FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Britain’s Dirty War in Ireland, Revisited

Photo by dronepicr | CC BY 2.0

Britain’s dirty war in Ireland, waged throughout the course of the Troubles, marked an especial low point in the country’s sordid colonial history. It is a history that has come back into focus with the explosive revelations contained in declassified state documents from the 1980s, made public by the Government of the Irish Republic in Dublin under the country’s thirty-year rule governing the release of state documents.

Said papers confirm that in 1987 the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), one of the oldest and most notorious of the various loyalist/Protestant paramilitary organizations that were engaged in sectarian violence in the province during the Troubles, wrote to the then Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey in Dublin, informing him that in 1985 they were approached by Britain’s domestic intelligence service, MI5, with a request to assassinate him.

We learn that in the letter the UVF told Mr Haughey, “In 1985 we were approached by a MI5 officer attached to the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) and based in Lisburn, AlexJones was his supposed name. He asked us to execute you.” The letter subsequently goes on to allege that Britain’s MI5 supplied the group with information such as pictures of Haughey’s home, his private yacht, and details of the vehicles he travelled in.

The UVF refused follow through on MI5’s request, telling Mr Haughey, “We have no love for you but we are not going to carry out work for the Dirty Tricks Department of the British.”

Charles Haughey, it should be pointed out, was head of the Irish government as leader of the country’s Fianna Fail (the Republican Party). He was a strong supporter of a united Ireland and as such enjoyed a testy relationship with his UK counterpart, Margaret Thatcher, who took a notoriously hard-line stance against Irish republicanism, most infamously with her refusal to countenance any compromise during the 1981 hunger strike by republican prisoners in the Maze Prison just outside Belfast.

Despite entreaties from political and religious leaders from across the world, Thatcher allowed ten of the men on hunger strike to die over the removal of their political status by the previous UK Labour government in 1976.

As with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), whose war against British rule in the partitioned six counties of Ireland was launched after decades of structural discrimination suffered by Catholics when it came to housing, employment, education and political representation, the UVF viewed themselves as being engaged in a legitimate struggle; determined, along with the wider unionist Protestant community, to remain under British rule and quash with violence the Irish republican movement.

This was an objective they shared with the British political establishment, illustrated in the deployment of a considerable number of British troops and security personnel to the province to combat the IRA and other splinter republican paramilitary organizations.

Of the various loyalist terrorist groups that were active in the conflict, the UVF is known to have been responsible for 500 murders. However lest anyone make the mistake of romanticizing the group or its paramilitary violence, much of their time was spent engaged in criminality, specifically with regard to the drugs trade in Protestant communities, in which the group is known to have been a major player.

On the issue of collusion between British state security and intelligence services and loyalist terror groups, this has long been an open secret. Among the most grievous cases where such collusion is alleged involved the murder of two high profile lawyers in the province who were known to have had republication sympathies, Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane.

Campaigners have fought a long battle to force the British government to admit there was state collusion in their murders but thus far without success.

Interestingly, in the declassified UVF letter the group claims that 17 of its victims were killed with the aid of information supplied by British intelligence. They also claim that MI5 planned to damage the Ireland’s agricultural economy with the introduction of livestock diseases such as Foot and Mouth, Swine Fever, and Fowl Pest.

For those who have studied Britain’s colonial history in any depth, its brutality in the face of national liberation movements, this story will not come as any surprise. The fact it involves on this occasion a plan to have the prime minister of a sovereign state murdered does, however, expose as a sham the oft-repeated claims of the British political establishment that London stands as a pillar of democracy, human rights, and international law. In truth the British State is dripping the blood of men, women, and children from Ireland to Iraq, Libya to Malaya, and many more places in between.

For example, in his history of the British Empire, ‘The Blood Never Dried’, John Newsinger reminds us that in India, during the Empire, Britain “threw aside the mask of civilization and engaged in a war of such ferocity that a reasonable parallel can be seen in our times with the Nazi occupation of Europe.”

Ireland occupies a unique place in Britain’s colonial history in that it was the country’s first colony and remains one of its last – at least, that is, those six partitioned counties in the north of the island. The Republic of Ireland, made up of the remaining 26 counties of the island which lies of Britain’s west coast, were liberated after Irish rebels waged an effective insurgency between 1919 and 1921, which forced the British government to the negotiating table in London.

The catalyst for Ireland’s War of Independence was the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, which was quashed by overwhelming military force after six days. One of the leaders of the rising, executed by the British afterwards, was James Connolly. Years before Northern Ireland came into being as a result of the aforementioned negotiations in London, Connolly predicted that partition would lead to a “carnival of reaction.”

British collusion with loyalist terror gangs in murder and mayhem over a half a century later proved him right.

More articles by:

John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Meet Ukraine: America’s Newest “Strategic Ally”
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Frankenstein Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ukraine in the Membrane
Jonathan Steele
The OPCW and Douma: Chemical Weapons Watchdog Accused of Evidence-Tampering by Its Own Inspectors
Kathleen Wallace
A Gangster for Capitalism: Next Up, Bolivia
Andrew Levine
Get Trump First, But Then…
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s Democratic Critics Want it Both Ways on Biden, Clinton
Ipek S. Burnett
The United States Needs Citizens Like You, Dreamer
Michael Welton
Fundamentalism as Speechlessness
David Rosen
A Century of Prohibition
Nino Pagliccia
Morales: Bolivia Suffers an Assault on the Power of the People
Dave Lindorff
When an Elected Government Falls in South America, as in Bolivia, Look For a US Role
John Grant
Drones, Guns and Abject Heroes in America
Clark T. Scott
Bolivia and the Loud Silence
Manuel García, Jr.
The Truthiest Reality of Global Warming
Ramzy Baroud
A Lesson for the Palestinian Leadership: Real Reasons behind Israel’s Arrest and Release of Labadi, Mi’ri
Charles McKelvey
The USA “Defends” Its Blockade, and Cuba Responds
Louis Proyect
Noel Ignatiev: Remembering a Comrade and a Friend
John W. Whitehead
Casualties of War: Military Veterans Have Become America’s Walking Wounded
Patrick Bond
As Brazil’s ex-President Lula is Set Free and BRICS Leaders Summit, What Lessons From the Workers Party for Fighting Global Neoliberalism?
Alexandra Early
Labor Opponents of Single Payer Don’t  Speak For Low Wage Union Members
Pete Dolack
Resisting Misleading Narratives About Pacifica Radio
Edward Hunt
It’s Still Not Too Late for Rojava
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Why Aren’t Americans Rising up Like the People of Chile and Lebanon?
Nicolas Lalaguna
Voting on the Future of Life on Earth
Jill Richardson
The EPA’s War on Science Continues
Lawrence Davidson
The Problem of Localized Ethics
Richard Hardigan
Europe’s Shameful Treatment of Refugees: Fire in Greek Camp Highlights Appalling Conditions
Judith Deutsch
Permanent War: the Drive to Emasculate
David Swanson
Why War Deaths Increase After Wars
Raouf Halaby
94 Well-Lived Years and the $27 Traffic Fine
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Coups-for-Green-Energy Added to Wars-For-Oil
Andrea Flynn
What Breast Cancer Taught Me About Health Care
Negin Owliaei
Time for a Billionaire Ban
Binoy Kampmark
Business as Usual: Evo Morales and the Coup Condition
Bernard Marszalek
Toward a Counterculture of Rebellion
Brian Horejsi
The Benefits of Environmental Citizenship
Brian Cloughley
All That Gunsmoke
Graham Peebles
Why is there so Much Wrong in Our Society?
Jonah Raskin
Black, Blue, Jazzy and Beat Down to His Bones: Being Bob Kaufman
John Kendall Hawkins
Treason as a Lifestyle: I’ll Drink to That
Ben Terrall
The Rise of Silicon Valley
November 14, 2019
Laura Carlsen
Mexico’s LeBaron Massacre and the War That Will Not Cease
Joe Emersberger
Oppose the Military Coup in Bolivia. Spare Us Your “Critiques”
Ron Jacobs
Trump’s Drug Deal Goes to Congress: Impeachment, Day One
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail