Socialist Worker

Policy of killing then cover up

Issue No. 1848

THE BRITISH state is guilty of murder and terrorism. That is the only proper conclusion to be drawn from Metropolitan Police chief John Stevens' report, which was published last week. It uncovered state collusion with Loyalist death squads in Northern Ireland.

The government, army generals and their media cohorts have repeatedly claimed that Northern Ireland provides the blueprint for the British army's operations in the Iraqi town of Basra. The Stevens report has exposed what that means - the state organising and covering up the murder of innocent people.

Stevens only published a 20-page summary of his 3,000-page report. Nevertheless this summary confirms what relatives and campaigners, including Socialist Worker, have been arguing for years about Britain's dirty war in Northern Ireland.

It is the first official admission that the British army, the RUC (now renamed the Police Service of Northern Ireland) and the security forces helped Loyalist murder gangs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A secret unit of the British Army, the Force Research Unit (FRU), along with the

Special Branch of the RUC supplied names, addresses and photographs of Catholic targets to Loyalist paramilitaries. The key person supplying the fatal information was British army agent Brian Nelson. He infiltrated the Ulster Defence Association, the biggest Loyalist paramilitary group.

His information, says Stevens, was responsible for the murder of 30 Catholics. These included many people who had no connection to the IRA, including the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. He was murdered by the Loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters (the death squad of the Ulster Defence Association) in 1989.

Two gunmen fired 14 bullets into Finucane's body as he was eating dinner with his wife and their three children. One of his killers, Ken Barrett, confessed to the murder on a Panorama TV documentary last year. He said Brian Nelson had handed him information.

The Stevens report confirms Nelson's role and accuses the army and police of 'widespread collusion' with Loyalist murder gangs. This included, 'wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder.'

Ministers, the Ministry of Defence and top police officers have done everything they can to cover up the truth. Stevens says sections of the British army and the RUC 'obstructed' the inquiry at every turn, including concealing crucial information and withholding documents.

Stevens' incident room and its documents were set on fire in what he calls 'a deliberate act of arson'. One of the two guns used to shoot Finucane was stolen from an army barracks. The police returned it to the army who then modified it to destroy the evidence. The Stevens report concludes, 'The security forces sanctioned killings. Informants and agents were allowed to operate without effective control and to participate in terrorist crimes.'

The government and British establishment are terrified that even more will come to light. They have denied the Finucane family the independent public inquiry they are demanding.


The people involved

Douglas Hogg
THE REPORT attacks the Tory former minister for comments that were 'not justifiable' and says 'the minister was compromised'. Just three weeks before Pat Finucane's murder Hogg, then a junior Home Office minister, repeated in a parliamentary debate the view fed to him by the RUC.

Hogg said, 'I have to state as a fact, but with great regret, that there are in Northern Ireland a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA.' It effectively gave the green light to Finucane's murder.

Colonel Kerr
HE WAS the commanding officer of the Force Research Unit, which organised the murders of Catholics by Loyalist killer gangs. At Brian Nelson's trial Kerr told the court, 'He wished to help the army in its attempts to counter terrorism and to save life.'

The British establishment rewarded Kerr. He was promoted to brigadier and is today the British army's military attache in Beijing in China. He is one of the most powerful men in British military intelligence.

Brian Nelson
HE WAS the army agent who passed names, addresses and photographs to Loyalist murder gangs. Nelson was originally recruited by British military intelligence in the early 1970s, working inside the biggest Loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

In 1973 he was arrested after he and two other UDA members kidnapped a half-blind Catholic man, Gerald Higgins. They electrocuted him by connecting him to a generator and burned his hair off. He died shortly afterwards.

Nelson got a seven-year jail sentence on grounds of 'false imprisonment'. Kerr recruited Nelson to the Forces Research Unit in 1987. Nelson became Director for Intelligence for the UDA and was directly in control of selecting Catholic victims for the death squads.

Nelson was also responsible for procuring a huge arms shipment from apartheid South Africa to be used by Loyalist killers. Nelson was arrested and tried in 1992. But two counts of sectarian murder against him were dropped.

Instead Nelson got ten years for the lesser crime of conspiracy to murder. Judge Brian Kelly, who had previously worked for the Unionist government before direct rule, praised Nelson and described him as a man who had shown 'the greatest courage'.

The Director of Public Prosecutions received a letter from Tory cabinet minister Tom King saying that Nelson was a valuable agent. Nelson served less than half his sentence.

Pat Finucane
THIS BELFAST solicitor represented many leading Republicans, including hunger striker and Sinn Fein MP Bobby Sands. The report confirms that Pat Finucane was not an IRA member. The British army and RUC hated him because he consistently exposed their sectarianism, bigotry and violence.

Just before his murder he had forced the RUC to release a prisoner who had been tortured. He had also won a long-running case to force RUC officers to testify about their shoot-to-kill policy.

The RUC, British army, and security forces helped Loyalist murder gangs in Northern Ireland


'System worked as intended'

THE BRITISH state's collusion with Loyalist killer gangs, and the cover-up, was not just by a few rogue army and police officers. It went right to the top.

At the time of Finucane's murder the British intelligence service MI5 'had direct access to the army's secret files on a daily basis,' the Panorama programme pointed out last year.

Nick Davies, author of a book on the Force Research Unit, Ten Thirty Three, claims that Brian Nelson's activities were regularly discussed at London meetings of the Joint Intelligence Committee. This was chaired by Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

At Nelson's trial FRU commander Colonel Kerr admitted, 'Brian Nelson's product and his reporting was passed through the intelligence community at a very high level, and from that point of view he has to be considered a very important agent.'

The previous time British police had an investigation was the Stalker inquiry in the 1980s. Stalker, a former deputy chief constable of Manchester police, investigated allegations of the shoot-to-kill policy operated by the RUC police force. He said senior police officers operated a policy of 'deliberate assassination' and recommended their prosecution.

Stalker was smeared, suspended and taken off the case, even though he was subsequently found to have done nothing wrong. As Pat Finucane's son Michael Finucane says, 'The system worked exactly as intended, and in the British government's eyes it worked perfectly. 'The policy in Northern Ireland was about a government assassinating its own people.'

The chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Hugh Orde, denies that collusion goes on today. Yet in March 1999, a year after the Good Friday peace agreement, the solicitor Rosemary Nelson was murdered in circumstances remarkably similar to Finucane. Rosemary Nelson was one of hundreds of lawyers who demanded an independent investigation into security force collusion in Finucane's murder.

She repeatedly complained of the harassment she received at the hands of the police, including death threats.


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