What Thatcher knew about UDR

The Irish News has scoop of the week/month (subs needed), and publishes its second installment today. It’s front page alleges that “British prime ministers were aware of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries, soldiers and RUC officers and believed security forces were ‘handing information to’ Ian Paisley”. The story from yesterday (subs needed):

The documents reveal that military intelligence:

* estimated 5-15 per cent of UDR soldiers were linked to loyalist paramilitaries

* believed that the “best single source of weapons, and the only significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups was the UDR”

* feared UDR troops were loyal to Ulster rather than Her Majesty’s Government

* knew that UDR weapons were being used in the murder and attempted murder of Catholics

Today it outlines:

* an army sub-machine gun was used in a sectarian murder and 11 attempted murders, with the intelligence document even listing the victims� names

* civil servants answering MPs’ questions on collusion concealed its existence

* a military dossier lists a string of incidents across Northern Ireland where arms were passed to loyalists with the collusion of soldiers

Specifically it quotes from minutes of a meeting in September 1975 when the prime minister Harold Wilson, and then secretary of state, Merlyn Rees, briefed Margaret Thatcher as leader of the opposition:

The secretary of state said that he was more worried by the current sectarian murders than by the bombings in Belfast. Unfortunately there were certain elements in the police who were very close to the UVF, and who were prepared to hand over information, for example, to Mr Paisley. The army’s judgment was that the UDR were heavily infiltrated by extremist Protestants, and that in a crisis situation they could not be relied upon to be loyal.

Steven McCaffrey has more inside. He also quotes a dialogue from an 1977 RTE documentary, in which a company officer tells the interviewer that he suspected 50% of Catholic residents of one (unnamed) district of some degree of collusion with the IRA.

More background from PA at UTV.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty