15 January 2009 Edition
Did Special Branch fund mid-Ulster UVF?
RUC building links with the UVF
BY LAURA FRIEL
According to the latest revelation, more than £12m pounds of public money was paid to two companies directly linked to the UVF through building contracts awarded by the RUC and then the PSNI.
For over a decade, the RUC (and latterly the PSNI) awarded lucrative building contracts to the Jameson Group of Portadown and Ballymore Builders. Both companies were run by leading members of the UVF. Additional contracts may have been awarded by other state institutions. Jameson was also contracted to carry out work at a DHSS office in west Belfast.
Richard Jameson, director of the Jameson Group, was commander of the mid-Ulster UVF until his murder during a loyalist feud in January 2000. Over a 12-year period, the RUC and PSNI paid Jameson’s company almost £11.5m for renovating barracks.
During the same period, around £500,000 was paid by the RUC and PSNI to John Sinton’s Ballymore Builders for carrying out similar renovation. Sinton was head of the UVF in Tandragee.
The revelations emerged following legal action taken by the father of one of two young men, teenager David McIlwaine and Andrew Robb, murdered by the UVF. The two victims were repeatedly stabbed and their bodies mutilated by a UVF gang.
It is believed that the gang had intended to kill two rival loyalists in a revenge attack following the killing of Richard Jameson. But, having missed their chosen prey, abducted McIlwaine and Robb after a minor altercation.
Following the murder of his son, Paul McIlwaine has campaigned to uncover the truth behind the killings. Two years ago, McIlwaine sought details of RUC and PSNI contracts awarded to the Jameson gang. The action was taken under the Freedom of Information Act.
It was a straightforward request but, curiously, the PSNI has repeatedly failed to meet its legal obligations by facilitating full disclosure.
Initially, PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton claimed “contracts with Jameson of Portadown were a value of approximately £320,000”. That figure was revised upwards by the PSNI in June last year. Leighton wrote to Paul McIlwaine, admitting he had given “incorrect information”.
Leighton then said:
“I would advise that the PSNI had contracts with the Jameson Group and another company which were of the approximate value of £5m.”
Addressing the Policing Board, PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde apologised for what he said was a “genuine error”. The correct figure, reaffirmed Orde, was £5m.
But, despite the chief constable’s reassurances, this was far from correct. A figure ten times the original estimate has now emerged but even this has been described as “the tip of the iceberg”.
According to the latest figures released by the PSNI, £12m was paid to the two UVF-linked building contractors within a 12-year period. But even these figures do not reflect the full extent of the payments made to the Jameson Group and Ballymore Builders.
A truer figure cannot be reached because the PSNI has refused to carry out a manual trawl through almost 7,000 invoices on the grounds it would be too costly.
Describing the amounts paid out to UVF-linked companies as “astounding”, Paul McIlwaine accused the PSNI of “deliberately misleading” him over the past year.
“In my opinion, this is at best more than incompetence and at worst I have been deliberately misled over how much was paid out to the Jameson Group and John Sinton’s Ballymore Builders.
“It can only lead me to believe that this is a cover-up exercise to protect very high-level security force informants at the heart of these contracts.”
McIlwaine also wants to know how the Jameson Group was awarded PSNI contracts despite twice failing the PSNI’s own vetting procedure.
“I want to know why he twice failed police vetting but then mysteriously had the ban lifted by the NIO,” said McIlwaine.
“Why was the Government paying millions to someone it suspected to be a leading member of a paramilitary organisation?”
According to a BBC Spotlight programme, despite being a UVF commander, Jameson carried a legally-held firearm and many of his close associates were members of the RUC.
The trial of Steven Reveals, one of those accused of the murders of David McIlwaine and Andrew Robb, resumed this week. Reveals’s co-accused, Mark Burcombe, has already struck a deal to give evidence against Reveals in exchange for facing a lesser charge himself.
Reveals’s lawyers recently showed PSNI evidence to link Burcombe with the murder of Robert Hamill and two other attempted murders. According to PSNI records, Burcombe was arrested and questioned three times in connection with the Hamill murder. Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill was beaten unconscious and later died at the hands of a loyalist mob in 1997.