The British government was challenged by thousands of marchers yesterday to reveal the full role it played in the murder of nationalists and republicans over the last 40 years.
Upwards of 7,000 marchers from all over Ireland, including the relatives of victims, descended on Belfast City Hall to demand that the British government disclose the part it played in helping loyalist murder gangs.
Those gathered heard from representatives of a number of campaigns aimed at finding the truth about the killings of loved ones, and listened to Gerry Adams say Sinn Féin would be continuing to raise the issue with the British government.
“If there is to be an inclusive healing process and a genuine process of reconciliation then the British government must face up to its responsibilities,” said the West Belfast MP.
“It is in the interest of all our people that there is a genuine and successful healing process [and] all political leaders have a responsibility to promote this.
“That means thinking beyond any sectarian, sectional, party political or self interest,” continued Mr Adams.
Thousands of marchers from the four corners of the city descended on the City Hall yesterday to demand the British government own up to its role in the murder of its own citizens.
In bright sunshine up to 7,000 people of all ages, carrying placards and wearing black ribbons, heard the families of the victims of state violence speak of their suffering at the hands of the British government and its policy of using loyalist proxies to attack the nationalist and republican community.
As the march passed, the names of West Belfast men Pearse Jordan, Pat Finucane and Tony Fusco loomed large among the hundreds who were remembered by their loved ones.
The daughter of Donegal Sinn Féin councillor, Eddie Fullerton, was first to speak and told a tale familiar to many of those who looked on when she described how loyalists used a sledgehammer to break down the door of her father’s home before shooting him as he lay in bed with his wife.
Her recollection of having to deal with a disinterested legal system, both North and South, was another part of the harrowing recollection that struck a nerve with the crowd.
“Several media investigations have revealed links between British army intelligence and their informers within loyalism that facilitated the murder of my father,” said Amanda Fullerton.
“Four years ago we received information proving collusion between the loyalists and the RUC.
“We have also learned that the Garda Síochána were given this information but had not acted on it.
“We were always told the border was a major problem in the investigation. We know now the border was not a major problem.”
Amanda was followed by Relatives for Justice Director, Mark Thompson, who himself lost a brother to a loyalist killer gang.
He said that republican and nationalist attempts to assert their rights as citizens with public rallies had always drawn a sharp response from the British and their proxies within loyalism.
“The UDA and UFF murdered over 100 people in this city – most of whom were killed by informers working for the British government – that was policy.
“These agents helped bring in consignments of weapons that were used to kill over 300 people across the North – that was policy.”
Delivering the keynote speech, Gerry Adams said the truth issue would be central to future negotiations with the British.
“The objective of this march and rally is to draw attention to collusion and British state violence; a policy which resulted in many thousands of victims who were killed or injured or bereaved; and the administrative and institutional cover-up by the British government and its state agencies.
“The black ribbon is the symbol of this event.
“Wearing it today is an act of solidarity with the victims, their families and the campaign groups.
“It also sends a clear message to the British state that we are determined to pursue the truth,” he added.
“We are determined to campaign even though it may take a long time, until the British state acknowledges its administrative and institutional use of state violence and collusion.”
He also said that the issue of the British manipulation of members of the republican movement should be put under the same scrutiny.
“Yes the British recruited, blackmailed, tricked, intimidated and bribed individual republicans into working for them and I think it would be only right to have this dimension of British strategy investigated also.
“If the British state used former republicans to do its killing for it, then the victims of that policy have the right to truth also.
“The infiltration of organisations, the tactic of divide and conquer, of counter gangs, has long been a hallmark of British policy.
“But to compare, as anti-republicans do, this policy with the structured control and direction of unionist paramilitaries in the conduct of their war is disingenuous.”
Mr Adams added that the presence of so many at a rally in the city centre showed that the strategy of collusion, like British militarism in Ireland, was a failure.
“Both strategies have a number of things in common – they were about the defeat of republicanism.
“And they failed.
“That objective has not been achieved. And it never will be,” he added.
Category Archives: collusion
Journalist Stephen Breen reports on ex-RUC officer Laurence Templeton coming forward to support allegations of collusion between Special Branch and paramilitary informers in today’s Sunday Life:
This is the ex-RUC man who last night claimed Special Branch officers ignored the murderous exploits of their agents – to gain favour and promotion.
Former officer Laurence Templeton – who received praise from Sir Hugh Orde for his “exemplary” service over three decades – broke his silence to allege that a small minority of officers brought shame to the force by allowing terrorist killers a free reign.
The 50-year-old – whose career included three years in Special Branch – spoke exclusively to Sunday Life in a bid to help the relatives of loved ones murdered by loyalist and republican informers.
In an explosive interview, the ex-officer claimed that:
- Special Branch officers competed against each other to see who ran the best agent;
- Some officers were “seduced” by power;
- High-level informants were known as the “protected species”, and;
- Policemen were sacrificed to protect republican spies.
Said the ex-cop: “The vast majority of handlers ran their agents both professionally and morally – but there were officers who were only concerned about which agent was perceived as the best.
“Their careers were more important to them than arresting people for murder. Promotion was paramount.
“They sat on intelligence about certain murders in order to move up the ladder – they were seduced by power. As a result of my experience in the force and of what I have seen and heard, I have no doubt there were officers who were complicit in murder.
“There is a tendency for this society to bury its head in the sand and pretend it never happened – but I, along with many other officers, know that it did happen. I was fully aware of a mass of intelligence on a wide range of individuals but couldn’t understand why this information was never acted upon.
“I also firmly believe that decent policemen were allowed to die to protect certain informants.”
He added: “The public are not shocked at terrorists killing people, but they should be appalled when the state colludes with those very same people.
“If police officers had been told during their training they would only be investigating certain murders then I’m sure, like me, they would’ve walked out. I personally would like to know why certain murders were not selected for investigation and who made these decisions.
“It’s only when those questions are answered will we get to a clear picture of who was actually running things in Northern Ireland at that time.
“Senior officers in Special Branch and CID, in my opinion, became nodding dogs and lost touch with the reality of day to day policing. These people were controlled by top police and MI5.
“I personally knew of one senior officer who knew he wouldn’t get a result over the McCord murder because Haddock was untouchable. I believe, in the end, it was Haddock who was actually running his handlers.”
The former police officer also believes that Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s investigation into the murder of Raymond McCord Jnr could have gone further, adding: “I believe it could have been even stronger.
“But I was appalled by the significant number of high-ranking ex-officers who refused to assist O’Loan even as witnesses.
“I am not tarnishing all officers and I can’t understand how certain people are still in denial about what went on. I realise it may be difficult for some people to come forward at this stage of their lives, but it’s never too late.
“The real heroes of the conflict are the vast majority of officers who helped save people’s lives on a daily basis and those who continue to serve, both uniform and CID.”
Few tears will be shed for Operation Banner, the British army’s 38-year involvement in the conflict here. Despite nostalgic footage of housewives treating squaddies to cups of tea, this military adventure should be remembered for some of the most destructive events of the Troubles. British military policy fanned the flames of communal strife and brought us to the brink many times.
Ostensibly sent over to help the police “keep the peace,” Britain’s army was soon immersed in a draconian onslaught against those who opposed or even questioned the state. It began with the Falls Road ‘Curfew’ and quickly moved to internment and Bloody Sunday. If anyone had illusions about the “peace” credentials of the troops who poured onto our streets in 1969, they were soon shattered in partisan application of military might.
…the entire military operation rested on the notion that Catholics and Protestants here somehow just fell out. Promulgated around the world, the carefully fostered pretext for thousands of troops even took root here. It meant brushing under the carpet not only decades of misrule in the North, but also Britain’s obdurate refusal to do anything before the dams burst in violent denial of civil rights.
The fact that the army’s initial welcome was short-lived bears out the fact that it was never here to bring peace.
Its role actually turned civil unrest into civil war.
From the North Belfast News:
A brutal truth
Like all armies, the British army loves its codenames. Operation Banner is the innocuous moniker that it imposed on what it described as its operation to support the local police here. That’s code for the latest attempt to subdue the natives – the one that began in 1969 and which comes to an end on July 31, 2007.
We report this week on the reaction of a number of people affected by the conflict on the end of Operation Banner, a significant event, even if the fact that British troops will remain in situ here makes it a largely symbolic affair – kind of like the British army saying, as the IRA has already done, that its war is over.
Much has been said and written in recent days and weeks about whether Operation Banner has been a success or a failure. It’s all so much bluster and waffle. The fact of the matter is that once the British government decided to put heavily armed troops on the streets of Belfast, that was an admission of failure in itself. London had nearly fifty years to correct the grotesque excesses of the Stormont regime and decided that the best course of action was to do nothing – for that crime of omission is it was equally, if not more, culpable than the hardline unionist despots who ran the six counties as their own private Protestant fiefdom simply because they could.
History willl relate that the British troops were put on the streets of Belfast initially to protect beleaguered Catholics. History should also relate that the troops were there to protect beleaguered Catholics who were under threat from a ragtag paramilitary militia which was part of a rotten, sectarian regime which the British government encouraged and condoned for half a century.
Just as Tony Blair’s legacy will forever be the obscenity that is Iraq, so the British army’s legacy of this most recent phase of the conflict will be the murderous reality of its collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. All sides have indulged in the most appalling atrocities and crimes, but the brutal truth is that the arming and directing of loyalist killer gangs whose sole raison d’etre was to target Catholics was not something carried out by rogue agents, rather it was sanctioned at the highest level. Don’t ask us if that’s the case, ask John Stevens. Nowhere was the bloody British army/UDA/UVF pogrom against Catholics carried out with more ferocity than in North Belfast.
While they sound their trumpets and hand out the medals and pat themselves on the back as Operation Banner comes to an end, North Belfast Catholics will remember its many innocent victims.
And From the Balcony:
It was like throwing a snowball at a juggernaut today trying to bring some balance to the British salute to their boys and their Operation Banner.
Still, in and out of studios most of the day to state that the British military occupation of nationalist areas left almost every nationalist working class family traumatised at some stage or other over the period of the 35-year war. The ghosts of Majella O’Hare, Leo Norney, Kidso Reilly and many others were entitled to that much: that someone throw cant about ‘mistakes’ back in the face of the righteous British Army spokespersons (and their apologists) who were wheeled out today.
My favourite account of the day came from Liam Stone who recalled how he and his father looked out their Ballymurphy window at hundreds of British soldiers with Saracens and armoured vehicles making their way up the Whiterock Road in the first major riots of Easter 1970. Liam recalled how his father, who had served with the British Army and was a prisoner of war in Danzig, seethed as he saw the heavily-armed forces advance against a civilian population. “He fought Nazism so he knew what facism was and that’s what he called that display that day, fascism.” (I paraphrase, you can hear Liam, he’s almost the very last speaker on today’s Talkback.)
Apparently the BBC needs a little help with their technology, because when you download the Talkback highlights from the Whiterock Community Center, it is only a minute and a half long, with the last part of the news and about fifteen seconds of the introduction to the bit (and no interviews). Bastards! I really wanted to hear Liam Stone, in part because I interviewed him for my thesis, and he gave me the most amazing quote for my paper…he basically stated my thesis in his own words during the interview. It was beautiful. And maybe one day I will finish it and you can all read it…
At midnight on Tuesday, July 31st, the British military operation in the north of Ireland (“Operation Banner”) officially came to an end, with all troops were recalled to their barracks–a mostly symbolic gesture following what Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly called “generations of an Orwellian nightmare of oppression.”
The North Belfast MLA, himself jailed in 1973 over an Old Bailey bomb plot in London, recalled the lengths the Army went to gather intelligence as the conflict intensified.
He said: “I remember around `72, when I was going about, nearly every working class Catholic`s house was on computer.
I was on the run at the time and if I gave a name they (the British) would ask me what colour the wallpaper was in that household because they had it on file.
They used to walk into houses at night and count everyone there, from babies up, to keep check.
When you talk about (Orwell`s book) Nineteen Eighty-Four, this was real Big Brother stuff, big time.”
Mr Kelly, part of the Sinn Fein team who negotiated a political deal which has led to the ending of Operation Banner, insisted the military withdrawal is hugely significant.
We have had British troops and other Crown Forces on the ground now into a second generation, and it was an oppressive presence.
People were interned and its now accepted that the majority of them were innocent.
Before they had intelligence, internment was being used as a weapon against nationalists and Catholic people.
Then in North Belfast, for 25 years the Army were on top of the flats on the New Lodge Road.
You had the mother of Peter McBride, who was shot dead by two Scots Guards in 1992, living under an Army post where she had to watch the regiment going up and down every day.
The harassment was so in your face. These are emotive words, but it was oppressive in a very personal way.
That`s the type of thing that was put under the banner of counter-insurgency. But when you look back at it now it was the simple repetition of tactics that were used by the British Army in every single arena in the world they went into as a colonial power.
It was a clever move to try and suppress a particular section of our community who were Irish republicans. But it also affected people who were simply Catholic nationalists.”
The military tactics also helped persuade many republicans to join the IRA`s armed struggle, Mr Kelly added.
“They helped to recruit into the organisation by their actions,” he said.
He also described the efforts to strike a demilitarisation deal as painstaking.
“You could have negotiated for hours on end over a single military post.
But a lot of people are glad to see this day happen, and it will only help to generate inter-community dialogue.”
More than a quarter of a million troops were brought to the north over the course of the conflict. Troop levels will now not exceed 5,000, which is apparently a normal peace-time army. At least until we can get them to leave for good…
Interestingly enough (though certainly no surprise to anyone familiar with the British track record in Ireland), the soldiers that remain in the north will be given “slightly more power than anywhere else in the UK.” In fact, they will be permitted to stop and question anyone about anything and hold them indefinitely until they comply:
There’s a definite irony in having the troops move out on July 31st and giving them powers for arrest on August 1,” said Jane Winter, director of British- Irish Rights Watch. “On the face of it, there’s no rationale for that.”
The Committee on the Administration of Justice said the new power is ” unacceptable”, but Government defends it as a necessary preparation.
“We hope that it won’t be necessary to have troops on the streets again, ” an NIO spokes- person said, “but we must be prepared and as long as there is the potential for serious public order incidents, the Army should be available to support the police and this role requires the military to have powers over and above the ordinary citizen.
“Military support is not necessary for public order situations elsewhere in the UK, and therefore the powers are not required in England, Scotland or Wales.”
I just recently arrived in Chicago after spending a relatively unpleasant few hours sitting adjacent to the (obviously not often cleaned) bathroom on the Megabus from Ann Arbor. Never thought I’d be so happy to breathe city air!
After a long search for a place that offers both free wireless and an outlet to plug in my computer (the security guard had to “regulate” after I plugged in at the Cultural Center), I quite happily ended up at a place called Argo Tea. Not only do they have a number of outlets for me, but they apparently have a commitment to conservation and sustainability and support a number of local community organizations (granted I know nothing of this place, so if they are evil or are owned by the devil please excuse me). The best part, however, has to be the brewing room–which is visible to the customers through a giant picture window a la Arbor Brewing Company –so that everyone can watch the brewers blend and brew their own teas. Matt and Rene would be proud.
In any case, I am in Chicago this weekend to visit some friends and to see Alan Brecknell of the Pat Finucane Centre’s Newry office tomorrow night at the Irish Heritage Center. Alan’s father was killed in a UVF/RUC/UDR attack on Donnelly’s Bar, Silverbridge in 1975. Alan has researched state collusion in mid-Ulster and the border counties for seven years now with a particular focus on the Glenanne Gang. Late last year an International Panel led by Professor Douglass Cassel of Notre Dame University published a comprehensive report on these cases. Alan was the local expert working with the panel over two years.
He has met with former loyalists including RUC officers who were members of the gang and has given evidence to parliamentary committees on both sides of the border. He is currently studying for a Masters in Human Rights Law in addition to running the Newry office of the Pat Finucane Centre.
Alan will be speaking about the nature and extent of State collusion, the Panel report and the differing approaches to truth recovery. For example, what is the role of the Police Ombudsman and the Historical Enquiry Team? What are the needs of victims’ families in a post conflict situation and what role could a truth commission play?
Those of you in or near Chicago should come out for the event tomorrow night, Saturday July 28, 8pm at the Irish Heritage Center at 4626 North Knox.