Following publication of “Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland”, commentators, including Alex Kane, (November 1st) put British military and constabulary collusion with loyalists in brutal murders down to “rogue criminals” operating beyond the pale of British military planners.
The ongoing inquest of 76 year old Roseann Mallon brings daily reminders why the families and friends of victims of hundreds of similar murders might see it differently.
The phrase ‘all the hallmarks of the IRA’ was once commonplace. Nationalists also came to recognize a pattern of murders committed with ‘all the hallmarks’ of deep British state force complicity.
A litany of such hallmarks has been on display in Roseann Mallon’s inquest. Her murder in 1994 shows collusion went well beyond the 120 killings, cited by the Lethal Allies authors as proof beyond reasonable doubt of systemic collusion.
Her killers struck in an area so heavily patrolled that it was said to be impossible to move without being stopped. Crown patrols spiked before the murder. There was covert camera surveillance, which family experts attested were equipped with night vision. A ten year old boy happened upon rifles readied nearby in a deserted mill.
Remarkably, this considerable array of British manpower and material was banjaxed. Precise details from surveillance or searches seemed known to her killers. Cameras were turned off. Recordings of the preceding three weeks activity were somehow erased. British patrols were ordered not to react to sounds of shots. Witnesses, including a boy who stumbled upon the weapons cache, were intimidated rather than encouraged to provide leads to suspects. The Mallon family has been made fight to compel the British to disclose damning documents.
Claims that the British procured cheap cameras useless for tracking the IRA at night, windy or rainy days, or that British troops were ordered to combat the IRA by hiding at the sound of gunshots are already the stuff of punch lines.
How could a low level cadre of criminals within the crown forces accomplish such feats? How could they pass through heavily patrolled areas undetected and undetectable? How did they turn off cameras, wipe tapes, and order patrols to ground unless backed by planning, approval, and direction at a higher level within the British military or constabulary? How could they get away with it, over and over again?
This inquest raises deep emotions precisely because we have seen it all before. Much the same pattern preceded the murder of my own close friend Liam Ryan at the Battery Bar in Ardboe, five years before Roseann Mallon’s murder. Others, no doubt, have recognized these hallmarks in hundreds of other collusion murders. If the British are serious about dealing with the past they should get serious about their legacy of collusion.