3 June 2004 Edition

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International team to probe collusion

A delegation of international human rights activists arrived in the Six Counties on Sunday 30 May to probe allegations that members of the British crown forces colluded with a loyalist gang in a campaign of sectarian killings during the 1970s.

The delegation, which came to the North at the behest of the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre, will be focusing on the activities of a loyalist gang, made up of members of the infamous UDR and RUC, based at a farm at Glenanne in South Armagh owned by a then serving member of the RUC.

As part of their investigation, the human rights team have arranged to meet former RUC member John Weir, who exposed the collusion.

Weir, a sergeant in the RUC, served a life sentence for the 1977 killing of Catholic shopkeeper William Strathearn in Ahoghill, County Antrim.

As well as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the delegation will also investigate the killings of Patrick Connolly, John Francis Green, as well as the Miami Showband ambush, the bomb attacks at Killyliss and Castleblaney and McArdle's Bar in Crossmaglen and the gun attack on the Eagle Bar in Charlemount.

Other cases the group will scrutinise are the multiple murders of members of the O'Dowd and Reavey families, the bomb and gun attacks on Donnelly's Bar, Silverbridge, the Rock Bar, Granemore, the murders of two GAA supporters at Altnamackin and the bomb attack on Kay's Tavern, Dundalk.

The Glenanne gang, linked to the UVF, and made up of members of the crown forces, was believed to have organised these attacks as well as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and was operating in collusion with British Intelligence operatives based in Mahon Road Barracks in Portadown, County Armagh.

SAS man Robert Nairac, executed by the IRA in 1977, and based in Mahon Road barracks, acted as a link between the British Intelligence services and the UVF killers operating in the border areas in the mid-'70s.

The investigation team is led by Professor Douglass Cassel, president of the board of directors of the Justice Studies Centre of the Americas and director for the Centre for Human Rights in Chicago.

Other members of the delegation include Piers Pigou, who worked with the South African Truth and Reconcilliation Commission; Susie Kemp, a barrister who was the legal director of the Centre for Human Rights Legal Action in Guatemala; and former prosecutor and legal counsel to the Centre for International Human Rights at North Western University in Chicago, Steve Sawyer.

The delegation held its first round of meetings with the families of some of those killed on Sunday 30 May.

They have requested a meeting with PSNI chief Hugh Orde and Justice Henry Barron, who reported to the Dublin Government last December on his findings into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Spokesperson for the Pat Finucane Centre Paul O'Connor said a dossier will be completed by the delegation later this year and the two governments will be given time to read the contents and respond.

"The purpose of the visit is twofold," he said. "We want to give the families of those murdered a chance to tell the delegation what they believe and the panel to judge from testimonies what case there is to answer. We also want to see if the panel can uncover, through meetings with the PSNI, the courts service and the coroner, what we have not been able to discover."

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