https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js“>http://<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>RTÉ is the first public broadcaster in the world to commit to showing “No Stone Unturned” feature documentary by <a href=”https://twitter.com/alexgibneyfilm?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@alexgibneyfilm</a> and Belfast journalists <a href=”https://twitter.com/trevorbirney?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@trevorbirney</a> and Barry McCaffrey on the Loughinisland Massacre. Watch <a href=”https://twitter.com/RTEOne?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@RTEOne</a> Wednesday 2 October 9.35pm <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TruthMatters?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TruthMatters</a> <a href=”https://t.co/96QqDunF2W”>pic.twitter.com/96QqDunF2W</a></p>— RTÉ Press Office (@RTEPress) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RTEPress/status/1174689592571760640?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 19, 2019</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
THERE’S an old proverb about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
And friends of mine have occasionally tried to explain away unionism’s vice-like grip on the first 50 years of the North of Ireland by quoting it. They claim the unionist government which oversaw the North of Ireland always planned to do better, but never quite got there. There’s no doubt that in 1921 after the partition of Ireland was complete, unionist leaders had a chance to create a northern state where few Catholics would have opted to join the newly-formed 26 County Free State.
But religious bigotry at the heart of at the heart of the Stormont regime meant that opportunity was passed over. And instead unionism firmly pulled the shutters down tight. It viewed every Catholic citizen with suspicion. Unionist Party leaders ignored the parting advice of Sir Edward Carson – the public face of unionism – to be kind to the minority. And although not publicly acknowledged, some unionist establishment figures even gave the green light to loyalist gunmen to wage a war of attrition against Catholics. Pogroms were terrifying and real, with hundreds losing their lives as the contrived state of the North of Ireland became a political reality. A semi-secret plan was hatched where police officers like the infamous DI Nixon were allowed to run their own murder gangs. Their intention was to grind Catholics into submission and force them to accept that they now lived in a place where only those loyal to Britain ruled the roost. Rejecting unionist offers of top police jobs abroad. Nixon eventually quit the RUC to become an Independent Unionist MP.
And until the day he died, he repeatedly threatened to expose fellow unionist politicians’ involvement in violence at the foundation of the state. Eventually many Catholics accepted their diminished status and kept their heads down. Occasional IRA attacks in the north and in England posed no threat to the northern state. But the 1947 Education Act – forced on unionist by the British government – created an articulate Catholic middle class no longer willing to accept the status quo.
In 1967, along with other interested groups – including the remnants of the Irish Republican Movement – these people formed the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. The organisation had the stated aim of replacing unionist discrimination in jobs, housing and voting rights with British liberal values. It was well received in Ireland and also in the rest of the UK, where people were shocked to learn that the North of Ireland citizens hadn’t the same rights as them. The North of Ireland Prime Minister Captain Terence O’Neill (who the unionist claimed was a Lundy) – steeped in the unionist landed gentry – knew in his heart that if the union was to survive, then things needed to change. But a rabble-rousing fundamentalist preacher called Ian Paisley – who led his own Free Presbyterian Church – had other ideas. He had an ability to tap into ancient Protestant fears and suspicions. And he helped form a series of new loyalist paramilitary organisations opposed to any reforms proposed by O’Neill. Paisley was following in the footsteps of his close friend and hero DI Nixon, a police officer turned politician who had terrorised Catholics at the foundation of the state. Much of Paisley’s involvement with the reconstituted Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was denied because the authorities feared the clergyman’s Svengali-like powers. But this week – in the first of a new seven part series of TV programmes to mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Troubles – Paisley’s real role in the violence is exposed.
Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History goes out simultaneously on BBC Northern and BBC4 on Tuesday night. Using first-hand testimony of individuals who were around at the time, reporter Darragh McIntyre reveals how Ian Paisley personally financed the UVF bombing of a water pipe line at the Silent Valley Reservoir near Kilkeel in April 1969. Paisley and his cohorts attempted to give the impression that the explosion, coming as it did months before serious violence erupted on the streets of Derry and Belfast, was the work of the practically moribund IRA. But a retired senior British Army officer, drafted in to examine the aftermath of the bomb, told MacIntyre his suspensions were raised as soon as he saw the bomb site. “This just didn’t have the look of an IRA bomb,” he said. And he went on to claim that a senior RUC officer in Killkeel showed him intelligence reports which revealed the entire operation had been financed by Paisley.
As Paisley’s UVF mates were bombing the place, a young butcher’s apprentice by the name of Martin McGuinness was about to quit his job to assume the role of 2nd in Command of the Provisional IRA in Derry.
In newly emerged footage, McGuinness is filmed overseeing an IRA bomb being loaded into the boot of a car. McGuinness sits in the passenger seat and, minutes later, it is transported to Derry city centre and detonated. And in another remarkable clip, McGuinness instructs children on how to load bullets into a revolver.
It is almost beyond belief that 3,500 deaths later, these two men were sworn into office as the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in a new devolved administration at Stormont. But they also became close personal friends.
In an astonishing revelation near the end of the first programme, MacIntyre reveals written details of a top secret report by Sir Michael Carver, the most senior officer in the British Army. In the report, Carver advises the British government to consider an alternative strategy which doesn’t demand maintaining the North of Ireland border by military means, (what Brexit will mean).I.e. British withdrawal.
Spotlight editor Jeremy Adams say he’s proud his talented team of investigative reporters consisting of McIntyre, Jennifer O’Leary and Mandy McAuley, have been able to uncover new findings relating to the history of the Troubles. “This past has shaped our present and it’s vitally important that truths continue to be told,” he said. I’m in no doubt that this body of work from the awarding-winning BBC Spotlight team will become the definitive television history of the Troubles. This series of programmes – which uncovers much previously unknown material – is informative, revealing, shocking and at times very, very moving. It was an enormous undertaking for the reporters and filmmakers involved, but once again, BBC Spotlight comes through with flying colours. Don’t miss it.
Follow these links to find out more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11313364
George Hamilton, who was appointed chief constable in June 2014, said he informed the Policing Board of his intention to leave the service in June.
A police officer for nearly 34 years, he said the greatest privilege of his career “had been to serve as chief constable”.
He said NI was a “much more peaceful and progressive society” than it was when he began his police career.
The announcement has come as a surprise to the chief constable’s senior colleagues and members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
He had been expected to accept a three-year contract extension that was offered when he met the board last week.
His decision to decline the offer followed discussions with his wife and four children over the Christmas period.
Sources say George Hamilton broke the news to his senior command team this morning and then informed the board chairman, Anne Connolly.
He told them he is retiring to spend more time with his family.
No current member of the PSNI command team can apply to succeed Mr Hamilton as chief constable.
The current eligibility criteria states that an applicant must have completed a national senior command course and served at least two years in a police force outside Northern Ireland.
After joining the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) – the predecessor of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) – in 1985, he worked in a number of roles including a stint as assistant chief constable of Strathclyde Police.
“I am privileged and humbled to have led the dedicated officers and staff of the PSNI and to have worked in partnership with so many people committed to public service in Northern Ireland and beyond,” said Mr Hamilton.
He said that there were challenges in the months and years ahead “but we have overcome greater challenges in the past and there is nothing that cannot be achieved if the police, our partners and the community continue to work together”.
Anne Connolly says the board needs to put in place a process for the appointment of a new chief constable
Anne Connolly, chairwoman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said the board respected Mr Hamilton’s decision not to accept a three-year contract extension last week.
She said recruitment for a new chief constable would be considered at a meeting on 6 February.
The Policing Board was established as part of policing reforms after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which helped bring about the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
George Hamilton’s police CV
1985: Joined Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
1994: Promoted to RUC inspector and seconded to England for development programmes
1997: Returned to uniform patrol in NI and subsequently worked on Patten policing reforms
2002: Worked as a senior detective in PSNI’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID)
2007: Appointed district commander for south and east Belfast
2009: Joined Strathclyde Police as assistant chief constable
2011: Returned to NI as PSNI assistant chief constable
2014: Appointed PSNI’s fourth chief constable
With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story
Police in Northern Ireland are to ask the government to fund the recruitment of at least 300 additional officers for operations along the border after Brexit.
Chief Constable George Hamilton confirmed that a business case is currently being drawn up.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is also asking for new vehicles and other equipment.
The Police Federation has asked the government to agree to the request.
Media captionWould you notice if you crossed the Irish border?
It was revealed recently that the police force delayed the sale of its disused station in Warrenpoint as a result of uncertainty about Brexit.
BBC News NI understands the police force have also delayed plans to sell disused stations in Aughnacloy and Castlederg as they may have a future customs or security role.
The call for additional resources is backed by the association that represents rank and file PSNI officers.
Speaking to BBC News NI Mr Hamilton said the proposal was to ensure the force is “match fit” and ready for the post Brexit era.
He said the additional officers were needed to help the police support other government agencies.
Agreement between the EU and UK was reached on a 21-month “transition” period to smooth the way to post-Brexit relations
There are more than 250 crossings along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The UK and EU have both said they do not wish to see a hard border after Brexit, but they have not been able to agree on how to avoid checks on goods once the UK has left the customs union and single market.
If there is no Brexit deal it is likely customs officials will have to carry out the checks and it will be the job of the police to protect them.
With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.
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.
RUC/PSNI officer had affair with associate of gang linked to Ronan Kerr’s murder
A POLICEWOMAN has been reprimanded but allowed to return to work after having an inappropriate sexual relationship with an associate of a criminal gang linked to PSNI officer Ronan Kerr’s murder.
The officer was suspended from duty some years ago after the affair emerged and the PSNI launched an investigation.
She was brought before an internal misconduct hearing last month where she was sanctioned, including having her pay docked.
However the policewoman is now free to return to operational duty.
It is understood the man whom the PSNI officer was romantically involved with is associated with members of a criminal gang linked to constable Ronan Kerr’s murder.
The 25-year-old Catholic PSNI officer was killed in April 2011 when a booby-trap bomb exploded under his car in Omagh.
No-one has ever been charged with his murder. Dissident republican paramilitaries have been blamed for the killing.
The criminal gang is suspected of involvement in the theft of cars for dissidents involved in the murder plot.
The misconduct proceedings against the policewoman were held around six weeks ago.
Read more: Analysis – Police likely to face more questions over sensitive Ronan Kerr case
The PSNI had in 2014 sent a file in relation to the case to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), but it decided not to pursue a prosecution.
A number of misconduct charges – two ‘integrity matters’ and two ‘professional duty matters’ – were upheld at the internal disciplinary.
On professional duty matters, the officer was found to have engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a person involved in and associated with criminality.
The policewoman was also reprimanded for failing to abide by property management procedures and retaining items of evidence at her home.
On integrity matters, the officer was found to have received information about persons of interest to police potentially breaching bail but failed notify colleagues. Another reprimand sanction was imposed.
The officer also breached police bail conditions placed on her, for which the hearing imposed a year-long pay reduction equating to more than £9,000.
The policewoman had initially been suspended while the PSNI carried out a criminal investigation, but she was later allowed to return to office-based work.
However, following the internal disciplinary, the PSNI has confirmed the officer has now returned to an operational role.
Police said the matter was never referred to the Police Ombudsman because it was “not the subject of a public complaint”.
The Irish News asked the PSNI why there were not more serious sanctions against the policewoman.
In a statement Chief Superintendent John McCaughan, head of PSNI’s professional standards department, said: “Following an investigation into the actions of a police officer by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s professional standards department a file was prepared and sent to the Public Prosecution Service.
“They directed no prosecution in relation to all matters reported to them.
“The matter was not the subject of a public complaint, thus it was not referred to the Police Ombudsman.
“Following that, an officer appeared before misconduct proceedings in February 2018 to answer a number of charges.
“The charges were proven and the officer received a number of disciplinary sanctions as a result.
“As the misconduct proceedings have now finalised, the officer has returned to an operational role.
“The duty status of the officer was kept under review throughout the process.
“Decisions as to whether or not an officer required to be suspended from duty were guided by the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2000 in this particular case.
“This places an obligation upon the service to keep the duty status of an officer under continual review, to ensure that any decision is lawful, necessary and proportionate.
“An officer was initially suspended at the commencement of the investigation, and later returned to a non-public facing, outside the evidential chain until the misconduct proceedings finished.”
A PPS spokeswoman said: “The PPS received a file from the PSNI in February 2014 concerning a number of allegations against a serving police officer, including misconduct in public office and attempting to do an act with intent to pervert the course of justice.
“After careful consideration of all the available evidence in this case, it was concluded in September 2014 that the test for prosecution was not met on the grounds of insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.”
With many thanks to: Brendan Hughes and The Irish News for the origional story.