A SURVIVOR of a notorious massacre during the Troubles has raised concerns over demands to honour a murdered undercover soldier whose name has been linked to Northern Ireland’s so-called “dirty war”.
Stephen Travers, a musician in the popular 1970s group the Miami Showband and now campaigner for peace and reconciliation, said it was not for him to oppose calls to mark the life of Captain Robert Nairac.
READ MORE: Stuart Cosgrove: Netflix’s brave probe into Troubles exposes failings of UK broadcasters
However, he believed a better course of action would be to examine the issue of alleged collusion between the loyalist terror group the Ulster Volunteer Force and the British Army and military intelligence, and allegations Nairac had been involved in such activities.
“Your heroes are people you put on a pedestal and they reflect your character. It’s not up to me to dictate to the British who they should have as heroes.
“But I think they should carefully look at those they are going to honour. My message to the British Government is to be careful who you put on a pedestal as they reflect who you are,” said Travers, who lives in Cork in the Republic of Ireland.
“It is a mistake, though, to concentrate on one person when looking at the atrocities carried out in Northern Ireland. The real culprits are the state and the methods they used.”
He added: “A lot of things were done in the name of the British people that they don’t know about and as we’ve seen in the Brexit debate there is an abject ignorance about Irish history and the conflict.”
Travers was critically injured when the Miami Showband was targeted in a bombing and shooting attack in the early hours of July 31, 1975. Three of his bandmates died.
The former bassist of the band spoke to the Sunday National after two Tory MPs called in the Commons last Wednesday for Nairac to be remembered.
The showband had been playing a gig in Banbridge in County Down, north of the border, and were returning to their home in Dublin when the attack took place.
As was commonplace in those days their van was waved down by what seemed like a routine checkpoint set up by the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), an auxiliary force made up of local recruits formed to support the British Army’s work during the Troubles.
But in the course of the “checkpoint” search, a bomb was planted in their van which exploded prematurely.
Lead singer Fran O’Toole, and band members Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty, were killed. O’Toole was shot 22 times at close range.
Miraculously, Travers and band leader Des Lee managed to survive. Lee found a hiding spot in the blazing hedge and Travers played dead.
Two of the soldiers who carried out the attack – both members of the UDR and the UVF – were also killed in the bomb blast. Three more members of the UVF gang, also members of the UDR, were later convicted and jailed.
A Netflix documentary broadcast for the first time in March, revisited the atrocity, with the help of Travers. It pointed the finger at the UK, arguing that its intelligence service was behind the murders.
Rather than a random sectarian attack, it has long been suggested that notorious loyalist killer Robin “The Jackal” Jackson masterminded the massacre.
Years later, the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team confirmed Jackson had been a “special agent” for the RUC.
It has also been suggested Nairac played a role in the Miami Showband killings. Travers said there was a British Army officer at the scene, who had a “posh English” accent, but he has never been able to say whether it was Nairac or not.
He was kidnapped, tortured and killed by the IRA in 1977. Two years later he was posthumously awarded the George Cross for heroism.
It was claimed in the Netflix documentary that Nairac was deployed in Northern Ireland to work with loyalist terror groups to help fight the IRA.
According to these claims the British Army wanted to strengthen infrastructure on the border as they believed IRA gangs were fleeing into the Republic after launching attacks in Northern Ireland.
It is claimed the UDR/UVF gang were used by the intelligence authorities to try and frame the Miami Showband members to look as if they were carrying bombs across the border in a bid to strengthen the political case for a harder border.
The plan was that the bomb would go off in the van as they travelled to Dublin, making the band members look as if they were IRA members smuggling bombs.
However, the operation was botched and the bomb – planted by the gang – went off prematurely.
Last week in the House of Commons two Tory MPs, one of whom had served under Nairac in the Grenadier Guards, asked Speaker John Bercow what could be done to mark his service and death.
In a point of order Sir Mike Penning said: “42 years ago in the early hours of that morning, a brave British soldier who was from 3 Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards was abducted by the IRA.
“Captain Robert Nairac was my captain, a gentleman that in the boxing ring broke my nose, the first person to have done so.
“We still do not know what happened to him. This country owes a great debt to our soldiers in Northern Ireland, and particularly those who have given the utmost for their country.
“Mr Speaker do you think there is any way that I can mark 42 years of Captain Robert Nairac giving his life for this country and for the peace of Northern Ireland?”
His words were echoed by Tory MP and former army officer Bob Stewart, who said Nairac had received a George Cross posthumously, after being “tortured heinously” by the IRA.
Travers said: “I have never been able to identify the British officer I saw. People have showed me pictures and asked if this was the man, but I have never been able to say one way or the other.
“I have no view on Robert Nairac, but even if it was proved that it was him he would only have been the one taking orders.”
He called for UK Government intelligence files on the Troubles to be opened in the interest of transparency, accountability and reconciliation.
“This isn’t about vengeance. It’s about the benefit of the British people. We think people who were involved in such atrocities and who carried them out in their name should be held to account.
They should open the files into the whole era and face up to the truth about what happened. If the UK Government has nothing to hide, then why is it hiding something?”
With many thanks to: The National Scot and Kathleen Nutt for the Exclusive original story@kacnutt
It all centres around the gardai’s alleged interactions witha crime gang in Limerick
All three officers are now suspended from duty and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions after they were released overnight.
A Superintendent and Inspector were lifted as part of a major probe into Garda collusion with a criminal gang in the mid-west.
A third garda, a Detective, was re-arrested for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice after new information emerged.
The probe, which began over a year ago, is led by experienced investigators from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
A source said: “One officer had been given a promotion.
“A second officer – arrested for allegedly passing over confidential information – previously served in operations targeting organised crime.
“The third officer arrested, a Detective, is alleged to have taken €20,000 from a crime gang in Limerick for passing information on investigations.”
The investigation has been ongoing for more than a year and involves elite investigators from the NBCI – some of whom were previously involved in Ireland’s most high-profile murder investigations.
It all centres around the gardai’s alleged interactions with a crime gang in Limerick.
It is believed investigators monitored phone traffic between garda officers and gang members warning them of an impending raid by gardai.
The investigators have also seized a video relating to a drug offence.
As previously revealed by the Irish Mirror the gangsters have filled the vacuum left by the McCarthy-Dundon mob.
They are now the biggest dealers of drugs on the west coast and are led by two men based in Limerick.
They have been the subject of Criminal Assets Bureau probes.
In one CAB raid, targeting suspected money laundering, dozens of cars were seized, along with thousands of euro and sterling in cash.
Sources have said one key area in the whole probe is the involvement of the criminals and allegedly one of the gardai in the greyhound racing scene. One source added: “One major element of this is the sale, purchasing and training of greyhounds.
“As part of the probe the NBCI obtained warrants for phone traffic and bank accounts.”
It is understood the suspects have been detained for questioning in Athlone, Thurles and Shannon Garda stations. They can be held for a maximum of 24 hours.
Gardai arrest man after €63,000 worth of heroin and cannabis seized in Tallaght, Dublin
A Garda statement said operations were led by Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll together with Deputy Commissioner John Twomey.
There have been five arrests in total, with one of the gardai involved having been detained twice.
Gardai have also searched a number of addresses as well as a Garda station in previous operations.
The Deputy Commissioner stated: “An Garda Siochana is fully committed to investigating any alleged wrong-doing or corruption involving Garda personnel, and will work with other relevant agencies in doing so.
“As this is a live and ongoing investigation, it is not appropriate to make any further comment at this time”.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: “While I obviously can’t comment on individual cases, I expect a thorough and timely investigation.”
A garda spokeswoman said:
With many thanks to the: Irish Mirror and Ciara Phelan for the original story
An Garda SiochanaCriminal Assets BureauCrimeCorkLimerickThurles
British former soldier RICHARD RUDKIN reveals yet another instance of collusion and cover-up aftera case of mistaken identity in the North of Ireland in 1972
IN politics, some things are predictable. For instance, when the opinion polls show Labour in front, up pops one of the usual suspects with another Jeremy Corbyn anti-semitism story.
By coincidence, when it comes to the uncovering documents to assist the families in the North of Ireland fighting for truth and justice, something similar occurs.
Only days after author Ciaran MacAirt uncovered a secret British army log, which alleged the brigade commander at that time, General Sir Frank Kitson, was guilty of collusion and cover-up of the McGurk’s bar bombing in December 1971, up steps Tory MP Johnny Mercer to try to hold Theresa May to ransom, in an attempt to prevent the families in the North of Ireland obtaining justice.
Talking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mercer, a former British army officer,
stated he has withdrawn support for the government over the historical prosecution of servicemen and women. The MP for Plymouth stated he would only vote with his party on Brexit issues.
In his letter to the PM, Mercer said he could not support May’s legislative programme any further until the government makes some clear and concrete steps to end what Mercer calls “this abhorrent process.”
Although not reported within the mainstream media, possibly the uncovering of a British army log may have influenced Mercer to up his game to try to halt the process of uncovering the truth behind a number of deaths on innocent civilians by the security forces during the Troubles.
The log may not only prove the allegations of “collusion and cover-up” in an explosion that killed 15 civilians including children, but places a brigadier right at the top of the list.
During his interview, Mercer suggested that there were “those who seek to refight the conflict through other means.”
This comment alone is an insult to the many innocent victims, but yet again the statement goes unchallenged. For instance, who does Mercer mean by “those”? Who is Mercer alluding to? The families?
Once again, the innocent victims who were killed or injured by security forces, by accident or otherwise, are thrown into the pot with all other killings, albeit members of loyalist or republican organisations.
Those that are trying to defend the indefensible would have the general public believe that allegations of collusion, cover-up was only was the stuff of fantasy in an Andy McNab novel. However, the evidence is well documented and is there for all to see if they wish to do so.
For example, take the incident in Ballymurphy on the morning of April 15 1972 which began when an RUC constable contacted the operations room of Henry Taggart Memorial Hall, where C Company of the King’s Own Scottish Border (KOSB) Regiment was based, to inform them he believed he had just spotted a wanted Provisional IRA man James Bryson.
Bryson was well known to the British army and was thought to have been involved in a number of shootings, including the shooting of a lance corporal from the KOSB earlier that month. At 7.30am on hearing the report, a lieutenant decided to investigate the sighting.
Dressed in civilian clothes and driving an unmarked vehicle, the lieutenant, accompanied by a sergeant and a private soldier, began a search for the suspect.
After driving around with no success, they were leaving the Ballymurphy area when the lieutenant finally spotted the man thought to be Bryson talking to another man.
Seeing the armed men emerge from the car, the two men ran off, pursued by the two soldiers.
The “company log” of the event states that the lieutenant gave chase to Bryson, who had fired a number of shots at the lieutenant before tripping and dropping his 9mm Star automatic pistol (and states the serial number) and two magazines containing live rounds.
The man thought to be Bryson made his escape while the second man, later named as Gerard Conway, was hospitalised after suffering gunshot wounds to both legs. All this sounds very plausible and believable, that is until you discover what actually occurred.
On the day in question, two brothers John and Gerard Conway were doing what they did every Saturday morning, walking to the bus stop to catch a bus to the city centre were they ran a fruit and veg stall.
While they stood talking, two armed men emerged from a fast-approaching car. Believing they were loyalist gunmen, they ran for their lives.
While Gerard Conway was hit in the legs, his brother managed to escape but attended hospital later with a wound to his buttock.
By 10.50am a report was sent to army headquarters in Northern Ireland that John Conway had also been admitted to hospital and that “he may be the chap they thought was Bryson.”
Within four hours of the incident, it was clear at British army command level, that the shooting of the Conway brothers was obviously a clear case of mistaken identity.
However, once again instead of coming clean on the events, the commanders opted instead for total denial and spin, leaving an RUC spokesperson two days later to tell the Irish News there were no police or troops in the area at the time and the shooting was most likely “IRA justice.” A complete lie.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the mistaken identity that is the problem or the cover-up.
What about the alleged shots fired at the soldier by the man thought to be Bryson?
The pistol and loaded magazines were recovered so surely his fingerprints would be all over them, plus forensics on their clothing?
Yet no charges were ever brought against the two men.
From my experience it is simply unthinkable to suggest that if either man had used the gun that was recovered, that they wouldn’t have been subjected to a search, arrested, charged and interrogated before being locked up.
Yet none of this happened. I will leave the reader to reach their own conclusion why.
MONDAY 13TH MAY 2019
PROMOTE PARENTI, NOT SLAVOJ ZIZEK
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BRITISH FIREFIGHTERS STAND WITH SPANISH COMRADE WHO FACES JAIL FOR RESCUING MIGRANTS
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With many thanks to the: Morning Star Newspaper for the original story
The family of a Co Donegal teenager murdered by loyalists 46 years ago has started High Court action over suspected security force collusion surrounding his killing. Henry Cunningham, 16, was shot dead in August 1973 when UVF gunmen ambushed a van in which he was traveling home. His brothers, Robert and Herbert, we’re also amount workmen of mixed religion in the vehicle on the M2 near Randalstown, Co Antrim. They are suing the MoD after it emerged that a weapon used in the killing had been stolen from an army base. As the case came before the High Court in Belfast for the first time, Robert Cunningham traveled from his home in Carndonagh to attend the hearing. An emotional Mr Cunningham insisted the family want answers to the circumstances which led to his brother’s murder.
“There was never a proper inquest and we feel that we have been let down by our own [Irish] government,” the 66-year-old said outside court. “What really annoys me is that the authorities north and South would let my mother and father go to their graves without an investigation. Nobody did anything.” No-one has ever been prosecuted for his brother’s murder. Weeks after the teenager died an inquest was held, returning an open verdict.
‘Authorities north and south would let my mother and father go to their graves without an investigation – Robert Cunningham
In 2008, an Historical Enquiries Team (HE) report said that one of the guns had been stolen from a UDR base in Lurgan, Co Armagh. Backed by a lobby group The Pat Finucane Centre, the Cunningham’s are suing the MoD for alleged misfeasance in public office and negligence. They claim the defendant was aware that guns under its control were being lost or stolen but failed to take any action.
Papers lodged in the case further allege the MoD knew or suspected that UDR personal were involved in taking weapons they could be used by loyalist terror groups. The case was adjourned amid attempts to secure further discovery of relevant documents. Outside court Mr Cunningham Cunningham’s solicitor, Kevin Winters, said: “Without documents families alleging state collusion can’t begin to get any form of Justice for their loved ones. “Today is the first step for the Cunningham family to get discovery of MoD material that will hopefully provide answers to the murder of their brother nearly half a century ago.” Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre said: “This family is taking a challenge to the massive failure of the Ministry of Defense’s duty of care to keep their weapons safe.”
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Connla Young for the original story
Rescuers, soldiers and civilians, dig with bare hands in the still smoking rubble of McGurk’s bar in North Queen Street, Belfast, where 15 people died in a bomb blast, in 1971
FAMILIES of those killed in one of Ireland’s most notorious unsolved bombings have demanded immediate arrests after the discovery of a secret army log which they say proves British collusion in a cover-up.
They have called for General Sir Frank Kitson to be hauled in by an independent police force regarding his alleged role in a smear campaign that followed the McGurk’s bar bombing in Belfast on December 1971.
The bar was popular with Catholics and Irish nationalists and the explosion cause the building to collapse, resulting in the deaths of 15 civilians including two children.
Just hours after the bombing the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) started spreading a story that the bomb was an Irish Republican Army (IRA) device that exploded prematurely “in transit.”
This was refuted by pub regulars who stated that McGurk’s was not known as an IRA bar — which was confirmed by a 1971 intelligence report which stated the pub had no known IRA associations.
Relatives and survivors accused the RUC and British security forces of launching a smear campaign as an attempt to discredit the IRA and shift blame from loyalist paramilitaries.
Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) member Robert Campbell was jailed for 15 years in 1977 over his role in the bombings, but the families have fought for almost five decades to formally clear their names and get justice for their relatives.
Author and activist Ciaran MacAirt discovered the entry in a high-level British Military 39 Brigade Operations Log recorded at 1am on December 5 1971 (Serial 12) which stated:
“RUC have a line that the bomb in the pub was a bomb designed to be used elsewhere, left in the pub to be picked up by Provisional IRA. Bomb went off and was a mistake. RUC press office have a line on it — NI should deal with them.”
He said this “fabricated lie” which was discovered in the National Archives is evidence of a cover-up by the RUC and British Military and was the position given by them to the media and the British government.
A note on the file records that the order came from Bde Comd — an abbreviation of Brigade Commander, who at this time was General Sir Frank Kitson.
Gen Kitson played a notorious role in the north of Ireland and was reputed to have allegedly enabled torture, psychological operations, pseudo-gangs and covert Special Force units like the Military Reaction Force (MRF) which murdered civilians with impunity.
He also overhauled and redeveloped the British Army’s information units which managed British information policy, propaganda and disinformation across the region.
Mr MacAirt said the file is “absolutely critical evidence relating to the genesis of the McGurk’s Bar lie which blamed our loved ones for the massacre and allowed mass murderers to roam free and murder again.”
“The secret British Army record appears to confirm that General Sir Frank Kitson himself, the architect of gangs and counter-gangs on our streets, colluded with the RUC and disseminated this lie throughout British Army Brigade and Headquarters.
“This heinous lie was then fed to British government ministers and was published in the media, becoming the pretext for the bombing in the RUC cover-up.”
He called for the immediate arrest and questioning of Mr Kitson under caution accusing the authorities of deliberately failing to investigate the McGurk’s bombing.
“The PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] has proved yet again that it is more interested in covering up for a sectarian police force in the past rather than investigating the McGurk’s Bar Massacre fairly and upholding the basic human rights of citizens murdered, injured and bereaved in the attack,” he said.
The revelations are the latest in a long line of cover-ups and alleged collusion between the British state and loyalist paramilitaries in the north of Ireland.
Files relating to the McGurk’s bombing are closed for public access for 84 years but were partially opened after a year-long battle via the Freedom of Information Act and after the application of a Public Interest Test by the British Ministry of Defence.
Despite this the MoD has exempted the disclosure of even more information relating to the McGurk’s Bar Massacre in the file. Mr MacAirt has raised a complaint with the British authorities to secure the evidence.
This paper exclusively revealed a severe shortage of staff dealing with complaints over Freedom of Information requests.
Just two staff are based at the Belfast branch of the Information Commissioner’s Offices compared to 47 in England. Around a quarter of the backlog involves complaints against the police in the north of Ireland for rejecting FOI requests.
Many of those are thought to be related to the Troubles, with the British state accused of deliberately obstructing the release of information that could expose its involvement in shady operations.
Kinnear and Co Solicitors spokesman Niall O’Murchu confirmed that they spoke to the PSNI five weeks ago but said the force had failed to respond to requests for independent investigators to interview Mr Kitson, despite the new evidence being the “very first document which shows that Kitson was personally involved in the atrocity.”
With many thanks to: The Morning Star and Steve Sweeney for the original story