The Glenanne story proves the time for frank admissions is overdue: further prevarication over collusion implies Briitsh government cover-up

Like most of the atrocities of the Troubles the story of the Glenanne gang isn’t unfamiliar  Suzanne Breen for one gave a detailed account of the 1976 Kingmills and Reavey brothers  massacres in January 2011 based it would seem on  “ imminent” HET reports. Of the Reavey murders she stated as a matter of established  fact:

The attack was carried out by the UVF’s infamous Glenanne gang, which operated in a murder triangle between south Armagh and mid-Ulster. Made up of security force members, it was run by British military intelligence. It was responsible for up to 120 killings, including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Even apart from the detailed but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to pin down full guilt for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974, the story of the Glenanne gang’s operation – and a much wider supportive network- has been well known for several years although it somehow failed to stay on the surface.  Detailed witness testimony naming a string of RUC men and some army intelligence officers has been available in raw form from at least 1999.

News of the launch of Anne Cadwallader’s book  focussing on a murderous Keady pub bombing was broken by Alex Thomson (an ex-BBC Spotlight reporter) on Channel 4 News last night.  Why was it left to Anne Cadwallader and the Pat Finucane centre to expose this appalling picture in detail?   Here is a spate of cases where it would have been infinitely better for the PSNI to have announced a police inquiry years ago. If a PSNI inquiry into Bloody Sunday is justified how  can a fresh inquiry into the Glenanne gang be denied where the facts have been largely left to journalists and campaigners to expose albeit indirectly from official sources?

In a sense this is more about presentation and facing up to disclosure than disclosure itself.

Like secretary of state John Reid’s  refusal to cooperate fully with the Barron inquiry in 2002, failing to face up to the implications of collusion and criminal involvement in terrorism only feeds even more extreme claims – not that 120 murders aren’t stunningly depressing  enough –  and is  a gift to the politics of conspiracy. As David Mc Kittrick reports:

 In a striking conclusion, the HET says: “It is difficult to believe that such widespread evidence of collusion was not a significant concern at the highest levels of the security forces and government. It may be that there was apprehension about confirming  the suspicions of collusion and  involvement, particularly of RUC personnel.”

The conclusion is obvious and deserves the support of Richard Haass.  This is not a matter that Westminster can dump on the divided local parties.  The time for admissions has come. Responsibility lies squarely with the British government. This endless stonewalling is by any standards  intolerable and has long since failed to serve any interest of” national security.”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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