British army and NIO answer collusion questions

The Irish News put the following questions to the British army and the Northern Ireland Office

1. The Subversion in the UDR document written in 1973 and reproduced in The Irish News shows that military intelligence estimated five to 15 per cent of UDR soldiers were linked to loyalists, it said the ‘best single source of weapons, and only significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups, has been the UDR’, and believed weeding out potential subversives ‘could well result in a very small regiment indeed’.

- Why was none of this not made public at the time?

2. An annex to the document lists how a weapon stolen by loyalists with the collusion of UDR soldiers was subsequently recovered by the security forces and linked by them to a murder, 11 attempted murders and a kidnapping.

- Why was this not made public at the time?

3. A memo from a civil servant recording a meeting in September 1975 between the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher, and then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Merlyn Rees, was reproduced in The Irish News. It reads: “The Secretary of State said that he was more worried by the current sectarian murders than by the bombings in Belfast. Unfortunately there were certain elements in the police who were very close to the UVF, and who were prepared to hand over information, for example, to Mr Paisley. The army’s judgment was that the UDR were heavily infiltrated by extremist Protestants, and that in a crisis situation they could not be relied upon to be loyal.”

- Why was this not made public at the time?
- Why in the face of such intelligence did government routinely reject allegations of collusion of this type and deny its existence?
- Why were politicians who asked parliamentary questions on these matters not told the whole truth?

THE British army replied:

“The document to which you allude appears to have been classified and, as such, would not have been for public disclosure.”

AN NIO spokesperson replied:

“These questions can only be answered by those in government at the time. The documents referred to are not NIO documents.”

THE Irish News then put two further questions to the NIO

1. Was the Northern Ireland Office today, or the present secretary of state, surprised or shocked by the contents of the documents published in The Irish News?

2. Did the Northern Ireland Office or the present secretary of state have prior knowledge of these documents or similar evidence of collusion between security force members and loyalist paramilitary groups?

IN response to the additional questions, a NIO spokesperson said: “If there is evidence of criminal activity in these documents then that is a matter for the police.”