Successive British governments failed to act despite having full
knowledge of the extensive and murderous collaboration between the
British Army's Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) and unionist
paramilitaries in the North of Ireland, historical documents have shown.
According to files unearthed in the Public Records Office in London, up
to 15% of the locally-recruited UDR were linked to pro-British death
squads and supplying them with arms and intelligence for attacks on the
The main document, titled 'Subversion in the UDR', reveals that Downing
Street lied when it claimed to have no specific knowledge of collusion
between British troops and paramilitary groups such as the UDA, UVF and
In fact, the UDR's role in the North was enhanced and collusion was
allowed to increase in the 1970s and 1980s, resulting in hundreds of
attacks and the deaths of scores of innocent civilians.
The 14-page paper was obtained by researchers for the Pat Finucane
Centre in Derry and Justice for the Forgotten, which represents victims
of the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
It also confirms specific incidents of collusion, such as raids
facilitated by British troops on UDR bases and RUC stations in which
Protestant murder gangs were allowed to secure high-powered machine
Forensic tests have revealed that just one such gun was subsequently
used in at least a dozen paramilitary attacks, including a murder, a
kidnapping, and several attempted murders.
This is the first time evidence has emerged to not only confirm the
scale of collusion, but also that the British government was aware of
it early in the conflict.
The documents reveal that the British Army was the "best single source
of weapons, and the only significant source of modern weapons" for
death-squads. British Army intelliegence was also aware that the
weapons were being used in the murder and attempted murder of innocent
The files date from August 1973, and in the two years that followed UDR
members took part in the Miami showband massacre, and were linked to
the Dublin and Monaghan bombings that killed 33 people.
The regiment, which was the largest in the British army, recruited
exclusively from the Protestant community in the North of Ireland. It
was merged with another military unit in 1992 to form the Royal Irish
Regiment but remains mired in controversy.
One report by a British Army brigadier, stamped 'secret', expresses
concern that the regiment could mutiny in response to orders seen to be
against the interests of 'Ulster'. There are also references to
ongoing collusion between the RUC police (now PSNI) and the unionist
It is also revealed that Margaret Thatcher was alerted to the collusion
during a September 1975 briefing when she was leader of the Opposition.
However, she continued to fully support and encourage the UDR after she
came to power in 1979.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the collusion revelations
"confirms what we have all known".
He said collusion and state killings were a matter of "administrative
practice" in the north and were authorised at the highest political
"This report on the role of the UDR will have surprised no-one. It
one further piece of evidence of the extent to which collusion took
place," he said.
The West Belfast MP referred to "a whole pile of reports", including
several by English police chiefs John Stevens and John Stalker, which
have been suppressed.
He also pointed the mainstream media "were compliant in a huge amount
"I can't think of another situation anywhere where the media wouldn't
be in there lifting the lid on what was an administrative practice -
that the state conspired to kill citizens and to cover that up,"
Mr Adams urged unionism to acknowledge the wrongs that had been done.
He called for "a vigilant media" in the north and "one
which is not
prepared to take press statements from RUC or British military
headquarters and just produce it as fact".