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Tuesday, January 23, 2007
PRESSURE mounted on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last night to demand the prosecution of Special Branch officers who helped a loyalist murder gang kill with impunity throughout the 1990s.
The scale of British collusion with paramilitaries in the North was laid bare by a damning report from police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan which linked the RUC to 10 murders, 10 attempted murders, and drug running centred on a small part of North Belfast as well as a bomb attack in Monaghan.
The long- awaited probe found Special Branch officers gave the killers, UVF police informers, immunity and ensured the murderers were not caught.
Officers even "baby-sat" them during police interviews to help them avoid incriminating themselves.
Ms O’Loan indicated such collusion was widespread across the North.
This point was partially conceded by Northern Secretary Peter Hain who ruled out a public inquiry into the matter.
The ombudsman’s investigation was sparked three years ago when Belfast welder Raymond McCord claimed that his son, also called Raymond, had been murdered by a police informer in 1997.
Although files have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions it is understood no charges will be brought against any officers involved.
However, Mr Hain said he hoped that "at least one prosecution" would go forward.
Ms O’Loan did not publicly name those involved, however, it is known the main informer at the centre of the investigation is Mark Haddock, who was named in the Dáil 15 months ago as a UVF killer.
British authorities paid him at least stg£79,000 as an informant during the period of the killings.
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte branded the report "truly shocking".
He insisted prosecutions must follow.
"It appears that a particularly vicious gang of loyalist killers was effectively run by Special Branch officers and facilitated in their murderous activities for the best part of 20 years.
"It would be shocking if those who facilitated this gang in their murderous activities were not now to face prosecution," Mr Rabbitte said.
The Taoiseach said the report was "deeply disturbing" and pledged to raise it with London.
"Its findings are of the utmost gravity. It paints a picture of despicable past behaviour.
"It presents clear evidence that the RUC colluded with Loyalist murderers and failed in their duty to prevent many horrific crimes," he said.
Ms O’Loan called for a number of murder investigations to be re-opened, including that of 27-year-old taxi driver Sharon McKenna, who was shot at the home of an elderly friend in 1992.
The report noted three retired assistant chief constables refused to co-operate with it and that other senior officers — some still serving in the PSNI — gave "evasive, contradictory, and on occasion farcical" answers to questions.
One officer was found to be lying.
Evidence had been deliberately destroyed to hinder prosecutions, the report found.
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