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.

EXPOSE

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.

ASTONISHING 

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 

 

Follow these links to find out more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11313364

(2)-: https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/latest-news/rev-ivan-foster-ian-paisley-is-unable-to-reply-to-these-slanderous-allegations-against-him-1-9063523

(3)-: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-49348633

In 1992 the UVF shot Paddy Fox’s parents dead….12 years later a police notebook with his details fell into.loyalist hands

Charlie and Tess Fox who were murdered in 1992.

THE son of a Co Tyrone couple who were shot dead by the Mid Ulster UVF is to take legal action after discovering a police notebook, containing his personal details, was in the hands of the same organisation who murdered his parents.

Republican Paddy Fox, whose parents Charlie and Theresa were shot dead by loyalists at their home outside the Moy in 1992, said he was warned by police in 2004 that he might be under threat from loyalists.

However at no stage, he claims, was he told that his details were contained in a PSNI notebook which loyalists had in their possession.

The Irish News has seen the police notebook which contains details of police operations and briefings, along with lists of names, addresses and car registrations.

Person details related to Paddy Fox, whose parents were murdered by the UVF, were contained in the notebook.
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The book, which appears to be briefing notes from a serving police officer, gives details of Mr Fox’s address and also contains the make and colour of the car he was driving.

Other names on a ‘watch list’ are well known republicans Kevin Barry Murphy, Aidan Grew and Barry Morgan.

All the names are listed with dates of birth, addresses and in some cases car makes and registrations.

It is not known how the notebook found its way into the hands of loyalists.

But it is believed that none of those whose details were in the book were informed of the security breach.

Republican Paddy Fox (pictured above) Mr Fox said: “In the past I have been informed by the police that my details were in the hands of loyalists but at no time was I ever told how they got them.

“It now seems the details were from the very people issuing me the warnings. There needs to be some accountability for this,” he added.

The notebook also details a briefing by now retired former Special Branch officer Alan Mains, the former senior police officer now works as a security consultant.

Included among briefings is one delivered to officers in relation to an attack on Randalstown Police Station.

In October 2004 a family was held hostage by an armed gang who stole their van to mount a drive-by shooting on the Co Antrim police station.

Three children, aged between five and seven, and a couple were held hostage in the house during the incident.

No-one was injured as four shots hit steel gates at the front of the police station.

Details of the attack are in the notebook listing six homes to be searched in the hunt for ‘items weapons munitions explosives, any item that can be of use to terrorists’.

It is the third reported data breach involving the PSNI in the last four months.

The funeral of Charlie and Tess Fox, murdered by the UVF, passes their Co Tyrone home.

In July The Irish News reported that hundreds of pages of data were leaked to loyalist paramilitaries, after equipment seized as part of an investigation into organised crime was returned with a pen drive attached containing information on private individuals and local companies.

Both the Police Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner are investigating the data breach.

In September a police notebook was lost during searches by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force into the activity of the South East Antrim UDA.

It contained information on suspects as well as some personal details relating to the female officer who lost the notebook.

Despite police appeals for the notebook to be returned it has yet to be recovered.

Charlie Fox

Peter Corrigan of Phoenix Law, which represents a number of those named in the latest breach, said last night: “We will be taking civil action against the PSNI and Chief Constable for this very serious data breach, that potentially resulted in at least one of my clients being told he was under threat from loyalists back in 2004.

“The PSNI had a duty of care to inform those listed in this notebook at the time that they had lost their private details and failed to do so”, he added.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd last night said police were investigating.

“We have conducted preliminary inquiries but given the timescale involved, we have not been able to confirm the loss or theft of a police notebook from this period or area,” he said.

“Our enquiries are continuing.”

Theresa Fox

With many thanks to: Allision Morris and The Irish News for the original story.