22 February 2001 Edition

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Nazi Paras exposed

By Fern Lane

It seems that hardly a week goes by without the fascist tendencies of a significant portion of the British Army being exposed. This week it is the turn of the second battalion of the Parachute Regiment, now based in Colchester, whose members have been photographed indulging themselves in neo-nazi rituals and activities.

The story emerged when Ian Bannister, a former member of the regiment, was awarded £200,000 for injuries he sustained in 1989 when a hand grenade was thrown close to him on a firing range by another soldier in what is believed to have been a racist attack. He also said that, as the only black member of his company, he had been subjected to a campaign of racial abuse over a period of three years at the hands of members of the regiment, eventually forcing him to leave the army. He is said to still suffer serious psychological problems associated with his time in the army.

Bannister handed over a number of photographs in his possession to the Daily Mirror, taken when the battalion was in Belize, which show grinning British soldiers posing with fascist regalia and performing Nazi salutes. Bannister, who appears in one of the photographs against a backdrop of a swastika, says that he was made to take part in the rituals. One of the photographs also shows several soldiers dressed in white Klu Klux Klan robes and hoods with a burning cross in the background.

Despite the fact that they must be getting used to these kinds of revelations, embarrassed British Army authorities have promised an inquiry, initiated by General Sir Mike Jackson, who made the rather curious comment that the behaviour of the men was ``stupid and tactless''. Presumably, then, it is acceptable to be a neo-Nazi as long as one goes about it in an intelligent and subtle manner.

As well as their firm foothold within the army, British fascists have also cemented their connections with loyalists in the Six Counties. Further revelations emerged this week when the Sunday People reported that home-made weapons and explosives were found in loyalist North Belfast, together with a list, compiled by Combat 18, of potential targets. These included, bizarrely, Cilla Black - for including black and Asian contestants on her show Blind Date - the actor Dawn French, who is married to black comedian Lenny Henry, documentary maker Louis Theroux for his anti-racist stance, and a number of well-known Irish people, including Pat Kenny and Gay Byrne. Also found were plans to attack May Day marches and hunt saboteur clubs in England.

Gerry Cable, a member of Searchlight, the anti-fascist group in England, told the Sunday People that the links between C18 and loyalists, particularly the UDA, were increasing. ``The Northern Ireland thing has really taken over to a degree,'' he said, adding that members of C18 were regularly involved in the ``Free Johnny Adair'' protests.

C18 has also succeeded in recruiting Stephen Irwin, who took part in the Greysteel massacre in 1993. Irwin, a close associate of Johnny Adair, was released from prison last year and has since made contact with leading England-based C18 figures such as Terry Blackham, and Stuart Hollingsdale. Blackham has been involved in gun-running for the UDA and Hollingsdale was recently convicted of vandalising the memorial erected by the family of Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager murdered in a racist attack.

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