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Monday, November 06, 2006

Report Reveals Collusion in Loyalist Murders

(Poster's Note: The following was widely reported by the news media this morning. Jay) Report Reveals Collusion in Loyalist Murders Members of the RUC and UDR colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in 74 murders in the 1970s, according to an international panel of legal experts. The four-strong team examined 76 killings between 1972 and 1977 and said there was evidence of collusion in all but two of the cases. It said some senior officers knew of the crimes but "failed to act to prevent or punish" those responsible. While the international panel welcomed reforms introduced by the British government to investigate the controversial murders, they claimed they were still insufficient for getting to the heart of collusion cases. Northern Ireland`s police ombudsman Nuala O`Loan, they said, did not have the powers to investigate collusion involving members of the UDR. The £30 million Historical Enquiries Team, set up by Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable Sir Hugh Orde, also fell short of international standards for investigations. The panel called for: :: Investigations by an independent team into allegations of collusion in murders and attempted murders by loyalists, capable of identifying those involved, examining how high up the chain of command it went and focusing not just on RUC and UDR involvement but also British Army and intelligence agencies; :: Investigations into murders carried out by republican groups; :: Full co-operation by paramilitary groups on both sides with credible official investigations into collusion; :: The publishing of the findings of all investigations, including those by the Historical Enquiries Team which currently plans only to share its findings with victims` families; :: The state to acknowledge publicly its responsibility in sectarian killings where collusion is established; :: Public apologies from senior officials to the families of victims of collusion. In their 115-page report, the panel said today: "Credible evidence indicates that superiors of violent extremist officers and agents, at least within the RUC, were aware of their sectarian crimes yet failed to act to prevent, investigate or punish them. "On the contrary, they allegedly made statements that appeared to condone participation in these crimes. "Even after Weir and another officer confessed in 1978 - information that should have blown the lid off RUC and Ulster Defence Regiment involvement in murdering Catholics - police investigations and ensuing prosecutions were inadequate by any reasonable standard. "As early as 1973, senior officials of the United Kingdom were put on notice of the danger - and indeed some of the facts - of sectarian violence by UDR soldiers using stolen UDR weapons and ammunition, and supported by UDR training and information. "At least by 1975, senior officials were also informed that some RUC police officers were `very close` to extremist paramilitaries." "There were also allegations by at least one former RUC man that the Garda, the police force of the Republic of Ireland, was not co-operative in bringing fugitives who fled across the border to justice," the report said. Communications from one local station to another across the border, he said, had to be routed through Belfast and Dublin. "Technicalities were seized upon to deny extradition. Known criminals were allowed to roam freely on the other side of the border. "The panel has had its hands full examining and documenting the responsibility of the British state. It is in no position to take on the vast additional assignment of examining the possible responsibility of another state. "However, the panel will bring these allegations to the attention of the Irish authorities and suggest they deserve to be looked into." The British government told the panel it would be inappropriate to comment as the murders were already the subject of inquiries by a number of agencies. These included the European Court of Human Rights, the Historical Enquiries Team, and the Police Ombudsman. The panel was convened two years ago at the request of the Pat Finucane Centre. Among the controversial murders they investigated were: :: The killing of 23-year-old single bricklayer Patrick Connolly on October 4 1972 in a grenade attack on his Portadown home by the Ulster Volunteer Force, also injuring his mother and brother; :: The double murder by the UVF of 46-year-old Catholic Department of the Environment employee Patrick Molloy and 49-year-old Protestant Orange Order member Jack Wylie in a bomb attack on Trainor`s pub at Augenlig near Kilmore in Co Armagh; :: The murder of 33 people in UVF bomb attacks in Dublin and Monaghan on May 17 1974; :: The gunning down of three members of the Miami Showband - 29-year-old lead singer Fran O`Toole, 23-year-old Anthony Geraghty and 33-year-old trumpet player Brian McCoy - after a UVF gang posing as an Ulster Defence Regiment patrol flagged their bus down on July 31 1975. The shootings took place after a bomb the UVF gang was loading exploded prematurely as it was planted on the band`s bus, killing the loyalist unit`s leader 24-year-old Harris Boyle and his colleague 34-year-old Wesley Somerville; :: The shooting dead of six men - 24-year-old John Reavey, his 22-year-old brother Brian and 17-year-old brother Anthony and 24-year-old oil rig worker Barry O`Dowd, his 19-year-old brother Declan and his 61-year-old uncle Joe - in separate UVF gun attacks on two families in Co Armagh on January 4 1976; :: The assassination of 49-year-old Catholic police sergeant Joe Campbell by the UVF as he locked up the RUC station in the Co Antrim seaside resort of Cushendall. In only one case, the group was unable to reach a verdict on collusion because of conflicting accounts - the murder of 51-year-old driver James Marks and 78-year-old passenger Joseph Toland in a gun attack in Gilford, Co Armagh, on a minibus returning from bingo. Among the witnesses they interviewed about security force collusion with loyalists were former Army intelligence officer Fred Holroyd, ex-civil servant Colin Wallace, former RUC officers John Weir and Billy McCaughey. The panel met representatives of three organisations representing republican victims of violence - Families Acting for Innocent Relatives, SAVER/NAVER, both in Markethill, Co Armagh, and the WAVE Trauma Centre in Belfast which caters for the victims of loyalist violence too. The cases examined in the Republic of Ireland include the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, explosions in Dundalk and Castleblayney and the murder of John Francis Green. The study revealed it was told during its investigation that the Garda failed to co-operate in bringing republicans to justice for the murders of Protestants in the Republic. The report said gardaí seized on technicalities to deny extradition and "known criminals were allowed to roam freely on the other side of the Border". They urged the authorities in the Irish Republic to investigate the claims made about their police. The independent panel who produced the report were Professor Douglass Cassel of Notre Dame Law School in the US, Susie Kemp, an international lawyer based in The Hague, Piers Pigou - an investigator for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Stephen Sawyer of Northwestern University School of Law. Last year, the Irish government said it was to give Tony Blair a final chance to aid an inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Irish premier Bertie Ahern said he may take a case to the European Court of Human Rights if Mr Blair did not hand over British government files on the 1974 bombings. The UVF was suspected of carrying out the attacks which killed 33 people. No-one was convicted of the bombings.
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