Explosive Claims: War by Proxy

The Sunday Herald is carrying claims from a UVF source of “How Britain created Ulster’s murder gangs”:

A captain in military intelligence spelt out the reasons for the army creating these secret counter-insurgency cells. […] He said: “This type of war can’t be won by conventional means. The only solution is to implement a counter-operation, to counteract the violence of the enemy by heaping more violence on them That’s why we’ve chosen men like you to instil trepidation and pandemonium among the Provos and their support base, the Catholic community We will match whatever they do, and outdo them.”

From the article:

In JB’s words, “military intelligence trained, armed and moulded squads of loyalists to put pressure on the IRA to abandon their campaign of bloodshed and carnage”. JB was a young UVF member in the early 1970s when first approached by an MRF handler. JB says the military intelligence officer, whom he will name only as “Mike”, told him that the then prime minister Edward Heath had sanctioned the “training of loyalists”.Mike later added that “nobody, except at the very highest level of the British government and senior officers of the military” knew about the covert counter-insurgency operations.

Mike told JB that “London has ordered the war be taken to the IRA obviously this can’t be done openly and must be done covertly. That’s why we are looking for people like you … We are enlisting men from all over the province to co-ordinate attacks, to convince the Catholic people that support for the Provos will only bring death and destruction to their own community.”

As well as being trained in firearms at army barracks and firing ranges around Northern Ireland – primarily at Palace Barracks near Holywood in County Down – men like JB were also provided with intelligence on potential targets and given details about which targets to hit. JB knows of at least 30 loyalists who received similar training to him, but believes more than 120 could have been trained as proxy assassins.

JB was trained by military intelligence, he says, in how to use a variety of hand-guns, machine guns and rifles, as well as bomb-making techniques. The UVF men working for military intelligence were also given consignments of guns and ammunition by handlers, sent on gruelling fitness courses and schooled in the arts of surveillance, counter-surveillance and intelligence gathering. Other classes included lectures on forensic science, how to avoid leaving incriminating evidence at the scene of crimes and how to steal cars for use in assassination operations.

When proxies like JB were dispatched on a murder operation, military intelligence would impose an Out Of Bounds (OOB) order on the area in which the attack was to take place. In military terms, an OOB means an intelligence operation is under way and army and police are forbidden from entering the area. This gave loyalist murder gangs freedom to operate with impunity during such state-sanctioned attacks. At one stage, claims JB, Mike told him: “Mr Heath and the top brass have given the green light for this.”