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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Rosemary Nelson - A Very British Murder


The Rosemary Nelson murder inquiry team has spent 40 million pounds sterling so that they can tell us this week that the British state failed to protect Rosemary Nelson and that the RUC did not collude with her loyalist killers. The first part of that message is little more than stating the blatantly obvious, the latter part is cloud cuckoo land. A grim fairy tale.

If I understand basic law correctly, where a law enforcement officer or body turns a blind eye to an act of murder, that officer or body is complicit in that murder. But of course RUC collusion in the murder of Rosemary Nelson in March 1999 went much further than that. It was much more evil eye than blind eye.

There is only one question that needs to be answered with regards to the murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson. A question that does not appear anywhere in the Rosemary Nelson report:

Was RUC Special Branch and British Military Intelligence using Billy Wright’s killer gang (the so called “Rat Pack”) based in the Portadown/Lurgan area as proxy soldiers in their war, not only against the IRA, but against the “rebel Irish” in general?

If it is proved, or accepted, that RUC Special Branch were indeed using sectarian killer Billy Wright and his henchmen as an executive “policy tool”, then there can be no doubt that the British state murdered Rosemary Nelson.

Billy Wright - "King Rat"

It is true that by the time Rosemary was killed in March 1999, Billy Wright had himself been murdered by republican prisoners whilst a prisoner in Long Kesh jail - more than a year earlier in December 1997. However, at the point of Rosemary's murder his gang was still intact and led by Mark "Swinger"Fulton. Fulton was a long standing lieutenant of Billy Wrights. Thus, the Rat Pack's intention to murder Rosemary had been long standing and was clearly Wright's purpose.

Where the relationship between the Rat Pack (including King Rat himself) and the security services is concerned,the Rosemary Nelson Report has blinked, quailed at this appalling vista, and then looked the other way. In fact, and astoundingly, the report fails to even mention a BBC Spotlight film I made which identified the key members of Wright’s Rat Pack and their seemingly open ended ability to threaten Rosemary Nelson and her clients. During the making of the Rat Pack film, Rosemary gave me a greetings card sent by Billy Wright to one of her clients whilst he was in prison – prominent republican activist Colin Duffy.

Rosemary Nelson - A truly brave woman

The card is clearly and identifiably signed by most of the senior members of the Rat Pack and is also quite clearly a death threat.

There is no mention of this in the Rosemary Nelson report. Page 149 makes a vague mention of a card but not this chilling message that we broadcast:

Hello Colin congratulations on your L plate. We will get a talk with you when you get out. Until then we will just have to concentrate on your wee brother. From the Rat Pack.
…you know we do miss you but then we missed you a couple of times ha ha…

We should be clear that the above message was not just meant to intimidate Colin Duffy but also her solicitor Rosemary Nelson. The RUC was well aware of this and other threats but of course no action was ever taken against Wright because at that time he was part of their war strategy. When the British changed their strategy Wright lost his protected status and the RUC was disbanded.

Quite apart from the fact that our Rat Pack film was (very controversially) in the public domain by the very fact of it being broadcast, the Nelson Inquiry team was also well aware of my film and the above threat. How do I know this? Because I met members of the inquiry team and told them about it.

A Very British Jihad

As many of my readers will be aware (because they have read my book – A Very British Jihad), the Port Inquiry team that was set up to investigate Rosemary’s murder contacted me to explore whether I would be willing to help them with their investigation. I met with two English detectives in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin (in the company of a senior garda officer as protocol demands) and I did two things that show the distance between farce and reality in these type of things.

Firstly, I asked the detectives whether the inquiry was going to look at the political role played by RUC Special Branch and I received the “straight bat” answer that the inquiry was looking for the type of evidence that could be used in court to prosecute an offender. Secondly, I told the detectives that I was aware of a group of police officers based in Portadown and the mid Ulster area (some of them very senior officers within Special Branch) who had actively colluded with the UVF in mid Ulster. These names had been given to me by both loyalist and republican sources in mid Ulster. They also often coincide with names given by former Dirty War operatives like John Weir (a Special Branch officer attached to the RUC’s Mobile Support Units – formerly SPG - and others).

For its part, the inquiry team wanted to know more about an incident, mentioned in my book, where Rosemary Nelson was stopped by the notoriously sectarian UDR (the part time reserve army - now disbanded) whilst driving and I was a passenger in the car. Anyone who knows the North of Ireland will tell you that these types of incident were ten a penny during the Troubles. The detectives were clearly not interested in my assertion that RUC Special Branch was involved in systematic collusion with loyalist killers. They just wanted to know about the UDR incident because from their narrow perspective this might lead to the kind of court based evidence they required. My response to this (and the reason I personally declined to help the inquiry) was that unless you open army, MI5 and Special Branch files and see the day to day interaction with agents and informers you will never get to the bottom of the collusion paradigm.

To be absolutely fair, the Nelson inquiry has done us a favour in confirming that Rosemary Nelson was branded as a Provo by the security forces in the North (just as solicitors Pat Finucane and PJ McGrory and many others were). It has also confirmed that she was placed under very heavy surveillance. The kind of surveillance that is supposed to save lives.

Crucially, and like many investigatons before it, the report team failed to do two things:

Nelson Report Failure One

The report failed to examine the regular sequence of events that swings into place once the Dirty War machine pronounced you Provo.
Look at what has happened to suspects who have been placed under surveillance by the RUC and British Army. Pat Finucane was of course notoriously gunned down in front of his wife and children by loyalist killers whilst he was under surveillance; Bernadette McAliskey and her husband Michael just about survived a loyalist murder bid whilst soldiers were deployed outside her house, the same goes for Gerry Adams. There are hundreds of other examples of this. Is there something I am missing here? Some great mystery where lawyers with university educations and big salaries cannot see what I see?

State surveillance in the North did not save lives. For Catholics and Republicans It was an effective death sentence.

Roseanne Mallon - Murdered by the Rat Pack

Let us bring this depressing (and indeed frightening – which was part of its purpose) pattern right back to Billy Wright and the so called security services in Mid Ulster by looking at the murder of a gentle old Irish Catholic pensioner – Roseanne Mallon. Rosanne was executed on the 8th of May 1994 by Billy Wright and his Rat Pack. The political background to this and other murders at this time was the opposition to the peace process expressed both by Wright and certain elements within the covert intelligence system - not least within RUC Special Branch and not least in the Portadown area and Protestant Bible Belt around Lough Neagh.

Roseanne's sister was outside the sitting room on the phone and had been able to run into the kitchen to gain partial cover but Roseanne had bad legs and was unable to rise properly from her armchair when the Rat Pack struck.

The Mallon Household

On the night Roseanne and her house was riddled by bullets from high powered automatic rifles, her home was surrounded by a British army surveillance team, which had been dug in for some considerable time. The murder bid was clearly an attempt to wipe out whoever was in the house. The killers could clearly see Roseanne as the heavy drape curtains were blasted upwards by the stream of high velocity bullets. On the apparent instructions of the RUC, the soldiers outside the house took no action against the killer gang. There is an excellent synopsis of these events here –

It gets worse.

In the weeks leading up to Roseanne’s murder, her two nephews Martin and Christie Mallon (Martin being an active republican) were subject to constant threats from RUC Special Branch. These threats culminated with Martin Mallon being held by Special Branch detectives until Billy Wright appeared in person to tell him that he would be “stiffed” if he didn’t begin working for the police.

For obvious reasons, the assault on the Mallon household is directly relevant to the Rosemary Nelson murder but it is not mentioned anywhere in the report. There are other murders, other death threats, and Billy Wright seemingly able to walk away from arrest and questioning at will. Even his own fellow assassins were shocked at how the RUC could accept his alibis and statements and began to walk away from him. The UVF in Belfast began briefing journalists that Wright had a relationship with the RUC and MI5. Imagine the kind of effect this had on Rosemary Nelson who made several appeals for protection to the outside world before she was finally murdered.

Nelson Report Failure Two

The failure to look at the role of state agents and informers.

This is the fault line that runs through all “official” investigations that have ever been carried out into atrocities carried out by pro British, loyalist gangs - the sidestepping of the question of the overtly political nature of Britain’s secret services in the North. You will find no mention of counter insurgency, not to mention Dirty War in the report on Rosemary Nelson’s murder. In fact, the inquiry team tell us that they co-opted the RUC onto their investigating unit because of its "local knowledge".

You could not make it up – a force described as endemically sectarian by Sir John Stevens and top cop John Stalker is suddenly an honest broker. (Stevens had his offices burned down when he tried to investigate collusion and Stalker was the victim of a blatant dirty tricks sting when he tried investigate the RUC.)

Britain’s terror strategy, is not just an unmentioned elephant in this world of “highwire” inquiries, it is a whole herd of imperial elephants decked out in their pro colonial union jacks. This also means that these very costly enquiries are a sham. Yet here we are again with a largely supine media trumpeting – Rosemary Nelson – No Collusion!

The inquiry team might point out that they were given access to the RUC’s TCG files as proof of the rigour of its inquiry and the bona fides of the RUC.

During the Troubles, senior figures within the RUC, British Army and MI5 would meet every week, and often every day, in what came to be known as TCG or Tasking and Coordinating Group meetings. These meetings were logged and minuted and covered any covert activities that were being run against the IRA and what was termed its “support base” (basically anyone more radical than the late Cardinal Daly).

It might also say that it spends a long time in the report quoting various RUC and other covert intelligence sources and analysing intelligence structures. Yet, staggeringly, at no point does it ask this simple question – was Billy Wright an agent of the British state?

More staggeringly still, the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry team simply accepts the blithe assurances from members of RUC Special Branch and other wings of the intelligence services that, where Rosemary was concerned, there was nothing of note or “original” in what their agents on the ground were saying. This is simply not good enough.

The proposition that we can take reassurances from the RUC with regards to the activities of their agents in loyalist groups (and republican groups for that matter) is ridiculous. We need an independent body with the power to come in and examine which agents were being run and the contact sheets (recording meetings and tasks assigned) between handlers and agents.

Instead, the focus of the report has been entirely on Rosemary Nelson and her alleged politics and personal life and not on the relationship between the British state and the people who wanted her dead. Now whose interests does that approach serve?

So let us be clear. Rosemary Nelson was a very effective solicitor (and a woman at that), an Irish Catholic and nationalist who had every right to support Sinn Fein or whatever form of politics she wished. But it was for this very reason that the intelligence services conspired against her and ultimately in that typically British way allowed the fact of her murder.

No M’Lud - One does not murder. One disseminates enough rumour, vitriol and secret information that one finds that a murder transpires, yet one finds that no trace of the filthy stench of dried blood and cordite is traced back to the dark and bitter mandarins who initiated the conspiracy.

A Very British Murder – A Very British Jihad.


Dear Paul,

The British government will not face up to the past, does not have the dignity or sense to address its 'specific' and 'hailed' crimes to clear the way for true peace and continues to nurture its sovereignty over Ireland.
Add to that a festering problem of confidence in 'newly' established policing and ongoing harassment of a republican community (albeit, at times, a community that has not embraced the Sinn Féin line), the recent arrest of Marian Price, the continued incarceration of Colin Duffy and his comrades, of Michael McKevitt....and the list goes on....well, I do believe the 'farce' of Mrs Rosemary Nelson's inquiry just adds that finishing touch to a frightening machine that unfortunately has not disappeared and does not seem to wish to.
So, if the aim of the British establishment is to ignore and conquer, what do they honestly believe will be the outcome. I hope and pray for lucidity!
by: Finn Anson (contact) - 26 May '11 - 20:10
Hi Finn - well I think that the (re)arrest of Marian Price is seen by most people as just a case of getting her off the streets. Dissidents have as much right to due process as anyone else.
More broadly, I dont think the search for the truth is the preserve of any one group in Ireland and should not be solely linked to a group that, against the wishes of almost everybody in Ireland, seeks to carry out murders like that of Ronan Kerr - a total cul de sac.

hope you are well

by: Pol (contact) - 26 May '11 - 20:28
That, though Pablo, is the angle I have difficulty with, the 'getting off the streets' and the recognition of a 'cul de sac' state of affairs. If I have a splinter in my foot I can leave it to fester and ultimately the problem may get bigger. If the stories of mistreatment in Maghaberry jail are true why are they not dealt with? I do agree that truth be the preserve of all; I do however have my doubts as to how much people from all sides are actually talking and negotiating...(I often say this and stand by it: it is difficult to assess a situation far from the paving stones of the North; to hear the people's voice)
Yes, a majority of people are, and should, be revolted by Mr Ronan Kerr's murder...but that revolt and subsequent 'ignorance' might not help to appease the grief...of all.
by: Finn Anson (contact) - 26 May '11 - 20:42
I evidently do not have all the elements of information at hand and dare little to venture into what I will now say...but in the interests of learning and understanding...killers and murderers without the mandate of the majority have often been present in Ireland's history....I remember the day a prominent loyalist paramilitary was interviewed in An Phoblacht many years ago. That was a way towards healing, I believe...can this not be done with dissident groups on all sides of the situation? I believe yes but it must take courage, self scrutiny and humility from the 'main players'...are the main players, as ever, the powers that be?
by: Finn Anson (contact) - 26 May '11 - 20:48
but do you see how we are talking about the dissidents rather than the much more fundamental issue (and the point of my blog) of making the British state accountable for its actions?
that's exactly what the Brits want - a lack of focus on our parts
by: Pol (contact) - 26 May '11 - 21:05
Yes I do...a somewhat hefty wake up call, but better late than never!
However, and please don't bite me, no accountability will be had whilst atrocities are being committed; so how can Proud John Bull be made accountable whilst they still have reason to 'justly' (in their eyes) maintain sovereignty?
by: Finn Anson (contact) - 26 May '11 - 21:23


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Title: Rosemary Nelson - A Very British Murder
Date posted: 26 May '11 - 15:59
Filed under: General
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