and independent panel of international lawyers yesterday (Monday) reported
on its two-year inquiry into 25 incidents involving the murders of 76
people. These were sectarian murders carried out by loyalist paramilitaries
from mid-Ulster between 1972 and 1977.
panel found strong evidence of collusion between members of the British
security forces, mainly the RUC and the UDR, in 24 out of the 25 incidents,
and therefore 74 out of the 76 murders. The evidence came from credible
statements and forensics.
and soldiers helped paramilitary gangs to murder men, women and children,
most of them Catholics. In some cases, policemen and soldiers were part of
the loyalist paramilitary gangs. In some cases, they donned masks to murder,
then RUC uniforms to investigate.
stole, lent, used and hid weapons provided to them for the protection of the
people, to murder civilians. They destroyed and covered up evidence. The
report includes a chart which shows the way that the same guns were used
over and over again.
were car bombs, grenade attacks, and shootings. Pubs were sprayed with
gunfire. Several families were massacred. The Dublin and Monaghan bombings
left 34 dead, the largest number killed on any single day during the
Troubles. Other cases under investigation did not lead to deaths. Many other
people were injured.
failed even in the face of overwhelming evidence. In one case, a widow
identified the killer, the notorious Robin Jackson, only to see charges
against him dropped by order of the DPP. Jackson was a special branch agent.
Evidence of collusion was provided by several former members of the security
forces, but was not acted on. Ballistics evidence linking killings was
evidence indicates that superiors of violent extremist officers and agents
were aware of their sectarian crimes yet failed to act to prevent,
investigate or punish them as early as 1973, senior officials of the United
Kingdom were put on notice of sectarian violence by UDR soldiers. At least
by 1975, senior officials were also informed that some RUC officers were
very close to extremist paramilitaries." Confessions in 1978 by former
RUC officers John Weir and Billy McCaughey "should have blown the lid
off RUC and UDR involvement in murdering Catholics".
who take the view that these things happened back in the bad old days and
that all has changed now, and changed utterly, will find no comfort in this
report. Weir's allegations, made public in 1999, were not properly
investigated even then.
inquiry panel met the Chief Constable of the PSNI, Sir Hugh Orde, in 2004.
"We thought we received assurances of his co-operation," its
chairman, Professor Douglass Cassel, said yesterday. "Since then we
have received not a single piece of paper."
said Orde had subsequently informed them that he was referring all relevant
material on these matters to the body which preceded the Historical
Enquiries Team. He already knew about that body before he met the panel,
Cassel said. Why did he appear to change his mind?
is not the first time that the activities of the so-called "Glenanne
Gang" of loyalist paramilitaries, soldiers and policemen, have been
exposed. Mr Justice Henry Barron looked at some of its murderous activities.
The Pat Finucane Centre, which invited the Cassel team to carry out this
latest investigation, has carried out excellent and painstaking work on
behalf of some of the bereaved families. Last year it uncovered documents
revealing high-level knowledge of collusion in the UDR in the early 1970's.
all attempts to get the full truth about these murders – and many others
– have been thwarted by the refusal of the British government to make
available crucial intelligence records. This report is yet another appeal to
it to do the right thing before it is forced to under international law.
Finucane's widow, Geraldine, was at the launch. She found the report
was scary to think, she said, that people in authority in London knew about
these things back in 1973. "I am sure their skills were well-honed by
1989 when they murdered my husband," she said.
is right. This fine report isn't just about the 76 awful murders it has
studied. It is about hundreds of others that followed.
question haunts the report, as it haunted the work of Mr Justice Barron,
Lord Stevens and Judge Peter Cory. How high up the chain did knowledge of
and complicity in these atrocities go?
is a question which won't go away.