Basil McCrea and Brian Ervine on the HET

The News Letter is reporting Basil McCrea expressing concern about potential bias in the work of the Historical Enquires Team. An FoI request has apparently revealed that all but one of the 71 arrests they have made has been of loyalists. McCrea appears to support the attempts to arrest loyalist criminals but points out that since the majority of the murders here were committed by the IRA, significant resources should also be devoted to the arrest of those criminals. He notes the difficulty the HET have due to the destruction without examination of many IRA weapons (though the same is true for loyalist weapons).

From the News Letter:

“I have been warning repeatedly at the policing board that if we do not deal with this perceived imbalance then there is the potential for problems in the months and years to come.
“That said, it is right and proper that the police will follow the evidence wherever the evidence leads, but there is a bigger political issue that must be addressed and thus far it has been completely ignored by the major political parties.
“It must be remembered that the majority of killings were carried out by the Provisional IRA and any continuation of the peace process tha does not recognise that fact is in dange of causing considerable unrest.”
Mr McCrea added: “As part of the political settlement, evidence was destroyed whenever the [Provisional IRA] guns were put beyond use.
“This means that the section of the conflict that was responsible for the majority of the killings is not amenable to justice in the normal way because the evidence is difficult to find.”

The reality of course is that the HET should continue to pursue loyalist terrorists with all means at their disposal. They should at the same time increase massively their pursuit of republican terrorists. Matt Baggott seems disinclined to devote resources to chasing the criminals of the past (despite that being very clearly part of his job). This was nowhere better illustrated than in his behaviour towards the families of the McGurk’s Bar murders. Not only was he crass and insensitive but he also all but dismissed attempts to bring to justice the perpetrators of one of the largest acts of mass murder ever committed in Northern Ireland.

McCrea seems to have just about threaded the line between calling, entirely reasonably, for more investigation of IRA murders and unacceptably calling for less investigation of loyalists.

PUP leader and cheerleader in chief for the UVF (he of the bridge between the two organisations) Brian Ervine, however, seems more inclined to straightforward cheerleading.

The PUP will this morning hold a picket of the PSNI headquarters to protest against the Historical Enquiries Team’s activities. There was a brief attempt at pretending that he supported the arrest of loyalist criminals when Ervine stated:

“Like I said, I don’t have a problem with investigations but I do have a problem with the sectarian nature of the HET’s one-sided approach.”

Unfortunately the rest of his comments seemed to be somewhat incompatible with an enthusiasm for the HET to arrest loyalist criminals:

They [HET] are scapegoating our community as far as the Troubles are concerned. Where is the parity of esteem in this?

The simple fact is that the HET are perusing murderers from the Troubles: those loyalist murderers murdered very many working class unionists as well as Catholics and indeed now almost exclusively murder working class unionists. Once again it is fairly obvious that to Brian Ervine and the PUP “our community” means not working class unionists but only loyalist terrorists and their supporters. The reality of his cheerleading is further brought out in his own words:

“Now, the loyalists were culpable and some of the things they did were awful, and I don’t have a problem with the truth, but the horrible spin-off of this is the anger and frustration in these areas that the men who brokered the peace are being sought by the Historical Enquiries Team.”

This is not even weasel worded: it is simple cheerleading. Everything the loyalists did was awful: the existence of the loyalist terrorists was unwanted by the overwhelming majority of unionist community be they working, middle or whatever class. When he suggests that the HET are pursuing “the men who brokered the peace” that is utterly disingenuous. The HET would in no way be interested in peace makers: No the HET are interested in criminals who have committed murders. The only contribution those being sought by the HET made to peace was to stop murdering people. One does not usually congratulate a murderer for having not murdered anyone recently. Of course the reality is that the more than two dozen murders the UVF have committed since their so called ceasefire shows that they are still a pack of murderers: The only difference now being that they mainly murder Protestants rather than being cross community in their murderousness.

Ervine by his latest actions and by the PUP’s protest outside police headquarters shows that he and it are still locked assuredly into the pattern of simplistic support for a vicious murder gang which continues its involvement in organised crime as well as periodically still murder. Just like Dawn Purvis and the PUP protest when child murderer (and PUP member) Billy Hutchinson was arrested over withholding information over a child’s murder, Ervine and the PUP have again shown their true colours. Although the PUP may not understand the point, hopefully their latest actions will help ensure that the electorate of East Belfast shun them at next month’s elections. Between the HET and the electorate hopefully both the terrorists and the cheerleaders will meet their comeuppance.

Update: There is an interview with Jeffrey Donaldson, Basil McCrea and Ervine on Talkback here (from 19 mins on) H/T andnowwhat. There is also a link to the PUP website which continues to present completely inaccurate figures on the numbers of convictions here.

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  • joeCanuck

    Good blog, Turgon.
    Alas, it seems that whataboutery continues to thrive.

  • Neil

    The whataboutery in question being Turgon’s I take it? After all it does seem to be one of his main thrusts – whatabout the IRA?

    This singularly fails to recognise the fact that the RUC pursued, arrested and jailed every Republican they could during the troubles while allowing or actively helping Loyalists get away with their crimes.

    The reason that there are more Loyalists being arrested now, is because a great many of them never had their collar(ette) felt in the first place, due to the Loyalist paramilitaries and the RUC having a recognised amount of cross over.

    You mention McGurk’s. Good example. Tell me how many people served time for that murder? And tell me, do you have an example of an IRA atrocity where evidence existed yet the RUC let it slide? Of course not, because it didn’t happen. If they could arrest an IRA man they did so. If they could let a UDA/UVF man away, they did that too.

    What Loyalists are actually saying here is ‘yeah ok, we murdered people, and yeah the cops never arrested us then, and in some cases armed us and helped us escape, but they shouldn’t investigate us now. We got off scot free back then and we’d like the same again please’.

    In summary, for about the tenth time on this site: IRA men, arrested and jailed where possible (and in some cases innocent Catholics also). UDA/UVF men in the large, not investigated as vigorously, and in some cases actively helped by the security forces,

    IRA – largely already prosecuted, jailed and released.

    UDA/UVF – largely ignored, not prosecuted, not jailed.

    Hence new investigations into old IRA atrocities where someone has already been jailed, hence waste of time. Justice delivered years ago.

    New investigations into Loyalist crimes and collusion, criminal never saw a cop (unless he was handing him a gun, or manning a check point to ensure said Loyalist escaped scot free), never arrested, never jailed, no justice delivered, ever.

    There is no equality now, because there was no equality when the RUC were helping the Mount Vernon murder squad carry out their work, while interning Catholic civilians.

    There will be examples where the IRA got away with it, so investigate those. There will be many times more instances where the Loyalist paramilitaries got away with it scot free, and with help from the RUC and their collusion.

    No doubt you’ll continue bleating about the inequality that exists now, that IRA men who’ve already served significany sentences should be re-arrested just to balance the figures, but I beleive deep down you know that’s ridiculous. They should investigate anyone who’s not already been prosecuted, and we all know that the majority of those people will be Loyalists.

    Like in McGurks, where the RUC knew exactly who was responsible, but did nothing (several people having gotten away with mass murder). Can you imagine the RUC knowing who was responsible for an IRA atrocity and not acting? No. That would never have happened, because the RUC and Loyalist murder gangs were operating in each other’s pockets, agianst the IRA.

    It’s just a shame that this Unionist/Loyalist desire for equality didn’t appear before it was forced on them by the GFA.

  • joeCanuck

    Strange, Neil, that we have such opposing views. I read the essay as a condemnation of those who are the chief cheerleaders for whataboutery.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    “the existence of the loyalist terrorists was unwanted by the overwhelming majority of unionist community be they working, middle or whatever class.”

    How do you explain the use of the UDA by the Vanguard movement who effectively threatened civil war if their demands were not met as the army simply stood by as loyalists paramlitaries held the British government to ransom.

    Two of the prominet Vanguard personnel went on to be Ulster Unionists leaders – a so called moderate party.

    The statement below is more accurate than your statement above – if not then please let me know how.

    “loyalist paramiltiaries were directly used by the political leaders of unionism to prevent moderate constituitonal change by effectively threatening civil war against their Catholic/Natiionalist neighbours”.

    The HET should be investigating Trimble and Empey rather than Sammy the gullible Prod from the Shankill road if they are looking for the really guilty Loyalists.

  • dennis the menace

    This singularly fails to recognise the fact that the RUC pursued, arrested and jailed every Republican they could during the troubles while allowing or actively helping Loyalists get away with their crimes…..

    neil your comments dont match the facts, more loyalists were arrested than republicans.

    do some homework before you post

  • andnowwhat

    Both parties were on Talkback today (should be on the i-player later. I checked but its not up yet) as was Jefferey Donaldson.

    I have to say, I felt sorry for Basil. Once again it seemed that he had been sent to the media to male a point that his heart was not in.

    Ervine came across badly and was not good at dealing with Donaldson’s (and a frequent caller’s) point that loyalists had been “singing like canaries”. The caller also, very rightly, challenged Ervine about the anti HET grafitti at the front of Mount Vernon.

    Anyway, check it out on i-player when the Beeb puts it up. It’s the second story

  • andnowwhat

    BTW, Donaldson pulled the stat about 71 loyalists being arrested apart. He said that the true figure is a fraction of that and that 71 refers to he number brought in for questioning.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Neil,

    “And tell me, do you have an example of an IRA atrocity where evidence existed yet the RUC let it slide? Of course not, because it didn’t happen.”


  • Big Maggie

    This is not news.

    Man bites dog: that is news.

    Unionist politician calling for investigation into Unionist terrorism and/or RUC collusion: that is news.

    Will that dog ever be bitten?

  • Neil

    neil your comments dont match the facts, more loyalists were arrested than republicans.

    do some homework before you post

    Provide some evidence for that claim. I don’t trust random strangers on the internet to not tell lies. Having searched I can’t find any stats regarding the total combatants arrested during the troubles but if we start with internment, 1874 Republicans were arrested, to a total of 107 Loyalists.

    Following the resignation of the Government of Northern Ireland and the prorogation of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1972, internment was continued by the direct rule administration in Northern Ireland until Friday 5 December 1975. During this period a total of 1,981 people were interned: 1,874 were Irish nationalists, while 107 were Ulster loyalists.[4]

    Is it your argument that the RUC, just after 1975, stopped arresting Republicans and started arresting Loyalists? Or are you just making shit up?

    Seems the latter. Seems to me the evidence strongly supports the fact that given the RUC when faced with the option, arrested nearly 20 times more Republicans than Loyalists.

    So, being as that’s the only evidence I’ve seen (until you provide yours – which you won’t) I’ll believe the good folks at ARK, as opposed to random anonymous internet users who post sweeping statements without a shred of evidence.

    Also good to see that the only point you can pick a hole in is the number of arrests (because you most likely know, as I do, that without a specific government report on the issue it’s impossible to know exact numbers). I’m glad you’ve accepted the RUC did in fact help arm Loyalists, did protect them to some degree while they murdered innocent catholics, did collude with Loyalists, in some cases the RUC were the Loyalists – just a change of clothes required.

    Anyway, as I’ve proven when the RUC were faced with the ability to arrest anyone they pleased they chose to arrest Republicans by a factor of more than 18-1. This they continued throughout the troubles, which I suspect you’re well aware of.

    Anyway, as I asked in my first post, tell me where the RUC could have arrested a Republican and decided not to bother. As we know there are many examples on the Loyalist side of the fence – for example the one example provided by the Unionist Turgon: McGurks. There are of course many more, for example Mount Vernon. But if you do wish to rubbish my argument, provide proof or do your own homework big son, and stop telling lies.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    I think the RUC clearup rate was higher for Loyalists than Republicans.

    In relation to Claudy, it seems that, according to Spotlight(?) there was a political decison not to arrest the main suspect a priest – that decsion may have been down to the SOS.

  • Neil


    the RUC arrested 4 Republicans over the bombing, and due to a lack of evidence they were released. Had the RUC had the evidence to charge the 4 men, is it your opinion they would have let them go?

    That’s what I’m referring to in my original post. The RUC would on many occasions had the information or ability to charge Loyalists. Where Republicans could be charged (i.e. evidence existed that they were responsible for a crime) they were charged.

    Where Loyalists could be charged, in many cases they were not. It’s worth also bearing in mind that the RUC wasn’t just arresting Nationalists and Unionists, but actively participating in the murders themselves.

  • Congal Claen


    Have you had a bad day? Maybe you should have a bit of a rest…

    Hi Sammy,

    No doubt possible. It was just a fairly well known example for Neil to perhaps ponder…

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Neil,

    “and due to a lack of evidence they were released”

    So you now believe the police? Or is it only when it suits your version of events?

  • Cynic2


    Sweeping statements. Where is the evidence?

  • andnowwhat
  • tacapall

    Well Turgon how can you blame Hutchie and Irvine for protesting, after all the same RUC directed and controlled the Mount Vernon UVF then obstructed enquiries into the murders they carried out on their behalf. I want to know why the HET is not actively going after those Special Branch officers who stood by while over a dozen murders were carried out by their agents.

  • Turgon

    Thank you for that. The talkback interview is very interesting. As you said Donaldson rang rings around Ervine and McCrea as well. Ervine was completely out of his depth and looked like a fairly pathetic and indeed stupid cheerleader. He just would not accept the simple fact that some UVF members named their fellow terrorists and that was what created the greater number of arrests of loyalists. As the caller said of the loyalists “they sing like canaries.” When a caller to the programme can leave a politician with effectively no answer you know he has been well beaten. Hopefully this disaster interview will do him a bit of harm in the election.

    The HET spokesman was interesting as well and pointed out that most of the convictions were of two loyalists for crimes against members of the unionist community. I thought Ervine and the PUP claimed to be representatives of working class unionists. As such surely Ervine should be delighted that loyalist terrorists are being gaoled. Then again maybe not: as I have repeatedly pointed out the PUP are not the representatives of working class unionists; they are the representatives of loyalist terrorists who have prayed vampire like on working class unionist communities.

  • HeinzGuderian

    neil………………..never let a good aul nat/rep whinge,get n the way of the facts !!

    Good on ye boy……………………..;-)

  • joeCanuck

    Might I be mischievous and suggest a correlation between the subject matters of this thread and Mick’s 50/50% one.

  • Mick Fealty



  • Driftwood

    An academic view:

    I was going to quote as it’s quite long, but wouldn’t want to be accused of being selective!

  • Jo

    Bruce’s book remains I think a pretty definitive text on Loyalist paramilitaries. Not as cut and dried as some Turgons would make out. The organic relationship between state, ruling Protestant elite and armed militia is about, say 3 hundred years old? 4?

  • JAH

    “the existence of the loyalist terrorists was unwanted by the overwhelming majority of unionist community be they working, middle or whatever class.”

    I doubt if many in the UVF were middle class…I never met them anyway. However it’s completely wrong to suggest the UVF and UDA were unwanted. The original Woodvale Defence Association was organised by ordinary working class Protestants fearing sectarian attack. Whilst that support drained away over the decades that followed, it never completely disappeared. The constant almost daily attacks by Turgon on the PUP suggest he’s trying to rewrite a history of which he has almost total ignorance.The contempt towards working class loyalism is breathtaking.

    But I was there and I don’t forget.

  • Turgon

    I and my wife have both seen first hand the results of loyalist attacks on Catholics. Neither of us forget either: hence, the contempt for the loyalists. I have also seen (though not first hand) the results of the attacks by republicans on Protestants and I have contempt for those criminals as well. I guess the only difference is that the republicans did not (lyingly) claim to be acting in my name.

  • joeCanuck

    I doubt if many in the UVF were middle class

    Yes, the middle class were too busy wallpapering their living rooms that they didn’t have to time to do the street patrol thing.

  • andnowwhat

    You’re welcome Turgon.

    I hope the PUP are banished to the margins now. All illusions that they and the UVF have the remotest interest in ANY progression needs to be destryed, any concept that they are a proper poilical party rather than a party who reiterate SF dialog of the 90’s should also be dust.

    As I have said before, I know something of the strife they inflict on their own community and whatever JAH’s brief history lesson says, they are not like that anymore and have not been for many years.

  • lamhdearg

    where you allways so veciferous in your condemnation of the pup/uvf, or has your hatred of them increased since they worked to support the G.F.A.. It seemed to me what irvine (and his party won’t be getting my vote) and mcCrea where trying to get across was that as almost every time the h.e.t. is mentioned in the media it is in relation to loyalism, and that is causing some in the loyalist community to believe the it is baised, and if that is unchecked it could cause problems, all this who done what, in most of the comments on this post is not facing up to what come’s next.

  • Turgon

    Anyone who knows me in real life knows I have always had absolute contempt for the loyalist terrorists of whatever type. I cannot prove that re slugger for the simple reason that I have only been on this site for about 5 years (is it really that long: am I so sad that I have been wasting my life on here for so long?: yes but then again I was pretty sad long before I began commenting).

    However, yes I can assure you that my loathing for loyalist paramilitaries pre-dates their support of the Agreement.

  • andnowwhat

    Yeah, the PUP worked for the GFA and then their mates continued (in a period that was as quiet as we have seen for decades) kill people.

    The fact that the UVF are still massively continuing their varied activities within their community, beyond their community (who did plpant that pipe bomb in a catholic school’s playground?) and against their own community, the participation in and support of the GFA is a joke.

    The PUP have a positive vision for the loyalist people of NI?

    Look at the bucking state of the front of Mount Vernon !!!!

    Kids live in that in 2011?

  • Aontachtach


    Hundreds of “loyalists” were rightly imprisoned between 1969 and 1994. Stop writing nonsense. Is it true that Republicans killed more Catholics that the “Crown Forces”?

  • It isn’t rocket science as regards the numbers of loyalists lifted… the guy on the radio said “they were singing like canaries” to get reduced sentences or to save their own skin.
    The internecine and fractious factions were (are?) hardly shining examples of a disciplined fighting force now are they?

  • perseus

    pure electioneering jo, as the last paragraph reveals:
    “hopefully their latest actions will help ensure that the electorate of East Belfast shun them at next month’s elections” Turgon only missed the explicit ( Vote TUV )

  • granni trixie

    Is it just me finding it comical that ex prisoners (and some journalists?) are gurning a lot at the moment about how ‘everybody’ doesn’t appreciate “all they have done for peace” and how bad their health is because of all that time done in jail. You couldnt make it up.