On Wednesday evening, RTE broadcast the excellent but very disturbing documentary No Stone Unturned. The programme examined circumstances surrounding the 1994 massacre of 6 men in a pub in Loughinisland Co Down.
Only the wilfully blind and naïve could fail to draw the very clear message that there was a sinister relationship at a senior level between agents of the British state and loyalist paramilitaries, during the years of the Northern conflict. While the documentary focused on the killings in the Heights Bar, Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney also went to some length to place the event in a wider context.
The killers were part of an extensive conspiracy that reached high into the British state apparatus. Not only were senior police officers guilty of what can only be described as criminal neglect in failing or indeed refusing to apprehend the gunmen but British intelligence facilitated the arming of loyalist death squads. In one instance, a ship loaded with sophisticated weaponry was allowed to evade detection. While on another occasion, when on opportunity was presented to locate a major arms dump in Glenanne, the RUC inexplicably afforded those holding the weapons time to clear the cache.
It is this aspect of the story, the virtual arming of loyalist paramilitaries by the state, that places a large question over a suggestion offered by way of explanation for inactivity by the state apparatus. Several commentators have opined that RUC and MI5 were overprotective of informers and were reluctant to expose valuable sources of information that could potentially save a greater number of lives.
This theory collapses when examined in light of their turning a blind eye to the importation of a massive shipment of lethal and sophisticated arms. The only logical explanation for allowing this to happen was that the British state was outsourcing one aspect of its counterinsurgency terror strategy through the use of loyalist paramilitaries.
Loyalist paramilitaries, based around a farm in Glenanne, County Armagh and from where a sectarian murder campaign was unleashed across the rural 6-Counties.
In 2010, then PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris wrote a letter to the legal representatives of UVF victims telling them that they would not get an investigation into the wider questions raised by the activities of the Glenanne gang. Reviewing the Harris decision in Belfast’s High Court, Mr Justice Treacey gave a devastating assessment, accusing Drew Harris of an “extreme” abuse of power in closing down this exercise in analysing collusion.
Mr Harris is now Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. It’s time that the Dublin Government do the right thing by the victims of the Glenanne gang and sack Drew Harris.
Micheál Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig is an independent councillor on Donegal County Council.