This speech was delivered by Deputy Director Andrée Murphy to the Pat Finucane Centre and Bloody Sunday Trust International Human Rights Conference “Poisonous Legacies” on June 14th 2013
British state policies in the late 1980s until the ceasefire
Paul has given me the absolutely impossible task of summarising the policies of the British state in the 1980s and 1990s.
I am going to concentrate on one – that of collusion – the directing of paramilitary organisations by the state. But there are clearly other policies. Shoot to Kill; forced strip searching of women prisoners; the use of plastic bullets; political vetting; censorship and others. All inter connected and all equally important. However I have ten minutes and I have chosen to speak on collusion.
There has been a lot of scrutiny of this period and the British military policy of collusion at the time.
We have had incredible investigative journalism – John Ware in particular; Brian Rowan; Chris Moore. All vitally important to giving voice to the victims of the policies.
We have had a lot of official scrutiny. We have had 3 reports into collusion by Sir John Stevens, scrutiny from Judge Cory and of course the De Silva review which reported only last December. We have even had a British Prime Minister say yes collusion happened and he apologised.
This is a lot of attention. And a lot of process. And yet families do not recognise that as having been effective, and yet families will only express the words COVER UP.
On the other hand in civil society there is a weariness. Only last month there was a programme on UTV by Chris Moore and I saw tweets saying “Yeah yeah – heard it all before”. And they were from nationalists and republicans. What a journey from collusion being republican propaganda.
So, why the continued attention? Why the continued frustration? Why is collusion and state military policy featuring now in a conference on legacy?
Because we only have glimpses of what occurred – because the British Government renege on promises – because no one has been held accountable.
I want to take you on a journey that hopefully is not too much repetition for you all – but on a journey we have supported families with. And continue to support.
So much of what I will say will seem like a continuation to what Anne (Anne Cadwallader from the Pat Finucane Centre presented on policies of collusion in the 1970s) has explained – but there are differences.
1985 – this actually the year we can pinpoint.
In 1985 significant political changes occurred – the Anglo Irish Agreement was signed. For the first time there was acknowledgement by the British Government that there was a legitimate interest in the governance of the North of Ireland from the Irish Government. There was massive political opposition from unionism, but very little military activity from loyalism – 2 Catholics were killed by loyalism that year despite 100,000s of unionists being opposed to the Agreement.
However that political initiative failed. It did not deliver political stability, it did not defeat militant republicanism and the IRA campaign continued. Loyalism was back to killing in 1986 killing 15 people. Indeed RUC Special Branch documents highlight the failure of the Anglo Irish Agreement and relate it to the development of policy in relation to running agents.
So we see a change in British policy. More pointedly a change in British military policy.
Well maybe not a change – more of a development.
In 1985 at the same time as the political deals were being made Force Research Unit a generational development or mutant of Military Reconnaissance Force and also known as 14th Intelligence Unit set in place an importation of weaponry to loyalism.
The British army and Royal Ulster Constabulary were still determined to support illegal organisations and still handed out weaponry from barracks and forensic science laboratories – but this was an additional resource which was to see the development of capacity of loyalism. This was British Military Policy.
Ulster Defence Association with its pseudonym Ulster Freedom Fighters is now known to have been virtually taken over and run by Force Research Unit. In particular the agent Brian Nelson, its Chief Intelligence Officer.
In 1985, the year of the Agreement, Brian Nelson was sent, probably with UDA leader John McMichael, to then Apartheid South Africa. Their mission was to investigate the possible procurement of weaponry for the UDA.
In 1987, now that it was clear that the Anglo Irish Agreement had failed under the direction of Force Research Unit Brian Nelson completed the deal. A shipment of weapons landed from South Africa in January 1988.
That shipment included 206 VZ58 automatic assault weapons; 94 Browning 9mm pistols; 500 fragmentation grenades; 30,000 rounds of ammunition and 12 RPG rocket launchers.
These weapons’ arrival was announced to the public by the attack on the funerals of IRA volunteers Dan McCann Mairéad Farrell and Sean Savage, when Loyalist Michael Stone killed 3 mourners Caoimhin MacBradaigh; Thomas McErlean and John Murray in Milltown Cemetery in March 1988.
In the six years prior to the arrival of weaponry loyalists killed 71 people 49 of whom were in sectarian/political killings 62%. January 1988– 1st September 1994 loyalism killed 229 people – 207 of whom were in sectarian/political killings 90%.
In 1995 Relatives for Justice, Mark Thompson and Arthur Fegan, under death threat, compiled the full list of all those killed with these weapons in their publication “Collusion”.
For the first time in the conflict loyalist killing rates surpassed that of republicans.
But we are not merely talking about killing capacity in terms of hardware. Much more importantly we are talking about the directing and targeting of a population in an end game of conflict. I am about to talk about the policy of directing agents – a policy really well known now – but denied and denied by those that paid the money and directed the activity.
For a quick synopsis of what we recognise and know – In August 1988 Loughlin Maginn from Rathfriland County Down was killed by the UDA. The UDA in the statement claiming his murder said Mr Maginn was in the IRA. The family rejected this. In order to prove their claim the UDA produced a number of British army and RUC classified files of IRA suspects. Among the suspects was Loughlin Maginn. The files also contained details of other people subsequently murdered.
There is no doubt to the enormity of detailed information passed to all wings of military loyalism – In his recent report Desmond De Silva QC estimates that at least 85% of all intelligence used by loyalism was directly from either British Army, Intelligence or RUC Special Branch. We also know that following the files’ disclosure that John Stevens was sent to investigate what was happening.
What he discovered led to the arrest and conviction of that agent Brian Nelson. So much of we know about collusion results from the combination of Brian Nelson’s trial, Brian Nelson’s prison diaries, from investigative journalists examining the circumstances around these – and most importantly from the conclusions reached by Sir John Stevens’ independent reports into collusion. John Stevens’ reports and findings fill rooms. The extent of collusion or where it may have gone is contained there. There, in those files that are secret. Those files relate to hundreds of murders including that of human rights solicitor Patrick Finucane murdered by the UDA in 1989 with the full knowledge and direction of RUC Special Branch and British Military Intelligence.
Brian Nelson was arrested on 12th January 1990 by John Stevens team. He was charged with 10 murders, attempted murders and conspiracy to murder. All of these charges were reduced to a single conspiracy to murder charge. This followed a deal. A deal done in response to revelations in court from Brian Nelson’s Handler Colonel Gordon Kerr that Brian Nelson was paid a minimum of £200 per week by the British army, that the General Officer Commanding and the Commander of Land Forces and The Director of Military Intelligence, the RUC Chief Constable and the head of Special Branch all knew of the activities of Brian Nelson. The deal was done in response to a request for leniency from the British Secretary of Defence Tom King. The deal was done with the direction of the then British Attorney General Patrick Mayhew. The deal was done on Monday 3rd February 1992. The rooms of files contain all of the information that deal was designed to conceal.
And now why do we keep on about it – why do families keep on asking about it. Because it was not just Loughlin Maginn, not just Pat Finucane. It was many many more. Not just killed incidentally by the weapons imported. Not just contained in the montages Chris Moore saw.
The deaths that grew in number and savagery until the ceasefires in 1994 were all part of a plan. And in the absence of a full independent inquiry we are only able to take bits and pieces and put together an incomplete picture.
That picture is how the British Government, the British Military and RUC Special Branch worked together to ensure that while they talked peace to republicans, they attacked the republican nationalist community, terrorising and demoralising it. It was an end game of a conflict. It was end game policy. It was against their own law and against international law. And the reason we still go on about it is not only because we must know our history but because it has left monstrous unhealed scars. Scars that require the soothing of truth.
At 2.25pm on 5th February 1992 the UDA entered the Sean Grahams Bookmakers on the Ormeau Road. They fired indiscriminately into the tiny room that made up the bookmakers. Of 13 people in the Bookies 12 were shot. Six were killed, 7 injured. Jack Duffin 66; Willie McManus 54; Christie Doherty 52; Peter Magee 18 and James Kennedy 15. It was at the time a seemingly random, sickening sectarian attack. Another attack in a particularly awful week in a month of heightened conflict.
On the Monday Brian Nelson was given 10yrs, on Tuesday an off duty RUC member shot dead 3 men in the Falls Road Sinn Fein Centre. On Wednesday Chief Constable Hugh Annesley stood outside the Bookies stating that the situation was not out of control. Well for him that was right. It was all under control – but in a very different way to that presented to the media.
20 years later on their anniversary the 6 families and the injured of the Bookmakers Shop on the Ormeau Road outlined the journey of recovery of truth they had been on. Piecing together from different processes what actually occurred has brought together a picture very different from the idea of a random sectarian attack.
What do we know now?
That while Hugh Annesley was giving interviews to the media outside it was not RUC Scenes of Crime Officers inside – it was the British army’s Weapons Intelligence Section from Thiepval Barracks. This is even more interesting when we discover that the VZ58 weapon used had been used in to kill two Catholic men in Nth Belfast in 1988 and in an attempted murder the same year. Even more interesting that the weapon was “recovered by intelligence” by the RUC after the Bookies – and then destroyed.
The other weapon used – a 9mm Browning – didn’t come from South Africa. It was British army issue. It was “stolen” from Malone UDR barracks in 1989 by UDA agent Ken Barrett, passed to UDA agent William Stobie. Given to Special Branch by William Stobie. Handed back to the UDA by RUC Special Branch. A civilian in the then Police Authority handled it. It was used in December 1991 to kill Aidan Wallace in South Belfast. Then it was used in the Ormeau Rd Bookmakers. Then it was recovered at an RUC checkpoint in May 1992.
This gun forms part of the Stevens Inquiry – despite Special Branch claims that they had deactivated it in 1989 before they gave it back to the UDA – it was in perfect order in February 1992.
There were two men found with this gun – now cited as being used in 6 murders and 10 attempted murders. They walked away. One of them is the son of an RUC member.
The getaway cars from the Bookies were well recorded – so well recorded that they went through two security checkpoints and were followed by undercover RUC after the killings. One of the occupants Raymond Elder was arrested in one of the cars that night for a motoring offence – the car was not impounded. The records of the motoring offence have been lost.
Fibres, blood samples and residue from the getaway cars, when they were finally secured were all dismissed as of no use.
Remember Raymond Elder? He was later charged with the murders but these charges without explanation by the DPP. Another key suspect was never arrested. This same suspect is named as a suspect in the killing of Aidan Wallace.
This same suspect is believed to be a British army agent. Raymond Elder was killed by the IRA in July 1994.
Oh and John Stevens had included the Bookies as part of the recommended prosecution cases submitted to the DPP following his 3rd report. Prosecutions mysteriously dropped as not being in the public interest.
For those families this is like torture. It is piece of information followed by piece of information with no outcome and only frustration of their rights to truth and justice.
Let me put these killings into context that month did not only see an escalation in violence it also saw the publication of Sinn Féin’s document Towards a Lasting Peace. We now know that peace negotiations were underway.
Let me also refer to another killing on the Ormeau Road. I must as I feel that to concentrate on a mass murder without highlighting how individual murders are just as egregious would be disingenuous – It happened 2 years later. Not only were there secret negotiations between the IRA and the British Government, there was a public Joint Declaration between the Irish and British Governments and we found out John Hume was talking to Gerry Adams and negotiating peaceful pathways – this was a very public process towards ceasefires.
In April the IRA called a three day ceasefire as part of this landscaping. On April 14th 1994 Theresa Clinton a 33 year old mother of two young girls was about to go to bed in her terraced house when she was shot through her window 16 times. It was clear she a woman.
Following the publication of De Silva it has become clear that Jim Clinton, a Sinn Féin candidate, was a British security target for assassination.
It has equally become clear that in 1992, 1993 and 1994 the homes of republican activists and the female relatives of male republican activists were targeted for assassination attacks. It was a clear security tactic to demoralise the republican and nationalists community and isolate republicans and weaken them as they negotiated peace. Far from being stalemate it was a clear end game policy.
And how are we so clear? How are we sure we have not taken two and two and got state sanctioned murder?
Well some got told by the British army and the RUC. Some like Martin Mallon while under arrest they would target his wife, before attacking his home and killing his 80yr old aunt and wounding his mother.
And because the UVF and the UFF told us. In their statements. Written by agents of the British state. They told us their targets. They told us we were part of a pan nationalist front and all fair game. They gloated over our dead as legitimate targets. Sean Lavery killed in August 1993 in his own home. The son of Sinn Fein councillor Bobby Lavery. Theresa and Charles Fox the parents of IRA prisoner Paddy Fox. Kathleen OHagan 8 months pregnant with four young boys and the wife of Paddy an ex-republican prisoner. And many many more. End Game Military Strategy.
So no – the full story has not been told again and again. We have at most repeated glimpses of the full story. Isolated incidents of horror and savagery that together give us a picture of a policy that has not been accounted for. And a cursory apology without truth doesn’t cut it. In Derry they know that.
Collusion must be accounted for.
And I do not forget Stakeknife – Freddie Scappaticci. And I do not forget that all actors must account.We must have truth for all victims. For all those who suffered. I have focussed in 10mins on one strand of one actor to the conflict. And I do not diminish in any way anyone’s pain.
But I will say this. When the state makes the law and then breaks that law. And breaks international law the state must account. It must not hide behind its proxies. It must not hide behind the failure of local parties to agree ways forward on dealing with the past as if it is a neutral observer. It must account.
These scars will not heal without truth. Our dead cry for out from their graves and our living sit by those graves.