Declassified Documents

Declassified official documents shed an interesting light on British government attitudes towards loyalist infiltration of the security forces and loyalist violence in the 1970s. The British Government has sought to portray its role here as that of the neutral broker, the peacekeeper caught between two warring factions. The secret memos and letters, marked UK Eyes Only, tell a different story.

Literally hundreds of mostly Catholic civilians were murdered before the British Government even contemplated the possible extension of internment to loyalists. Clearly the very existence of internment meant that the north was not a democratic state governed by the rule of law. Added to this was the complete denial by the authorities of the loyalist assassination campaign as evidenced by the failure to intern loyalists until 1973. This was tantamount to the state condoning such violence. In December 1971 15 civilians were murdered when loyalists bombed Mc Gurks Bar in Belfast. The RUC and the British Army attempted to blame the IRA. How do we know? Declassified documents.

The failure, until 1992, to ban the largest loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA, together with the toleration of widespread infiltration of the UDR, the locally recruited regiment of the British Army, is clear evidence of a counterinsurgency policy that viewed loyalist paramilitaries as allies in the war against the IRA. It is worth remembering that the UDA was still legal when the organisation murdered Pat Finucane at the behest of RUC Special Branch, MI5 and the FRU. In effect the relationship between loyalist paramilitaries and the British state was similar to the relationship between the Contras and the US administration of Ronald Reagan. The fact that many civilians were murdered as part of these counter insurgency policies was regarded as mere collateral damage by those in London who prosecuted this war.

Other official documents demonstrate a shocking disregard for civilian lives in respect of the actions of the British Army - when the Attorney General asserted in 1971 that soldiers were incapable of committing murder since they were 'on duty' this gave a de facto 'license to kill' to members of the security forces. Bloody Sunday and the Ballymurphy Massacre was the inevitable result. It would be foolish to believe that this is of historical interest only. The interrogation methods used here in the seventies were used again in Iraq. The Labour government claimed it had 'forgotten' that these methods were ruled illegal by the European court. As late as 2010, a soldier was still serving in the British Army despite his conviction for the murder of Peter Mc Bride in Belfast in 1992

Latest Declassified Documents

Strasbourg-Brief for Attorney General

Brief for the British Attorney General (AG) in preparation for the 'Irish state case' (the Hooded Men) from September 1972 from DS10 (the Defence Secretariat at the MoD in London). Of interest is the disinformation provided to the AG, the most senior law officer in Britain, by the Ministry of Defence. At para 4 it is claimed that Ballykelly only...
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Ministerial Memo- role of RUC in interrogation of "Hooded Men"

Memo outlining the details of a meeting between the Secretary of Sate for Northern Ireland and the Minister of State, the General Officer Commanding (Army), Private Under Secretary, Chief of General Staff and Chief of Defence Staff dated 20th October 1971. Discussion of how to get around the difficulties that the interrogations were carried out by RUC Special Branch, not...
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Mtg of N Division Local Security Committee (added Sept 2017)

Behind Closed Doors Occasionally the minutes of apparently unimportant meetings offer a fascinating insight. Meetings between unionist delegations (in this case local councillors who were members of the Local Security Committee) and the NIO/RUC and British army, provide a snapshot of the type of lobbying that unionists indulged in when meeting with 'their' local security forces. Described as a 'lively'...
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Weapons and Shooting Statistics (added Aug 2017)

Official memo on weapons seized on both sides of the border between 1969-1976 with a breakdown of types of weapons and a summary of key seizures. The information was supplied by the RUC Data Reference Centre which carried out intelligence analysis under the aegis of Special Branch. This February 1977 memo highlights the involvement of republican and loyalist organisations in...
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Memo to Secretary of State on security options-Feb 1978 (added Aug 2017)

1978 memo to SoS (author unknown) outlining security options and highlighting the 'danger signs' that the (British) army are deploying patrols for "suppression" and Intelligence" with no intention of arresting and charging suspects. The memo goes on to suggest that any 'drift' back to army methods and goals is the "road that leads to executive action against terrorists , rather...
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