Written on: 17. 5. 2022 in the category: I'm Back!

Defaming and Demonising Good Men As Usual

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UDR Declassified  (Merrion) by Micheal Smith

Review by Kevin Myers

In his introduction to this wretched book, Colin Wallace, the former British army press officer in Lisburn quotes from an article in Hibernia magazine that appeared in 1975.

By 1973, (Jim) Hanna had become the senior military commander for the UVF in Northern Ireland. He had become a close friend of Captains Anthony Ling and Anthony Box and Lieutenant Alan Homer, all of 39th Brigade at Lisburn, and a Timothy Golden who is not listed as a member of Intelligence Corps but was possibly an SAS man attached to Intelligence. They were frequent visitors to Hanna’s home near Lisburn, and group photographs of Hanna, Homer and Golden were taken away by the police after Hanna was murdered last year. The remarkable thing is that Hanna remained on good terms with Intelligence when he was masterminding the bombing offensive.

Who was the author of these apparently well-informed observations? Here was a man Micheal Smith, the author of the book under review, The UDR Declassified, must surely have contacted. No serious scholar could possibly ignore such an invaluable source of information on issues that were so contentious, yet so central to his thesis about collusion between crown forces and loyalist terrorists. Yet I know for a fact that Smith made no such approach, and I can say with this some certainty, because I was the author.

Why would Smith not even bother to contact a journalist whose knowledge of this time might have been of some help or guidance to him? Was it because he – that is to say, I ­ – might have profoundly disagreed with most of the fantastical assertions in this book? Did Smith adamantly refuse to hear views that contradicted his own? Or was he appalled at the prospect of having to consult one of the best-known enemies of the IRA in Irish life, preferring instead to draw on his own rich reserves of prejudice and ignorance?

Whatever the answer, this neglect of a primary source is testimony to the values that Smith has brought to this sloppy, malignant and ill-informed farrago. So intent has he been on hurling abuse that he has failed utterly in his primary task of empirically proving that the UDR had been what the chapter headings allege it to have been all about; “A dangerous species of ally”; “Arming One section of the Community”; “Subversion in the UDR”; “Criminality in the UDR”; and “Sinning Quietly.”

Smith’s introduction gives a foretaste of his tone throughout, as in: “the stunning extent of collusion between the UDR and loyalist paramilitaries, the penetration of the regiment by loyalist paramilitaries, and the extent to which all of this was known about, tolerated and encouraged by Whitehall and the MoD.”

The “evidence” he adduces clearly shows that not one of these assertions is justified, and they can only be made so by exaggerating the extent of whatever collusion there was and lifting quotations from official documents quite out of context. This has required the employment of the Provisionals’ favourite science, Collusionology, whose headquarters are probably located in Roswell. Most vitally, collusionology’s star witness – and also the author’s  – Colin Wallace, does not mention even one of those allegations against the UDR in his foreword. Indeed, he makes no criticism whatever of the UDR. If that is an inauspicious beginning for Smith’s case, worse is to come in the author’s Preface which opens as follows –

“Extract from A Long War, by Ken Wharton.

It was early evening 4th January 1976. The CO put his head through my office door and said, ‘What are you up to RSM?’

‘I’m going to Glennane Sir!’ I replied.

‘I’m going there. Ride with me,’ said the CO.

…We drove off into the misty cold Armagh night, the CO, myself and the female Greenfinch (female soldier) driver and my driver who came as an additional escort….Halfway through the journey we picked up radio traffic of a shooting incident….Three dead were mentioned… We drove into a lane and down into a muddy yard…..

‘No need to go in,’ whispered a policeman. ‘Just look through the window. It’s a bloody awful sight.’

I looked and saw the shot-up bodies of two dark-haired young men, teenagers. Blood spattered the wall above one of them. A wounded third man was being attended to upstairs. He sounded ton be in the most terrible agony. An older woman arrived…..She tried to rush into  the house, but was stopped from entering. She then let out an immediate howling sound of the most dreadful grief…

I stood by the police Land Rover and spoke with the Green Finch driver. My words to her were, ‘Jesus Christ! Just imagine rearing those boys to see them come to this.’

She made no immediate reply and then said, ‘Good enough for the likes of those.’ Before I could reply to her my driver, a Catholic, squeezed my arm to keep quiet.

On my arrival back at Gough barracks, I made a written report of her words. I felt she should be sacked. ..(A)bout a week later, the Training Major, Light infantry, came into my office and sat down. After a silence, he said, ‘RSM, don’t become involved in Irish politics, leave it alone or you’ll be the loser.’

He left my office and as In sat in thought, I just thought, ‘What a hopeless situation.’”

Smith then explains: “The recollection ..comes from a regular British soldier…on a two-year attachment to the Ulster Defence Regiment.”

Indeed: we have already been introduced to him at the start of this quotation: Ken Wharton. Except Ken Wharton was never a Regimental Sergeant Major, was never a member of the Royal Regiment of Wales, was never in the UDR but was merely a private soldier with the Royal Green Jackets. Yet aside from these monstrous inaccuracies, Mr Wharton (whom I have the honour of knowing, having worked with him on several of his excellent books) is in essence here accused of not taking immediate action against a woman soldier who had made an outrageously sectarian and divisive remark in front of a Catholic fellow soldier. An RSM who did not put a private soldier under immediate close arrest for such a violation of military protocol while deployed on an operation in aid of the civil power would not deserve to hold the royal warrant.

That Ken Wharton was the compiler and editor (but not author) of these reminiscences is only made clear in the footnotes at the end, for those whose taste and patience run to rummaging through such arcana. But the damage is done:  Ken Wharton, a soldier of great probity, has effectively been defamed as an incompetent RSM and a tolerator of sectarian bigotry. This sloppiness provides yet further proof of the meticulousness that has (as with my exclusion) very much not gone into the writing of this inexcusable travesty of a book.

But at least it serves as a grim marker of how the peace process is reversing the outcome of IRA’s military campaign, which ended in ignominious failure and with many of its senior commanders in the pay of various British intelligence agencies. However, it cannot be denied that the post-conflict campaign by Sinn Fein/IRA (Sfira) to destroy the reputation of the people who defeated them has been extraordinarily successful. This book serves as an auxiliary to that larger project, as attested to by the words following the account of the aforementioned slaughter of the three Reavey brothers, one of the foulest crimes of the Troubles.

The Attack was carried out by the infamous Glenanne Gang, comprised of members of the loyalist extremist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and members of the local state security forces – the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) and UDR. The gang was responsible for about 120 murders on both sides of the border.

This bald assertion makes it seem that there was a formal alliance between members of the state security forces and the UVF, when the opposite was the case. Moreover, the source for that final figure of 120 murders is given as Margaret Urwin, who is an associate of the Pat Finucane Centre for which Smith works. Such a circular attribution is simply the reassuring sound of an echo chamber.

Let us deal with facts here. There was no thing as the Glenanne Gang. That loyalist terrorists would gather at Glenanne, a farm in mid-Armagh owned by a very evil police reservist named Mitchell, is not in doubt: I believe I was once there myself, as a (blindfolded during the journey) guest of Jim Hanna and Billy Marchant (both RIP) of the UVF. But nobody took orders from some central and mysterious command figure there, a sort of Protestant Dr No. It was a place of informal meetings, like many a house in South Armagh was for the IRA. Granting it the alliterative title of the Glenanne Gang imbues it with a uniformity of purpose it wholly lacked, especially since its guests had a rather discommoding habit of bumping one another off, as Marchant would soon shoot Hanna, and as another regular at Glenanne, William Hanna would be murdered by yet another regular at Glenanne, Robin Jackson. During my visit there Jim Hanna certainly told me that many (though not all) of the half dozen UVF men I was meeting were also in the UDR. That truth doesn’t mean they were in any way representative of the entire regiment. Indeed, on our journey to and from the farm, my UVF companions were deeply concerned about the prospect of encountering an RUC or UDR checkpoint, whose members were well-versed in the body language of loyalist terrorists.

But retaining the Glenanne Gang terminology for narrative purposes only, the formation of such terrorist opposition groups was central to the IRA plan of campaign. The IRA by itself was too small to fulfil its ambition of making Northern Ireland ungovernable. It needed the antibodies of violent loyalist resistance to achieve that end. This was why murdering locally recruited members of Northern Ireland’s security forces was so central to the IRA’s strategy. Shortly before the IRA leader David O’Connell met a delegation from the UVF in 1974, he told me that with the random killing of unimportant Catholics, loyalist paramilitaries had been behaving precisely as he would have wished them to. Nothing that they did thereafter would have altered that judgement.

Cognitive dissonance being a primary ingredient of any republican analysis, the IRA’s campaign of murder also managed to comply with the belief that Ulster unionism was a temporary delusion from which the majority community could in time be violently weened by terminating the lives of enough of its uniformed representatives. More exotic versions of this moral and demographic hallucination would in time emerge but from the outset, the homicide of the local defenders of the union was a keystone of the Provisional IRA’s existence. The Official IRA fought the British army in the Falls Road curfew in 1970. That same summer, in North and East Belfast, the Provisional IRA took on loyalist irregulars, killing six of them and provoking huge anger amongst the Protestants of the city. Next, it cold-bloodedly murdered two unarmed police officers in South Armagh. Thereafter, the murder of locally recruited members of the security forces was a key element to the “armed struggle”. The subsequent mass-murder of shoppers in IRA bombings could be dismissed by IRA supporters as accidents as or the intentional outcomes brought about by the RUC or the British constabularies, which had all apparently been schooled overnight in the recondite arts of shepherding hapless civilians into the path of IRA bombs, while rather shrewdly ensuring their own family members or friends did not become victims.

But a comparable transference of responsibility was not possible with the very studied murders of the Northern Irish security forces. These killings were the nexus where religious prejudice met tactics and tactics met strategy in a satisfyingly murderous triangle whose primary purpose was the pleasure of killing rather than the outcome of a united Ireland. At that evil juncture, hundreds of Irishmen and Irishwomen (as they were by the IRA’s definition, if not always their own) serving in the security forces were to be murdered as the IRA indulged their grisly delusion that unionism was simply a failure of the (largely Protestant) Northern Irish imagination. Once unionists saw some sense, all finally would be well, but in the meantime, lads, brace for the backlash…..

This is why the IRA campaign fails every single test of a moral war. It is also why, all these years later, that apologists of that campaign are obliged to go sifting through its ruins, looking abjectly for evidence that the black is white, and that victims were perpetrators. The harder they try, the more they need to fabricate evidence that the IRA campaign was in reality a response to security force atrocities, these desperate post facto confections thereby confirming how threadbare is the “republican” case.

Those inverted commas are important, as are those that should grace words “loyalist” and “Protestant”. Corruption of language being central to all forms of Irish paramilitary existence, we should remember that there is nothing remotely “republican” – a thing owned by the people – about the armed and pagan Fenianism that launched no-warning bomb-and-bullet attacks on pubs frequented by Protestants and cold-bloodedly slew hundreds simply because of their religion. Similarly, the beasts who enriched the English language with the term “the Shankill Butchers” and with their “romper rooms” where Catholics were tortured to death, were not “loyal” to the union and its laws, and in no sense were they Protestant. We are dealing here with two sets of armed and ruthless bigots who killed on generally tribal lines. However, I admit that the terms “republican” and “loyalist” have popular currency, and so grudgingly accede to their usage while restating this fundamental reservation: by allowing these creatures to manipulate language, we are losing half the battle. Those who call themselves republican stand for the opposite of what republicanism means. Meanwhile, those who say they are loyalist, a term that requires the obedience towards the laws of the kingdom, instead have systematically violated those laws and murdered their fellow subjects of the crown.  

The collusion mythology is comparably based on a studied misapprehension of intent and meaning. Evidentially, the argument against the republican definition of collusion (that it was one-way traffic between the British state and loyalists) is overwhelming. For, from the outset of the Troubles, there was collusion between the IRA and the Irish state in many ways, from the state-aided formation of the IRA to the tolerance of IRA training camps in Wicklow and Donegal and the protection from extradition given by the Irish Supreme Court given to republic terrorists. Furthermore, towards the end of the Troubles, there was wholesale collusion between the Irish and British states and their agencies with the IRA.

However, these unassailable facts have now become concealed by the triumph of Sfira’s phoney science of collusionology. In the decades since the last locally-recruited soldiers and police officers were murdered behind their shop-counters or delivering mail or putting milk bottles on the doorstep, a fiction has been carefully created that there was a retributive aspect to these killings by the IRA which morally validated them.

There was no such aspect nor any such validation. This was a campaign of unprovoked homicide that constituted a serial war-crime which in any other jurisdiction would have merited the equivalent of a Nuremberg trial. Instead, in Ireland the perpetrators and their leaders have been rewarded with places in government, with convivial visits to the White House and to Chequers. In the background has been the steady drumbeat of propaganda such as this work, which in both methodology and outcome violate all the accepted civilities and norms of scholarship. What at bottom is systematic “republican” misinformation has been chastely veiled in the language of academe, thereby concealing the lack of real evidence for the vast majority of its many claims.

The author, an employee of the Pat Finucane Centre, perhaps the most influential advocacy group dealing with public memory of the Troubles, systematically confuses readers with irrelevant assertions. Repeatedly, crimes by other agencies that have nothing to do with the UDR – including the Finucane murder itself, which is mentioned twenty-three times in the text – are introduced into his tale in order to intensify the aura of suspicion around the regiment. No judge would allow such tendentious and irrelevant testimony (because it is certainly not evidence) to corrupt his or her court.  Similarly, language from other and not remotely comparable situations such as Africa and South America is routinely employed, most particularly in the repeatedly one-sided use of terms like “death squad” and “colony”.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. It is not a colony. Moreover, it is intellectually ludicrous for Smith to compare the Troubles with, say, the British campaign against the Mau Mau in Kenya – here fatuously described as “the British genocide of the Kikuyu people”, which, if I remember correctly, and rather unusually for a genocide, ended with the election of the Kikuyu leader Jomo Kenyatta as President.  Admittedly, at the start of the troubles there was an uncomprehending and often brutal culture within the British army towards the bafflingly complex problems of Northern Ireland, resulting in the catastrophic security policies that graced Irish history with mass internment without trial, torture of prisoners, the war-crime that was Bloody Sunday and the scandalous cover-up that was Widgery.

But thereafter occurred a rapid evolution of both political attitude and military methodology. The most spectacular examples of the former involved the Sunningdale Treaty of 1973, making a return to Unionist government both impossible and illegal, and for the latter, the unilateral ending of internment in 1975 even while the IRA campaign continued. This resulted in an immediate increase in IRA activity as released internees re-enlisted, so producing the second worst year of the Troubles.  Of the 307 dead of 1976, 220 were civilians and 53 members of the security forces. Republicans were responsible for 161 of the deaths, loyalists 127, the army 14, the RUC two and the UDR none.

So, there is nothing “colonial” about a government abandoning a vital weapon – selective internment of known terrorists – and getting more dead soldiers and policeman in return. Moreover, since it is statistically impossible to shift the blame for the continuation of the Troubles after 1973 onto the part-timers of the UDR, the vilifiers of the regiment must resort to the alchemy of myth using the technique referred to above: the same-source verification of claims of collusion between crown forces and loyalist paramilitaries, but here masquerading as independent corroboration. This “same source” magic wand is the conjoined alliance of the Pat Finucane Centre, the shamelessly propagandistic film Unquiet Graves, Anne Cadwallader’s book Lethal Allies, the lies of An Phoblacht, which is Sfira’s own Der Sturmer, and the populist bilge of the academic Trotskyite Bill Rolston. The approval of one of these outlets for the opinions of another is repeatedly presented as a neutral validation when it is no more than the disingenuous reflections in a hall of carefully angled ideological mirrors.

Likewise, language is carefully tailored to suit the author’s purpose. The term “war” is used only about the British role in the Troubles, as if republican forces were not responsible for 60% of all deaths. Thus, we get these nuggets: “In fact, the war being waged by the British army depended increasingly on support from the UDR….” “A valuable ally in the war against the IRA…” “The Army worried about a war on two fronts…”The war being waged by the British army”…”The army not only tolerated but courted militant loyalists in its war with in Northern Ireland.”

The term “war” is never once used about the IRA’s campaign, even though its mouthpiece, An Phoblacht ran a regular column called “War News”. Smith uses the term “dirty war” four times, but naturally, only for the British, never for the IRA. Similarly, the term death squad(s) features nine times, and only in connection with the British state’s alleged collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. It is never used about the IRA, whose murderous cross-border raids to slaughter isolated Protestants and machine-gun assaults on Protestant pubs certainly merited that term. Likewise, the word “murder” is used only once about an IRA killing, namely that of the UDR woman Margaret Hearst, shot dead in her caravan in South Armagh beside her baby girl. Perhaps this is because the culprit was the serial killer Dessie O’Hare whose spectacularly criminal career continued long after the Troubles officially ceased, so placing him well outside the accepted “republican” community. Otherwise, the word “murder” appears over two hundred times in Smith’s text, but only in connection with killings by loyalists or crown forces. Smith uses the morally neutral word “killing” sixteen times to describe IRA’s murders of members of the security forces, rather as if they were victims of car-crashes on foggy nights, even though some of the victims of the IRA were given deaths to match those of the victims of the Shankill Butchers. He gets round the IRA’s Nazi-style slaughter of ten Protestant workmen in South Armagh by simply not mentioning it.

From the outset of the Troubles, the IRA launched no-warning bomb attacks on loyalist pubs in order to generate loyalist counter-terrorism, with the ultimate intent of drawing the Republic into an all-island civil war. Though “loyalist” paramilitaries are presented throughout this work as merely another face of British counter-insurgency doctrine, they were nonetheless an authentically indigenous, if often brutally mindless  Protestant working class responses to IRA atrocities. By the closing years of the Troubles, the security forces were imprisoning many more loyalist terrorists than republican ones, a truth that refutes the central Sfira falsehood that Protestant paramilitaries were the glove-puppets of the British government. So too does the testimony of loyalist paramilitary leaders. But we know from history what the IRA and its supporters do with any evidence that challenges their theses, which is to vehemently ignore it or guffaw it out of court.

The most striking evidence against the collusion thesis comes from the loyalist paramilitaries themselves. Their conduct achieved levels of cowardice, brutality and sheer incompetence that remain without peer in any conflict that I know of. For far from attacking the IRA, which if they would have done had they been controlled by the British, loyalist paramilitaries were instead usually content to kill harmless Catholics, often drunks on their way home. As a general rule, they left the IRA alone, even when they knew the names and addresses of republican leaders. Such knowledge came via criminal leaks from army or police intelligence or from open-source outlets such as media reports on court cases. By 1973, both the UVF and the UDA had vast amounts of material on the IRA, but seldom did loyalist killers use such information. I can say this with certainty, because I saw it and reported it at the time, which is why I might have been of some use to any author who really wanted to know the truth.

This is borne out by “facts”, an epistemological phenomenon that Smith seldom allows interrupt his narrative flow. Thus, according to the Ulster University’s CAIN analysis of 569 killings inflicted by the UVF, only 4% of the victims were republicans, compared to the 1% of the UVF’s death-toll who were members of the security forces. That is to say, the UVF only managed to kill four times the number of IRA personnel opposing the union as it managed to kill soldiers or police officers who were supporting it. This figure is so absurd that it can only be an expression of a profound anthropological, psychological and cultural dysfunctionality.  In other words, from the British point of view, the UVF as an organisational instrument of war was utterly useless. Almost everything it did helped the IRA as its random use of terror against Catholics (which its members greatly enjoyed) allowed the IRA to pose as defenders of the minority. This in itself was yet another case of cognitive dissonance, because the IRA was quite incapable of protecting Catholic areas and pubs.

In effect, the relationship between the UVF and the IRA was mutually collusive. The UVF policies of generalised terrorism served as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA and vice versa, meanwhile hugely distracting the security forces and destabilising the province politically.  At no stage in its utterly melancholy history did the UVF manage to limit the IRA’s ability to operate or cause the IRA to question its objective of achieving its goal of a united Ireland by violence.

Like the UVF, the UDA delighted in the recreational torture and killing of harmless Catholics and was largely uninterested in the rather more arduous and perilous task of tracking down and killing IRA leaders. The UDA is believed to have killed 208 civilians, twelve “political activists” (mostly Sinn Fein), 11 republican paramilitaries, 37 loyalist paramilitaries and three members of the security forces. Again, the figures are absurd, for they tell us that the largest “loyalist” paramilitary group in Northern Ireland managed to kill three times more fellow loyalist paramilitaries than it did republican paramilitaries. Moreover, the UDA managed to kill three members of the security forces: its IRA death toll – eleven – was barely more than three times larger.

And this is collusion?

That is a question a genuinely interested but disinterested observer would keep returning to. Smith is neither. A little bit of work reveals the truth of about collusion and the so-called death-squads. In May, 1974, James and Gertrude Devlin were ambushed as they arrived at their home in Tyrone. Each was shot eight times, while their teenage daughter Patricia, quite incredibly, survived being shot nine times. This was an atrocity whose wickedness fully merited the death penalty, whatever the beliefs of the victims. As it happens, the Devlins were not “republicans” but supporters of the SDLP, which detested and repeatedly condemned the IRA. One of the perpetrators of these utterly foul murders was a part-time UDR man, William Leonard, who was also a neighbour in Moygashel Park Dungannon of the loyalist terrorist Wesley Somerville. Another gunman was Harris Boyle, who like Leonard, was a post office engineer. I suspect the Devlins were chosen because their home was isolated. As a post-office engineer, perhaps Leonard had worked there and had spotted a picture of the 1950s Tyrone football team in which Jim had been a star-player. For brutal halfwits like Somerville, Boyle and Leonard, that would have been reason enough for murder. Quite scandalously, at Leonard’s trial, the court appears not to have been told of his UDR membership. But this omission would not have been within the powers of the regiment but was the responsibility of the prosecuting counsel. Moreover, the RUC had arrested and interrogated Leonard and extracted a confession of guilt, so the police were hardly guilty of collusion here.

Boyle and two companions had previously been arrested in September 1972 after being discovered with a firearm in their car by a British army patrol and arrested. At their trial, one of them, William Wright, was identified as a UDR man. Harris was not so identified, which probably means that he was not a member of the regiment, and he certainly would not have been allowed to join after this incident or his subsequent court appearance. For all the many security failures that occurred at the time of the UDR’s founding – and ‘many’ really is the operative word – a firearms charge would definitely have served as a disqualification for membership. A third occupant of the car, Robert Kerr was also charged but was not identified as a UDR man, so probably was not one. The idiocy of this trio was underlined by their initial appearance in a magistrates’ court, where they bawled “No surrender.”

In 1973, all three men were acquitted on these firearms charges, which clearly suggests collusion by the court; except the trial judge was Rory Conaghan, a Catholic whose career was a refutation that Northern Ireland was fundamentally an Orange state. When he was appointed to the High Court in 1965, he became the youngest judge at that level in Northern Ireland’s history. He was later to achieve celebrity for finding against the British army over the mass criminality of its operations on internment day in August 1971. This compelling evidence of his judicial impartiality did not save him from being murdered by the IRA in 1974.

Two years after Harris Boyle walked free from that court, he was involved in the Miami Showband atrocity, upon which much of the UDR-collusion mythology depends; the murders are referenced no less than thirty-two times in this book.  Two members of the ambush gang were definitely UDR men: Roderick Shane McDowell and Thomas Raymond Crozier. When they later appeared in court charged with participating in the massacre, publication of their addresses was banned by the Resident Magistrate – which would constitute clear evidence of a unionist cover-up, except that the RM was one Roderick O’Connor.

It is repeatedly alleged that other UDR men were present for the slaughter, but apart from the frequency and vehemence of these assertions, I have found no evidence that any were, and nor has Smith offered any.  Vetting processes were already improving. By November 1975, 1,888 applications for UDR membership had already been rejected, and 108 serving UDR soldiers had been expelled on security grounds. Furthermore, the collusion myth intimately connecting the security forces and the Miami murder-gang does not long survive analysis. McDowell’s spectacles were found at the site of the massacre. The RUC sent them away for detailed forensic analysis. One hundred thousand people in the Armagh-Down-Tyrone area were found to have prescription spectacles, but police investigations revealed that only seven had ones that precisely matched those found at the murder-scene. At this point, McDowell was doomed, for he worked as an optics technician; indeed, he might even have made the spectacles that led to him being sent to jail for life.

One of the Special Branch men investigating the Mid-Ulster murders and a guarantor of its impartial vigour was Detective Chief Inspector Frank Murray, a Catholic and ferocious foe of all paramilitarism, no matter its source. Not that the Miami killers were on the professional end of that abominable spectrum. When they stopped the band at what Smith laughably calls the “faux-UDR” roadblock, as if no furred animals had gone into its making, they clearly thought the band-members were IRA. Yet one of the Miami victims, Brian McCoy, was the son of the local Grand Master of the Orange Lodge in Tyrone, no less. The murderous idiot Crozier even expected to meet Dickie Rock – and God knows, perhaps even get his autograph before killing him- though the singer had left the band three years previously.

We’re not talking just stupid here: we’re talking murderously thick thick thick.

It requires comparable stupidity, though now of an ideological variety, to believe all the collusion myths surrounding the Miami massacre. The fact that the serial murder, Robin Jackson was questioned by the police but let go after two days is presented by Smith as proof of as “collusion.” The footnote justifying this assertion cites Cadwallader’s “Lethal Allies”, a purely specious pretence at authenticity, for her colours are already nailed to collusion mast. Better still is to follow from Smith. “The …(Miami) attack had taken place close to Jackson’s home patch in Donaghmore, indicating his likely involvement.”

Really? Is that it? If you live in an area, you must be responsible for all the terrorism there? Well fancy. Amongst other Troubles’ victims in the Donaghmore area (which at one point Smith places in County Down) were Matthew Boyd, a harmless 60-year-old Protestant assassinated by the IRA. Thomas Jameson was a part-time UDR man shot dead by the IRA as he drove his cement lorry in Donaghmore. David Wilson was the owner of a small hardware store in Donaghmore when he was murdered by the IRA. Kieran McCann was a nineteen-year-old Catholic youth abducted from the Donaghmore garage where he worked and shot dead by the IRA, for no other reason than his father was a Company Sergeant Major in the UDR. (Yes, a Catholic warrant officer in the regiment; so, where now the collusion myth?) At least young Kieran has a known grave, unlike poor Columba McVeigh who, aged just seventeen, was abducted from Donaghmore by the IRA three months after the Miami killing, murdered and then buried secretly. His body has never been recovered. Of course, Smith’s book makes no reference to these killings, and nor does it to the fate of RUC sergeant George Coulter, short dead at Donaghmore by IRA gunman after leaving the home of the SDLP politician Austin Curry, which he had been guarding against attack by the UVF.

It is here that the larger collusion myth collides with empirical truth and disintegrates. The protection of Curry’s house against the UVF required three shifts of two policemen, 24 hours a day for 365 days – or 7,000 man-hours a year, the equivalent of Dungannon’s entire supply of police. Two policemen were killed during these otherwise mind-numbing rotas, and it is not to Austin Curry’s credit that throughout this time he refused to give even guarded support to the very police who were protecting him and his wife Anita. Meanwhile, the vast hole in the security apparatus in mid-Ulster that had been created by the UVF was then filled by UDR men on foot patrol and at vehicle checkpoints (VCPs) in Protestant and “neutral” areas. Deterrence is the most unquantifiable yet most vital aspect of counter-terrorism, and it remains the UDR’s greatest triumph.

However, it must be admitted that state-collusion had already enabled Welsey Somerville, his brother John, and the serial killers Harris Boyle and Robin Jackson to remain as active terrorists at the time of the Miami killings. Over a year before, in May 1974, all four were allegedly members of the UVF units that had bombed Dublin and Monaghan, murdering thirty-four people.  Soon afterwards, An Garda Siochana were given the names of some of the perpetrators by the RUC: the list included the Somerville brothers and Robin Jackson. I say this with certainty, because in my car outside Store Street Garda station, I was shown the list by the investigating Garda officer, Detective Inspector Brendan Burns. But the coalition government in Dublin made no attempt to have these men extradited to face trial in the Republic for mass murder – and the reason was simple. This would surely have led to demands from the British for the extradition of wanted IRA men from the Republic to the UK, which was something that no Irish government – even after the Sunningdale Treaty had been signed – was going to tolerate.

The net outcome was that the perpetrators of the Dublin bombings were a year later free to conduct the Miami massacre – though naturally, this is not the kind of collusion to which Smith wishes to draw our attention. Yet, despite the scorching condemnations in Mr Justice Barron’s report of the Irish government for its failings following the Dublin bombings, nobody ever accuses it of the collusion for which it was very definitely guilty.  Instead, Smith focuses solely on the UDR-loyalist paramilitary connection, for which he presents two main prosecution witnesses. The first is Colin Wallace, whom we have already met. From 1970 to 1975, he worked in the British army’s press office, which he subsequently transformed into the wholly spurious “PsyOps unit”, not merely for the army in general, but also (in his case) for the UDR as well. You would have had to communicate regularly with the press office, as I did, to understand the absurdity of such a grandiloquent title, especially since Wallace’s colleagues made little secret of their loathing of the mundanities of their job. There were no psychological operations being run through the army press office, just bored passed-over officers whiling their way towards retirement and their pensions. Wallace and a couple of civilians would leak occasional fanciful stories – one was that the Troubles had started by a Russian agent who had been landed by submarine in Donegal, another that the nitrobenzene explosive then being used by the IRA had been tampered with by the British to make it explode prematurely. Oh yes, and it also made its handlers impotent. Continued heartbeats and happy girlfriends attested to the absurdity of both fictions.

Yet despite his (spurious) claim to have to have had a special position within the UDR, in his foreword Wallace does not make a single accusation against the regiment. He has been quoted elsewhere as saying that the deranged soldier Robert Nairac and the UVF man Robin Jackson were associates. But how would he possibly know? Undercover soldiers, even ones as demented as Nairac, were not going to tell an army press officer in Lisburn about their terrorist contacts, especially since Wallace made a point of boasting of his military knowledge to journalists.

The second prosecution witness Smith calls on is John Weir, the Dublin-educated Monaghan-born, Cavan-raised RUC police officer who has made a career of confirming allegations of security-force treachery and coining useful quotes for collusionologists. These two Irishmen have a few things in common. Both are Protestants, both have been convicted of murder (Weir serving his time, while Wallace’s conviction was later ruled to be unsafe) and both are incurable fantasists who inhabit a landscape of their own devising. So naturally, they are regularly produced as trump cards by the collusionology school of Troubles’ history.

The Bermuda Triangle of this school is composed of a trinity of human co-ordinates. One is Nairac, who apparently thought he had penetrated the IRA in South Armagh when he had in fact booked his way to an early and unmarked grave. Another is Ian Mitchell, the police reservist who owned the Glenanne Farm. The third is the loyalist mass-murderer, Robin Jackson. Happily, for the collusionologists, all three co-ordinates are dead, and equally happily, they have a medium through whom they can speak from the hell which they must surely inhabit: none other than John Weir who will enliven any séance by saying whatever is required of him.

One of Smith’s central allegations is that Jackson was protected while in custody on various terrorist charges by a sympathetic police detective who leaked vital information to him. If this is correct, and the Historical Enquiries Team looking into the case appeared to believe it was, then it is a deeply troubling matter. But it has nothing to do with the accused in the dock and the subject of this book, namely the UDR. Only an enormous leap of the imagination – one perhaps assisted by the endlessly amenable medium that is John Weir – could transform a corrupt detective into a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Such imaginative leaps are made a little easier by Smith’s imaginative use of footnotes. For example, he wrote: “many observers believe that Jackson benefitted from an element of official protection and alleged immunity against prosecution throughout his murderous career, that he benefitted from a corrupt and indefensible relationship with enough RUC officers to protect him from  ever facing a murder charge.”

The footnote here takes us not to “many observers” but to a single report in The Irish Times for October, 2013 by Gerry Moriarty on the launch of Anne Cadwallader’s book, which claims that Jackson was dismissed from the UDR 4th March 1974, which he had joined in 1973. Not merely does this allegation mean his worst terrorist career occurred after he had been dismissed from the regiment, it confirms that “many observers” actually means just one: Cadwallader, as usual. Moreover, this is just another example of how his footnotes prove the opposite of what he asserts in his main text.

I cannot list them all, but as a final example consider this: “Increasingly, that conflict is being situated by modern historians in the broader geopolitical framework of ‘an unfinished colonialism.” Who are these “modern historians”? The footnote takes us to just one, Alan Blackstock, a historian of 18th/19th century loyalism.  Such misleading attributions are not the work of a serious historian.

To be sure, there are various unexplained events from around this time, such as the murder of the IRA-man John Green in Monaghan, in an unprecedented and unrepeated penetration of the IRA safe-house system. The Luger pistol that was used to kill him was also used in the Miami murders. Inventing vast and sinister conspiracies to explain this single incident must invite comparable theories behind other unique events, such as the assassination of Airey Neave, the Northern Bank Robbery, and the Brighton bombing. All have relatively simple explanations: in the case of Green, we just don’t know what it is. But his is just one of the 3,269 unsolved Northern Ireland murders, almost none of which has earned the exultant speculation that his assassination has received.

Here is the central truth. John Weir was and is a dangerous delusionist. As a psychopathic ally of loyalist paramilitaries, he had the choice of murdering any number of known IRA/Sinn Fein men in the republican heartlands of Antrim. Instead, he helped kill a sublimely innocent Catholic chemist in Ahoghill named William Strathearn, who opened his door after hours to help a stranger in need. This good man’s life or death meant nothing whatever to the IRA, and there was no possible UDR involvement in his murder. Yet Weir, the author of this atrocity, is cited four times as an “authority” on UDR-terrorist collusion, though was no such collusion in the crime for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The reality is that thousands of UDR soldiers knew the names and addresses of IRA terrorists in their areas, their movements, their associates, their places of work and where they drank. Yet these obvious targets were seldom touched by loyalist paramilitaries, who preferred to attack blameless families such as the Devlins or the politically obvious like Austin Curry, whose opposition to, and loathing of, the IRA was vocal and undeniable. A Tyrone UDR man once told me he would regularly drive to the carpark of The Four Seasons Hotel in Monaghan and count the known IRA men and women going back and forth. Yet The Four Seasons was never once touched by loyalist paramilitaries, even after Cormac McCabe, a UDR captain of astonishing innocence, was abducted from its dining room while celebrating the birthday of his handicapped daughter, taken away and murdered. If the UDR had been engaged in retaliatory terrorism, The Four Seasons would have been ashes before the year was out.

The real truth about collusion is most evident through its absence. In 1988, a landmine detonated beside a bus carrying young soldiers into the Tyrone heartland, killing six of them. Every single man and woman  in the Tyrone security forces knew who was responsible: the Harte brothers, from Carrickmore. If there had been a systemic collusion between the UDR and the UVF/UDA, they would have been long dead. The action that was finally taken to end their murderous campaign followed a phone-call from UDR Major Ken Maginnis – himself the target of eleven different assassination-conspiracies – to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Ten days later, the Hartes and their brother-in-law Brian Mullin were killed in an ambush by the SAS, after the three IRA men arrived to murder a coal-delivery driver they thought was a local UDR man. However, their intended victim was not the man they thought he was, but another, rather heroic UDR man who stood tinkering for several hours at the open bonnet of his lorry surrounded by the carefully hidden Special Forces soldiersThat they had to resort to such elaborate subterfuges to kill three well-known IRA men is a measure of the absurd asymmetric morality of this vile little war.

Moreover, the fictions of large-scale collusion depend on the belief that there were few honest or Catholic policemen in the force during the Troubles. The legendary head of  E Department of RUC Special Branch, Detective Chief Superintendent Frank Murray, whom we have already met, was a Catholic. In 1986, according to an answer in the House of Commons, 1,100 Catholics were serving in the RUC out of a total strength of 11,000. Many of these had joined after the troubles had started – men such as William Fitzpatrick, in 1976, and Paul Clarke, in 1978, who were both murdered by the IRA within days of one another in 1983. Michael Ferguson, a Catholic born 1971, enlisted in the RUC in 1992, where he joined his three brothers and a sister. He was standing alone outside the Richmond Centre in Derry when an IRA gunman slunk up behind him and and at point blank range blew his brains out.

Ten years earlier, in Armagh a UVF gang had murdered Adrian Carroll, a personally innocent member of a well-known republican family. Six days later, Charles Armstrong the 54-year-old chairman of Armagh District Council and a part-time major in the UDR moved that councillors stand for a minute’s silence in honour of Adrian Carroll. Apart from the DUP councillors, they did so. After he left the meeting, Armstrong was blown up and killed by the IRA in his booby-trapped car. Gerry Adams said of this wicked murder of a far finer gentleman that he could ever be that it was perfectly legitimate, and that if his own role within republicanism involved such killing, “I would have no compunction at all.”

Far from this foul justification causing the police to ignore Adrian Carroll’s murder, they went to the opposite extreme. In July 1986, four UDR men were found guilty of Carroll’s murder. They began a campaign protesting their innocence. A long enquiry resulted in an electrostatic analysis of the RUC notes of the interviews with the UDR men. This showed that, on no less than eighteen occasions, RUC notes of the interrogations had been retrospectively added. The Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Hutton ruled that some police officers had given untruthful evidence at the trial. He asked that the papers be sent to the Director of public prosecutions with a view to prosecuting the RUC officers. Three of the UDR were subsequently released and compensated: a fourth, Neil Latimer, was not and served fourteen years in prison.

The point of this story is not the innocence or guilt of the UDR men but the determination, possibly straying into criminal extremes, with which the RUC men pursued their investigation into the murder of a Catholic from a known republican family. It provides a useful insight into Smith’s motives and priorities that in his main text, he makes no mention of the fact that Hutton had ruled that some RUC men had given untruthful and damning evidence against the UDR men at the latter’s trial, or that three of the UDR were ultimately acquitted of the murder.

Instead, he merely states that “all four UDR men were convicted of Carroll’s murder”. This is an outrageous perversion of the truth, the equivalent of saying that the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six had been found guilty of causing explosions and killing people and leaving it at that. The admission that three of the UDR men were ultimately found innocent only appears in an obscure (though on this occasion by an accurate)  footnote at the end of the book – but who looks at footnotes, when such adamantine certainties have contaminated the main text?  Furthermore, does not the ruthlessness with which the RUC men conducted their enquiry indicate how seriously they took the murder of an innocent Catholic?

In Smith’s perverse world-view, clearly not.

The logistics of UDR-management are both intimidating and illuminating. On any one night throughout the Troubles, 1,100 UDR men and women were on duty, doing the work of four regular army battalions, protecting all sections of the community. Contrary to almost everything that nationalists now believe, the UDR were not allowed to patrol “green zones” – Catholic areas – nor were they allowed to search occupied houses or to control public disorder. Their work was largely limited to mounting checkpoints, doing foot patrols along uncontested roads and searching unoccupied properties and farmland for munitions – this latter duty being both stunningly boring and occasionally lethal.

At many times throughout the Troubles, both Northern Ireland and the entire island itself teetered on the brink of civil war: that it and we did not all fall into that abyss was largely due to the steadfastness and courage of the locally recruited members of the security forces, in whose ranks the UDR played an exceptionally courageous if thankless role. Throughout, some Catholics accepted this was their duty: their courage was limitless, though their lifespans were not. James Cochrane was from Downpatrick and aged twenty-one in 1980 was the eighth Catholic soldier to be murdered by “republicans”. Six years later, John Early, a Catholic from Lisnaskea in Fermanagh was killed in a landmine blast while he patrolled one of those uncontested roads. In 1985, Robert Boyd who was shot as he arrived home from work was the tenth Catholic member of the regiment to be murdered. Is it remotely possible these gallant men would have joined and remained in a regiment that was infused with the culture of terrorist collusion?

That collusion, whenever it occurred, which was rarely, was usually of a cowardly and contemptible kind. In March 1989 Niall Davies a 42-year-old civil servant was shot dead by UVF at his home in Glengormley outside Belfast. Suspicion soon fell on a UDR man, Darren Jackson, who had given his UDR notebook to the UVF containing details of IRA men in the area. However, the UVF had not killed any of them, but had murdered a loyal servant of the crown simply because he was a Catholic. Another UDR man, Derek McFarland, from Loughgall, was found guilty of trying to kill a courting couple who had no republican connections whatsoever – even though his intelligence briefings would have told him of any number of local IRA men.

Jack Kielty, a leading light in the GAA in County Down and the the father of the (later) well-known comedian Patrick Kielty was certainly not associated with the IRA in any way. He was probably murdered on the orders of the “corrupt” UDA leader Jim Craig (as if any were clean) with the assistance of Delbert Watson, a serving UDR soldier. Another UDR soldier Paul Peacock admitted storing weapons for the so-called Ulster Freedom Fighters. The entire murder plot was uncovered by the RUC after the sister of one of the murder gang told two different policemen she was having sex with (but not the same time) about her brother’s involvement in the conspiracy. The gunmen, from Belfast were never apprehended, but when Watson was imprisoned in 1988, he joined two hundred other loyalist prisoners who, like him, were serving life sentences. Again, we come back to this central question: if collusion between the security forces and Protestant paramilitaries was so widespread, how come so many loyalist terrorists were in jail?

By the end of the 1980s, despite loyalist anger at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which brought together many strands of unionist opinion, the Northern Ireland security forces remained true to their oath of allegiance, though thousands of them had had to move home because of threats from “loyalist” paramilitaries. Throughout this difficult time, as a force the UDR never wavered, even when under close scrutiny following the murder of Loughlin Maginn in Rathfriland in 1989.

There was very definitely UDR involvement in this murder, but of an unusual variety. Both soldiers found guilty of leaking material about Maginn, who was a known associate of IRA men without himself being a terrorist, were worthless creatures who had transferred from regular battalions of the British army and which had been glad to see the back of them. This way they had evaded the security checks that had by that time become mandatory for new recruits to the UDR. Both men, Andrew Smith, formerly of the Devon and Dorsets, and Andrew Browne formerly of Gordon Highlanders, were in the process of being discharged from the UDR when their connection with the Maginn murder became known. This ultimately resulted in the Stevens’ Enquiry and the early-morning arrest at their homes of twenty-eight members of the regiment. This of course proved to be a propaganda triumph for the UDR’s enemies, but despite the vast trawl of trivial material from these soldiers’ homes, little that was seriously incriminating was found.

As important as this was the fact that the RUC conducted its operations without a single security leak to the men whose homes they were about to raid. And this is collusion? Moreover, because their security had been utterly compromised, eleven soldiers and their families had to move home. Meanwhile, lasting but utterly unjustifiable damage had been done to the reputation of the regiment as the collusionologists exultantly recycled the initial headlines of the arrests without ever mentioning the small print that carried news of the acquittals that followed.

In more recent years, as evidence of outright collusion grew harder to find even while the collusion industry mushroomed, a new term has been invented by enemies of the security forces in general and the UDR in particular, namely “collusive behaviours”. This catch-all term would include a detective not arresting an informer in a paramilitary organisation for the crime of being in a paramilitary organisation – which could of course defeat the whole purpose of running informers. “Collusive behaviours” were thus officially proclaimed to have led to the UDA attack on The Rising Sun public house at Greysteel in 1993 in County Derry. This was such an innocently unrepublican pub that the killers had been able to visit it in order to establish its lay-out, before returning with guns. The victims here included the 81 year-old-father of the pub-owner, an ex-UDR man in his fifties, a 67-year-old former subdivisional commander of the B Specials, a 59-year-old mother of six, and a sixty-year-old eccentric who kept goats – not exactly the usual customers of a hard-line IRA pub. Yet nonetheless, Greysteel is now cited as an example of collusion, primarily because one of the terrorist gang had previously acted as an informer, though not, sadly, on this occasion, whereas in fact it remains a terrifying example of the systematic institutional bias against former members of the security forces. Forgotten amidst the mists created by the use of this meaningless term “collusive behaviours” is the fact that the Ombudsman found that loyalist terror attacks were promptly investigated by the RUC, and that there had been no warning about Greysteel.

But Smith, of course, does not end his indictment of the UDR there for he even goes one better, fusing history and nomenclature to add to the indictment of the regiment.  When, for primarily financial reasons, it was amalgamated with the Royal Irish Regiment, he observed that the earlier regiment to have that name was “the first element of the British army to attack the Irish rebels during the 1916 Rising. A Royal Irish Regiment officer at the time said of his men; ‘They regarded, not unreasonably everyone they saw as an enemy and fired at anything that moved.’”

Two different regiments, with two different histories, one from Waterford-Kilkenny-Tipperary in which Willie Redmond MP had perished in 1917, the other with roots in the old Ulster regiments, with eighty years between them. Far from the Royal Irish of 1916 being the first element of the British army “to attack” the rebels, they were ambushed by the insurgents as they passed the hospital of the South Dublin Union, losing six men dead, before they replied in kind. Yet alongside the predictably inaccurate history, the continuity of the regimental name alone is sufficient for Smith to utter that irrelevant, inaccurate and utterly egregious observation that “they fired at anything that moved.”

This is so pitiful and so disrespectful of himself as a lawyer that I almost feel ashamed for him – yet such misrepresentations of the truth are very much his modus operandi. As we have seen, the central killing for the entire collusion mythology is that of the solicitor Pat Finucane, who is here (naturally) referred to as a “human rights’ lawyer, as if there were ever any other kind. Smith continues: “(A)n often overlooked aspect (of the Finucane murder) is the role played by UDR Colour Sergeant Steven Fletcher….In August 1987, Fletcher stole weapons from Palace Barracks ..and sold them to Kenneth Barrett, a UDA member who in 2004 pleaded guilty to Pat Finucane’s murder.”

And once again, he gets his facts wrong. “Stephen Fletcher” is actually John Fletcher, whose brother Albert was one of five men killed and 61 injured in an IRA bomb and machine-gun attack on the Mountainview Tavern on the Shankill Road in 1975. This was one of the more seminal events in the IRA’s history, clearly distinguishing it as a sectarian and quasi-fascist organisation that was intent on starting a civil war. Twelve years later, in August 1987, after a night’s heavy drinking, Colour Sergeant Fletcher went to Palace Barracks, opened the arsenal and made off with nineteen weapons and ammunition, which he then sold to the UDA that very morning. So deranged was he that far from charging black market prices, as he could easily have done, he sold them for under one third of their value. He then drove to the Imperial Hotel Dundalk where he was arrested in possession of a revolver and nineteen rounds of ammunition, On the foot of a warrant from the RUC, he was promptly extradited to Northern Ireland, where a doctor reported that he was in urgent need of psychiatric treatment. It transpired that he was gravely in debt and mentally disturbed. He was subsequently jailed for four years.

So, clearly, his actions were ones of insanity, not of collusion. Moreover, it is the only aspect of Finucane’s assassination that has a UDR dimension, yet to repeat, this murder is mentioned over twenty times in the book. To put this into context, some of Fletcher’s stolen weapons were also used by loyalist paramilitaries against both police and prison officers, but no reasonable person would conclude that the UDR was party to these conspiracies against fellow crown forces. The foregoing details – none of which, naturally, are reported by Smith – indicate the complexity of events in Northern Ireland, which are here presented with the stark clarity of a children’s comic.

UDR Declassified  presents such a picture of one-sided villainy that no relatively uninformed reader would have any real sense of the calamity the IRA campaign inflicted on small Protestant communities in rural Northern Ireland. Castlederg High School, for example, which lost fourteen past pupils to the IRA – one regular soldier, one policeman and twelve members of the UDR – of course, does not feature in this book. Nor do the regiment’s Private Thomas Bullock and his wife Emily who 1972 were slaughtered in their Fermanagh farmhouse by nine cross-border IRA raiders, who really did constitute a death-squad. Nor does Private Joseph McCullough, a 57-year-old bachelor who had abandoned his South Armagh farm in the winter of 1976 because of the threat from the IRA but returning each evening to feed his dog. On February 26, 1976, two IRA men were waiting for him. They stabbed him five times and then cut his throat. An IRA man, John Anthony McCooey, would later tell the police that the actual killer had boasted to him that “he had got the bastard,” and had proudly shown him the bloodied bayonet which he had used on his defenceless victim.

McCooey was convicted not merely of his murder, but also of the butchery at Tullyvallen Orange Hall, where five Protestant men were slaughtered and another half dozen wounded. The would-be massacre was halted when one of the worshippers returned fire. An unexploded bomb was later found in the hall, proof of the IRA’s terminal intentions which, without exaggeration, could be compared to the deeds of an SS Einsatzkommando.

McCullough’s cousin William Meaklin had already been murdered by the IRA.  A former police reservist who had resigned from the force after his marriage so that he would run a mobile shop, Meaklin was kidnapped near Crossmaglen and “had been given an awful death” (the IRA’s own description) by his captors to make him confess to being an intelligence agent. No mention of him either, whereas his and Joseph McCullough’s kinsman Robert McConnell gets seven mentions. Why? Because he fitted the bill perfectly, being a UDR man who was definitely involved in UVF terrorism.

The dreadful fate of Sean Farmer and Colm McCartney, two GAA fans returning from a match in Croke Park in Dublin, has long exercised the minds and the pens of the collusionologists. That their murders were wicked and beyond any mitigation or excuse goes without saying – but these killings were not simply a matter of security force collusion, as alleged here. Shortly before these young men were murdered, a three-man RUC mobile patrol came across what seemed like a fake UDR vehicle check point (VCP) near Newtownhamilton in South Armagh. The police patrol drove away and confirmed by radio that there were no authorised UDR patrols in the area. They returned to base and reported the fake VCP to the army watchkeeper as well as telephoning the Gardai in Dundalk to warn of its presence just inside the Border. Though this was about as much as they could reasonably do in the circumstances, Smith puts an entirely different gloss on their behaviour. Many years later, Frederick Bartholomew the RUC man leading the patrol told the Historical Enquiries Team investigating the double-murder that the men at the checkpoint were clearly not from Newtownhamilton UDR.

“Despite this,” interpolated Smith, “after his encounter with a suspicious group of heavily armed men, neither his patrol nor the British soldiers in Newtownhamilton raised the alarm or left the base to investigate further.”

This is a mere sentence after Smith admitted that that Bartholomew had in fact raised the alarm about the fake VCP not merely with the army watchkeeper but also the Gardai. This contradiction, within just a few words, raises some disturbing questions about Smith’s intelligence, his memory or his motivations, and possibly all three. And as for that three-man RUC patrol heading off into Bandit country alone and at night to look for terrorists, only a complete idiot at that time, or one writing long thereafter, would adjudge that to have been a sane act. This was Newtownhamilton, remember, a place so deadly that it merits thirty-seven mentions in Lost Lives. Even the legendary Forkhill, from where poor Robert Nairac was abducted, merits just twenty-four.

To be sure, some of the conduct and decisions of the UDR senior commanders are beyond any excuse, most especially the concealment of the fact that one of the Shankill Butchers, Edward McIlwaine, was a member of the regiment. That this was kept from the trial judge Turlough O’Donnell is shocking, for the truth would certainly have led to a longer prison sentence than the quite modest one that McIlwaine got. Any concern about the regiment’s good name cannot justify what was implicitly both a contempt of court and a violation of the law. Moreover, far worse damage was done to the regiment’s reputation by that act of concealment than would have resulted from a frank disclosure at the start. The opinion of the regiment’s deputy commander – “It is difficult to see how the individuals (sic) membership of the UDR could be construed as having any direct relevance to the facts or the conduct of the case” – merely confirms the general opinion within the regiment (and one I share) that as well as getting some very good and honourable officers from the British army, the UDR got a lion’s share of idiots. Even by that expectation, the deputy commander’s observation was not merely beneath cretinous but merited dismissal from the regiment and demotion within the army. I am confident, however, that neither happened.

There were several other occasions when army command covered up the UDR membership of loyalist terrorists. Such disgraceful acts of omission/commission should not reflect on the decency and the honesty of most UDR soldiers, for whom it must be said that, as with all citizen-soldiery, they largely reflected the culture, the strengths and the weaknesses of the society from which they were recruited. Northern Ireland was not an assembly of Danish Feminist Social Democrats, but a deeply divided society with strongly held opinions, profound bigotries and deeply-held passions. Some fifty thousand men and women served in the UDR, most of them from areas which underwent the worst of the troubles and experienced the most extreme of emotions. No cohort of fifty thousand of either (or neither) side in Northern Ireland, would or could be completely free of those emotions that made and make that society so tortured and unhappy.

But Smith makes no such concession to the realities of Northern Ireland. He does the opposite.  He quotes approvingly from a Sinn Fein document that the UDR’s “litany of murder and crime”….”puts it in the category of “an official death-squad, on a par with similar forces operating in Latin America…while members of the UDR are regularly included on the British Queen’s Honours List” (caps in the original).

This is, quite literally, incredible. Sinn Fein’s death squads killed hundreds of civilians and tortured scores to death. Smith makes no mention of these but simply continues: “This comparison to death squads is not fanciful and it is not beyond the British to employ them…”

The weird academic Bill Rolston is then quoted: “There are many parallels in the Northern Ireland experience with that of death squads elsewhere…The state’s involvement in death squads in Northern Ireland emerged almost naturally from previous British colonial experience….There is a continuum of death squad activity based on state control…”

Smith adds: “Through its relationship with loyalist extremists…the UDR can safely be said to occupy a space on this continuum….”

Really? What space? Name the dead of the UDR death squads. Go on: name them. Not the dead of rogue UDR men who were also UVF men, but the official list of the dead killed by the officially-authorised death squads. Thanks to the work done by CAIN and David McKittrick’s team that complied Lost Lives, the time is long gone when there is a mystery about most of the category of who did what. The most basic figures are these: UDR/RIR deaths totalled 206, killings for which they were responsible totalled 8, and one of these was a Protestant paramilitary. In this review, I have done my honest best to attribute blame wherever it belongs. But because I accept that because a couple of UDR men might have been involved in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings does not mean I accept that all the dead may then be justifiably heaped against the name of the entire regiment or that those horrific killings, plus the many victims whose lives were ruined by injury, were authorised by the British state, as Smith has alleged.

Collusion cuts both ways. As a witness before both the Barron and the Smithwick Enquiries, I have some knowledge here. We know that at least two gardai in Dundalk Garda Barracks were feeding information to the IRA, leading to the murders of over a dozen people. This terrible truth does not in any way make An Garda Siochana, its commissioners, the various Ministers for Justice or the Irish state accomplices to these murders.

However, the issue of collusion with the IRA was not confined to Dundalk Barracks. The very same day that Darren Jackson was being sentenced to life imprisonment for the sectarian murder of Niall Davies, three men appeared in a Dublin court on IRA charges, one of them being William McGuiness, the brother of the IRA leader Martin McGuinness. A bailsman, Anthony Quinn, offered surety if they were granted bail. Questioned by counsel, Quinn admitted that he had in 1970 been found guilty of possessing three rifles, two machine guns and 556 rounds of ammunition. Garda Detective Superintendent McLoughlin opposed bail which was nonetheless granted. As Quinn, a convicted terrorist, left the court, District Justice Maire Roche, quite gratuitously called out to him, “You’re the salt of the earth.”

The background to this story is as follows.  In October 1990, a Lt Gary Breen of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment stopped a car at the permanent Buncrana Road vehicle checkpoint (VCP) outside Derry. In it were Martin McGuiness and another man. McGuiness was on a no-arrest permit as part of the peace process. The two men started shouting, slamming the car doors, opening and shutting the boot and bonnet. Breen called out the guard, which stood to, enabling McGuiness to count them. That night, Patsy Gillespie, a canteen worker in Fort George army base, was taken at gunpoint by a group of masked IRA men from his home and told to drive a van to the Buncrana Road VCP where he was to get out. If he disobeyed, his wife would be shot.

He obeyed.

Lt Breen was in charge of a perimeter foot patrol around the VCP when he saw Gillespie’s vehicle arrive. The moment it stopped, perhaps triggered by Patsy opening the van door, it blew up, killing its driver and five soldiers. Another half dozen soldiers were maimed for life, either blinded or losing limbs. Patsy Gillespie was finally identified by all that remained of him; a small patch of cheek-flesh and beard found days later and several hundred yards away by an army dog.

Within hours of the massacre, Gardai arrested William McGuiness, Martin McGuinness’s brother, and four other men at a known IRA safe house in Donegal. Balaclavas containing hairs of the men were found there. Instead of spending the next two days being questioned about the mass murders at the Buncrana Road checkpoint – which might well have led to the arrest of Martin McGuinness, thereby endangering the “peace process“ – interrogations of the men were halted. They were then hurriedly charged with IRA membership, and put before the Special Criminal Court, which so far as I can gather was not told of any possible connections with the murder of Patsy Gillespie and the five soldiers. In due course, all three men were acquitted and walked free. They were later imprisoned for not account for their movements on the night in question.

The icing on this particular cake had of course been the parting words to Quinn, that he was “the salt of the earth”. So what would the author of this book make of a Northern Unionist judge who similarly acclaimed a previously convicted UDR terrorist as he left the court?)

The transformation of Patsy Gillespie into a proxy bomb and the resulting butchery of five young soldiers and the life-long maiming of another half dozen was only made possible by a perfectly wicked use of a safe-passage peace process permit, the cynicism of which was matched by an official cover-up that essentially involved both governments. This collaborative act of collusion constituted one of the moral nadirs of the Troubles, and having plumbed that particular abyss, London, Dublin and Sfira clearly had consensually no further to sink. Little wonder that Tony Blair, a man cut from the same delusional cloth as John Weir, could say admiringly of Martin McGuinness that he really knew the difference between tactics and strategy (but perhaps less so about the gulf between right and wrong).

Let us apply some historical perspective here. At the start of those Troubles, had not the Irish state been guilty of collusion when the Minister for Finance Charles Haughey funnelled £100,000 of state funds (the equivalent of nearly €1.6 million today) into the coffers of the newly formed IRA? Did not Irish state further facilitate the growth of the Provisionals by ignoring their training camps in Donegal, Wicklow and elsewhere? Was there not passive collusion when the Irish state declined to invest in the necessary military measures to combat the IRA, for over a quarter of a century? Was it not judicial collusion when the Supreme Court ruled that it would be illegal for the Irish state to extradite any republican who had used a handgun to kill anyone because he had merely been following a constitutional imperative in seeking a united Ireland? Was it not collusion with loyalist terrorists when the government of Ireland chose not to seek the extradition of the UVF men responsible for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, thereby allowing the Miami ambush to take place?

It is quite clear that collusion by UDR men with loyalist, Protestant or anti-republican paramilitary forces, for all its indisputable wickedness, was not a major factor in prolonging the Troubles. However, since their end, allegations about such collusion have been a most powerful factor in creating a politically-motivated mythology that has been eagerly embraced by nationalist Ireland, which probably seeks justification for its supine failure to crush the IRA after the Ewart Biggs-Judith Cook murders, Warrenpoint/Mullaghmore, Enniskillen and so many more. And of course, the collusion “myth” is now the central and defining dogma for the Sfira family: no evidence is needed. The doctrinal belief alone is sufficient.

Every part of Northern Ireland had its own version of the Troubles, but very few offer such a clear insight into who or what was responsible for them as Fermanagh, which provides both a statistical Petrie dish of the Troubles and a glimpse into its merciless ontological heart. According to the historian Liam Kennedy, the county experienced 116 troubles-related deaths. The British army was responsible for five of them, the UDR one and loyalists four. Of the six murders by loyalists or British soldiers, three successful prosecutions followed. The IRA is notionally accountable for 104 killings in the county, where term “notionally” really does apply, because no IRA murders in Fermanagh (that he has been able to trace) have been solved. For here, as elsewhere, if the security forces were generally in collusion with anything, it was with the rule of law, with the presumption of innocence and with the right to a fair trial – concepts that were unknown to the IRA during the Troubles and are clearly unknown to the IRA fan-club today.

Those who wish to blame the UDR for the nearly thirty years of violence are effectively aligning themselves with a republican campaign that took thousands of lives, maimed many thousands more and caused untold and untellable misery. The Provisional IRA transformed the civil rights movement and the bloody chaos of intercommunal conflict into a focussed war of astonishing brutality and murderous sectarianism that lasted almost three decades. Any attempt to shift the blame from the IRA onto its victims is to deny that central historical truth, the primary purpose of which today can only be to help pave the way for Sinn Fein into power north and south of the Border.

But let me close with the words of a senior Catholic RUC officer, Chief Superintendent Paddy McCullough. “In view of the appalling and frequently malicious libels and slanders heaped on our colleagues in the Ulster Defence Regiment, we would wish ..to confirm our admiration for the sterling service rendered to the community by its members….It has been the subject of the cruellest criticism and malicious speculation from a wide spectrum of sources which has not been replied to as aggressively ..as its bearing and reputation warrant. Those of us who have had the privilege of serving with members of the regiment have long since recognised their integrity and commitment and contribution, at great personal cost, to community peace. No other body of men and women have, within our knowledge, been subject to such sustained calumny over such a long period of time. This (Police Superintendents’) Association is pleased to record its appreciation of the Regiment and is glad of the opportunity to do so.”

And so say all those of us who believe in truth, in freedom and in peace….

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