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Margaret Thatcher personally asked about collusion by RUC officer

The Step Inn pub bombing in Keady in 1976, in which two Catholics died
Brendan Hughes

A SENIOR RUC officer has revealed he personally raised concerns about paramilitary collusion with Margaret Thatcher but the issue was ignored.

Former Special Branch head Raymond White said he asked the British government for a legal framework for the handling of agents within paramilitary groups.

But in a new TV documentary he admits the Thatcher administration's attitude to using agents was "carry on, but don't get caught".

"Senior officials and senior ministers, as it were, did not give us the support or the guidance that I felt we were entitled to," he told the programme.

When asked by journalist John Ware whether that lack of response amounted to 'carry on, but don't get caught', Mr White said: "I think that captures it in a nutshell."

The programme examines the scale of collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries during the Troubles.

An RUC officer who was part of a notorious UVF gang said some attacks were carried out in a bid to cause an "all-out civil war".

In his first television interview, John Weir said the Glenanne gang was confident that if civil war erupted they could "crush the other side".

The Glenanne gang was involved in a series of sectarian attacks in the 1970s.

According to the programme, Taoisigh Jack Lynch and Liam Cosgrave were met with flat denials from the British government when they asked about collusion.

But such was the extent of collusion in the 1980s, the programme claims an RUC Special Branch officer tipped off a UDA brigadier about an informer, which could have led to the man's murder.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton told the documentary a police officer could potentially face serious charges.

Secret Army squad the Force Research Unit (FRU) ran agents within paramilitary organisations.

FRU commander Gordon Kerr recruited former soldier Brian Nelson as an agent in 1987 to infiltrate the UDA.

Nelson colluded with murder gangs to kill IRA suspects and innocent nationalists. Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane was one of those murdered.

In a prison journal Nelson claimed Kerr had suggested the UDA should bomb a Co Cork oil refinery to put pressure on the Irish government, at a time when it was resisting republican suspects' extradition to Northern Ireland.

Former PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde said he believed justice would have been better served if Kerr had faced a public trial.

Ex-Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan has also claimed that in 2003 senior British government officials attempted to pressure her into stopping her investigation into new murders involving collusion.

Her investigation eventually found that Special Branch officers gave the killers immunity and officers ensured the murderers were not caught.

A new collusion investigation has been launched into 19 other linked killings, according to the documentary.

:: Collusion will be broadcast on Monday on RTÉ One at 9.35pm

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