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Reviewing collusion November 27, 2013

Posted 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”.


1. Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - November 27, 2013

To be honest I found the review on Arkiv to be little more than an apologia for the actions of the British Forces and state in the north-east of Ireland during the 1970s. On one hand the supposed “reactive” nature of British terrorism is accepted throughout (i.e. the Unionist terror factions were provoked by the actions of the Irish Republican Army – and one presumes the Civil Rights movement before that) while the “reactive” nature of IRA violence in terms of the atrocious Kingsmill Massacre is dismissed out of hand.

All the accusations made by Anne Cadwallader against the British state are called into question in the review through the pejorative use of terms like “allegation(s)” (used four times), “alleged” (used two times), “claimed” (used four times), “claims” (used two times), etc.

Meanwhile we have “republican death squads” versus “loyalist paramilitaries” and “rogue security force members”.

One would have imagined that the revelations of recent years, including the latest in relation to the MRF, would have lent credence to the much vilified accounts of Colin Wallace, as well as Fred Holroyd, and the investigations by John Stalker, Stephenson and numerous others.

Instead anything deviating from the British and Unionist “party line” is undermined. This is simply fighting the same war fought for thirty odd years but this time on the battlefield of historical memory.

History is written by the victors and the side whose version of history is accepted can claim victory.

That is the true reason for the clash over the history of the “Troubles”.


WorldbyStorm - November 27, 2013

I don’t want to personalise this to individuals but like you I would be concerned about the overall approach. It seems to be one, and your point about the MRF is very well made, where there’s a remarkable lack of acknowledgement of just how mixed the issue was and how agency rested with numerous groups throughout. The idea that state etc violence was reactive to Republican violence simply doesn’t tally with the the broad sweep of the conflict. Quite the opposite.

All that said I think it is very useful to have Arkiv because it provides an insight into a very particular view of matters.


2. EamonnCork - November 27, 2013

Liam Kennedy. Henry Patterson. Yup, no axes will be ground there whatsoever. Expect this fine new departure to be handsomely praised by the usual suspects. It’s almost as if Arkiv has sprung to life expressly to do a hatchet job on the Cadwallader book. But obviously that couldn’t be the case.


EamonnCork - November 27, 2013

I’d suggest, “Fighting Back – The Misunderstood Heroism of the Glenanne Gang,” as a possible first book for Arkiv.


Ed - November 27, 2013

You’ve also got the redoubtable Arthur Aughey, Aaron Edwards—who is actually a lecturer at Sandhurst!—and Thomas Hennessy, whose book about ‘The Evolution of the Troubles’ was as weasely and mendacious an apologia for British state policy as you’ll find (he treated the official government papers from Kew and the PRONI as if they were a neutral, dispassionate record of events without any partisan bias). A sly bit of historiographical Astroturfing, with a canny marketing strategy (‘non-partisan’, just like the non-partisan Fiscal Advisory Council or whatever it’s called).

They include a link to this puff piece from the Newsletter on their site: ‘Arkiv . . . brings together Catholic and Protestant academics’—nice attempt to give the impression of political neutrality without saying whether the academics are both unionist and republican (or even socialist, God forbid). A prime non sequitor here:

“It argued against proposals for an international truth commission, something pushed by Sinn Fein, pointing out that in South Africa, where such a model was tested, the state was responsible for the vast majority of deaths. By contrast, they highlighted that in Northern Ireland about 90 per cent of deaths were the responsibility of paramilitaries.”

As they know perfectly well, one of the main issues in dispute is whether the conflict should be seen in terms of paramilitaries (IRA/INLA/UVF/UDA) vs. the state, or republicans vs. loyalists and the state; a truth commission would shed some light on that question.


They also link to an article by Newton Emerson, the least funny man in all 32 counties, referring to the Pat Finucane Centre as a ‘republican victims’ group’ and claiming that the use of evidence from the HET reports in ‘Lethal Allies’ means that the PFC is recognizing the authority and legitimacy of the British state. Now if only he could use that talent for mental gymnastics to come up with a few jokes …


Johnny Forty Coats - November 27, 2013

I look forward to reading Aubane on Arkiv …


WorldbyStorm - November 27, 2013

That’s a fair point JFC.


3. Vae Victis! | An Sionnach Fionn - November 27, 2013

[…] military strategy in Ireland and of its state and para-state forces. The Cedar Lounge Revolution carries a detailed reply to the book review pointing out its numerous inconsistencies and obvious bias. My politics are obvious to all my words […]


4. Ed - November 27, 2013

Anyway, F. Stuart Ross is on the money in his response. I’d just add one thing. They presume to give us a lecture about the ‘political context’:

“In 1974/75 there was widespread speculation that after the UWC strike British withdrawal was on the cards. It was in this atmosphere of fevered speculation and fears of betrayal that loyalist gangs went on the rampage.”

That speculation wasn’t just ‘widespread’ and ‘fevered’, it was completely groundless.

“No mention is made of the fact that the British government and security apparatus, claimed to be waging a surrogate war against the Catholic community in order to defeat the IRA, was involved in negotiating an IRA ceasefire that lasted for most of 1975.”

The only purpose of the 1975 negotiations was to defeat the Provos. The British officials dangled the idea that they were contemplating withdrawal so that the IRA would call a truce, when they were contemplating no such thing; then they concentrated on beefing up their intelligence while IRA members had let their guard down. The idea was that either A) the Provos would be unable or unwilling to go back to war once the penny dropped that they were being had, or B) the army and the RUC could move quickly and hit them hard when the truce ended, knocking them out of action altogether. B) came pretty close to working.

The sectarian violence of 1975 dovetailed very neatly with this strategy, as it happens; it suited British policy to have the IRA sucked into a sectarian war with the loyalists. That doesn’t prove that it was the intended outcome of their policy, of course; but the real political context doesn’t pose any challenges for the claims made in ‘Lethal Allies’.

They also massage the facts carefully here:

“That London focused most on the threat from republican paramilitaries, given the dire toll exacted by loyalists in mid-1970s, is with the benefit of hindsight, open to criticism. In the longer term perspective of the death toll between 1966 and 1998, when republicans killed more than double the loyalist toll of victims, it becomes more explicable.”

First of all, there’s no ‘benefit of hindsight’ about it; it was said clearly and repeatedly at the time. Secondly, while it’s true that republicans killed twice as many people as loyalists during the conflict, when it comes to civilian deaths, the loyalists are the clear ‘winners’; the rest of the republican death-toll is accounted for by British soldiers, RUC and UDR men (and fellow republicans).



So if it was a question of protecting civilians, the state forces would have devoted equally time and energy to containing the UVF and UDA. Arkiv’s point is really another way of saying that for the British state, loyalists were not seen in the same light as republicans; they were not an enemy that had to be defeated.


WorldbyStorm - November 27, 2013

Some excellent points in there Ed. Particularly your last one.


5. CL - November 27, 2013

Because there was no clear-cut victory everything remains contested terrain.


6. shea - November 28, 2013


whats the back round to this post, did the Arkiv blog not allow that reply from Dr. F. Stuart Ross or is something else happening?


WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2013

Don’t know if they didn’t allow it. But I think the wish was that the statement would circulate.


F. Stuart Ross - November 28, 2013

when my response was first drafted, Arkiv’s website had no contact address. the response was published on the Pat Finucane Centre’s FB page and I contacted those Arkiv members that I know to alert them (in fact I had already told one of them that I was working on a response before it had been published.)


7. Ed - November 28, 2013

I know I said ‘just one thing’, but anyway … the Arkiv authors present the focus on collusion as an attempt to legitimize the Provo campaign. In some cases, that may be the motivation, but the two issues are separate and shouldn’t be conflated. To take one example that should be familiar to people from the CLR archive: PD in the late 70s argued that the state forces were working hand-in-hand with the UVF and UDA (there’s a story to that effect in almost every edition of the Unfree Citizen and Socialist Republic). But they also argued that the Provo campaign was a wasteful diversion—in this document for example, which specifically condemns the Kingsmills massacre.


You can believe that the state forces were collaborating with loyalist paramilitaries throughout the conflict (as I believe was the case) yet still argue that the IRA campaign was a dead-end (as I would).


Gewerkschaftler - November 28, 2013

Last para> +1 & +1


8. Paul Larkin - November 28, 2013

From Paul Larkin – author of A Very British Jihad

Whilst being grateful that my book on British state collusion with loyalist death squads receives a mention in this thread, I’m surprised that my reply to Adrian Guelke’s critique of my book (A Very British Jihad) is not mentioned given that Guelke’s criticism are given free rein and seem to be accepted as fact.

My full response to Guelke can be read here –

I will not rehearse these arguments again, except to say that I point out in my response that it was Adrian Guelke himself who gave me crucial information linking Brian Nelson to South African hit squads. I might also say that none of those whom Guelke describes (and defends) as “prominent people” have raised any complaint, legal or otherwise, about the contents of my book – published in 2004 and now out of print. This tells its own story,

One other surprise (ref – the issue of the contested overarching nature of collusion), the recent de Silva report confirmed my assertion that loyalist killers overwhelmingly received their target information from the security forces. Over 80% with little action taken according to de Silva:

“Both the RUC SB and Army intelligence were fully aware of the extent of leaks, but the action taken to combat such leaks was, in my view, inadequate in view of the scale of the problem.”
see De Silva Vol 1 Chpt 11


The definition of collusion includes awareness of acts taking place but a failure on the part of the state to stop such actions and punish the perpetrators.

Thus, I rest my case for systematic collusion.

In other words, events and reports since the publication of my book have merely served to reinforce what I have been saying all along.l

Please allow me to make an off piste remark about the Arkiv group.

As a scholar of Scandinavian studies – a translator of Ibsen, Henrik Pontoppidan, Klaus Rifbjerg, Asger Jorn and Søren Kierkegaard, I understand that Arkiv took its name from Scandinavia’s greatest philosopher – Kierkegaard.

Anyone who reads about Kierkegaard, even to a limited degree, would in my opinion be aware that he would be appalled at the notion of a political confederation being formed and named after him. He rejected all notions of having supporters or movements working in his name.

The great little man had no time for “movements”

Paul Larkin
Gaoth Dobhair
November 28, 2013


WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2013

Paul, many thanks for that and for the link to the full response by yourself. You’re absolutely right, it is essential to have that as well in order to contextualise the book review and the responses both from F. Stuart Ross. and yourself. To be honest the thread has developed organically – which is to say it never struck me to look for your original rebuttal! But nor did it seem to me that anyone here would take the critique of you as read. Quite the opposite. Your participation though is precisely how that development should continue.


9. Florrie O'Donoghue - November 28, 2013

Very interesting discussion. Some great points made, though I haven’t had time to read them all. I will certainly return to this as soon as I can.

Is mise srl.,


WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2013

I’d be interested in your thoughts.


Paul Larkin - November 28, 2013

Given that from the start in early 2004 there was a whispering campaign both about me personally (Im an agent, Im a mad Provo) and the book, I have always had a policy of defending my integrity and my journalism in a prompt and decisive way. This policy has proven to be correct and necessary and eventually led Easons to start stocking and distributing A Very British Jihad after initially refusing to do so.
Though the intentions of Dr Ross are correct, the 1st and 2nd pars left me (and others) rather astounded.

mo sheacht beannacht oraibh

Paul Larkin


WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2013

That’s very understandable.


10. goggzilla - November 29, 2013

I can state that Mr Larkin is neither an agent nor Provo, mad or sane. Likewise A Guelke a top chap.


11. 17th May 1974, Two Irish Towns - Major Slaughter, Minor Investigation - Page 203 - January 10, 2014

[…] a very good reaction to academic criticism. Interestingly, this academic has hardly read this book. Reviewing collusion | The Cedar Lounge Revolution Very hard to read some of the academics quotes, knowing full well he's talking nonsense. Very […]


12. Chief Superintendent Harry Breen's collusion with loyalists needs tribunal - Page 4 - January 23, 2014

[…] […]


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