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The O'Loan report and implications for Muslims
first posted 3rd February 2007; updated 4th July 2009

Update - 4th July 2009

Salaam's Secret State section reported over two years ago [see archive below] that there was more than meets the eye in the murder of Belfast solicitor Rosemary Nelson, citing the Cory Report and its suggestion that RUC officers had threatened her life both directly and indirectly. Now information is entering the public domain that the solicitor was not just a persona non grata for the Royal Ulster Constabulary for her defence of nationalists - but "special branch, MI5 and the security service had been spying on her. Between 1994-1998 security reports on Nelson's private and public life accelerated until, in the summer of 1998, an application for a warrant to put a bugging device in her property went to Mo Mowlam, then Northern Ireland secretary. It troubled Mowlam, but she sanctioned it." Human rights solicitors - beware! Ten years later, solicitors defending Muslims charged under the anti-terrorism laws are rightly perturbed.

The threats on a solicitor can be varied and devious - from pressure via the Law Society to bugging meetings with clients. In Rosemary Nelson's case it was insidious: "During the Drumcree crisis, he [RUC Chief Constable Flannigan] described Nelson as an 'immoral woman', David Watkins, the Northern Ireland Office director of policing and security told the inquiry" [The Guardian, 4th July 2009].

Transcripts now available from the 'Rosemary Nelson Enquiry' show how the authorities sought to influence proceedings by suggesting that she gave "unethical legal advice" to Provisional Irish Nationalist Army (PIRA) volunteers and, according to one witness to the Enquiry "a number of Special Branch officers ... have, in the course of their evidence, explained to you what the pointers were, if I can put it that way, which led to their belief that there was an affair, a romantic relationship, taking place". The Police suggestion was that this client then murdered Rosemary Nelson - quite a neat way of deflecting the finger of suspicion. It should be remembered that Muslim solicitor Mudassar Arani was criticised in 2007 because she sent an eid card to one of her clients, Kwaku Aseidu, in Belmarsh with the phrase 'with lots of love'. At the time Mudassar's complaint of 'character assassination' seemed far fetched. The Rosemary Nelson revelations show that she had a point.

Update - 9th February 2008

"MI5 took one of Gerry Adams' personal drivers into protective custody yesterday after the man, Roy McShane, was unmasked as a British agent....The unmasking of yet another British agent inside the republican movement in Belfast is an embarrassment for Sinn Féin and an indication of the depths to which the security forces penetrated the organisation in the latter years of the Troubles.

...The smaller nationalist party at Stormont, the SDLP, said last night this latest unmasking of another agent underlined the need for a full inquiry into the role of informers operating in organisations such as the IRA. Alex Attwood, the party's assembly member for West Belfast, said: 'It will come as no surprise that it has now come out that yet another member of the movement, who drove for leading members of Sinn Féin, was working for the security forces. But what we now need to know is how high and how deep in Sinn Féin and other parts of the Provisional movement the penetration by police, army and security services agents went. We need to know the full extent of collusion between republican and loyalist groups and the security forces, and we need to know the full price of such collusion in terms of human life."

The leader, his driver and the driver's handler - Henry McDonald, The Guardian, 9th February 2008

Update - 21st December 2007

"....Detailing a catalogue of failures - including 'mendacious' police officers who were proved to have 'beefed up' evidence and then lied in court to cover their tracks, evidence which was lost, misfiled and stored in a 'thoroughly disorganised' fashion, expert testimony that was 'no more than speculative' and DNA material which had been so amateurishly collected and stored as to be valueless - the judge had no alternative but to acquit Hoey [of the Omagh car bomb that killed 29 people in 1998] on all counts."

"The role of the security services before and after the bombing has been mired in controversy...Nuala O'Loan, in her first report as Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, strongly criticised the police handling of the case, accusing them of ignoring and failing to act upon crucial intelligence....two officers had lied about how they gathered some of the scientific evidence. They were he [Judge Justice Weir] said, guilty of a 'deliberate and calculated deception'."
Evidence valueless and police lied, says murder case judge - Esther Adley, The Guardian, December 21 2007 and

Case fell on forensic evidence and police lies - David Sharrock, The Times, December 21 2007

On 22nd January 2007, Mrs Nuala O'Loan, Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland released her findings on the killing of a young Catholic, Raymond McCord Jr, in 1997 by a member of the Protestant loyalisUlster Voluntary Force (UVF). The central figure in this death has been named as Mark Haddock, who escaped the due process of law because he was a Police informant.

The O'Loan report documents the systematic manner in which state authorities stepped outside the law and the anarchy that ensued. Criminals were recruited to act as informers and handsomely rewarded. While the Stakeknife revelations lifted the veil on military intelligence's entanglements with informers and agent provocateurs, this report offers the spectacle of Special Branch and MI5 officers condoning and abetting criminality, because - as a recent letter in The Guardian noted - "the recruitment and protection of informants was the holy grail, something to be promoted at all costs, even when death of civilians was the likely outcome" (Dr Graham Ellison of Queen's University Belfast, 24th January 2007).

No doubt there will be serving officers - and rogue elements - heading up anti-terrorism operations on the mainland today whose formative years in service were in Northern Ireland during the 80s and 90s. The Muslim community faces an unprecedented degree of scrutiny and observation and if there is a salutary lesson to be learned from the miscarriages of justice in Northern Ireland, it is to be vigilant of unsolved crimes.

The O'Loan documents how McCord Jr, a small-time Cannabis pusher, was found beaten to death in November 1997, felled by a concrete block. However O'Loan states that "police documentation, received over the hours and days following Mr McCord's murder, indicates that Mr McCord died following instructions issued by Informant 1, following a dispute over the drugs …and that Informant 1's creditors threatened to inform the UVF senior hierarchy of his involvement in drugs". Notwithstanding this information, 'Informant 1' was arrested and questioned in February 1998 but released from police custody the next day. No one was ever charged with McCord Jr's murder. It was only because McCord's father persisted in seeking intervention from the Police Ombudsman that further facts have come to light nine years later.

The foremost of these is that Informant 1 was recruited as a Special Branch informant in 1991. In the period 1991-2003 he was paid about £80,000 for intelligence on the UVF. Uniformed and CID officers told O'Loan that Informant 1 "appeared to be a protected species, as he was heavily involved in crime and was rarely held to account". The crimes included involvement and implication in the murder of fifteen individuals in the period 1991-2000, a bomb attack in Monaghan in 1997 and 23 'punishment' attacks and shootings! On the McCord Jr case, the Ombudsman notes, "It is clear that much intelligence was disregarded by police and that they continued to use Informant 1 despite his criminal record and the extensive intelligence they held in respect of alleged serious criminality, because he had value to them as an informant. This was wrong".

O'Loan states that some police officers refused to cooperate with her investigation: "among those who refused were two retired Assistant Chief Contstables, seven Detective Chief Superintendents and two Detective Superintendents". Some serving officers gave "evasive, contradictory, and on occasion farcical answers to questions. On occasion those answers indicated either a significant failure of the law, or contempt for the law. On other occasions the investigations demonstrated conclusively that what an officer had told the Police Ombudsman's investigators was completely untrue".

In particular, there was resistance to releasing information on the financial sums paid out to Informant 1. In another murder in which he was implicated - that of the 27-year old Catholic taxi driver Sharon McKenna in 1993 - it was established that his monthly stipend increased by £60 to £160 a month: "the increase in informant 1's monthly payments was authorized by a senior Special Branch officer". One officer (Detective Sergeant M) had to be arrested in order to come forward with information to the O'Loan enquiry. "He confirmed that Informant 1 had admitted to being the second gunman during the murder of Ms McKenna…when questioned as to why he did not arrest Informant 1….he said that he did not consider it appropriate and that he would not have been permitted to arrest Informant 1". The report then states "the facts outlined above have had the effect of protecting Informant 1 from possible prosecution for the murder of Sharon McKenna. This is collusion".

So far no police officer, serving or retired, or MI5 controller, has been brought to book for doing "wrong", speaking "untruth" or "collusion" in criminality.

Apart from this McCord investigation, there are other unresolved atrocities, assassinations, 'communication lapses' and incidents involving agents provocateurs:
- the Omagh car bomb in August 1998 which killed 29 people: the Police Ombudsman's report published in 2002 was highly critical of the obstacles placed in the path of the inquiry into vital issues. In December 2004 a Special Branch link was established. It is believed that 11 days before the atrocity, a Special Branch officer telephoned through an anonymous warning (The Guardian, 24th December 2004).
- the assassination of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989. According to BBC investigations in 2004, army double-agent Brian Nelson was asked by his loyalist paramilitary chiefs to compile a dossier on Mr Finucane. It noted, "members of the security forces collaborated with loyalist paramilitaries to the extent that they could have stopped the killing if they had so wished".
- The murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson in Lurgan in 1999. She believed that that elements of the security forces had been involved in a conspiracy to murder Pat Finucane.The Cory Enquiry found that RUC officers had threatened her life both directly and indirectly.
- Fred Holroyd, who served as a captain in a military intelligence unit attached to the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Armagh, has alleged that a Loyalist group was supplied with guns and explosives which were used to make three car bombs which exploded in Dublin in 1974, killing 26 people. Holroyd claimed that the bombing offence, on 17 May 1974 was carried out to persuade the Irish government to take tougher security measures. According to an article in the Dublin Sunday News, he said that the Loyalist gang, based in Portadown, was not aware it was working for British intelligence (The Guardian 2 March 1987)
- James Miller was recruited by army intelligence and MI5 in 1970 when living in Monkstown,Co Antrim. He was an Englishman with an Irish Protestant wife, working as a lift engineer that enabled him to travel freely all over Ulster and to undertake his intelligence duties. He infiltrated the UDA on behalf of MI5 and "became one of its military commanders for almost five years" (The Sunday Times 22 March 1987)

In his Dimbleby Lecture in 2005, Sir Ian Blair, chief of the Metropolitan Police commissioner artfully posed the question, "what kind of police service do we want?" Clearly it is one where the criminals don't end up controlling the controllers.

In response to the O'Loan findings, Cabinet Minister Peter Hain declared that "what happened was that a culture developed in the context of a murderous war became acceptable". What assurances does the Muslim community have that a culture will not again develop where some officers see their role in messianic terms combating the forces of darkness, and in their zeal will work outside the law? There is enough political rhetoric going round to buttress such dogmatism.

Our safeguards can only be a commitment to uphold the rule of law and to bolster a strong, independent review body that ensures post-Loan Report recommendations are implemented and adhered to, not just in the Royal Ulster Constabulary but throughout the realm - zero tolerance for the use of informants who directly or indirectly are involved in criminality. If one steps outside the law to enforce the law, the result is anarchy.

Reference: Statement by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland on her investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Raymond McCord Junior and related matters, 22nd January 2007

© Salaam 2007


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