‘It was subsequently reported in London’s Private Eye that Nelson’s role in traveling to South Africa and purchasing the weapons for loyalists had been approved by a member of the British Cabinet at the time.’
‘Loyalists were re-armed in late 1987 when MI5’s Force Research Unit (FRU) dispatched their agent Brian Nelson with the proceeds of a Northern Bank robbery in Portadown to South Africa to purchase a shipment of weapons that had initially been destined for the PLO. The ship being previously intercepted by the South African apartheid regime at the request of the Israeli government.
‘It was subsequently reported in London’s Private Eye that Nelson’s role in traveling to South Africa and purchasing the weapons for loyalists had been approved by a member of the British Cabinet at the time.
‘As a direct consequence of the importation of these weapons loyalists embarked on an unprecedented period of sectarian and political assassinations in which numerous others aspects of official collusion, apart from providing weapons, is well evidenced and documented. Loyalists are responsible for more deaths from this period onwards than any other participant to the conflict.
‘Whilst the decommissioning of the loyalist arsenal by the UVF, and the intentions of the UDA/UFF to do likewise, is a step in the right direction it nevertheless raises the question of arming the loyalists.
‘Over 300 people, Protestant and Catholic alike, have died as a direct result of the importation of these weapons by MI5. Culpability for these deaths must rest with the British government. When the role of Nelson and MI5 was first exposed the British MoD and the the British government attempted to tell the public that they were monitoring the ship enroute to Larne Harbour from Pretoria in South Africa yet somehow managed to ‘loss track’ of it allowing the majority of weapons to get through to loyalists. This story had numerous holes in it when examined by investigative journalists and in taking into account other necessary resources also provided to loyalists that enabled them to effectively target people. An acquired ability that was hitherto dormant.
‘When Relatives for Justice documented the awful catalogue of human carnage and death as a consequence of the use of the weapons, mostly AK 47 Automatic Assault Rifles and 9MM Browning Pistols, the RUC abandoned its policy of making public the forensic and ballistic reports on attacks and killings by loyalists as each incident was linked to the shipment. They continued the policy of making public this same information concerning incidents involving republicans.
‘Families affected by loyalist violence want the truth about arming the loyalists and the killings of their loved ones. Families, and indeed the wider public, want a commitment by the British government that they will never again arm loyalism.
‘Emphasis now needs to be on truth and dealing with the legacy of the conflict in an independent way that addresses the arming of the loyalists by the British government’s intelligence services as part of its overall policy objective that was collusion.