A former Catholic police officer has broken his silence on the sectarianism within the force in south Armagh at the height of the Troubles
The man, who does not want to be identified, said he felt compelled to come forward after The Irish News highlighted a murderous 24-hour period three decades ago.
The ex-constable was also based in Co Down in the early seventies – and was one of the few Catholics in the predominantly Protestant RUC.
"The first thing I saw when I got to south Armagh were all the young constables, only 19, 21, 22, 23, with no experience of policing.
"There were no 'seasoned' police officers, " he said.
"I often look back, thinking of the hundreds killed in the explosions and shootings, we were used as cannon fodder."
With police under scrutiny over ever-emerging allegations of security force collusion with paramilaries – more recently a number of UVF killings – the former officer gives a unique insight into his time within the force.
While stationed in south Armagh the ex-constable, now in his fifties, went out on night operations with who he called the 'mystery man', as he was never told who he was.
"I am convinced he was not military but an MI5 agent. He had a plummy English accent.
"I realised they were trying to gather information on people," he said.
"The houses he went to, they were all homes of Protestants. I noticed pictures, platoons of [the disbanded] B Specials."
On January 6 1976, the UVF murdered two brothers and fatally wounded another at their south Armagh home.
Ten minutes later another Catholic home near Gilford was targeted, killing three.
Allegations of collusion in both cases are to be probed.
Although these murders – the IRA retaliating just hours later killing 10 Protestants at Kingsmill – occurred just as the constable had tendered his resignation, he had already been highly suspicious of the actions of some of his colleagues years earlier.
"I don't think there was any investigation [into these murders]," he said.
"Something very, very sinister was taking place because information was being leak-ed... to organisations like the UDA or UVF.
"We have not even scratched the surface of what was going on. It was so deep and widespread.
"There were a few military regiments present at that time, the Royal Marine Com-mando and the notorious Parachute Regiment.
"They were very agressive to say the least.
"I used to meet a lot of serving UDR soldiers... many were deeply bigoted. Even police constables would make comments. I remember a police woman saying to me 'this is a Protestant country'.
"When I finished training we were presented with bibles.
As I was the only Catholic, I was given a red bible. Several remarked 'I never knew you were a Catholic'. It was if I had two heads."
Bizarre events and dirty tricks