'Peacekeeping' in Northern Ireland

Ambush at Tully West, written by Kennedy Lindsay
A review from Militant Irish Monthly, No. 83, May 1980.

It is usual when allegations are made against the British army and the police and their various under-cover agencies in Northern Ireland to hear the cry that the allegations are IRA propaganda. One of the things that sets this book apart from other publications and statements on this subject is that the author could by no stretch of the imagination be described as sympathetic to the IRA. Kennedy Lindsay is a Northern Ireland Loyalist politician. He helped to organise the Ulster Workers' Council stoppage of 1974 and he supported and participated in the UUAC stoppage of 1977 which demanded tougher action against the IRA. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1973 and to the Convention in 1975.

The title of the book comes from the shooting on January 26th, 1974 of William Black in his weekend cottage at Tully West, Co. Down by a special unit of British army intelligence. The story of the shooting began 198 months earlier on August 18th, 1972. On that night, William Black, a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment which is a local part-time volunteer regiment of the British army, saw from his bedroom window three men stealing vehicles in his street. He challenged them and captured one of them. On arriving at the police station he found that the three men were members of the British army. He had disturbed an undercover squad in the process of stealing three cars - the number needed for setting a car bomb. He indignantly objected to his neighbours' cars being robbed. His wife told the neighbours who had been responsible for the attempted thefts.

From there on the nightmare began for William Black and his family. He was discharged without explanation from the UDR, attempts were made to shoot him and his son who was a policeman and eventually he was ambushed and shot several times in the face and body by an army undercover unit. As part of the attempt to discredit him stolen goods were left in an outhouse at his cottage. This book then goes on to show how various agencies and ploys were used to stifle investigations of the attempted murder. Ian Paisley could not get it raised in Parliament as the Speaker blocked him. Kevin McNamara MP raised it in an interjection and Ian Gilmour, now a leading member of the Tory Cabinet, described the allegations as 'absolute nonsense'. Yet in May 1977 the Minister of Defence paid Black who had survived the ambush a sum of £16,700 compensation.

The BBC also conspired to cover up the issue. Lindsay states: 'Transfers and new appointments were made from the mainland to BBC Northern Ireland so that it became almost as firmly a Government instrument as, for instance, the army's information office in Lisburn.' He concluded, 'The BBC has been integrated into the intelligence and covert operations business…'

What is of much more significance in Lindsay's book is that he shows the role of the different undercover agencies of the British State - MI5, MI6, Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police, Service Intelligence and Government Communications Headquarters Cheltenham, - and also the role of the different sections of the British army, not only in Northern Ireland but in Britain also. He alleges, for example, that the Ulster Freedom Fighters was a front for the British army. The UFF carried out some of the most bloodthirsty murders of Catholics. He alleges that such activities were used to isolate the Protestant paramilitary groups from the Protestant population. He makes the case that the British army blew up the Alliance Party HQ in Belfast in an attempt to influence the outcome of the 1974 February elections.

The book gives a horrifying account of an interrogation of a Protestant electricity worker which took place in the torture centre at Castlereagh. So terrified was the man that when he was released after three days, and with no charges made against him, he slept with a knife at his bed with which to kill himself should the police return to take him back to Castlereagh. He describes how screams from the interrogation block have been heard at the desk of the duty sergeant and no one batted an eyelid.

In relation to the police in Britain, he lets out the information that in Liverpool when drugs, etc. are planted on people by the police that this is referred to by the police as 'agriculture.' In Northern Ireland he explains that it is live bullets that are planted on IRA suspects.

He concludes in relation to the role of the British army and the British authorities in Northern Ireland: 'The indictment of this book is not only that the authorities have permitted certain excesses of which examples are described, hut that they have deliberately promoted and condoned violence, crime and racketeering in order to alienate both the terrorist and political opponents from their natural sympathisers. It has been a clinically planned destabilising and brutalising if the population year after year, for both military and political ends.' He points out that this policy continued under both Tory and Labour governments. For example the plan to murder William Black was drawn up and put into operation under a Tory government while the decision by the Attorney General to have no one prosecuted was taken under a Labour government. Either the Labour government condoned the attempted murder or it was not aware of the Army's activities and acted as rubber stamp for the decisions of the military tops.

This book should be read by all trade unionists and Labour Party members. While the political analysis of politics in Northern Ireland is clearly sectarian with the author maintaining that the Royal Ulster Constabulary are helpless bystanders to the terrible deeds of the military, the book has value. The techniques which are used by the army and the police as well as undercover agencies give an indication of what the Labour and Trade Union Movement will encounter in the years ahead. The army is being trained and techniques are being perfected in Northern Ireland for use against the trade union movement in Britain in the coming years of economic crisis with workers struggling to defend their living standards. The recent steel strike saw phone tapping and police action which owes much to the experience in Northern Ireland over the past decade.

Lindsay estimates that 65% of the adult population of Northern Ireland are on British army files. It is without doubt that these techniques are also being used to compile the names and particulars of trade union and Labour Party activists in Britain. It was on such compiled information that the Chilean Junta arrested and murdered 30,000 workers when they came to power in 1973.

This book adds weight to the case of the Marxists who have consistently opposed the presence of the British army in Northern Ireland and their use of torture and assassination.

This series of articles on Northern Ireland from our archives
are available here.

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