A superb piece from the Newsletter on the subject of John Miller Andrews, second Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and something of a forgotten figure in Ulster history.
In the 1970’s, Biddy Mulligan‘s pub on High Road, Kilburn, northwest London, was a notorious Irish republican meeting place. The unofficial headquarters of both the Official and Provisional factions of the IRA and a focal point for republicans from all across London. The premises lacked any semblance of class or charm, although that did not seem to deter the clientele, which included not only militant Irish nationalist extremists but also Far-Left activists and a not inconsiderable criminal element. “Biddy’s” was frequented by terrorists, petty criminals, would-be Communist revolutionaries, terrorist sympathisers and political tourists. The collection bucket was passed round on an almost nightly basis, with the donations, or at least most of them, being sent across the Irish Sea to help fund the murderous activities of the Official IRA and PIRA/Sinn Féin. The pub was once described by a local Conservative as being “a festering boil on the face of north London”. Just before Christmas, 1975, that “boil” was lanced in violent and spectacular fashion.
“Lancing the boil”
On the evening of Sunday, 21st December, 1975, a young man entered the premises carrying a small holdall. After a brief altercation with the bar steward, John Constantine, the young man left. Nobody seemed to notice that when he went he no longer had his holdall with him. There were 90 people in the pub at the time and the IRA collection bucket had not long been passed round. It seemed to be business as usual in Biddy Mulligan’s. Then, at shortly before 10 o’clock, the pub was rocked by an explosion. Five people were fairly seriously wounded, although none of the injuries were life threatening, and a number of others suffered minor injuries (the majority of whom refused hospital treatment and quietly slipped away before the police could question them).
The Metropolitan Police later stated that a bomb, containing “about three to five pounds of explosive” had been left in the pub doorway. The Police also said that a phone call had been received by the BBC the previous night, from an individual claiming to represent the Ulster Young Militants, the youth wing of the UFF, calmly stating that the UYM were going to “carry the war against the IRA onto the mainland“. The Provisional republican movement in England were panicked, with Sinn Féin representatives openly expressing the concern that the Kilburn bombing was merely a prelude to a much wider ranging Loyalist bomb campaign against republican targets in England and Scotland. The Provos main concern however, was not the well being of republican activists and sympathisers. Tellingly one Sinn Féin man had spoken openly about how they raised “more than £17,000 a year” in Kilburn, most of that amount almost certainly coming out of Biddy Mulligan’s pub.
The following day landlords of Irish pubs across London and beyond put guards on the door to check people’s bags as they entered. Without the slightest hint of irony locals were said to be “very concerned” that the ‘Troubles’ had spread to Kilburn and told journalists that they now felt under “immense threat”. One might wonder how exactly they felt when they were stuffing pound notes into collection tins for Irish republican murder gangs, or if they ever spared a thought for the innocent victims of those gangs.
In October, 1976, four men appeared at the Old Bailey and were found guilty of carrying out the daring attack. Two young men from north Down received sentences of 14 and 15 years respectively. A 20 year old electrician from Belfast, the alleged bomb maker, got 12 years, and a 40 year old lorry driver, from Cumbernauld, Scotland, who allegedly procured the explosives for the bomb, received 10 years. In sentencing it was said the men were Loyalists who “were determined that the IRA and IRA sympathisers should not meet in the pub without retribution“. The judge said however that, “It should be clearly understood whatever political, religious or social feelings people may have, a crime of vengeance is not allowed“. Such is the lacklustre attitude of the UK establishment towards dens of sedition and terrorism in their own capital.
It seems that the decision to strike at republican targets in England was taken by the Ulster Freedom Fighters in the wake of the events of Saturday, 8th June, 1974, when an estimated 3,000 people lined the streets of Kilburn for the funeral (or rather the first of three funerals) of Provisional IRA member Michael Gaughan. Gaughan, originally from Co. Mayo, Éire, had been living in the Kilburn area for a number of years when, in 1971, his ham-fisted attempts at armed robbery, supposedly on behalf of the OIRA, earned him a seven year prison sentence. Whilst in prison he defected to the Provos and in March, 1974, began a hunger strike that was to last 64 days and ultimately claim his life. He was joined on hunger strike by Hugh Feeney, the “Old Bailey bomber”, Frank Stagg, who along with Catholic priest, (Father) Patrick Fell, had commanded a PIRA unit based in the West Midlands, and Sinn Féin’s very own “medallion man”, Gerry Kelly, at the time better known as “bomber Kelly” for his part in bombing the Old Bailey and the Ministry of Agriculture in Whitehall.
Biddy Mulligan’s pub circa 1975
It would seem, with the benefit of hindsight, that the Ulster Freedom Fighters never had any serious intention of mounting a sustained campaign against republican targets in England. The Kilburn bombing seems to have been a warning, a “shot across the bows” as it were. It seems improbable that, if the UFF really had intended to strike at multiple targets in England and Scotland, that no other such attacks occurred. The capture of the Active Service Unit responsible for the attack on Biddy Mulligan’s was unfortunate, from the UFF’s point of view, but it would not have been at all difficult for them to have dispatched another ASU, or to have recruited one from Loyalists resident on the mainland. It is worth remembering that the UDA maintained, and to some extent still maintains, a “Mainland Brigade”, which is in actuality a number of brigades, with the UDA particularly strong in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Glasgow, the northeast of England, Yorkshire, the Midlands and London.
Undoubtedly the decision not to begin a wholesale bombing campaign in England was the correct one. Whatever the benefits of striking Irish republican targets on the Mainland, they are more than outweighed by the potential detrimental effects such a campaign would have brought. No doubt a Loyalist bomb blitz, regardless of the nature of the targets, would have cost Loyalism much support, or at least grudging respect, from the English populace. In this instance, the decision by the leadership of the Ulster Freedom Fighters to refrain from action was ultimately a prudent one.
The Irish diaspora in England seemed to heed the warning that the UFF had so ruthlessly delivered in London. Collections on behalf of the republican murder gangs became much less frequent and there were no more displays like Michael Gaughan’s funeral. Biddy Mulligan’s continued on into the 1980’s but it’s heyday was most definitely over. Today “Biddy’s”, the once notorious republican mecca, is a bookmakers shop. Few who live in Kilburn even remember the name of the infamous pub that was once bombed by the UFF.
Irish nationalists and republicans would like the world to believe that Eire (the Irish Free State) remained strictly neutral during WWII. They did not. Many in the Dublin government were quietly sympathetic to the Nazis. Some were more overt than others. One incident oft cited by Ulster Loyalists, which illustrates Eire’s pro-Nazi sentiments, is DeValera’s visit to the German Embassy to express his (and by default the Irish governments) condolences in the wake of Hitler’s suicide. Irish nationalists, who seem to be history experts to a man, either deny the incident ever occurred, or seek to downplay it. Every neutral country sent their condolences to Nazi Germany when the Führer blew his brains out they’ll say. But that is a lie. Merely diplomatic protocol they’ll say- a matter of good etiquette. That too is a lie. The most often repeated lie is the one that says ‘Ach sure it was only Dev. It was only one man’. So say the historical amnesiacs of Irish nationalism, but their lies are easily dis-proven.
Two days after Hitler and his consort Eva Braun committed suicide in their Berlin bunker, Irish Taoiseach, Eamon De Valera, who also served as foreign minister, and his aide, Secretary of External Affairs Joseph Walshe, visited the German Embassy in Dublin to sign a book of condolences for the departed Führer . They also met with the top German envoy to Ireland, Eduard Hempel, a committed Nazi . Irish envoys in other nations did likewise, including Leopold Kerney in Spain, who called on the German Embassy in Madrid to express his condolences and lament the loss of Adolf Hitler. Irish President Douglas Hyde also expressed his condolences for the Nazi leader.
And this after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bełżec, Chełmno, Jasenovac, Maly Trostenets, Sobibór and a whole host of other extermination camps. After it had become clear to the world that Nazi Germany (and it’s allies, most notably Croatia) had committed genocide on a huge scale. After the full horror of the ‘Final Solution’ had become all too clear. Other (supposedly) democratic nations did not offer their condolences on Hitler’s death, for to do so would have been shameful in light of the Nazi dictator’s crimes against humanity. Indeed, no other Western European democracies followed De Valera’s example – he found himself in the dubious company of two European fascist dictators, Francisco Franco of Spain and António de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal, in voicing condolences over Hitler’s suicide.
The global media saw it as an expression of pro-Nazi sentiment. An editorial in The New York Times said of De Valera’s visit:
“Considering the character and the record of the man for whose death he was expressing grief, there is obviously something wrong with the neutrality of Mr. de Valera.”
The New York Herald Tribune also blasted De Valera.
“If this is neutrality, it is neutrality gone mad – neutrality carried into a diplomatic jungle – where good and evil alike vanish in the red-tape thickets: where conscience flounders helplessly in slogans of protocol”
Many ordinary Americans also condemned De Valera. A Mrs.Walsh of New York wrote to a local newspaper saying:
“Have you seen the motion pictures of the victims of German concentration camps, de Valera? Have you seen the crematoriums? Have you seen the bodies of little children murdered by Nazi hands? Have you seen the living dead, de Valera? Skin stretched over bone, and too weak to walk?”
Ireland’s neutrality in a war that cost millions of British and Allied lives remains a messy and controversial chapter in European history. But support for neutrality was strong in the country, with many Irish even expressing sympathy for the Germans as an “anti-British” entity. De Valera had already inflamed the British government in 1943 when he sent a note of congratulations to Indian nationalist (and German and Japanese ally) Subhash Chandra Bose following the latter’s declaration of Azad Hind – a “Free India” government-in-exile“, which was basically a puppet regime of Imperial Japan.
David Gray, the U.S. ambassador to Ireland in the 1940s, believed De Valera stayed out of the war on the bet that the Nazis would defeat the Allies. Gray also contended that some top Irish officials were, in fact, colluding with the Third Reich. In addition, in the two years just prior to the outbreak of the war in 1939, Eire refused entreaties to allow German Jewish refugees and other victims of Nazi persecution to settle there. Practicing a policy of “Aryans only” up until the 1960s.
Interestingly, De Valera did not extend the same courtesy to Winston Churchill as he did to Hitler when the British statesman died in January, 1965. In December, 1962, Sir Ian MacLennan, the British ambassador to Ireland, wrote in a secret memorandum to the Commonwealth Relations Office that De Valera would never honour Churchill, still angered by his responsibility in “carving up Ireland” and for criticizing Dublin’s neutrality during the war. De Valera declined an invitation to attend Churchill’s funeral, but deigned to release the following statement: “Sir Winston Churchill was a great Englishman, but we in Ireland had to regard him over a long period as a dangerous adversary.”
These facts are inconvenient to Irish nationalists and republicans. They would rather deny these parts of their history rather than examine them. They would rather be selective with history rather than accurate. Historical revisionism comes naturally to Irish nationalists. It is done almost without thinking. Ireland likes to forget the parts of history that do not fit into the ‘romantic little Ireland’ narrative that has been so carefully crafted over the last hundred years or so. Irish nationalists simply ignore that which doesn’t suit them, they’d rather any wrongdoing was simply forgotten, not just by the Irish but by the rest of Europe as well.
The Early 80s
The early 80s were a turbulent time in Ulster. PIRA/SF continued to target civilian and security force targets alike. The no-warning bombings and sectarian gun attacks continued. Meanwhile, a rejuvenated UDA/UFF was tracking down and killing leading Irish nationalists and republicans. The INLA/IRSP had been hit especially hard by the UFF Active Service Units, losing three of their ‘leading lights’- Miriam Daly, Ronnie Bunting and Noel Lyttle- in the space of just four months in 1980. But it was not only the largest of the Loyalist paramilitary groups that was inflicting serious damage on the Irish republican war machine. The Security Forces too were enjoying some success. Leading republicans had been convicted and imprisoned. PIRA/Sinn Fein, OIRA and INLA/IRSP had been infiltrated by double agents and were riddled with informers. By 1982/83 the number of violent attacks was decreasing and, at least for a short while, it looked as if the RUC and UDR, with the support of the Army, were winning. Some dared to hope that ‘The Troubles’ were drawing to a close. Sadly, such hopes were short lived.
Despite the fact that the volume of attacks had dropped sharply, PIRA/SF still managed to carry out some truly shocking and wicked atrocities. On Monday, the 15th of March, 1982, Alan McCrum, aged just 11, was killed and 35 other civilians wounded when a Provo bomb gang detonated a large device, without warning, in the centre of Banbridge, County Down. A little over a month later the Provos attempted to emulate the awful carnage of ‘Bloody Friday’, though this time on a countrywide scale, when they set off no-warning bombs in towns across Northern Ireland. Wilbert Kennedy (36) and Noel McCulloch (32), were killed by a no-warning bomb in the quiet market town of Magherafelt, Co. Londonderry. Five other civilians were wounded. Meanwhile bombs were detonated in five other towns and cities- Armagh, Ballymena, Belfast, Bessbrook and Londonderry- causing widespread damage to property and injuring a further 8 people.
On Wednesday , the 7th of December, 1983, Edgar Graham, an Ulster Unionist Party Assembly member, was shot dead by a PIRA gang at the Queen’s University of Belfast. Graham was also a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the university. As the earlier murder of the Rev.Roy Bradford had shown, PIRA/Sinn Fein were uninterested in democracy, they couldn’t have cared less about Roy Bradford or Edgar Graham’s constituents, or the electoral mandate those constituents had given the two murdered politicians. For Irish nationalists/republicans it would seem that a democratic mandate only matters when it is given by nationalist/republican voters! Just 10 days after the sectarian murder of Edgar Graham, PIRA/SF once again decided to visit their hatred on the people of England. Three members of the police and three innocent civilians (including a journalist and an American tourist) were killed in a Provo bomb attack on Harrod’s department store, Brompton Road, London. Approximately 90 people were also injured as a result of the blast. Incredibly, PIRA/Sinn Fein later issued a statement claiming that the attack had not been “authorised by the Army Council” and that it “regretted the deaths”. I’m sure the weasel words of the mad bombers were scant comfort to the wounded and the bereaved.
Nothing is Sacred to the Provo Psychopaths
Nothing is Sacred to the Provo Psychopaths, not even the Catholic Church. On Sunday, the 8th of April, 1984, the Travers family had just left St Brigid’s Catholic Church in Derryvolgie Avenue, South Belfast. Tom Travers, a local Magistrate, his wife and daughter, were making their way home after Sunday Mass when they were approached by two PIRA/SF gunmen who opened fire on them without warning. Mary Travers was shot once through the back and her father was shot six times. One gunman brought his gun to point-blank range at her mother’s face and attempted to fire twice, but the gun jammed. Tom Travers survived the merciless attack, his young daughter did not. Mary Travers, a teacher by profession, was just 22 years old. A young woman with her whole life ahead of her, cruelly cut down by unfeeling, inhuman terrorists. Many years later Tom Travers said:
“Mary’s murder was carried out by member of an evil and brutal criminal organisation. Some of her killers were members of the murder machine, self-named Provisional IRA. At least one was a member of political Sinn Fein… May I say that on the day my lovely daughter was murdered her killer tried to murder my darling wife also. At that time Mary lay dying on her mum’s breast, her gentle heart pouring its pure blood on to a dusty street in Belfast. The murderer’s gun, which was pointed at my wife’s head, misfired twice. Another gunman shot me six times. As he prepared to fire the first shot I saw the look of hatred on his face, a face I will never forget.”
After the attack the Provos claimed Tom Travers had been “a legitimate target because of his role in the British judicial system”. They also tried to claim that the bullet which killed the young schoolteacher, Mary Travers, had passed through her father’s body first. A post mortem found she was shot directly in the spine. PIRA/Sinn Fein are not only cowardly, amoral, sneak killers but also liars who would not know the truth if it came up and slapped them in the face. Their pathetic attempts to justify their repugnant actions only added insult to injury for the Travers family, and indeed, for all right-thinking people in Northern Ireland.
The Brighton Bombing
Brighton is a picturesque and somewhat bohemian town on England’s south coast. It features some unique architecture and has a laid back, cosmopolitan atmosphere, possibly because it is the (unofficial) LGBT capital of the United Kingdom. The bustling coastal town is very far removed from the divided, conflict scarred towns and cities of Ulster. Yet not even Brighton could escape the horrors of the Provisional IRA’s blood-drenched terror campaign. On Friday, the 12th of October, 1984, just before 3 o’clock in the morning, a Provo bomb containing around 20lb of Frangex (gelignite), exploded in the bathroom of room 629 of the ‘Grand Hotel’, Brighton. At the time, the hotel was the venue of the Conservative Party’s annual conference. The explosion tore through the building, leaving a gaping hole in the hotel’s façade. Had the building not been a solidly built Victorian structure, it is almost certain that part of the building would have collapsed, killing scores of people.
Five people were killed in the explosion, three of them women. 34 people were injured, with many of them left permanently disabled and/or disfigured. The dead were- Anthony Berry MP (59), Eric Taylor (54), Roberta Wakeham (45), Jeanne Shattock (52) and Muriel McClean (54). The Provo’s intention, so they claimed, was to kill Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her government. One can understand why PIRA/SF would regard the UK government as so-called ‘legitimate targets’, one can even understand the motivation for killing the PM and her Cabinet, after all, for Irish nationalists it is natural to wish to destroy the government of the country that , at least in theory, stands in the way of their aspirations. Why though did PIRA/Sinn Fein decide to target Thatcher and her Cabinet in such a haphazard way? The ‘Grand Hotel ‘ was packed with people that weekend, only a tiny fraction of whom were government ministers. Aside from the ordinary delegates and members of the Tory party, their wives/husbands and children, there were also scores of journalists, TV news crews, dozens of hotel employees and others. Clearly, given their ‘blunderbuss’ tactics, the Provos didn’t care how many innocent people had to die, just as long as they were able to murder a few members of the government and a few Tory grandees.
Today many republicans claim that the Brighton bombing was a “spectacular”. A hammer blow to the British government. A strike at the very heart of the Establishment. It was nothing of the sort. On the 12th of October, 1984, the Provisional IRA tried, and failed, to strike at the UK government in the easiest way possible. Rather than go after individuals, targeting one Cabinet member or another with, for example, an under-car booby-trap bomb or a well placed sniper, they instead chose to strike at the government in the one place, and at the one time of year, when they would all be gathered together (alongside hundreds of others), in a public, non-governmental, and unsecured setting, ie. the Party conference. Disregarding the amount of ‘collateral damage’ such a strike was undoubtedly going to cause, the Provos had no way of knowing which rooms the Prime Minister or government ministers (and their spouses) would be occupying, no way of knowing if they’d even be in their rooms at the time selected for the bomb to go off, no way to avoid causing huge damage to the building, and thus, no way to minimise civilian casualties. Of course, technically, all of those people targeted by the Brighton bombers were civilians, since regardless of the attitude taken by Irish nationalists, Margret Thatcher and her Cabinet colleagues were the democratically elected government of the United Kingdom. They were not Police or Army personnel, they were not volunteer soldiers of the UVF or Ulster Freedom Fighters, they were elected politicians. Like Edgar Graham and the Reverend Roy Bradford, they were democratically elected representatives of the people. No, dear reader, this was no terrorist “spectacular”, plainly speaking, this was PIRA/SF using a large net to catch a lot of fish, in the hope that at least a few would be the fish they wanted! It was the only way the Provo murder gangs were ever going to stand a chance of killing Thatcher or any members of her government.
Collusion: The Murder of Maurice and Cecily Gibson
On the 25th of April, 1987, High Court judge, Lord Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife Cecily were murdered by a PIRA/Sinn Fein roadside bomb as they crossed the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. Murdered as they drove the short stretch of road between leaving their Garda escort and rendezvousing with the RUC officers assigned to accompany them on the rest of their journey home, the incident remains one of the more controversial of ‘The Troubles’, with evidence of Garda collusion prompting a deeply flawed independent review by retired Canadian judge Peter Cory. Lord and Lady Gibson had spent the night of April the 24th/25 th onboard the Liverpool to Dublin ferry. They had been in England on holiday to visit friends and family. Tired but looking forward to getting back to their Co. Down home, the Gibsons drove their blue Ford Escort onto the ferry late that evening and settled down to spend what would be, unbeknownst to them, the last night of their 42-year marriage together.
At 7 o’clock the next morning, the couple were met at Dublin port by two officers from An Garda Síochána , whose job it was to escort the Gibsons up to the Border in an unmarked car. As Lady Gibson, who was driving, was unfamiliar with the streets of Dublin, the two detectives took the lead for the first part of the journey, allowing the Gibsons to pass them as they reached the open road. An hour-and-a-half later, as the two cars reached the Customs post at Dromad, Co.Louth, Lady Gibson pulled over to allow her husband to get out, as he always did after receiving an escort, to thank the officers for their assistance. After shaking hands, the gardai followed the Gibsons right up to the Border before parting company. They watched as the judge and his wife drove across the frontier, seconds later there was an almighty explosion. The detectives spun round to see a column of thick black smoke rising into the sky. Lord and Lady Gibson (aged 74 and 67 respectively) were already dead: killed instantly by a bomb left in a stolen car and detonated by radio control as they drove by. The RUC officers assigned to escort the Gibsons on the Ulster side of the Border, were just outside Newry, minutes from the designated rendezvous point, when the bomb went off.
Eyewitness reports indicated that the stolen blue Ford Cortina that carried the bomb had been left in it’s final destination only 20 minutes before the Gibsons passed by. Lord and Lady Gibson’s travel plans were a closely guarded secret, though somehow the Provo death squad had managed to track them almost by the mile and the minute. Moreover, they had struck at the only point in the couple’s 100-mile journey where they were without a police escort to check the route ahead. In his 1999 work entitled ‘Bandit Country’, author Toby Harden alleged that elements within An Garda Síochána in Dundalk had tipped off the Provisional IRA as to the Gibsons’ precise movements. This assertion was repeated in an article in the Irish News a year later. Both sources also claimed elements within the Dundalk Garda had fed other information to the PIRA/Sinn Fein enabling them to perpetrate a large number of killings in the Border area. It was these allegations, proven to be factual by the Irish government’s ‘Smithwick Tribunal’, that prompted the review by Judge Cory, who was tasked to re-examine all evidence relating to the case and surmise whether there was any basis for a public inquiry into collusion. Cory found “insufficient evidence” to warrant a public inquiry into the incident. But the later ‘Smithwick Tribunal’ found that Cory had been mistaken in questioning the reliability of intelligence that a member of the Garda had helped the Provos in the Gibsons’ murders, and in May this year former Northern Ireland First Minister, Lord Trimble, called for an inquiry into whether there was collusion. If such an inquiry was to take place, if it were to be truly independent, and if the conclusions of such an inquiry were to be arrived at without regard to the “political sensitivities of the nationalist/republican community”, (to quote the NIO), then undoubtedly the murder of this elderly couple would be revealed as yet another case of Garda/PIRA collusion.
Irish nationalists and republicans used to bring up alleged cases of collusion ad nauseam, in recent times though they have been strangely silent about incidents of collusion. Is it coincidence that they have become more reticent about discussing such matters now that collusion between PIRA/SF murder gangs and the organs of the Irish state is a proven, documented, undeniable fact? Did nationalists/republicans really believe that Loyalists were not capable of calling for inquiries into incidents of collusion? Maybe they have started to believe their own vile “all Prods is stupid” propaganda? Or, more plausibly, they did not believe that the British and Irish governments would ever accede to Loyalist/Unionist demands for inquiries. Whatever their thinking was, they must now surely regret propagandising the issue of collusion quite so vociferously. The amusingly simplistic slogan, “collusion is no illusion”, seems to have backfired on Irish nationalism rather spectacularly.
NEXT WEEK: (PART 8) ENNISKILLEN, THE ‘FUN RUN’ BOMBING & THE MURDER OF THE HANNA FAMILY
1980/81: Horror Upon Horror
As the 1970s drew to a close it was obvious to the leadership of the republican ‘movement’ that any military victory was impossible. They had promised their supporters much but delivered nothing. The Westminster government had, unconstitutionally, prorogued Ulster’s parliament but that action was influenced by the undemocratic machinations of Heath’s Tory party, not by the storm of violence ad death unleashed by PIRA/SF. The Provos had promised that 1975 would be “the year of victory”, yet in reality, it was simply another 12 months of senseless barbarity.
As 1980 dawned, few in Northern Ireland dared to hope that the 1980s would be any different to the decade just gone. It would though turn out to be somewhat different. Many people forget that for a period in the mid-Eighties, it looked as if terrorism in Ulster was being defeated. The number of PIRA/SF and INLA/IRSP attacks diminished and it seemed quite possible that the nightmare was, perhaps, drawing to a close. We now know, with the benefit of hindsight, that it wasn’t. The nightmare would continue, and indeed get worse, before it was finally over. The violence picked up again in the latter years of the 80s, marked by some of the most savage acts ever chronicled in the annals of conflict. The 90s, contrary to popular (mis)belief, were much worse. Ulster was taken to the very brink of Civil War on at least a few occasions. Though tentative discussions about peace were already well under way, few in Ulster would have predicted (relative) peace before the end of 1994.
The first years of the 1980s saw PIRA/Sinn Fein carry out some truly heinous acts. The continued slaughter of innocent civilians, the indiscriminate bombing, the ethnic cleansing of Protestants in areas across Northern Ireland, the fire-bombings and the kneecappings. The continued use of weasel words and grandiose language, used by PIRA/Sinn Fein to try to defend the indefensible. Most people in Ulster, at least of those who had not used wealth to insulate themselves from the realities of war, would have described themselves as being fairly hardened to all the killing and destruction by the beginning of 1980, but few could have envisioned the horrors about to be perpetrated by Irish nationalist terror gangs. Few could have imagined the depths to which the Irish republican thugs would stoop.
The first months of the decade saw much terror and death in Northern Ireland. On the 17th of January, three civilians were murdered when PIRA/SF detonated a bomb aboard a packed Lisburn-Belfast commuter train. Those civilians, Mark Cochrane (17), Abayoni Max Olorenda (35) and Kevin Delaney (26), had no chance of escape. Yet again, the Provo murder gangs had deliberately chosen to visit mass slaughter on the civilian population. That republican apologists even attempt to deny PIRA/SF’s deliberate targeting of civilians is pushing credibility to it’s very limits. The facts speak for themselves. On the 14th of May, 1980, PIRA/Sinn Fein killed Roy Hamilton (22) in an overtly sectarian gun attack on a building site in the Ballymagroarty area of Londonderry. The construction workers on site were almost all Protestants, a fact soon learned by the local Provo death squad, who decided that they could not have such ‘Heretics’ in their midst. Two gunmen were dispatched to the site and as the Protestant workers sat down to their morning tea-break they were fired upon. Roy Hamilton, a young man who was just out to do an honest days work, was shot and killed. Three of his workmates were wounded. On the 15th of August, Ulster was stunned by a cold-blooded and senseless double murder. Two Protestant civilians, William Younger (87) and his daughter, Letitia Younger (57), were found murdered in their home in the Ligoniel area of North Belfast. They had been repeatedly stabbed before being shot. No group ever claimed responsibility for the vile double killing (unsurprisingly). There was some speculation, no doubt carefully crafted within the Irish nationalist community, that the deaths of William and Letitia Younger were not ‘Conflict related’. Quite frankly I think that is nonsense. There is evidence which points to this brutal act having been the work of PIRA/Sinn Fein.
The day after the Youngers were brutally slain inside their home another civilian, Colette Meek (47) was murdered standing outside her own front door. Mrs Meek was standing in the driveway of her at home at Alliance Avenue in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast when a PIRA/SF gang opened fire on a nearby Police patrol. The Provo gunmen, clearly not the best of marksmen, shot and killed the mother of four “by accident”. No RUC Officers were wounded in the bungled attack which left Colette Meek’s children without a mother.
“The IRA claimed responsibility. They said they were sorry and that she wasn’t their intended target. It makes me angry…I never got to know my mummy. I was deprived of her when I was growing up. She was the best in the world; she was my mummy.” – Mrs Meek’s daughter (from ‘Ardoyne – The Untold Truth’)
Abduction and Torture
On Sunday, the 31st of August, 1980, Wallace Allen (49), an RUC Reservist and farmer, was abducted by the Provisional IRA from the cab of the milk lorry he was driving, near Newtownhamilton, Co. Armagh. His mortal remains were found nearby on the 12th of September. He had been tortured before being shot in the head. What suffering the poor man must have known in those 12 days PIRA/SF kept him captive. What agonies must have been inflicted on him?. This was the Provo’s ethnic cleansing of Protestants in Border areas in brutal action. Wallace Allen was given as gruesome and as violent a death as possible, to serve as a warning to other Protestants in the area (the few who had dared remain). The Provo’s message was as simple as it was chilling- “Get out or this will happen to you or one of your family”. PIRA apologists will shriek that Wallace Allen was murdered because he was a member of the RUC Reserve, but that is not the real reason he was killed. He was killed because he was a ‘stubborn Prod’ who not leave the place he called home. He was tortured for almost a fortnight before being killed as a warning to other Protestants in South Armagh.
Not content with abducting, torturing and murdering one Protestant in the area, the Provo psychopaths decided to slake their thirst for blood by abducting, torturing and murdering another Protestant man. This time their victim was Ross Hearst (56). On evening of the 4th of September, Mr Hearst had been visiting friend across the Border in Co. Monaghan in the Irish Republic when he was kidnapped by a PIRA/SF murder gang (almost certainly acting in collusion with local members of An Garda Síochána). His body was found several hours later, at Wards Cross near Middletown in South Armagh. Like Wallace Allen, he had been tortured before being shot in the head. Thankfully the duration of his suffering was much shorter than that of Wallace Allen.
At the start of December, the Provos murdered another housewife. This time their victim was Heather Pollock (53), from Strabane, who was struck by gunfire in her own home after yet another botched PIRA/Sinn Fein gun attack on the RUC. A mobile patrol had been passing through the area when a Provo sniper opened up on them. Rather than hitting his intended target though, the incompetent republican thug shot and fatally wounded Heather Pollock. She died in hospital two days after Christmas. Sinn Fein made a stomach churning statement, absolving their terrorist wing of responsibility and spewing out the usual garbage about “intended targets” and how Mrs Pollock’s murder was a “mistake”.
On New Year’s Day, 1981, the Provos tried their old trick of making someone ‘disappear’. Their unfortunate victim was Eugene Simons (27), from Castlewellan, Co. Down. He was never officially listed as one of ‘The Disappeared’ because, purely by chance, his body was found in a desolate bog, near Knockbridge, Co. Louth, in the Irish Republic, in May, 1984. Eugene Simons had lain in an unmarked, shallow grave for over three years. His callous killers hadn’t even the basic human decency to allow his family to give him a proper burial. Why PIRA/Sinn Fein murdered Mr Simons is not known. Perhaps he was a suspected informer. Perhaps he once had a conversation with a soldier. It is more likely though that he was killed (‘disappeared’) because he had insulted or disrespected some local Provo godfather. PIRA/SF, like the Mafia, don’t like to be shown up as the petty thugs and bully boys that they really are!
On Wednesday, the 21st of January, 1981, the Provos once again shocked the civilised world with their barbarism and cruelty. That night an armed gang of ten Irish nationalist terrorists crossed the Border, hijacked two vehicles and went to Tynan Abbey, the isolated mansion home of Sir Norman Stronge (86) and his son James Stronge (48), located near Middletown in South Armagh. The Provo gang murdered the two men. Shooting them dead in their own home. They then bombed the historic building before making their escape. Following the brutal double murder, the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility, stating that it was a reprisal for recent attacks by Loyalists on republican activists (so much for PIRA/SF not reacting to Loyalist violence!). Over the previous six weeks, four leading Irish republicans had been killed by the UFF. Just a few days earlier, embittered Irish nationalist militant Bernadette McAliskey and her husband, a senior member of PIRA, had been badly wounded. It seems that PIRA/SF felt that murdering an 86 year old man and his son would somehow ‘even the score’ with the Ulster Freedom Fighters, who were targeting and killing the republican leadership, seemingly at will.
The Murder of Joanne Mathers
Few incidents from Ulster’s dark past provokes as much disgust, as much horror, as the sickening murder of Joanne Mathers, a young wife and mother, cruelly cut down in her prime. Joanne Mathers was just 29-years-old when on the 7th of April, 1981, a cowardly PIRA gunman shot her dead on the doorstep of a Gobnascale home whilst she chatted to the man who lived there. Mrs Mathers was the mother of a toddler and was collecting census forms when she was ruthlessly killed. As Mrs Mathers casually chatted to the householder, a masked man dashed forward, snatched the clipboard she was holding with one hand, placed a gun to her neck with his other hand and fired. Mrs Mathers cried out and ran past the householder into his home. The man, to his credit, slammed a glass panelled door in the hallway shut in an attempt to stop the killer following, but the fanatical gunman kept coming, smashed through the glass door and as Joanne Mathers lay dying on the ground, took the rest of the census forms. He then made his escape whilst brandishing the murder weapon in the air as a deterrent against anyone attempting to apprehend him. Sinn Fein had issued a laughable diktat that no-one in the Irish nationalist/republican community was to complete or return their census forms, in a “demonstration of love and support for the Hunger Strikers”, but if that was the excuse for the murder of Joanne Mathers, why murder the young woman collecting the forms? Why not, as PIRA/SF had done so many times before, simply ‘make an example’ of someone in their own community who they knew disobeyed them and filled in the census forms? The answer is patently obvious. Joanne Mathers was killed because she was a Protestant. Because of the republican organised boycott of the census, anyone out collecting census forms was almost guaranteed to have been a Protestant. Going against PIRA/Sinn Fein orders by filling out one’s census forms was one thing, openly defying them by taking a job collecting census forms was quite another, therefore, those going around the doors collecting the forms were bound to be from the Protestant community. Joanne Mathers was murdered because of her perceived religious affiliation.
Former RUC Special Branch agent Raymond Gilmour lays responsibility for Mrs Mather’s death squarely at the feet of Martin McGuinness. In a revised edition of his bestselling book ‘What Price The Truth’, Gilmour states:
“Nothing, and I mean nothing, happened in Derry without the say so and nod from Martin McGuinness. He was top of the pile. There was no one higher up the ladder than him. McGuinness was the power behind the throne in Derry. Everything had to be cleared through McGuinness first. So I can say with absolute certainty that McGuinness gave the order to kill Mrs Mathers.’’
Raymond Gilmour was in a position to know. Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, has much innocent blood on his hands, would any Loyalist be surprised to learn that he gave the order for a young wife and mother to be murdered?
Desmond and Eric Guiney
On the 5th of May, 1981, PIRA gunman and firebomber, Bobby Sands, died in Long Kesh. Sands had been on hunger strike for 66 days. When news of Sands’ death broke, the Irish nationalist/republican community erupted (this is the same community who, it is claimed, never supported the Provisional IRA!). There was widespread rioting, disorder and destruction of property. Eric Guiney (45) a local milkman, and his son Desmond Guiney (14), both Protestant civilians, were driving along the New Lodge Road in North Belfast. When they got to the junction of the Antrim Road they came under sustained attack from Irish nationalist stone throwers. Eric Guiney had his window down and was struck on the head by one the missiles thrown by the baying republican mob. Their little milk lorry crashed into a lamp-post and Desmond went through the windscreen. When the ambulance and fire brigade arrived to help the injured man and his son, they too came under attack from the stone throwing thugs. Eric and Desmond were taken to the Mater Hospital, where both were sent immediately to the Intensive Care ward.
Desmond Guiney died of his injuries three days later. His mother was with him when he finally succumbed to his horrific injuries. His funeral was attended by thousands of people, including his traumatised school friends. Eric Guiney never regained consciousness after the crash and was not even aware of his son’s death. He died on the 13th of May. Many Irish republican sympathisers laud Bobby Sands as some sort of hero, but how many such people even know the names- Desmond and Eric Guiney? How many remember the ‘New Lodge Milkman’ and his young son, murdered by a republican mob enraged because one of their Provo poster-boys had starved himself to death in prison?
Throughout the rest of 1981, PIRA/Sinn Fein took many more lives. As more Hunger Strikers died the republican ‘movement’ became ever more enraged and blood thirsty. On the 21st of July, John Hazlett (43), a Protestant builder, was shot dead by a Provo murder gang as he renovated premises at Bank Square, Maghera, Co. Londonderry. On the 11th of August, another Protestant civilian, Charles Johnston (43), was shot by a PIRA/SF gunman, riding pillion on a motorcycle, in a ‘drive-by’ type killing in Belfast. On the 8th of November, 1981, Trevor Foster (17), was killed by a Provo booby-trap bomb outside his parent’s home in Co. Armagh. Two days later, Charles Neville (56), was murdered by a Provo gun gang as he left his workplace in Loughgall, Co. Armagh. The most high profile of this series of sectarian murders took place in Belfast on the 14th of November, when once again, the Provisional IRA would demonstrate their deep rooted hatred for anything and anyone Protestant, Loyalist or Unionist.
Rev Robert Bradford was a Methodist minister and UUP MP for South Belfast. He was conducting a constituency surgery in Finaghy, Belfast, when shortly before 11.30am on Saturday, November 14, 1981, three armed PIRA members carrying ladders and dressed in painters’ boilersuits arrived at the community centre at Benmore Drive, which Rev. Bradford was using to meet constituents and hear their concerns. At first their arrival did not arouse suspicion; there was ongoing work at the centre. One of the gang members, carrying a sub-machine-gun, took up position at the front door. One of his accomplices shouted “freeze” before opening fire on the caretaker, 29-year-old Kenneth Campbell, who was returning to the centre after a break at his nearby home. He died at the scene. While one of the nationalist terrorists pinned an RUC bodyguard to the ground at gunpoint, another gunman quickly turned to Reverend Bradford, the gunman coldly opened fire, shooting him in the eye, chest, neck and ear. The 40-year-old father-of-one died instantly. When Rev. Bradford and Mr Campbell were shot, children at a kids’ disco in the community centre witnessed the horrific murders. A 15-year-old DJ described how he threw a chair at one of the killers while shouting at other children to dive for cover. “The gunmen pushed the children out of the way as they made their way out of the building,” he added. An 11-year-old told reporters afterwards: “They shot the Rev. Bradford about six times. We were quite close by. The shots were very loud.” Provo killer gangs care little for the fate of bystanders, even children.
The Rev. Bradford had become a Methodist minister when he was just 22, turning his back on a career as a professional footballer with Sheffield Wednesday FC. He joined the UUP when he served as a minister in the Loyalist enclave of Suffolk in West Belfast and was elected MP for South Belfast in 1974. He was an outspoken critic of PIRA/Sinn Fein and had demanded the reintroduction of hanging for terrorist killers. Rev. Bradford’s widow, Norah, was 33 at the time of the killing. They had one daughter, Claire. Speaking after the murder, she told reporters:
“They have tried several times at the advice centre. They came at least two times before and they were caught out watching the advice centre, but he would not give it up just for them. He knew it would be the most likely place for them to get him. He never feared he would be attacked. He felt it was a possibility. He did not fear it.”
The murder of a Methodist minister should be ample evidence of the deeply sectarian nature of PIRA/Sinn Fein. What would have happened I wonder, if at any point in ‘The Troubles’, Loyalists had killed a Roman Catholic priest? Even a priest like James Chesney, an active PIRA terrorist who had a hand in the 1972 Claudy bombing?. Or his un-named confederate, also a Catholic priest, also involved in the Claudy bombing, who fled to New York in fear of his life?. What reaction would there have been in such a hypothetical scenario? One can only imagine the furious uproar in the media, the hysterical hand wringing from certain, dubious, Unionists (so-called Unionists to be more accurate), the crocodile tears of the Irish nationalist/republican leadership. Rev. Roy Bradford was not a Roman Catholic priest though. He was ‘just an auld Prod’. Therefore, in the eyes of our controlled media, his life had little value. In the wake of his murder (and that of Kenneth Campbell), there wasn’t much handwringing from the Irish nationalist community. No calls for the killers to be cast out of their midst. One is left to speculate why?
When Irish nationalists deny that PIRA/SF carried out overtly sectarian murders, or when they deny that “da RA” deliberately targeted civilians, they are vomiting out a carefully crafted lie. Not just a lie, but a snide, sneering, disgusting insult. An insult to hundreds of dead innocents. An insult to those who dared take a stand against the loathsome bigots of PIRA/Sinn Fein. This lie, is not repeated out of ignorance, even the most cursory glance at the historical record would be enough to acquaint anyone with the real facts of the matter, rather it is repeated because of pure, raw, visceral hatred. Sectarian hatred. When some republican bigot attempts to assert that the Provo death squads were non-sectarian, or that they did not set out to deliberately murder civilians, they are mocking you. They are insulting you. They may as well be spitting in your face, and they know it! You see, Irish nationalists don’t care how many innocent people died at the hands of PIRA/SF. In their heart of hearts they don’t give a damn. That some nationalists publicly condemn the actions of the Provos is merely a matter of expediency. Irish nationalism is incapable of reform. It is irredeemable. Just like Nazism, Stalinism or Ba’athism.
Don’t be fooled by the saccharin sweet smiles, the politically correct language or the sharp suits. PIRA/Sinn Fein have no remorse for the murder and mayhem they inflicted on this society for 30 years. In fact, far from being remorseful or showing any kind of contrition, they revel in their past misdeeds. They gloat about the number of Protestants their murder-machine cut down. They praise and adulate their ‘fallen comrades’, men like Thomas Begley, sectarian mass-murderer, sent out by Provo godfathers to kill and maim as many Shankill Road residents as possible. Sadly for them though, there are those of us on the Loyalist side who do not forget and who are not easily fooled (or bought!). We know our enemy. We remember their evil deeds. To quote the motto of a certain secret intelligence agency- “We Do Not Forgive. We Do Not Forget”
NEXT WEEK: PART 7
In the first part of this article I examined the inflated claims of Irish nationalists & republicans concerning alleged collusion between militant Loyalists & the British state. There is however another side of collusion, one which is beginning to be exposed. Despite not recognising the legitimacy of the “partitionist 26 county state”, otherwise known as the Irish republic, republicans have, throughout the history of ‘The Troubles’, colluded with & accepted aid from the organs of that state. Irish nationalism is demonstrably immoral. That nationalists would cast aside their principles in order to advance their aims, is not in the least surprising. What is more surprising, indeed shocking, is that a supposedly modern, democratic, European nation state would sponsor terrorism against their closest neighbour. What is also shocking is the way in which this collusion between the Irish state & the crazed fanatics of PIRA, INLA etc has been covered up. That cover up is thankfully now being exposed. Loyalists & Unionists, indeed anyone interested in truth & transparency, need to ensure that that exposure continues.
HOW THE IRISH GOVERNMENT HELPED CREATE THE PROVOS
In October 1969, a meeting of ‘Northern Citizen Defence Committees’, which had been set up to ‘defend’ republican areas & which included senior IRA members, was held in Bailieboro, Co. Cavan, with Irish army intelligence officer Cpt. James Kelly in attendance. The meeting was told that £50,000 (sterling) would be made available, from the Irish government to buy weapons “for defence of Irish nationalist areas”. Later, Irish Minister of Finance, Charlie Haughey, held meetings with Cathal Goulding, so-called ‘Chief of Staff’ of the emerging (though as yet unnamed) Provisional IRA. Minister for Justice, Micheál Ó Móráin, reported one of these meetings to the Irish Cabinet, but Haughey dismissed it as a mere “chance encounter” & no further action was taken. Meanwhile, Neil Blaney, Minister for Agriculture & Fisheries, made plans with Cpt.Kelly to import weapons from continental Europe, with Haughey providing the money for the purchase & also arranging customs clearance for the guns. By late April 1970, An Garda Síochána Special Branch were aware of the plot & informed Taoiseach Jack Lynch. However, Lynch took no action until the leader of the opposition, Liam Cosgrave, became aware of the smuggling scheme & pressed the Prime Minister to take action. Haughey & Blaney were sacked by Lynch on the 6th of May when they refused to resign. Kevin Boland, Minister for Social Welfare, resigned from the government in protest at the sackings as he was adamant (as were the accused) that Lynch & most of the Cabinet, in particular Jim Gibbons, then Minister for Defence, knew about the plan to import guns with which to arm the Provo death squads, all along. Minister for Justice, Micheál Ó Móráin, who was in hospital at the time, was asked to resign on the 4th of May. He later claimed that he had in fact informed Lynch of the individuals involved weeks before.
On Friday, 28th May 1970, Haughey & Blaney went on trial in Dublin, together with Captain James Kelly, a Belfast republican leader named John Kelly & Belgian businessman & fugitive Nazi Albert Luykx, who had allegedly agreed to use his contacts in West Germany to acquire the weapons that would be sent to the PIRA death squads in NI. All charges against Blaney were controversially dropped in the District Court on the 2nd of July 1970 & as a result he was not tried. Following a second trial the other four accused were cleared on the 23rd of October. At the trial there was a direct contradiction of evidence regarding the sanctioning of the imports between Haughey & chief prosecution witness, Jim Gibbons, Minister for Defence at the time of the attempted gunrunning. Haughey admitted arranging customs clearance for the shipment, but claimed in his defence that he did not know it consisted of weapons. This directly contradicted the evidence of Gibbons & Peter Berry that Haughey was fully aware of all the details of the conspiracy. It also contradicted the stories of his co-defendants, who admitted that they had tried to import weapons for the Provos, but maintained that the shipment had been legally authorised by the Irish government! During the trial, the judge remarked that either Haughey or Gibbons had to be committing perjury. Sadly though, due to the efficient cover up of these events by the Dublin government, we will probably never know the truth. Was the proposed arms shipment sanctioned at the highest level? Were other shipments of guns & explosives successfully imported & turned over to the Irish government’s Provo allies? How much Irish government money found it’s way into PIRA/SF bank accounts? One can only imagine the uproar & the outrage amongst republicans if this affair had involved the UK government channeling money to, or attempting to import arms on behalf of, the UDA or UVF.
THE MURDER OF RICHARD FALLON
In April, 1970, Garda Richard Fallon, 44, was shot dead as he & another garda chased armed raiders who had just robbed the Royal Bank of Ireland on Arran Quay, Dublin. The robbery & subsequent murder were widely believed to have been the work of a small Irish nationalist terror gang, styling themselves Saor Éire . One might think that no stone would have been left unturned to uncover the killers of a police officer, especially when he had three brothers who were also Gardai. But The investigation was botched from the very start. No effort was made to cordon off the crime scene. Children found spent cartridges at the scene & handed them to the gardaí. Shockingly though, the investigation may well have been deliberately sabotaged by senior members of the Dublin government. Gerry L’Estrange TD told the Dáil on the 4th of November, 1971 that “one of the men who murdered Garda Fallon was brought down to Greenore ferryboat in a State car”. He did not name the minister responsible in the Dáil, but gardaí were convinced it was Neil Blaney. On the 29th of July, 1970, Blaney told the Dáil “I would query how active these forces [the Garda] have been in apprehending the murderers of Dick Fallon? The murderer was witnessed by some members of these forces & yet the people involved in the murder have escaped the net.” It seems that having had his driver, a garda now dead, help one of the wanted men to escape, he was now taunting the police.
Des O’Malley, Minister for Justice when Blaney made his reprehensible statement, told the Dáil in July 2001 that “there is some reason to believe Garda Fallon may have been murdered in April 1970 with a weapon which had been part of earlier illegal arms shipments into this State. There is also reason to suppose that some senior gardaí suspected that a prominent politician was fully aware of this earlier importation and had turned a blind eye to it.” Investigators believed that Pádraig “Jock” Haughey had smuggled a consignment of pistols in through Dublin Airport the previous September. Jock Haughey, was the brother of the infamous Charlie Haughey, who was in charge of Customs at the time. Another Irish political dynasty, the Aherns, were also implicated, with one of those arrested for questioning on suspicion of possibly harbouring the raiders being Con Ahern, the father of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
Thirty years after his father’s murder, Richard Fallon’s son, Finian, went in search of the files relating to the murder, but they were withheld. He later told an RTE interviewer that “the Government, or elements within the Fianna Fáil Government of the day, were embarked on a common endeavour with subversives to supply arms to the North for whatever reason, & that one of the guns made its way into the hands of the gang, or members of the gang, called Saor Éire, who killed my father, & in the aftermath of that I believe that the Government had to cover up those circumstances.” A damning indictment indeed.
SMITHWICK & BEYOND
On Monday, 20th of March, 1989, a Provo murder gang killed two senior RUC officers, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen & Superintendent Bob Buchanan. The 2 were returning from a cross-border security conference in Dundalk, Co. Louth, in the Irish Republic, when Buchanan’s car (a red Vauxhall Cavalier) was flagged-down & fired upon by six PIRA gunmen. Buchanan was killed outright whilst Breen, suffering serious gunshot wounds, was deliberately shot in the back of the head as he tried to crawl out of the vehicle. They were the highest-ranking RUC officers to be killed during ‘The Troubles’. The Smithwick Tribunal, a judicial inquiry into the killings which opened in Dublin in June 2011, published its final report in December 2013. In the report Judge Peter Smithwick stated that he was satisfied there was collusion in the killings & that somebody inside Dundalk Garda station had passed on information to the Provos regarding the presence of the two RUC men. Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore responded to the publication saying:
“Chief Superintendent Harry Breen & Superintendent Robert Buchanan of the RUC were murdered by the IRA on 20 March 1989 as they returned home from a meeting in Dundalk Garda Station. For years we have sought to get to the truth about their deaths. Today we must acknowledge & confront the central grave finding of the Smithwick Tribunal Report, that there was collusion with the IRA from within An Garda Síochána in the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen & Superintendent Robert Buchanan. I am appalled & saddened by this finding; it is a matter of grave public concern. On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I apologise without reservation to the Breen & Buchanan families for any failings identified in the report on the part of the State or any of its agencies”
Collusion between the Irish state (or agencies thereof) & Irish nationalist terrorist gangs had been proven, at least in one case, but there are many other cases of alleged collusion between republican killers & representatives of the Irish state.
Other high-profile cases of alleged collusion include the murder of Lord Justice Maurice Gibson & his wife Cecily in an PIRA bomb at Killeen, Co Down, 1987; Co. Louth farmer, Tom Oliver, who was murdered by the Provos in 1991 for allegedly being an ‘informer’; the murder of electrical contractor Terence McKeever, who worked in RUC stations & was brutally tortured & killed by a Provo gang in June 1986 in South Armagh. The deaths of four RUC officers- William Wilson, 28, Stephen Rodgers, 19, David Baird, 22, & Tracy Doak, 21, in the bombing of a Brink’s-Mat van in 1985 moments after the RUC had taken over escort duty from the gardai. The killing of businessman John “Big Note” McAnulty who was abducted by the Provos from a border pub in July 1989, tortured & murdered. There was also the sickening ‘mistaken identity’ murder of Robert Hanna, his wife Maureen & their seven-year-old son David in a bomb at Killeen, Newry, as they made their way home after a family holiday to Disneyland, Florida, in July of 1988. In a callous attempt to excuse the murder of an entire young family, PIRA/SF said it meant to kill Judge Eoin Higgins but had slaughtered the Hanna family “by accident”.
Ian Sproule was 23 years old & lived with his parents at their home on the Lisleen Rd, just outside Killen, near Castlederg, Co. Tyrone. Ian was a joiner by trade & spent a number of years working for his father who was a builder. He left Ulster
for a short time to take up a job in England but returned home in 1991 & was again working in the family business. Ian was an avid Everton supporter, & was learning to play the guitar. On the night of Friday, the 12th of April, 1991, Ian attended a birthday party in Castlederg. He returned home around 1 am in the morning. As he parked his car in the street outside the family home, three republican terrorists, who were lying in wait, opened fire on him from close range. Ian died instantly. Follow-up searches of nearby fields produced no evidence & the security forces made no arrests. After Ian’s murder, PIRA/SF claimed their victim had been a member of the UVF, in a bid to distract media attention away from what was, in reality, another sectarian assassination of a young Protestant civilian.
In the week after Mr. Sproule’s murder the Provos tried further to ‘justify’ this latest sickening sectarian murder. A masked man, claiming to be from PIRA/Sinn Fein, passed papers to a reporter from the ‘Derry Journal’. The papers included copies of Garda security files alleging Mr. Sproule was a suspected member of the UVF, wanted in Éire for questioning in relation to a firebomb attack in Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, in 1987 (an attack that was the work of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, not the UVF) In any event, Ian Sproule had never been charged with, nor found guilty of any offence. He was an innocent man. The Garda Commissioner at the time ordered an investigation into how confidential files belonging to his police service were passed onto terrorists – an irrefutable act of collusion between members of the Irish republic’s police & PIRA/Sinn Fein. Mr. Sproule’s family was never advised of the outcome of that investigation, although it was referred to in the Smithwick tribunal in 2012 when an RUC witness (‘Witness 68’) testified that “beyond doubt that there was a leak from the Gardaí to the IRA” in relation to the Garda security document containing Ian Sproule’s details. Today, this disgusting act of collusion remains uninvestigated & largely forgotten. Ian Sproule’s family deserve to know the truth. They deserve to know, as do we all, who sanctioned such acts of collusion? Who was directing the Irish nationalist killer gangs that stalked the border regions of Northern Ireland for over 30 years? Why did the Gardai make false allegations against Mr. Sproule? And who among them gave PIRA/SF documents containing those heinous slurs? Surely now, nearly 25 years on, it’s time the Sproule family were told the truth.
Whilst Irish nationalist/republican propagandists repeat their lies, myths & half-truths about alleged collusion between the NI Security Forces & Ulster Loyalist militias, the issue of actual, proven collusion between republican death squads & the Irish state, in particular An Garda Síochána, goes undiscussed, unmentioned & largely forgotten. That is a travesty. The Unionist/Loyalist community suffered at the hands of (Irish) state sponsored terrorist groups. Innocent people, men, women & children, were murdered by blood thirsty fanatics, acting in collusion with (at various times) the Irish government, the police force of that state & it’s army. The truth must be told. The victims of PIRA/Irish state collusion deserve to be told the truth. The international community also needs to know that PIRA/SF & other Irish nationalist murder gangs, were state sponsored. There is blood on the hands of successive Dublin governments. Time that that was acknowledged. Loyalists will not allow Irish nationalists/republicans to whitewash the history of the Conflict any longer. We absolutely cannot, will not rest until the truth comes out, until justice is done & until the suffering, hurt & trauma inflicted on our community is recognised. For if it is not, if the demonisation of our community continues, if we do not see any prospect for truth & justice, then it will not be mere recognition that Loyalists seek, it will be retribution!
If one were to believe the historical revisionism of Irish nationalists, one would come to the conclusion that Loyalist paramilitary groups were armed, trained, financed, directed & controlled by the British state. That is patently untrue. It is a spurious myth that is easily disproven. The Irish nationalist myth makers do not stop there however, because they would also have the world believe that despite such external aid, that Loyalism was incapable of taking the war to their enemies & that republican groups, such as the Provisional IRA, received no outside aid from any source, nor at any time colluded with any third party. The motivation for such irresolute lies is not difficult to understand. Irish nationalism, especially the more extreme varieties, likes to portray the Northern Ireland conflict in a very simple, black & white, way. In the Irish nationalist/republican narrative it is always simply a matter of ‘native Irish gael’ versus the ‘evil Brit occupier’. Loyalists & Unionists do not figure in this fable because republicanism has always insisted that Loyalism & Unionism doesn’t count. Indeed, many Irish nationalists still cling to the ludicrous notion that in the event of a ‘united Ireland’, NI’s pro-Union population will simply throw up their arms, realise the error of their ways & somehow become enthusiastic little Irish men & women, virtually overnight! To concede the fact that Loyalist groups were effective & sophisticated, to concede the fact that they were not controlled, nor armed, trained or funded, by the British state, means by default, conceding that Loyalism was/is a major player within Northern Ireland, undermines some fairly basic republican ideological tenets & complicates the simplistic ‘native vs occupier’ narrative so oft repeated by organisations like INLA/IRSP, PSF & now the multitudinous ‘dissident’ groups which seem to be popping up like mushrooms. Don’t just take my word for it though. Let’s examine the facts, then you can decide for yourself
“TIS WELL THAT WAR IS SO TERRIBLE…”
Those Irish nationalists & republicans that uncritically digest the propaganda spoon-fed to them by their socio-political leaders, often demonstrate their pitiful knowledge of ‘The Troubles’ by alleging that the UVF & Ulster Freedom Fighters killed only a mere handful of active republicans during the long years of conflict. It’s a claim so imbecilic that I usually deem it unworthy of reply. In the interests of historical accuracy however, I will quickly expose this pernicious lie (whilst trying not to laugh)
It is claimed that Loyalist groups only ever managed to kill “a handful” of republicans, others claim they killed only 40 republicans throughout the entire conflict (& often cite the deeply flawed CAIN website to back this up) So let’s look at the facts-
Off the top of my head I can name, err, probably ten or twelve very senior republicans killed by the UVF or UFF. But let’s go back to the beginning, to the start of the erroneously titled ‘Troubles’. In August, 1969, Gerard McCauley, an IRA gunman (this of course is prior to the Official/Provisional split, hence McCauley is classified simply as ‘IRA’) was shot dead by a Loyalist sniper during a gunbattle in the Bombay Street area, off the Falls Road in west Belfast. During 1971 & 72 Loyalists killed another five republican terrorists/paramilitaries. Four members of the Provisional IRA & one member of the paramilitary Catholic Ex-Servicemen’s Association, which is now almost completely forgotten. The CEA was an Irish nationalist organisation set up in 1971, with the stated aim of “protecting Catholic areas”. It’s founding member was Phil Curran who, in common with other members, had previous military training. The CEA was paramilitary in nature. At its most active, in 1972, it had a claimed membership of 8,000. There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that the CEA was also extensively involved in training both major factions of the IRA (Official & Provisional) at that time, & that some CEA members actively engaged in ‘offensive actions’ against the Loyalist/Unionist community (despite their claim to be merely ‘defending’ Catholic neighbourhoods) with the CEA accused of carrying out bomb & gun attacks which were later claimed to be the work of either the OIRA or PIRA. In 1973 Loyalists killed another four Irish nationalist/republican ‘footsoldiers’, 2 members of PIRA/SF, one Official IRA man & one senior CEA member. In 1974 another four, 2 PIRA/SF, 1 OIRA & 1 CEA. In 1975 & 1976 ten more republicans, of all ranks, were killed by the UFF, UVF & RHC, including senior PSF activist Colm Mulgrew & PSF Vice-President Máire Drumm, shot dead in a joint UFF/UVF operation as she recovered from a minor operation in the Mater Hospital in Belfast. Six more republicans, including OIRA ‘Chief of Staff’, Joe McKee, were killed by Loyalist groups in the last years of the 1970s, bringing to 30 the total number killed between 1969 & 1979. There are of course other dubious or contested instances, where it cannot be proven conclusively that deceased individual was, as claimed, a member of OIRA, PIRA, CEA, INLA etc, but where there is some evidence to support such claims. Of course it was republican policy not to ‘claim’ members who had meet a violent death at the hands of the UVF or Ulster Freedom Fighters, in instances where the dead individual could not be positively tied to the republican movement (an example of ‘plausible deniability). This was done for three reasons. Firstly, groups such as PIRA, INLA etc did not wish to appear vulnerable to Loyalist attack. Secondly, there was the issue of compensation to the victim’s family (NIO compensation would not be paid out to the families of proven terrorists) Thirdly, it is much easier to illicit public & political sympathy for an ‘innocent man’ coldly executed by Loyalist gunmen, rather than a dedicated terrorist, who ‘lived by the gun’ & consequently died by that same instrument.
During the 1980s, the level of Loyalist paramilitary activity decreased, due in part to the fact that the Security Forces seemed to finally be making inroads against Irish nationalist terror gangs, but Irish nationalist/republican activists were still being targeted & killed with some regularity. In the opening years of that decade, there were the UFF ‘shopping list’ killings, were the Ulster Freedom Fighters targeted & eliminated the leadership of the INLA/IRSP & the ‘Anti H-Blocks/Armagh Committee’. In 1980 & 81 Loyalists killed six republican activists, including the INLA terrorist godfathers ( & godmother?), Bunting, Lyttle & Daly. In 1981 the UVF executed James ‘Skipper’ Burns, the most senior member of the Provos to be killed during the conflict. The so-called quartermaster of PIRA’s ‘Northern Command’ was killed as he lay sleeping. His killer, armed with a 9mm pistol & silencer, shot Burns dead & escaped without waking Burns’ girlfriend, who lay sleeping beside him & did not realise he was dead until she woke in the morning. The rest of the decade saw a further 13 Irish nationalist/republican activists, including senior Provos such as Brendan ‘Ruby’ Davidson & Lawrence Marley, killed by the UVF, UFF, PAF & RHC.
A TIME TO KILL
The 1990s (up until the CLMC ceasefire in October ’94) saw an escalation of Loyalist violence. The UFF & UVF began to strike at the very heart of violent republicanism, again & again. In 1990, five members of PIRA/SF were killed, three of whom were convicted terrorists. In 1991, nine members of PIRA/SF & the IPLO were killed, including such ‘luminaries’ as Pádraig ‘Paddy’ O’Seanacháin, a senior member of PIRA/SF in West Tyrone, Tommy Donaghy, a senior ‘officer’ in the Provos ‘South Derry Brigade’ & IPLO ‘Chief of Staff’ Martin ‘Rook’ O’Prey, both of whom were shot on the same day, the 16th of August, in separate UFF & UVF operations in South Londonderry & West Belfast. On the 3rd of March that year, half of a local PIRA Active Service Unit, 3 men (Quinn, O’Donnell & Nugent), were shot & killed by Mid-Ulster UVF outside Boyle’s Bar in the republican stronghold of Cappagh, Co Tyrone.The UVF later released a statement claiming responsibility & stating: “This was not a sectarian attack on the Catholic community, but was an operation directed at the very roots of the Provisional IRA command structure in the Armagh–Tyrone area”. The statement concluded that “if the Provisional IRA were to cease its campaign of terror, the Ulster Volunteer Force would no longer deem it necessary to continue with such military operations”. 1992 saw another six republicans killed by Loyalists, with 4 more killed in 1993, including senior ‘South Derry’ Provo, James Kelly, whose death lead one UFF spokesman to quip- “For the Provos in South Londonderry to lose one CO could be seen as unfortunate, but to lose two in the space of 18 months just smacks of carelessness”. In the ten months of 1994 prior to the Loyalist ceasefire, three more republicans lost their lives at the hands of Loyalist paramilitary units, bringing the total number killed to 27, in less than five years. Again there are those whom Loyalists would consider to have been legitimate targets that republicans would maintain were ‘innocent men’. Indeed, this category may well run to at least 40 or 50 names, if not more. Men like James Kerr, shot dead by the Red Hand Commando in 1972. Kerr is listed by CAIN as a “Catholic civilian” but the republican National Graves Association maintains his final resting place & in one of their publications, ‘Republican Belfast Graves’, Kerr is named as a member of the Provisional IRA. Such muddying of the waters reminds me of an incident in 1991. A notorious republican & self confessed Provo had just been killed by the UFF, the media was on the scene & the family was being interviewed. The dead man’s widow was asked why he was killed, between sobs she stated “They shot him because he was a Catholic. Our ___ wasn’t involved in nothing political, he was an innocent man”. A few hours later, that “innocent man” was ‘claimed’ by the local PIRA as being one of their ‘volunteers’ (something they probably felt they couldn’t avoid, given the man’s notoriety). Someone was clearly out of the loop on that one! Either the dead man’s wife did not know he was a republican terrorist, or more probably, had been told that, in the event of anything happening to him, she was to deny everything, & being a good little republican, she did as she was told, not realising that it would backfire rather spectacularly & make all concerned look both dishonest & incompetent. There is also the issue of those categorised as ‘innocent civilians’ who were, nonetheless, regarded as legitimate targets by Loyalist paramilitary groups. Members of the GAA for instance, which provided financial & moral support to Irish nationalism & republicanism throughout the conflict, were often targeted & killed. Members of the West Belfast Taxi Association too were regarded as legitimate targets, since that organisation was widely perceived as being a front for the Provisional IRA. The SDLP & Workers Party have also lost members to Loyalist actions. Though it is interesting to note that only one such organisation, PIRA/SF, complains about alleged collusion & seems unable to accept the conflict related deaths of their comrades.
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?
Of course, when confronted with the facts, most Irish nationalists & republicans will simply shrug their shoulders & dismiss anything which does not fit with their skewed version of events, but some will no doubt concede that, yes, Loyalists could & did strike at the very heart of the republican war machine, but of course they will tell anyone fool enough to listen, that was only because the UFF, UVF & RHC were acting as proxies for the British state. That claim would be a hell of a lot more plausible if were not for a few inconvenient facts. Like why did the ‘Brits’ spend so much time & energy trying to prevent Loyalist groups obtaining arms? For instance, the massive UVF arms shipment intercepted by the Security Services (MI5) at Teesport, England, in November of 1993. Surely the British state, if they were the benefactors & backers of organisations like the UVF, would welcome their purchase of 300 assault rifles, dozens of handguns & well over two tonnes of plastic explosive? Why, if republican claims have any veracity, would the security apparatus of the UK move to prevent such a restocking of the UVF’s arsenal? A few years earlier, in 1988, the Security Forces had also moved against the UFF in similar fashion, seizing part of a Lebanese arms shipment consisting of 30 handguns, 61 AK-47 assault rifles, 150 grenades & more than 11,000 rounds of ammunition.
And what of the Loyalists killed by the Security Forces within Northern Ireland? Or the thousands who were locked away for years in the nissen huts, & then the H-blocks, of Long Kesh? Were the female UVF & UFF volunteers incarcerated in Armagh gaol, ‘proxies of the British state’? Was Billy Wright a puppet of the ‘Brits’ when they colluded with the INLA/IRSP to facilitate his murder? What of the homes of suspected Loyalist activists, trashed as thoroughly by the RUC & Army, as any home in the Bogside or South Armagh? Do Irish nationalists really believe that UVF & UFF volunteers held at Castlereagh Holding Centre, were treated any less inhumanely or threatened any less frequently than INLA, IPLO or PIRA men? If Loyalists were in cahoots with the Security Forces, the RUC & Army seem to have been very dubious friends indeed! The inconvenient truth is, the state would have, given the opportunity, smashed Loyalism into the ground, then concentrated on Irish nationalism. Indeed, the fact that a new offence of “Directing Terrorism” was put on the statute books, just to take Johnny Adair off the streets of West Belfast, speaks volumes about the relationship between Loyalism & the Establishment. The state could have armed, organised & trained their own proxy force, recruited from ex-Army personnel within the Loyalist/Unionist community, had they so wished, & turned them loose on republicans. They could have ‘adopted’ one of the Loyalist paramilitary groups as their own. Removed senior people & put their own stooges in their place, then directed & controlled that group as they saw fit. They didn’t & that leaves one asking- why didn’t they? The only logical answer is, they preferred not to take sides & wiping Irish nationalism off the face of the Earth would not have been advantageous to them. Better to simply give a ‘nudge’ or two when required & keep both sides more or less equal in capacity. Successive UK governments did not want a Loyalist victory in Northern Ireland, they wanted a long-term political solution and/or a Security Force victory. The government & Security Service had equal disdain for both sides in the Ulster conflict, although to quote one former agent of the state “I always preferred the Orangies, because unlike the Provos, they recognised that if they wanted to play with the big boys, then it was big boys rules!”
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
The truth is always more complex than propaganda. There is no black & white in history, especially very recent history. There are only shades of grey. Did individual members of the Security Forces pass information to Loyalists? Yes, they did. Sometimes. UDR & (less frequently) RUC personnel became so disillusioned, so disgusted at the nihilistic violence & indiscriminate bombing of republican gangs, that yes they gave snippets of information to known UFF, UVF & RHC members. UDR & RUC personnel also engaged in careless talk, in bars, in clubs, at football matches etc. Loyalists have ears (they’re just below our horns!) & loose talk is almost always overheard by someone (hence the name ‘loose talk’) There were also times when information came from higher up. There were times when it suited the Security Services to get certain people ‘out of the way’ (permanently). MI5 have a way of getting what they want (RUC Special Branch too) But that went for both sides. Did the Security Services also sometimes steer republican groups towards a certain target? Yes, undoubtedly. The truth is that ‘The Troubles’ was a dirty, grubby war. Both sides, Loyalist & republican, were sometimes played off each other. Republicans took information they were given about Loyalists, despite their professed hatred of the ‘Brits’. Loyalists took information given to them about republicans, despite the fact that all such information should have been treated as deeply suspect. Were the UFF, UVF, RHC & other Loyalist organisations mere puppets of MI5, the UK government, RUC SB or a combination of all three? No, they were not. Were Loyalist groups funded, armed, directed, trained and/or controlled by the British state? No, they were not. Had they been, to put it crudely, there would not have been enough Irish nationalists/republicans left to complain about it!
TO BE CONTINUED…
The history of collusion is not just about alleged collusion between the state & Loyalist forces. Nor about collusion between ‘dark forces’ within the security apparatus & players on both sides of the divide. There was some institutional collusion between state & armed groups, but the state in question was not the British state, it was the Irish state. In the next part we will look at how the Dublin government of the time, funded, armed & helped to organise the Provisional IRA & how organs of that state (most notably elements within An Garda Síochána) colluded with PIRA/SF in the murder of British citizens. To be continued…