Martin Galvin (MG) interviews civil rights attorney Niall Murphy (NM) via telephone from Belfast about the release of the Police Ombudsman report on the 1994 Loughinisland massacre. (begins time stamp ~ 33:41)
MG: This week, in fact it’ll be going back to 1994, on June 18th, 1994, there was a very major and damning event: a number of people had gathered just to watch what we would call a soccer match – what they would call a football match – and at that time a number of Loyalists, pro-British Loyalists, came into a pub, opened fire, killed six people, the oldest was eighty-seven and they got away with it and Nationalists knew – it had what we used to call all the hallmarks of collusion – they would be allowed to get there, get away, evidence would be destroyed or not followed-up, there’d be no arrest, they would have pinpoint information – and we would view that as something that showed that there was collusion between the British state and between the killers and all of that was always denied. And people like Theresa Villiers, the British Secretary of State, said piously that nothing like that would ever happen and it was all a ‘pernicious counter-narrative‘.
Well this week there was a very important Ombudsman investigation. A report was announced about Loughinisland and it said that there was indeed what we had always known – collusion, that there was indeed a major role between British forces and those who carried out that assassination and between letting them get away with that. And the person who was at the centre of exposing all of that, the civil rights lawyer from Belfast Niall Murphy, is on the phone, Niall we want to congratulate you and ask you exactly what you feel was the importance of that ruling that came out on Thursday?
NM: Thank you Martin. Thank you for the opportunity to speak on your radio programme. This is certainly one of the most important official reports that has ever come out and certainly that has been published in recent years. This is the first occasion that such an explicit finding of collusion has been made and what is particularly relevant is the fact that this case had already been examined by the previous incumbent of the Police Ombudsman, Al Hutchinson, a Canadian mounted police officer who had held the post previously. In June, 2011, Al Hutchinson published a report on Loughinisland which in fact characterised the police investigation as a series of serious mistakes whereas the real truth and the difficult truth, which was published on Thursday of this week, was that it wasn’t a series of mistakes but rather it was a conspiracy of criminality to ensure that the truth about Loughinisland did not come out. Some of the facts which were published on Thursday are terrifying. I would just like to read out some of the specific paragraphs and I would encourage your listeners, if at all possible, to download the report. It’s one hundred and sixty pages – forty-four thousand words. It is a difficult read. It will take a bit of time to read but some of the facts which emerged are astounding.
Paragraph 7.155 informs us that suspects were notified by police officers that they were liable to be arrested the following day. So on 21st of August the murder gang were in effect told they were about to be arrested tomorrow morning. The case outlines a disgusting history of collusion in a specific area, in the South Down area. It starts with the murder of Jack Kielty in 1988. Jack Kielty’s son would go on to become an international comedian of high renown. Patrick Kielty’s married to Cat Deely, another person of fame in this jurisdiction.
And the police investigation into the murder of Jack Kielty was such that a police office who is described in the report as ‘Police Officer 3’ – I refer to him as ‘a good apple in a rotten orchard’ because Police Officer 3 advised Police Ombudsman investigators that he could not talk about his intentions to investigate the murder of Jack Kielty in the police station because that would corrupt his intentions. So a police officer did not feel safe talking about strategic investigation matters in a police station – that for me summarises how ingrained Loyalist sympathies were in RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) stations. And the report…
MG: …Now let me just follow-up on that: In the report it says, first of all, that weapons were allowed to be brought in, that they were brought in in part by agent (inaudible) directed who reported to members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and there was also connection to the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) at the time. That these weapons were allowed to be brought it – they were allowed to be used. At one point somebody who housed these weapons was directed to move them because they might be discovered. This assassination bid and many others – these weapons were used to kill quite a number of innocent Nationalists which again, there was no effort made to jark the weapons – do anything to them which would allow you to see who the weapons were going to – to stop the weapons from going in. And then after the murder there were a number of things which would have allowed you to find out who did the killing; weapons were found, the getaway car was found, balaclavas were found – and these all were destroyed. Now, my question to you is: How could all of these many things happen without there being some kind of wide scale, concerted effort within the Royal Ulster Constabulary to do all of these things?
NM: Well, you’ve touched upon some serious issues of an overarching nature and I’ll deal with them just individually. The South African arms importation: the importance of this report is important to the families of Loughinisland with regards to the specific details it outlines in relation to investigative failings into that specific atrocity but it is also important for society as a whole and anybody with an interest in Irish affairs insofar as it outlines in some great detail, some forty pages, as to the prior knowledge of the British state of this arms importation.
In effect what happened with the arms importation was, as follows: The UDA (Ulster Defence Association) was controlled by the British Army through its head of intelligence, a man called Brian Nelson. Brian Nelson was a high level military agent controlled by the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry of Defence orchestrated and directed the UDA, an unlawful paramilitary organisation, through Brian Nelson. Brian Nelson traveled to South Africa in 1985 to negotiate the terms of an arms consignment. At that time South Africa was an apartheid state and was subject to an international arms embargo ordered by the United Nations. The South African arms company, the official state company, called Armscorp, let it be known to Brian Nelson that they required hardware – up-to-date, cutting edge, military technology – which they knew was being developed at Shorts (Short Brothers LTD) in East Belfast. In effect what they required were surface-to-air missiles and the cutting edge technology at that time was a Starstreak missile system which was being developed by Shorts in East Belfast. The conspiracy would then flow, as follows: Brian Nelson returned, the consignment would be exchanged and discharged of a monetary sum, some one hundred thousand pounds, and also the blueprint plans for the Starstreak missile system.
The money could not be raised – the UDA at that time was highly self-interested with criminal enterprises, such as racketeering, and the arms importation could not occur in 1985. However in 1986, as a result of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Ulster Resistance was formed and was led by many senior DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) figures – many of whom are still active in local politics today. There is footage on YouTube and other places of Ian Paisley and others leading a march into the Ulster Hall in Belfast at the foundation of Ulster Resistance. The report outlines in great detail the activities of Ulster Resistance in rekindling the relationship in South Africa
They reorganised their connections within Loyalism, the paramilitary organisations all came together, the UDA, the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) and Ulster Resistance and they robbed a bank in Portadown in 1987 raising the funds. The police at all stages were fully aware of all intentions of the triumvirate of Loyalism. The report outlines in magnificent detail specific incidences of Special Branch intelligence advising them as to the intentions of the fund raising, the importation from South Africa and eventually when the arms came in the explicit specifics of where it would go. One of the most astounding facts emerging from this report, and many of your listeners will be familiar with the exceptional book written by Anne Cadwallader of the Pat Finucane Centre, Lethal Allies, which outlines in specific detail the activities of the Glenanne Gang who were involved in one hundred and twenty murders. The Glenanne Gang was a group of Loyalists who were RUC Officers by day and Loyalist death squads by night. And the significant arms importation would be stored in Glenanne at the farm of James Mitchell. This was a fact that was unknown to anybody and that James Mitchell’s farm in Glenanne was still a safe-haven in 1988 is shocking! The police allege in their report, in their own intelligence records, that they lost the surveillance operation and the guns were then circulated. And some arms were recovered in the early stages of 1988 but the devastating impact of these weapons would resonate throughout the years and when one compares the lethality of Loyalism in the six years prior to this arms importation in comparison with the six years after the arms importation their capacity to kill was increased by three hundred percent – two hundred and twenty-nine people…
MG: …Niall, we have to go on actually with the programme – we just scratched the surface – I know that. We have another guest on the line that we have to get to before we close.
NM: No problem.
MG: This is something that we’re going to follow-up on. We want to congratulate you for getting that report. I know that you’re going to be working with groups like Relatives for Justice and also legally just to pursue this, to force the British government to take action to maybe prosecute some of those people who paid for, worked with, authorised and set the stage for these murders so we want to congratulate you. (ends time stamp ~ 47:32)