26 April 2007 Edition
Collusion : British army trained loyalist killers
GAA collusion target
By Laura Friel
News that personal details from a PSNI database regarding three GAA members, all personal friends of the UVF murder victim Sean Brown, are now in the hands of loyalist paramilitaries sent shockwaves through the association last week.
The three, all senior members of the GAA, were amongst over a hundred republicans and nationalists informed by the PSNI last week of a threat against their lives. A number of other GAA members in the South Derry and South Antrim area have also been informed that their details are in the hands of the UVF.
The warnings followed the discovery of a significant intelligence gathering operation involving three agencies, the British army, PSNI and UVF. It’s believed that the information was accessed as part of a trawl of computer files held as part of the Vehicles Licensing Authority in Coleraine.
Last week two men, both with addresses in Randalstown were charged in connection with passing information to the UVF. Aaron Hill, who worked for the PSNI, was also deemed in breach of the Data Protection Act. Darren Richardson, manager of a Ballymena factory, was also charged with possession of ammunition.
Allegations of collusion in the killing of Sean Brown, together with last week’s revelation that secret PSNI files containing the personal details of GAA members had been leaked to the UVF, has not only placed the issue of collusion centre stage but has also raised the question, as to whether the PSNI is specifically gathering intelligence on the GAA.
Questions have also been raised about a possible Randalstown connection. South Derry chairperson, Sean Brown was abducted by a UVF gang as he was locking the Bellaghy club gates after a late meeting in May 1997. The GAA man was tortured before being shot dead and his body dumped in a remote laneway close to Randalstown.
Collusion in the killing was immediately suspected after it emerged that vehicles involved in the UVF abduction had passed Toomebridge RUC barracks without being recorded on CCTV footage. Nobody has ever been charged in relation to the Brown killing.
The PSNI have rejected any notion that intelligence was being gathered on the basis of GAA membership and said the Brown murder investigation was currently under review.
Commenting Sinn Féin Magherafelt councillor Sean McPeake, said he had been one of over a hundred people warned by the PSNI of a threat against their life last week. As well as being a Sinn Féin activist McPeake is also secretary of a GAA club in South Derry.
“The PSNI gave me no specific details about the nature of the threat against me. I don’t know if I’m being targeted because I’m a Sinn Féin elected representative or a member of the GAA,” said Sean.
Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness has raised the issue with the Irish government. The matter was raised with the British government last week.
“Given the history of loyalists across Derry targeting the GAA community, this comes as another very worrying development. This area is no stranger to the singling out of GAA members,” said McGuinness.
“In recent days I have listened with interest to PUP leader Dawn Purvis and speculation about the UVF. We have just come through a very important election and it is clear that the people have declared for peace. The UVF have to take themselves out of the equation,” said McGuinness.
Meanwhile it has emerged that the leader of a UVF murder gang who shot dead republican John Crawford in January 1974 was a serving member of the British army and part of the covert Military Reconnaissance Force, a forerunner to the FRU.
The 52-year-old father of nine was attacked by the gang as he walked a short distance from his Falls Road shop close to Milltown Cemetery. The killing took place in full view of the British army and RUC observation posts.
Three days before the killing the British army impounded John Crawford’s car. No reason was given why the vehicle had been taken and it was returned to the family a few days after the murder. But it had been the loss of his car that had compelled Crawford to walk through the secluded laneway that led to his shop beside Milltown Cemetery.
An eyewitness who saw the three-man gang walking along the Falls Road covered in blood after the killing gave detailed descriptions to the RUC but none of the men responsible were ever arrested or charged.
The UVF commander in charge of the killing was Jimmy McKenna, a Catholic from Ballymurphy and a British soldier. McKenna had returned to Belfast in the late 1960’s after serving as a British soldier abroad and became deployed in the MRF. As with the FRU, the MRF was a covert unit of the British army that played a key role in the organisation, training and arming loyalist paramilitaries.
McKenna has been linked to a series of murders carried out throughout Belfast. As well as John Crawford, McKenna has been connected to the killing of Robert Willis, Robert Clarke, James Mitchell, Joe Donnelly, Hugh McKenzie and the attempted murder of John Flannigan. McKenna died in Australia in 1986.
A second UVF man involved in the killing was William Moore, a leading member of the Shankill Butchers. Crawford’s murder took place two years before the Butchers emerged as a murder gang.
Neil MacKay of Scotland’s Sunday Herald recently interviewed a loyalist, identified only by the initials JB, who had been trained by British Military Intelligence. In his own words the British army taught JB to operate as a “killer, bomber, arsonist and robber” within the UVF.
More interestingly, especially in the light of the MRF link to the Shankill Butchers, JB claims that from the outset the British deliberately engaged in a sectarian war designed to psychologically undermine the Catholic population.
Evidence is increasingly emerging to suggest that British collusion with loyalist death squads was not just about the state commissioned murder of their political and military opponents. It was also about state sponsored terrorism, an attempt to demoralise nationalist aspiration through sectarian terror.
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