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January 22, 2007

Profound Regret From Blair After Collusion Report

Profound Regret From Blair After Collusion Report

PUBLISHED 01/22/07 11:51 EST

Northern Ireland Police Special Branch officers colluded
with loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang
members responsible for many murders in Belfast during the
1990s, according to a report compiled by Police Ombudsman
(watchdog) Nuala O'Loan.

The report follows an investigation, codenamed "Operation
Ballast", which was begun following representations by
Raymond McCord.

His son, Raymond McCord jnr, was murdered in 1997, allegedly
on the orders of the head of the UVF's Mount Vernon unit.

According to the report, published this morning, a number of
senior officers -including two retired assistant chief
constables, seven detective chief superintendents and two
detective superintendents - refused to provide an
explanation of police Special Branch and CID internal
practices during the period in question.

The report found that others, including some serving
officers in the PSNI, gave "evasive, contradictory, and on
occasion farcical answers to questions".

"On other occasions the investigation demonstrated
conclusively that what an officer had told the Police
Ombudsman's investigators was completely untrue," the report

However, although files have been sent to the DPP following
the investigation, it is understood a recommendation has
been made that no charges should be brought against any

Mr McCord said his family were disappointed that
prosecutions were not recommended and said he would continue
his family's fight to for justice.

Mr McCord said: "This report is not the end of our struggle
to get justice for young Raymond. It is the means by which
we can go forward to get justice and uncover the truth so
that these horrible deeds will never be allowed to happen

"To such ends whilst my family are disappointed that there
would appear to be no criminal prosecutions against rogue
police officers, we note the report recommendation to
reinvestigate murders connected to this inquiry with optimism."

Mr McCord said he wanted those responsible for his son's
death to be tried and imprisoned, adding that the policemen
involved in the cover-up should also be prosecuted and

He also urged Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams not to endorse
the PSNI in light of the report's findings.

Ahead of this morning's publication, Mrs O'Loan delivered a
dossier, naming Special Branch and CID officers as well as
the UVF agents they ran, to the Secretary of State for
Northern Ireland Peter Hain and PSNI Chief Constable Sir
Hugh Orde.

The investigation was widened to examine ten murders and ten
attempted murders during the 1990s.

The report says that the police investigation into the
murder of Catholic taxi driver Sharon McKenna (27) in
January 1993 "had the effect of protecting Informant 1 from
possible prosecution. "

"This is collusion," the report adds.

Mrs O'Loan's staff also investigated other killings,
including the shooting in 2000 of loyalist Tommy English
during a paramilitary feud, and Presbyterian Church Minister
David Templeton, who died after being beaten at his home in

Northern Secretary Peter Hain acknowledged this morning that
the report made "extremely uncomfortable reading" but
insisted that policing in Northern Ireland had now changed.

He also ruled out Mr McCord's call for a public inquiry. Mr
Hain said it would be unlikely that further investigation
would reveal new evidence but that he expected some of the
named officers to be prosecuted.

A spokesman for Tony Blair expressed the Prime Minister's
"profound regret" but urged the poeple of Northern Ireland
to support the PSNI, saying the collusion had happened in
the past.

"This is a deeply disturbing report about events which were
totally wrong and which should never have happened. What
matters at this stage is that the whole community supports
that process of transformation, " the statement said.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the report was "deeply
disturbing" and praised Mr McCord's determination in
pressing the issue.

"I applaud his single-minded determination and courage which
helped ensure that the truth would be told and these
grievous failures brought to light in a comprehensive and
detailed way," the Taoiseach said.

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said the
report was a "shocking exposé of the activities of loyalist
paramilitaries and their relationship with the RUC Special

He said the reports findings were a "vindication of those
who over many years have sought to expose these dreadful

"The Ombudsman has found that RUC officers colluded in
crimes by their failure to tackle the most serious
activities of their informants - including murder. Clearly,
elements of the RUC Special Branch had lost all moral
compass at that time."

"Who now could doubt that there was a need for a new
beginning to policing in Northern Ireland, as called for in
the Good Friday Agreement and brought about through the
implementation of the Patten Report? By failing to protect
its citizens in such a way, the State failed in one of its
primary duties," the Minister said.

PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde expressed concern about
Ms Loan's claim that she had not received adequate assitance
from police in her inquiry and pledged to tackle the matter.

He also offered a "wholehearted apology for anything done or
left undone."

Sir Hugh said he accepted all the recommendations.

"Significant reorganisation and the new systems and
processes to deal with this most difficult area of policing
which we have put in place over the last four-and-a-half
years will ensure that the situation described by the
Ombudsman could never happen again in Northern Ireland."

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said Ms O'Loan's report
confirms what the families of the "hundreds bereaved by
collusion between British state forces and unionist death
squads have been saying for years".

He said it was only "the tip of the iceberg" as it had only
dealt with the impact of collusion in a "relatively small
area and over a relatively short period of time".

Fine Gael leader and spokesman on Northern Ireland Enda
Kenny said the report highlights the possibility of other
examples of "unacceptable practices" yet to be uncovered.

"These findings also call into serious question the failure
of the British Government to cooperate with the Barron
Inquiry which has been investigating a large number of
earlier allegations of collusion in murderers perpetrated in
this State," Mr Kenny said.

Mr Justice Henry Barron was appointed to examine alleged
British security force collusion in the loyalist bombings of
Dublin and Monaghan in 1974. He said in the report published
in 2004, that he had not received co-operation from the
British government in his work.

Mr Kenny called on the Taoisaech to raise the matter with Mr
Blair as a matter of urgency.

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said the findings were not
unexpected and more revelations were likely in the future.

"As yet more cases of state collusion with paramilitaries
emerge, those responsible for murder must be held to
account, including those who have held senior positions and
their political masters, where tacit political approval is
found," Mr Sargent said.

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