My thanks to The Catalunya Kid for researching this article.
By The Catalunya Kid
The website of Verbatim Communications, the public relations firm owned by Gareth Robinson, son of NI First Minister Peter Robinson, which has been linked to the NAMA property scandal recently highlighted in the Dail, was not active in its present form until January, 2014, according to an analysis of its internet timeline using the WayBackMachine Internet Archive tool.
Gareth & Peter Robinson
This was two years after Verbatim was paid thousands of pounds to host an event at Queens University Belfast which was paid for by the law firm, Tughans, which also handled the purchase of the £1.3 billion NI property portfolio from NAMA, by Cereberus, the New York-based private equity firm.
The analysis shows that a very simple website was set up in February 2011 with just the company’s name, an email address and a phone number, which appears to be for a cell phone: 07788435708. This is a different number than the one displayed on the current website: 028 90312909, which was created after January 5th, 2014.
The new Verbatim website, which has a more professional look although lacking the detail usually present on a business website, was therefore created just two or three months before Cereberus bought the NI property portfolio.
Mystery surrounds the transfer during the NAMA transaction of some £7 million to an Isle of Man bank account which had reportedly been earmarked for a NI politician.
Readers can log on to the WayBackMachine website and go through the same steps themselves described in the document below:
Go Set a Watchman turns out to be a hot mess of a book. The flashes of lyrical genius and ability to evoke the intensity of childhood play that come to fruition in To Kill a Mockingbird are in evidence, but so too are rather obscure discussions on constitutional law and the tenth amendment, an irritatingly pert main character, and a dull love interest. It’s nowhere near the novel Mockingbird is. It is much better than that.
In the days running up to Watchman’s release, Mockingbird fans – for there can be no other description, mere “readers” or “admirers” won’t suffice – set aside difficult ethical discussions of whether the 89-year-old Harper Lee was capable of really consenting to the publication of what many believed amounted to a rough first draft of her work.
Instead fans took to twitter with their wishlist of what they hoped for in the sequel. Some hoped Scout and Dill would be married. Some hoped Jem and Scout spent Christmases together, filling Maycomb County with the happy chatter of their adorable precocious children. Some hoped Boo Radley was out and about, perhaps working in telesales. Curiously though, no one seemed to be hoping that Atticus was a fully paid-up member of the White Citizen’s Council, bending his arthritis-addled hands to the fight against integration, and explaining to Scout: “The Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people”.
Funny that no one saw that coming. Really, they should have. Because outside the white liberal fantasy that is To Kill a Mockingbird, the reality, the historical record shows us that (spoiler alert!) the vast majority of white Southerners were racist and didn’t want to sit next to black people in the theatre.
We did know that the so-called white trash Southerners, the KKK members, the Bob Ewells, the ignorant poor, didn’t want to sit next to black people. Mockingbird taught us that. What Watchman tells us, and tells us rather powerfully, is that racism is not confined to people who are so clearly not like us.
Some commentators on Watchman have suggested Atticus becomes racist as he gets older, as if some kind of dramatic ideological transformation has taken place in his worldview since Mockingbird. It’s nonsense. He was racist in Mockingbird, but just politer about it. He thinks everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, and everyone should be able to access justice. He doesn’t want Tom Robinson to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. He thinks Tom Robinson is a good man. But he doesn’t want to sit next to him in a theatre.
Racism is not, and never has been, a yes/no question. Many white Southerners who risked considerable personal danger to challenge some forms of racial injustice were perfectly comfortable with other forms. The Committee on Interracial Co-operation, founded in 1919 in Atlanta in response to a wave of racial violence across the South, wanted to improve communication between white and black people in the South. But they didn’t want to end segregation. The Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, founded in 1930, sought to protect people like Tom Robinson from the horrors of the lynch mob. But they didn’t want to end segregation.
Politeness in the South has always masked the kinder, gentler racism practised by middle-class whites. Shocked by the Supreme Court’s determination to force Southern states to abandon segregation, men like Atticus Finch – the “men of substance and character, responsible men, good men”, the men Jean Louise sees at the White Citizen’s Council – stop being polite.
The mistake made by so many fans of Mockingbird was to assume that a passion for justice and the rule of law went alongside a commitment to racial equality, and a determination to overcome prejudice. Sometimes, it didn’t. Civil rights activist Al Sharpton has said that Watchman, “reflects the reality of finding out that a lot of those we thought were on our side harboured some different personal feelings”.
This is what makes Watchman better than Mockingbird. It’s not better written, I doubt it’s going to win another Pulitzer, and since its release the list of actors queueing up to play Atticus in Mockingbird 2 got a lot shorter. But Watchman is a lot more honest. It doesn’t feed white America the comforting version of civil rights history where the bad guys are easily identifiable ignorant hicks, the good guys are heroic and noble white men with impeccable manners, and the black people are all subservient, respectful and endlessly patient.
Mockingbird is a child’s book, told by a child. Watchman is for grown-ups. It asks serious questions about what racism is. And it comes at a time when American desperately needs a grown-up conversation about race.
One of the enduring allegations of the last forty years has been that the state’s security agencies have been complicit in the sexual abuse , and possibly the murder of children. Kincora is the outstanding example but maybe not the only instance. In GB a major inquiry is about to start. It will not deal with Kincora. So , what next? The inquiry in Banbridge, chaired by Tony Hart, has been lumbering on for months. If you think that it is going to cut a swathe through the state , think again. Allegations have already been made against “prominent members of the community” , his words, not mine. The result? Anonymity orders. You are not allowed to know who these people are. This , despite social media naming one such person, an elected public representative, frequently. What is the point of these King Canute orders? “BP” , who says that…
(This is final of four articles exploring material that featured in the RTE documentary on collusion)
The Tommy Lyttle tape, dated August 1994
Towards the end of August 1994, the phone in my Bawnmore Road home in Belfast rang. I had been expecting the call and was not surprised to hear the voice of Tommy Lyttle, the former UDA Inner Council member and West Belfast Brigadier on the other end.
‘Tucker’, as he was known to friend and foe in the city, had been released from Maghaberry jail some months previously at the end of a near four year term for handling top secret security documents. Part of the evidence that convicted him was his fingerprints on RUC Special Branch documents detailing the IRA battle order in Belfast.
The documents had been stolen by an ordinary criminal from an unmarked police car along with a Special Branch handgun and two radio sets of the sort used in covert surveillance. The car had been parked outside the Stormont Hotel in East Belfast, a favourite watering hole for branchmen.
Tommy Lyttle, an early photograph
A desperate Special Branch proposed a deal with the UDA: if the Loyalists could recover the guns and radios from the guys who stole them, then they could keep the intel on the IRA; the guns & radios mattered but not the documents.
It was a great deal which Tommy Lyttle accepted; within days the haul was retrieved by the UDA in East Belfast which initially refused to return it until two of their men were also released from police custody. The Branch agreed, got their stuff back and the UDA was allowed to keep the documents. A few years later John Stevens charged Lyttle with possession of the very same documents and for that (and other documents donated by various security force members), he went to jail!
During all the months of his remand in 1990 in the decaying old Crumlin Road prison, myself and another reporter had paid him regular visits during which we had chatted about the unfolding Brian Nelson saga and the seemingly endless Stevens inquiry into security force collusion with Loyalists just like himself. It was the biggest story of that time and no-one knew more about it, at least from the UDA perspective, than Tommy Lyttle.
Tommy Lyttle’s downfall began because he was obliged to shoulder the blame inside the UDA for the Stevens inquiry, the ructions it caused inside the UDA and for the exposure of Brian Nelson as a British Army spy – even though all his colleagues in the UDA had shared and approved the decisions that led to the disaster.
Nelson’s outing was an embarrassment for all concerned, to the UDA because it made public what was well known but rarely acknowledged – the high level of security force infiltration of Loyalist groups – and to the British Army because it brought accusations of collusion and involvement in the killing of Belfast lawyer, Pat Finucane.
Who was ‘Bertie Scott’, the UDA’s special friend in the Special Branch?
The UDA killing of IRA activist Loughlin Maginn, shot dead at his Rathfriland, Co Down home in August 1989 by the UDA’s armed wing, was the loosened pebble that caused this landslide. Following his death, Nationalist leaders claimed Maginn was an ordinary innocent Catholic gunned down indiscriminately by savage sectarian gunmen, but the UDA knew otherwise.
Maginn was actually a member of the IRA’s South Down Brigade and the UDA knew this because they had been allowed into a local Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) headquarters to video intelligence documents which listed Maginn as an IRA member. Armed with this information, they set out to kill him.
Angered by protestations of Maginn’s innocence afterwards, the UDA decided to make the background to the Maginn killing public, following this up by leaking to the media scores of security force montages, each carrying the photos and personal details of IRA and INLA activists.
Jim Craig, shot dead because of racketeering allegations and suspicions of dealings with republicans
The idea was to validate the claim that UDA intelligence was accurate, that it targeted known republican activists rather than ordinary Catholics and that it was able to do so thanks to the help of a host of sympathisers in the security forces, principally the UDR, RUC and British Army. In other words Nationalist critics had got it wrong.
Given the UDA’s track record in previous years of random attacks against Catholics, it was not a message likely to get a sympathetic hearing in the Nationalist community. But worse, for the UDA and especially Tommy Lyttle, the ploy backfired.
In 1989, the UDA was just recovering from a major internal bust-up with its roots in allegations of gangsterism and corruption centred on Jim Craig, a UDA leader who was also accused of colluding with the IRA, the INLA and the Official IRA, either in racketeering ventures or in helping republicans kill Loyalists. For instance, the Shankill Butcher leader, Lennie Murphy was alleged to have been set up by Craig for assassination by the IRA.
In March 1988, Andy Tyrie, for many years the Supreme Commander of the UDA and considered an ally and protector of Craig by some, was deposed; Craig himself was shot dead in an East Belfast bar in October 1988. Tommy Lyttle suspected that Craig had helped the IRA kill South Belfast UDA Brigadier, John McMichael in December 1987 not long after McMichael had aired complaints within the UDA hierarchy and in Craig’s earshot, about Craig’s dubious business dealings.
John McMichael and Andy Tyrie in their UDA heyday
In the convulsions that followed, Tommy Lyttle emerged as top dog. A leading figure in the UDA on the Shankill Road from the early 1970’s, who had joined the fledgling Loyalist group when an IRA bombing of a local furniture store killed two babies, he was probably the last of a generation of so-called ‘moderate’ UDA leaders who were as interested in politics as war. Contemporaries were people like Glen Barr and Harry Chicken who set up the New Ulster Political Research Group, which advocated independence for Northern Ireland.
Sir Desmond de Silva, in his report on the UDA killing of Pat Finucane, had this to say about him: “Lyttle was generally considered to be one of the older-generation, less militaristic figures on the Inner Council.” His gay son, John, who became a writer for the London Independent, captured some of his father’s complexity in a piece he wrote after his death in 1995.
Sammy Duddy – Tommy Lyttle said he and a member of the Inner Council were MI5 spies
After the turmoil in the UDA subsided, the organisation needed to choose a new leader. Tommy Lyttle was asked to take on the job, now reduced in title from ‘Supreme Commander’ to ‘Chairman of the Inner Council’, and agreed but on a year-by-year basis.
So, he was in charge when the decision was made to go public on the Loughlin Maginn killing and to leak other security force documents to the media. Predictably, the leaks caused a huge political row and the British were forced to ask John Stevens, then Deputy Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, to investigate the collusion allegations.
The UDA, at the height of their power in 1972, parade past the Nationalist Unity Flats
It took Stevens over a decade and no less than three separate probes, to get to somewhere near the bottom of the affair and the headline result was the exposure of Brian Nelson and the arrest of over a dozen leading UDA figures, only some of whom went to trial and then to jail (about which, more later).
Needless to say Tommy Lyttle carried the can for all this inside the UDA and given that he was in charge when the decision was made to go public on Loughlin Maginn, he could hardly complain about that. And he was, without doubt, enthusiastic about the idea, personally supplying one journalist with a cache of the secret papers.
But the blame game went a stage further. Tommy Lyttle was labeled a tout and threats were made to his life. I can recall visiting him in Maghaberry prison at around this time and wishing I hadn’t. Unlike Crumlin Road jail, where cubicles gave some privacy, visits at Maghaberry were held in a canteen-style room with prisoners and their visitors seated at plastic tables in full view of each other. The glares from all around us could have wilted a tomato plant.
UDA men, on the march, 1972
Not long afterwards I covered the trial of a gang of UVF members from East Belfast who had kidnapped and slit the throat of a young Catholic girl, Anne-Marie Smyth, who had wandered unknowingly into their company at a bar. The press bench in this particular courtroom was close to the dock and at a break in proceedings, one of the UVF men stood up, leaned over towards me and hissed ‘Tommy Lyttle!’ into my face.
The allegations intensified in the months following his release from Maghaberry so when the phone rang in August 1994, I was not surprised to hear that this was the subject on his mind. We arranged to meet outside the city as by that point it was not safe for him to return to his Shankill Road home. “I want you to take this tape”, he said, as he handed over a cassette,”and if anything ever happens to me make it public.”
A massive heart attack, rather than an assassin’s bullet, claimed his life around a year later and thankfully, I never had reason to release the tape – until now. After his death, I told his widow about the tape, that it was his answer to the charge that he was a British agent and we agreed that if the right opportunity came along I would make it public.
The RUC crest
It was clear to me from all our conversations prior to this that a relationship had existed for some time between Tommy Lyttle and a senior officer in the RUC Special Branch, but rather than this being a normal informer-handler relationship, I had concluded that it was a collusive alliance from which both parties, UDA and RUC gained.
When the de Silva report was published, a whole chapter was devoted to Tommy Lyttle and his dealings with the security forces, including the RUC Special Branch, and it was clear that de Silva subscribed to the ‘collusive alliance’ explanation rather than the informer version of Tommy Lyttle’s UDA life.
The story of Tommy Lyttle’s relationship with a senior Special Branch officer takes up much of the tape that he gave me for safekeeping. And given that it adds to, as well as echos much of what de Silva has to say on the matter, it seems to me that the RTE documentary and now this fuller explanation were and are the appropriate places to give the tape a fuller airing.
I have heavily edited the tape, leaving fully intact only the story of the RUC Special Branch officer, and I have edited out the names of living UDA activists Tommy Lyttle named as possible British agents. I have also left out, for reasons of relevance, parts of the tape that deal with the Jim Craig affair.
Along with the tape, I also include a transcript which may make the recording a bit easier to follow and at the end I reproduce the chapter de Silva wrote on Tommy Lyttle. To complement the tape, I will also refer to notes of conversations I had with Tommy Lyttle about his dealings with the Special Branch.
Tommy Lyttle’s story chronicles an important phase in the history of British collusion with the UDA. From the circumstances surrounding the relationship, some of which I do not yet have the authority to write about, it is evident that the relationship between the UDA and the Special Branch officer, who firstly went by the name ‘Bertie Scott’ and then ‘Harry’ during his contacts with Tommy Lyttle, is a longstanding one.
Tommy Lyttle inherited ‘Bertie Scott’ from a man called Alan Snoddy, the UDA commander or Brigadier in South-East Antrim, a figure who kept a very low public profile. Snoddy was dying of cancer when he came to Tommy Lyttle to tell him about ‘Bertie Scott’ and to say that when he died then ‘Bertie Scott’ wanted Tommy Lyttle to replace him as the contact man with the UDA.
In his report, Desmond de Silva implied that the Special Branch contact with Tommy Lyttle was unauthorised but from what Lyttle told me in separate conversations that I noted afterwards, it is difficult not to conclude that the relationship had been approved elsewhere in the Special Branch.
When Alan Snoddy died, ‘Bertie Scott’ made himself known to Tommy Lyttle, introducing himself at a public event attended by other UDA chiefs, as if to assure Lyttle that no-one else would mind that the baton was being passed on in such an obvious way.
In his conversations with myself, Tommy Lyttle opened up slowly about ‘Bertie Scott’. He was, he told me, “…a local man, tallish, fair and wears glasses”, who sometimes worked out of England and sometimes Belfast. ‘Scott’ had been introduced to the UDA, to Alan Snoddy, by another Special Branch man, a long-time friend of the UDA who had died recently and whose first name was ‘Harry’. This SB officer, he said, was wither a Chief Inspector or Superintendent in the Branch. thebrokenelbow.com is not revealing this man’s surname for reasons explained below.
Sir Desmond de Silva: “No sound evidential basis” for the claim that Tommy Lyttle was an informer
Eventually, ‘Scott’ did try to recruit Lyttle as an agent, offering him £50,000 and an assurance that if anything happened to him, his family and loved ones would be looked after. Lyttle always insisted that he turned this down and ‘Scott’s’ repeated attempts to recruit him then ended the relationship.
Sceptics will say that this was, of course, a self-serving denial, that, in the immortal phrase, ‘he would say that, wouldn’t he?’ They may be right but I always believed him and that was because I think I knew the real reason he went as far as he did with ‘Bertie Scott’, and that was because he enjoyed the intrigue and the access it gave him to a secret world.
And I couldn’t help thinking that this man had been in the UDA for nearly two decades and if he was going to become an informer he would have done so long before this. From what he told me over the years there was no shortage of offers.
By the time of his death there was hardly a figure in the Belfast media who didn’t believe that Tommy Lyttle was a tout. I was one of the few exceptions, that is until the de Silva report was published. This is what de Silva had to say about this question:
It has been widely alleged in media reporting and in published books that ‘Tucker’ Lyttle was an RUC SB agent. Many of these allegations appear to be purely speculative and need to be treated with great caution. I am satisﬁed that there is no sound evidential basis for these reports.
And if Tommy Lyttle was not working for the Branch then just what was the relationship between this senior officer – who de Silva speculates was a Superintendent, just two ranks below the Head of the Special Branch – and the UDA’s Inner Council Chairman and Head of Intelligence? Clearly it was a collusive relationship. The remaining question is a simple one: was this Superintendent a rogue operator or was his relationship with Lyttle sanctioned at the highest levels? And if so, what did MI5 and the British Cabinet’s Joint Intelligence Committee know about it?
Brian Nelson – Succeeded Sammy Duddy as UDA intelligence chief. Like Duddy he also worked for British intelligence. Was one of his tasks to forewarn his handlers of UDA plots to kill IRA agents?
Whatever the truth it was evident from what Lyttle told me that ‘Scott’ was less interested in doing the UDA damage and more in using it to common advantage. Never once in our various pre-tape conversations about ‘Scott’, did he ever say that ‘Scott’ was looking for help to put UDA killers behind bars.
Instead, ‘Scott’ suggested, for example, that if Lyttle went along with the arrangement, he would suggest policies and tactics for the UDA, adding, according to my notes of conversations with him, “…..they would also suggest real targets to go for”.
‘Scott’ also made a suggestion for a joint UDA-UVF ceasefire in 1989, an idea that was eventually implemented in 1991 during the so-called Brooke-Mayhew talks and which arguably helped pressurise the IRA in the same direction. He told the UDA about an IRA spy in the ranks in South Belfast but insisted that the spy not be harmed but exposed in the media instead. That is the act of someone working in an official capacity, who doesn’t want blood on official hands, just in case it ever became public (as it did).
He also showed great interest in a UDA plot to kill an IRA leader in Ballymurphy who had been identified by Brian Nelson. The circumstances of the attempt and the fact that it was foiled when the area was swamped with troops suggests the IRA leader was a double agent, whose survival was of great concern to the British.
These facets of the relationship point not to the mischievous behaviour of a rogue officer but to an intelligence operation whose purpose was to influence the UDA in a largely friendly fashion, push it in desired directions and protect other assets from unwanted UDA attention.
The fact also that Tommy Lyttle inherited ‘Bertie Scott’ from Alan Snoddy, that this was clearly a longstanding arrangement with the UDA and that the UDA had clearly gained from it, were important props in Lyttle’s defence against the informer charge.
It is the inherited nature of the RUC Special Branch liaison with the UDA leadership that makes this business both intriguing and disturbing. Intriguing because of the unanswered detail of the relationship, not least how far back it went and whether it survived the later mayhem of the UDA’s ‘C’ Coy; and disturbing because the RUC’s motives could range from the very worst to the best: was the UDA shepherded towards killing some but not others?
Anyway, readers can make up their own minds. Here, to help them, are the edited tapes followed by a transcript and the extract from the de Silva report (my apologies for the poor quality of my editing but the transcript will show what I was aiming to do):
(My comments in bold and parenthesis)
Side 1: But the part in clearing myself, which I feel I must do, that annoys me is having to drag in the name of Alan Snoddy. Alan Snoddy, through……was the contact man. This person was known to…as ‘Bertie Scott’. Before Alan’s death when I was in hospital in Musgrave in April of (sound scuffle) 1988, Alan visited me to tell me something about something he had come across, from this source Bertie Scott. And I asked him why he wanted to tell me. He was accompanied by Joe English on the visit to the hospital and I asked him why he wanted to tell me. But he says he was told by Scott, “I trust no-one else in the council, but me.” (i.e. Tommy Lyttle)
Well I, I was flattered, but not knowing who Scott was or what he was or who he was with, I was worried that someone should make a statement like that. This was only four months before Alan’s death. Alan had told me that this contact had given him good and reliable information about events about to happen and had asked very little in return and confirmation of certain things. I told him I felt that… there must, he’s going to be asked something, someday that could compromise him, but he says that…..was dealing with it. He didn’t actually meet Scott, his…..dealt with it, so he felt he was on safe ground.
On my release from hospital, Alan came to visit me in June of 1988, the last Sunday. I was still recovering from the injuries and he told me that Scott had been in touch with him, had passed on vital information, in return he wanted to know about something that affected West Belfast Brigade. I… I asked, was he sure before he asked me that he wanted to ask me, he said yes. In return for the information he had received from Scott, Scott wanted to know about a military operation that had been carried out by West Belfast. This operation was against a taxi depot in the Springfield/Whiterock area, the name of the gentleman escapes me at the moment but no doubt other people are well aware who he is. I confirmed that there had indeed been such a military operation and his next words were to me, “Well don’t go back near it.”
After he left I contacted the people involved and told them what had taken place and where it had come from. They were a bit stunned but I passed on the information not to go back near that particular operation. The operation had been compromised by taking place it had been stopped, no-one was arrested, police raided the flat where the men were to return to after the operation, even though there was… (Side 1 ends)
(This is a reference to an aborted UDA assassination bid on a senior IRA figure in Ballymurphy. The operation had been facilitated by intelligence provided by Brian Nelson, who was secretly working for the British Army’s Force Research Unit. When the UDA gunmen arrived they found the area around the target flooded with troops, suggesting the British knew of the plan but wanted it stopped. Nelson came under suspicion and was roughly interrogated by UDA members using an electric cattle prod. De Silva makes reference to this incident and it was raised at Nelson’s trial in mitigation by ‘Colonel J’, the head of FRU, Brigadier Gordon Kerr.)
Side 2: …why they didn’t see it. But anyway they didn’t take it. It was immediately obvious there was a big security problem within the brigade. At this stage we now know that Nelson was involved both in setting up and having the operations stopped. But what puzzled and worried me at the time was even though I made them aware of what was going on, and pointed out that it was… a big problem, the military people dismissed it and didn’t see fit to carry out a proper inquiry.
Maybe I should have done, but you appoint people to jobs you expect them to do it and I always believe in leaving people to get on with the job and I always believed if you don’t know you can’t tell, “Oh I wasn’t aware of the ‘in’s and the ‘out’s of the particular thing, and didn’t want to be aware” but I thought nevertheless, and pointed out that there should have been an inquiry.
(The incident of the aborted Ballymurphy assassination operation raises intriguing questions, all of them to do with possible informers. Why did the British Army not want an IRA leader in the area killed? Was part of Nelson’s job to provide intel to his handlers about planned hits on IRA members who were also double agents, so they could be protected? Why did the UDA military people in West Belfast not hold an inquiry into this incident, and if they didn’t, why was Nelson roughly interrogated?)
I was also then very worried about Alan’s association with Bertie Scott. He had further occasion to speak to me about Scott before his death in August 1988. After his death, his…….approached me and said that Scott wanted anything he had, I had intended to pass on to me. I made other people aware of this. I also made them aware that this was a source that had been working with Alan Snoddy. Nobody objected, they seemed to think the information was worthwhile, and nobody got het up about it.
This went on for a couple of months,……back and forward with tit-bits, eh, asking the odd time about something and I would say, yay or nay, depending on the question. Then Scott asked…..to ask me how to get in touch. I refused. I said I was happy enough with the arrangement the way it was.
The next thing was then that… Scott rang me. I asked him where he got the number. He just laughed and said to a man in his position that was a minor problem, minor detail, and he said it would be in my best interests if I would speak to him. He was aware of undercurrents in the brigade directly against myself, the people, the same people who had been causing problems earlier, a couple of years earlier were now in a bigger way interested in taking over. With Craig and Fee now they’re out of the road, they felt that they should take over their income.
And I refused to talk to him. In ringing me, he said he would ring me back and we would call him… he would call himself Harry. So he was known to Bertie’s… as Bertie Scott to ………, but he contacted me and wanted to be known as Harry. I got curious about this character so I asked ………… what he knew about him. ……. says he met him through a policeman associate of his, an old Special Branch man Harry… Harry who’s now dead, his name escapes me at the moment, I have it, Harry… … anyway…
(Many republican readers will automatically think of Harry Taylor, a famous Special Branch officer active in the 1950’s and 1970’s. But I suspect he was dead or long retired by 1988. Tommy Lyttle mentioned another Harry who was a senior SB officer, either a Chief Inspector or Superintendent who was also a friend of the UDA and who had died around the time of his interaction with Alan Snoddy. I suspect, but cannot confirm, that this is the ‘Harry’ he was referring to. But until more concrete evidence becomes available to support this allegation I will withhold his surname.)
He said he had met him through this Special Branch friend of his. And that he drank with him in Clandyeboye Golf Club. It also emerged that …….. was doing dumping work for Harry, this Special Branch friend and eh… he told me some weird and wonderful stories about the whole thing. I seen a bad situation developing but I let it go.
Harry contacted me then… towards the end… of 1988 and says that he could reveal, and would reveal the names of people collaborating with the IRA and with the security forces if I would help him. I asked how I could help him and he told me of a particular incidence where a source passing on information to the IRA was exposed and would deeply inset… upset the IRA intelligence ring and plug a leak in the UDA intelligence in South Belfast.
When I questioned him on it… through ……………. and on the telephone, he mentioned the name of a person in South Belfast who was being compromised by this flow of information. This person, a well known UDA personality, was known to me and I agreed to meet Scott as I and ……….. knew him, to discuss the matter. What he revealed was that the UDA personality had to drink, because of where he lived, he carried on an unofficial Off License eh… and quite regularly, at weekends in particular, drank until 4 or 5 in the morning with associates who’d done a bit of talking. One of the associates, who had been in some way, connected, compromised by the IRA was passing on the information to them.
I agreed to set up at operation in which this person would be picked up and made to confess, not forcibly, but he was picked up and there was not a hair on his head harmed. He confessed and made a statement which was video recorded about his part and what had taken place and about setting up the UDA personality known as Moby Bickerstaff, for shooting by the IRA at the Park Centre. He also spoke of attempting to set up Jackie McDonald at the Beechlawn Hotel.
People there were aware of all this. People who had played their part in securing this man heard it, it was videoed, it was taped, and it was passed to the press. Olga Craig was invited along long so she… took it upon herself to do the story. It was a good story, it appeared in the Sunday Life and everybody was chuffed at the way it turned out and the credit came by the organisation. They were also aware of the part played by Mr Scott who they knew was a source that originated from Alan Snoddy.
(This incident, involving a South Belfast UDA member called Philip McVeigh is discussed at length in the de Silva report. McVeigh fled to Scotland afterwards where he gave media interviews about his experience.)
Scott then tried to tempt me with other such projects. He was aware that (another UDA Brigadier) had arranged a trip to London for us to speak to people in England, where we would attempt to reorganise and motivate units in England. He asked me would I meet him in England. I of course refused, and then he again tempted me with threats to my life, that he could help and it would be in my interests to talk to him.
I also received a letter, purporting to come from the Insurance Company, offering me all sorts of money and pointing out that my comrades had eh… people that I knew had availed of these services. It was a thinly disguised attempt to let you know there was great financial benefits to be secured if you eh… joined this Insurance Company. And I know that Sammy M’Cormack also received one such letter. I believe (a UDA Inner Council member) instigated the letters, believed then that (the Inner Council member) was working with these people (on and off tape TL told me the Inner Council member and Sammy Duddy were MI5 agents) and had played a part in everything that was happening to me, I think he was also involved in sending the letter to Sammy McCormack.
Sammy’s was different than mine in that eh… he was to ring a number if he was interested at a certain time. He didn’t ring the number at the certain time but rung it independently. It was a number in Wolverhampton and it turned out to be a public call back. I ignored the letter, tore it up and I advised Sammy to do the same.
But at the London, I agreed to meet Scott in London. Met him, I totally rejected his advances. He done the usual £50,000 and opened the suitcase when I met him at Marble Arch. I met him on the Saturday. It was the Saturday, Jimmy Craig was shot dead that Saturday night which took me completely by surprise.
Eh, it… after Jimmy’s death, Scott contacted me at the hotel, asked me to meet him on Sunday. After word of Jimmy’s death emerged and it was very, very important. I seen him on Sunday and he told what happened with Craig, what was going on, what had happened with Craig had spoiled a lot of plans for a big show trial where everything would be revealed and a lot of damage done and I told him I wasn’t aware of eh… what was happening that particular Saturday.
He opened the suitcase at Marble Arch, “There’s £50,000. This is yours after a year. If anything happens to you we’re gonna make sure such and such is looked after, your wife will be looked after, other people will be looked after blah, blah, blah…” I says no, and left him. I never seen him… eh… again. If I was gonna say I never seen him again I would be wrong. He pestered me on the phone, continued to pester me on the phone for weeks after until Christmas, he again said it was very important, that there was a threat to my life and would I meet him and he would give me the details and also that he would pass on information relating to another informer.
I again agreed to meet him. I met on a high street, Hyde Park High Street. He again offered me sums of money. I again refused and told him not to bother me again and as I was driving away he threw a package into the car. I drove away, I couldn’t very well stop the car, I was on the run, I was on the way out. I drove away going home, I guessed what was in the package. I had no way of contacting Harry, that he was known to me but Bertie Scott to …….. I contacted ………, asked him to get in touch with him and I would eh… there was something I wanted to see him about.
When I seen him I handed over the thousand pound which was in the package, turned away and left. I never seen him again. He tried… he phoned me a number times, even into the summer of ’89. I totally refused to see him or have anything more to do with him. A tactic they use is threats to your life. He knew my position was Head of Intelligence of the UDA. He knew I had been enlisted and still he held this position even though I was taken away as chairman. He knew I would be interested in informers and such like, but he played on that, but I never had any time, except the money offering, I never had any time given information about anyone.
There is NO one, absolutely no-one in prison because of anything I have said or done. No-one. I don’t think, I may have made some mistakes with Scott, I don’t think so, I think he had to be followed out and investigated and seen what he was at, when I seen what he was it, I then wouldn’t have anything further to do with him. That is the truth. It hurts if people are aware of that, but he was never a source of Tommy Lyttle’s. Tommy Lyttle didn’t cultivate it, cultivate him, he tried to cultivate Tommy Lyttle after the death of Alan Snoddy. I was interested in things he said, anybody would be interested in particular… in being told there were threats to your life, but I never compromised myself, never (indistinct) anything in any way.
There are also, it should be known, 22 known fingerprints in all documents relating to the Stevens Inquiry. Out of that 22 there was only ever… I’m taking about the Stevens Inquiry in Belfast… out of that 22, I think there was myself and my son (Thomas Jnr aka ‘Tosh’) , Matt Kincaid… eh, Bobby Philpott, Eric McKee, Winky Dodds faced charges. I know there was evidence, more overwhelming evidence against other people than there was against Matt Kincaid and Bobby Philpott but yet they weren’t charged. Well they were charged, the charges were dropped. I am certain that not only (an Inner Council member) and Sammy Duddy were working for the security forces some branch but other people, they had their charges dropped, or weren’t charged at all, were also working for them.(It is evident from a comparison of what Tommy Lyttle says here and what is published in the de Silva report about his contacts with an unnamed Special Branch officer, who we can only assume must have been ‘Bertie Scott’, as well as what Lyttle told other reporters, that he is minimising his contact with ‘Scott’ in this tape and not revealing the full extent of the exchanges between himself and the Special Branch man. Below is the relevant portions of de Silva’s report on Tommy Lyttle for purposes of comparison.)
One section is worth highlighting, the notes made by BBC reporter John Ware of one of his conversations with Lyttle (paragraph 20:27), concerning the UDA’s plans to kill Pat Finucane. If the ‘regular’ contact in the Special Branch is ‘Bertie Scott’, or ‘Harry’ as he became, and the relationship between the two men is as friendly and mutually beneficial as suspected, then here you have the RUC Special Branch effectively giving the UDA the green light to assassinate the lawyer. Here is Ware’s note, as reported by de Silva:
“Lyttle … conﬁrmed that the original idea to murder Patrick Finucane came from two RUC detectives. While a prominent UDA gunman was being held in Castlereagh, an ofﬁcer entered the interrogation room and said to his colleague: ‘Have you put it to him yet?’ They then suggested that the UDA shoot Finucane. Lyttle said that he was so astonished at this suggestion that he informed a regular contact in the RUC Special Branch: ‘I told him: ‘What the hell is going on in Castlereagh? Why is Finucane being pushed?’ The ofﬁcer said that it would be ‘a bad blow for the Provos [the IRA] to have Finucane removed.’ Did that amount to approval that he should be shot? ‘Put it this way,’ said Lyttle, ‘He didn’t discourage the idea that he should be shot’.”
What is the connection, if any, between this story and the first image reproduced below, and the second image? Answers on a postcard to Office of the First Minister, Stormont Castle, Stormont, Belfast, N.Ireland. First correct reply gets a lifetime subscription to thebrokenelbow.com!
And then, there is this, from someone called ‘Newsworthy’:
Apologies for being pedantic but Wee Round Ian’s tweet is incorrect in saying Verbatim doesn’t have a website.
The Verbatim web page consists of a single page with an address (92 High Street) and a phone number. The question that comes first to mind, is this: when was this webpage created? Any nerds out there like to find out? Anyone like to knock on 92 High Street tomorrow a.m.? I tried the phone number which is Belfast (02890) 312909 and the answer was a standard ‘no-one here, call back later’ of the sort that is pre-recorded on any phone you can buy at Radio Shack or whatever the Belfast equivalent is these days. Not what you would expect from a bona fide business. The mystery deepens. And who is ‘Newsworthy’? Or for that matter, ‘Wee Round Ian’?
This is the entirety of Verbatim’s website. It does not provide the links and information one would normally expect in a commercial website, such as mission statement, senior staff, company history, past achievements and clients and so on. One brokenelbow reader, who asks for anonymity, says Verbatim’s site was created in 2010. If so, why the paucity of other information about the company, like who owns and runs it? I guess the only solution is to bang on the door of 92 HIgh Street tomorrow morn! Okay campers?
But what would a normal business website look like? Well, first of all, it would tell you who owns and runs it, along with his or her photo.
It would tell who the other talented staff are, what they look like and why they would be good for you, the client. It would tell you something about the business, what its record was, who its clients, and what its achievements were and so on. The sort of information that might persuade you, the person in search of a talented P.R. company, to hire Verbatim. But all that is absent here.
It almost seems as if this empty shell of a website was created just for the record, to show that Verbatim existed way back in 2010, in case people asked awkward questions in 2015 or whenever. Like you were creating an alibi. I might be wrong. If so, someone please show me. I’m ready to be persuaded. But I do sniff a rat.
Way back in January 2013, myself and James Kinchin-White researched and wrote a lengthy article, based on British Army publications and a website, about the death of James Bryson, a famous IRA activist from Ballymurphy who was shot dead in a disputed incident in August 1973 along with Patrick Mulvenna, brother-in-law of Gerry Adams.
Local legend had it that the pair were killed by the Official IRA but this account makes it clear that the killers were undercover soldiers from the Royal Green Jackets regiment hidden in the roof space of a house overlooking the Bullring in Ballymurphy.
Bryson and Mulvenna were, before their deaths, slated to be key members in a new IRA cell in Ballymurphy set up by then Belfast commander, Ivor Bell, to replace the heavily compromised and infiltrated company structure. Bell had succeeded Gerry Adams as Belfast Brigade leader after Adams’ arrest along with Brendan Hughes the previous month.
The importance of the incident lies not just in the deaths of two of the IRA’s most valuable activists but in the challenge it presents to the official narrative behind the creation of the IRA cell structure. The conventional view is that cells were introduced largely in response to the setbacks suffered by the IRA as a result of Castlereagh-style interrogations which followed changes in British security policy which, so the internal critics had it, were facilitated by the misguided ceasefire of 1975-1976.
But this account challenges that version and shows that considerable infiltration of the Belfast Brigade by British intelligence forced an experiment with cells on the organisation in the city long before the 1975 ceasefire was thought of.
Back in 2013, we submitted the article to Vincent Browne’s politico website. I have just realised that the article died soon after, when that website closed down and very few people actually got to read the piece. So we are republishing it now.
A note: In the original piece we reproduced a photograph of Jim Bryson taken in the mortuary at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast which had been posted and shown for many years on a website associated with the Royal Green Jackets, whose soldiers had killed him. It was on display as a sort of war trophy.
The appearance of the photo in our article seemed to cause as many if not more protests from republicans in West Belfast than had its presence on the Army website (for predictable and petty reasons), but since we are sensitive to the feelings of the Bryson family it will stay up on this site for just three days, so regular readers have a chance to see it. It is an important historical document.
Anyway, here is the original ‘Bryson Incident’ article. Enjoy:
ʻThe Bryson Incidentʼ
By Ed Moloney & James Kinchin-White
THE IRA IN RETREAT
Historiansʼ understanding of the development of the Provisional IRA in the 1970ʻs and its transition into a smaller, leaner but more politically attuned group – the precursor of the body that endorsed the Republicansʼ journey into the peace process – may have to be revised in the light of a recently acquired British military account of a crucial phase in the war between the IRA and the British Army.
“The Royal Green Jackets (RGJ) Chronicle of 1973”,(1) a privately circulated journal which includes an account of a tour of West Belfast by the regimentʼs 3rd Battalion during the summer and autumn of 1973, challenges a central pillar of the Provisional leadershipʼs narrative of their own rise to power.
It reveals that the IRAʼs re-organization into cells – credited with rescuing the organization from defeat in the late 1970ʼs – was forced upon the group not because of a destructive ceasefire called by the IRAʼs national leadership in Dublin in 1974-75, as the conventional account claims, but because of critical setbacks in Belfast more than a year earlier when Gerry Adams was the cityʼs commander.
The RGJ account reveals that after a series of security force successes against the IRA in August 1973, the then Belfast commander, Ivor Bell planned a massive re-organization in the city: scrapping the IRAʼs cumbersome battalion and company structure and replacing it with eight cells or Active Service Units (ASUʼs), each with five members meaning that the active strength of the IRA in Belfast was just thirty-two men and women. By any measure this represented a significant shrinkage in the IRA’s Belfast battle strength from the halcyon days of July when the organisation was strong enough to force the British to the negotiating table.
By contrast the accepted account, which has underpinned the rise of the current Sinn Fein leadership, says that the cell system was not introduced until 1977 in response to the setbacks caused by the 1974-75 ceasefire.
This revelation comes alongside a graphic description in the RGJ Chronicle of an undercover ambush by soldiers from the regiment which resulted in the deaths of two prominent IRA members from Ballymurphy in West Belfast. One was Jim Bryson, a notorious and fearsome gunman and the other was Patrick Mulvenna, Gerry Adamsʼ brother-in-law.
The two men had been chosen by Bell to be members of the new Ballymurphy cell and their deaths were hailed by the Green Jackets as evidence that the British were “inexorably winning a kind of military victory in Belfast”.(2) Their killing was characterized publicly then and ever since as a chance event but this previously undisclosed background raises the possibility that the ambush may have been intelligence-led.
The Royal Green Jackets account challenges the hitherto prevailing version of history by showing that long before the 1974-75 ceasefire the IRA was in such danger of defeat in Belfast, its most important arena, that the leadership in the city was obliged to contemplate a radical re-structuring to survive. This new account suggests that attempts by the Adamsʼ leadership to put the blame on the Dublin leaders for the IRAʼs woes in the mid-1970ʻs, at least in Belfast, may at least be misplaced or overstated.
While Ivor Bell planned a large scale re-organization of the Belfast Brigade in the late summer of 1973, a series of security force successes against the IRA at that time, including the killing of Bryson and Mulvenna, forced him to scale his plans back and instead, according to the Chronicle, just twelve cells were created, each with five members. Nonetheless this was a radical break with IRA organizational tradition and a pointer to the pressure then facing the IRA in Belfast.
The established version of IRA history dates the genesis of the cell structure to a conspiracy against the IRA leadership led by Gerry Adams, Ivor Bell and Brendan Hughes from the cages of the Long Kesh internment camp from 1974 onwards. That conspiracy was inspired, according to this rendering, by an open-ended ceasefire called by the older, mostly Southern leadership.
The Adamsʼ critique of the 1974-75 ceasefire claimed that the IRAʼs then leaders – represented in the Northernersʼ demonology by Ruairi O Bradaigh and Daithi O Conaill – were suckered into the cessation with false promises of withdrawal by the British who used the time to reconfigure security policy.
Special category status was withdrawn from IRA inmates in the jails, internment was phased out, the RUC was given primacy in security matters and soon police interrogation centers were producing a conveyor belt of confessions to be processed by new no-jury, single judge courts and the jails began filling up with IRA prisoners who were now treated as common criminals.
The IRAʼs Dublin leadership was blamed for bringing the organisation to the verge of defeat, a charge that both justified the Adams-led conspiracy and produced the plan to re-organize the IRA.
While there is no doubt that the Adamsʼ critique had considerable validity and that the 1974-75 ceasefire did enable the British to revamp security and seriously intensify pressure on the IRA, it is also evident, if the Royal Green Jacketsʼ version is correct, that the IRA in Gerry Adamsʼ own backyard in Belfast was in such deep trouble that cellular re-organization was forced upon its leaders long before all this.
According to the conventional narrative of this period the cellular structure was not introduced into the IRA until 1977, four years later, when Adams and Bell were released from jail and other changes were introduced, including the concept of the “long war”, the creation of a Northern Command and Republican involvement in agitational politics, a transformation in the Provisionalsʼ character that led to the growth and ascendancy of Sinn Fein and ultimately to the peace process.
When Ivor Bell implemented his cellular plan, Gerry Adams and Brendan Hughes were already in jail. They had been arrested in July 1973 as they attended a Belfast Brigade meeting in the Iveagh district of West Belfast, apparently betrayed by another brigade member whose work for the British was a major factor in the organizationʼs degradation. The fact that Bell began the cellular re-organization so soon after Adamsʼ arrest suggests that the plans were in the pipeline for some time before. Bell replaced Adams as Belfast commander and stayed in that post until his arrest in the Spring of 1974. Brendan Hughes escaped from Long Kesh and replaced Bell as IRA commander in the city until he too was re-arrested in the early summer of 1974.
Although the RGJ Chronicle does not deal with events in the IRA subsequent to the arrest of Ivor Bell and Brendan Hughes, it is safe to assume that their successors, who were loyal to the pro-ceasefire leadership in Dublin, reverted back to the brigade structure and scrapped Bellʼs cells. This is implicit in Brigadier James Gloverʼs famously leaked assessment of the IRA in 1978, ʻNorthern Ireland: Future Terrorist Trendsʼ which dates 1977 as the year in which the cell structure was brought in. Glover also describes Gerry Adams as “the prime architect” of the change. (3)
THE AMBUSH IN THE BULLRING
There were very fews things that the Provisional IRA in Belfast and the British Army would agree about in August 1973 but on one issue they had no argument: James Emerson Bryson was a very dangerous character indeed. “A controlled psychopath”, is how an IRA colleague described Bryson to one of the authors in 2001. “A cunning ruthless killer”, was the judgement of the Battalion Intelligence Officer with the Royal Green Jackets regiment in his five-page account of the ambush by his soldiers that led to Jim Brysonʼs death and the closing of one of West Belfastʼs most violent chapters in the early years of the Troubles.
Bryson was only twenty-six when bullets fired by a soldier hidden in a covert observation post slammed into the back of his neck and mortally wounded him. But the Ballymurphy IRA activist had long before achieved near legendary status in the Republican community and helped make his neighborhood in West Belfast one of the toughest and most uncompromising Provisional strongholds in Northern Ireland.
The ambush that was to claim his life also took that of Patrick Mulvenna whose wife, Frances was a sister of Ballymurphyʼs most famous son, Gerry Adams. A cousin was Gerry Kelly, another Ballymurphy stalwart and currently a junior minister in the power sharing government in Belfast, who took part in the first IRA bombing of London in March 1973. At the time of the Bullring ambush, Mulvenna was commander of the Ballymurphy IRA ASU, arguably the cream of Ivor Bellʼs new Belfast cell structure.
Although these days he disavows any connection to the IRA, Gerry Adams became ʻBʼ Companyʼs very first commander when the local unit decided in early 1970 to break with the mainstream IRA, soon known as the Official IRA, and align with the newly formed breakaway group that, thanks to lazy journalism, would be dubbed the Provisionals. Formed in angry protest at the Officialsʼ failure to defend Catholic areas from Loyalist and police attacks the previous summer and committed to the gun as the only solution to political problems, the Provisionals were a natural home for the likes of Jim Bryson.
That Ballymurphyʼs IRA activists became so feared and fearsome in the years following the birth of the Provisionals was due in no small part to the presence in the ranks of ʻBʼ Coy of remorseless gunmen like Jim Bryson. There was, consequently, one other thing the IRA and the British Army could agree on that late summer day in 1973. Brysonʼs death was a huge blow to the IRA; that of Patrick Mulvenna and the wounding and capture of a third member of the ASU completed a miserable day for the Provo command in Belfast. As the RGJ Chronicle account of the deadly ambush put it: “(The attack) destroyed arguably the best Provisional ASU in Belfast disposed of two of the most wanted and dangerous men in Northern Ireland.”
Gerry Adamsʼ relations with Jim Bryson were, by some accounts, complex. He has described Bryson as “a dear friend” (4) and wrote in the first part of his autobiography, ʻBefore the Dawnʼ how, not long before the Bullring ambush, he had counseled Bryson to keep a low profile: “…I had argued with him very earnestly….that he needed to keep his head down; things, after all, had changed from the time he could wander around the Murph at will”, (5) as the British would be keen to remove him from the scene. But the late Brendan Hughes, quoted anonymously in ʻA Secret History of the IRAʼ (6), had a different view. “Bryson didnʼt trust Adams, because he had never fired a shot,” he told one of the authors in 2001. “He was such a hard bastard, and I think Adams was basically frightened of him.” When Adams needed to curb Bryson, he added, he would send someone else to do the job, usually “a fellow operator” for whom Bryson had respect.
Brysonʼs reputation was well earned. He had escaped from British custody three times. The first was from the back of a Saracen armored car where he fought soldiers with his fists to get free. The second time was when he and six other IRA internees swam to freedom through the icy waters of Belfast Lough from the prison ship Maidstone. The third time was from the underground passage that linked Crumlin Road jail to the Crown courthouse. Using a smuggled pistol Bryson and another prisoner, who were facing arms charges, overpowered warders, changed into their uniforms and made their way out of the courthouse. Bryson made it to the street and then to safety, his collaborator was caught.
In the early years of the Troubles, Brysonʼs favorite weapon was a vintage Lewis machine gun, a relic from the First World War which was standard issue for British forces up to the Second World War. He used the weapon to break the IRAʼs 1972 ceasefire when he, Brendan Hughes and a fellow Maidstone escaper, Tommy Tolan opened fire on British troops during a confrontation in Lenadoon, in West Belfast. After his death, Ballymurphy Republicans created a wall mural to commemorate Bryson and Mulvenna. In the mural, Bryson is depicted carrying the Lewis gun, his IRA trademark. Bryson was also a feared sniper and used an Armalite rifle fitted with a telescopic sight. The British believed he killed a number of soldiers and policemen with this weapon.
To this day, Brysonʼs memory is invoked by Republican leaders although in these days of the peace process, not to justify nor praise armed struggle. When the Ballymurphy mural was unveiled in 2001, Gerry Kelly told a crowd gathered to remember Bryson and Mulvenna: “None of us can speak for Jim or Paddy and say what they would think of the situation today. But at the time they were leaders of the struggle and they led with courage and imagination. There is nothing to say they wouldn’t have shown the same courage today.” (7)
THE ROYAL GREEN JACKETS
In the British Army they have a nickname for the Royal Green Jackets. They call them “the Black Mafia”, black after the color of the buttons worn on the shirts of their dress uniforms and mafia because of the number of senior, influential officers produced by the regiment since it was formed in 1966 from the amalgamation of elite infantry regiments that date back to the early days of the British Empire.
The RGJ Association approvingly quotes a rival complaining that “the Green Jackets run the (British) Army”, and it is hard to quarrel with that. A snapshot of senior officers in 1984 produced by the association showed that in that year there were no less than twelve RGJ officers above the rank of Major-General, including two Field Marshalls, one of them Sir Edwin Bramall, Chief of the Defence Staff.
The Green Jackets also had a name for producing some thoughtful and liberal-minded officers. A former battalion commander was Sir David Ramsbotham who went on to become Britainʼs Inspector of Prisons, in which capacity he quarreled with both Conservative and Labour governments over his insistence that prison should be about reform not punishment. He was eventually sacked by Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw – a badge of honour by itself in some quarters – when he complained that his reports were being ignored, including one that protested about a woman who gave birth in chains.
The CO of the 3rd battalion in the summer of 1973 was Robin Evelegh, who later wrote a book about his experience in Northern Ireland in which he questioned the usefulness of many military operations. He also had an intriguing take on informers, noting that while they were the “most effective weapon for destroying terrorists”, “the rank of the informer in the subversive organization is of less significance than might be supposed. A relatively junior member…can do enormous damage…in achieving the operational destruction of the organization.” (8)
There is however one former RGJ officer whose name invariably evokes darker images. Sir Frank Kitson, a former commander of the 1st Battalion of the RGJ will always be associated with the murky side of the British military during the dying days of empire. In the early 1950ʼs he headed military intelligence operations in the bloody campaign against the Mau Mau, organising terrorist-type counter gangs to oppose them. He then served in Malaya during the war against communist guerrillas and in Cyprus during the Eoka uprising.
In 1969 he spent a year at Oxford refining ideas on counter intelligence developed in these outposts of a vanishing imperium which were published in book form in 1971, with the title Low Intensity Operations. The previous year he was given command of the British Army in Belfast. 1970 was the year the IRAʼs campaign began and Kitson was able, at the very start of the Troubles, to put into practice some of his counter intelligence ideas.
(General Sir Frank Kitson – a former commander of the Royal Green Jackets)
One was the use of covert observation posts, both to collect intelligence and to ambush terrorist activists (Kitsonʼs emphasis on intelligence-led operations to produce contact with the enemy, by 1973 universally accepted by the British Army in its war with the IRA, suggests that the Bullring ambush may not have been just as unplanned as it looked).
The other was the creation of an Irish counter gang, called the Military Reaction Force (MRF). Specialist plain-clothes soldiers formed the core of the MRF but agents were also recruited from the ranks of both branches of the IRA, some of whom served in the MRF and the IRA at the same time. The MRF both collected intelligence on the IRA and roamed the streets of Belfast in civilian vehicles ready to shoot or assassinate IRA targets,
One initial goal of the MRF was to capitalize on the intense and sometimes violent rivalry that existed in the early years of the Troubles between the Official and Provisional wings of the IRA in Belfast. The two groups regarded each other as threats to their existence and rivals for popular support in the Catholic ghettoes while some of their leaders harbored personal grudges against each other dating from the acrimonious split of 1970. It was fertile ground for trouble making.
Frank Kitson would have two reasons then to heartily approve of the ambush in the Bullring. The IRAʼs plan to create a network of secret cells in Belfast had been disrupted through the use of a covert observation post ambush – known in military jargon as Observation Post/Reactive – while one consequence, albeit unintended, was that afterwards the Provisionals blamed the Officials for killing their two men and the two groups were at each others throats.
The truth as revealed by the RGJ Chronicle was more prosaic and even pathetic – the Official IRA, led in Ballymurphy by Ronnie Bunting, had indeed set out to kill Jim Bryson that day but the lone gunman who volunteered for the task developed a bad case of fright when he encountered Bryson and his team and fled home.
(Ronnie Bunting – Official IRA commander in Ballymurphy in August 1973)
Nonetheless, the fallout was intense as Provo supporters in Ballymurphy pointed the finger at the Officials. Fights between Provisional and Official remand prisoners broke out in Crumlin Road jail, there were numerous assassination bids and it took a fortnight of diplomacy between the two groups before peace was restored. The RGJ Chronicle (p.104) recorded the violence and tension that followed the Bryson/Mulvenna killings, but revealing in the process considerable naivete about the potential of the Officials:
The shooting of Bryson and his compatriots highlighted the increasing friction between the Official and Provisional wings of the I.R.A. The feud intensified dramatically in the Ballymurphy with a large number of shooting incidents which did not involve Security Forces.
Both sides seemed to have designated members of the opposing I.R.A. wing for execution. The Provisionals were firmly convinced that the Officials had been responsible for the shooting of Bryson, Mulvenna and OʼRawe. In the Clonard and Beechmount there was increasing evidence of dissension between the two factions. The Official I.R.A. had slowly spread their insidious influence as the decimated Provisionals lost more men.
The Officials had become highly motivated and politically aware. Their leaders are educated and probably sincere in their wish for a Socialist State gained by political means. Equally they are prepared to terrorise and “hood” when expedient to do so. Tough, arrogant men well versed in the handling of weapons and their use. They repudiate the R.U.C. and angle strongly for a locally raised police force, namely themselves. They are a real danger, now and in the long term, to the R.U.C. and politically to the still shaky S.D.L.P.
(In the aftermath of the Bullring ambush, Provisional supporters betrayed an Official IRA arms dump to the RGJ. It included the grease gun that was supposed to have been used that day by an Official gunman to kill Jim Bryson)
The following pages have been extracted from the RGJ Chronicle and contained the British Army’s version of the Bullring shooting. Click on the pages to expand for easier reading.
(Jim Bryson – pictured after his arrest in early1973)
(The shot-up car, a Vauxhall Viva and not a Hillman Hunter as the RGJ Chronicle mistakenly described it, used by Jim Bryson, Patrick Mulvenna, ʻBimboʼ OʼRawe and Frank Duffy)
In its summary of the 3rd Battalion RGJʼs four month tour of West Belfast, from the end of July until the end of November, the Chronicle devotes two fascinating paragraphs to the Bryson Incident, in which the shooting of the Ballymurphy ASU is placed in the context of Ivor Bellʼs cellular re-organization of the Belfast IRA9. They read:
On the last day in August the Bryson incident occurred which was of such importance that it is the subject of a separate article. Undoubtedly the shooting dead of Patrick Mulvenna, the wounding and subsequent death of Jim Bryson and the capture of James OʼRawe was was not only the most significant single event of our tour but brought to a close one more chapter of the I.R.A. campaign. History may show that 31st August was an important landmark in the fight for peace in Northern Ireland. The weapons recovered in this remarkable incident and the follow up amounted to thirteen rifles and pistols including ammunition and explosives. After this event and other steady success it was hard to resist the conclusion that the Security Forces were inexorably winning a kind of military victory in Belfast, if not Ulster. Six gunmen were killed in August bringing the approximate number of terrorists put out of action, one way and another, to one thousand two hundred and sixty-five, including one hundred and ninety five Protestants. In Belfast the three Provisional battalions, which were sited in the Andersonstown, Ardoyne and our own district virtually ceased to exist. In their place the I.R.A. tried to create small Active Service Units, A.S.U.ʼs whose members would be known only to others in the same unit and which would be directly responsible to the Belfast Commander, Ivor Bell.
The original I.R.A. plan for eight A.S.U.ʼs each of five men in each of the three battalion areas, had to be revised because of the shortage of dependable men. The compromise of four A.S.U.ʼs in each district had to be modified as a result of the level of attrition achieved by the Army and R.U.C. The Ballymurphy A.S.U., which had included the gunman Jim Bryson, had been eliminated.
The author of ʻThe Bryson Incidentʼ, Captain Robert G K Williamson was the Intelligence Officer for 3rd Batt RGJ. When he retired from the British Army he teamed up with his commanding officer, Col Robin Evelegh and another former RGJ officer to set up a company specialising in the international transit of explosives. He declined to be interviewed for this article. Evelegh died in 2010. The Lance-Corporal who killed Bryson and Mulvenna was promoted to corporal and awarded the Military Medal. James ʻBimboʼ OʼRawe recovered from his wounds, was convicted for his role on August 31st, 1973 but less than ten years later was free. He was briefly an IRA ʻsupergrassʼ. He broke during RUC interrogation and agreed to implicate six colleagues in IRA activity, but he retracted before the case came to court. Ivor Bell went on to become IRA Chief of Staff but also fell foul of a supergrass and lost his seniority in the IRA. He later broke with Gerry Adams, accusing his former ally of moving the IRA away from armed struggle, was court martialed and left the IRA for good. He has refused all media invitations to talk about his life in the IRA. At the time of writing, General Sir Frank Kitson is still alive and is 86 years old (now 89 years old).
(1) A copy of the 1973 Chronicle was recently put up for sale in a bookshop in England and then made its way to the authors. Other editions are available on Amazon and eBay.