New documents uncovered by the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry reveal the endemic collusion between the British army regiments and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. The declassified official documents uncovered highlight that the Ulster Defence Regiment’s (UDR) Belfast battalion was heavily infiltrated by the Ulster Volunteer Force(UVF) in the late 1970s.
The ‘For UK Eyes Only’ documents show that:
Army chiefs feared that 70 soldiers in one UDR unit were linked to the UVF in west Belfast, including one member of the notorious Shankill Butcher gang;
• One UDR unit was suspected of siphoning-off £47,000 to the UVF while UDR equipment was regularly stolen from another unit to support the loyalist terror group;
• UVF members were regularly allowed to socialise at the UDR’s Girdwood barracks social club;
• Army chiefs considered secretly testing firing UDR soldiers’ weapons to check whether they had been used in sectarian murders;
• The collusion investigation was then suspended after a senior UDR officer claimed it was damaging morale within the regiment.
Over the last 30 years hundreds of innocent civilians mostly Catholics were killed by loyalist paramilitaries leaving many victims searching for the truth into the level of state collusion into the deaths of their loved ones. It is also clear from these documents that this was not just the case of a few bad apples but was state sanctioned as part of a counter-insurgency strategy to combat the IRA and was covered up at the highest levels of governance. In addition it remains unclear the extent of infiltration and manipulation of armed republican groups (including those still wedded to armed struggle) by security agencies towards manufacturing the current political arrangements.
A British Army report following a 1973 report into infiltration of the UDR by ‘Protestant extremists’ stated ‘The best single source of weapons and the only significant source of modern weapons for protestant weapons has been the UDR'. Despite these damning internal reports highlighting corruption and collusion the British Government still continued to arm, train and equip the UDR as a local militia in Northern Ireland.
While these documents shed an important light on a dark chapter in our recent history, they only reveal part of our history in the 1970s. Questions still need to answered in relation to the extent of state collusion into the 1980s, 90s and today, as well as the continuing use of agent provocateurs and informers by the RUC/PSNI. It remains to be seen whether victim campaigners will get the closure and truth they deserve.
For the last 30 years the North has been used as a lethal laboratory by British state intelligence agencies and its army apparatus in state repression and counter-insurgency strategy. We do not need to look afar to modern day military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan to the role of British Imperialism in Ireland over the last couple of centuries leaving a legacy of sectarianism, division and generational trauma. Evidently these documents once again reveal that far from being a neutral broker between two sectarian tribes the British state was an active protagonist engaged in ruthless state terrorism and collusion in its own backyard. In the meantime it is our duty to support all victims regardless of their politics in their campaign for truth and justice.
The documents can be read here http://www.patfinucanecentre.org/