By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Allegations of collusion involving the RUC, British Army and the UDA/UVF has rocketed to the top of the political agenda after a leading loyalist revealed on TV that he had been given so much security information in the 1980s that he "didn’t know where to put it."
More revelations are expected in the coming months, despite denials from the RUC chief constable, Ronnie Flanagan, that collusion was widespread.
Last week’s revelations by former UDA commander Robert Philpott, until recently serving 15 years for the attempted murder of a Lisburn Catholic, were not the first time a loyalist has spoken of collusion with the RUC and British Army.
Ex-RUC sergeant John Weir, now free after serving 14 years of a life sentence, claims collusion was widespread between the RUC and both the UDA and UVF during his years with the anti-IRA Special Patrol Group in south Armagh.
Weir was the driver in the murder of William Strathearn, a shopkeeper in Ahogill, Co. Antrim. An accomplice was another RUC man, Billy McCaughey. Armagh SPG officers also helped loyalists to bomb a bar in Keady, Co. Armagh, and opened fire as customers fled.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Philpott claimed during the course of a BBC television documentary, "Loyalists," that all three branches of the security forces in Northern Ireland helped the UDA with information. During the same period, 26 members of the IRA or Sinn Fein or members of their families were murdered by loyalists.
Philpott says he was given so many photos, montages and security documents that he didn’t know where to put them. He said they were so detailed he knew what color socks and sweaters republicans were wearing, what cars they drove and what safe houses they used.
The deputy UUP leader, John Taylor, is quoted in the program saying loyalist paramilitaries had achieved what the security forces would never have achieved, and that was "a significant contribution toward the IRA finally accepting that they couldn’t win."
An RUC spokesman denied the claims, saying, "These and similar allegations have been thoroughly investigated in the past and the results widely published. What is abundantly clear is that there is not and never has been anything to support allegations of official collusion."
Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein said Philpott’s statements merely bore out what his party had been saying for years. Maskey was himself shot and badly wounded at his home in Andersonstown at the time Philpott said loyalists were receiving information.
Meanwhile, the new edition of Sean McPhilemy’s controversial book, "The Committee," is due in U.S. bookstores by May. It contains startling new material about collusion involving both the RUC and British military intelligence.
McPhilemy’s book claims an "inner circle" of businessmen, clergy, politicians, loyalists and RUC men plotted the murders of dozens of Catholics and republicans during the 1980’s.
The new edition will name an RUC reserve constable whom it says owned a County Armagh farmhouse where the three bombs that killed 33 people in Dublin and Monaghan on May 17, 1974 were constructed. The officer has never been questioned about the bombings.