The men were fighting with the Syrian Democratic Forces in two towns east of the River Euphrates
Two SAS soldiers seriously injured in Syria were hit as Islamic State militants counterattacked in one of their last two strongholds.
The two men were embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces, Britain and America’s local allies in eastern Syria, as they attacked the Isis-held town of al-Shaafa.
A local fighter, a Kurd from the YPG militia, which dominates the Syrian Democratic Forces, was killed when an Isis unit fired what local commanders said was a heat-seeking missile at the group on Saturday morning.
One SAS soldier received a serious injury to his throat, while the other suffered lesser injuries. Both were taken to a field hospital at the nearby al-Omar oilfield and flown by helicopter to an unnamed US-run military base for hospital treatment.
The Times understands that neither Briton is in a critical condition and both are expected to survive. The Ministry of Defence would not discuss their condition, saying that it did not comment on special forces operations. Neither man has been named.
The two men are among several hundred members of British, American, French and other western special forces fighting alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern Syria against the remnants of Isis. The militants are surrounded in two towns east of the River Euphrates in Deir Ezzor province, al-Shaafa and al-Susah. Al-Shaafa has been the scene of intense fighting for a week, and inroads have been made against Isis, with up to half the town seized, according to local journalists.
Kamiran Sadoun, a Syrian Kurdish journalist who was in the area at the time, said that there had been five to seven SAS soldiers on patrol with SDF fighters when the clash happened. He said that he had spoken to wounded SDF soldiers at the al-Omar field hospital.“They told us they were attacked — they shot at the Isis fighters then they fired back with a thermal missile,” he told The Times. He said that besides the fighter who was killed, two more were injured.
There have been heavy coalition air strikes, including one on Friday that was said to have killed 11 civilians, among them a Russian woman and her child. Thousands more civilians have fled the area.
The death of the Kurdish fighter and the two Britons’ injuries will be used to highlight a clash between Britain and America over plans for the region. Last month President Trump announced that he would withdraw all 2,000 American troops operating in Syria. The move, contradicting a policy he announced last summer to keep American troops in Syria to ensure Isis remained defeated and to maintain a bulwark against Iranian influence, prompted fierce criticism across the West and was followed by James Mattis, US defence secretary, announcing his resignation. British politicians argued that Isis was “not yet defeated” and Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, said that it was necessary to “keep a foot on the throat”.
No timetable for the withdrawal has been given, although Mr Trump’s initial demand that it be within 30 days has been discounted.
A senior British defence source said yesterday: “This attack goes to show that the fight against Daesh is by no means over. There’s a question now over whether Daesh are ramping up their operations ahead of the US troop withdrawal to ‘prove’ that they drove American forces out. It could be similar to what the Taliban tried to do in Helmand in Afghanistan.”
With many thanks to: The Times/ The Sunday Times for the original story
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, gave the following speech to the Annual Conference of the British-Irish Association on Friday 7 September 2018.
7 September 2018 (Speaker’s notes, may differ from delivered version)
Since 1972 the BIA has played a key role in bringing together politicians, civil servants, academics, business people, faith leaders, journalist, commentators and many more to promote dialogue and understanding throughout these islands and to try and shape a better future together.
So thank you for everything you have done and I am sure will continue to do in the years to come.
This is of course my first BIA conference since the Prime Minister asked me to take on the role of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in January, something that I had absolutely no hesitation in accepting.
And as Secretary of State, I know what an amazing place Northern Ireland is and what it has to offer.
Indeed, it’s not surprising that nearly all of my predecessors look back on their time with huge affection, with a number regarding it as the most rewarding and important job they ever had in government.
So as I’ve gone out and about over the past nine months, meeting as many people as I can, it’s impossible not to be struck by the warmth of the place. Its beauty, its spirit and, yes, its history but also its massive potential.
I’ve made a point of visiting with my family some of the great attractions that Northern Ireland has to offer: the Fermanagh lakes, the Giant’s Causeway, the Titanic Visitor attraction, to name but a few. And each time they can’t wait to come back for more.
So Northern Ireland is a very special place, and I believe one with a great future.
And this year of course we have been marking the 20th anniversary of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, an historic landmark in the history not just of Northern Ireland but of these islands as a whole.
It was, as I said in April, a triumph of politics over the previous decades of violence, division and despair.
Twenty years on it is perhaps easy for some to lose sight of the magnitude of what was achieved in 1998.
So let me spell some them out.
The constitutional position of Northern Ireland settled on the principle of consent.
The Irish constitution amended to reflect that fact.
Political institutions to accommodate and give expression to both the main traditions in Northern Ireland.
Strong new bodies to foster greater North-South and East-West co-operation.
Powerful protections for people’s rights, culture and identities.
Reforms to make policing and the criminal justice system more accountable and acceptable across the community.
And of course the consequences of all of this: a more peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland that is in so many ways unrecognisable since the dark days of the troubles, notwithstanding the severe threat we continue to face from dissident republicans.
All of these gains were hard fought, the result of years of painstaking discussions and negotiations, and we should never forget just how precious they are or indeed shy away from making the case for the 1998 Agreement.
It is our duty to do whatever is necessary to protect and defend it, and that is what this Government will continue to do.
So let me reiterate for the avoidance of any doubt: the UK Government remains steadfast in its support for the Belfast Agreement, the bedrock on which the progress across the three interlocking relationships – within Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and Ireland and between the UK and Ireland – has been made over the past twenty years.
We will do nothing that undermines this, including as the UK leaves the EU next March.
And over recent years Northern Ireland has continued to take many great steps forward, not least on the economy.
Unemployment, which in 2010 stood at just over 7 per cent, is now 3.8 per cent, one of the lowest figures on record and significantly below the EU average.
Meanwhile employment, at just over 69 per cent, is at near record levels. In all, 63,000 more people are in work in Northern Ireland today than in 2010 … with nearly 19,000 new jobs in the past year. That’s more people with the security of a regular pay packet for them and their families.
Average weekly earnings have grown at a faster rate in Northern Ireland than in any other UK region.
There are over 12,000 more businesses than was the case 8 years ago.
Over 900 overseas companies have invested in Northern Ireland, making it the most popular location for FDI outside of London and the South East – the highest number of FDI jobs per head of any part of the UK.
Since 2011, exports are up by 11per cent, and external sales, including to the rest of the UK, are up 18 per cent.
Tourism is booming, as anyone who has seen the cruise ships docked in Belfast this year will testify.
We have more people staying for longer than ever before, with impressive new hotels to accommodate them and more in the pipeline.
And of course next year the eyes of the world will once again be on Northern Ireland as the oldest and most famous golfing championship in the word, the Open, is played at Royal Portrush.
None of this has happened by accident. It has been the result of the hard work of the people of Northern Ireland, with productivity increasing in Northern Ireland at a faster rate than in any other UK region.
And, I might add, a fiscally responsible UK Government prepared to take the necessary measures and pursue policies at a national level to allow business and enterprise to thrive across the whole of the UK, with the result that we now have the lowest levels of unemployment across the country than at any time in over 40 years.
A UK Government that despite severe pressures on public expenditure continues to recognise Northern Ireland’s special circumstances through generous support in the Block Grant.
We have maintained public spending in Northern Ireland at around 20 per cent per head higher than the UK average.
Over the current spending review period UK Government financial support to the Northern Ireland Executive has increased by 5 per cent in real terms.
The Prime Minister’s recent pledge of an additional £20.5 billion to the NHS by 2024, which means an extra £760 million a year by 2023-24 for Northern Ireland under the Barnett formula.
We’ve helped hard working people: some 745,000 people in Northern Ireland will have gained by an average of £182 as a result of our increases to the personal allowance and higher rate tax threshold.
We’ve increased the National Living Wage to £7.83, delivering a £600 annual pay rise to full-time workers in Northern Ireland.
And we’ve committed substantial additional security funding to help the PSNI tackle the continuing terrorist threat: £160 million over this spending review period and £230 million in the last one.
These are just a few examples of how Northern Ireland has shared in our national economic recovery in recent years, and how Northern Ireland benefits from the strength and security of being part of the world’s fifth largest economy.
Yet for all the successes there are significant challenges too.
Economic growth in the past year has been flat, lower than the UK as a whole and in Ireland.
Rates of economic inactivity remain higher than in other parts of the UK.
Hospital waiting lists are longer than in England and are getting worse.
There are other examples of where a current lack of ministerial decision making is holding Northern Ireland back.
Corporation tax has yet to be devolved, meaning that Northern Ireland remains at an economic disadvantage when it comes to competing for foreign direct investment with Ireland.
Construction projects worth up to £2bn are at risk due to the lack of key planning decisions, including plans for a new £30m quay for cruise ships, a new £175m transport hub for Belfast, a £280m power plant, the North-South electricity interconnector worth around £200m and a £50m office block at Belfast Harbour.
Strategies for building a stronger society and a shared future, as well as tackling paramilitary activity, have lost momentum.
And of course while I continue to ensure that Northern Ireland’s interests and needs are represented at the heart of Government, Northern Ireland would be better placed to meet the challenges and opportunities of Brexit with an Executive in place.
In the absence of a devolved Executive we have brought forward measures at Westminster to ensure good governance and stability.
In July the Government took a budget through Westminster to enable the continued delivery of public services
And before the summer recess I announced plans to bring forward legislation enabling me to make key public appointments, for example to a reconstituted Policing Board.
But none of this is any substitute for devolution – a locally elected Assembly and Executive taking decisions on behalf of all the people of Northern Ireland.
And while I am not saying that a devolved government would solve all the problems I’ve just mentioned overnight, I am convinced that it could make a real difference to people’s lives and helping to unlock even further the undoubted and enormous potential that Northern Ireland has to offer.
The absolute priority, therefore, for this Government – as I know it is the Irish Government – is to see a restoration of the devolved power sharing institutions at Stormont, and all the other related bodies, at the earliest opportunity.
And yesterday in the House of Commons I set out a plan to try help bring that about.
I announced that I intend to bring forward legislation that will provide for a limited and prescribed period in which there will be no legal obligation to set a date for an election.
Importantly, during this time an Executive may be formed at any point without the requirement for further legislation. This will provide the opportunity to re-establish political talks aimed at restoring the Executive as soon as possible.
The legislation I intend to introduce after the party conference recess will also include provisions to give greater clarity and certainty to enable NI departments to continue to take decisions in Northern Ireland in the public interest and to ensure the continued delivery of public services.
I intend to consult parties in Northern Ireland over how this might best be done.
I also intend, therefore, to use the next few weeks to engage in further discussions with the parties and the Irish Government, in accordance with the well-established three stranded approach with the intention of establishing a basis for moving into more formal political dialogue that leads to a restoration of the institutions.
Finally, I also announced that I would be bringing forward a reduction in MLA pay.
I believe that the people of Northern Ireland want to see a restoration of their political institutions and that is what this Government is committed to achieving.
Stable and effective devolved government is the right thing for Northern Ireland.
And I am in no doubt that it is best for the Union.
With many thanks to: GOV.UK for the original posting.
Media queries should be directed to Bob Honey, NIO Communications Team, on 07956 579 286
Luke Butterly writes that the government is quietly preparing for a return to a harder border in the North of Ireland.
Earlier this year, the wording in a Home Office recruitment campaign sparked a small controversy. As part of a drive to recruit an additional 1000 border force officers post-Brexit, the 21 jobs advertised in Belfast were only open to those with a British passport – “due to the sensitive nature of the work, require special allegiance to the Crown”.
In the north of Ireland, a painstakingly-crafted peace agreement allows citizens to identify as Irish, British or both – and are entitled to hold both or either passport. With less than half the population identifying primarily or solely as British, many would be excluded.
The ‘British only’ only aspect of the job adverts also echoed the decades of institutional discrimination that the Catholic minority had faced in terms of employment, where government ministers openly invited employers to discriminate.
The advert was quickly amended after being referred to the local equality commission, but it struck a larger point: preparations are underway for a border in Ireland.
Claire Hanna, the Brexit spokesperson for the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP): “Instead of putting out job advertisements, the British Government should take some serious time to spell out clearly what form of Border they anticipate these employees to be guarding.”
A troubled history
If Ireland was mentioned at all during the Brexit campaign, it was to reassure people that a campaign underlined by a ‘take back control of our borders’ narrative would somehow have no impact on the UK’s only land border with the EU.
Once the referendum dust had settled and Theresa May was Prime Minister, she was initially at pains to stress that Brexit would not herald a return to the ‘borders of the past’.
Following the anti-colonial struggle and subsequent civil war, Ireland was partitioned in the 1920s. This saw the creation of a new 500km international border drawn between the north-east and the rest of the island. The border was a point of contention for most of the following decades, and during the 30 year conflict known as the Troubles it was home to patrols, and checkpoints, and saw harassment, violence and death.
Twenty years after the 1998 Good Friday agreement, tens of thousands of people pass the border each day, most with little indication of when exactly they had crossed.
Quietly strengthening the border
To put it mildly, UK-EU negations since the referendum have not gone smoothly. As the March 2019 Brexit deadline rolls around, a ‘no deal’ scenario looks increasingly likely – and with it come worrying implications for the border. While the prevailing narrative is that the UK government is famously ill-prepared, actions and statements throughout this year show how a border is being prepared for.
The border jobs adverts mentioned above were not the first such controversy. In late 2017 the Home Office launched a 300 new ‘mobile patrol’ border force officers for a range of locations including Belfast, but would not disclose how many would be stationed in the north.
This summer the chief of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) announced he would be looking for 400 new officers for post-Brexit border security issues. On the other side of the border, the Gardaí called for extra funding and machine guns for border patrols (the Gardaí are traditionally unarmed).
The PSNI chief has said that any instillations would become targets for dissident republicans, yet in preparation for Brexit the police have halted the sale of three disused police stations along the border.
Most worrying is an anti-terror bill is currently passing through Westminster, due to be law by Christmas. The Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill contains provisions that will grant powers to police and other officials to stop, search and detain anyone found within one mile of the North-South border. Further, police don’t need to show any reasonable suspicion. The act also explicitly names two train stations (the first stop on the cross border rail service) which are several miles in from the border yet fall under these powers.
The fear that the powers will be used if granted are legitimate. At least as far as 2009 checks have been happening between those travel from the North to Britain – without any statutory basis. A similar existing piece of anti-terror legislation to the one proposed was used 12,479 times in a recent three year period (2014-2016). Despite this high number, there was not one case of someone being held on terror related grounds. Rather, some were then handed over to immigration officials. – thereby using emergency anti-terror laws to side-step the lack of legislated immigration checks. A leading human rights charity has warned of the current and future risk of racial profiling.
Even away from the borders, there is precedent. The North have the most disproportionate use of stop and search by the police – police there use their stop and search powers three times more than those in England and Wales, but are also three times less likely to lead to any further action.
On the ground
Support for Brexit is low in the North, and even lower for any kind of border. A recent survey from Queens University Belfast found that 60% of people would support protests against any north-south checks. When the figures are broken down, they are even starker: 36% of Sinn Féin voters would support blocking traffic, and one in 10 would support protests that attacked any new border installations or infrastructure.
In the referendum people voted to remain by 55.8%, with the issue of the border looming large (polling now puts support for ‘remain’ at 69%). When this 55.8% is broken down it is even more stark – of those constituencies that border the Irish republic, all voted remain – generally with margins of 60 – 70%. This map can almost be neatly overlapped with where Brexit-supporting DUP and anti-Brexit Sinn Féin hold their seats, and where areas have a higher Catholic than protestant population.
Yet regardless of these divisions, there is substantial support from both communities “for the type of UK exit that would largely eliminate the need for any border.” The Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ), a leading human rights organisation based in Belfast, has said that any potential border could be ‘threat to the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement’:
“Any move towards a border that is controlled in any way, by fixed checkpoints, electronic surveillance or in-country spot checks, will not only cause economic and social inconvenience but also accentuate the distinction between jurisdictions which was becoming usefully blurred.”
The situation in North is changing and unstable. In the 2016 assembly elections, unionists lost their majority for the first time in the state’s 90 year history. In January 2017 the assembly collapsed, and this week marks 589 days of political stalemate, beating Belgium’s record as the longest time with a government.
Post-peace agreement, support for a united Ireland has stayed a minority viewpoint – even in Catholic communities. Yet now many say Brexit and the threat of a border increases the desirability of reunification – and with it EU membership. The continued denial of access to abortion, marriage equality, and Irish language rights – all now available in the south – also plays a role.
A recent poll found that 60% of voters in the North think that Brexit makes the break up of the UK more likely. While issues of the border rank high for people in the North, people in the North rank low for voters in Britain. Polling of Leave voters said they “would rather lose Northern Ireland than give up the benefits of Brexit”. Voters as a whole put preventing a hard border at the bottom of their priorities for the Brexit negotiations.
As the government laid out their plans for a no-deal Brexit, new Brexit Secretary Dominic Rabb gave few commitments other than to say “We wouldn’t return to any sort of hard border”. Yet there is no clarity on how that will be avoided.
The ‘no deal’ alternatives to border checks are no less troubling. CAJ warns that the North could become ‘one big border’, with stepped up immigration raids and a hyper-intensified version of the ‘hostile environment’.
When a video emerged last week of arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg suggesting that we should have Troubles-era ‘inspections’ of people crossing the border, it provoked ire and condemnation from all quarters. Yet while it may be true that we will not exactly return to ‘the borders of the past’, the borders of the future are becoming increasingly likely.
With many thanks to: Redpeper.org.uk for the original posting.
Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The past is never dead. It’s not even past, William Faulkner said. The dark secrets of Northern Ireland’s dirty war seem more intent, year by year, on proving Faulkner’s maxim truer than many could ever have imagined.
It is forty three years since the now notorious Glennane Gang murdered three members of the Miami pop band in July 1975, two of the band survived–Stephen Travers and Des Lee. The Gang was made up of serving RUC (police) and UDR (British army) personnel, plus members of the UVF. The leader on the night, the infamous Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson, was at the time in command of the UVF’s mid Ulster Brigade–he was also an ex British army soldier. Journalist David McKittrick attributes as many as 50 killings to Jackson; some even more, others less. Making him one of Europe’s most lethal, and most secretive, serial killers of the late 20thcentury you’ve probably never heard of. The gang are said to be responsible for 120 murders. Including the murder of the Reavey brothers and members of the O’ Dowd family in January 1976. The following night the IRA murdered 10 innocent Protestants at Kingsmills, South Armagh-another sectarian obscenity in Ulster’s murder triangle.
Jackson was linked to the Miami Showband killings by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team in their 2011 report on the 1975 massacre–Jackson’s finger prints were found on a homemade silencer of a Luger gun used in the attack. The report also stated that Jackson claimed he had been ‘tipped off’ while in custody in May 1976 by an RUC Detective Superintendent, and that he “…should clear as there was a wee job up the country that I would be done for and there was no way out of it for me”. But Jackson didn’t “clear” anywhere instead he went on to kill many more. Despite widespread rumours about Jackson’s killing career at the time and his virtual impunity from punishment, he remained practically untouched by the forces of law until his death in 1998-apart from a seven year conviction in January 1981, of which he served only two years and was released in May, 1983. That means if 50 murders is indeed the correct figure, he spent roughly, two weeks, per killing, in jail.
John Weir a former member of the RUC and member of the gang, who was convicted for murder in 1980, called him probably the “best operator” during the Troubles. In 1999 Weir made detailed allegations in an affidavit about security force collusion, including disturbing information about how Jackson and the Glennane gang’s murderous rampage was not only known of but also tolerated by the security forces. Weir’s allegations were regarded by the 2006 Cassel’s report, an independent panel of international lawyers commissioned by the Pat Finucane Centre, into collusion in the North as credible. Others found him a credible source too, including the BBC’s Spotlight.
The fundamental question though is: were Jackson and the Glennane gang not only tolerated but actively orchestrated by elements of the British intelligence & security apparatus (MI5, military intelligence, RUC special branch) as a proxy counter-terror gang.
For years it has been alleged that Jackson was a protected agent of the RUC’s Special Branch, and possibly military intelligence too. The 2003 Barron report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings quoting British army whistle blower Colin Wallace, said as much. The bombings killed 33 people and injured 300 in 1974, one of the largest terrorist outrages in post war Europe.
In his affidavit Weir implicated RUC Chief Inspector Harry Breen–who served as a sergeant in Newry and Banbridge in the 70s–as having direct knowledge of the Glenanne gang. More incredibly still, he claimed that Breen was supplying weapons to the gang through a far right loyalist organisation called Down Orange Welfare. To quote Weir: “Down Orange Welfare was using RUC officers in Newry RUC station – McBride, Breen, myself – and another RUC officer, Sergeant Monty Alexander from Forkhill RUC station – to supply weapons to the UVF in Portadown.”
Separately, in a 2015 documentary on collusion BBC journalist Daragh McIntyre claimed that, while discussing the Glenanne gang, Jackson was “protected by one of the most senior police men in Northern Ireland”.
If he was referring to Breen, and given the geography, timing and Weir’s claims, it is very plausible that he was, it is an extraordinary allegation worth stating again, clearly. Was one of the most notorious sectarian killers in the Troubles protected-as a strategic asset perhaps-by one of the most senior policemen in Northern Ireland?
Colin Wallace also seemed to think so: “Everything people have whispered about Robin Jackson for years was perfectly true. He was a hired gun. A professional assassin. He was responsible for more deaths in the North than any other person I knew. The Jackal killed people for a living. The State not only knew that he was doing it. Its servants encouraged him to kill its political opponents and protected him.”
Jackson enjoyed practical immunity from prosecution all through his killing years during the 70s and 80s. Why this was the case has not been fully answered, even over forty years later.
But more importantly, the deeper question is who or what was protecting, or directing, or encouraging, the senior police man?
As early as 1974 Colin Wallace quoted again in the Barron Report said that Jackson and other leading Mid-Ulster UVF members “…were working closely with SB (Special Branch) and Int. (Military Intelligence) at that time”. Journalist Paul Foot and Yorkshire TV’s 1993 documentary The Hidden Hand-The Forgotten Massacre both suggested convincingly that Jackson and his gang, with members of the Belfast UVF, perpetrated the Dublin & Monaghan Bombings from their Glenanne base committed a year before the Miami massacre. The final report into the bombings published in March 2004 signposted obliquely that, “The possibility that the involvement of such army or police officers was covered-up at a higher level cannot be ruled out; but it is unlikely that any such decision would ever have been committed to writing.”
As many have also pointed out, it is inconceivable that James Mitchell’s farm in Glenanne, South Armagh-the gang’s well known and notorious epicentre-would not be under constant surveillance given what was common knowledge about the gang at the time in security and intelligence circles. John Weir claimed that the house was constantly watched by both RUC special branch and military intelligence: “basically everybody knew what was going on there…military intelligence was more often in the house than I was.” Many of Weir’s extraordinary allegations have yet to be seriously refuted.
More generally, in 2006 Cormac Ó Dúlacháin, SC, council for Justice for the Forgotten summed up to an Oireachtas sub-committee on the Barron report the incestuous and deadly relationship between the security & intelligence forces and loyalists terrorists in Armagh in the mid 70s:
If one reflects on the time and looks back at the newspapers, Dáil reports and British parliament reports, one continuously finds major expressions of political concern about what was happening in Armagh. In some way, all of this never crossed the desk of senior commanders, whether it was civilian intelligence, RUC intelligence or military intelligence…When one takes all of the inquiries that were ongoing and the political concerns expressed, one has to come to the conclusion that people at a very high level knew what was going on, yet we find the most minimal accountability.
Unfortunately the Barron report was significantly handicapped from the beginning in its search for the truth. The British government are said to have over 65 thousand potentially relevant files related to the bombings, of which only a handful were ever handed over to the enquiry.
Writing of the murky, devious and labyrinth world of counter insurgency in the North, Wallace, in a letter dated August 1975, and printed in the Irish edition of the Irish Mail on Sunday, Dec 10th, 2006, stated that,”…it would appear that loyalist paramilitaries and Int/SB members have formed some sort of pseudo gangs in an attempt to get paramilitaries on both sides to kill each other, and at the same time, prevent any future political initiatives such as Sunningdale.”
Sunningdale was a tripartite proposal to establish an Assembly, an executive government with power sharing by nationalists and unionists, and a council of Ireland-made up of representatives from the Irish Republic. It was met by fury from Ulster loyalism and subsequently collapsed in 1974 as a result of the Ulster Council strike. The strike began on the 15thof May; the Dublin and Monaghan bombings were on the 17thof May, two days later.
Quoted in the Barron report, Wallace on the 14thof August, 1975 linked by name some of the most notorious loyalist terrorists in Armagh at the time to the bombings: “Some of those involved, the Youngs, the Jacksons, Mulholland, Hanna, Kerr and McConnell were working closely with SB and Int at the time.”
The Bona fides and credibility of Wallace and other whistleblowers, Fred Holroyd for instance, has been challenged and questioned, and lied about for years. Yet as the late journalist Liam Clarke said in the Belfast Telegraph in 2014 Wallace’s credibility has tended to gain more and more as his central allegations have been put under further scrutiny.
In a later letter, dated Sept 30th, 1975, Wallace wrote, “As you know, we have never been allowed to target either the breakaway UVF, nor the UFF during the past year…”
So, why weren’t they targeted?
Anyone familiar with General Frank Kitson and British counter-insurgency policies in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s would be aware of Wallace’s term “pseudo gangs.” Kitson was the army’s principal strategist in Belfast in 1972 and was the instigator of the Military Reaction Force (MRF)-a clandestine murder gang within the British army who were the subject of a BBC Panorama investigation in 2013. The investigation revealed that its members (off duty soldiers and turned “insurgents” in unmarked cars) admitted to drive-by shootings and murder and attempted murder of innocent catholic civilians in Belfast in the early 1970s. A former member told the BBC in 2013 that, “We were not there to act like an Army unit, we were there to act like a terror group”.
Kitson’s military doctrine argued at the time that the rule of law could and should be subverted to the aims & objectives of the military during counter-insurgencies: “…the law should be used as just another weapon in the government’s arsenal.” A propaganda tool in other words. More chillingly, he went on to say it should be used as, “…cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public.” What he meant by “disposal” and “unwanted”, can, of course, be interpreted in many ways. Kenyans in the 1950s found out what these Orwellian abstractions meant in the 1950s during the Mau Mau rebellion: brutal detention conditions, systematic & horrific torture, and killing- a colonial dirty war (an “emergency” to give its imperial designation), described by Harvard’s Caroline Elkin as “Britain’s Gulag”.
But given what we now know about the dirty war in Northern Ireland, just as in Kenya, it isn’t too far a stretch to interpret Kitson’s clinical words as promoting state sponsored terrorism as a necessary counter-insurgency political and military strategy, in the ruthless pursuit of wider strategic and political aims.
The deliberate murder by state-licensed killing squads of non-combatant civilians evidently didn’t trouble Kitson too much. The Geneva Conventions were obviously seen a nuisance and something to be circumvented and ignored.
Kitson as other military strategists was fond of abstract metaphors. In his 1971 book, Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping, in chapter 3, borrowing from Mao Tse Tung, he wrote candidly of “polluting the waters” when and if a fish cannot be attacked directly by rod or not-the “fish” being the subversive.Kitson was advocating for asymmetrical warfare by the state long before the term became popular post 911, knowing that conventional armies were ineffective in unconventional low intensity conflicts against highly motivated guerrillas in “end of empire” violence.
How his blue print for polluting the waters-the host population and the host environment during insurgencies-was interpreted and implicated on the ground in places like South Armagh in the 1970s we might never fully know. Maybe he meant hearts and minds, or maybe he meant “adapting the operational intelligence” to new circumstances. Essentially Kitson was advocating the paramilitarisation of special units; “counter gangs” linked to the British army at the time to fight insurgency terrorism-auxiliary forces in effect. In the Northern Ireland they had willing collaborators in extreme loyalism. This wasn’t new policy. Similar clandestine counter gangs were used in other colonial arenas: Q patrols in Palestine and Cyprus and turned former Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya in the 1950s. These counter gangs were always under the control of Special Forces officers. Particularly in Mid Ulster & Belfast in the 70s, many victims would argue that they have suffered the impacts and consequences of Kitson’s abstract “pollution”.
No doubt a version has been applied and implemented in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewheretoo, in the 21st century’s perpetual, often privatised, imperial wars.
The Barron report also had its suspicions about “covert security operations” centred on Mid Ulster in the 1970s: “It was further suggested that some elements of the security forces may have been using loyalist paramilitaries as a “friendly guerilla force”, advising them on potential targets and assisting them with weapons and planning.”
Much of the above has been in the public record for years. It is readily available from open and online secondary sources. There is nothing particularly new discussed here.
Yet something very new, at least to the general public, came to light in released declassified state papers a few weeks ago that throws a fascinating light on this murky and troubling past all over again. The papers revealed that Charlie Haughey (Irish Prime Minister 1987-92) was warned in 1987 by the UVF that MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, wanted the loyalist organisation to assassinate him. Predictably this extraordinary and seemingly implausible story on the face of it, and its provenance, has resulted in some questioning whether it is real or not.
Nonetheless in a recent interview on Irish radio, Stephen Travers, a survivor of the Miami Massacre noted that the UVF claimed in a letter to have been given faulty detonators on bombs by MI5, “… as in the case of the Miami Showband”. In the interview Stephen said he was told by James O’ Neill, the RUC scene of crimes officer on the night of the bombing, that there was a 15 minute delay on the detonator of the bomb that blew up prematurely while it was being surreptitiously placed in the Miami’s minibus by the gang.
Stephen lay in the field that night for over forty minutes shot multiple times, drifting in and out of consciousness; Surrounded by his murdered band mates and bushes burning from the flames of the bomb.
Were the Glennane gang on this terrible night operating to a version of Kitson’s pseudo gang modus operandi? With a particularly hideous plan in mind to frame members of the band as terrorists? Stephen believes, as many others do, that the attack was a carefully planned political conspiracy concocted to frame the band when the bomb blew up just over the border, a few miles away in Co Louth. This would then have provided the pretext for forcing the Irish government of the time (Liam Cosgrove’s Fine Gael/Labour coalition) to check more stringently people crossing the border. The aim was to make the border more secure against IRA terrorism and subsequently frame the band as terrorists.
In 1991 Armagh based human rights campaigner Father Raymond Murray told Helsinki Watch that there were three types of killings by security forces during the Troubles. Firstly, killings by “trigger happy” bully boys who during harassment of civilians create the conditions in which killing happened. Second, when the RUC or the army passed on information to paramilitaries that led to killing known republicans, but often innocent civilians too. An example of “indirect” collusion and one long since admitted, for example in the Da Silva and Stevens Reports. Thirdly, and even more murkily; deliberate, professional and direct killing by either the SAS or other covert counter insurgency gangs linked to secretive military intelligence and/or MI5 for political and strategic aims, using: targeted assassinations, kidnappings, infiltration of “friendly “gangs (As Kitson advocated for) and, even, clandestine bombings. Not so much collusion-a fairly anodyne & nondescript phrase-but active collaboration between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, as Fred Holroyd revealed in the 1980s.
The third example is and probably always will be very difficult to prove conclusively. Such crimes are by their very nature covered up either by; destroying or conveniently losing official files; denying anything ever happened in the first place-institutional cover-up in other words; and concealment by a compliant and often credulous media and unquestioning civil service; and ignoring mounting evidence in the hope that it will go away.
But as legendary journalist Seymour Hersch said when asked whether Henry Kissinger “signed off” on the killing of Chilean general René Schneider in the 1970s: “orders” like that are not written down; it’s just not how it is done. But there is a paper trail of sorts, and the British state at least keeps a paper trail.
The key question however, in all of this, is: were some elements within the security & intelligence apparatus in the North at the time practising their very own domestic “strategy of tension?”
In Italy in the 1970s and 80s during the Cold War era far right wing terrorist gangs in conjunction with the Italian security services frequently used no warning bombs to terrorise innocent civilians, including the bombing of Bologna’s central train station that killed 85 people in 1980. The strategy was to blame communist terror groups for the outrages and engender fear and uncertainty-tension and anxiety-amongst the public. The rationale being that a frightened public would demand action against the perceived perpetrators of the violence.
Terrorist violence (state or otherwise) is a political tool, and a form of grotesque public theatre-terrorism as public spectacle. In 1975, security analyst Brian Jenkins correctly diagnosed terrorism as, “Violence for effect. Terrorists choreograph violence to achieve maximum publicity. Terrorism is theatre.” It is aimed at creating alarm in the feelings and emotions of the “watching” audience. The political logic may be deeply cynical and amoral, but it is never mindless.
The fallout of the violent act is then played out in the mass media with the aim of influencing and shaping the watching audience- mostly the general public’s attitudes and perceptions.
But “Operation Gladio” was a lot murkier even than that. In 1990 the conspiracy was exposed in the Italian parliament. The then prime minister Giulio Andreotti admitted that a secret army-so called “left Behinds”- had existed in Italy throughout the Cold War period. The left behinds were designed to fight the rise of the communists to power, or in the event of a Soviet invasion. The Italian communist party in the post war period commanded as much as 40% of the vote, particularly in the 1948 general election-an election in which the CIA through covert operations thwarted the coming to power of a left coalition. If that had have happened a “domino effect” was feared were many other Western European countries, principally France, could have “gone communist” as Robert McNamara & Lyndon Johnson’s would have it. Andreotti said that they were funded by NATO with links to the intelligence services in Italy. It subsequently transpired that secret armies existed in other European during the Cold War too. This too was later borne out by government enquiries and other investigations.
The claim has been made that these armies were or subsequently became secret terror cells full of far right subversive ideologues who were involved in violent acts to further the political aims-and maintain the status quo-of what has come to be known as the deep state, both in Italy, and elsewhere.
In the aims of the deep state in Italy the strategy of tension was deemed legitimate and necessary to fend off communism, even if, occasionally, reckless individuals or “groups within groups” got out of control.
The intelligence war during the Troubles in Ireland was cloaked, to quote Churchill-of all people-in a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Churchill knew about such things. The Special Operations Executive was set up at the beginning of WW2 by the British government to “[set] Europe ablaze by assisting resistance movements and carrying out subversive operations in enemy held territory” by practising the dark arts of sabotage, kidnaps, booby traps, and assassination in the assistance of groups resisting the Nazis, and later, in anticipation of a third world war, against the Soviets.
Could a similar counter insurgency strategy-with similar tactics- have happened in South Armagh and the surrounding counties, both north and south, in the 1970s? On the face of it, it seems credible and entirely plausible. Why wouldn’t a British intelligence apparatus with years of experience with the dark arts of counter insurgency employ a version of the same, even if it was within a domestic setting?
The niceties of the rule of law and democratic accountability to civil authorities could easily be suspended in a kind of pre-emptive fog of war; in the dark of night, outside of scrutiny, in defence of the realm. Where pro state subversive tactics advocated by Kitson and others could be employed-the end would always justify the means. Plausible deniability by officialdom could then cover a multitude of sins, including fending off meddlesome politicians and investigative journalists, and later the campaigning families of victims and indeed the victims themselves.
The question then becomes: how far outside the rule of law did these dirty tricks extend to, all the way to killing civilians as part of pawns in a larger strategic war game?
Were the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the Miami band murders part of a strategy of tension? Loosely, but interconnected, tactical nodes of tension set up to further strategic and political aims?
At any rate, it is now surely difficult to argue that Collusion was not widespread, (systematic, ad hoc or institutional or a mix of all three) between loyalist terrorists and the security forces given what is now a matter of public record. It is by now an accepted fact, if not always acceptable for some, for anyone paying serious attention and who doesn’t have an ideological or overtly political axe to grind.
But collusion is an ill-defined term. The concept also includes collaboration, complicity, conspiracy, subterfuge and deceit, and of course, most importantly of all, plausible deniability.Moreover, the vexed question of how high the “chain of command” for an operation goes, or approval for an operation, who sanctioned what in other words, will always be difficuilt to answer fully.
Kitson and all those who followed in the dirty war-on all sides- wouldn’t have worried too much about definitions or indeed moral consequences; they obviously believed that the end justifies the means-that much is clear.
In the mid-70s, at best a blind eye was turned while horrible acts of violence were committed by proxy gangs in the name of counter insurgency. At worst, the Glenanne gang were run by agents of the state as a counter gang in order to further political aims by dirty war tactics.
But the past’s toxic legacy is never dead. It will always seeps into the present. In 2015, Belfast solicitors KRW law issued proceedings against the British ministry of Defence and Kitson on behalf of the relatives of the relatives of Patrick Heenan, who was killed in 1973 by the UFF, a cover name for the UDA who were, incredibly, not banned at the time. The firm said that the core value of the action,“is to obtain truth and accountability for our clients as to the role of the British army and Frank Kitson in the counterinsurgency operation in the north of Ireland during the early part of the conflict, and the use of loyalist paramilitary gangs to contain the republican-nationalist threat through terror, manipulation of the rule of law, infiltration and subversion all core to the Kitson military of doctrine endorsed by the British army and the British government at the time.”
On the other hand, Former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers a few years ago condemned the “pernicious counter-narrative’ that sought to ‘place the state at the heart of nearly every atrocity …” This is deliberately muddying, or even polluting, the waters-an exercise in perception management. There are no competing “narratives” or “counter-narratives” or even “multiple narratives” in this sense. But there is an objective reality upon which we can search for the truth however we then choose to interpret that truth. Anyhow, “national security” as a strategy to deflect and obscure the truth is beginning to wear thin.
Relativising versions of the past is intellectually dishonest-most “sides” in the North have been guilty of this. Finding the truth, it always seeps out at some point anyhow, is not that difficuilt-if we have enough information and evidence. At this point there is a lot of information with which to make reasoned & compelling assumptions, even reasoned conclusions about deadly serious collusion & collaboration during the Troubles.
No mechanism to deal with the heartbreaking legacy of the Troubles, never mind justice and truth,has yet to be firmly established, the unvarnished truth of it all is no doubt too squalid and may remain elusive for a long time–the British state is and always has been a deeply secretive state. This means that the toxic legacy of collusion and systemic collaboration -however unpalatable for some–is dripping into Northern Ireland’s present, drip by horrifying drip (see Alex Gibney’s No Stone Unturned about the Loughinisland massacre in 1994, for example). The past is never past. No matter how much some would want or need it to be.
With many thanks to: Mark Kernan and CounterPunch for the origional story.
WHICH HAS BEEN ABIDED TO SINCE 1953 – VOTE JEREMY CORBYN…
Theresa May: “Human rights laws could change for terror fight” What she really means is that she will abolish it completely and no longer abide by the ‘European Convention on Human rights’ this is bad for everyone. Including Ireland, Scotland and Wales!
Theresa May says she will change human rights laws if they “get in the way” of tackling terror suspects.
She said she wants to do more to restrict the freedom of those posing a threat and to deport foreign suspects.
The UK could seek opt-outs from the European Convention on Human Rights, which it has abided by since 1953.
Labour said the UK would not defeat terrorism “by ripping up basic rights”. The Lib Dems said it was a “cynical” move ahead of Thursday’s election.
Rival parties have been criticising the Conservatives over police cuts following the terror attacks in London and Manchester.
Live: Follow the latest developments in the campaign
Last push for votes in election campaign
Manifesto guide: What the parties are promising
Speaking after Saturday’s London attack, Mrs May said “enough is enough” and that “things need to change” in the terror fight.
Nick Clegg tells Today Theresa May’s comments about human rights laws aren’t supported by evidence
Addressing activists in Slough on Tuesday evening, she did not make any specific new policy proposals but said: “I mean longer prison sentences for those convicted of terrorist offences.
“I mean making it easier for the authorities to deport foreign terrorist suspects back to their own countries.
“And I mean doing more to restrict the freedom and movements of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they are a threat, but not enough evidence to prosecute them in full in court.
“And if our human rights laws get in the way of doing it, we will change the law so we can do it.”
Sources suggest if elected on Friday, Theresa May might consider ideas of curfews, controls on who people can visit and suspects’ access to communications.
Labour has immediately cried foul, claiming another manifesto U-turn, at almost the last minute of the campaign.
Tory sources deny that flatly, saying they would not pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights but instead, seek fresh derogations – essentially legal opt-outs.
Theresa May’s team say she is not, at this late stage, making up last-minute policy, but that the terror risk has changed so fast since the start of the election, that she wanted to make clear that if re-elected she is prepared to toughen the law.
Read more from Laura
In an interview with The Sun, Mrs May said she would also consider extending the time suspects could be held without charge to 28 days, after it was reduced to 14 days in 2011 under the coalition.
“We said there may be circumstances where it is necessary to do this. I will listen to what they [the police and security services] think is necessary for us to do.”
What powers do the police have?
What new anti-terror powers could be used?
The Conservative manifesto committed the party to remaining in the European Convention on Human Rights – which is separate to the EU and which the UK helped to establish after World War Two – for the whole of the next Parliament.
Conservative sources say they would not withdraw from the ECHR but would seek temporary opt-outs called “derogations” from certain aspects.
This could possibly include Article 5 – which guarantees individuals’ rights to liberty and security and the right to a trial “within a reasonable time”, while protecting against unlawful arrest and detention.
During last year’s Conservative leadership campaign, Mrs May said she personally backed leaving the ECHR, saying it made it harder to deport terror suspects and criminals. But she later said she did not believe there was enough support in Parliament for the move.
The Conservatives have said they will reconsider the UK’s human rights legal framework after leaving the EU but that the 1998 Human Rights Act will remain in place until that time. The party has long proposed replacing it will a British Bill of Rights.
Sir Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions who is now Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, told Today the Human Rights Act “had not got “in the way of what we were doing” during his many years prosecuting serious crime.
He warned against “throwing away the very values that are at the heart of our democracy and everything we believe in”.
Media captionDamian Green tells Today it is possible to have derogations from the European Convention on Human Rights
Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said laws were already in place to deal with people, including foreign nationals, who presented a threat and that the government must always act “within the law”.
What is the European Convention of Human Rights?
Judges on the European Court of Human RightsImage copyrightECHR
The ECHR is a treaty between the 47 Council of Europe member states and is intended to protect the human rights of the 822 million people who live in its jurisdiction
All European states, except for Belarus, are members of the convention. It includes right to life, prohibition of torture, slavery and forced labour, and the right to a fair trial
Cases are heard in the European Court of Human Rights, which was established in 1959 in Strasbourg
The cases that European judges rule on include allegations of human rights abuses, discrimination, the improper conduct of trials and the mistreatment of prisoners
Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the PM was making a “very cynical” attempt to appeal to UKIP voters, telling the BBC “attacking the principles of human rights legislation is not the right way to keep us safe”.
Speaking on Today, he denounced the “explosive claim, free from any evidence, that the problem lies with human rights legislation”, saying the prime minister had a “track record” of making “ludicrous” claims about the impact of the laws.
He said ministers’ focus should be on the fact that one of the perpetrators of the London Bridge attacks had been on a Italian terror watchlist and whether this information had been properly shared and acted upon.
Linking Brexit to security, he added: “I think we need to enhance our use of those EU-wide databases which are proving to be the most sophisticated pool of information about would-be criminals.”
“It would be illegal for 27 other countries in the European Union to share data with us if we in the future, under Theresa May’s plans, rule out abiding by European Union data protection rules.”
UKIP has already backed extending pre-charge detention to 28 days. Their immigration spokesman Jon Bickley said the UK had to “stop being so tolerant of other people’s intolerance”.
This letter was written in The Irish News today Monday 24th April – How come our very well paid (by us) politations did not open their eyes to This?
CLAIMS of a legal ‘witch hut’ against former British soldiers who served during the Trouble’s have been made during a rally of British army veterans in Belfast (April 15th). The former soldiers claim there is a prosecutorial bias against former British soldiers over murders during the Trouble’s. Secretary of State James Brokenshire also claims investigations into killings during the Trouble’s are disproportionately focusing on members of the police and army. This claim is without a shredofevidenceorcredibility. Availableevidence suggests that the British government shelving of the in-depth investigations and report by John Stalker and Colin Sampson on British shoot-to-kill policy and the Stevens Report on British security forces collusion with loyalists which resulted in countless killings, in fact shielded British soldiers and police from prosecution. Further evidence of protecting British security forces from prosecution is the continuing withholding of files pertaining to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Does Mr Brokenshire need reminding that British soldiers and police were and are acting on behalf of the British State and are a constitutional arm of ‘the UK government and recognised so internationally in law’?
With many thanks to: Tom Cooper Chairperson, Irish National Congress, Dublin 7.
THE BRAVE Men & Women Who Give Their Lives For Irish Freedom.
80 men and women travelled the Irish Sea from various parts of the UK to play their part with the Irish Volunteers in the Easter Rising some had Irish Parents,some had not.They too helped fight against the oppression and tyranny of British Government and Crown Forces in Ireland 1916
With many thanks to: Easter Rising War of Independence and Irish Civil War History.