On the vexing question of collusion…

Few people believe that there was no collusion between security forces and various actors within the paramilitary organisations. The Pat Finucane Centre has now compiled a report it has commissioned into 25 cases – most of which were linked to a number of loyalists known as the ‘Glenanne group’ and focused on the mid-Ulster and border areas between 1972 and 1977. According to the Irish News, “in all but one of the cases they said that they found evidence pointing to collusion by members of the RUC and UDR”. The report published a series of interesting recommendations:

• establishment of an independent investigation into allegations of collusion in murders and attempted murders by loyalists, which can identify those involved and examine not just possible RUC and UDR involvement but also that of British army and intelligence agencies

• investigations into murders carried out by republican groups

• loyalist and republican paramilitary groups should fully cooperate with official investigations into collusion

• the findings of all investigations should be published, including those by the HET which at present plans only to share its findings with victims’ families

• the state should publicly acknowledge its responsibility in sectarian killings where collusion is established

• public apologies from senior officials to the families of victims of collusion.

The focus seems to be on bringing the state to book for at least some of its covert actions, with an appeal to paramilitaries to co-operate. Given the unwillingness of any of the paramilitaries across the piste to come clean on any details of their actions, it is probably the only practical way for much of this dirty washing to be aired in public. Nevertheless, it is also likely to give rise to some very uneven outcomes.

  • JR

    “Nevertheless, it is also likely to give rise to some very uneven outcomes.” – What do you mean by that statement Mick?

    Also, notable is the Loughinisland Massacre families travelling to London for cross party representations. I knew all of the murder victims and know the carnage and damage done to their families. The government must step up to the mark on this and give all the evidence that it has. Not doing so will be seen as further evidence of collusion.

  • Mick Fealty

    Simply that in drawing from one source only, we’re unlikely to get a fuller picture on the nature and the extent of state collusion with non state actors.

    I cannot immediately see what can be done to address that problem, since paramilitaries are by nature, a law unto themselves.

  • andy

    Its interesting they also talk about:
    “investigations into murders carried out by republican groups”
    Which would presumably make it likely to be less one-sided.

  • Tom Strong

    I wondered when this would be blogged on Slugger. It has been reported on the news in Australia. Surely to try and uncover that actions of state action in murders should be encouraged to the fullest. Again Republican murders were surely not encouraged by the British government.
    As a distant neutral, who has followed NI politics and society for about forty years, surely it is incumbent to deal with problems like this to secure closure

  • mnob

    Tom –

    Republicans call infiltrators in the republcian movement traitors and infiltrators in loyalism colluders.

    It is a matter of record that there were state forces working within all branches of terrorism in Northern Ireland. Everyone seems to have made up their own minds as to what they were doing there based on their own political beliefs.

    The language used to describe them tells more of the person doing the description than that being described.

  • Yokel

    It’s obvious collusion went on in a direct and indirect sense.

    The number of times that the cops, army and MI5 would have been passed on information from informers and just didnt act on it is probably legion.

    It’s more than just legend that the RUC & army patrols mysteriously ‘lost’ low level information such as montages, address details etc about loyalist & republican terrorists in the other sides area.

    One only has to look at one murder of a Provo who shall remain nameless at his home by loyalists. Rumour had it that military intelligence knew about the planned hit from an informer and let it roll. The RUC were furious because the dead man was one of their informers.

    Incidents where police couldnt make arrests or were asked to let people go because they were protected happened by the ton.

    By and large the foor soldiers on both sides and amongst the cops and miltary were pretty much just directed in totality. Even very senior officers in the RUC were told by junior ranks from Branch that information couldn’t be givent o them because it was on a need to know basis.

    This is huge huge can of worms. If its opened properly and honestly not only are the forces of the state going to look very messy but so too are people within loyalist and republican armed movements. Personally, I’d let it lie. Both sides and the state are going to face some serious allegations.

  • Yokel

    Tom, bless ya. If you think the state didnt let republican attacks that they knew about run without intervention you live in cloud cuckoo land.

    Jesus christ even elements within the republican and loyalistm paramilitaries talked directly. Territory was carved up, information exchanged.

    Everyone played a part. I do understand that some within republicanism will claim that no such links existed on their side but they did.

  • JR

    Yokel your missing the point, as are a lot of others. It’s not about republican or loyalist murders. It’s about the fact that state forces colluded with terrorists, whatever colour, and maybe even directed the terrorists. Also, that possibly government ministers knew what was happening and did nothing or even encouraged it!! That’s the crux of it.

  • andy

    With respect I’m not sure if that is it really. Both sides were infiltrated, but I think when republicans allege collusion they mean more direct cases of information being handed to loyalists about, say the names and addrsses of republicans. At least they should mean that.

    As yokel implies though a lot of the stuff that comes under the collusion banner was probably “operations” being allowed to go ahead to preserve the identity of informers.

    To return to the first example, I could imagine the security forces facilitating allowing some republican actions – perhaps occasionally giving them information on loyalist paramilitaries. However I haven’t seen anyway near enough of this as the loyalist equivalent.

  • eranu

    does anyone really care about collusion? its only the usual few shinner/sdlp politicians that go on about it. the reason they do is just to continue to try to attack the state now that the shooting has stopped.
    i dont think the average man in the street cares whether some terrorists killed some other terrorists using some info that was leaked to them.

  • joeCanuck

    Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson were not terrorists eranu

  • fer fecks sake

    “Personally, I’d let it lie. Both sides and the state are going to face some serious allegations…..”

    Don’t mean to sound sanctimonious but would you change your mind if you’d had a sister/brother/wife/mother/father murdered by these people? Knowing the police could have stopped it and probably held meetings (complete with tea and Gingernut biscuits) and decided not to. And these people think they are the forces of law and order!! They should be named and shamed, all sides. Ain’t likely but there you go.

  • nmc

    does anyone really care about collusion?its only the usual few shinner/sdlp politicians that go on about it.

    The idea that it is just a few shinners/sdlp who care is laughable. I would say that the majority of catholics and a large number of protestants care, especially those who expect the police to act within the law. Also the families of the deceased probably also care, quite a lot.

    the reason they do is just to continue to try to attack the state now that the shooting has stopped.

    I would say that the reason they complain about it is they’re politicians and as such represnt the people who vote for them. Those people who care. Also I don’t believe that the SDLP is looking for ways to criticise the state now that the shooting has stopped, the SDLP were never involved in shooting people.

    i dont think the average man in the street cares whether some terrorists killed some other terrorists using some info that was leaked to them.

    In response to your final point, it would be fair enough if the people targeted were simply terrorists, but that’s not true either. I’m no authority on the subject, but I can name at least one human rights lawyer who was murdered. He was no terrorist. Perhaps you think that murdering him is ok, due to who he represented in court – but we all deserve the right and means to defend ourselves, regardless of ouor crime.

    It is easy to be flippant and boil the problem down with the level of simplicity that you have when the majority of targets are from the other side of the divide. For the most part it doesn’t effect you or your relatives and friends, so who cares.

  • heck

    There should be no support for the forces of “law and order” until the issue of collusion is fully addressed.

  • Yokel

    JR my point is that if it all comes out the ‘foot soldiers’ on the loyalist and republican side are going to get shown up as being pawns with some of their number informing on them, guiding and directing them. Some of these people are high up in their respective movements. You can’t have a true and proper investigation without probing who was colluded with in systematic and opportunistic ways, no matter how much thats what some people want.

    How do you think their respective supports are going to feel? I don’t think either the loyalist and in particular the republican community are ready for that extent of reality if a full scale investigation into security forces methods and approaches was allowed. I don’t believe either side would want it so they’ll talk about collusion very selectively and keep their myths.

    The forces of the state, if you read any treatise on insurgency and apply it, won the conflict. The end justified the means and have no doubt the British government will mark it down as a success and bury most of it other than maybe a few high profile cases where they can pin it on rogue people like soldiers or policemen who just happened to lose a piece of paper with someones details on it when talking to a player.

    Eranu, for those who didn’t get invloved in active armed violence or actively supported it you are probably right, most of them couldnt give a fiddlers. The phrase I used to hear a lot was ‘I don’t care if they shoot each other’.

  • Yokel

    Fer fecks sake. I’m no fan of paramilitaries for reasons that are best known to myself but for example:

    I know one person who its widely believed was involved in the killing of an innocent man that I knew well. Case of mistaken identity apparently on the poor person in question. Charged? Nah, in fact never charged with anything beyond being in a riot or something.

    The reality of the matter is that this was a seriously dirty game being played by comparatively few people and if we are going to move forward it has to be let go off otherwise loyalism and republicanism will be re-writing their history. If they can bear that ok, but they had better be ready for some serious disappointment.

  • Queen’s Unionist

    To an extent this has always been a republican run agenda IMO.
    Theres no doubt that there were bad eggs in both security forces butis opening this can of worms going to help things in ulster?
    Murders happened, it was a civil war.
    If anything is done it will require masses of time and money.
    Im pretty sure that none of the “bad eggs” are in government now on the British side, and this would hence signal a moving on,
    The same cannot be said with regards to the republican movement as we have IRA commanders still in high ranking positions and perhaps soon to be in high ranking postitions in Northern Ireland. That should not be.
    If IRA/ Sinn Fein would rop these terrorists and stop commemorating such terrorists this country would be in a lot better state and also the future would look a lot brighter!

  • nmc

    Queen’s Unionist,

    of course it is a republican run agenda. They were killing Republicans so it was always going to be a problem for us.

    I understand the theory of ignoring the past, whitewashing it or pretending it didn’t happen. This is universally thought of as a bad idea. Honesty shall set you free.

    Murders happened, it was a civil war.

    These are police your talking about. We are entitled to expect them to be above reproach with their behaviour. We pay them through our taxes, we should be entitled to expect them not to murder people. If they do, we are entitled to raise hell over it.

    Im pretty sure that none of the “bad eggs” are in government now on the British side, and this would hence signal a moving on,

    I’m not so sure at all. In fact I’m certain that you’re wrong. Also, plenty of senior police men who are now in the new rebranded PSNI were around then, involved in crimes against the people here.

    Your point about the IRA having the same people is fair enough. The IRA however never claimed to be working to preserve law and order, they were working for a UI. The RUC however were lying through their teeth and using their positions to murder people who didn’t fit with their political ideas. However much it costs to see the truth, the British government can pay it, reason being, they created the problem, they can pay to fix it.

  • abucs

    i think the question of violent state collusion, especially in the early stages of the Troubles, addresses the perceived partiality and unaccountable power of the state at that time and hence the reaction of some people to that state.

    So i think, whatever comes out, it would aid the hard-core reconciliation although as Yokel says, moving on amongst most people is a strong arguement.

    Also I agree with Yokel that a full government statement of what did or didn’t happen would be messy. (I don’t say investigation coz they already know).

    But i’d lean towards it being be stated one way or the other on the record. Papers should be released, and the governments’ activities (both Westminster and Stormont) should be admitted or defended.

  • nmc

    Incedentally, I’m sure you’ve all seen it, but here’s an article from the BBC


    I’m drawing attention to this victim of collusion…

    Barney Green, an 87-year-old retired farmer

    Not exactly a terrorist, I would say. What do you think QU, should the family of a man murdered at nearly 90 years of age just give up and accept it. The police/army were entitled help to kill these people? If it was your grandfather how would you feel?

  • Mick Fealty


    It’s probably best not to try and personalise this too much but to try to stay with the principles involved. There is always a danger of slipping into the old ‘hierarchy of victims’ narrative.

    Although maybe there are some of our readers who genuinely believe that some murders are more worthy of investigation than others?

  • abucs

    It’s ugly on all sides Mick.

  • fair_deal

    As far as I can find out this report is not publicly available? Am I correct? If not why not?

  • Mick Fealty


    I did go straight away to the PFC site, and there was no mention of it there.

  • As far as I can find out this report is not publicly available? Am I correct? If not why not?

    As it says in the press release many of these cases are still under investigation. Personally I think they should publish anyway, the british govt will never allow any prosecution that would expose it’s hand.

    Do you not wonder why only 19 pages of the 3,000 page Stevens III report were published?

    Why the 19 RUC officers Stevens III recommended prosecutions for in 2003 have not progressed?

    Why Stalker, Samson, Stevens I and Stevens II reports were not published?

    Those that deny that british security forces and the british government were unaware and uninvolved in the prosecution of the murder of civilians and paramilitaries are as idiotic as those who deny the IRA robbed the NIB.

    The policies and terror deployed by the british establishment in northern ireland is more of what was deployed in 1920s Ireland, India, Kenya, Yemen and every other former colony that had to fight their way free of the british empire.

  • Trojan

    There was no collusion. The British don’t kill people.

    The dead mentioned here are just those dead IRA men spirited away after Bloody Sunday via the sewers and kept in freezers by border meat smugglers. Every so often one was thawed out and strategically positioned around the province to slowly build up this collusion fallacy.

  • Eranu-

    “i dont think the average man in the street cares whether some terrorists killed some other terrorists using some info that was leaked to them.”

    What?! What the hell are you talking about? In what way were the Dublin and Monaghan bomb victims, the Reaveys and O’Dowds, and the Miami Showband ‘terrorists’?

    If you believe that it was only ‘terrorists’ who suffered at the hands of collusion, then you, my friend, are an idiot.


    “If anything is done it will require masses of time and money.”

    So what? If that’s the case, then perhaps they should have thought about it before they jumped into bed with loyalist killers.

  • headmelter

    Q U

    “it was a civil war.”
    not as far as HMG was concerned, there was always consistent denial that the ‘troubles’ were a ‘war’.

    As for the rest of your post it is typical blind sighted loyalist claptrap believing that your position is/was morally justified.
    The fact of the matter is your govt was involved in state terrorism. Murdering its ‘own’ citizens.

    A full inquiry is certainly needed. How many murderers are still members of the ‘security forces’.These people need to be rooted out before the public, nationalist or unionist, can even consider giving them their full support.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    A bit of Nazi Syndrome creeping in here, don’t ye think, with Queen’s Unionist doing his best imitation of a Holocaust Denier. Perhaps he’s in the history department?

    Likewise for ERANU. Just think this is the RUC that the Queen presented a George Cross to – maybe she’ll want to take it back….

  • Jocky

    for me collusion is all things to all men an docvers a wide range of activities. It’s use is deliberately obscure and an effective bogeyman. My first question would be how many people have beena victim of collusion since 1998?(<5?) in the 90's (10,20,50) and before(50,100,200?) How big is the problem? by definition no one really has a handle on it apart from those involved.

    On thing is certain is that it is one big can of worms ranging from;

    the low level where persons employed by the state in whatever capacity, who under their own motiviation looked the other way failed to properly , up to actively participating in terrorist activities using the knowledge they had gained in through their work.

    The issue with this is that at the end of the day the state employs ordinary people, regardless of any higher ideals of what the state stands for, the people that do the hard lifting are normal folk, and there was a lot of normal people in N.I. who did a lot of awful things, so the question becomes why are these people expected to be different because of their job? You could spend a lot of time / money opening new investigations and prosecuting individuals, maybe get a few people put away and then what? all the other killers got early release, why not these ones?

    to the high level where the state authorised material support to terrorists to do their dirty work for them as in gangs and counter gangs.

    How far does it go? local officer, divisional head, government miniseter? how many people know / are culpbable, are they still employed? And are they actually culpable if it is governemnt sanctioned? who do you go after? If this is sanctioned at the highest level what do you do? governments are never good at going after former governments?

    to somewhere in between when as part of operating informants and agents within terrorist organisations member of state forces looked the other way, provided material support or whatever was needed to protect their source of information.

    Now this is particularly ambigous, and relevent because if you take the stand point that no government employee should ever act in this way then you instantly rule out the use of informants, double agents. there goes the great game. So does anyone want to speculate where we would be today without them? I dont reckon it's that pretty a picture.

    It's this area that some within SF will be even more reticent than those elsewhere for obvious reasons. how many people in SF or the IRA knew the state would look the other way?

    At some point someone has made the decision to sacrifice the principal for the pragmatic. Now they may have done this with the best of intentions, a lot of folk might see it as well it's just some terrorists dieing by the sword but as has been stated there's some / a lot of innocent people who have paid the price for that policy.

    So what do you do? how do you wrap it all up?

  • answers on a postcard


    “Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson were not terrorists eranu ”

    how do you know ????????????????????

    can you prove it ???????????????????

  • kensei

    “how do you know ????????????????????

    can you prove it ??????????????????? ”

    Fortunately, he is has absolutely no need to, as the need to prove anything rests with the prosecution.

    At least, I think that is still the case. With the increasingly illiberal laws passed in Westminister, I can’t be 100% sure.

  • Billy

    Answers on a postcard.

    If these people were terrorists, why were they never arrested or charged?

    You are just echoing the tactics of “loyalist” terrorists of the 70s and 80s – kill any easy target Catholic and then muddy the waters by claiming that they were republican terrorists.

    If you have any proof that these people were involved in terrorism, theN let’s have it. If not then f*** off.

  • Harry Flashman

    Of course anyone who accepts the legitimacy of the British state in Northern Ireland (and the relatives of the dead) must demand an inquiry into allegations of collusion between British Government agents (soldiers, policemen or civil servants) and criminals.

    However, what’s it to Republicans? What’s their beef? They never accepted the legitimacy of the British presence, indeed any British government agent was already involved in illegal activity by being in the place in the first instance so it should be all the same to them what those agents did whether benign or malign.

    In the same way it always confused me the way Republicans aligned themselves in support of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. I mean the very presence of armed British Paratroopers on the corner of William Street was an act of war to Irish Republicans, anything those soldiers did after that merely confirmed the position of Irish Republicanism. So why would Republicans want the British to have an inquiry?

    No, I demand an inquiry into skulduggery by agents of the British government, so in the same way Irish Republicans should demand an inquiry into egregious breaches of human rights carried out by their own forces during the “war” (La Mon, Bloody Friday, Claudy, Kingsmills, Enniskillen, etc etc) and leave the Brits to get on with washing their dirty laundry.

    I have to say though, if I were an Irish Republican I wouldn’t be too keen to compare the respective nastiness between the two combatting forces, my side wouldn’t look too good.

  • aquifer

    “had to fight their way free”

    With a free press, rights to protest, democratic elections, the support of parliamentarians in this and other jurisdictions?

    Please don’t try to pass off a militarist cultural revival, a futile armed adventure, a marxist gameplan, or wishes for sectarian revenge as necessity.

    Though if truth is the first casualty of war I suppose history must be the last.

  • Bob McGowan

    [i]I have to say though, if I were an Irish Republican I wouldn’t be too keen to compare the respective nastiness between the two combatting forces, my side wouldn’t look too good.[/i]

    On the contrary, I’m very much afraid that the record of the security forces and the unionist/loyalist paramilitaries is far worse than that of Irish Republicans.

    From the Sutton database on the CAIN site:

    All republican groups combined killed some 738 civilians or about 36% of the 2,056 overall. The other 64% were combatants, a combination of 1.078(52.5%) from the security forces, 10 from the Irish security forces(.5%), 45 unionist/loyalist paramilitaries(2%) and 185 Republican paramilitaries(9%).

    The British security forces killed 190 civilians or about 52.5% of the 362 they killed in all. The other 47.5% included 145 Republican paramilitaries((40%), 14 unionist/loyalist paramilitaries(4%) and 13 of their own(3.5%).

    The unionist/loyalist paramilitaries killed 873 civlians or about 85.5% of the 1,020 they killed in all. The other 14.5% included 14 security force personnel(1.5%), 42 republican paramilitaries(4%) and 91 of their own(9%).

    What conclusions can we draw from all this? The Republican groups basically made war on the security forces and other combatants. On the other hand, the unionist/loyalist paramilitaries basically made war on innocent civilians. And the record of the security forces indicates that they either targetted civilians or were far too careless in their combat operations.(BTW, of those 190 civilians, 162 or 85% were Catholics).

    Bottom line: the unionist/loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces BOTH have far worse record than republican paramilitaries.

  • abucs

    Harry, if the state has recruited, armed, directed, executed and looked the other way in illegal violent killings then they should say so in order to demonstrate a new beginning, expressly for the Republican community.

    It is important so as to gain confidence from that community and to show that it is a new beginning in things such as policing.

    My impression is that the British way is to say “ok lets do policing, universal suffrage, impartial administration, shared power and access to economics properly from now on and not talk about how it was”.

    Perhaps this is the way it will go. Perhaps even this is the best way. But people will have differing experiences on what the whole period of the Troubles was about. There will be many conflicting thoughts and one view being right doesn’t negate the possibility that the conflicting view is also right.