The BBC Panorama programme ‘Britain’s Secret Terror Deals’ has shed light again on the murky world that was the dirty war fought by the British state in Northern Ireland.
This harrowing documentary focused on high-profile sectarian killings and assassinations in which it is alleged state forces such as the RUC, MI5, Special Branch and Army Intelligence protected informants and allowed agents to carry out murders and terrorist acts without fear of prosecution.
Lord Stevens (former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) carried out three investigations and concluded that the security forces had thousands of informants in “Northern Ireland’s terror gangs”. Former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan said she believed some of these informants were “state sponsored serial killers”. The evidence backs up this claim. Mark Haddock, leading member of the UVF and paid Special Branch informant, has been linked to 21 murders. The British Army Intelligence Corps recruited Brian Nelson while he was working as a construction worker in West Germany and sent him back to Northern Ireland to rejoin and infiltrate the UDA. Lord Stevens stated that Nelson was linked to at least nine murders including that of solicitor Pat Finucane. No one has ever been held accountable.
“Well placed loyalist sources” told the BBC that Robin Jackson, a UVF Brigadier and leader of the Mid-Ulster Glennane Gang, was a protected police informant. Jackson and his gang have been linked to 120 murders, including the Miami Showband massacre, and the 34 civilian deaths in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Court cases have established that soldiers and serving police officers were members of Robin Jackson’s squad of killers. An enquiry into the activities of this sectarian murder gang stated, “the role of the security forces in the killings should have rang alarm bells all the way up to the top of government.”
The murder of six Catholics by the Glennane gang that led to the revenge sectarian murder of 10 Protestant workers at Kingsmills in 1976 by the IRA. Two suspects were told they wouldn’t be arrested as part of the government on-the-runs deal with the IRA. Alan Black, the only victim who survived the attack, told the programme that the relatives and the police know who carried out the murders. But evidence files have been supposedly lost. Alan Black believes that the police are covering up to protect a state agent who was in the IRA gang that carried out the murders.
No one has even been convicted of the 1992 sectarian murder of five Catholics at the Sean Graham bookmakers on the Lower Ormeau Road. Lord Stevens’ investigation in 2006 found that one of the murder weapons was given to the UFF by a British soldier. The suspects travelled through two police checkpoints that night. The police claimed that a second weapon, an assault rifle, had been disposed of. Yet it was recently found on display at the Imperial War Museum in London! It has been linked to seven murders.
Peter Keeley – pseudonym Kevin Fulton, a Catholic from Newry who joined the Royal Irish Rangers – was selected and trained by the Army Intelligence Corps and sent back to the North to infiltrate the IRA. He developed the technology that was used in an IRA rocket attack that killed RUC officer Coleen McMurray. Keeley claims he told the security forces of the planned attack, who had the device, details of the car and what day the attack would take place. The victim’s husband, a former RUC officer, believes the intelligence services allowed the attack to go ahead. All of the evidence from the scene has since disappeared.
General Frank Kitson, who was a key figure in developing Britain’s dirty war in Northern Ireland, stated: “Everything done by a government and its agents in combating insurgency must be legitimate. But this does not mean that the government must work within exactly the same set of laws during an emergency as existed beforehand. The law should be used as just another weapon in the government’s arsenal, in which case it becomes little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public.”
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton told Panorama that during the Troubles there were no rules governing how security force handlers dealt with paramilitary agents.
Collusion between the state forces and loyalist paramilitaries and the use of state agents within the IRA were not the actions of rogue elements. This was a conscious policy that would have been agreed by British Prime Ministers and the military and political elite. Repressive legislation and militarised police forces are not only for use against terrorists, they are tools which are used against working class communities, trade unionists, socialists, and anyone viewed as a threat to capitalist class rule.
The victims’ families and working class people in Northern Ireland need to know what really went on during the Troubles. None of the sectarian parties or the British and Irish states are capable of uncovering and revealing the truth. In the future, when working class Catholics and Protestants politically unite to build a new political force and a society free from sectarian conflict, one of their tasks will be to throw open the thousands of classified files held by the British and Irish states and to reveal the real role of the state forces and the loyalist and republican paramilitaries during the conflict.