As I stated in the previous blog unionists have relatively little to fear from outing collusion. However, if any collusion between the forces of the state and loyalists is to be outed then the evidence held by the state of collusion between assorted groups and republican terrorists also needs to be brought out. If any linen is to be washed in public then the scarcely soiled linen of any relationship between the forces of the state and loyalists must be set beside that of the foul and putrid linen of assorted other organisations and republican terrorists.
The first thing to be noted is that it seems likely that republican murderers were protected by our own government. David Simpson has raised in the House of Commons the specific issue of Francie Molloy and the murder of one of Simpson’s own relatives, Frederick ‘Eric’ Lutton. That would seem to be at least as suspicious as any claim of collusion between the state and loyalists. If Molloy was such an important informer that he had to be protected then some may regard that as acceptable. However, if issues of collusion are going to be debated then that issue and ones like it should be brought to the fore.
Molloy is only one leading republican against whom repeated allegations have been made and yet no prosecutions ever pursued. The murderers responsible for the IRA bombing of Claudy have been repeatedly named and yet never prosecuted. The police have stated that one of the leaders was a named Catholic priest (Fr. Chesney) and that he was allowed to leave Northern Ireland and go to live in Donegal. As I have noted previously a man is being prosecuted for the murder of Jennifer Cardy but the named child murderer Chesney was never prosecuted. People are currently disgusted (rightly so) about the failure to prosecute assorted priests for child abuse in the past. Here we have clear evidence of the failure to prosecute a priest who abused the most basic of all children’s rights: Kathyrn Eakin’s right to life. There are also of course a number of other suggested members of the Claudy gang who have been arrested but it seems that there is inadequate evidence to prosecute them.
There are also persistent very strong suggestions that there is evidence against even more senior republicans than the Claudy bombers. Operation Taurus against Martin McGuinness was never pursued despite what apparently was adequate evidence to make convictions a possibility. Ian Paisley previously accused McGuinness of involvement in the murder of Frank Hegarty. There is also suggested to be evidence tying Gerry Adams to La Mon and Bloody Friday which again has never been tested in court. Had that been evidence linking loyalists to criminality, the republican movement would be baying “collusion” at every opportunity.
Running informers and touts may be seen as being a necessary evil; the problem seems to be that some of the protected individuals appear to have been committing extremely serious criminal acts. Had this been the other way round it would be being portrayed by republicans as a national scandal. Republicans understandably do not seem to be terribly exercised by the state’s failure to prosecute them and appear to try to ignore questions about this. This is unsurprising but in addition there are also persistent suggestions that leading republicans colluded with the security forces to remove those in the republican movement whom they wanted rid of. As an example it has never been fully explained how the SAS knew about their breakfast guests at Loughgall that May morning in 1987 but if, as has been suggested, very senior leadership figures in the republican movement wanted rid of the leaders of the East Tyrone IRA then that collusion should be produced. In no way, however, can the security forces be realistically criticised for the deaths of the eight “Loughgall matyrs:” arresting eight terrorists armed with automatic weapons and a bomb in a digger would have placed the forces of law and order in far too big a risk of death to be justifiable. Whilst the security forces and the intelligence services have nothing to be ashamed of in the Loughgall attack, there are those within the republican movement who might have their positions made uncomfortable by any revelations about how the terrorists met their end.
Although the security forces may have evidence of informers etc. within the republican movement they may also have very considerable evidence of links between other organisations and republican terrorists: evidence which if collusion etc. is to be fully explored should be brought out.
I have already mentioned the issue of a Catholic priest who was not merely a child abuser but a child killer but there are also other possible incidents of collusion worth mention. The building within which the Enniskillen bomb was placed in November 1987 is now called “The Clinton Centre” after the ex president of the USA. However, previously it was the Catholic Church’s reading rooms; it was that when it was blown up with such disastrous consequences. It has been reported that that building had been routinely searched by the security forces each year before the Remembrance Parade. However, in 1987 the RUC did not search the building. This leaves the possibility that one of the murderers, none of whom have ever been caught, got wind of the fact that the no search had been made. Of course one could postulate an even more sinister set of circumstances: again if we are looking at collusion in a spirit of openness it might be useful for the government, security services and indeed the Catholic Church itself to explain what it suspects is the explanation for the odd coincidence of there being no search the very year the IRA decided to murder people.
There are other examples of apparent collusion which have never been adequately investigated. The murder of the two most senior RUC officers killed during the troubles: Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan on their way back from a meeting with Garda officers in the RoI has never been explained. Again there is the strong suspicion of these men being the victims of collusion between Garda officers and the IRA. Again there have been no prosecutions and this looks a more flagrant example of collusion than any accusation which has ever been levelled at the RUC. Furthermore the Smithwick Tribunal has still not got the length of public hearings.
Of course the Garda are far from the only organisation of the RoI state which has been involved in collusion: the trial of Charles Haughey shows very strong evidence of attempts by senior members of the RoI government to support and advance a sectarian murder operation in the United Kingdom. The fact that one of the individuals (Haughey) involved in this activity went on to become the Taoiseach of the RoI shows an attitude towards collusion which would far surpass even the most excited fantasies of those seeking collusion within Northern Ireland. After his election of course Mr. Haughey seems to have continued the policy of collusion and the investigation into the murder of members of the parachute regiment at Warrenpoint appears to have been sabotaged at a high level within the Irish government.
Clearly the above is but one example of the shameless state collusion between the RoI and the sectarian murderers of the IRA. The repeated failure to extradite republican terrorists sits ill with the repeated claims by the RoI government to be actively fighting terrorism. To be fair there are many honourable exceptions and it appears that many members of RoI security forces were committed to stopping the IRA: at least 10 of them paid for that commitment with their lives (the true heroes of the Irish Republic during the Troubles). It would appear, however, that there were two competing viewpoints: that of official formal cooperation with the UK’s security forces against a brutal sectarian murder gang and alongside that a semi official policy of minimising the practical outworking of that cooperation in any individual cases.
As I stated at the start collusion covers a multitude of issues; none of them should make people comfortable, it is unfortunate that the police have to use informers and at times not prosecute certain offences but the utilitarian approach that the end justifies the means is up to a point a valid one. The problem of course occurs knowing where the line is to be drawn between acceptable and intelligent use of the likes of informers and inappropriate and immoral actions by the forces of law and order. Sadly at times this seems to have happened in Northern Ireland; however, it seems to have happened remarkably rarely considering the circumstances. In addition there is no credible evidence of an organised campaign of collusion by whole arms of the state in the way which republican fantasists like to pretend.
The republican movement has attempted to make much of the issue of collusion in spite of a marked absence of evidence. Their claims of a desire for a truth commission typed approach have been met with concern by unionists. The reason for this of course is that republicans actually want a process which exposes any and all inappropriate or misguided actions by the security forces. Even if every one of these occurrences was completely explained and poured over they would then claim that this represents the tip of some supposed iceberg of collusion.
What republicans would not want of course is any truth about their own immoral actions: they are never going to tell us the truth behind their murders; what truth was discovered about events like Enniskillen was denied and of course they cannot even admit to the likes of Kingsmill, Darkley and so many other murders. Whilst it may be fair to say that the republican movement does not keep detailed records of their actions there is little doubt that if the security forces revealed what they know about such incidents it would make far from comfortable reading for the current republican myth makers who would have us believe that the IRA campaign was for civil rights for the nationalist community rather than a brutal sectarian murder campaign with added murder of any of “their own side” who dared cross them. In addition republicans would have no desire for the evidence of their own collusion with the RoI and other parts of civic society to be revealed. Lastly and possibly most seriously for republicans, what they want least is any discussion of their own leadership’s collusion in setting up their own members for arrest or death at the hands of the security forces. The truth about collusion may contain mild embarrassment for unionists but would contain a great deal more for unionism’s enemies. As such the next time republicans ask for the truth to be revealed or for a truth commission it needs to be pointed out that what republicans actually want is a less than a quarter of the whole truth. Unionists may have some embarrassment to suffer if the whole truth is revealed: republicans, however, cannot handle even a half of the truth.
This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.