“Collusion” extends to the handling of informers. It is not limited to direct state involvement in murder

The local newspapers have been reviving the debate on the role of collusion and what it means, in the context of the Loughinisland report by the Police Ombudsman

In the Irish News, Bimpe Archer helpfully lists What the Police Did Right; and What the Police Did Wrong

In the Newsletter Ben Lowry challenges applying the word “ collusion”  to the Loughinisland sequence of events. It can misleads the public, he says

The Royal Ulster Constabulary were in cahoots with some of the most despicable paramilitary murderers. Or were they?

That is what anyone with an ordinary understanding of the English language could deduce from that conclusion. Here it is again: “… collusion between RUC and those responsible for the murders.”

It is the headline conclusion that has been broadcast across Northern Ireland and beyond after this report. Most people do not read details, they glean a basic impression. An ordinary person, without a knowledge of the disputed definition of the term collusion (as used with regard to legacy issues), would assume the RUC planned or assisted the massacre. But this is not what happened.

You only need to turn to page four of the report’s Executive Summary. The Ombudsman “specifically considered the issue of whether the attack … could have been prevented”.The same paragraph in the Executive Summary says that the report did not find any evidence that there was specific intelligence about an intended attack on the bar.

So not only were the RUC not involved in the massacre, they did not even know it was going to happen.

How can you be complicit in a massacre of which you are unaware? The answer to that also comes early in the Ombudsman’s report.

Not only does collusion not mean commission of an act, it does not even need to involve complicity.

On page six of the Executive Summary, Michael Maguire explains his interpretation of the word collusion. Individual examples of neglect or incompetence are not collusion, he believes. Dr Maguire adopts Judge Smithwick’s definition: “ … the issue of collusion will be examined in the broadest sense of the word …”

If that definition is used then there must be a large range in how serious an act of collusion.:

A wide definition of collusion would encompass acts that are not criminal, beneath even that last category. But that then moves so far beyond collusion, as any average person would think of it, the term is not apt.

Even a higher notch of collusion – an officer not making a serious effort to find a murderer –while deserving of dismissal, censure and investigation is not what people deduce from the phrase “collusion between police and murderers”.

How people interpret things is relevant. Republicans want us to believe that the state engaged in wholesale murder, so we must be careful about language that legitimises that narrative.

So what definition of collusion is accepted by the authorities? The definition has been argued over since Justice Cory’s recommendations on public inquiries in 2004.

 There cannot be public confidence in Government agencies that are guilty of collusion or connivance in serious crimes. Because of the necessity for public confidence in the army and police, the definition of collusion must be reasonably broad when it is applied to actions of these agencies. This is to say that army and police forces must not act collusively by ignoring or turning a blind eye to 22 the wrongful acts of their servants or agents or supplying information to assist them in their wrongful acts or encouraging them to commit wrongful acts. Any lesser definition would have the effect of condoning, or even encouraging, state involvement in crimes, thereby shattering all public confidence in these important agencies

The de Silva report on the Pat Finucane murder  remains the most comprehensive analysis of the conduct of the security forces and their contacts with paramilitaries

In establishing this Review, the Government accepted that there had been collusion in the murder of Patrick Finucane, and indeed apologised for this. In analysing what is meant by collusion, I preferred to adopt the narrower definition used by Lord MacLean in the Billy Wright Inquiry Report, rather than the one adopted by Justice Cory in his Collusion Inquiry Report. Nevertheless, even by reference to that narrower definition, it is clear for the reasons I outline in this Report that the threshold for a finding of collusion is met in this case. 115. Overall, I am left in significant doubt as to whether Patrick Finucane would have been murdered by the UDA in February 1989 had it not been for the different strands of involvement by elements of the State. The significance is not so much, as Sir John Stevens concluded in 2003, that the murder could have been prevented, though I entirely concur with this finding. The real importance, in my view, is that a series of positive actions by employees of the State actively furthered and facilitated his murder and that, in the aftermath of the murder, there was a relentless attempt to defeat the ends of justice.

My Review of the evidence relating to Patrick Finucane’s case has left me in no doubt that agents of the State were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder. However, despite the different strands of involvement by elements of the State, I am satisfied that they were not linked to an over-arching State conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane. Nevertheless, each of the facets of the collusion that were manifest in his case – the passage of information from members of the security forces to the UDA, the failure to act on threat intelligence, the participation of State agents in the murder and the subsequent failure to investigate and arrest key members of the West Belfast UDA – can each be explained by the wider thematic issues which I have examined as part of this Review.

 Some will dispute Silva’s overarching conclusions but they have yet to be refuted.

 In spite of the gravity of my findings, I must also stress that it would be a serious mistake for this Report to be used to promote or reinforce a particular narrative of any of the groups involved in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. My remit has, by its nature, involved only an examination of the actions of the British State and its agents, and loyalist terrorist organisations. I have no doubt, however, that PIRA was the single greatest source of violence during this period and that a holistic account of events of the late 1980s in Northern Ireland would reveal the full calculating brutality of that terrorist group.

De Silva’s description of collusion was accepted by the British government

In  a rare and welcome return to the public prints David McKittrick explains in the Belfast Telegraph  what is meant by collusion in the Police Ombudsman’s report

His confident assertion that there was collusion in the incident is largely based on his study of the Special Branch’s treatment of informers.

It appears that there was no specific intelligence that the Loughinisland bar would be attacked, but there was general knowledge of UVF activities in both Co Down and in Belfast.

While a high-profile murder inquiry was launched, the Ombudsman encountered many examples of failures to pass on intelligence to investigators.

This meant, he said, that there were cases where lines of inquiry were not followed and that some individuals, who could have been subject to robust investigation, were excluded from consideration.

The Ombudsman was taken aback to discover that one of those suspected of the attack was not only an RUC informant, but continued in this role for some years after the attack.

The Ombudsman also reported that the intelligence community knew of large-scale loyalist arms-smuggling by known paramilitary figures, but that only part of the consignment was seized. Ballistic records indicated that rifles from the consignment were used in the killings, or attempted murders, of at least 70 people.

All this, he concluded, combined with a flawed Loughinisland investigation, had denied justice for the victims and survivors of that attack.

Loughinisland is now added to the list of official confirmation of collusion involving security force agents within violent loyalist organisations.


  • the rich get richer

    There was just too much collusion for it all to be passive/non active.

    If it wasn’t all so tragic then you would almost have to admire how the colluders controllers kept their hands far enough away from it to be virtually impossible to prosecute.

  • chrisjones2

    Yes its all clear.

    The RUC Army and MI5 did not in the early 1980s manage to seize all the guns in the hands of loyalists and lock them all up thereby ending that side of the troubles. In doing this they colluded with them

    And logically as there were also so many touts in the IRA the same must apply there

    So the entire Troubles were in fact the responsibility of the Police for not ending them sooner. Its all perfectly logical

    But strangely with all the evidence that supports this sweeping and damning assessment that the Ombudsman has failed to present a single piece of solid evidence on which to even arrest and interview one of the alleged colluders. Nor has he explained why none of the cops involved have been locked up or charged despite the overwhelming evidence he claims to have in his possession.

    Why? It cannot surely be that the Ombudsman has failed to fully discharge his duty by following up every possible line of enquiry? How many arrests has he made? Search warrants has he executed? For if such were so then on the de Silva / Corry test he too would be guilty of collusion

    Or does such evidence just not exist?

    We need an explanation

  • Jollyraj

    By the ridiculously stretched definition of ‘state collusion’ now being applied here by Republicans, the FBI would be as guilty of ‘collusion’ with the generic loser who has just carried out mass murder in Orlando as the state forces here were.

  • 90sKid

    Stolen goods. The theft, the handling and the purchasing are all crimes under the same banner. Same with collusion.
    Looking for definitions is a handy wee diversion tactic, employed by both sides.

  • the rich get richer

    It has been reported that pretty much all the loyalist terrorists were working for the british authorities .

    How ? Were they able to commit so many murders . If they were all “Touts”, it should not have been that hard to render them ineffective or to dis-arm them.

    It does not take a great leap of intelligence to work out that they were used as death squads for those that had other motives.

  • AntrimGael

    As a youth growing up in Belfast in the 80’s you would see Nationalist areas swamped by police and army for a certain period of time then they would disappear. Almost inevitability a Loyalist attack would happen when the ‘Security Forces” made their excuses and left. The only security they were providing were safe passages in and out for the Loyalist murder squads. I believe the UN should be investigating Britain and it’s political, military and security establishments. Ideally Britain should be hauled in front of the Hague for its genocidal crimes in the North of Ireland.

  • Sharpie

    No one has a need to fear the truth. The truth will come out at some stage and as a PR man might say – you can choose to control the narrative or be controlled. This is not a re-writing of history. The interpretation of it is though and that is where the republicans are winning. From a very long time ago they have insisted there was systematic collusion and everything but everything in the last decade of rock turning has turned up more and more incontrovertible evidence.

    This is not about one side being vilified, its about truth recovery and in time the paramilitaries will have to spill their own stories (although the shortcut to that is accessing what the security forces know as they seem to have had a finger in practically every incident).

    It is a shameful episode in British history – much like rendition, civilian drone war, and water boarding will come to be seen as lumps on US history.

    It is becoming clear that no one person understands the extent of what happened and there is going to be a fine industry of stitching together all the snippets, rumours, leaks and conclusions to create a grand narrative of the British Government’s role in the conflict.

  • Mirrorballman

    Ok so we’re now back to debating if “collusion” actually happened or not. Have we forgotten this already??


    85% of UDA/UFF intelligence came from the security sources. Maybe in Loughinisland the security services didn’t have advanced warning. They did with many other murders and in some they even picked the victims. Collusion was a policy of the state. Ben and others need to face up to reality.

  • Gopher

    Witchfinders need to find witches if they can’t find one that flies around on a broomstick they will devise all sorts of methods to find witchcraft. The latest report was a 21st century ducking stool.

  • woodkerne

    Brian Walker’s pedantry on the meaning of ‘collusion’ is welcome, clarifying and illuminating as it does the historical particulars and context of RUC Special Branch’s unethical behaviour in respect of Loughinisland as well as, let’s be crystal clear about it, an indictment of their collective complicity in other atrocities perpetrated by loyalist killers against catholics. Walker’s authoritative intervention is not though – I am confident in supposing – offered in any way as ammunition in support of the emerging campaign to traduce and delegitimise the Ombudsman’s report. What’s at issue here is an instance among many of institutionalised anti-catholicism (and of covert state terror). In other words, what the Loughinisland report provides and what McKittrick’s commentary underlines is indubitable evidence amounting to what may fairly be described (with a nod to the Lawrence Inquiry) as behaviour symptomatic of a culture of ‘inferential bias’: a direct effect of which was a systemic inclination throughout the RUC to condone and collude in sectarian murder.

  • Jollyraj

    “Almost inevitability a Loyalist attack would happen when the ‘Security Forces” made their excuses and left. ”

    Putting aside the fact that you may well be simply making that up – and I’m not saying you aren’t- then why would those same nationalists constantly attack the security forces, then? Given that, by your own thinking, the security forces were protecting them in a way that the IRA apparently couldn’t be bothered to do.

  • AntrimGael

    There was an upsurge of sectarian murders in North and West Belfast in the late 80’s and early 90’s. UDA C company carried out most of them and they operated from a half square mile area in the lower Shankill. They were allowed to murder for a 5/6 year period until it didn’t suit the British politically anymore. Adair himself admitted in his ‘book’ that C Company were getting their information on Republicans from British Soldiers and “local’ security force members. He also stated that C Company received help and support from right across the Unionist community.

  • AntrimGael

    People may ask why believe a sectarian maniac like Johnny Adair? Because he was driven by a pathological hatred of Catholics which he admits, he wasnt intelligent enough to have a military strategy but he wasn’t stupid enough either to refuse British Security Forces help.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    Just no ‘evidence’then, or let me put it a more weaselmy way “you would almost have to admire how the culluders controllers kept their hands far enough away from it to be virtually impossible to prosecute.”

    Still why bother about bothersome evidence anyway?

    But here you can go one better than PONI.

    If, as you claim, there was “just too much collusion for it all to be passive/non active” just name some names.

    A quick internet search will reveal the relevant names of the senior police officers of the era.

    Go on have at ’em in a meaningful way and get them into a court!

  • the rich get richer

    Lets just say that they were careless in a way that a goalkeeper is that has fixed a match in collusion with the opposition strikers .

    They had so much control of the loyalist terrorists that they could have been prevented from their murderous activities .

    Ask, Why this control was not exercised.

    Perhaps you could run some of those names past Mick Fealty if you wish to name them.

    Who Polices The Police or in this case, Who Controls those That Control at least some of the Terrorists.

  • chrisjones2

    So why no arrests?

  • chrisjones2

    ..but they kept locking him up didnt they

  • chrisjones2

    But Adair was seen as a head banger on all sides

  • chrisjones2

    “It has been reported that pretty much all the loyalist terrorists were working for the british authorities .”

    ….and all the Republicans so big boys made them all do it

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Exactly. There was collusion between the perpetrators of the Loughinisland massacre and members of the security forces. However, that does not mean that state security colluded in the execution of that particular massacre. It’s that simple distinction that seems to be lost on Ben Lowry.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Does this make it more comprehensible: “the failure to act on threat intelligence, the participation of
    State agents in the murder and the subsequent failure to investigate and arrest key members of the West Belfast UDA – can each be explained by the wider thematic issues which I have examined as part of this Review”?

    And there’s this: “the Ombudsman encountered many examples of failures to pass on intelligence to investigators.

    This meant, he said, that there were cases where lines of inquiry were not followed and that some individuals, who could have been subject to robust investigation, were excluded from consideration.

    The Ombudsman was taken aback to discover that one of those suspected of the attack was not only an RUC informant, but continued in this role forsome years after the attack.”

  • Thomas Barber

    “So what definition of collusion is accepted by the authorities”

    Says so right here. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20019914

    “Ms May told the BBC those supplying guns were “as guilty” as those using them as the impact was just as deadly”

    The gun used to murder Patrick Finucane was one of a batch returned to the UDA by RUC special branch, the other being used in the Ormeau Road bookies massacre and two other murders. The weapons used in Loughanisland massacre and dozens more murders were supplied by a British state agent, British state agents collected the weapons and British state agents used those same weapons to murder innocent people.

    What more is there to say other than collusion also took place in the 70 murders who’s victims were killed using those state supplied weapons.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    There has been speculation for some time that MI5 was orchestrating and containing the violence from both sides with blind eyes turned to the collateral bloodbaths of the innocents. A kind of before the fact Donald Rumsfeld approach to conflict management.

  • Thomas Barber

    The state through their agents did supply the weapons used in the murders that makes them complicit in those murders.

  • ted hagan

    Ben Lowry is naive. When you have a police force whose member came mainly from one side of a very divided community, and a part time British army regiment made up mainly from the same community, you are asking for trouble. And trouble there was, with a special toxic mix of former B Specials to add to it..
    What the British government needs to to do is to get to the bottom of the collusion that went on during the Troubles and reveal to what extent it had spread, otherwise it is no better than the terrorists themselves. To my mind Northern Ireland was simply a training ground for a military bigwigs hungry for bigger fish.

  • Granni Trixie

    And Ben Lowry works for a newspaper which did not place the story of the Ombudsman Report on its front page.

  • Sherdy

    The report said the ombudsman didn’t have evidence of any advance warning about Loughinisland.
    The fact he didn’t have the evidence does not mean the evidence did not exist!

  • Dominic Hendron

    I always wondered why intelligent people people like David Ervine chose to join a paramilitary group rather than the UDR or RUC after Bloody Friday. Why did he, or anyone else, think they could be more effective except that there was collusion at some level that would allow them to operate. Otherwise they would have just have been outcasts

  • Gopher

    I believe David Ervine was arrested, charged convicted and sentenced to 11 years so if Ervine did join the UVF believing in collusion it seems it was more superstition on his part rather than based on any fact. A two year career whilst not short enough certainly is not a long one. Hardly an advertisement for putting your faith in crown forces.

  • Dominic Hendron

    It doesn’t answer the question about why intelligent people within the loyalist community joined paramilitary groups in the first place. When a loyalist was shot by the British Army after commiting a murder hundreds of security force files were pasted on walls in Belfast in retaliation which indicates collusion at certain levels. Jonty Johnson also deals with this issue in his book Into the Dark.

  • Gopher

    I feel you are demonstrating the wheels that have been fitted to the goalposts around collusion. If I was forced to comment I would have to do it as a 6th century history student and point out “intelligence” was lacking when they “plastered” montages on walls. The very nature of the act gives these files their value. To use the obvious example Enigma remained a secret to the seventies.

  • grumpy oul man

    I am afraid that he is not making it up. this was quite a common experience. some nationalist areas where surrounded by army observation post, most had the access routes limited by army barricades leaving only one or two routes in or out which were manned almost constantly by the army, yet they never seemed to be about when the loyalists murder squads attacked.
    The failure to stop or catch these sectarian killers as they passed army posts and checkpoints could if it only happened once or twice may be excused but the regular failure to stop these people from a army who were on the streets 24/7 (except when the loyalist terror groups where on the streets) if not collusion then needs some serious explaining.

  • grumpy oul man

    strange that such a headbanger seemed to be able to operate with impunity.

  • grumpy oul man

    see if you can guess why professional police officers and MI5 officers with the backing of their employers and control of the evidence would not be getting prosecuted.
    Off course if you do believe in the no conviction means it never happened law, then no doubt you dont believe that GA was in the IRA! or does the no conviction thing only apply to police and soldiers.

  • grumpy oul man

    its called deniability, the British government could blame its activities on the loyalists and keep their own hands clean. Johnny was a wingnut perfect as a fall guy.
    After all what government wants the world to know it is running murder gangs, so the loyalists became the mugs who done both the dirty work and the time inside.
    the deal seems to be that they would be allowed to kill Catholics and run their criminal operations.
    tell me could you explain how loyalists are allowed to continue to deal drugs along with the rest of their criminal activities without any interference from the police and still be welcome inside unionist circles.

  • grumpy oul man

    please explain this, did the FBI supply the generic loser guns or Intel, did they ignore or lose evidence which would lead to a conviction.
    I think your getting desperate to excuse the crimes of the security forces and this FBI thing is a sign of real desperation!

  • grumpy oul man

    So no proof on GA then , do you accept his claim that he was not a member of the IRA! or does the no conviction thing only apply when it suits you?

  • Dominic Hendron

    I don’t know, but if you have a runny nose, a sore throat, and sneezing, chances are you have a cold, at least

  • Jollyraj

    Nothing desperate about it. I feel my point is quite simple, but anyway I will clarify it further:

    No two crimes are identical in every regard, but the fact remains that had what happened in Orlando happened in Belfast in the 70’s or 80’s, Republicans would categorize it as collusion between authorities and gunman.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    Do I believe “GA”?

    If you are referring to that individual held in so high esteem by many of my fellow countrymen, the President For Life of the Sinn Fein Gang; then let me tell you that I hold a Sliabh Mis-sized contempt for him, the rest of his gang, and those who continually chose to vote for them.

    Do I then believe any word that he utters, on any subject? Not on what remains of your life old boy!

    That is my personal opinion. And as a private citizen I have that right in contemporary Ireland to that at the very least.

    However if, for example, the DPP called a press conference and headlined with: D’gerry (the ‘d’ is silent) was in the IRA, and then proceeded to offer an out of focus photo of yer man in a beret, and a visit to London OHMS, as his ‘evidence’, I’d have to raise a question or six as to why he, as the DPP, was going down that road.

    The primary question I’d think of putting to the DPP is: if you’ve evidence charge him, if not then
    you’d probably be best to leave calling in the TV crews to when you’ve actually got an honest headline to give them.

    Leave the speculation game to D’gerry’s drones, and his enemies to debate; but avoid potentially bringing your office into disrepute by making accusations you can’t back up.

    You never know, should such a performance by the DPP have taken place perhaps the very next day the Chief Constable might be on the airwaves himself wondering why no charges were being delivered to his door to put to the Bold Louth Boy 😉

    Such a situation would surely belittle the DPP and the office he represents.

  • grumpy oul man

    The point of my question was to show that for some posters the burden of proof thing is very much a movable feast.
    The level of denial among some is astounding, collusion is a fact but we still have those who refuse to accept it.
    the Blessed security forces did no evil, unionist politicians never worked alongside loyalist terrorists, the British handlers never let the loyalists smuggle in guns and the UDR never had links with the loyalists,
    this ability to refuse to see what is in front of then is epic.
    so in short my question was not about GA,s past (I think we all know the truth of that) but rather to show how flexible the average unionist can be with the word “proof”.

  • grumpy oul man

    Really how do you figure that one out.
    I am afraid that if you are going to make a wild claim like that you will have to bulk it out a bit.

    And when you say Republicans you mean the families of those murdered ?
    Who have just been told by a official inquiry that collusion took place.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Why was the ombudsman “taken aback” to discover the intelligence services had a mole in the UVF cell that did Loughinisland? Isn’t getting such informers exactly what the intelligence services were meant to be doing? And was he really as ombudsman unaware of the extent of the success of infiltration operations against Loyalist groups? He could have read it in Da Silva, it’s all there.

    I can’t help thinking this ombudsman has been more than a bit mischievous in his description of what happened as police “colluding” in the murders. The police knew nothing about them until after they happened, as he himself states elsewhere. What he’s come across is the police agent-handlers stepping in to say, don’t lift these guys yet or our agent is blown and we’d lose any chance of preventing the next Loughinisland. It was going for the long term intelligence route to saving lives over the straight criminal justice route. That may or may not have been the right course in that case – hard to judge – but that was the real dilemma the police faced then and will always face when infiltrating terrorist groups. But the bottom line is, it was a choice between two ways of minimising the effects of terrorism. These are impossible choices as either way there are huge negatives – and here the families did not get justice. I should imagine this happened many times in the Troubles. It is very tough, impossible even for them. But if running agents saved lives overall, as Da Silva found, then perhaps that injustice in failing to prosecute was preferable to more deaths.

  • Gingray

    Actually it happened quite a bit – it was not just dye in the wool hardline republicans that disliked the police and army, it was most nationalists (the majority of whom supported the peaceful SDLP remember).

    The simple fact was that Catholics felt they couldn’t trust the state, and you are starting to see why.

    Shoe on the other foot – if republicans had shot up a bar in bangor, and the police had informer who was part of the group that did it, and failed to stop it (and the majority of other crimes committed by that gang) and failed to make arrests after, do you think it would cause you to have more or less faith in the police?

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    My earlier reply to you has it seems ended up on the great Slugger bonfire of the banalities. So I’ll bow out now on this.

  • eireanne3

    Brigadier Kitson had a major input into that approach of using gangs and counter-gangs https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/uk-state-collusion-and-loughinisland-the-ceasefire-massacre/