Statement by RFJ to Congressional Hearing on the killing of Raymond McCord

In 2007 Relatives for Justice (RFJ) and the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) jointly organized a cross-community delegation of Catholic and Protestant relatives to visit Washington DC briefing members of Congress on the widespread nature of collusion. Included in that original delegation were Raymond McCord senior, Paul McIlwaine, Teresa Slane, and Pauline Davey.

Clara Reilly, Chairperson of RFJ, and Mark Thompson, Director of RFJ also attended. Relatives for Justice and the AOH are delighted that from that original visit and lobbying initiative that this latest Congressional Hearing into the murder of Raymond McCord Junior now flows.

Central to that initial visit were Sean Pender, Mike Glass, and Ned McGinley of the AOH, and Kate McCabe, the current President of the Irish American Unity Conference (IAUC). All volunteered considerable time and effort in making that visit a success in terms of enlightening the US, and members of Congress, about the widespread nature of collusion and in further advancing the cause for truth and justice, through their very real human experience of this horrible policy, for the hundreds of victims from across our community affected by collusion irrelevant of their politics, religion and background.

The IAUC further built upon this initiative by subsequently inviting Raymond McCord to address their annual conference which was equally a great success in advancing this case and consequently the case about collusion more generally as a policy practiced by the British Government. Both the AOH and the IAUC are to be commended for their continued work on this very important issue in addition to its many contributions to Ireland.

We would also like to take this opportunity on behalf of families throughout Ireland to thank Congress for its continued work and support around these issues, and for its warm welcome and attention to the delegation, that included Raymond McCord, which we brought in 2007. We hope that this submission, and especially our Collusion Report detailing 229 killings in which collusion is evidenced, can be placed within the official record of this particular hearing. This report was compiled against a backdrop of harassment, intimidation and threats against RFJ members at the time (1995) not to mention the retention of official information concerning forensic and ballistic evidence being deliberately withheld that lent considerably to further evidencing official collusion.
Of course the policy of collusion has touched the lives of hundreds of ordinary people bereaved and injured across the island of Ireland during the course of the conflict, with state agents secreted into illegal paramilitary organisations and others coerced into becoming agents. We now know from the numerous patterns and evidential material available within the public domain and which Congress has examined and helped bring to light over this past decade and more, that these agents were not secreted or recruited for the purposes of preventing actions and murders from occurring, but rather were there to ensure that certain incidents – sectarian murders and political assassinations – happened at certain times. Some agents were trained, resourced and/or directed to carry out actions, such as the Dublin/Monaghan bombings for political purposes. Some agents had prior knowledge of the Omagh bomb and passed this information onto their handlers, who in turn consciously failed to act.

As this Congressional Hearing meets it is worth bearing in mind that it does so as the 16th anniversary approaches of the infamous UDA/UFF ‘trick or treat’ attack in Greysteel County Derry on October 30th 1993 at the Rising Sun Bar that claimed the lives of nine people. A further 10 Catholics were killed in the two-week period leading up to that particular attack also by loyalists. In these attacks, and scores of others referred to in this submission, weapons imported by MI5 agent Brian Nelson were used.

Attacks of the type witnessed at Greysteel were commonplace where Catholics socialized. At bookmakers shops like Sean Grahams in the Lower Ormeau Road in which five Catholics were killed, and Old Park areas of Belfast where three Catholics were killed. Bars across the North like that in Loughinisland County Down when the Rep. of Ireland soccer team played Italy in the 1994 World Cup Finals in which six Catholics were murdered or at workplaces across Belfast and North Armagh where scores of people lost their lives simply providing a service and doing a day’s work. Nowhere was untouched by collusion – everyone was always on edge. The threat to ordinary nationalists was palatable and must be seen against a broader political context and set of objectives relentlessly pursued by the then Tory British Government and an eager accomplice in its military and intelligence establishments.
Instances of collusion occurred particularly at times when discussions and negotiations were taking place, such as Hume-Adams in the late 1980’s, talks which unionists and the then Tory Government and establishment termed the ‘pan-nationalist front’; and in the early to mid 1990’s in the run up to the IRA ceasefire, periodically intensifying during more public political negotiations when the stakes were higher. There was a direct correlation between political advancement and loyalist actions which clearly exemplifies the nature of how the policy objective works. This was about pressurizing the community into lowering the bar of expectation of their political representatives and negotiators – that somehow the spate of violence against ordinary citizens, their vulnerability and in particular the fear created would act as a catalyst not for the type of positive change sought and required but rather in the opposite direction of blaming these same political negotiators for insisting on and pursuing change in the face of persistent and relentless attack by loyalist death squads.

Similarly when support was required by the British government from the Catholic Church, the SDLP and the Irish Government, loyalists needed to be deactivated. This is particularly evident during the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement when the political objective was to stave off the political threat and rise of Sinn Fein post the hunger strikes by isolating republicans. Unionism and loyalism were however galvanized in their opposition to the agreement of any Irish Government say in the North and marched in hundreds of thousands causing widespread disruption to utilities and other industry which they controlled through employment.

Traditionally such unionist protestations would have resulted in Catholics being killed however such was the control that only two Catholics were killed in 1985 by loyalists – another two Protestants were killed in ‘internal’ paramilitary matters. The Anglo-Irish Agreement failed in its objective and subsequently loyalists were rearmed, restructured and reactivated with a hitherto unprecedented capacity to kill.

However, fear and vulnerability were again common place and these were also the desired consequences of the policy of collusion – as much as the murders and attacks taking place. As a community, with no protection from the state, a community apart, and a state that was running sectarian death squads, we lived in fear and instinctively knew when the helicopters disappeared, the regular patrols were conspicuously absent, and the permanent checkpoints gone, that an attack; an abduction; or a murder was inevitable – it is what we, and generations of nationalists since partition have referred to as ‘playing the orange card’ with fear, violence and the threat of violence designed to keep people in their place.

Examples of this type of terror are evident in many instances. However, the sectarian murder of Sean Brown in the rural South Derry village of Bellaghy is one that stands out. Sean Brown, a highly respected pillar at the heart of the local community, was Chairperson of the local GAA Club Wolfe Tones. On May 12th 1997 Sean Brown was locking the club around midnight when he was abducted by loyalists. His body was found several miles away beside his burnt out car. He had been shot six times.

Mr. Brown’s murder occurred just days after the election of Martin McGuinness to the constituency of Mid-Ulster that included South Derry. The out-going MP, the Rev. William McCrea, made a speech after his defeat saying that ‘the people of Mid-Ulster would reap a bitter harvest for electing Martin McGuinness’. The gang believed to have been involved in the killing included loyalists that the Rev. McCrea had previously shared platforms with in Portadown. In abducting Mr. Brown his killers drove his car and their car through the nearby village of Toome passing the main RUC Barracks over the River Bann. As this is the only route from Mid-Ulster into Antrim the RUC had for years positioned cameras monitoring every travelling vehicle. These recordings were destroyed when the Police Ombudsman sought them for her investigation into the abduction and murder.

No one was ever convicted for the murder.

The targeting, horrific nature of the abduction, and the murder of Sean Brown was clinical and specifically designed to instill fear.

This policy of collusion did work especially in areas like South Derry and East Tyrone where previously the majority of those targeted were republican elected representatives and their families. This policy was about isolating republicans from within their own community, whereby people working with and socializing with republicans would be actively discouraged through fear, harassment, threat and eventually murder which occurred when four men were murdered in Castlerock in Derry in March 1993.

The principal political objective of collusion was the defeat of the enemy – in this instance republicans – at any cost with many within the intelligence community losing sight of what was morally right and wrong, (if there can be such a judgement on morality given what they were involved in). They had the tunnel vision in which collateral damage is irrelevant. That the vast majority of those killed through collusion overall were non-involved civilians, made no difference to those controlling the Dirty War – to use a euphemism.

Human rights, and those seeking to promote such and question circumstances surrounding killings by the state and collusion, were also seen as the ‘enemy’ – none more so than lawyers like Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson who effectively represented families bereaved in these circumstances. Campaigners, including members of RFJ, were detained, harassed, threatened and targeted. During the height of the conflict we had to take security precautions in which the abnormality of this way of life became the norm. But, like many championing human rights, truth and justice, we were not deterred. We had support from people in Congress and elsewhere within the US that encouraged us to continue our work and that the truth would eventually out.

These were very dangerous times and as one person recently put it ‘we are not out of the woods yet concerning the dangers and what is at stake’. The unsuccessful murder attempt on the life of the key agent in question of this Congressional Hearing, Mark Haddock, in which agents are sent to kill other agents once they have served their purpose and usefulness merely serves as an example to underline the contempt for human rights and human life as everyone is ultimately expendable to the policy.

Indeed in terms of even ingratiating and secreting further agents within the confidence of republican organisations those in control, through their Special Branch and Military handlers, even sacrificed their own permitting the murders of ordinary police and military personnel.

RFJ works closely with several families whose loved ones were members of the ‘security forces’ and were killed by agents within republican groupings. This is sensitive and fragile work as these families are physically, politically and psychologically vulnerable given the circumstances. Essentially their worlds have been turned upside down, their value systems understandably uprooted given this experience. This is especially the case as they see how the unionist community and in particular its political leaders have treated Raymond McCord and called him ‘disloyal’ and a ‘republican sympathizer’ for daring to raise the sceptre of collusion from within, concerning young Raymond’s appalling murder.

Some of these families have privately approached Nuala O’ Loan who initiated work on their behalf during her time as Police Ombudsman. What this does show is the immense courage, conviction and leadership within the unionist community that the McCord family has shown and we are indebted to them for what they have achieved to date as many, many other families take hope and inspiration from their dedicated work to uncover the truth.
In understanding the nature and extent of collusion it is important to equally understand the mindset of those who constructed, maintained and continued resourcing the policy, including the capacity to switch it on and off as and when the political circumstances determined.

One such mindset is that of Major Frank Kitson a counter-insurgency expert within the British army who was posted to Belfast in 1970 and who wrote extensively about tactics such as low intensity-operations, interrogation techniques, infiltration, the use of agents and pseudo gangs for the purposes of misinformation and paranoia, misinformation generally, and social, economic and political targeting of communities. This too included the altering of the criminal justice system and governance policy in facilitating these practices.

These techniques had been developed within British colonies by Kitson and others in creating division, sectarianism, ethic and political instability, and innumerable other clandestine practices deliberately manufactured and adapted in favour of the governing power and its self-interest.
An early example of his policies can be seen in that the British army intensified its campaign in the early 1970’s with the Ballymurphy internment killings, Bloody Sunday, the Springhill killings, and the New Lodge Six killings all taking place over an 18-month period. The objective was to use the ‘shock and stun’ tactic, as was quoted, to subjugate the community from which the republican groupings emerged and drew support.

During that same 18-month period the British army also killed 92 other people in addition to the 36 lives claimed in the four bigger incidents mentioned above. The RUC killed a further 6 people within the same timeframe. No one was ever held to account for any of these killings.

That all of these killings happened with the arrival of Major Frank Kitson and the reconstruction of the criminal justice system, which extended impunity to state force actions, is of no coincidence.
Of course this early direct military policy was unsuccessful in terms of achieving the aim of destroying the republican campaign. Rather it had the opposite effect in strengthening it with many more recruits as a result of British army brutality. The use of the British army continued but to the fore was the use of pseudo gangs and collusion with the setting up of the Military Reconnaissance Force (MRF) which essentially organized and ran covert intelligence operations and agents under Kitson’s doctrine – entitled the ‘Bunch of Five’ manuals.
These are the issues at the heart of collusion. Loyalist paramilitaries were essentially used to conduct operations against the nationalist and republican community when the state could not be seen to be ‘involved’. The use of agents within republican organisations was essentially about providing information on planned activities of republicans, and in turn the SAS and other covert units of the British ‘security forces’, could be deployed to ‘take out’ non-state actors in circumstances in which it was felt the state could somehow more easily ‘justify’ their actions. Infiltrating and running agents within republican organisations included damaging morale, creating deliberate ‘own goals’ through questionable actions, and damaging the sense of integrity and reputation within communities from which republicans drew support and relied upon.
The circumstances of the murder of Raymond McCord Junior are an appalling vista of collusion in which agents were given immunity from prosecution and even protected by their handlers when they were involved in criminality and murder beyond that which they were initially recruited for. This is not unique but what is different is that because Raymond McCord senior was a Protestant – and because of Raymond’s determination to uncover the truth concerning his son’s murder – former members of the RUC who had an insight assisted and provided key information that could not be ignored.

Crucially Raymond went to Nuala O’Loan who did a sterling job of uncovering the extent of what this gang of agents were up to at the tail end of the conflict and who after killing a number Catholics turned their sights and violence mostly on their own community as their nefarious activities and criminality took center-stage.

That they were agents recruited and paid for by the state meant that keeping a lid on it and continuing to provide immunity also continued.

That senior RUC Chiefs, including Sir Ronnie Flanagan who had personal control of the area in question during the time of Haddock and others, makes a compelling argument that he must have been aware of what was happening.

It is also all the more compelling that the full truth, and more importantly accountability, is achieved now. In that context this Congressional Hearing takes on a wider significance and must be approached with the wider policy of collusion upper most in mind where the focus needs to be on those in control of the killers and not just those who pulled the triggers.

The promotion of the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) to address this matter alone and the arrest of a number of those involved is welcomed by some but not all of the families affected by this UVF gang. The real acid test is yet to come, which is the arrests and convictions of those members of RUC Special Branch for assisting them in their criminal activity and collusive acts. The majority of families are skeptical, citing that only a truly independent international inquiry will get to the truth. That forty percent of the HET’s overall budget is allocated to examining the out-workings of the Ombudsman’s report ‘Operation Ballast’ is an indication of the management taking place around this one incident. As one of the families concerned said; ‘Forty percent to manage their own informants and agents and eventually like the Nelson case cut a deal’. Many commentators say that this is a purely perfunctory exercise aimed at defusing public outrage.

This one episode of collusion in one part of North Belfast is a microcosm of the wider systemic picture of collusion – an important piece of the overall jigsaw in building that picture and in understanding the broader political context in which collusion existed and operated.
It is therefore important that in examining the case of the awful murder of young Raymond McCord that Congress equally examines the systemic policy of collusion that has been such a common feature of the conflict. The British State armed, controlled and directed key agents within all the loyalist paramilitary groupings ensuring that as such they effectively controlled these same death squads.
In particular the agent Brian Nelson who was a British soldier secreted into the largest loyalist paramilitary grouping the UDA/UFF. Nelson, synonymous with the murder of Pat Finucane – into whose murder Congress has diligently held a number of excellent hearings, upon which Congressman Chris Smith and his team must be congratulated – became the head intelligence officer for the UDA/UFF. His handlers in MI5’s Force Research Unit (FRU), the military organisation that developed from the earlier MRF, assisted in the targeting and assassination of scores of people. Crucially Nelson, acting as an agent, procured a shipment of weapons from the then apartheid regime in South Africa which was generally sympathetic to the loyalist cause. It was reported in London’s Private Eye publication in 1992 that Nelson’s procurement of the weapons for loyalists was approved by a government minister in the then Thatcher cabinet.
These weapons were subsequently used with deadly results in which – to date – over 300 people have been killed. In 1995 RFJ published a document entitled Collusion 1990 – 1994 Loyalist Paramilitary Murders in North of Ireland – This document examined 229 loyalist murders in which collusion was evidenced and/or in which the weapons imported by Nelson were used. As mentioned in the opening of this submission it is our hope that this report can be placed within the official record of this Congressional Hearing.
Nelson was arrested by the Stevens team in January 1990, when they were brought into the North to investigate collusion after the British Government’s position of refusing to accede to international calls for an independent investigation into allegations of collusion became untenable. Nelson immediately admitted his role in a number of murders and attempted murders and signed a several hundred page statement detailing his and his handlers’ roles in these atrocities. He also stated that he was a serving British soldier secreted into the UDA/UFF by the Force Research Unit (FRU).  Nelson’s fate was essentially sealed and a prosecution file was sent by Sir John Stevens to the then Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). A deal was struck by the prosecution service and the then British Government in return for Nelson’s silence.

His trial lasted all of three days. On Day One Nelson’s plea was entered, Day Two the then Attorney General, Sir Patrick Mayhew took the unusual step of appointing his legal representative in the North to prosecute the case in which much of day two was spent justifying not going to full trial and accepting the plea and mitigation.  Day Three was spent hearing evidence on Nelson’s behalf. The then British Secretary for Defence and previous Secretary of State for the North of Ireland, Tom King, provided a letter in defence of Nelson’s role and his commanding officer known only to the court as ‘Colonel J’ cited Nelson as a ‘hero who was loyal to the British army and that he had saved countless lives’.

This was later disproved by investigative journalist John Ware in his BBC Panorama programmes in which it became apparent that Nelson was actively selecting targets for murder at the request of his handlers. A fact reiterated by individual members of the Stevens Team to the BBC Panorama June 2002.

We also now know that his direct handler was FRU member ‘Maggs’ – one Margaret Walshaw – and that ‘Colonel J’ is Brigadier Gordon Kerr who headed up the FRU. Kerr was subsequently decorated by the British Monarch and posted by the British Foreign Office as a diplomat to the British Embassy in Beijing. He was last reported to be in Iraq.

A close colleague of Kerr’s is current British Tory MP Patrick Mercer MBE, OBE. Mercer is beside Kerr in a group military photo in which the head shot of Kerr is mostly featured by the press. Walshaw is directly behind the two. Mercer was also a member of the FRU. He subsequently entered politics and was shadow Homeland Security minister but was sacked from the post in March 2007 for saying that using the racist term ‘black bastard’ was part and parcel of army life with Britain’s armed forces and therefore acceptable.
Interestingly when it was revealed, by John Ware, that Nelson and MI5 had armed the loyalists British Intelligence, MI5, released a statement to the BBC saying ‘that they had lost track of the shipment en-route to Ireland’. The presumption that they intended halting the operation that they had incited and overseen being a complete nonsense.

Culpability for the murders of over 300 citizens with the South African weapons to date, which included children, mothers, pensioners, elected representatives, community workers, Protestants and Catholics, rests firmly with Downing St. and Whitehall. The people within these supremely powerful institutions designed, resourced and implemented the policy of collusion down through the food chain to the handlers and in turn the death squads. Focusing on the dime a dozen trigger-men within loyalism only can, and will, exclude those who are really culpable.

The majority of those affected by this policy want governmental accountability – they know and see only too often that the trigger-men are expendable in bids to cut the evidential chain back to the political and military corridors of power in London.

Congress knows this only too well with the Finucane case and the murder of William Stobie.
For the hundreds of families devastated by the policy of collusion spanning four decades we submit the RFJ collusion report of September 1995 and the up-dated version of this in July 2002.
We further urge Congress, given the persistent refusal of the British Government to initiate an independent and international inquiry into collusion despite widespread evidence necessitating such, to initiate a fact-finding mission on the issue of collusion. This would build upon the excellent body of work to date including Congressional Hearings and other related efforts, and could make specific recommendations based upon findings aimed at addressing the nature, extent and consequences of collusion.

We urge members of Congress to visit the North and listen to the families affected and hear at first hand from the many, many people who are unable to avail of a Congressional Hearing – collectively these people constitute and bear witness to the policy of collusion and the awful human devastations and legacy which is crying out to the international community for assistance in addressing.

This demands an international response by any measurable standard of human rights. These are wrongs of a magnitude that require international intervention and examination.

As one relative bereaved through collusion put it; ‘We may have buried our loved ones but we will not bury the truth about what happened.’
In conclusion we ask Congress to formally accept into this hearing the signatures of scores of families urging support for the above.

Is Mise Le Meas

On behalf of hundreds of bereaved relatives and those injured by state violence and collusion

Mark Thompson
Relatives for justice


10 Downing St.

Developing the political and policy objectives of shoot-to-kill and collusion in the North of Ireland; politically directing the courts and public prosecution service; denying due process to victims whilst ensuring impunity and cover-up for their policies and those handling and directing agents.

Military Intelligence MI5 & Special Branch

Implementing operational policy on the ground via the Joint Intelligence and joint security committees (JIC) & (JSC); Task Coordinating Group (TCG); deploying the SAS, infiltrating, restructuring, arming and directing loyalist death squads via agents strategically placed within paramilitary organisations.

Death Squads

Supplied with information for targeting and political assassination; sectarian attacks and terrorising civilian populations principally the nationalist Catholic community; supplied with weapons and safe passage to carry out same.