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: pat finucane
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.
From the Pat Finucane Centre:
“While carrying out research the PFC recently discovered a document outlining the British military view of its own role, function, successes and failures from 1969 to 2006. The document, Operation Banner-An Analysis of Military Operations in Northern Ireland, offers an unprecedented and deeply worrying insight into the thinking of senior military officers and civil servants at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. Above all the document betrays a profoundly colonial mindset towards the conflict here and those involved in it. From the perspective of Whitehall the rolling hills of Tyrone and Armagh might as well have been the Hindu Kush a century ago.
Significant dates are wrong while significant historical events have been omitted or misinterpreted. Loyalist violence and the links between loyalist paramilitaries and the state has been airbrushed out of this military history, prepared ‘under the Direction of the Chief of the General Staff’. In 2006, when the document was written, the CGS was General Mike Jackson who drew up the notorious ‘shot list’ in the hours after Bloody Sunday.
The British Government has long sought to portray its role here as that of the neutral broker, the referee between two warring factions. This document, which was not intended to be made public, makes no such pretence. According to the MoD there was only one war and one enemy -the IRA. Loyalist paramilitaries on the other hand were ‘respectable’.
This deeply flawed document is powerful evidence of why we need to deal with the past honestly and openly. We have written to Defence Secretary Des Browne demanding that the MoD withdraw this document and that he write to specific families in Derry and South Armagh to apologise for comments contained in the text.
It is clear that the document was not intended to be put in the public domain. We are making it temporarily available on our website in case the MoD attempts to restrict access. http://www.patfinucanecentre.org. The Irish News will be providing extensive analysis of the document over the coming days.
(At long last, I am finally writing this blog post.) Last month I had the opportunity to spend a week in DC with the Relatives for Justice collusion delegation, and what a week it was. Read about the trip’s details in their own words on their blog, Relatives for Justice Collusion Delegation in the USA. [Pictured, from left: Theresa Slane, Clara Reilly, Mark Thompson, Paul McIlwaine, Raymond McCord and Pauline Davey-Kennedy.]
The families were here to gather American support to expose the extent of British state violence in Ireland and the great lengths that the British government has gone to prevent the truth of their policy of collusion from coming to light. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “collusion,” in this context it refers to the arming and directing of loyalist paramilitary death squads by successive British government administrations throughout the 30+ years of the conflict in Ireland.
There were six people in the delegation:
Mark Thompson is the Director of RFJ, and Clara Reilly is its Chairperson. Both have been involved in helping families fight human rights violations for decades. Though Mark’s brother Peter was killed by the British army in a shoot-to-kill operation in January 1990, and Clara’s brother Jim Burns was murdered by the UVF in February 1981 (in a clear case of collusion), neither one spoke of their personal tragedies during the Congressional meetings that I attended. I can only imagine that this was due in part to their positions as spokespeople for RFJ and all the hundreds of families that they support and were here to represent.
Raymond McCord, Sr. was one of two Protestants who were part of the cross-community delegation. The UVF beat his son Raymond Jr. to death in November 1997. Raymond Jr.’s killing was sanctioned by the notorious UVF killer Mark Haddock, who was also a paid RUC/PSNI Special Branch agent (and responsible for up to 23 other murders). Those who follow Irish politics may be familiar with the McCord case; in January Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan published a scathing report into the circumstances surrounding his death. The report has helped to expose how deep and systematic the policy of collusion was. You can read a copy of that report here. Raymond Sr. has received death threats for pursuing his son’s case and for bringing the issue of collusion to the halls of Congress.
Paul McIlwaine is a Protestant from Portadown. His 18-year-old son David was brutally murdered along with his friend Andrew Robb in February 2000 during the UVF/LVF feud. Though neither had any paramilitary connections and the boys were not the initial intended targets, both were sadistically killed in a knife attack that left David nearly decapitated. Evidence has emerged that shows the investigating officers concealed evidence to protect the killers (and the senior UVF commander in the area who is a Special Branch agent) and that the RUC were aware of the UVF plan to kill two people on that night and did nothing to prevent it.
Pauline Davey-Kennedy, herself a former Sinn Féin councillor, was in DC to highlight the murder of her father John Davey, a Sinn Féin councillor on Magherafelt District Council. Davey was murdered by the UVF on 14 February 1989 (two days after the murder of Pat Finucane). Davey had been subjected to all sorts of harassment before his death, including intimidating phone calls, letters, detention, arrest, and death threats from both the British army and RUC Special Branch that they would have loyalists kill him. Sinn Féin has had more members and elected representatives killed than any other political party, and its elected reps were denied the special protection given to other politicians by the Northern Ireland Office (protection that could have certainly protected many lives like that of John Davey). Davey was ambushed and shot after leaving a council meeting in 1989.
Theresa Slane’s husband Gerard was murdered by the UDA in September 1988. Slane’s murder had been planned and directed by the British Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU), the same unit responsible for the murder of Pat Finucane. A map of the Slane home had been drawn during an RUC raid the week before Gerard’s murder. Slane’s personal details were given to the infamous Brian Nelson, who would later plead guilty to conspiracy in the murder of Slane and four others. Nelson made a deal with the British Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions to keep silent. In return, Nelson was given a lenient sentence and a new identity, home, and financial resettlement package upon his release.
Now, after reading only a few of the details of each person’s case, you may understand why it has taken me so long to write about the trip. I’m sitting here at my desk a month later, trying to reflect on my experiences and I’m still having a hard time. I was blown away by the strength and determination of everyone I met.
Raymond McCord, whose son’s case has been in the media spotlight for some time now, was the first to say what a shame it is that it is only really now that people are starting to pay attention to the collusion issue when republicans have been speaking out against it for decades. McCord and McIlwaine, the two Protestant participants, spoke of how they had always believed collusion to be republican propaganda until their own sons were killed. Unfortunately, they have had an unbelievably hard time trying to get unionist politicians to give them the time of day.
Relatives for Justice argues, and I firmly believe, that the opportunity to expose British collusion is now. From the press release issued in advance of their trip:
Irish American support in lifting the lid on British state violence in Ireland has been crucially important, particularly in this past decade. The Irish lobby has undoubtedly impacted hugely in advancing this issue and has made the objective of fully exposing British collusion a reality that is now within our grasp. This includes exposing the role of British Military Intelligence and the fact that collusion was a political and military policy both sanctioned and financed at the highest authority within Whitehall and Downing Street. Collusion claimed countless lives including unionist and nationalist alike. This is a human rights issue. It now needs to be addressed in the context of peace building and transitional justice. Your support is vital as the struggle by hundreds of families to seek truth and accountability as part of transition continues and reaches a crucial point. The truth must be established and your continued rold is required more so now than at any other time.
Now is a unique time and opportunity for the families to build on these developments and push for the truth about collusion and British state violence in Ireland. Irish America has an imperative role to play in collectively standing shoulder to shoulder with the families. We urge your support.
In other news from the week, the Senate unanimously passed the Finucane Resolution, H. Con. Res. 20. The resolution has now passed both houses of Congress, putting more pressure on the British government for a full, public, independent inquiry. Though Peter Hain immediately stated that the inquiry would have to be held under the notorious Inquiries Act of 2005, let’s hope we can increase the pressure to do away with that. [Pictured, from left: John and Geraldine Finucane, Rep. Chris Smith, Mary Noonan, and Mike Glass.]
Read Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-NJ) press release here. (It’s more or less the release from the Committee the other day.)
The resolution, HR 20, was written by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), and was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, January 23rd. A similar resolution was passed by the House last year, but did not make it out of committee in the Senate. Let’s hope that the recent collusion report by the Police Ombudsman will put that in motion again.
Read about the resolution here.
From a press release issued earlier today:
Speaking after the release earlier today of the damning OPONI report into collusion between Special Branch and the UVF the Pat Finucane Centre and Relatives for Justice issued the following statement.
Raymond McCord, who lodged the original complaint which led to this report said earlier today in relation to the Chief Inspector of Her Majesties Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and former RUC Chief Contable Ronnie Flanagan : “If he’s trying to tell us he didn’t know what was going on, he was a very poor chief constable and he shouldn’t be in the position that he’s in now. If he did know what was going on, charges should be brought against him and he should be stripped of his knighthood.”
RFJ and the PFC fully endorse these comments and have called on British Home Secretary John Reid MP to urgently review Flanagan’s continued employment as the British government’s ‘principal professional policing adviser’ as he is described on the HMIC website.
Speaking this afternoon RFJ spokesperson Mark Thompson revealed that a pdf version of the report had been emailed to British Home Secretary John Reid earlier today with a call for urgent action.
PFC spokesperson Paul O’Connor explained, “During the period investigated by OPONI Ronnie Flanagan held a number of senior positions including Operational Commander for Belfast, Head of Special Branch and finally Chief Constable. We fully support Raymond Mc Cord’s call for his actions/inactions during this period to be investigated.”
Nuala O’Loan’s report published this morning revealed that upwards of 40 officers failed to cooperate with her inquiry – ‘Operation Ballast’ – It was also established that the RUC Tasking and Coordinating Group (TCG) destroyed evidence.
Of the 40 officers who failed to cooperate 2 were former Assistant Chief Constables, 7 were Det Chief Inspectors, and 2 were Det Superintendents.END
Read the Ombudsman’s full report here.
Contact the Home Office and call for Ronnie Flanagan’s position as Chief Inspector with HMIC to be reviewed