Irish Republican News and Information, 10-12 December, 2001, 

Deutsche Übersetzung



Surprise? What surprise?

By Jim Gibney


So the relatives of those who lost their lives in the Omagh bombing are the latest people to feel the brutal power of the RUC's Special Branch. The huge loss of life in that bombing in its own way brings home just how ruthless and calculating a group of people the Special Branch is.

The Omagh relatives join hundreds of other families across Ireland whose lives have been blighted by the covert and overt dirty war that the RUC's Special Branch has waged, particularly over the last thirty years.

Of course it has to be stated very clearly that the people responsible for the deaths in Omagh are those who planned and planted the bomb.

It also has to be remembered, in the midst of this controversy, that we are dealing with relatives of twenty-nine people who were killed. And while commentary on these revelations is not only legitimate, but essential, the whole affair has to be handled with due regard to the fact that it is an enormous human tragedy.

What of course is at the heart of this latest controversy is why the Special Branch behaved as they did when they had two prior warnings that at a minimum 'something' of a violent nature was being prepared for Omagh town on the 15th August 1998. In trying to understand the 'Branch's' motivation in relation to Omagh the word 'failed' is playing a big part in the written and spoken media, e.g. the 'Branch' 'failed to pass on' the information to the local RUC commander; the RUC's system 'failed' the people of Omagh; internal RUC communication 'failed'; the RUC's leadership 'failed'.

The truth of the matter is of course in the world inhabited by the RUC's Special Branch they did not 'fail' the people of Omagh. I am not saying that they were gleefully rubbing their hands at the enormous loss of life. But they did not 'fail' anyone. Their reaction to the information they received about an incident in Omagh, prior to the Omagh bomb, is consistent with the way they have handled information from informers in other situations.

They assessed the Omagh information in exactly the same way they assess all information: How is it to be used to advance the Special Branch's political project? Prior to the IRA's cessation's of 1994 and 1997, all information was assessed in terms of: How can it be used to inflict a body blow against

republicans and nationalists? That was the logic the 'Branch' used when they received the Omagh information.

Is it totally outrageous to suggest that the 'Branch' could have made an informed guess that a bomb was being prepared for Omagh? After all, the RIRA had planted, in quick succession, big bombs

in several towns in the Six Counties, immediately prior to the Omagh bomb. Part of the information they received from an informer with a pseudonym, Kevin Fulton, included a big bomb being made.

The Special Branch are not passive recipients of information. They use every scrap they get their hands on to suit their purposes. A brief look at the circumstances and the killing of human rights solicitor Pat Finucane dramatically illustrates this. At the time of Pat's killing, the head of the UDA in West Belfast, Tommy Little, was a Special Branch informer - so was the man who supplied the gun to shoot Pat, William Stobie - shot dead yesterday. So was the man who set Pat up, Brian Nelson. So was the man who actually shot Pat dead. The fingerprints of the RUC's Special Branch are all over Pat's killing.

The Special Branch is a force of some eight hundred strong, one tenth of the RUC. Their tentacles reach into many dark recesses. Anyone who dares to challenge their interests usually looses out.

Dr. Ervine, attached to Castlereagh RUC barracks where detainees, mainly republicans, were systematically tortured, said so in late '78-79. He paid dearly for it. The Special Branch let it be known publicly that a British soldier had raped the doctor's wife, and that Ervine's comments were 'sour grapes' emerging from the fact that nothing happened to the rapist.

John Stalker, a well-respected British policeman of long standing, was appointed to investigate the RUC's 'shoot-to-kill' operations against the IRA. The Special Branch ran these in the early eighties. He never completed his enquiry nor did he function as a policeman again, when the Special Branch filled the media with stories that he had links to organised crime.

Colin Sampson replaced Stalker with the same intention. His report was never published. He did, however, recommend prosecutions of a number of RUC members. The then British Attorney General, Patrick Mayhew, provided anonymity and impunity to those involved when he told the British House of Commons that to prosecute those involved...'would not be in the public interest...'

Similarly John Stevens came here to investigate collusion on three occasions. None of his reports were ever made public. His offices containing the enquiries' information was mysteriously burnt down. The offices were inside a heavily fortified RUC barracks. He did, however ,arrest Brian Nelson. Ironically Patrick Mayhew, again acting as the Attorney General, would later strike a deal with Brian Nelson in return for his silence about his full role as an agent during his trial.

The 'Branch's' control of loyalist paramilitaries is an open secret. Many books have been written on this subject. Loyalist agents you will find there include Robin Jackson, R J Kerr, Billy Wright, Brian Nelson, Johnny Adair to name but a few. They were involved in killing scores of Catholics.

The 'Branch' had a direct hand in limiting the popular growth of political organisations like the PUP, linked to the UVF and the UDP, linked to the UDA. Their agent, Billy Wright, split the UVF and formed the LVF, started a feud with the UVF and continued to kill Catholics. They gave political cover to the UDA to build up its criminal syndicate based on drugs. The UDA led by another agent, Johnny Adair, engaged in a bloody feud with the UVF on Belfast's Shankill Road.

And to end this casual look at the Special Branch on the morning that another of their agents, William Stobie, was shot dead - a man involved in killing Pat Finucane - I will leave you with the sobering thought.

Is it not convenient on the day when the Ombudsman would issue a damning report about the RUC's Special Branch that this man should be killed? The world's media now have to cover two competing stories instead of one. If I were head of the Special Branch I'd be having a better night's sleep tonight than I had last night!


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