What makes collusion different from other crimes?
“Collusion is a hard claim to substantiate because it always happens in secret,” Anne Cadwallader, an expert on the topic, told IrishCentral in a recent interview.
“With any other crime there’s always some sort of hard evidence, whether it’s forensic, ballistic or eyewitness – but those involved in collusion are doing it in secret and it doesn’t need more than a conversation or agreement. It’s almost impossible to prove.”
Cadwallader, a journalist who spent 30 years covering the Troubles in Northern Ireland, joined the country’s Pat Finucane Centre in 2009 to take her investigative research one step further.
Today she is the author of bestseller “Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland,” which uncovers the aggressive British involvement in the Troubles that remained under wraps and resulted in 120 innocent people murdered.
“[As a journalist] I was asked twice to write books on collusion, and I turned it down on the basis that I wasn’t interested in propaganda; just facts,” she said.
But when Cadwallader began working for the Pat Finucane Centre, (PFC), a human rights advocacy and lobbying entity that deals with issues related to the Troubles, her first assignment was to write about collusion. She was apprehensive until she saw the amount of evidence that the PFC had accumulated.
“They had historical inquiry team reports based on evidence from RUC archives, evidence from families and also evidence that they had discovered in the British national archives. I became convinced that for the first time it was possible to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that collusion had taken place.”
Cadwallader worked closely with her colleague Alan Brecknell, whose father Trevor Brecknell was shot dead by the 1970s “Glennane Gang” – the group of Northern Irish loyalist extremists under close investigation.
They’ve confirmed that members from the Ulster Volunteer Force, British soldiers from the Ulster Defense Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary were a part of this murderous gang, who were also responsible for the Dublin-Monaghan car bombings of 1974.
In 1998 Brecknell quit his job to become a full time volunteer for the PFC to investigate his father’s death, which led to the uncovering of 119 more deaths at the hands of the British and Northern Irish extremist alliance.
“He found there was truth in the rumor that police and British soldiers had been involved in his father’s murder, and that all of the other murders can be linked. The perpetrators of the 120 deaths were all loosely connected,” Cadwallader said.
As a result of the PFC’s work, more than thirty families have taken the murder cases of their loved ones to the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, who has agreed to prioritize the cases. Upwards of twenty families are suing the British government and Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland as well, for misfeasance in a public office, assault, battery and more.
“The 120 families who lost their loved ones still have not gotten full truth, and certainly not any apologies or acknowledgment from the British state that they were behind the scenes,” she explained, “they have partial truths that have been dragged out of the authorities by the PFC and historical inquiry team.”
Despite the fact that Cadwallader’s book has been on shelves for months, none of the facts within have been challenged. The British government hasn’t yet seen fit to speak with the families or the PFC either.
Cadwallader and her colleague Alan Brecknell are now appealing to Irish America for help – to use whatever influence they have in the truth recovery process. They are touring American cities from October 5 through October 11 to conduct conferences in Boston, Albany, New York City, Trenton, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
“It’s quite an emotionally charged tour. We don’t sit there and read from scripts, we really engage with the audience,” Cadwallader told IrishCentral. “Our presentation includes photographs, maps, graphics and original documents we found.”
“Irish America in the past has been influential in persuading parties to try again, to come back to the table, to find and agree to a truth recovering process that everybody in Northern Ireland can buy into for the sake of the families, but also for society as a whole.”
“[The conflict] is still perceived as having been between two communities: Protestants and Catholics. The significance of collusion shows it was more complex and includes the British state as a key protagonist. This is key to understanding the conflict in Northern Ireland.”
She continues: “[The British] weren’t a neutral umpire; they were actively involved, and should own up to their place in the conflict.”
Though Cadwallader said the PFC doesn’t hold the current British state personally responsible, she believes the British government should collectively and corporately become involved in any truth recovery process, as it would lead to greater reconciliation and create peace in a deeper way.
The aim is to bring out the truth and debunk the lies before beginning the healing process and moving forward. “We can’t build peace at the bodies of the dead,” she said.
“Collective amnesia is no solution to the situation in Northern Ireland,” Cadwallader said. “Until we understand the past, we can’t build the future.”
“There is a short window of opportunity now, before electoral interests take over in advance of the 2015 British general election to reach agreement,” she added. “Now is the time, yet again, that Irish America can play a role.”
Anne Cadwallader's conferences:
The Irish American Unity Conference will present the Donald Payne Sr. Freedom Award to Cadwallader at its upcoming national convention in Washington D.C.