incubus that stalked Northern Ireland's nationalists
has been glimpsed as a result of Nuala O'Loan's
report on collusion between RUC Special Branch
and loyalist death squads. Only glimpsed because,
like the Loch Ness monster, its fullness evades
us. Confined to the relatively miniscule Mount
Vernon estate in North Belfast, it tells us nothing
about the certain replication of murder throughout
the North as a whole. Speaking with Sinn Fein
MLA Francie Molloy a few evenings ago, a shudder
rippled through me as he detailed the sectarian
onslaught experienced by nationalists in Mid Ulster's
murder triangle area. Nationalists have never
been in any doubt that Robin Jackson and cohorts
perpetrated the Murder Triangle assassination
campaign in full consort with senior officials
in the state security services.
if the argument is accepted that informants within
the UVF were essential to the preservation of
nationalist life there is an immediate quandary.
It would have to be established that nationalist
lives were saved. We know that similar arguments
put forward in a court of law by Brigadier Gordon
Kerr on behalf of UFF murderer and agent of the
British state Brian Nelson were without foundation.
Brian Nelson helped save two lives, those of Freddie
Scappaticci and Gerry Adams, Scappaticci because
he was a tout and Adams because the British knew
he intended winding up the IRA campaign. But in
the case of the Mount Vernon UVF it seems that
those doing the killings were the informants.
What was the purpose of employing informants to
stop killings if the bulk, if not all, of killings
were being carried out by informants?
raises the 'appalling vista' of the UVF's raison
d'etre solely being its usefulness to the British
state as it sought to sickeningly squeeze the
nationalist community to a point where it would
vomit out the IRA. This reframes the issue of
collusion. Did RUC Special Branch collude with
members of a loyalist murder gang because its
smashing was considered unattainable and the only
choice was the realpolitk one of between bad and
worse? Or did the UVF, regardless of its origins
in 1966, owe much of its subsequent existence
to the perceived need of special branch for a
weapon in its war against the IRA? If it is the
second question that prompts accurate answers
then we move beyond the issue of collusion. Special Branch did not merely collude with UVF death squads,
it created them.
years individuals like Mark Thompson of Relatives
For Justice have drawn our attention to the malign
role of the British state in the Northern conflict.
But even he might be stunned by just how deeply
the state murder business permeated Northern society.
on the other hand at best pretended all was rosy
in the orange garden. The mitigation proffered
by unionist stalwarts such as Ken Magennis that
Northern Ireland was in the grip of a war and
terrible things happen during a war cuts no cloth.
This disingenuous defence actually accentuates
the crimes committed by the British state. Ten
republican volunteers died trying to prove what
the defenders of RUC Special Branch then denied
but who are now shouting it from the roof tops
- that what took place in the North of Ireland
was not a sectarian conflict but a war in which
the British state was one of the chief protagonists.
Special Branch functioned as a terrorist gang.
It was the cutting edge of British state terrorism.
Nuala O'Loan has performed outstandingly in bringing
the matter to public attention. But a combination
of complacency and thwarting should not be allowed
to paralyse the search for justice. There can
be no question of future investigation being lured
down some meandering British judicial lane where
it can be safely strangled. The entire process
should now be taken out of the realm of the British
state altogether and placed before an International
Criminal Tribunal for Northern Ireland sitting
at The Hague. Like Jean Kambanda, Slobodan Milosevic,
Jorge Videla, the British leader who headed the
state terror campaign should not be allowed to
escape justice. The loophole afforded to her friend
Augusta Pinochet should be foreclosed. As she
haughtily told the world many years ago, crime
is crime is crime.