Declassified files have revealed the shocking level of collusion between the British Army’s UDR regiment and loyalists. Micheál Smith is the author of a new book on the subject (for the Irish Times). For some, the conflict in Northern Ireland was characterised by an impenetrable jumble of abbreviations. Amid the alphabet soup of loyalist paramilitary […]A powerful weapon in Britain’s ‘dirty war’ against the Irish: The Ulster Defence Regiment
Panorama, SAS Death Squads Exposed: A British War Crime?: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0019707 via @bbciplayer
NO UK TROOPS ARE ABOVE THE LAW, CLAIMS THE BRITISH PRIME MINISTER – WHEN THE BRITISH ARMY INCLUDING THE SAS MURDERED WITH IMPUNITY IN THE NORTH OF IRELAND
A decision to broadcast the allegations of a rogue, murderous ex-RUC officer has prompted the detectives who brought him to justice to speak out for the first time.
Sectarian killer John Weir sent shockwaves through the RUC when he confessed to murdering Catholic chemist shop owner William Strathearn in Ahoghill, Co Antrim in 1977.
His arrest and successful conviction came about after senior police suspected that a small number of serving officers in the Armagh area were collaborating with UVF killers operating across the Mid Ulster area.
The shocking revelation led to an unprecedented RUC investigation – bringing together the best detectives from across Northern Ireland in total secrecy to identify and prosecute those involved.
The aftermath of the 1974 UVF bomb blast in Monaghan
The aftermath of the 1974 UVF bomb blast in Monaghan
The subsequent investigation led to five officers facing serious charges up to and including murder.
Two of the detectives involved spoke to the News Letter after learning that a major broadcaster was prepared to show the film Unquiet Graves, directed by Sean Murray – son of senior Sinn Fein Strategist and former IRA prisoner Sean ‘Spike’ Murray.
It is being shown on RTE at 9.35pm on Wednesday, September 16.
The film gives a platform to Weir who – among other unsubstantiated claims – alleges British security agents encouraged the UVF to carry out mass murder at a Catholic primary school. Weir has also alleged that a large number of his former RUC colleagues were involved in terrorist activity.
However, the detectives who brought him to justice find it incredible that Weir would have declined to divulge this information – or the claim that he was working under orders from a higher authority within the security forces – at the time to avoid a life prison sentence.
Although Weir was eventually sentenced for the Strathearn murder in 1980, it would be almost 20 years before he would accuse many of his former colleagues of serious criminality.
The claims were first published by journalist Liam Clarke in the Sunday Times in 1999, leading to the Barron Report on the 1974 Barron Report on the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.
“Why didn’t Weir take the opportunity to say all this stuff at Castlereagh because it could have saved his bacon?” one of the ex-officers said.
The former detective sergeant (DS) – who does not wish to be named – said it was unthinkable that Weir would have remained silent if his claims were even partially true.
“At the very least he have been able to do some kind of deal [for a lesser sentence]. That was the opportunity for Weir to use whatever intelligence he had in order to ease his own position.”
The ex-DS described the police operation to bring what was later dubbed the ‘Glenanne Gang’ to justice in 1978 as “the biggest interviewing team ever put together by the RUC”.
He said: “When the briefing came that morning we were told that these were police officers being arrested for murder. You could have knocked us down with a feather.
“All of the interviewers were detective inspector rank and above. I was a DS at that stage and my role was to collate all of the information coming out of the interview rooms. I ran the teams that did that.
“He had the opportunities at the time of his arrest, and when he was being interviewed, to make all of those allegations, but he didn’t.
“I would be satisfied, from my role at Castlereagh, that none of that material he has talked about in his depositions, and in his interview with Liam Clarke, had been talked about. And if it had been, it would have been followed up. There is no question about that.
“I look back on that investigation, and that was one of the most thorough and intense investigations ever to have been carried out at that stage.”
Commenting on the persistent criticism that UVF leader Robin Jackson was not arrested every time intelligence reports linked his name to a particular terrorist attack, the former detective said it was well-known that Jackson always refused to talk unless there was concrete evidence to put to him.
“It was usually a waste of time. All we were doing by arresting Jackson without hard evidence was educating him. Letting him know what intelligence we had and, more importantly, what we didn’t know,” he said.
A second former officer, who was a detective inspector (DI) involved in the investigation has a clear recollection of the events surrounding Weir’s arrest and conviction.
“He was caught up in this ‘loyalist’ thing with [William] McCaughey and [Gary] Armstrong and those boys. They were working in the SPG (Special Patrol Group) and they were seeing policemen being murdered and kidnapped and they took the law into their own hands. That’s basically what they did,” he said.
“Nobody directed them to do it. Had there been then they wouldn’t have been charged and put in jail for life.
“I was part of the investigating team that was responsible for convicting them.
“There was intelligence that McCaughey was involved in this criminal activity, and the intelligence was that he was involved in the kidnapping of [Catholic priest] Fr Hugh Murphy and the murder of William Strathearn.
“I was given a brief to arrest Sergeant Gary Armstrong at his house in Armagh, so we went down to arrest him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act,
The former DI added: “So we went down to his house, and there was a birthday party for one of his children going on in the house at that time and there were about 12 kids there.
“It was quite a traumatic thing, because you were arresting the father in front of all these children…but we arrested Armstrong and took him to Castlereagh.
“McCaughey’s mother and father had also been arrested and they were all in Castlereagh.”
McCaughey’s father, Alexander, pleaded guilty hiding the handgun used to murder Mr Strathearn and given a suspended prison sentence for assisting offenders.
In the 1999 Liam Clarke article, the journalist reported: “Weir, alone of the three members of the group interviewed for this article, seemed to have believed he had outside protection and approval.
“McCaughey said, ‘I knew I had no backing. If I had backing, I would have done far more. I was worried sick about being caught. I knew I would be jailed and I was drinking very heavily through stress.’”
With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter and Mark Rainey for the original story.
◾The identity of the PIRA source who revealed ambush plans remains unknown
- But a newly-published letter claims that Republicans believed it could be Adams
- Adams thought military victory against the British was impossible by the late 70s
- Sinn Fein described the theory in Mccallion’s new book as being ‘utter nonsense’
When you’re young, life can seem so simple. I was in the middle of my six years with the SAS, and I thought I knew how to defeat the IRA — and so end the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Decapitation was the answer. Go for the head of the beast and cut it off. And for the IRA, that meant taking out its most high-profile spokesman, a Sinn Fein MP and former commander of the Belfast Brigade.
I wanted Gerry Adams dead.
This wasn’t a sudden urge. I was a former Parachute Regiment veteran with seven tours of Northern Ireland under my belt, and I’d given the matter some thought.
One night in the mess bar, drinking with a serving officer from MI5, I was loudly voicing my opinion. Looking back, I must have sounded naive and spectacularly ill-informed, but I truly believed the best way to stop the terrorists was to target the high command. Like I said, kill Gerry Adams.
The somewhat inebriated MI5 officer’s response was surprising: ‘No! He’s one of ours!’ I cannot confirm whether his claim was true, or whether it had its origins in the kind of drunken bravado that leads to all sorts of tall tales in the mess.
However, the look of shock on the officer’s face immediately after the words came out, and his refusal to continue the conversation, were certainly suggestive — as was the fact that he was unwilling ever to speak with me again outside a formal setting.
I’ve never forgotten that night in the mess. Looking back from today’s perspective, many of the most secret and dangerous operations undertaken by British forces in the province, and their outcomes, make more sense to me if the British security services truly did have an informer right at the top of the Republican movement.
Was Gerry Adams the ultimate mole? He had briefly been commander of the Provisional IRA’s most important unit, the Belfast Brigade, until he was interned in July 1973. But by the late Seventies, he and Martin McGuinness, a senior figure in Londonderry, believed that military victory against the British was no longer possible.
Abandoning the idea of sweeping the ‘foreign oppressors’ out of Ireland by destroying Britain’s ability and will to rule, they formed a new strategy that placed much greater emphasis on the political wing of the movement.
Not everyone in the Republican movement backed this plan. Many were still committed to a wholly violent solution, the overthrow of British government in the province by force and unlimited bloodshed.
But those who opposed Adams and McGuinness often found themselves in the crosshairs of the British Army — so frequently, in fact, that the trend seems more than a coincidence.
Most dramatic of all these instances was the Loughgall ambush. Some background: in the rural areas of East Tyrone and Fermanagh during the mid-Eighties, there was open rebellion against the idea of a peaceful end to the Troubles. This resistance was led by two veteran terrorists, Jim Lynagh and Padraig McKearney.
One of 12 children, Lynagh joined the Provisional IRA (PIRA) in his teens. He was badly injured in 1973, when a bomb he was carrying exploded, and spent five years imprisoned in the Maze. On his release he immediately rejoined his local wing of the PIRA and rose rapidly through its ranks to become a leading
In September 1983, along with 37 other Republican prisoners, McKearney took part in a mass escape from the Maze Prison. Half of the escapees were recaptured but McKearney made it to safety.
After a series of attacks that shook the British Army, Lynagh and McKearney discussed the possibility of striking out from the PIRA and acquiring their own weaponry — a breakaway that, if successful, would have dealt a blow to Adams’s politics-first vision for the IRA.
As part of this scheme, the rebels planned an attack on the RUC station at Loughgall, County Armagh. Loughgall was a quiet village of some 350 inhabitants, most of whom were Protestants.
Who are the New IRA?
The New IRA is the biggest of the dissident republican groups operating in Northern Ireland.
It has been linked with four murders, including PC Ronan Kerr, who was killed by an under-car bomb in Omagh in 2011.
The group is also linked to the deaths of prison officers David Black, who was shot as he drove to work at Maghaberry Prison in 2012, and Adrian Ismay, who died in 2016 after a bomb exploded under his van outside his home in east Belfast.
The New IRA is believed to have been formed between 2011 and 2012 following the merger of a number of smaller groups, including the Real IRA – the group behind the 1998 Omagh bomb.
It is strongest in Derry, north and west Belfast, Strabane in Co Derry, Lurgan in Co Armagh, and pockets of Tyrone.
This year the group was responsible for a car bomb outside the courthouse in Bishop Street, Derry.
The explosives-laden car was left on the city centre street on a Saturday night in January, and scores of people, including a group of teenagers, had walked past before it detonated.
The New IRA also claimed a number of package bombs posted to targets in London and Glasgow in March.
At least 14 terrorists were involved, with eight armed men prepared to carry out the assault on the station and six more in support roles.
Shortly before the attack, five of them arrived at a farm near Moy in County Armagh belonging to local man Peter Mackle. When Mackle’s wife and daughters pulled into the driveway in the family car, the PIRA men ordered them from the vehicle and informed the terrified civilians that they were taking the car, a mechanical digger used on the farm and a quantity of diesel oil.
Two members of the unit drove away in the stolen vehicle, while two remained at the farm to prevent the family reporting the theft. The fifth drove the digger to a nearby explosives cache to prepare for the attack.
Just before 7pm, the PIRA assault team assembled close to the police station. A 200lb bomb had been placed in the bucket of the digger, which was to be driven by Declan Arthurs, a high-ranking member of the brigade.
Two scout cars, each containing a pair of men, were deployed to warn the assault team by radio of any security forces approaching from the front or rear.
The firefight was to be initiated by Arthurs, using the digger to smash a hole through the perimeter fence of the RUC compound, before lighting a 40-second fuse attached to the 200lb bomb in the bucket.
What the approaching terrorists did not know was that the SAS were waiting for them.
Several weeks before the attack, someone who knew it was going to happen contacted MI5 directly to inform them of the impending operation. More than 20 SAS men responded with a classic ambush.
As Lynagh’s men jumped from their van and began to rake the RUC station with automatic fire, the SAS teams opened up on the attackers with everything they had.
Even the enormous explosion as the bomb detonated did nothing to lessen the intensity of the SAS fire. All the terrorists, including Lynagh and McKearney, were shot dead.
An enduring mystery is the identity of the PIRA source who betrayed the operation to MI5, but a recently declassified letter in the Irish state archives claims that, among Republicans, Gerry Adams himself was rumoured to have undermined the Loughgall attack.
However, a Sinn Fein spokesman described the claim as ‘utter nonsense’.
Father Denis Faul, a Catholic priest with close ties to the Republican movement, wrote to the Irish government in 1987 about ‘intriguing’ rumours in Republican circles that Adams had instigated the Loughgall ambush because Lynagh and McKearney had threatened to assassinate him — such was their hostility towards his political strategy.
Over the subsequent years, the SAS was supplied with a stream of high-level intelligence from MI5 that enabled them to further thwart the deadly efforts of the East Tyrone PIRA.
One of the most crushing blows, delivered thanks to specific intel from a very high-level MI5 informant within the terrorist movement, came after a string of tit-for-tat killings in so-called ‘bandit country’.
According to this source, three experienced PIRA killers were planning the assassination of an off-duty Ulster Defence Regiment soldier in Coagh, County Tyrone, at the centre of Northern Ireland.
One was Lawrence McNally, a veteran on the radar of the security services, whose brother Phelim had been shot dead at the start of the killings. He therefore had personal reasons for being involved in the latest revenge attack. The second man was 21-year-old Tony Doris, who had risen fast through the ranks of the PIRA, impressing the brigade leadership enough to be appointed a commander.
The assassination would be led by a third man, Pete Ryan, who was wanted in connection with a brazen and spectacularly violent raid on a border checkpoint, in which rockets, grenades and a flamethrower were used. Two British soldiers were killed and two more wounded in the attack.
As the intelligence about Ryan’s plans firmed up, the SAS were deployed to Coagh. The commander of the operation opted to use a decoy: a member of the team who bore a resemblance to the target would take the place of the intended victim.
On June 2, 1991, the evening before the attack, the PIRA unit hijacked a red Vauxhall Cavalier in the nearby village of Moneymore.
This hijacking was secretly observed by operators from 14 Intelligence Company who were following the men. Throughout the night they mounted a constant watch over Ryan and his gang, and at 7.30am the following day radioed in the information that they were on the move and heading out of the village.
The SAS ambush party was concealed inside a lorry, parked where Coagh’s narrow Main Street enters the village over a bridge across the Ballinderry River. The decoy, meanwhile, waited in his car nearby, pretending to be following the UDR target’s normal routine.
The PIRA assassination team drove across the bridge, on a route that would bring them within metres of the concealed SAS men.
The soldiers waited until Ryan and McNally wound down the windows on their hijacked car and lifted their weapons. With the decoy’s life in danger, the soldiers opened fire, pouring rounds into the approaching Cavalier.
Struck by some 200 bullets, the car careened out of control, smashed into a VW Golf parked nearby and burst into flames. All three of the terrorists inside were killed in the brief contact.
The PIRA’s propaganda arm later claimed that two of the men escaped the vehicle but were then executed in the street in cold blood and dragged back to the car, which was set on fire to conceal the evidence. Unsurprisingly, no eyewitnesses have ever come forward to support these claims.
One need only consider the narrowness of the road, the fact that the SAS team were firing automatic weapons from a prepared position at nearly point-blank range, and the weight of fire that was poured into the car to realise that the chances of anyone leaving the vehicle alive were zero.
Claims that gunshots were heard following the initial shooting were almost certainly referring to the sounds of ammunition in the car ‘cooking off’ in the flames.
The successful removal of the East Tyrone Brigade’s leading assassination squad ended the cycle of tit-for-tat violence that had blighted the area for more than three years. But the ambush would not have been possible without precise information from a covert source.
That information devastated the East Tyrone brigade, and it kept coming. It seems quite coincidental that so much of this intelligence just happened to be directed against figures in the PIRA who had the potential to threaten Gerry Adams’s path towards a negotiated settlement with Britain.
With many thanks to the: Daily Mail and Harry McCallion writing for the Daily Mail
The name and price of the book can be seen here: Adapted from Undercover War: Britain’s Special Forces And Their Battle Against The IRA, by Harry McCallion, published by John Blake, £8.99. © Harry McCallion 2020.
Follow these links to find out more: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/sinn-fein-denies-gerry-adams-set-up-ira-loughgall-ambush-1.3328744
SPY IN THE BAG “What really happened to MI6 agent”
MI6 and a senior detective have been accused of failing to disclose vital evidence in the death riddle of spy Gareth Williams.
A coroner suggested that the counter-terror officer, Detective Superintendent Michael Broster, was not being “completely impartial” towards secret services during the Scotland Yard inquiry.
Coroner Fiona Wilcox and the family’s lawyer both delivered angry outbursts after it emerged that nine computer memory sticks and a black bag were overlooked for 21 months after the death.
The lead detective on the case was told about the evidence only on Monday.
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Tom Morgan
Follow this link to find out more: https://m.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/spy-probably-killed-unlawfully-28744840.html
CONCERNS OVER NOAH DEATH PROBE RAISED WITH POLICE OMBUDSMAN AS VILE RUMOURS POSTED ON SOCIAL MEDIA
THE Police Ombudsman is “assessing” concerns raised surrounding the investigation into the death (murder) of 14-year-old Noah Donohoe.
Follow these links to find out more: Conversation
Cmd. Eochaidh na hÉireann – (P-Anon) @One_Shot_Paddy
You were saying… Naomi Long? Ghouls, conspiracy theorists, you were the only ghoul to raise its head in this matter. Hang your head in shame Naomi.
BBC News NI