Questions of collusion need to be addressed
What kind of government kills the citizens it has a duty to protect?
What kind of government covers up these killings?
What kind of government protects those involved in the killings?
What kind of government does all of this in the name of defending democracy against terrorism?
These are just some of the questions the British government needs to address following a series of recent articles in local newspapers exposing the links between loyalists and state agencies and the use of those loyalists in a murder campaign against nationalists.
Over the last month former security correspondent with the BBC in Belfast, Brian Rowan, has written about the war waged by Britain's intelligence agencies.
Rowan is well placed to write on this subject. For 20 years his work brought him into regular contact with the higher echelons of the RUC/PSNI's Special Branch and the leadership of loyalism.
For years nationalists and republicans have highlighted the organic link between the crown forces and loyalist death squads.
Their assertions have been backed by some very senior people.
In his last report into the killing of Pat Finucane, Sir John Stephens, former head of London's Metropolitan Police, confirmed collusion. In a special investigation Canadian Judge, Peter Cory, concluded similarly.
In his report into those behind the Dublin and Monaghan bombings Judge Barron connects loyalists and British intelligence agencies to the outrage. In their attempt to frustrate Barron's investigation the British government refused to hand over their intelligence files to assist him.
A few weeks ago an article in this newspaper claimed that Torrens Knight, sentenced in 1993 for killing 12 Catholics in two gun attacks, was working with the Special Branch and was paid £50,000 a year.
Last week the family of David McIlwaine, killed with his friend Andrew Robb in Tandragee in February 2000 by the UVF, said they believed one of those involved in killing the two teenagers was an agent being protected by the police.
In an article in the Irish Times in February, Rowan stated that a report complied by the Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan – yet to be published – says that the Special Branch ran a 'series of agents' who were involved in a 'series of murders'.
He described a briefing he received from an intelligence source which identified former and current loyalist agents. One of these men is at the centre of O'Loan's report, another a senior figure in the UVF and a third sits on the UDA's Inner Council.
In a Belfast paper Rowan named John White as the Special Branch agent under scrutiny by O'Loan.
White operated at the highest level of the UDA, their 'Inner Council'.
There was no-one closer to Johnny Adair. During their reign of terror on the Shankill Road in charge of the UDA's 'C' company many Catholics and Protestants were killed.
Following the INLA's killing of the notorious Catholic killer, Billy Wright, the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name for the UDA, killed many Catholics. It is widely believed that 'C' company carried out the killings in Belfast.
The catalogue of death contained in these newspaper articles is a small sample of the murder campaign by loyalists.
And right at the heart of this activity is the hand of the RUC/PSNI Special Branch and military intelligence.
The scale of their involvement with loyalists is endemic. It is institutional. Words like 'agent', 'informer' and indeed 'collusion' do not accurately reflect the relationship. It goes beyond these descriptions.
The Special Branch and military intelligence created a space for loyalists to act where they could not.
They organised loyalists as an 'unofficial', 'undeclared' arm of the British government.
They were a deadly extension of state repression.
The purpose behind their murder campaign was to demoralise the nationalist population, to divert a democratic struggle into a sectarian 'tit-for-tat' war.
Loyalists are not informers or agents but servants of a British government strategy.
The political crisis at the heart of this issue, for the British government, is the linkage between the loyalist killers, the intelligence agencies and those in government who set the policy which led to hundreds of people being killed.
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