt Frank Murray, who was one of the first to note and express concern about the IRA activity, did not trust the gardaí in Dundalk. He said Mr Murray believed gardaí there leaked information to the IRA. Three former Garda sergeants based in Dundalk at the time are legally represented at the tribunal. They are Owen Corrigan, Finbarr Hickey and Leo Colton. All three deny any involvement in passing information to the IRA about the RUC officers’ visit.

On cross-examination by Michael Durack SC for the Garda, Mr Liles said he did not think the British army had not known in advance of the RUC visit to Dundalk and, while it became aware of unusual IRA radio traffic, it was not conversations, but code. Computer analysis was not available in “real time” at that stage, he said.

The evidence which was heard in private at an earlier date for security was read into the record by tribunal barrister Dara Hayes.

By Eamonn McCann
Belfast Telegraph
27 January 2012

From the dusty wastelands of Afghanistan to Desertcreat in Co Tyrone, the G-men keep the memory of the B-men alive. The B Specials provided a sizeable percentage of the first recruits to RUC Special Branch. Now the FBI is sending its own recruits over here to learn from the Branch’s experience.

The first wave of G-men and G-women anxious to access local expertise gained in the battle against terrorism is expected to arrive at the £140m emergency services college near Cookstown in spring 2015.

“We have a real product to sell here,” said PSNI deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie last month. Facilities on the 250-acre Desertcreat site will be “world class”, she promised. “The FBI and other international law-enforcement agencies are interested in using the facilities for anti-terrorism and public order training”.

Counter-terrorism lore from the fight against the IRA and other paramilitary organisations will be passed on to FBI operatives in state-of-the-art surroundings, including a mock-up prison where conflict between staff and inmates can be re-enacted and a street complex where US law-enforcers can draw on Northern Ireland experience to practice and perfect their crowd control tactics.

What the paranoid schizophrenic cross-dressing closet queen J Edgar Hoover would have made of it all we can but guess. Irish subversives were by no means top of his target list during 48 years as FBI director. The Reds, the Mob and uppity blacks took priority.

But files released four years after his death, in 1976, contained 2,871 pages recording warrantless wiretapping, electronic eavesdropping and so forth directed against suspected IRA fundraisers and gunrunners. Some local veterans sharing their knowledge of conflict at Desertcreat seminars may find the students well ahead of them.

Experience in subverting republican and loyalist paramilitaries is also proving a valuable commodity elsewhere in the war against miscreants trying to subvert the new world order.

Charismatic Iraq war rhetorician Tim Collins’ New Century group last year won a $45m (£29m) Pentagon contract to train the Afghan army and police how to “find and cultivate informants among the Taliban”.

The Intelligence Online website reports that “most of the instructors are not US, but Northern Irish, former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which for many years was in the frontline of Britain’s combat with the IRA.”

The biography for Collins issued by New Century refers only in passing to his Iraq involvement, highlighting instead his experience as “opera- tions officer of 22 SAS and subsequently commander of the Royal Irish Regiment in east Tyrone (Northern Ireland) . . . has worked closely with the Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch . . . assumed command of 1R[oyal] Irish in Jan[uary] 2001, where he led the battalion on operations again in Northern Ireland, for which he was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service.”

Three years ago, Collins wrote in the Daily Mail that, “the PSNI . . . is so riddled with political correctness that many good, old-fashioned coppers – who were expert in terrorism and the communities they worked in – have simply been sidelined.”

He will have had in mind such old-fashioned coppers as retired chief superintendant Norman Baxter, formerly chief liaison officer between Special Branch and MI5, now New Century’s director of doctrine, standards, audit and training.

Mark Cochrane, consultant programme manager (training and compliance) served for 28 years in the RUC/PSNI.

“For over 20 years, he was employed in counter-terrorism duties . . . was the officer in charge of covert police training within the PSNI.”

Human resources manager Steve Smith is a former commando who has “served on eight operational tours in Northern Ireland in support of the RUC/PSNI in areas as diverse as south Armagh and west Belfast”.

New Century’s training co-ordinator in Afghanistan is Mike Wilkins who, from September 2006 to September 2010, was based in Belfast as senior investigating officer with the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

The company’s roster of political advisers is headed by Nancy Soderberg, her intelligence credentials apparently established during her stint as Bill Clinton’s point-woman on the north.

The $45m success of New Century shows what a tradable commodity experience gained in the fight against the IRA and other paramilitaries has become.

Now DCC Gillespie is bringing it all back home and making it available, at competitive rates no doubt, to the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies worldwide.

The two main parties, which together have spearheaded the drive for the Desertcreat facility, will be chuffed at how favourable the auguries now seem.

Gives the lie to begrudgers who claim that the struggle wasn’t worth it and brought nothing worthwhile.

By Vincent Kearney
17 Jan 2012

More than three quarters of civilian staff employed by the PSNI on temporary contracts are former RUC officers who retired under the Patten redundancy scheme.

Nearly half of them are employed in the most sensitive areas of policing, including intelligence, the BBC can reveal.

The rehiring of retired RUC officers is a contentious issue for the PSNI.

Legislation in 2003 stated anyone who left the police with an enhanced Patten package would have to pay back their lump sum if re-employed as a police officer within five years.

But the prohibition did not apply to anyone rehired in a civilian capacity.

For years now, Sinn Fein and the SDLP have been asking the police to provide details of the number of former RUC officers rehired.

Repeatedly they were told it was not possible to provide the details because the PSNI did not keep a record of the past employment of civilian staff.

That position has now changed.

The PSNI has previously revealed that it is currently using the services of 399 staff supplied by a recruitment agency on temporary contracts.

In a letter to the Policing Board, it has now revealed that 304 of them are former RUC officers.

Another document obtained by the BBC reveals that nearly half of them are involved in the most sensitive areas of policing.

Sixty-three retired officers have been rehired by the intelligence branch of the PSNI.

Fifty-nine are working in the department that investigates all serious crime, including terrorist incidents.

A further 19 are working for specialist operations who respond to serious criminal and terrorist incidents.

The PSNI has defended the practice, arguing that it needs the range of highly-specialised skills and experience possessed by the former officers it has rehired.

“They do absolutely fantastic work in some very challenging areas and their experience and expertise is of huge benefit to us,” Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie told a meeting of the Policing Board last week.
Jonathan Craig Jonathan Craig accused critics of engaging in a witch-hunt against former RUC officers

“It makes eminent sense to employ staff of significant experience for a short period of time on a time bound contract.”

She went on to acknowledge that the practice is a matter of public concern and said the police have a plan to reduce the reliance on temporary staff, but not to end it completely.

DUP members of the Policing Board support that position. They say any move to exclude former RUC officers from civilian roles within the PSNI would be discrimination, and they question the motives of the critics.

“Some individuals are determined to have a witch-hunt against former RUC officers who have, through their skills and knowledge base, been re-employed into the police force,” said MLA Jonathan Craig .

“They cannot be discriminated against on any grounds, including their former employment.”

Sinn Fein has asked the government’s spending watchdog, the audit office, to investigate the practice, which it said should cease.

“This is not about a witch-hunt against former members of the RUC,” Policing Board member Gerry Kelly said.

“This is about good policing, this is about good governance of policing, and really you wouldn’t get away with this in any other organisation.

“Many of these former officers are now involved in very sensitive roles, but they are not accountable to the police ombudsman, they are not accountable to the Policing Board, they do not take the police oath and they are not accountable in terms of the code of ethics.

“The question has to be asked, who are they accountable to?”

A former director with the health service who is now an independent member of the policing board said she also has serious concerns about the practice.

Joan O’Hagan is vice chair of the board’s human resources committee.

“My concern is with regard to the governance, accountability and the financial consequences of this action. I do not subscribe in any way to any suggestion of a witch-hunt for former RUC officers,” she said.

“This is a complex issue that I am concerned about. It is not good practice and does nothing for public confidence.”

The PSNI has said it will come back to the Policing Board with details of plans to reduce the number of retired officers employed on temporary contracts by the end of this year.

That is unlikely to be enough for those critics who say the practice should cease completely.

Ed Moloney
The Broken Elbow
16 Jan 2012

–There is a poignant letter in today’s Irish Times from a Fr Joseph McCullough about the way his 17 year-old brother’s 1972 killing in Belfast has been treated by the authorities down through the years, from the days when the RUC controlled policing through to the modern PSNI and Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

He writes: “Like most, if not all, murders of this kind, it remains unresolved. My brother’s killing was never investigated, and requests from my family for relevant reports and information have drawn a complete blank from the RUC/PSNI. They informed my family that no paper work or forensic reports in relation to Patrick’s murder exist. They were apparently destroyed in a police station fire!”–

>>Continue reading the article


Two men arrested on Wednesday in connection with the murder of a police inspector in Rathcoole, County Antrim, nearly 40 years ago have been released.

A 61-year-old man arrested by detectives investigating the murder of Insp Bill Elliott has been released unconditionally.

A 58-year-old man has been released pending a report to the public prosecution service.

Insp Elliott was shot dead whilst investigating a bank robbery in 1974.

The PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch reopened the case into the murder in October 2011 following a review by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

11 Jan 2012

Two men have been arrested in connection with the murder of a police inspector in Newtownabbey in 1974.

Insp Bill Elliott was shot dead while investigating a bank robbery in Rathcoole.

The men, aged 58 and 61, were arrested on Wednesday morning and taken to Antrim PSNI station for questioning.

Insp Bill Elliott was shot whilst investigating a bank robbery

The PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch reopened the case into the murder in October 2011 following a review by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

Insp Elliott, 48, was driving on his own when he heard news that a robbery was under way at the Ulster Bank in the Rathcoole estate.

The RUC officer raced to the scene and died after a shoot-out with members of the Official IRA.

Detectives said they were armed with two submachine guns and a pistol.

Insp Elliott was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Police Medal.

News Letter
10 January 2012

A CRUCIAL witness in an RUC murder investigation in 1976 demanded that he and his family be moved to Australia out of fear of paramilitary reprisals, previously classified files reveal.

The man, whose identity was not released with the files declassified under the 30-year rule, told detectives that he would testify against an unknown Troubles’ victim’s killers.

In a scenario which must have repeatedly occurred during the Troubles, senior detectives met top officials at the NIO in an attempt to persuade them to do everything possible to get the man into a court.

In the file is a February 1976 document stamped SECRET which is a minute of a meeting at RUC headquarters involving a chief inspector, two chief superintendents and an assistant chief constable Meharg. The NIO officials present were Mr Cromey and Mr Laverty.

The meeting was convened to discuss what assistance could be provided to a potential witness in a recent murder case. Another document identifies the “recent” murder victim as “AB” and the potential witness as “CD”. However, it is not entirely clear if these are the actual initials of the individuals.

The potential witness had told police that he would not appear in court unless he and his family could be safely removed from Northern Ireland — first to Great Britain and then to Australia.

Mr Laverty’s minute of the meeting stated: “NIO (B) had previously authorised the removal to a place of safety of families threatened because of assistance given to the police.

“However, the position was now uncertain in view of conditions ruling that the financial controllers’ prior approval must be obtained in all cases and the implication in Mr Gatlish’s letter of August 14, 1975 that only cases with an SB [Special Branch] involvement would qualify for payment out of the SB fund.

“The case now under consideration was purely CID and it would seem that there was no existing provision for the expenditure required to guarantee the witness’s appearance in court.”

It added: “Mr Meharg was seeking specific approval to cover the cost of removing the witness and family to England and if possible from there to Australia.

“The matter was urgent as there was a distinct possibility that the witness would ‘go cold’ on the police.”

At that point one of the NIO officials said that he had clearance from London to send the man and his family elsewhere in the UK but that “Australia was out mainly on grounds of cost”.

Mr Mehrag said that this would be “unlikely to satisfy” the witness and that another potential witness in a similar case wanted removal to New Zealand as he felt unsafe in the UK.

Chief Superintendent Finn then said that it should be borne in mind that “failure to obtain a conviction in the case could lead to further murders and the cost of removal to Australia, high though this might be, could save money in the longer term”.

The NIO officials undertook to re-consult London on both the case in hand and the wider issue of rehousing witnesses.

However, a later handwritten note on the page, seemingly by Mr Laverty, stated that after discussing the issue with a Mr Wakefield the potential witness could only be taken to Great Britain.

The document is one of many in a file ‘Assistance for families threatened as a result of helping the security forces’. Although the file is heavily censored, with chunks of it held back until 2064, it gives some insight into the dilemma facing the RUC and the government over balancing a careful use of public funds with exhausting all avenues to jail murderers.

Another case from the previous year had seen the NIO approve a payment of £2,000 per year to cover help for families at risk of intimidation if they helped the police.

A March 1975 letter from TA Cromey to the chief constable, J Flanagan, said that the NIO had “set up a channel of communication whereby such people can be helped to set up a new home in GB without any attendant publicity”.

He added: “It is worthy of note, I think, that of the seven families assisted in this way none has since suffered the unwanted attention of terrorists.”

In order to protect individuals’ anonymity, records were not kept, however this then appears to have led to problems in identifying who had actually been resettled.

And a confidential January 1975 note from a Mrs Bridget Batchelor at the DOE to a Miss BM Latimer at the NIO in London refers to separate problems with a family removed to England.

The husband got a job, she said, and through government contacts the local council was prepared to offer him a 100 per cent mortgage to buy a house, rather than arouse suspicion by moving the family to the top of the social housing waiting list.

However, the family wanted to move into a house which was £2,500 more expensive than the maximum mortgage which the council was prepared to offer.

She enquired whether any funds were available but added: “We have done all we can, and I’m sure you will appreciate that we cannot expect a council to offer a mortgage which they feel would be too large for the family to undertake.”

By Nuala McCann BBC News
5 Jan 2012

The lives of a former RUC chief constable and a senior IRA commander feature in a new edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Sir John Hermon was chief constable of the RUC during one of the most turbulent periods of the Troubles.

Sir John Hermon

He was in charge during the 1981 republican hunger strikes and the probes into shoot-to-kill allegations.

Brian Keenan ran the IRA’s 1970s English bombing campaign.

He was once called “the biggest single threat to the British state”.

Sir John Hermon died in November 2008.

He was in charge when the RUC suffered its biggest single loss of the Troubles, when nine officers were murdered in an IRA mortar attack on Newry police station in 1985.

He remained a target for republicans long after leaving office. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and a year before his death, he had to be moved from a nursing home because of a threat.

The authors of the new Oxford dictionary said his overriding aim from 1980 was to continue the policy of “Ulsterisation”, expanding the RUC’s capability and acceptability to enable the British army to leave the streets.

“In the mid-1980s Hermon clashed fiercely with John Stalker who led an enquiry into an alleged ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy.

“Stalker believed Hermon held the line by ‘clumsy autocracy’ and resented outside interference. Hermon believed that conventional policing standards, as represented by Stalker, were wholly inappropriate in the circumstances then prevailing in Northern Ireland.”

Former IRA commander Keenan was among those arrested and imprisoned following the Divis Street riots in 1964.

Four years later he joined the IRA, later identifying his principal motivation as the civil rights movement.

Brian Keenan played a pivotal role in the peace process

In 1980, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for conspiracy to cause explosions, but re-joined the IRA army council following his release in the early 1990s.

Though he authorized the 1996 Docklands bombing in London, in July of the following year he supported the calling of a second ceasefire. He was involved in decommissioning talks and took part in weapons talks with Canadian General John de Chastelain, head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said Keenan was pivotal in republican moves that made the peace process possible.

“He was central to securing the support of the IRA leadership and rank and file for a whole series of historic initiatives,” Mr Adams said at his funeral in May 2008.

The Dublin-born diplomat, academic, journalist and politician Conor Cruise O’Brien and the judge Sir Basil Kelly also feature.

Sir Basil conducted a number of celebrated trials, but one of the most taxing was an important supergrass case in 1983, in which almost 40 defendants were charged with terrorist offences. The atmosphere in court was tense and hostile and he was guarded by armed police officers and wore a flak jacket under his robes.

The Oxford DNB is extended in three annual updates published every January, May, and September.

By Chris Moore
4 Jan 2012
**Via Newshound

**Videos onsite

A BRITISH Government minister stood up in the House of Commons at Westminster in October and admitted that the British State colluded with Loyalist gunmen in the murder of a Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

No doubt a chilling moment of truth delivered by Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson from the Dispatch Box in the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ which was overshadowed at the time by the Finucane family’s angry departure from their Downing Street meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron.

In the House of Commons, Mr Paterson made it clear he was speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister and looking on from the sidelines, former Policing Board vice-chairman Denis Bradley recalls what he describes as a muted response to a startling admission.

“The British Prime Minister, in public, admitted to a criminal action on behalf of his predecessors and everyone rubs their beard,” he told the Detail.

“The question is, is collusion ever going to be investigated because it doesn’t look to me at the moment as if it ever is.”

The British government admission and apology on that October day when they told Geraldine Finucane and her family that there was to be no inquiry into her husband’s killing was misguided if they hoped it would silence the clamour for more precise information about who in government had knowledge of collusion.

It is not enough to simply put up their hands to admit criminality and hope campaigners representing families who lost loved ones to murder involving British agents on both sides of the conflict – be it Freddie Scappaticci on the Republican side or Mark Haddock on the Loyalist side.

Both were paid agents of the State – protected species and who were both involved in all kinds of criminality, including murder. And, of course, there were hundreds of them passing on information to the security services.

Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice campaigns for the truth about the ‘secret war’ and he says the truth applies to both sides of the divide.

“Equally we need the truth about Freddie Scappaticci as we do about Brian Nelson,” he told The Detail, “we will have no double standards on that. Yes both families affected or alleged to be effected by his role equally need this matter dealt with.”

He points out that the issue of suspected collusion arises almost on a daily basis. “It is out there if you pick up the papers in the media if you follow the stories,” he said. “It is every day – it is Claudy, it is Kingsmills, Loughinisland, Ballymurphy, New Lodge 6 – it is Pat Finucane, it is Rosemary Nelson, it is Billy Wright. You know we could go on and on and on…it’s there.”

Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory and former leading British policeman Lord Stevens have already implicated the State and its agents in collusion with paramilitaries in murder.

Now Relatives for Justice is campaigning for access to the chain of British command that knew about intelligence agents whether handled by Special Branch or MI5.

Mark Thompson wants to know which State officials charged with protecting the integrity of the State actually turned a blind eye to murder.

To him it is a question of who is culpable. Agents were a dime a dozen, he said, before asking who funded and resourced the intelligence gathering.

He went on: “This was structured and the nature of that structure had to be approved, had to be planned and had to be resourced. And when we start going after agent handlers what we do is very quickly go up that food chain to the people who were part of that process.

“And ultimately now the objective is to protect those agent handlers to prevent that from happening. Sacrifice the loyalists in the dock and keep the immunity and the impunity a live issue for the people who were employed by the State and paid by the State to provide a service protecting the community when in fact they were doing quite the opposite.”

The government’s difficulties in dealing with collusion date back to the beginning of the conflict. But they were certainly compounded in 2007 when the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Nuala O’Loan, presented the world with her damning report into the Mount Vernon UVF gang led by police agent Mark Haddock. Agent Roxy as he was known to his police handlers had been, she reported, involved in at least 10 murders and possibly another five as well.

Bawnmore resident John Flynn met Agent Roxy close up and personal one night in 1992 when the police agent pointed a gun at his head and pulled the trigger. The gun didn’t fire and John Flynn wrestled with Mark Haddock for control of the weapon. He won. Agent Roxy left the scene minus his UVF gun.
Mark Haddock appeared to enjoy special branch protection
Mark Haddock appeared to enjoy special branch protection

And it didn’t end there for John Flynn. Five years later UVF commander Gary Haggarty used his own car in a botched attempt to blow John Flynn to smithereens. The bomb was placed but the bombers were noticed and chased from the estate to the waiting Haggerty.

John Flynn may be unique in that he survived two murder bids by two agents of the State. But whilst he only had suspicions before Nuala O’Loan’s Operation Ballast report was published, she left no one in any doubt that Mount Vernon UVF literally got away with murder.

Mr Flynn told The Detail about the day he listened to Mrs O’Loan’s revealing her report: “I was really devastated when I heard it because nobody actually told me who was responsible for the incident in ‘92 and the incident in ’97. The RUC never came to tell me how any investigating was going. Nothing, they told me absolutely nothing. And then all of a sudden out of the blue she produces this report.”

But like many others visited by the dark shadow of the Mount Vernon UVF during a campaign of murder that left 20 grieving families, John Flynn has been left devastated by the State’s failure to honour the promise it made in the aftermath of the O’Loan report.

His solicitor is Kevin Winters. Mr Winters told The Detail: “The position as I understand it is that Nuala O’Loan’s, in my view, groundbreaking investigation uncovered allegations of collusion involving paramilitaries and the security forces. Pursuant to that there was a requirement on the part of the investigative authorities to commence a meaningful investigation into those allegations of collusion.”

At the time, the then Chief Constable Hugh Orde accepted the findings of the O’Loan report’s recommendation 34.1 which reads:

“This investigation has shown that within the UVF in North Belfast and Newtownabbey there was a network of informants, some of whom held senior positions. There should be a thorough investigation of all crimes whith which those informants have been associated, in the course of which PSNI should re-interview the Secial Branch handlers and controllers who are responsible for them. These officers may have further information about the informants’ criminal offences, which has not been officially documented. Any indication of criminal behaviour by a serving or retired officer which emerges in the course of the PSNI investigations which are initiated, following this Report by the Police Ombudsman, should be referred to the Police Ombudsman for investigation.”

The O’Loan report began after a complaint to her by Raymond McCord that his son was murdered on the orders of UVF leader and police agent Mark Haddock.

Hugh Orde’s response was unequivocal :

“This recommendation is accepted and its implementation is already underway. The Historical Enquiries Team became operational in January 2006. The McCord case was one of the first cases to be given to HET to re-examine, at the direction of the Chief Constable. (This was under one of the exemption criteria from the normal chronological process, as a matter of serious public interest). When HET examines a case, it also looks at others linked to it. The McCord case is one of those examined in this report, and is linked to a number of other incidents. HET will be undertaking a thorough re-examination of these cases contemporaneously because of linking factors. The HET has a good relationship with the Officer of the Police Ombudsman, including regular meetings between senior colleagues. A protocol exists for the referral or relevant matters to the Office of the Police Ombudsman from HET if investigations uncover evidence that points to the involvement of police officers in serious crime.”

So far, so good, according to campaigning solicitor Kevin Winters. But then: “There was something of a convoluted history of this situation in that it was left to the Chief Constable who in turn referred it , quite understandably in my view, to the HET. They dealt with the matter and had commenced a significant investigation and then at a later stage it was transferred from them to a particular section of the PSNI.”

And the fact that the PSNI is currently in charge of the case and has been for some time has upset the families according to John Flynn.

He thinks the decision to remove the HET was a retrograde step: “I think the HET was about to expose things and what they were…maybe gonna interview ex-RUC in relation to this here. Maybe arrest them…I don’t know. But they were about to do something. And then they [PSNI] stepped in and just took it off them.”

As far as Kevin Winters is concerned there’s good reason to be concerned. His view is that the transfer from HET to PSNI caused a “high degree of anxiety and concern on the part of the families who had already been through a significant and trying ordeal over a number of years in terms of trying to get information, the background to the killing of their loved ones.”

He added: “And the central tenet running through the Operation Ballast report rested on allegations of collusion involving members of the security forces so there was a certain perception on one view that it didn’t add up or it didn’t square at all with many families to find that there was a certain assessment that that essentially was the police investigating the police.”

Mark Thompson says he was deeply disturbed by the responses he got at a meeting with a senior officer from the PSNI’s C2 Serious Crime Unit. Operation Ballast became Operation Stafford when the PSNI took it over.

Mr Thompson says he accompanied a number of families to a meeting with Garry Eaton, the then PSNI’s Senior Investigating Officer [SIO] involved in the Operation Stafford investigation.

He told the Detail: “During the course of a 20-minute private meeting with the family who lost two relatives to this gang he told myself and the family he was not interesting in examining the role of police officers whatsoever.

“The conversation came around to us putting to him that if he came across a police officer that was committing a criminal act, engaged in wrong-doing or had information that could have prevented the loss of life and didn’t act or protected a person who was an agent involved in murder, what would he do with that?

“And he stopped us and said ‘I want to make it crystal clear I am not looking at police officers, I am only interested in terrorism and criminality.’”

The PSNI told The Detail that no one was above the law but pointed out that the police did not investigate police – that was the job of the Police Ombudsman.

Referring to the meeting as described by Mr Thompson a PSNI statement said: “It would be wrong to interpret any comments made by police at the meeting referred to as suggesting a lack of concern about police conduct or criminality. The PSNI investigation into a series of murders and other serious crimes by the UVF in north Belfast has been extensive, following on from work initiated by the Ombudsman and then progressed by the Historical Enquiries Team.

“A criminal trial is currently in progress at Belfast Crown Court. It is important to remember that other linked investigations are continuing. In the interests of clarity and fairness, police can give a categorical assurance that any individual suspected of criminality will be investigated, regardless of their occupation, either by PSNI, or if appropriate, by OPONI.”

That statement is unlikely to assure Mr Thompson and the families he represents. They say the Ombudsman’s office is no longer fit for purpose and that it is incapable of investigating collusion. They also believe that having disabled the Police Ombudsman’s office following the devastating O’Loan report, such comments from the PSNI are just part of the process of having no State institution prepared to take ownership of the requirement to investigate State collusion in murder as recommended in 2007 by an official State-approved body, the Police Ombudsman’s office for Northern Ireland.

Mark Thompson has no doubt he has heard that before but continues to demand to know who in the security services knew about terrorism and criminality involving informants and agents of the State but turned a blind eye and how far up the chain of command did the knowledge go?

Mr Thompson referred to the recent experience of the Finucane family in Downing Street. He said: “Very powerful forces are at play in Mi5 and PSNI, C2 intelligence and we need to look at their whole issue of legacy and their alleged involvement in many multiple incidents that happened in which people were killed.

“They are hiding the policy objective that was collusion because it went so high. So in terms of the British Government, they need to protect the people who directed the agent handlers, the managers of the agent handlers because very quickly it goes up the food chair into government and cabinet office.”

Relatives for Justice supports the call made by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley for an independent investigative legacy unit that has an international oversight person to look at it.

Today Denis Bradley warns of difficult days ahead if the issue is not dealt with by the British and Irish governments. He says the governments are detached from the issue because they want local politicians to learn how to govern without interference. But he feels local politicians lack the maturity to manage the legacy of the past.

So, in his opinion, there’s a danger of creating a festering sore that’s unlikely to derail the process of peace but that will cause community division and disruption.

As far as the issue of Cabinet knowledge of what was being done in the name of the State to protect the integrity of the State, Denis Bradley is undecided.

“I have been briefed on a lot of this stuff,” the former vice-chairman of the Policing Board told The Detail, “and I couldn’t make a final judgment on that but I would make the final judgment that horrendous things happened; that the state allowed to happen.

“Whether every Prime Minister or every cabinet minister knew about it is a grey area, but certainly things happened that were quite horrendous… and that the Prime Minister of Great Britain has now said happened… em so the past is not going away very fast, it is dripping into the present, we’re managing to hold it together and keep it going but I think it keeps souring relationships at many levels, and it leaves a lot of people very disturbed and very determined to keep after this until they get to that place were they think their justice or their truth lies.”

He said that that understandable pursuit of the truth must accept the historical differences between the paramilitaries and the State. Paramilitaries do not keep records he said and so the truth is that the real records for the State and for the paramilitaries exists with the State.

He went on: “If you want to find out about Scapatecci you are not going to find out about Scapatecci through the IRA because they didn’t know. The people who know about Scapatecci exist on the State side. Whatever Special Branch knew, whatever MI5 knew. Whoever ran him knows, whatever records are held on that.

“So when people say, what about bringing in the records on the paramilitaries, you can’t bring the paramilitaries in the way you can bring the State in. And the State holds the treasure of those memories on all sides and that’s where the State becomes important not to beat up the State but because they are the holders of those memories.”

However, with the lack of appetite to investigate the past within the institutions of the State, the only way those with a thirst for knowledge of how the State was involved in the terrorism and the criminality of the conflict are left with just one course of action – the courts of the land.

John Flynn has just lodged papers seeking a judicial review. This follows the revelation to Relatives for Justice by the PSNI that is no current investigation into collusion as recommended by Nuala O’Loan in 2007.

There’s mention in the court papers that the Chief Constable Matt Baggot told Mark Thompson in response to a Freedom of Information request that there are no specific terms of reference for the PSNI’s investigation of Operation Stafford.

John Flynn’s legal position is that he holds the PSNI responsible for the failure to investigate properly the allegations of collusion as recommended by Nuala O’Loan and as promised by the previous Chief Constable Hugh Orde.

As it is stated in his affidavit to the court, Mr Flynn says: “I do not accept that the Chief Constable of the PSNI can simple indicate that when it comes to implementing 34.1 of Ballast he has no remit or control. It is completely wrong and unsatisfactory for him to defer the matter to the Police Ombudsman knowing full well that the Ombudsman has not commenced a meaningful investigation into collusion to date nor is there any likelihood that he will do so in the foreseeable future.

“In the meantime further delay has arisen and time is passing which in turn creates huge prejudice with regard to the investigation leads against those members of the security forces who were actively involved in collusion with those who tried to kill me.”

Kevin Winters says this request for the court to make an intervention and make the necessary orders to compel the PSNI to implement recommendation 34.1 of the O’Loan report is a weapon of last resort.

“At at the core of the case is the failure to address Section 34.1 of Operation Ballast which is the investigation of alleged collusion in terms of criminality between members of the security forces and paramilitaries,” he says.

“The fact that we are left in my view with the last alternative of accessing the courts to try to get justice for Mr Flynn and indeed others is in my view already a sense of defeat because the institutions set up to deal with this type of sensitive issue have in fact failed. We have no alternative, reluctantly albeit, to ask the courts to intervene and give this issue some serious direction.”

And the legal route is what the Finucane family now find themselves taking as well in spite of being promised an inquiry by previous British governments.

That’s a lamentable position for families to find themselves in according to Denis Bradley.

The British and Irish governments have people with the maturity to deal with this but, he says, “the two governments have other things on their plates, and have other interests so they’re not going to do it, so we’re caught in the worst of worlds, where there is no forum for this, there is no political dynamic for this.

“And I do think that the people who want the answers will just continue to fight it through the courts. And I think that’s unfortunate, it’s bad for the courts, it’s bad for the police in my opinion, it’s bad for the Ombudsman’s office, it’s bad for the victims themselves, and it’s… it’s not the right way.”

Mark Thompson shares the view that the legal route is punitive and inflicts further pain on families already suffering. He says a centralized process is necessary to manage the legacy of the past.

He said: “We had that notion of that through the legacy commission proposed by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley and we need to get back to that otherwise we will be dealing with this for years. The effect of it on society will be somewhat negative. It will pollute civil society, communities and the body politic as how we try to move forward particularly if the issue of victimhood is politicised in the Assembly and that’s why we need to step back.”

But Denis Bradley has identified another dynamic in the lack of enthusiasm for disclosure of the State’s intelligence led involvement in the conflict. He says retired police officers exercise a strong influence because of past historical mistrust of MI5.

“I mean there are tensions here between people who are retired officers of the RUC and the British State because one of the fears is that former RUC and particularly Special Branch people had and have is that the British State is quite happy to dump the blame on them,” he said.

Mr Bradley said the local police have described to him the existence of what they termed, “the other room.” That’s a reference to the often unseen influence and work of British security services and their political masters.

He believes the former RUC officers, and particularly Special Branch officers, fear history will judge them alone as being the instruments of collusion.

“And therefore these people feel they were being used and abused to some degree,” said Mr Bradley. They are convinced there is a very real danger that the sins of the past will be thrust upon them alone. In other words, history will judge them as the real baddies.

They feel, according to Denis Bradley: “That while the IRA were terrible over there, the UVF over there…the real baddies were the RUC and Special Branch. They are saying excuse us – we were not always fully in control; we were not fully in charge; we didn’t make the policy decisions…there was this other room. And quite often if we, in Special Branch, were holding material from our colleagues in the police, MI5 were equally holding information from us and the Mi5, the military intelligence were quite often running agents we knew little about.”

The former Policing Board vice chairman told The Detail this created two versions of history: “I think that’s a very interesting history if anybody ever got to it – was there another room? MI5 claim there was no other room. The politicians claim there was no other room.

“I’m inclined to be on the side of the RUC retired officers on that one. I think there was other rooms at times when things got rough.”

News Letter
Tuesday 3 January 2012

File photo dated 09/06/84 of former American President Ronald Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Buckingham Palace. British diplomats warned that Ronald Reagan lacked the ‘mental vitality’ to be an effective President of the United States, according to official papers made under the 30-year rule. (Photo: PA wire)

DESPITE a very public US ban on selling arms to the RUC at the start of the 1980s, the force was secretly continuing to receive American-made weapons, confidential files reveal.

Not only was Northern Ireland’s police force able to evade the weapons ban imposed at the behest of Irish-American politicians, but it managed to acquire spying equipment so sensitive that it would have caused acute difficulties for President Ronald Reagan had the imports been made public.

Files released in Belfast under the 30-year-rule reveal that as well as Ruger weapons the RUC was supplied with surveillance apparatus “arguably more sensitive than guns”.

It is not entirely clear from the documents whether the US Government was aware of the shipments and tacitly approved of them or whether the UK was surreptitiously importing the weapons and kept American officials in the dark about the issue.

However, one former senior RUC officer told the News Letter that he believed the Reagan Administration was aware of the shipments but had “turned a blind eye to the issue” because of the US’s relationship with the UK.

The weapons ban had been introduced by Congress after allegations of sectarianism in the RUC.

However, a confidential 1981 memorandum to the Secretary of State released under the 30-year rule reveals that a ban orchestrated by Irish America because of allegations of sectarianism against the RUC was side-stepped to ensure that the arms requested by the Chief Constable were obtained.

The memo, prepared as officials decided how they would answer a written Parliamentary question from the UUP MP Willie Ross about the issue, said that the RUC had placed three orders for a total of 9,000 Ruger revolvers but that the Chief Constable subsequently decided that 6,000 would be sufficient.

The first order of 3,000 was delivered in mid-1979. But in July of that year the US government suspended export licences for arms for the RUC “pending a review of policy”.

By March 1981 the review had not yet been completed, leading to mounting anger among unionists in Northern Ireland and some mainland MPs as the police came under attack from the IRA.

In Parliament, one Tory MP raised the “irony” of the US government selling the Trident nuclear missile system to the UK but refusing to allow a UK police force to buy revolvers.

However, unknown publicly at the time, the force was continuing to receive the US-made weapons it had ordered from third-party suppliers, while the debate about the US arms embargo raged.

The memo to the secretary of state added: “In fact, despite the ban the RUC have continued to receive small supplies of Rugers from the UK agents with whom the contract was placed, and now await delivery of only 735 of these weapons.

“However, we have carefully avoided publishing information about arms supply in any detail because we are conscious that if it became known that the RUC is receiving arms and ammunition from the US including Rugers [underlined], despite the ban, attempts might be made in Congress to stop these supplies which the Reagan Administration might not be willing or able to counter.”

Another confidential March 1981 document reveals that during that financial year the RUC had received from the US — all via UK suppliers – 2,235 Ruger revolvers, 130 Smith and Weston pistols and more than 1.3 million rounds of various ammunition.

Another file reveals that to answer a Parliamentary question from MP John Farr would be “potentially embarrassing”, and not just because of the secret supply of US guns to the RUC.

The document said that to answer the question for a list of “arms and ammunition and other devices” supplied to the RUC from the US would “also reveal that they [the RUC] have received some US equipment for surveillance work which is arguably more sensitive than guns”.

“If these various supplies were stopped in future or spares became unattainable there would be serious damage to the RUC’s operations.”

The document goes on to list “direction-finding equipment, digital speech security radios, high power hand portables, test equipment and video equipment — time lapse recorders” as items received from the US, though it is not clear if this is the sensitive surveillance equipment to which the document earlier refers.

Files released last year by Dublin’s Department of Foreign Affairs under the Republic of Ireland’s 30-year rule showed that in 1979 the then US president Jimmy Carter had urged the US Speaker, Tip O’Neill, to end the embargo on arms sales to the RUC after a request by Margaret Thatcher.

But Mr O’Neill, a massively influential Irish-American figure, refused, arguing that to do so could bolster support for the IRA from the US.

By Liam Clarke
Belfast Telegraph
21 December 2011

Half of all senior IRA members in the Troubles were working for intelligence services, a secret dossier of evidence into the murder of two RUC men has claimed.

The remarkable document has laid bare a startling series of claims about the infiltration of both the police and terror groups during the ‘Dirty War’.

Whistleblower Ian Hurst

It claims the IRA ran agents in the RUC and also that Dundalk Garda station was regarded by British intelligence as “a nest of vipers”, with at least two officers actively assisting the Provos.

The information is contained in a secret 24-page document in the name of Ian Hurst — a British intelligence whistleblower — which has been seen by the Belfast Telegraph.

The sensational claims are due to be made to Justice Peter Smithwick’s Dublin tribunal of inquiry into the murder of two senior RUC officers in 1989.

The victims, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan, died in a hail of IRA gunfire as they crossed the border following an intelligence exchange with the Garda in Dundalk.

The dossier also claims:

• The shadowy Force Research Unit (FRU) had a file on suspected rogue gardai prepared to pass information to the IRA and act as its agents. MI5 also had a network of agents with the Garda.
• The IRA had a network of informants in public agencies such as social security offices and vehicle licensing departments.
• One in four IRA members was an agent, rising to one in two among senior members.
• Martin McGuinness was involved in all strategic military decisions taken by the IRA.

At the centre of the web of intrigue sat the IRA’s head of internal security, the agent known as Stakeknife, who took information from rogue gardai while himself working for British intelligence.

Perhaps the most shocking claim is that a rogue Garda Sergeant leaked intelligence to Stakeknife. Stakeknife has been identified as Freddie Scappaticci, a veteran Belfast republican.

Scappaticci has strongly denied working for British intelligence and said he had cut his links with the IRA in 1990. He is legally represented at the Smitwick Tribunal and is now considering giving evidence in person.

Last night Mr Hurst refused to comment on the document.

He said: “I believe that this was made public to mess me about. I cannot comment on it because of an injunction preventing me from giving details of my career in special forces.”

Mr Hurst worked in military intelligence between 1981 and 1990, spending most of that time in the FRU, responsible for handling agents and informants in Irish paramilitary groups. The injunction has been varied to allow him to give evidence to Smithwick in Dublin.

However tribunal lawyers are insisting that he give his testimony in closed session, something he suspects is part of a deal with the British authorities to limit potentially embarrassing disclosures.

One of the alleged rogue officers in Dundalk has already been indentified. Owen Corrigan, a detective sergeant, was named by Jeffrey Donaldson under Parliamentary privilege. Mr Corrigan, now retired, has always denied the allegation and appeared at the tribunal to reject them. He is one of three gardai, two based in Dundalk and one in Donegal, named in the document.

In the document Mr Hurst says “the fact that a Garda was passing information to the IRA did not bother me anymore or any less than in the same way members of the RUC/UDR/BA (British Army) occasionally passed information to the IRA and regularly to members of various loyalist paramilitaries.”

Mr Hurst assisted John Stevens’ inquiry into security force collusion with terrorists in Northern Ireland.

The document states Lord Stevens told him that of 210 terrorist suspects he arrested, only three were not security force agents, and some worked for several agencies.


The Smithwick Tribunal is examining claims that members of the Irish police or other employees of the Irish State colluded in the murders of the two most senior RUC officers to die in the Troubles. Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Supt Robert Buchanan were shot dead while returning from a meeting at Dundalk Garda station in the Republic. The tribunal has so far heard evidence from a number of witnesses, some of whom have alleged that members of the Garda passed information to the IRA.


Doubts about Ian Hurst’s reliability were dispelled after I published stories based on his information back in 1999.

The first, an unlikely sounding tale claiming military intelligence had doctored bullets used to shoot Gerry Adams, was immediately confirmed by the Defence Advisory Committee. After that he was arrested, and I was questioned under caution.

For a time I gave him the pseudonym Martin Ingram to obscure his identity, but now that alias has been dropped.

He was the first member of the Force Research Unit (FRU) — the dark corner of military intelligence which ran agents in terrorist groups — to speak publicly.

He had two tours of duty in Northern Ireland. Between 1982 and 1990 he was in Londonderry handling agents like Frank Hegarty, an IRA quartermaster later murdered for betraying a cache of Libyan weapons, and Willie Carlin, who got out just ahead of the execution squad.

A second tour was in Enniskillen between 1990 and 1991. There he met his wife, from a Donegal republican family. That affected his vetting and he bought himself out of the Army in 2003.

Penetration of the Provisionals

Mr Hurst was responsible for handling agents in the IRA and for a time had enhanced access to other agents’ reports, though not their names, on military intelligence computers. He has painted a picture of an organisation penetrated at almost every level and with its head of security, Stakeknife, working for the other side. The document says: “As a rough guide you should expect one in four PIRA volunteers to be agents of one agency or another.” Lord Stevens (above), the former Met chief, is quoted as

saying that only three out of 210 terrorist suspects he arrested in a collusion probe in Northern Ireland were not working for either the RUC, MI5 or the Army. The document claims that Hurst secretly taped a conversation with RAF Air Vice Marshal Andrew Vallance, who was quoted as telling him that the most sensitive matter was the identity of Stakeknife and his role as a British agent.

IRA agents within the Garda

The document claims that the FRU had a file on suspected rogue gardai prepared to pass information to the IRA and act as its agents. It names three people who were allegedly on the list, two in Dundalk and one in Donegal. It quotes Basil Walsh, a senior Garda officer who Mr Hurst met in 1999, as saying he was aware of one named Garda who worked for the IRA. Mr Walsh allegedly told him “that every time something was done to try and eradicate the mess something happened to intervene”. The document also claims MI5 had a network of agents with the Garda. MP Jeffrey Donaldson has named retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan under Parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons in April 2000, as being a “rogue garda”. Mr Corrigan denies all allegations of collusion. Last week former agent Kevin Fulton claimed Corrigan was passing information to the IRA and was regarded as a “friend” of the group

Role of McGuinness in the IRA

MR Hurst once backed claims that Martin McGuinness reported to MI6, the British foreign intelligence agency. This was based on a document passed to him, and accepted by him in good faith, after he left the Army but which appears to have been a forgery. The document does not repeat that claim but it does put Mr McGuinness in a central role in the IRA. It states the IRA’s “security unit came under the operational command of Northern Command” and adds “the person in charge of that unit throughout the entire Troubles was PIRA member Mr James Martin McGuinness”. It accuses McGuinness of being “directly involved in matters of life and death for persons rightly or indeed wrongly suspected of informing on PIRA members. Mr McGuinness was also a key player in the long-term strategic strategies used by PIRA”. McGuinness has always denied such a leading role and stated that he left the IRA in the early 1970s.

Republican intelligence gathering

It is claimed that the IRA had a network of informants in public agencies such as social security offices and vehicle licensing, North and South. This echoes claims by Martin McGartland , a former RUC agent in the IRA. One section of the document reads: “PIRA was extensively penetrated at all levels, most sources of the information to PIRA were readily identified (by military intelligence) but seldom compromised.” To back up its claims that the intelligence services turned a blind eye to IRA intelligence sources, it claims that in the early 1990s a FRU agent was targeted by the IRA with the help of a social security employee who is still working in the same office. It claims that the IRA could informally “obtain information from driver licensing, social security, councils, utilities far quicker than the FRU”, especially in cross-border areas where red tape was involved in working through the RUC and Garda.

Stakeknife, the Army’s key agent

Stakeknife was a key military intelligence agent within the IRA, a man with a hotline of his own which gave him direct contact with dedicated handlers in an office known as the ‘rat hole’. When he called, he identified himself with a code number, but Mr Hurst learned his true identify by chance while manning the phone. Stakeknife had been caught drink-driving and gave uniformed police the hotline number in an effort to extricate himself. Hurst vouched for him, and it has been claimed that Stakeknife was Freddie Scappaticci, though Mr Scappaticci strongly denies this. The document expands on Stakeknife’s role as head of the IRA internal security. It claims he controlled IRA agents in the Garda. The most corrosive suggestion which Justice Peter Smithwick will have to consider is that officers Breen and Buchanan were allowed to die rather than risk compromising the Army’s most important agent in Ireland.

The web of collusion and spies

MR Hurst has frequently claimed some members of the RUC, UDR and Army colluded with terror groups. The statement portrays a wilderness of mirrors in which every organisation has the other penetrated to some degree and “all sources have a shelf life”. It talks of British agents in the Garda, Garda agents in Northern Ireland, IRA agents in the RUC and Garda and RUC agents in the IRA. It states “the fact that a Garda was passing information to the IRA did not bother me any more or any less than in the same way members of the RUC/UDR/BA (British Army) passed information to the IRA and members of various loyalist paramilitaries. It was a matter for HQNI and the RUC and way above my pay grade … in other words it was a strategic and not a tactical problem”. It concludes that none of this “registered massively on the Richter scale, it was just a fact of life, indeed it was well within the rules of our game!”

21 Dec 2011

Justice Minister David Ford is being asked to change the law to penalise former RUC officers who are rehired by the PSNI as civilians within five years of retiring.

Hundreds of former officers have been re-employed by the police in recent years.

Many of them have been able to keep large lump sum payments they received under the Patten redundancy scheme.

But earlier this month Sinn Fein called for the law to be changed.

More than 4,000 former RUC officers have retired during the past 10 years.

But hundreds of them have returned to work within the PSNI as civilians.

Legislation introduced in 2003 stated that anyone who volunteered to retire early under the Patten scheme has to repay any lump sum payment if they re-join the police within a five-year period.

But that rule does not apply to anyone hired from a recruitment agency as a civilian.

Sinn Fein wants officers who took large severance packages to repay the money if they have gone back to police work.

Policing Board member Gerry Kelly said: “People who went out through the Patten scheme got huge severance packages, probably the best in the world.

“In some of these circumstances you are talking about people taking the package and coming back within months – sometimes to do the same job as they left. None of that is acceptable.

“What is clear about this is it is not right, it is not the way to take the policing project forward and we need to put an end to it and the justice minister can do that.”

Mr Ford said he was happy to discuss the matter but there are unlikely to be any changes in the immediate future.

“It can only be done by the assembly. That would require approval by the justice committee, the executive and by the assembly as a whole,” he said.

“But I am not persuaded at this stage that it would be an issue which will be easy to address or it will be a process which would achieve what is being said.

“I am open to dialogue about the issue, but what is abundantly clear is there are wider employment law issues which would be brought in and I remain to be convinced that it would make the kind of change suggested.”

In a statement a PSNI spokesperson said: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland will continue, as it always has done, to follow UK and European employment legislation.

“As an employer, we are duty bound to do so. This legislation does not allow discrimination against any individual based on their former employment.”
19 Dec 2011

A convicted double murderer has won High Court permission to mount a challenge to being returned to prison.

Martin Corey was granted leave to seek a judicial review of the decision to revoke his licence over unspecified allegations that he was involved with dissident republicans.

The 61-year-old from Lurgan, Co Armagh, received a life sentence in 1973 for the murders of two RUC men.

He was released on licence in 1992, having served 19 years behind bars.

However, in April 2010, the Secretary of State ordered his recall on the basis of what his legal team has described as closed material.

His revocation has led to a number of protest rallies and in support of a campaign to have him freed.

Corey issued judicial review proceedings against the Independent Parole Commissioners on the basis of the alleged secrecy surrounding the reasons.

His barrister, Karen Quinlivan QC, argued that claims of involvement with dissident republicans have been made without going into detail.

She said it had been impossible to challenge the revocation order because of the undisclosed information.

Ms Quinlivan contended that the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights and the House of Lords both made it clear that details must be given in such circumstances.

The judge hearing the challenge ruled that an arguable case had been established on points related to an alleged lack of specificity.

Mr Justice Treacy granted leave to apply for a judicial review and fixed it for a full hearing in March.

Although the Parole Commissioners are the respondents in the case, the Secretary of State is also expected to be represented as a notice party.

15 Dec 2011

A former British agent has claimed that he knew of two RUC men who passed information to the IRA.

Kevin Fulton was testifying at the Smithwick tribunal into alleged Garda collusion in the IRA murders of two other RUC officers on 20 March 1989.

Earlier, he denied being a “pathological liar” at the tribunal in Dublin.

It is investigating the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan.

They were shot dead in south Armagh shortly after leaving a meeting at Dundalk Garda station.

Mr Fulton, a former British agent who infiltrated the IRA, was cross-examined at the tribunal on Thursday. He spoke of how “top IRA men in Newry thought I was a great IRA person”.

He described his work as a double agent as a “labour of love” and confirmed that he had previously worked for the British Army, MI5, Customs and Excise and the police.

Mr Fulton claimed there were “cops in the north also helping us”. When asked to clarify if he was suggesting some RUC officers helped the IRA, he said: “Of course there was. Certain ones are public knowledge, others are not.”

“One was convicted and the other was arrested and they managed to get him out, he was an RUC reservist, he was associating with an IRA man in Dundalk, Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, the police knew about it as well.”

Mr Fulton wrote the names of the RUC officers for the chairman of the tribunal, Judge Peter Smithwick, and said he had no objections to the names being passed on to DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mr Fulton was also asked for his reaction to previous evidence from RUC witnesses who described him as a “fantasist” and intelligence nuisance.

“I have done things that I am not proud of and they would be party to that” he said, “Maybe it’s good to discredit someone who could do them harm.”

“Sir Ronnie Flanagan called me a ‘Walter Mitty’ character but he later apologised for that.”

Mr Fulton has claimed that Owen Corrigan, a former detective sergeant in Dundalk was passing information to the IRA and was regarded as a “friend” of the group.

Describing that allegation as “astonishing”, Jim O’Callaghan, counsel for Mr Corrigan, asked Mr Fulton if he had informed his handlers.

“Yes, you might describe it as astonishing information but when it becomes day-to-day, it is no big thing,” Mr Fulton said.

Mr Fulton, who is giving his evidence behind a screen, would not name the handler but wrote the name down for Judge Smithwick.

Mr Fulton conceded that he could not give the tribunal any specific examples of where Mr Corrigan assisted the IRA before 20 March 1989. He later denied that he was a “pathological liar” in respect of his evidence to the tribunal.

He claimed an IRA member told him that the IRA operation to mount an IRA ambush had started after they were tipped off that the RUC officers were at Dundalk Garda station on the afternoon of 20 March 1989.

In a statement to an earlier inquiry held by Canadian judge Peter Cory in 2003, Mr Fulton alleged that former Detective Garda Corrigan saw the RUC officers “at the station” and “telephoned the IRA”.

Mr O’Callaghan pointed out the difference in the statement he gave to the Smithwick Tribunal where he said “our friend” helped out.

“I am putting it to you that a lot of what you are saying is speculation” said Mr O’Callaghan.

“I never said it was anything else” Mr Fulton answered. He refused to withdraw allegations he made about Mr Corrigan.

Report on 1975 murders finds Robin Jackson was advised to lie low after his fingerprints were found on murder weapon

Henry McDonald
15 Dec 2011

A loyalist assassin known as The Jackal received a tipoff from a senior police officer that helped him elude justice over the killing of an Irish pop band in the mid-1970s, according to a report.

The cold case police investigations unit, the Historical Enquiries Team (Het), found Robin Jackson was linked to the murders of three members of the Miami Showband in July 1975.

Miami Showband killings: Robin Jackson claimed he was tipped off that his fingerprints had been found on a silencer used in the murders. (Photograph: Kevin Boyes/Presseye)

The pop group were on their way back to Dublin when their minibus was stopped by a fake army patrol near the border. The Het report found that Jackson, a member of loyalist paramilitary group the Ulster Volunteer Force from North Armagh, had been linked to one of the murder weapons by his fingerprints. But Jackson later claimed in police interviews he had been tipped off by a senior Royal Ulster Constabulary officer to lie low after the killings.

Jackson, who emigrated for a period of the 1980s to South Africa, has since died from cancer. In 1984 he helped organise the attempted murder of the then Sunday World northern editor Jim Campbell, who had named Jackson as the leader of the UVF in Mid-Ulster, which was responsible for shootings and bombings against nationalists in the so-called “Murder Triangle” of North Armagh.

The report, which was released on Wednesday, said Jackson claimed he was tipped off that his fingerprints had been found on a silencer attached to a Luger pistol used in the Miami Showband murders. The Het team said the murders raised “disturbing questions about collusive and corrupt behaviour”. It said the review “has found no means to assuage or rebut these concerns and that is a deeply troubling matter”.

The bogus army patrol comprised soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment and UVF members in Armagh. Members of the band were made to line up at the side of the road while one UVF member tried to hide a bomb on the bus. The plan was that the bomb would explode en route, killing everyone on board as it entered Dublin. But the bomb went off prematurely, killing Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville, who were members of the UDR, as well as the UVF.

After the explosion the other members of the UVF gang then opened fire on the band, killing lead singer Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty, and trumpeter Brian McCoy. The bass player, Stephen Travers, barely survived his injuries.

Three members of the UDR were eventually convicted for their part in the attack. James Somerville, Thomas Crozier and James McDowell received life sentences and remained in jail until their early release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 when republican and loyalist prisoners were given a de facto amnesty as part of the peace settlement.

Commenting on the report, band member Des McAlea, who survived the attack, said: “It’s been a long time but we’ve got justice at last.” He described the Het findings as “quite shocking” and “mind-blowing”. “The fact that there was collusion in this is such a tragedy for all of us concerned,” McAlea added. “To think that people were supposed to be protecting us and they were actually involved in this terrible tragedy.”

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile


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