Skilled journalists shine Spotlight on the darkest secrets of our sad past

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.

Rev Ian Paisley Leader of the DUP and Firebrand preacher

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.

Martin McGuinness Deputy First Minister for the North of Ireland and OC Officer Commanding the IRA Derry Brigade

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.

Martin McGuinness above and the Rev Ian Paisley

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.

A mural which appeared in Moygashel of the late Martin McGuinness

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.

Fottage of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness overseeing a car bomb being loaded in Co 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.

Martin McGuinness showing teenagers how to load a revolver in Derry city

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.

A burial headstone commenting a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

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.


With many thanks to the: Sunday World and Hugh Jordan for the original story 


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The Troubles: Legality of Army ‘amnesties’ questioned

There have been calls for a statute of limitations on prosecutions of soldiers who served in the North of Ireland

Any statute of limitations for Troubles-era prosecutions could breach the UK’s international legal obligations, MPs have been told.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee was discussing legacy issues on Wednesday.

It heard from two Queen’s university law professors as well as the Committee for the Administration of justice.

There have been calls for a statute of limitations on prosecutions of soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.

MPs to debate immunity for NI veterans
Majority oppose amnesty over NI Troubles
Prof Louise Mallinder told the committee she was concerned that such proposals would not be compatible with the UK’s international legal requirements and would not be supportive of the peace process.

Why should British Army death squads be allowed to get away with cold-blooded murder?

“We don’t think that international law necessarily requires prosecutions in all instances, we think there is space for flexibility around how one deals with the past,” she said.

“We think nonetheless under the European Convention on Human Rights there is a clear obligation for effective investigations of serious human rights violations.

Secret undercover British Army unit who operated in the North of Ireland during the Troubles and who were responsible for dozens of murders

“Where a statute of limitations might conflict with those obligations would be where it creates an obstacle to effective investigations being held.”

Prof Louise Mallinder was appearing before the NIAC Norh of Ireland Affairs Committee

Prof Mallinder said there had not been much clarity over what a statute of limitations would look like, but that the best indication had been the most recent Defence Committee report which talked about a qualified statute of limitations.

The qualifications would only apply to cases that had already been investigated and would not prevent new investigations and possible prosecutions where there was compelling new evidence.

However, she said there had been repeated concerns expressed by the courts and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary about how effective investigations had been into allegations from the past, particularly in cases involving the armed forces.

‘Turned over’ by the Army?
“The question would be how would the idea of repeat investigations be treated and if it was treated in a way to prevent any of those cases being reviewed that’s when the statute of limitations would begin to resemble an amnesty, where it would begin to resemble impunity for state actors,” she said.

“That would be deeply damaging in Northern Ireland and would undermine the Stormont House proposals and I think would be damaging to Britain’s reputation in the world.”

Bob Stewart said solders didn’t feel the military were on their side during Troubles-era investigations

Conservative MP Bob Stewart, who served in Northern Ireland as a soldier, said: “I was never involved in a fatality shooting before 1973, but I do know thereafter we were really turned over.

“To us, it didn’t seem like the military or indeed the Royal Ulster Constabulary were on our side if you were on the receiving end of one of these investigations.”

Kieran McEvoy, another law professor from Queen’s University, told the committee there was a great risk in judging the quality of past investigations using the benefit of hindsight.

“The reality of the numbers of murders that people were dealing with – you had teams of detectives investigating a murder and then they’re moved to a another murder within a couple of days, that’s the human reality of it,” he said.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story

Ballymurphy inquest: Rifles ‘may have been in paramilitary hands’

An inquest is examining the murders of 10 people shot dead by the British Army Parachute Regiment at Ballymurphy in August 1971

Loyalist and republican paramilitary groups and the Army may have possessed the weapons most likely used in the Ballymurphy shootings, according to expert witnesses.

An inquest is looking into the shooting dead of 10 people in the area in west Belfast in August 1971.

A report was presented to the court on Wednesday from ballistics experts.

They are acting on behalf of the Coroner’s Service, the Ministry of Defence and the victims’ next of kin.

Ballymurphy shootings: Who were the victims?
Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips, Daniel Teggart, and Joseph Murphy were fatally shot in an area of waste ground near the Henry Taggart base on 9 August 1971, the day that internment without trial was introduced.

It is thought that almost all of the victims were struck by bullets from a rifle, although it is possible that Noel Phillips was not.

He was struck by 9mm bullets, which may have been fired by a military pistol or a submachine gun on semi or automatic fire.

Intelligence reliability challenged

Some of the rifle bullets could be clearly identified as having come from an SLR weapon (self-loading rifle), identical to those issued to British soldiers.

However, the experts quoted police intelligence that such SLR weapons could also have been in the possession of both republican and loyalist paramilitaries at the time.

The 1971 shootings took place during the introduction of internment without trail

A barrister for Joan Connolly’s family challenged the reliability of that intelligence.

The question arose of exactly when SLR weapons fell into paramilitary hands.

Turning to the injuries of the victims, the ballistics experts told the court:

Joan Connolly was shot three to four times and a fragment of an SLR round was found in her body
Noel Phillips was shot three to four times, at least twice by 9mm bullets, one of which was recovered from his body
Daniel Teggart was shot eight to 11 times but no bullets were recovered
Joseph Murphy was struck at least once in the thigh and a bullet fragment recovered after an exhumation of his body was of a rifle type, which could have included an SLR

‘No evidence of victims firing weapons’
The experts could not say whether the victims had been moving or static when shot or where the shooters had been located.

They agreed that all the shots could have come from the Henry Taggart Army base but could also have come from several other places, such as the waste ground, Vere Foster school, Springmartin and the Springfield Road.

The experts also agreed that none of the victims had been shot from a range closer than about a metre (3ft 4in).

Three of the victims – Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips and Joseph Murphy – could not have been shot by the kind of Mauser rifle that Witness X – the so-called Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) interlocutor – has claimed was being fired by the loyalist paramilitary group that day.

Witness X has not given oral evidence to the inquest.

The Manse field area in Ballymurphy is opposite the Henry Taggart Hall

The ballistics experts also agreed there was no evidence that any of the victims had been firing weapons, although it was noted that their clothes had not been scientifically examined.

Michael Mansfield QC, the barrister for the family of Noel Phillips, spoke at length with Ann Kiernan, a ballistics expert for the next of kin.

Miss Kiernan used a mannequin and tracking rods to demonstrate to the court the positions of Mr Phillips’ injuries.

She agreed with Mr Mansfield’s suggestion that it was possible that Mr Phillips could have been shot by a pistol held as close as two or more feet away, as he lay face down on the ground with an arm raised.

But she could not discount the possibility that the weapon, either a pistol or a sub machine gun, had been fired from the Henry Taggart base or elsewhere.

The court heard that two other victims, Father Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn, could have been shot by SLRs.

They died on waste ground near Springfield Park on 9 August 1971.

The evidence came in another agreed note from ballistics experts.

They agreed:

Fr Mullan was shot at least twice by rifle bullets while kneeling or lying down and those bullets could have come from an SLR
Frank Quinn was shot in the head by an SLR bullet, which some experts think may have first passed through Fr Mullan, who was beside him
Frank Quinn could not have been shot by the UVF Mauser rifle described by Witness X

With many thanks to: BBCNI and Will Leitch for the original story


Stakeknife: Fred Scappaticci ‘facing more than 30 lawsuits’

Fred Scappaticci strenuously denies he was an Army agent within the IRA

A west Belfast man who denies being Britain’s former top spy inside the IRA is now facing more than 30 potential lawsuits, the High Court has heard.

Writs have been issued against Fred Scappaticci, 72, in 24 separate cases.

Legal action has also been threatened by a further seven individuals over alleged kidnappings and interrogations.

The scale of litigation was revealed as police sought to protect material produced by a major probe into the agent codenamed Stakeknife.

Stakeknife linked to up to 50 murders
Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, who is heading the Operation Kenova investigation, believes he has uncovered evidence of criminal wrongdoing by both IRA and security force members.

A judge was told he now intends to submit a report for consideration on potential prosecutions either by the end of the year or early in 2020.

Who is Stakeknife?

Mr Scappaticci left the North of Ireland when identified by the media as Stakeknife in 2003


Fred Scappaticci is alleged to have been the most high-ranking British agent within the Provisional IRA, who was given the codename Stakeknife.

He was the grandson of an Italian immigrant who came to Northern Ireland in search of work.

He has admitted to being a republican but denied claims that he was an IRA informer.

He is believed to have led the IRA’s internal security unit, known as ‘the nutting squad’, which was responsible for identifying and interrogating suspected informers.

Mr Scappaticci left Northern Ireland when identified by the media as Stakeknife in 2003.

Mr Scappaticci is being sued, along with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the PSNI, by Newry woman Margaret Keely.

She alleges that she was wrongfully arrested and held at Castlereagh police station in 1994 following an IRA attempt to murder a senior detective in east Belfast.

Mrs Keeley was released without charge, but claims she was then taken to a flat in the New Lodge area of the city and questioned by an IRA team.

Mr Scappaticci was one of the men who carried out two debriefing sessions, according to her account.

In court on Thursday, however, counsel for the MoD revealed the current total number of lawsuits against the alleged spy.

Tony McGleenan QC said: “There are 31 claims. Some have taken the form of correspondence (but) 24 writ actions have been issued.

“All of these name the second defendant (Scappaticci).”

Mr Justice Horner was told applications for closed material proceedings – so-called secret court hearings – is being considered for some of the cases due to issues of national security.

The new figure emerged as counsel for the police set out the case for ensuring all Operation Kenova’s working papers are “ring-fenced” from disclosure in the civil claims.

An investigative team of more than 60 police and civilian personnel has secured 1,000 statements and obtained 12,000 documents and exhibits comprising more than one million pages.

Detectives have conducted hundreds of non-evidential interviews and meetings, more than 100 evidential interviews and dozens of interviews under caution.

The court heard the civil actions may have to be put on hold until decisions are taken on any prosecutions.

Adjourning proceedings, Mr Justice Horner acknowledged the potential further delay due to the issues raised.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story


Ballymurphy inquest: Gerry Adams denies IRA membership

Mr Adams has consistently denied that he was ever a member of the IRA, but has said he will never “disassociate” himself from the organization

Gerry Adams has told the Ballymurphy Inquest he was not a member of the IRA.

The inquest is looking into the shooting dead of 10 people in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, in 1971.

The Sinn Féin Louth TD said he believed that the Provisional IRA had decided not to engage the British Army well before civilians were shot and killed.

He said that when internment began in August 1971 he was a Sinn Féin activist but did not have direct knowledge of the Provisional IRA’s actions.

Ballymurphy shootings: Who were the victims?
The shootings occurred amid disturbances sparked by the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland.

Mr Adams, who is now 70, is giving evidence to the inquest on its 55th day of hearings.

He said he did not witness any of the killings.

Ten innocent people were murdered in the shootings at Ballymurphy in 1971

Asked directly about his connections to the IRA by a barrister for the coroner, Mr Adams said: “I was not a member of the IRA, I have never disassociated myself with the IRA, and I never will, until the day I die.

“I would’ve been in a minority,” he told the court.

“The military tendency within republicanism was the dominant tendency.”

He said he had no direct knowledge of what the Provisional IRA had done on the days of the Ballymurphy shootings, but had heard a lot of rumours and hearsay.

He said he understood and believed that the IRA had returned fire earlier on 9 August 1971, but had disengaged in the mid afternoon, some hours before six people were later fatally shot.

Fr Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn died near Springfield Park.

Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips, Joseph Murphy and Daniel Teggart were fatally shot in the Manse field opposite the Henry Taggart Army base.

Mr Adams said of the killings: “The British government opted for the military option and reneged on its political responsibilities, and handed it over to the generals.

“The generals did what generals do. The paratroopers were ordered to pacify and subdue and kill the enemy, and the enemy in this case were the decent people of Ballymurphy. ”

He added: “It is hardly surprising that the Provisional IRA came into the ascendancy fairly quickly.”

Gerry Adams emerged from the turbulent history of Northern Ireland to become one of the island’s foremost figures in republicanism, leading Sinn Féin for 34 years.

To some he is hailed as a peacemaker, for leading the republican movement away from its long, violent campaign towards peaceful and democratic means.

To others, he is a hate figure who publicly justified murders carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The paramilitary group is believed to be responsible for about 1,700 deaths during more than 30 years of violence, mostly in Northern Ireland, that became known as the Troubles.

Mr Adams has consistently denied that he was ever a member of the IRA, but has said he will never “disassociate” himself from the organisation.

In 1971, Mr Adams lived at 11 Divismore Park, opposite the Henry Taggart Army base, but said that he had stopped staying there at night after armed men had come to the house in a separate incident.

He described staying over at Springhill Crescent nearby at the time the four fatal shootings took place at the Manse Field.

He said he watched the rescue of 11-year-old Edward Butler after he had been shot trying to leave the field.

Edward Butler survived the incident despite serious injuries, and has testified at the inquest.

But he said there was one other incident of the IRA opening fire.

Mr Adams said that after Edward Butler was rescued, he saw two masked IRA volunteers with rifles running up Springhill Crescent past him and others, and passing out of sight.

He said he believed they then fired their weapons, possibly at the Springmartin area.

Mr Adams is continuing to give evidence.

With many thanks to: BBCNI and Will Leitch for the original story

Despite Karen Bradley’s claims that soldiers killings are ‘not crimes’ prosecutions have been brought

Former soldier Dennis Hutchings

DESPITE Karen Bradley’s claims that killings at the hands of the security forces were “not crimes”, prosecutions have been brought in a small number of fatal shootings involving British soldiers.

Legal proceedings are also active in several high-profile cases.

A file is currently under consideration with the Public Prosecution Service about whether soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday, in which 14 demonstrators were shot and killed in 1972, will be charged with murder and other offences. A decision is expected next week.


Karen Bradley faces calls to resign over claim that security force killings are ‘not crimes’
Karen Bradley: British soldiers responsible for Troubles killings acted in ‘dignified and appropriate way’

Solicitor for Aidan McAnespie family says Karen Bradley comments mean juries cannot hear soldier trails

Another case ongoing is that of former British soldier Dennis Hutchings (77), who has been charged with attempted murder linked to the fatal shooting of John-Pat Cunningham, (27) in Co Tyrone in 1974.

He was killed as he ran away from a military patrol in Benburb. It was later revealed he was an innocent bystander and had the mental age of a child.

John Pat Cunningham was 27 at the time of his death

Meanwhile lawyers acting for a former British soldier accused of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie say they plan to travel to England to speak with him.

Ex-Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden (49) has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter. He did not appear for a hearing in Dungannon last month.

Mr McAnespie was shot dead close to a checkpoint on the border at Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in 1988 as he made his way to Aghaloo GAC’s grounds.

Aidan McAnespie was shot dead close to a checkpoint on the border at Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in February 1988
Two former paratroopers have also been accused of shooting an Official IRA man in the Markets area of Belfast in 1972.

The pair, known only as Soldier A and Soldier C, were last year granted leave to seek a judicial review of a decision to have their case heard by a judge sitting alone. The defendants, now aged in their sixties, have been given anonymity.

Prosecutions could also be brought against members of MI5 and an undercover military unit after an investigation into allegations of murder by the British Army double agent Stakeknife.


Analysis: Karen Bradley’s comments crass and insensitive (#Premium)
Karen Bradley is sadly out of her depth

Jon Boutcher, chief constable of Bedfordshire Police, is understood to have questioned former army personnel as part of Operation Kenova which is investigating allegations of serious criminal activity during The Troubles.

Throughout the Troubles a number of British soldiers have been convicted of shootings while on duty.

In 1972, Michael Naan (31) and Andrew Murray (23) were killed in what became known as ‘The Pitchfork Murders’. They were stabbed to death by members of a British army foot patrol near Newtownbutler.

It was six years later before it emerged that members of the 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were responsible for the killings which were described by a pathologist at the time as “frenzied”.

Several members of the patrol were subsequently convicted for their parts in the killings.

On January 30 1972, 13 people taking part in a civil rights demonstration in Derry. Picture by Pacemaker

Thomas ‘Kidso’ Reilly (22) was killed by Private Ian Thain, on Springfield Road on August 9 1983. He served just over two years in a military prison before being accepted back into the army.

Scots guardsmen, Mark Wright and James Fisher, were convicted of killing 18-year-old Peter McBride in 1992. Following a high-profile campaign they were eventually released in September 1998, and went back into their regiment.

Lee Clegg served four years in prison for the murder of teenager Karen Reilly (18) in 1990. He was cleared at a retrial in 1998 and returned to the Parachute regiment and was later deployed to Afghanistan.

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story




Ex-Para’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ comments were nothing short of a disgrace

13 people were murdered on Bloody Sunday and another died of his injuries some months later

The sister of a man killed on Bloody Sunday has described a former soldier’s comments on the shootings as “very cold and very brutal”.

Thirteen people died on the day after troops opened fire in Londonderry in January 1972, and a 14th person died later from his injuries.

The former paratrooper told the BBC that he feels no guilt for what happened.

He said he still considers it a job well done.

Bloody Sunday: Tense wait for soldier prosecution decision
Bloody Sunday victim awarded thousands
The victims of Bloody Sunday
Key findings of Saville Report
The man known as Sergeant ‘O’ is one of a number of ex-soldiers who will find out next week if they will be prosecuted over the killings

The Saville Inquiry into the killings concluded that all the victims were innocent.

Speaking to the BBC’s Peter Taylor, Sergeant ‘O’ said that Lord Saville was not there on the day and whilst he accepted that some of those who were killed were innocent he did not accept that all of the victims were innocent.

‘Cold and brutal’
Kate Nash, whose 19-year-old brother William was shot dead described the soldier’s comments as cold and as a lie.

“What a horrible lie to continue to stand by, even as you become an older person.

“Very cold and very brutal.”

Eighteen ex-paratroopers have been reported to the PPS over the killings and the Bloody Sunday victims are currently waiting to hear if any will face charges.

Image caption
Michael McDaid, William Nash, John Young were killed on Bloody Sunday
Lord Saville’s official inquiry into the killings concluded that all victims were innocent and posed no threat.

The paratroopers, he said, lost their self-control and fired without discipline.

His unequivocal conclusion led the then prime minister, David Cameron, to deliver a historic apology in the House of Commons and to the people of Derry.

What happened on Bloody Sunday, he said, was “unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong”.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) began a murder investigation following the report.

The BBC previously obtained a letter from a senior public prosecutor detailing the criminal charges the soldiers could face.

They include murder and attempted murder, wounding, perjury and joint enterprise, which means an offence where two or more people are involved.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story