For years outraged Nationalists have made blistering allegations of widespread collusion within the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the Ulster Defense Regiment (UDR), spotting their handiwork in targeted killings in the North.
Few – especially those in power on both sides of the border – listened to or believed them. But a new book by a celebrated British journalist claims they were right to make their allegations.
Author and Pat Finucane Center (PFC) project worker Ann Cadwallader’s meticulously researched book Lethal Allies (Mercier Press) demonstrates once and for all that the British government was often complicit in the murder of its own citizens in the North, even assisting the Loyalist bombing of Dublin and Monaghan resulting in the deaths of innocent victims.
Cadwallader will be in the U.S. next week to discuss Lethal Allies. On Tuesday, October 7 she will speak at New York University, 19 West 4th Street, Room 101, and the discussion is free and open to the public, but RSVP is required to Sean Downes at 212-248-3232. (See advertisement on Page 17 for further appearances).
To support her claims in Lethal Allies, Cadwallader provides a shocking inventory of the criminal acts committed by individuals who combined membership of the security forces with Loyalist paramilitary groups, making free use of security force weapons, police intelligence and training to target Nationalists.
Cadwallader also claims that collusion with Loyalist death squads was encouraged by the British government, although what level of the government has yet to be fully established because the pertinent records held in government facilities are withheld from public examination. To be clear, these were all criminal acts that have gone unpunished.
But the most shocking findings in Lethal Allies come from the records of the RUC themselves and reports by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).
“If you understand the nature of collusion, then you understand the conflict in Northern Ireland was not a religious war between Catholics and Protestants with the British keeping the peace,” Cadwallader tells the Irish Voice.
“The British were not neutral. You have to understand how deeply collusion was embedded in the entire conflict.”
For decades the dominant narrative was that the British kept their hands clean. It’s a false narrative, Cadwallader says.
“The British were very much involved on one side. They were involved up to their hilts as active protagonists in the conflict. They were not neutral arbiters or umpires. That’s why the book is so dense and so precisely sourced.
“What I’m saying is so profound and so serious that it has to be absolutely rooted in fact. It’s where there are 6,000 words of footnotes, because it is so serious.”
In the year since the book has been written not one journalist or public figure has taken issue with a single fact in the book. But as always in the North, what you acknowledge can often depend on what you would like to hear.
Some friends and colleagues, when they heard that Cadwallader had joined the PFC, decided she had gone over to the dark side, dismissing her findings before they had even considered them.
“I knew about the Pat Finucane Center and I knew they were very meticulous about checking facts,” explains Cadwallader. “It wasn’t a propaganda organization. It was a place that genuinely was interested in investigating facts.”
When she was asked by the PFC to write Lethal Allies it was the biggest challenge of her professional life.
“It tested me to the utmost. I’m very glad that it will remain as a legacy toward a better understanding of the conflict,” she says.
By the time Cadwallader joined PFC a great deal of the research cited in her book had already been done. Her job was to marshal that research into something that was readable.
“Once I got to know the families and heard the stories, I didn’t want my book to be a report that sat unread on a dusty shelf somewhere. I wanted to write something that was truly engaging. There was no way that the subject matter would be anything other than disturbing but I wanted to get it out.”
But how do you prove that police and soldiers came to secret arrangements that the British government was willing to tolerate and encourage? For that you need the official documents.
“What’s truly shocking is that we managed to find the evidence,” she says.
“Many suspected that a dirty war was being fought during the Troubles. Some journalists believed it, others did not. But coming up with official evidence is another thing entirely.”
The Historical Enquiries Team worked alongside of the PFC, going to the National Archive in London to do the research. Cadwallader’s entire book is based on those official documents.
Lethal Allies also reminds us that very few of those killed by security forces in collusion with Loyalists were combatants or active members of the IRA. Instead the main targets were wealthy farmers, successful businessmen and prosperous members of the Catholic communities. Strong voices were targeted to be silenced.