Monday, May 08, 2006

British knew of loyalist collusion

Colm Heatley:

The British government wanted to increase the Ulster Defence Regiment’s intelligence-gathering role in the mid-1970s, despite knowing that the group was infiltrated by loyalist paramilitaries.

The proposal is contained in a Ministry of Defence (MoD) memo from 1974, which has only recently come to light. It states: ‘‘We have agreed that the extension of the UDR’s intelligence-gathering function is a good thing.”

This is despite earlier MoD memos acknowledging that loyalists paramilitaries were UDR members. At the same time, the British government relaxed vetting procedures for UDR recruits. Another MoD memo warns that the relaxed procedures should remain secret because the British government was then fighting a case related to the North in the European Court of Human rights.

According to the documents, the British government was briefed on the internal status of the UDR in 1975.

In the mid-1970s the UDA and UVF were carrying out murder campaigns against nationalists. In 1974, the groups were responsible for murdering more than 100 innocent Catholics.

Throughout the Troubles, nationalists regularly complained that the UDR colluded with loyalists to murder Catholics. The UDR patrolled nationalist areas in the North, operating vehicle checkpoints and taking personal information from Catholics.

A number of UDR men were convicted in the courts on serious terrorist charges in the 1980s and 1990s.

The revelation that the UDR’s intelligence role was to be increased in the 1970s has caused serious concern within the nationalist community.

‘‘We now have a very definite paper-trial going back to the 1970s through to the 1990s, which shows that at the highest levels of the British government, it was aware of collusion,” said Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre.

‘‘It raises fresh concerns about the many murders committed by loyalists colluding with the British Army in the 1980s and 1990s.”

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