An explosive new book released today by Derry’s Pat Finucane Centre blows the lid on the extent of systematic collusion during the 1970s between security forces and the UVF - findings that PFC’s Paul O’Connor described yesterday as “just the tip of the iceberg”.
In ‘Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland’, former BBC Ireland Correspondent and author Anne Cadwallader delves not only into police papers uncovered by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) but the testimonies of victim’s families too, building an irrefutable picture for the first time of just how much widespread and routine collusion existed here during the Troubles.
While most of the book’s research centres on conflict in Mid-Ulster and the border regions, the fundamental problems unearthed undoubtedly went deeper and possibly permeated all of Northern Ireland.
Taken together, this exhaustive research confirms what so many have long suspected or just knew across on both sides of the divide, that elements of the police and the British Army were working hand in glove with the UVF to murder innocent people with no paramilitary connections whatsoever.
It’s taken 15 years for the PFC to sift through these endless documents, reports and research alongside the 120 bereaved families who sought answers to the murder of their loved ones.
From July 1972 to the end of 1978 a loyalist gang rampaged through Counties Tyrone and Armagh and across the border into the Republic of Ireland, killing over 100 farmers, shopkeepers, publicans and other civilians. It was widely claimed that the loyalists were aided by members of the RUC and Ulster Defence Regiment - but no-one could ever seem to prove it. That is, until now. Cadwallader’s research, published today by Mercier Press, concludes beyond reasonable doubt that there was indeed systemic collusion in these cases.
The Pat Finucane’s Paul O’Connor described the damning contents of the new book as “just the tip of the iceberg”.
“We are absolutely clear that the damning information contained in these reports would not have emerged had the PSNI been in control of the investigation process as they are now proposing,” he told the ‘Derry Journal’.
“This information emerged at a time when the HET - flawed as it was - enjoyed some level of independence. The present situation where the PSNI have taken over control is untenable,” O’Connor said.
One section of the book details how Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson, one of the conflict’s most notorious loyalist killers, enjoyed protection from the rule of law despite allegedly killing 100 or more people. Newspaper reports have called him a ‘psychopath’ with a visceral hatred of Catholics, while others claim that he worked as a hit-man for British military intelligence and for the RUC, but the fact is that Jackson’s relationship with the RUC of the time was so corrupt that he never faced a murder charge. When searched by the RUC, Jackson was found in possession of a notebook containing names - two of whom were Derry men who had never been charged with any offence. Despite overwhelming evidence linking him to scores of murders, ‘The Jackal’ went unpunished.
Cadwallader ultimately finds that the levels of collusion she exposed in this book were more than just a phenomenon.
One HET report found that while members of the Nationalist community alleged widespread involvement and collusion by members of the security forces with loyalist paramilitaries, “these claims were ridiculed, and individual instances previously uncovered had been dismissed by reference to ‘rotten apples’.”
However, Paul O’Connor hit out at such convenient explanations.
“We are clear that what happened in Mid-Ulster at the border region in the 1970s can not be dismissed with reference to some ‘bad apples’ - the system itself was rotten. The criminal justice system, the judiciary, the prosecution service and the security forces all bear responsibility for what happened. This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Paul O’Connor added.
‘Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland’ written by Anne Cadwallader is out today, published by Mercier Press.
The book is available in all good bookshops.