Reviewing collusion November 27, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
..Here’s a new blog with a most interesting approach to the history of the conflict, not least a review of the new book on collusion by Anne Cadwallader, ‘Lethal Allies’.
To which there is this response:
In a review of Paul Larkin’s A Very British Jihad: Collusion, conspiracy and cover-up in Northern Ireland, Queen’s University academic Adrian Guelke argued that many of the author’s claims regarding allegations of collusion were “open to argument, to put the matter mildly” (Fortnight, May 2004). Indeed, he cites one of the cases highlighted by Larkin – when Guelke himself was shot by the UDA – and states “that my case hardly demonstrates the intimate level of collusion that he wishes to suggest existed among the Loyalists, elements of the security forces and the apartheid regime.” Ultimately, Guelke contends that much of Larkin’s work was made up of “foolish innuendo[es] … about a number of prominent figures in this society”; easily dismissible and easily dismissed.
Anne Cadwallader’s Lethal Allies also takes on the controversial issue of collusion in Ireland; her work isn’t so easily dismissible or dismissed. Still, in a lengthy review of her newly published book, Arkiv claims that but for the inclusion of HET reports, “there would be little to distinguish … [it] from a number of others that have claimed to uncover an over-arching British state policy to use counter-insurgency tactics … to deal with the IRA.” Here Arkiv mention Larkin’s A Very British Jihad. Yet Cadwallader never claims an over-arching British state policy per se. And, in fact, there is much more than HET reports which make this important and controversial work a cut above the rest.
From the onset, Cadwallader is explicit about the origins and remit of the project of which her book is the outcome. It is not – and is not intended as – a scholarly treatise on British state policy on the North, much to Arkiv’s disappointment. Lethal Allies covers nearly 120 different killings which took place mainly (though not exclusively) in what has been dubbed the “murder triangle” in Counties Armagh and Tyrone. These killings took place in the 1970s and Cadwallader convincingly documents how they were carried out by a particular “loyalist gang, and permutations of it, with tacit assistance from members of government forces” (p. 16). She does “not claim that every RUC officer or UDR soldier was collusive, or every loyalist was manipulated, or every judge or British cabinet minister mendacious” (p.16). Nevertheless, it is argued “that enough was known, or should have been known, by sufficient people in places of authority, to prevent many of the murders described” (p. 16).
While HET reports certainly play a major part in corroborating the author’s very serious allegations, so too does over 15 years of meticulous research. Lethal Allies is also based upon official government reports, on hundreds of hours of archival research at Kew, at PRONI, the Newspaper Library in Belfast and dozens of local libraries scattered across this island. It is based on years of back-and-forth correspondence between the Pat Finucane Centre and the PSNI (at various levels), the DPP, the Northern Ireland Courts Service, the Coroner’s Office, the Office of the Attorney General and Lord Chief Justice. It is based on countless meetings and correspondence between Justice for the Forgotten and Justice Barron, the Department of Justice and the Gardai Síochána in the Republic. Numerous interviews were carried out with victims, survivors, whistle-blowers, serving police officers, retired police officers, etc. Moreover, it includes damning ballistic reports which link many a “stolen” weapon to murder after murder after murder.
Arkiv acknowledge that “[t]he issues of collusion raised in the book are indeed profoundly serious ones” but deal very little with these issues (despite the fact that these issues comprise the bulk of Lethal Allies.) And unsurprisingly Arkiv make no reference to the “human side” of these multiple tragedies – the pain, humiliation, harassment, etc. suffered by those who lost their loved ones – this too is an important part of the book. Instead Cadwallader and the Pat Finucane Centre are taken to task for failing to recognize “the massive challenges faced by the security forces and the RUC in particular in the early to mid-1970s.” This is given as one of the main reasons why so many of the murders described may not have been properly investigated (evidence in the book often suggests otherwise.) The HET investigators do “note that applying the standards of contemporary best practice to the chaotic, pressurized and dangerous conditions of the Seventies is anachronistic and unfair” but it is the HET that “in report after report … goes on to criticize successive RUC enquiries” (pp. 260-261). Furthermore, while the author is accused of depicting arrest rates of “loyalist terrorists and rogue security force members [as an] unmitigated failure”, this is only partially true – a section of the book actually documents what happened to some of those arrested, what charges were filed and how the justice system then failed in its duties.
The review points out that “[m]uch is made of the murderous activities of the former member of the UDR Robert Jackson and the allegation that he worked as a hit-man for British Military Intelligence and the RUC.” The allegation is indeed made and it is based on far more than the word of Colin Wallace (perhaps the reviewer missed the whole discussion regarding Jackson and the Miami Showband killings – see pp. 103-108). Still, rather than focus on this allegation, emphasis is placed on the many opportunities the RUC had to arrest Jackson and many of his associates. What is more, it is argued that the evidence to effectively prosecute Jackson did exist – in fact it existed on a number of occasions – and this is pointed out time and time again. Why this did not happen, readers can decide for themselves.
Elsewhere Arkiv claim that Lethal Allies “resurrects the ‘Wilson Plot’ thesis of an MI5 conspiracy to overthrow the Labour Prime Minister”. In nearly 400 pages of text, the thesis is touched on in a matter of two or three sentences – not much of a resurrection. Arkiv also argues that “the logic” of the book results a number of “strange conclusions”. For example, the author’s views on the collusion supposedly lay “blame for the Kingsmill massacre … at the door of the British state” (Cadwallader clearly states that the IRA were responsible for the attack – something which the Republican Movement still refuses to do – and that it was “terrible and inexcusable”) (p. 158). It is even said that “Cadwallader and the PFC claim the IRA’s ‘Long War’ was a product of … British collusion”, yet the IRA’s ‘Long War’ strategy is never discussed in the book. What is said is, however, is that collusion simply prolongs conflict – indeed, “[t]he hard lessons learned in Armagh and Tyrone have a relevance as far away as Afghanistan, Iraq and other modern theatres of war” (pp. 372-373).
* * *
Hours after the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, the then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave (FG) argued; “Everyone who has practised violence or preached violence or condoned violence must bear a share of responsibility for today’s outrage” (p. 221). The Dublin/Monaghan bombings remain the greatest loss of life in a single day of the Troubles but there was no national day of mourning and no government minister visited the injured or bereaved. The deadly attacks were carried out by UVF personnel (many of who were either former or serving members of the security forces) and serious allegations persist that other British security force members also played a part. Much of this was known in the immediate wake of the bombings yet Cosgrave and other Irish government officials quickly shifted the blame for the bombings onto republicans.
Arkiv regard Lethal Allies as “but the latest manifestation of a one-sided ‘blame the Brits’ syndrome.” As noted above, Arkiv say very little about the 120 murders documented in the book. These brutal killings were carried out by loyalists who were aided and abetted by state forces; oftentimes there was no distinction between the two. The book documents this. The British government was well aware of loyalist infiltration of the UDR and of the frequent arms raids on Army bases in the North. This too is well documented. The “overwhelming majority of those specifically targeted were people who were progressing economically, socially and politically – people with aspirations their parents could only have dreamed of” (p. 363). Only one of the murders covered in this book was of a republican activist. No over-arching British state policy is alleged here, but in each of these cases blame is “laid at the door of the British state” and rightly so. Would Arkiv rather shift the blame?
– Dr. F. Stuart Ross
Activist, academic and PFC board member
Note: Arkiv’s review ends by accusing Cadwallader of “ungenerously rubbish[ing] the HET’s role in dealing with the past” – not true. Until very recently, the Pat Finucane Centre has critically engaged with the HET on behalf of families since it started reviewing cases in 2006. As the book notes, however, “many families have been bitterly disappointed by HET Reports” and the Centre has always maintained that this avenue is a deeply flawed and imperfect way for families to begin to learn the truth regarding the death of a loved-one during the Troubles (p. 17). Nevertheless, Cadwallader has very openly and publicly praised the “small team of very diligent officers of huge integrity and courage” who investigated many of the Glennane gang killings”.