The BBC’s Panorama program on May 28 made explosive revelations about British state collusion with paramilitaries in the north of Ireland occupied by Britain. It implicates British authorities in the murder of hundreds of people, and in subsequent cover-ups.
The documentary, titled “Britain’s Secret Terror Deals”, detailed the vast scale of British security forces' involvement with illegal paramilitary groups, running thousands of informants and agents.
Former police ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan told the program that some paramilitary informants recruited by the security forces during “the Troubles” were serial killers.
“They were running informants and they were using them,” O’Loan told the program.
“Their argument was that by so doing they were saving lives, but hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people died because those people were not brought to justice and weren’t stopped in their tracks,” she said.
“There was impunity really or these people to go on committing their crimes. Many of them were killers, some were serial killers.”
Former head of Scotland Yard Lord John Stevens, who led three government investigations into the actions of British security forces in Ireland, told Panorama that just one of the thousands of agents and informants — Brian Nelson — was linked to "many dozens" of murders.
Nelson provided targets for pro-British and anti-Catholic loyalist paramilitary groups to assassinate.
Another agent in north Belfast, Mark Haddock, has been linked to 20 murders. Haddock ran one of the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force’s most notorious terror gangs, and was paid at least £79,000 for his efforts.
According to Stevens, his team arrested 210 paramilitary suspects, 207 of whom turned out to be agents or informants of the state.
The police ombudsman is investigating a further 60 murder cases where there are accusations of state involvement, but the investigations have been delayed because police refused to hand over crucial evidence.
It took a court challenge from police ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire to get the relevant intelligence files.
Panorama alleged collusion in the killings of 10 Protestant men in Kingsmill village in 1976, the 1992 shooting of five Catholics in a betting shop on the Ormeau Road in Belfast and the 2001 murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan, among other killings.
An assault rifle used in the Ormeau Road shooting was recovered by police, but when later required for forensic testing, it was reported by police that it had been “disposed of”, along with key interview statements.
Panorama revealed that the weapon has now been found — on display in London’s Imperial War Museum — and has been linked to at least two other unsolved murders.
The show also touched on the 1989 murder of Belfast human rights advocate, solicitor Pat Finucane.
In fact, Finucane was investigating state killings when the British state conspired to kill him. MI5 spread deliberate lies that he was in the IRA and police officers proposed him as a target to paramilitary killers.
Finucane was shot 14 times as he sat down for dinner with his family.
While the British government eventually admitted state collusion in Finucane’s murder, it has stated that no action will be taken against those responsible because it is “too late”, as many of those involved have retired.
Finucane’s son John told the program: “We’re not interested in who pulled the trigger, we’re interested in who pulled the strings”. The family want an independent public inquiry.
Amnesty International has called for the claims aired in the program to be fully investigated, as they follow numerous other credible allegations of widespread collusion between British security forces and paramilitary groups in the north.
Amnesty Northern Ireland program director Patrick Corrigan said: “The breadth and depth of collusion being alleged here is truly disturbing.
“Killing people targeted by the state, using intelligence provided by the state and shooting them with guns provided by the state — if all this is proven, we’re not talking about a security policy we’re talking about a murder policy.
“There must now be a full, independent investigation into the scale of the policy where the police, army and MI5 worked with illegal paramilitary groups, resulting in the deaths of perhaps hundreds of people.
“Without full accountability for past actions, there can be no public confidence in today’s justice mechanisms.”
In her book Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland, former journalist and caseworker for the Pat Finucane Centre, Anne Cadwallader, lays bare the shocking level of collusion between Britain and loyalist terror groups.
Based on 15 years of research, it draws on evidence from police files, giving forensic, ballistic and eyewitness accounts that establish that serving police officers and soldiers colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in dozens of shootings and bombings.
These killings took part on both sides of the Irish border. Of the deaths chronicled, nearly a third were murdered south of the border in the Irish state — 34 people died in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, the single largest loss of life in any one day of the Irish conflict.
It alleges that police officers and soldiers were part of a loyalist gang operating from two farms in South Armagh and Tyrone that was responsible for the deaths of 120 civilians between 1972 and 1976.
Its fully sourced evidence prompted more than 20 families to sue the British government and the Police Service of Northern Ireland — the book is now an official legal exhibit in those lawsuits.
Panorama and Lethal Allies provide ample evidence that the British state was never an “honest broker” in Ireland.
Rather, it prosecuted a decades-long war against a civilian population, using terror groups as its proxies.
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Anne Cadwallader will be touring Australia in late June to promote her book. Dates are below, but check out the Facebook page for more details.
PERTH: Saturday June 20, 2pm. Trades Hall, 80 Beaufort St.
ADELAIDE: Monday June 22, 6.30pm, Irish Club.
SYDNEY: Tuesday June 23, 7.30pm, Gaelic Club, 1/64 Devonshire St, Surry Hills.
MELBOURNE: Friday June 26, 4pm, Celtic Club, Cnr La Trobe and Queen Sts.
BRISBANE: Sunday June 28, 4pm, University of Queensland, Bldg 14, Room 132.
All events are free and open to the public without prior booking.
This speaking tour is jointly endorsed by the Pat Finucane Centre, Cairde Sinn Féin Australia, the Brehon Law Society, the Casement Group Melbourne/Belfast and the Irish National Association.