CAIN: British Irish Rights Watch: Deadly Intelligence: State involvement in Loyalist murder in Northern Ireland - SUMMARY

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Deadly Intelligence: State Involvement in Loyalist Murder in Northern Ireland - SUMMARY

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Text: British Irish Rights Watch ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
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British Irish


On 12th February 1999, the tenth anniversary of the murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, British Irish RIGHTS WATCH will deliver a confidential report to the British and Irish governments and to the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

The report concerns the activities of British military intelligence and its agent Brian Nelson. It is based on years of research by British Irish RIGHTS WATCH and others. Much of the information it contains is in the public domain, but some of it is not, and for that reason the report itself cannot be published.

In summary, the report alleges that, through its secret Force Research Unit (FRU), a branch of army intelligence, the state sought out loyalist Brian Nelson and infiltrated him into the Ulster Defence Association, which carried out its campaign of murder under the flag of convenience of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). FRU used Nelson to enhance the loyalists' intelligence on people it was targeting for murder, and that intelligence rapidly spread throughout other loyalist paramilitary groups.

The report examines in depth the murders of three innocent victims of this deadly enterprise: Patrick Finucane, Terence McDaid, and Gerard Slane.

The United Nations' Special Rapporteur has called for an independent public inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane. The British government has refused to hold such an inquiry unless new evidence comes to light. The report reveals information that, if the data we have seen is authentic, constitutes shocking evidence that:

  • members of the RUC suggested that the UDA kill Patrick Finucane
  • the RUC sent a report to Douglas Hogg which prompted his remark in Parliament that some solicitors were "unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA"
  • Nelson was actively involved in the murder
  • FRU misled the Stevens Inquiry and the Crown Court about its knowledge of and involvement in the murder
  • a "P" [personality] card used by Nelson to summarise information about potential UDA victims was withheld from the Stevens Inquiry into collusion and has been withheld from lawyers acting for Patrick Finucane's widow
  • RUC Special Branch had detailed information about the plot to murder Patrick Finucane but did nothing to prevent it or to protect him.
  • This is all information which, if true, would constitute new evidence.

Terence McDaid was killed when he was mistaken for one of his brothers. The report suggests that it may have been wrong information from FRU's handlers that led to his death. The Ministry of Defence have paid compensation to his family.

Nelson kept his handlers informed about the UFF conspiracy to murder Gerard Slane, but the report indicates that FRU did nothing to protect him. The Ministry of Defence have also compensated his family.

The alleged role played by FRU, and possibly by elements within the RUC, in these three murders and many others meant that UFF assassins were not brought to book. They literally got away with murder.

The report also examines the significant role played by Nelson in procuring weapons from South Africa for three loyalist Groups, the UFF, the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Resistance. Both FRU and M15 were fully aware of Nelson's involvement. After the shipment of weapons was received, loyalists' capacity for murder more than doubled.

The report also discusses evidence that indicates that FRU misled the Stevens Inquiry. British Irish RIGHTS WATCH has examined documents which, if authentic, show that

  • FRU impounded Nelson's intelligence material within a week of the Stevens team's arrival in Belfast
  • FRU did not hand over these materials to Stevens until ten days after Nelson's arrest three months later
  • FRU did not hand over its own materials to Stevens for another six months or more
  • the Stevens team found evidence that the materials had been tampered with
  • not all the relevant documents were passed to Stevens.

FRU's activities appear to have gone beyond isolated acts of collusion. Before the late 1980s, loyalist murders were often wholly sectarian and apparently random. After 1988 their capacity for murder increased dramatically and their targeting of victims became very much more precise. There seems very little doubt that FRU played a systematic role in this. If so, they broke every rule in the book and committed some very serious crimes.

British Irish RIGHTS WATCH considers that all the deaths and other crimes in which FRU was allegedly involved merit proper scrutiny by a public inquiry. The organisation believes that the British government will be able to tell from the report whether the documents on which these allegations are based are genuine, because if so they have the originals in their possession. If they are authentic, then only a public inquiry can allay the matters of burning public interest that they raise.

The materials on which the report is based strongly suggest that agents of the state have been involved, directly and indirectly, in the murder of its citizens, in contravention of domestic law and all international human rights standards. British Irish RIGHTS WATCH calls on the British government without further delay or prevarication to set up an independent public inquiry with full judicial powers to investigate the matters raised in the report. In particular, such an inquiry must:

  • determine whether the activities of the Force Research Unit, especially their infiltration of Brian Nelson into the UDA, had as their aim the assassination of any individual
  • make an informed assessment based on all the available evidence, whether currently in the public domain or not, of the damage caused by those activities, both in terms of lives lost and otherwise
  • determine how much knowledge and oversight of those activities was had by the army, the intelligence service, the police, the Northern Ireland Office and the government.


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
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