backs report on collusion in North
The Government last
night backed a report which found successive British
governments knew of widespread collusion between its
security forces and loyalists.
An Oireachtas subcommittee said a series of
atrocities by loyalist paramilitaries in the
mid-1970s were acts of international terrorism.
The committee’s conclusions in relation to
successive British governments are its gravest. It
refers to a meeting in 1975 attended by Prime
Minister Harold Wilson and Conservative leader
Margaret Thatcher, later prime minister.
She was told the RUC were not to be trusted,
elements in the police were close to the UVF, and
the reserve force, the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR)
was heavily infiltrated by extremists who could not
be relied upon in a crisis.
The committee also found that because of endemic
collusion and the level of awareness, the British
Government could no longer “legitimately refuse to
cooperate with investigations”.
The Taoiseach described the findings as disturbing,
deeply troubling and “a matter of the most serious
concern”. He said it was “absolutely
essential” that the British Government now
co-operate with all the investigations.
Repeated efforts by Mr Ahern to win that
co-operation, including a number of personal
requests to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have
Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said he had contacted
Northern Secretary Peter Hain last night to convey
the Government’s deep misgivings.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the Taoiseach
should demand of Mr Blair that he give the necessary
co-operation, given the report’s disturbing
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte described the report as
“extremely shocking” and condemned the
“continuing refusal” of the British Government
The subcommittee, chaired by Fianna Fáil TD Sean
Ardagh, was reporting on its hearings into nine
attacks on both sides of the Border in which 18
people died. The hearings followed an earlier
investigation into the atrocities — and attendant
allegations of collusion — by former Supreme Court
judge Henry Barron.
The incidents included the bombing of Kay’s Tavern
in Dundalk; the murder of three members of the
Reavey family in Markethill, Co Armagh; the murder
of three members of the O’Dowd family in Gilford,
Co Down; and the gunning down of three members of
the Miami Showband by extremists, who were also
members of the UDR.
The report, the fourth by the committee, went much
farther than previous reports in the inferences it
draws. It found that collusion between security
forces and loyalist terrorists was behind many of
the nine attacks. The collusion formed part of a
wider picture that went to the top of the British
establishment. The subcommittee also criticised the
“We believe there is an abundance of information
to suggest that there was reasonable if not
significant, knowledge on this side of the border
that British security personnel were working with,
and as, loyalist paramilitaries. The fact that
little or nothing was done to address this is, to
put it mildly, alarming,” it says.
One member of the committee, Kathleen Lynch (Lab)
said the garda inquiries were shabby exercises.
Another, Senator Jim Walsh, said collusion in the
North went “much further than a few bad apples”.
“We owe it to the integrity of our State that we
do not allow an infringement of our sovereignty to
go unchallenged,” he said.
The committee recommended a full Oireachtas debate
ahead of putting pressure on the British authorities
to cooperate with a full inquiry. Mr Ardagh said he
favoured an inquiry based on those by Canadian judge
Peter Cory in the North. But Independent TD Finian
McGrath called for a full public inquiry.
Mr McGrath’s call was supported by surviving
relatives of the victims. Solicitor James McGuill
said he was disappointed the committee had not
demanded a serious form of enquiry.
Greg O’Neill, the solicitor for Victims for the
Forgotten, also reminded the subcommittee there
remained serious unanswered questions about why
garda inquiries had stopped.
Alan Brecknell, whose father Trevor was shot dead by
loyalists, said his family had spent years fighting
for the truth to be heard.
“It is now important that the community at large
hears the truth and above all listens to the
truth,” he said.