04 November 2005

Collusion further exposed

An Phoblacht

BY LAURA FRIEL

State violence - Ombudsman report to highlight role of Special Branch

British state collusion in the murder of nationalists was never a case of a 'few bad apples' or the informal sharing of intelligence between locally recruited official and unofficial state forces. Nor was it a matter of turning a blind eye or hiding the truth after the event.

It was also never just a case of 'taking the war to the IRA'. Once the mechanisms of state murder were up and running, no one was safe. IRA Volunteers were targeted and killed and so were family members, including children, of republicans. Political activists, elected representatives and election strategists and workers were also murdered.

Defence lawyers were targeted to shore up the government's criminalisation policy. Civilians were murdered to obscure the strategy and cover agents' tracks. British soldiers and RUC members were allowed to be killed as were unionist paramilitaries who knew too much. The British Government has yet to disclose, disavow and dismantle the mechanisms of collusion.

It is in light of all this that republicans have read news of the forthcoming police Ombudsman's report into a unionist death squad commanded by Mark Haddock, who was also a Special Branch agent. The UVF unit under scrutiny is believed to have carried out at least 24 murders and the bombing of Sinn Féin offices in Monaghan Town in 1997.

It is believed that Haddock worked for Special Branch since he was 16-years-old in 1985. Reports say he began as a low-grade informer but in 1991 Special Branch took control of his activities and he joined the UVF.

The report is due to be released in December but it is already clear that it will corroborate an earlier human rights report which concluded that dozens of loyalist murders in the 1990s were carried out with the knowledge of RUC Special Branch.

A recent report by British-Irish Human Rights Watch concluded that a network of UVF figures were Special Branch agents and it is believed the Ombudsman's report will corroborate this.

Media reports say it will raise questions for Special Branch in relation to virtually every unionist paramilitary murder in Belfast between 1990 and 1995.

The report was initially established to investigate allegations that the killers of a 22-year-old Protestant, Raymond McCord in November 1997, were Special Branch agents. According to the victim's father, investigations into the murder were blocked because two UVF members involved were agents.

The investigation has been compelled to expand its line of inquiry beyond the initial remit to establish the extent of collusion.

The murder of a 27-year-old nationalist woman is one of a number of other killings currently being investigated. Sharon McKenna was shot dead by the UVF in North Belfast in 1993. Haddock was the gunman.

According to reports, Haddock discussed the killing with his Special Branch handlers afterwards and was given money for drink rather than being arrested. Haddock allegedly murdered McKenna, a taxi driver, to cover his tracks as an agent within the UVF.

Haddock is currently charged with the attempted murder of a nightclub worker Trevor Gowdy in December 2002. Haddock fled the North after the attack and was subsequently arrested in Wales. He has been imprisoned awaiting trial since August 2003 but is expected to be released following the hearing of a bail application this week.

Other murders being investigated by Nuala O'Loan's office include those of Armagh builders Gary Convie and Eamon Fox, shot dead while working in North Belfast in May 1994.

Presbyterian Minister Rev David Templeton survived an earlier attack and identified Haddock as one of his attackers. He was shot dead six weeks later.

Haddock has also been implicated in the shooting of Tommy Sheppard, himself a member of the UVF and Special Branch agent, Billy Harbinson in 1997, Tommy English in 2000 and David Greer, also in 2000.

An interim file has already been sent by the Ombudsman to the Director of Public Prosecutions and its understood that a number of Special Branch and CID officers who served in the RUC in the 1990s have been questioned. According to the Newsletter senior Special Branch officers under investigation have refused to be interviewed. They have dismissed the Ombudsman's probe as "politically motivated with an agenda to demonise Special Branch".

Former senior RUC detective, Johnston Brown who worked in Belfast at that time has said that he has no doubt that the allegations are true. Special Branch agents were "allowed to get away with murder for years", said Brown.

"I know for a fact that some of the names put forward in this investigation were informers who carried out murders during that time," said Brown.

Brown, who retired in 2001, came into conflict with Special Branch after he was ordered to suppress evidence about the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. He secretly taped a conversation with unionist gunman Ken Barrett during which Barrett confessed to the killing and revealed details that placed him at the scene of the shooting. Special Branch taped a second conversation with Barrett and substituted the confession tape. The switch was uncovered during the Stevens Inquiry into collusion.

The Ombudsmans report should shed more light on aspects of collusion but by its nature it will not deliver the kind of comprehensive exposure of collusion required. The Ombudsman can only investigate aspects of collusion involving the RUC, PSNI and Special Branch. It has no remit to investigate key British Army units such as the FRU, the role of MI5 or the British military chain of command within.

Meanwhile, an investigation into allegations of collusion in the 1993 killing of Gerard and Rory Cairns is to be published by the Ombudsman's office in the New Year. The two young brothers from County Armagh were shot dead by the UVF in their home village of Bleary in October 1993.

Involved in the killings were two high level agents Robin 'the Jackal' Jackson and Billy 'King Rat' Wright. The guns used were part of a 1988 South African shipment of illegal weaponry used to re-arm unionist paramilitaries and organised by British agents, Brian Nelson and Charles Simpson.

Shortly before these killings the RUC set up roadblocks near their isolated home. As with other cases of collusion the killers were allowed to pass through. The case was brought to the attention of the Ombudsman by the victim support group Relatives for Justice and An Fhirinne, a group which campaigns around collusion.

The Ombudsman is also investigating the 1971 McGurk's pub bombing. Carried out by unionist paramilitaries it was initially passed off as an IRA 'own goal'. Fifteen people were killed including two children and many more were injured.

Relatives of those killed, who were contacted by the Ombudsman earlier this week, have said the attack has been linked to collusion between state forces and the perpetrators of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

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