19 April 2007 Edition
Hundreds under threat as collusion plot exposed
Exposure of a significant intelligence gathering operation involving three agencies, the British army, PSNI and UVF has once again placed the issue of collusion centre stage.
More than a hundred people have been warned of a significant threat to their lives after UVF intelligence files were discovered in the possession of a Ballymena factory manager. Information revealed in court suggests collusion had been taking place for at least five years.
The discovery was made just hours after the factory had been visited by Transport Minister Martin Cullen where he met DUP leader Ian Paisley and announced a contract worth £7.8 million to build buses for Bus Éireann.
Wrightbus manager Darren Richardson appeared before Larne Magistrates Court charged with the possession of documents ‘likely to be of use to terrorists’ and possession of 9mm ammunition at the Galgorm based plant. Two further arrests were made after a search of Richardson’s home identified possible accomplices.
A second man charged, Aaron Hill, works as an administrator for the PSNI’s Division Headquarters. Hill has been charged with possession of documents, accessing the PSNI computer and breaching the Data Protection Act, the misuse and misconduct of public office.
Despite the fact that Richardson has named a serving RIR soldier as passing information, the soldier has been released without charge and remains a member of the British army.
Names, addresses and car registrations were in five written documents linked to the UVF on the premises of Wrightbus in Ballymena in a brief case belonging to the manager Darren Richardson. Thirty rounds of ammunition were also discovered in Richardson’s desk. A number of people have been warned that there is an “active threat” against their lives.
The files contained 104 vehicle registrations and the names and addresses of 51 people, including republicans and other members of the nationalist community. A possible link to a second firm in South Derry has also emerged after 12 out of 15 Catholics working there were informed that their personal details were in the hands of unionist paramilitaries.
A number of senior republicans and Sinn Féin politicians have been informed that their personal details were contained within the Ballymena files. These included Sinn Féin chairperson of Cúige Uladh, Declan Kearney, South Derry Sinn Féin councillor Seán McPeake and Ballymena Sinn Féin representative Pádraig McShane. All three were informed of an “active” plot against their lives.
Amongst others targeted was Mark Thompson the Director of Relatives for Justice. RFJ has played a key role in exposing collusion between state forces and unionist paramilitaries like the UVF. The group has also supported Raymond McCord, also under threat from the UVF, and his campaign for justice following the UVF murder of his son.
Following the revelations Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams immediately reiterated the issue of collusion with British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a meeting in Downing Street. Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing Alex Maskey said the involvement of a member of the British army and a PSNI administrator raised serious questions for both the British Secretary of State, Peter Hain and PSNI Chief Hugh Orde.
Relatives for Justice chairperson Clara Reilly described Richardson as “a known UVF leader in Randalstown and has been connected to a string of threats and attacks on Catholics and Catholic homes in the area in recent years”. Dismissing claims that the UVF are not involved, Reilly said PUP MLA Dawn Purvis’ claims were “totally at odds with the PSNI warning”. During a visit to Mark Thompson’s home the PSNI described the threat as “active” and urged “urgent security measures”. Richardson is a close associate of PUP representative Ken Wilkinson in nearby Antrim, said Reilly.