British state terrorism

Who killed Pat Finucane? The answer to this question has been common knowledge for years. In Belfast, the writing is literally on the wall. Drive down the Lower Ormeau Road and you will see this mural: "Q. Who supplied the gun used to kill Pat Finucane? A. RUC special agent William Stobie. Q. Who shot Pat Finucane? A. RUC special branch agent Ken Barrett. Q. Who was the head of the UDA which killed Pat Finucane? A. RUC special branch agent Tommy Lyttle. Q. Who supplied the intelligence? A. RUC agent Brian Nelson". It was in February 1989 that Pat, a catholic solicitor, whose only crime was to defend Irish republican prisoners, was gunned down by loyalist assassins in front of his wife and kids at the family table. After 14 years, three inquiries, 10,000 interviews and four tons of documents, comprising the biggest criminal inquiry in British history, an interim report on the latest inquiry by metropolitan police chief sir John Stevens has now been published. At a mere 20 pages and summarising more than 3,000 pages of evidence, the document may be a slim volume, but it is explosive. Stevens tells us of "disastrous collusion" between British special forces and protestant paramilitaries; of "unlawful involvement of agents in murder"; and of killings "sanctioned" by the security forces. The gist of his findings is found in this paragraph: "My inquiries have highlighted collusion, ranging from the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, through to the extreme of agents being involved in murder". The reality, as we shall see, amounts to state terrorism by the British security forces. Stevens makes it clear that over long years of investigation he got no help whatsoever from his supposed 'colleagues' in the army and RUC. "From day one my inquiries have been obstructed in its work by the FRU and Special Branch in particular". To them he was evidently nothing short of a 'traitor'. Why? Because his work, left unimpeded, would inevitably produce evidence not just of collusion but of active collaboration between British special services and protestant paramilitaries. Perhaps that explains why, in an act of farcical desperation aimed at destroying incriminating evidence, somebody set fire to his office. Who or what, you might ask, is the FRU? The anodyne name "Force Research Unit" seems to have been used by a covert formation of army intelligence personnel based at headquarters Northern Ireland in Lisburn. Their function was apparently to recruit and run agents (informants) from among the nationalist and protestant paramilitaries. They were evidently a bunch of free-lance, gung-ho, union jack-waving cowboys, notionally under the command and control of superior officers at HQNI. Doubtless, their brass hat bosses, like their counterparts in Whitehall and the government, were content to give a wink and a nod when it came to operational detail. Better not to know too much. As to the Special Branch, we are talking about the intelligence/security section of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the latter now renamed the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Given the fact that this overwhelmingly protestant, loyalist and orange lodge unit was up to its neck in the torture and abuse of republican detainees (remember the Castlereagh barracks, Armagh and other hell holes?), and routinely cooperated in the sectarian murder of catholics by loyalist paramilitaries, small wonder that they wanted to do everything possible to conceal their longstanding links with 'terrorists' who were little short of friends and neighbours. From the point of view of British intelligence, the RUC was fundamentally untrustworthy: they could provide good intelligence when it suited them, but when the chips were down, they would inevitably side with the loyalist paramilitaries, including in a virtual civil war. Hence the necessity of creating units like the FRU to provide a notionally objective and impartial source of intelligence about what was really going on in the protestant community. A closer look at the Finucane case and the personalities involved is the best way to grasp the complex reality of relations between army/RUC officers and loyalist paramilitaries. Let us begin with the case of Nelson himself, who did everyone (especially British military intelligence and the Special Branch) a really good favour by dying of a brain haemorrhage on April 11, aged 55. Nelson was a fanatical, sectarian protestant from the Shankill Road. He joined the Ulster Defence Association in 1975 and was recruited a decade later by the British army as a source within the UDA. As a former soldier with the Black Watch regiment, Nelson knew how to take orders. No doubt the prospect of a free house and car plus £200 a week expenses helped soften any qualms he might have felt about grassing on his mates. Given the fact that the UDA was not exactly overendowed with brains, it did not take long for a piece of scum like Nelson to rise to the top of the organisational pot as "head of intelligence", an ideal conduit through which British agents could pass targeting details of catholics they did not like. It was Nelson, with the help of an intelligence dossier thoughtfully supplied by his FRU handler, who named Pat Finucane as a leading republican target. The gun that killed Pat was supplied by William Stobie, another UDA source working for the RUC. The finger that pressed the trigger was that of Kenny Barrett, another RUC agent who later confessed his crime to his police bosses, but strangely enough, the tape of his confession was 'lost' and there was no prosecution. As to Sammy Lyttle, the West Belfast 'brigadier' of the UDA at the time and on the ruling council of the organisation, it transpires that he too was a paid agent of the RUC special branch. At this point you begin to wonder whether there was any important member of the UDA, or for that matter the Ulster Volunteer Force, who was not actually in the pay of the British state or the RUC. Among the Brits themselves, there were those who could not stomach the sort of 'collusion' which inevitably led to conspiracy and to the violent deaths of innocent catholics like Finucane and dozens of others. We remember Colin Wallace, an army information officer at Lisburn, whose job it was to disseminate lies about these and other murders; and captain Fred Holroyd, a military intelligence officer, who was closely involved in FRU and other covert operations. Both men were thrown out of the army when they tried to tell the truth. Wallace was fitted up for the murder of his best friend and served 10 years of a life sentence before being released on an appeal that found his conviction 'unsafe'. What became of Holroyd, who was written off as a mad man, I do not know. Were it not for the activities of commissioner Stevens, we would have no definitive information whatsoever about the activities of the FRU/RUC agent runners who effectively were the brains behind a significant number of sectarian murders in the province. It was only at Stevens's insistence that Nelson himself was brought to trial, after having been housed comfortably in a 'supergrass' house allotted to him by his friends in the special branch. Thanks to a bit of clever horse trading in the usual open spirit of British 'justice', Nelson pleaded guilty on five charges of conspiracy to murder, in return for having a number of concrete murder charges against him dropped. Believe it or not, the trial took less than a day, and after an emotional tribute paid to Nelson's work by a veiled and anonymous colonel of British intelligence, he got off with just ten years, of which he served less than half, on account of his sterling service to the crown. Thereafter he lived quietly and incognito at taxpayers' expense. Stobie and Lyttle are conveniently dead. Where does the buck stop? Days before Pat Finucane was murdered, home office minister Douglas Hogg told the commons about "a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA". Charity leads us to believe that Hogg, like most other ministers, was merely mouthing what his bureaucrats had set before him. But was not this a form of 'parliamentary' green light, when seen from the HQ of the FRU? Whatever the truth, at least on this occasion neither Alistair Campbell nor whole regiments of witch doctors could put a positive spin on this still relentlessly unfolding fiasco. Damage limitation is all that can be done by the PR forces of the FRU and their friends. What can we expect? That the murders orchestrated by Nelson and his friends were somehow merely the work of "rogue elements" in the army/RUC; that superior army/police officers were blissfully unaware of what was being done by their subordinates. Can we really expect brigadier Gordon Kerr (onetime Nelson's handler in chief among the FRU cowboys) and now her majesty's military attaché to China to answer Stevens's call to court? And what about the dozens, perhaps scores of senior diplomats, officers and civil servants who were complicit in the assassination of innocent catholics? Will they come forward and confess their guilt? No. They will adopt a hedgehog formation and wait, for as long as it takes, until we have lost interest. In the meantime, there is the retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, who will allegedly look at various murders and the whole thing. If he recommends it, there will be the full public inquiry that Pat's wife and family have been calling for over the last 14 years. Stevens is good, but full truth and openness are better. Why the silence hitherto? Because the so-called 'collusion', referred to by Stevens - acquiescence and conscious collaboration in the murder of innocent catholic men, women and children - has extended right to the top of the British establishment. The time for a full and public inquiry is now. Michael Malkin