Conor McGarrigle on Fri, 14 Jun 2002 18:39:55 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Stevens report to say RUC collusion was rife

>From the Irish Times

Leaks from the Stevens report into collusion between loyalist paramilitaries
and security forces in Northern Ireland.

Stevens report to say RUC collusion was rife
By Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

Collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the
North continued unchecked for years because of a culture of "gross
unprofessionalism and irresponsibility". This allowed officers to create a
climate in which Catholics could be murdered with near impunity, the Stevens
inquiry has found.

The report by London's Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens,
found that in many cases the relationship between RUC Special Branch
detectives, army intelligence and loyalist paramilitaries was so
unprincipled and lacking in accountability that it bordered on
"institutionalised collusion", according to a report in today's Guardian

But the Stevens team will not suggest there was any conspiracy stretching
throughout the RUC and British army, or that British ministers officially
sanctioned such killings.

Sir John is due to issue the report soon. But the officer with effective
day-to-day control of the investigation is Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mr
Hugh Orde, the new Chief Constable-designate of the PSNI.

His appointment as successor to Sir Ronnie Flanagan has proved politically
sensitive, with unionists openly contesting his selection. The Stevens
report, with which he is so closely identified, will further politicise
policing in the North, while its recommendations could prove controversial.

At a press conference following his selection, Mr Orde referred to his work
with the Stevens team and promised a frank report. It will fall to him to
act upon the report's conclusions.

The three-year investigation into the murder in 1989 of the Belfast
solicitor Pat Finucane will condemn a culture of incompetence that left
junior ranks effectively making up the rules.

Sir John hopes to recommend charges against several police and army officers
and he will outline proposals for wholesale reform of procedures.

Speaking to former soldiers, paramilitaries and double agents, Sir John's
team uncovered astonishing levels of collusion between paramilitaries and
the security forces. His report will not estimate the number of shootings
that resulted from the collaboration, but he believes that loyalists were
incapable of carrying out targeted assassinations without significant help,
according to the British newspaper.

But finding hard evidence of any alleged official policy of collusion within
the police service proved almost impossible.

Stevens found that RUC Special Branch - the police intelligence division -
failed to keep records about meetings between officers and paramilitaries,
and there appeared to be no guidelines about conduct.

Sir John has been told that attempts by his detectives to find out who was
in charge of operations was "like trying to juggle soot".

Sir John, who has conducted two previous inquiries in Northern Ireland,
already knew that in the case of Pat Finucane's murder, details had been
passed to loyalist paramilitaries by an army double agent, Brian Nelson, who
was helping loyalists to identify leading Catholics.

But he also found out that two of the UDA gang members thought to be
responsible for the killing were police informers. One of the two guns used
was stolen from an army barracks. Sometime later, the weapon was recovered
by police officers, who, inexplicably, returned it to the army where it was
modified - destroying potentially crucial forensic evidence.

Although Sir John will name and give details of the loyalists arrested and
questioned by his team on suspicion of the Finucane murder, he will not
identify the two suspected gunmen in case it jeopardises a future criminal

It is not within Sir John's remit to recommend changes regarding
intelligence gathering. But his investigators believe that Special Branch,
which has primacy in such matters, should hand the lead role to MI5, while
the army should stop running agents.

 The Irish Times


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