10th July 1972: Decisions D and J

This month’s An Phoblacht has also ran with the Relatives for Justice story about the 10 July 1972 memo of a security meeting chaired by NI Secretary of State William Whitelaw that has already been discussed on here and elsewhere. Close scrutiny of the details of the memo suggests that this is an even more significant document than was first noted.

Much of the coverage of the memo focussed on the statement that: “The Army should not be inhibited in its campaign by the threat of Court proceedings and should therefore be suitably indemnified.” This occurs in the second half of the memo in a list of points that follow this header: “After discussion of the political and strategic factors in the new situation the following decisions were taken“[my emphasis].

In all the memo includes a series of ‘decisions’ labelled A-L, including the indemnification comment above (J) and others, such as how the breakdown of the 1972 truce and Whitelaw’s talks with the IRA leadership would be handled (A), the need for more troops and material (G) and the parades on 12th July 1972 (K). The attendant to-do list in the document is significant. Where individual items can be examined against the records in the public domain, the implementation of individual ‘decisions’ can be verified. Whitelaw’s subsequent statements, initially on the breakdown of the IRA truce, then in his admission of the talks with the IRA leadership all conform to the ‘decisions’ listed in the memo and rolled out over the 10th/11th July, as reported in the press at the time. A raising of troop levels was announced in the press on the 11th July and various other security measures that took place over the next weeks appear to correspond exactly to the ‘decisions’ listed in the memo. Decision (I) – Plans were to be produced urgently for the containment of areas harbouring bombers and gunmen – is the go for Motorman itself.

In a post to the previous thread, I’d contextualised a ‘decision’ that the Army should be ‘suitably indemnified’ in the RUC forwarding it’s report on Bloody Sunday to the DPP on the 4th July 1972 (six days earlier) and the issues raised by the numbers of contentious deaths arising from incidents involving the army since 1971. The treatment of internees had been whitewashed by Compton at the end of 1971, Widgery had reported at the end of April 1972, and the Scarman report on the 1969 disturbances, including criticism of the roles played by the security forces (in this case the RUC and B Specials), was also published in that same month. Any ‘decision’ on indemnification emerging from a high level security meeting has to be taken seriously in this context, particularly when the other ‘decisions’ taken appear to have been carried out as described.  In practical terms, the state clearly didn’t indemnify army personnel in any visible legal sense, but rather, consistently put the weight and resources of the state on their side of the scales of justice to prevent findings against them when they shot innocent civilians.

Was that ‘decision’ extracted for comfort by the army chiefs or was it consensus that emerged in the face of the very public agenda raised by the likes of Widgery? Many of the same  senior politicians and civil servants had been present at the talks with the IRA in the preceding weeks. So, there may be odd echoes here of the pledge Lyndon Johnson extracted from his generals in Vietnam over Khe Sanh in 1968 that it would not turn into another ‘damn Din Bin Phoo’ [Dien Bien Phu]. The ‘decision’ itself may be an outworking of high level tensions on the eve of Motorman over who might carry the can for violence in the north with the service chiefs requiring some level of comfort to convince themselves that they wouldn’t either be hung out to dry if the government change policy or wrong-footed by Whitelaw’s free-styling articulation of policy. The list of attendees at the 10th July meeting and the briefings on the morning of Motorman are almost identical.

The An Phoblacht piece raises another of the ‘decisions’, (D): “The GOC would see UDA leaders that afternoon and impress upon them that while their efforts as vigilanties in their own areas were acceptable, their presence in any riot or shooting situation would not be tolerated.” Superficially, it seems churlish to point up official contacts with the UDA while simultaneous talks were ongoing with the IRA leadership.

But the meaning of acceptable vigilante behaviour isn’t expanded upon in this memo. On the day after the 10th July meeting with the GOC, the press carried statement issued by the UDA about it’s intent to fight the IRA. While killings by loyalists are mainly unattributed in early 1972, some of the UDA’s ‘acceptable vigilante’ actions up to and after 10th July includes at least 28 killings.  While the IRA leadership met with political representatives and were treated as opponents in security and political fields, the UDA met with the operational commander of the security forces, the GOC.

With hindsight, an indemnification policy is clearly visible in practice. If you doubt that, I’d suggest you read Bill Rolston and Mairead Gilmartin’s Unfinished Business. The significance of the 10th July 1972 memo is that there is a written ‘decision’ (J) that emerged from a high level meeting to that effect amongst a list of other ‘decisions’ that were publicly implemented and can be clearly identified in the historical record. Decision (D) also raises additional questions about the official standing of the operational role accorded to loyalist paramilitaries by the GOC and other senior security and political figures. In documentary terms, the 10th July memo may be as close as anyone will come to finding official documenting of policies that have been consistently denied in the face of considerable evidence.

, , , , , , , , ,

  • lamhdearg2

    “The GOC would see UDA leaders that afternoon and impress upon them that while their efforts as vigilanties in their own areas were acceptable, their presence in any riot or shooting situation would not be tolerated.”
    Then
    “some of the UDA’s ‘acceptable vigilante’ actions up to and after 10th July includes at least 28 killings”

    the second of these, is counter to the first.

    “In documentary terms, the 10th July memo may be as close as anyone will come to finding official documenting of policies”

    “close” but no cigar.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Was the article carried in the ‘War News’ segment?

  • Drumlins Rock

    At the same time these discussion were going on An Poblachts parent body was also making plans, maybe they would like to publish the details of those discussions too?

    Friday 21 July 1972
    ‘Bloody Friday’ is the name given to the events that occurred in Belfast on Friday 21 July 1972. During the afternoon of ‘Bloody Friday’ the Irish Republican Army (IRA) planted and exploded 22 bombs which, in the space of 75 minutes, killed 9 people and seriously injured approximately 130 others. In addition to the bombs there were numerous hoax warnings about other explosive devices which added to the chaos in the streets that afternoon. Many people believe these hoax warnings were deliberately used to reduce the effectiveness of the security forces in dealing with the real bombs. [The killings and maimings had a profound impact on most people in Northern Ireland. ‘Bloody Friday’ also led to the decision by the British Government to implement ‘Operation Motorman’ (31 July 1972) when, in the biggest British military operation since the 1956 Suez crisis, the British Army entered and ended the ‘no-go’ areas of Belfast and Derry.]
    Joseph Rosato (59), a Catholic civilian, was shot dead by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) at his home, Deerpark Road, Belfast. Rosato was the father of the intended target and the killing was part of a feud between the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) and the PIRA.”

  • changeisneeded

    haha
    Drumlins that is a whatabout if i ever seen it..
    Pathetic as usual from sluggers regular unionists
    How about you guys try and address the post which shows the british state up for the murdering bastards they are..

  • Drumlins Rock

    I make no apology for it, but it is relevant and also vital you place the time period in context. And it these hints and discussions are the best you can come up with to prove “shoot to kill” or the like your on feeble ground.

    But if you show the state did operate in that way I will condemn it, I trust you will condemn the IRA attacks on Bloody Friday unreservedly?

    60-40-10

  • sonofstrongbow

    Yea nothing quite so amusing as folks being blown up whilst out shopping or getting on a bus.

  • John Ó Néill

    DR – Maria McGuire’s 1973 book To Take Arms details how an unequivocally sectarian faction in the Belfast IRA leadership organised Bloody Friday and she implies it was in the couple of days before it happened. Motorman was a decision of 10th July (read the memo). None of the three are causally linked together.

  • ranger1640

    Again with the republican agenda of “extreme revisionism” and “selective victim hood”!

  • changeisneeded

    Jazus John dont be spoiling the classic whataboutery. The bile spouted by loyalists above shows how desperate they are. Trying to avoid what is a very well written and informative example of how the british state ran a murderous bunch of thugs and covered for their crimes while not accepting that their beloved state was a whole lot worse. And drumlins looking for proof the state carried out murders when the whole post is how the state have covered up for themselves. Talk about being blinded by bigotry.

  • changeisneeded

    should have said

    “Trying to avoid what is a very well written and informative example of how the british state ran a murderous bunch of thugs and covered for their crimes, trying to bring in the IRA while not accepting that their beloved state was a whole lot worse.”

    And Drumlins, I see the British Government who paid soldiers to murder people and then used the law to cover up for them as a whole lot worse than the IRA. There are plenty like me.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “the meaning of acceptable vigilante behaviour isn’t expanded upon in this memo”

    Is it not fairly clearly defined in this earlier statement, John: “while their efforts as vigilanties in their own areas were acceptable, their presence in any riot or shooting situation would not be tolerated”? This would indicate a degree of force or other activity by a non-state actor – loyalist or republican – which is certainly less than killing and possibly less than would happen in a riot. You seem to have ignored ‘in their own areas'; perhaps you’ve been disorientated by An Phoblacht spin.

    Neither loyalists nor republicans would have felt constrained by the words of state actors back then and I doubt if that has changed since.

  • lamhdearg2

    Nevin, good luck getting a response, (see my 5:44)

  • John Ó Néill

    Nevin – what were their efforts in their own areas and how were they acceptable, then, since it implies free rein? The reference is very oblique. It can equally be read that they weren’t to visibly act in concert with the security forces outside their own areas. A preferential reading that the UDA were somehow boy scouts is equally poor spin.

  • lamhdearg2

    is it caus i is black?

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    John, I don’t place loyalist and republican paramilitaries in the same category as boy scouts.

    For me, ‘in their own areas’ would be, say loyalists in the Shankill and republicans in the Falls acting as defenders of their respective territories from incursions by ‘themuns’ as well as keeping their own groups in order – a temporary delegation of policing functions, if you will. Later on, Mo Mowlam referred to such informal arrangements as ‘house-keeping’.

  • John Ó Néill

    lamhdearg2 – your post makes no sense.

    Nevin – I’m not so sure that the meaning of that is entirely clear and you are being benign in how you read it.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    John, I don’t draw any major distinctions between loyalist and republican paramilitaries, other than the constitutional aspiration. Ditto for London and Dublin state actors.

    I’ve also produced evidence in the past of London ministers making statements which they would have known to be untrue and a Dublin minister accidentally revealing more of the truth than was intended.

  • lamhdearg2

    John,
    By saying to the uda, no shooting,no rioting, the GOC, is telling them, those things are unacceptable vigilante actions, you implied that the uda killings where seen as acceptable by the GOC, yet you also discount this, with respect that makes no sense.

  • Alias

    With all these murder gangs killing members of other murder gangs and killing members of their own gangs and with the state directing the gist of it, it’s lucky that Gerry and Marty lived in underground bunkers in Pakistan and therefore out of reach of any unprincipled state that might want to harm the little darlings…

  • Drumlins Rock

    60-40-10

  • changeisneeded

    Tin foil hat time Alias :-)

  • Alias

    Nope, just pointing out that your ‘ruthless killer state’ spared the lives of its oft-touted enemies.

  • Alias

    By the way, if you want to see how states actually deal with violent anti-state groups, look no further than how Israel has dealt with dozens of leading members of Hamas – Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, for example, was unceremoniously dispatched in his wheelchair via a missile from an apache attack helicopter.

    In contrast, the British state never laid a finger of the leaders of the Shinners. It does make one wonder why not.

  • changeisneeded

    This isnt Isreal, you really cant compare the 2. It was a PR war as much as anything…The shinners had major backing from the US.
    Who knows for real, although you do make a good point, I wouldn’t be to sure it is the way you paint it. What we do know or what we can ascertain is the British government and their agencies where just as bad (or worse in my eyes) as the IRA/INLA etc..

  • Alias

    I’m not suggesting that they would have been nuked stepping out of Sunday mass but rather that a state which has no reservations about killing its innocent citizens (as it is claimed) would certainly have no reservations about killing its anti-state terrorist godfathers. It could do this via (a) use of loyalist proxies to claim responsibility, (b) use of republican proxies to claim responsibility (cover of feuding), (c) use of its own specialised security operative with no claim of responsibility. As those terrorist godfathers are now overtly pro-state, that might just explain why the state did not disable them via such illegal means.

    Indeed, it didn’t disable via legal means either, despite having deep cover operatives working alongside them who could have gathered a mountain of evidence and despite having prima facie evidence from other sources such as with Operation Tuarus.

    The advantage of the state having control of the intelligence departments of its murder gangs (Brian Nelson in the loyalist gang for example) is that the state was able to protect its agents in the republican gangs from being targetted for murder by those gangs.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, the Shinners never “had major backing from the US.” Contrary to recent myth, the US government always supported the UK’s claim to sovereignty over Northern Ireland and always rejected Ireland’s claim. That policy existed since partition. Indeed, given the reference to Bloody Sunday above, you’re welcome to show where the US withdrew its ambassador in protest.

    It is only when the Shinners changed their policy to agree with British policy on the sovereignty issue did the US government change its policy on the Shinners.

  • John Ó Néill

    Nevin/Lamhdearg2 – I’m thinking more of the live issues in April-May 1972 around the UDA no-go areas and discussions about joint-patrolling with the British Army, even despite arrests for gun-trafficking earlier that year. At that time the UDA, while legal, was already operating under the UFF banner to carry out attacks. And as I pointed out above, many of the killings attributed to loyalists at this time were not admitted by any particular organisation (and even so, a number had been attributed to the UDA before 10th July and a total of 28 were by the end of 1972). According to Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack (The UDA – Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror) the UDA were offering to patrol with the British Army inside their own no-go areas at that time. The context of that reference to the UDA is not clear at all as to what it is referring to – is it patrolling with the British Army, is it ‘house-keeping’ – if it is the latter, presumably the RUC would be meeting them, not the GOC. Hence, I think it is a reference to the proposals around joint-patrols etc with the British Army and we can’t assume that the implications of what is acceptable etc are solely confined to sinister enough euphemisms like ‘house-keeping’.

    Like the reference to indemnification, these are two comments that would normally be redacted from the minutes of a security strategy meeting like this.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “the UDA were offering to patrol with the British Army inside their own no-go areas at that time”

    John, the loyalist and republican paramilitaries appear to have indulged in a fair degree of mimicry as evidenced by the no-go areas, even to the extent that barricades were put up in Coleraine because barricades had been put up in Belfast.

    As I’ve already noted, the respective factions differed in regard to constitutional aspiration: pro-state v anti-state; it is hardly surprising that the loyalists would have offered their services to the state actors. It’s also hardly surprising that the murderous activities of one faction should be countered by the other irrespective of who started a particular affray; it certainly wouldn’t have required the sanction of third parties. When you look back almost a century earlier you’ll see much the same interactions, perhaps with a difference in weaponry.

  • ranger1640

    How can you have “no go areas” if they are being patrolled by the army and the RUC???