September 7th 09
British stance hypocritical
The demand for compensation from the Libyan government for victims of IRA actions, in which it is claimed Libyan armaments were used, and the British government’s role in this, is the cause of some controversy. Interestingly little of this controversy has focused on the inappropriateness of any British government making or supporting such a demand of any other government, given Downing Street’s war crimes in Ireland.
I would certainly support compensation for all victims. This has to include the victims of British state violence and collusion.
On Monday morning I spoke to Downing Street and to the British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward about this. I told them there could be no hierarchy of victims; that all victims deserve compensation and that Mr. Brown’s position is totally inconsistent.
No one should be surprised by the hypocritical stance of successive British governments on this issue.
The role of the British state in killing citizens in Ireland in recent times is well documented.
Apart from killings by state forces British intelligence agencies also armed unionist paramilitaries, including Ulster Resistance, which was established by the DUP, and provided the information which led to countless deaths.
All of this was part of a British government directed strategy which has its roots in British involvement in other conflicts. The tactics employed in collusion were drawn from decades of British experience in fighting colonial wars elsewhere.
But it was the writings and work of Brigadier (later General Sir) Frank Kitson which refined its use in Ireland. Kitson was the British Army’s foremost expert on counter-insurgency.
He rationalised the use of the corruption of justice: ‘Everything done by a government and its agents in combating insurgency must be legitimate. But this does not mean that the government must work within exactly the same set of laws during an emergency as existed beforehand.’
In the early 1970’s the British killed Catholics and Protestants and carried out actions, including bombings, using surrogate groups.
The UDA, which remained a legal organisation for almost 20 years, and the UVF, carried out a campaign of killings against Catholics. They were supplied with information by the British intelligence agencies, including files, photographs and details of cars and movements.
One of the first people to be recruited by British intelligence was loyalist Brian Nelson a former British soldier. Two years later he was appointed the UDA’s Intelligence Officer in its West Belfast Brigade. Later in 1987 he became the UDA Senior Intelligence Officer. British intelligence helped him to update his intelligence files.
Nelson’s house and car were paid for by the British and he was given £200 a week expenses.
In the summer of 1985 Nelson was sent to apartheid South Africa.to get weapons.
To finance the trip the UDA, UVF and Ulster Resistance carried out a bank robbery on the Northern Bank in Portadown, which netted £325,000 which was then used to purchase a shipment of arms. It consisted of 200 AK47 automatic rifles, 90 Browning pistols, 500 fragmentation grenades, ammunition and 12 RPG rocket launchers.
Dick Wright, an agent for the South African arms manufacturer Armscor, offered armaments in return for missile parts or plans obtained from the huge military production plant at Shorts in East Belfast.
In October 1988 a model of the Javelin missile system was stolen from Shorts and a few months later a Blowpipe missile went missing.
In April 1989 three members of Ulster Resistance, Noel Little, James King and Samuel Quinn were arrested in Paris during a meeting with a South African Diplomat and an arms dealer.
In the three years after the South African shipment unionist paramilitaries killed 224 citizens and wounded countless scores more.
One of these was Pat Finucane, a human rights lawyer who was shot dead in February 1989 at his home in north Belfast.
In dealing with the issues of truth and victims all of these matters must be open to scrutiny. This blog has no problem with campaigns for governments to pay compensation. But that has to include the British government. Gordon Brown’s position is totally inconsistent but this is in keeping with London’s longstanding game playing on this important matter.
Another example of this is to be found in Shaun Woodward’s recent dismissal of the Eames/Bradley Commission proposal for an acknowledgement payment to all victims.
The fact is the British government is a player in all of these issues. It was one of the combatant forces in the conflict and is not and cannot be, or pretend to be, an objective or neutral referee.
Its position and Gordon Brown and Shaun Woodward’s stance flows from this reality.