29 October 2009 Edition
COLLUSION: Relatives take their cases to the United States Congress on Capitol Hill
‘We have buried our loved ones but we will not bury the truth’
RAYMOND McCORD SNR, whose son was murdered by the notorious Mount Vernon UVF unit led by RUC Special Branch agent Mark Haddock, took his campaign for the truth to Capitol Hill last Thursday (22 October) when he addressed a US House of Representatives sub-committee.
The hearing, ‘Concerns Regarding Possible Collusion in Northern Ireland: Police and Paramilitary Groups’, was also addressed by John Finucane, the son of murdered Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, and the campaign group, Relatives for Justice.
Raymond McCord Jnr, who had served in the Royal Air Force, was beaten to death in Newtownabbey by the Mount Vernon UVF gang in1997 on Haddock’s orders. His father is convinced that Haddock’s ‘handlers’ closed ranks to protect their intelligence asset from prosecution. He is still fighting to uncover the truth.
Appealing for the support of the United States Congress, Raymond McCord Snr told the House Sub-committee on International Organisations, Human Rights and Oversight last week:
“The British Government – my government – and the Police Service of Northern Ireland -– my police have blocked and stonewalled me. They have colluded and are still colluding with the killers of my son and many other victims.
“Why is there such a conspiracy of silence surrounding Raymond’s murder?
“A democratic society requires that the police must not be above the law. Rather, they must uphold it and be seen to do so. Yet my son’s case clearly demonstrates that, in Northern Ireland, some police officers and their agents can literally get away with murder.”
And Raymond McCord Snr lamented the fact that unionist political leaders failed to help him, even though he is from the unionist community and his son was a serving member of the British armed forces murdered by a paramilitary gang effectively run by an arm of the British state.
“Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin, and Mark Durkan, SDLP leader,” Raymond McCord Snr told the US Congress, “were the only two political leaders who helped.
“The unionist politicians were in denial, refusing to admit collusion, and they simply wanted me to go away.”
John Finucane, son of murdered Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, said his father’s killing by the UDA/UFF in February 1989 was the best-known case of what could have happened to anyone “and what did happen to many”. He said:
“If the British Government is serious about resolving the situation in Northern Ireland for good and building a lasting peace, then all we ask is this one simple thing.
“They cannot give me back my father; the least they can do is tell me the truth.”
Relatives for Justice told the senior US political figures that the evidence available shows “that these agents were not secreted or recruited for the purposes of preventing actions and murders from occurring but rather were there to ensure that certain incidents – sectarian murders and political assassinations – happened at certain times”.
Relatives for Justice explained that some agents were trained, resourced and/or directed to carry out actions, such as the Dublin/Monaghan bombings “for political purposes”. Some agents had prior knowledge of the Omagh bomb and passed this information onto their handlers, who in turn consciously failed to act.
The hearing occurred as bereaved relatives of the infamous UDA/UFF ‘trick or treat’ attack in Greysteel County Derry on 30 October 1993 at the Rising Sun Bar that claimed the lives of nine people remembered the horror of that Halloween night. A further 10 Catholics were killed in the two-week period leading up to that particular attack also by loyalists.
“In these attacks, and scores of others,” Relatives for Justice said, “weapons imported by MI5 agent Brian Nelson were used.”
Attacks of the type witnessed at Greysteel were commonplace where Catholics socialised, they told the US lawmakers, places like bookmakers’ shop Seán Graham’s in the Lower Ormeau Road, in which five Catholics were killed, and the Old Park area of Belfast, where three Catholics were killed.
These included bars across the North like that in Loughinisland, County Down while the Ireland soccer team played Italy in the 1994 World Cup finals. Six Catholics were murdered in that attack, or at workplaces across Belfast and north Armagh, where scores of people lost their lives simply providing a service and doing a day’s work. “Nowhere was untouched by collusion – everyone was always on edge. The threat to ordinary nationalists was palatable and must be seen against a broader political context and set of objectives relentlessly pursued by the then Tory British Government and an eager accomplice in its military and intelligence establishments.
Relatives for Justice said that the agents involved in the murders examined by Congress were also involved in other atrocities that have not yet been brought to light.
“The attack that claimed the six lives of those killed in Loughinisland in 1994 also involved some of the same agents, such as Mark Haddock, John Bond, and Terry Fairfield (codenamed ‘The Mechanic’).
“It has also been widely reported, by very credible journalists, that the overall commanding officer (C/O) of the UVF is an agent.
“The named agents supplied the car used for the Loughinisland massacre to those who carried it out. The UVF C/O authorised the attack. Despite finding the car used by the killers, including the murder weapons, the RUC subsequently destroyed the car and thus any possible chance of conducting a forensic examination. The weapons used in the killings were also used in three other murders and two attempted murders.
“The RUC refused to provide any information concerning these incidents as do the PSNI. The list of failings are systemic and mirror those concerning the findings of the Police Ombudsman into the murder of Raymond McCord.”
Relatives for Justice argued that the publication of a report into the Loughinisland killings by the current Police Ombudsman has been substantially delayed.
“There should be no delay in the joining of the dots of this appalling picture of official collusion. The truth must and will out.”
They said the fact that senior RUC chiefs such as Sir Ronnie Flanagan, who had personal overall control of the area in question during the tenure of Haddock and others, and Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid, who was head of RUC Intelligence for the north Belfast area, “makes a compelling argument that they must have been aware of what was happening”.
It is all the more compelling that the full truth, and more importantly accountability, is achieved now, Relatives for Justice maintained.
“In that context, this congressional hearing takes on a wider significance and must be approached with the wider policy of collusion uppermost in mind where the focus needs to be on those in control of the killers and not just those who pulled the triggers. The agent handlers need to be held to account.”
The promotion of the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) to address this matter alone and the arrest of a number of those involved is welcomed by some but not all of the families affected by this UVF gang. The real acid test is yet to come, Relatives for Justice said – the arrest and prosecution of those members of RUC Special Branch who directed, organised or aided loyalist paramilitaries in their criminal activities, including murder.
“The majority of families are sceptical, citing that only a truly independent international inquiry will get to the truth,” Relatives for Justice said in their evidence.
“That 40% of the HET’s overall budget is allocated to examining the out-workings of the Police Ombudsman’s report, ‘Operation Ballast’, is an indication of the management taking place around this one incident.”
As one of the families asked; “is that 40% to manage their own informants and agents and eventually, like the Nelson case, cut a deal?
“Many commentators say that this is a purely perfunctory exercise aimed at defusing public outrage.
“This one episode of collusion in one part of north Belfast, claiming over 20 lives, is a microcosm of the wider systemic picture of collusion – an important piece of the overall jigsaw in building that picture and in understanding the broader political context in which collusion existed and operated.
“It is therefore important that in examining the case of the awful murder of young Raymond McCord that Congress equally examines the systemic policy of collusion that has been such a common feature of the conflict.
“The British state armed, controlled and directed key agents within all the loyalist paramilitary groupings, ensuring that they effectively controlled these same death squads.
“In particular, the agent Brian Nelson, was a British soldier secreted into the largest loyalist paramilitary grouping, the UDA/UFF. Nelson, synonymous with the murder of Pat Finucane, became the head intelligence officer for the UDA/UFF. His handlers in MI5’s Force Research Unit (FRU) assisted in the targeting and assassination of scores of people.
“Crucially, Nelson, acting as an agent, procured a shipment of weapons from the then apartheid regime in South Africa which was generally sympathetic to the loyalist cause.
“It was reported in London’s Private Eye publication in 1992 that Nelson’s procurement of the weapons for loyalists was approved by a government minister in the then Thatcher Cabinet.
“These weapons were subsequently used with deadly results in which, to date, over 300 people have been killed. In 1995, Relatives for Justice published a document entitled Collusion 1990-1994: Loyalist Paramilitary Murders in North of Ireland. This document examined 229 loyalist murders in which collusion was evidenced and/or in which the weapons imported by Nelson were used.
“Culpability for the murders of over 300 citizens with the South African weapons to date, which included children, mothers, pensioners, elected representatives, community workers, Protestants and Catholics, rests firmly with Downing Street and Whitehall.
“The people within these supremely powerful institutions designed, resourced and implemented the policy of collusion down through the food chain to the handlers and in turn the death squads. Focusing on the dime a dozen trigger-men within loyalism only can, and will, exclude those who are really culpable.
“The majority of those affected by this policy want governmental accountability – they know and see only too often that the trigger-men are expendable in bids to cut the evidential chain back to the political and military corridors of power in London.
“Congress knows this only too well with the Finucane case and the murder of William Stobie.
“We further urge Congress, given the persistent refusal of the British Government to initiate an independent and international inquiry into collusion despite widespread evidence necessitating such, to initiate a fact-finding mission on the issue of collusion.”
Relatives for Justice suggested this would build upon the excellent body of work to date, including Congressional hearings and other related efforts and could make specific recommendations based upon findings aimed at addressing the nature, extent and consequences of collusion.
“We urge members of Congress to visit the North and listen to the families affected and hear at first-hand from the many, many people who are unable to avail of a Congressional hearing. Collectively, these people constitute and bear witness to the policy of collusion and the awful human devastations and legacy which is crying out to the international community for assistance in addressing.
“This demands an international response by any measurable standard of human rights. These are wrongs of a magnitude that require international intervention and examination.
“As one relative bereaved through collusion put it: ‘We have buried our loved ones but we will not bury the truth about what happened.’”