Documents confirming that the British government was aware of large-scale collusion between security forces and loyalists point to a “terrible cover-up”, an expert observer of the Troubles has said. During the worst years of violence Fr Raymond Murray worked with Mgr Denis Faul and Fr Brian Brady to gather evidence of security-force wrongdoing and IRA activities. Today he responds to the official files revealed in The Irish News last week.

The documents from 1973 show that British Military Intelligence believed between five and 15 per cent of UDR members were linked to loyalists, while the regiment was the “best single source of weapons” for loyalists. A further document records how in 1975 Margaret Thatcher was told that “elements in the police” were “close to the UVF”, and that the UDR was “heavily infiltrated” by loyalists.

Fr Murray said the documents were a major development coming after years in which evidence of collusion emerged in a piecemeal fashion. “As I read these documents, I was quite shocked. Why didn’t [the British government] do something about these things? "Nobody ever said ‘stop’. It all had to be a terrible cover-up.”

Also in today’s Irish News, the British army and the NIO are questioned on the documents, while Ulster Unionist Lord Maginnis dismisses their contents.