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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

Unwittingly Demonstrating the Limits of Collusion - Paul Larkin's reply

Professor Adrian Guelke

Several Cic Saor readers have contacted me over the last six months asking me where my reply to Adrian Guelke's criticism of my book A Very British Jihad has disappeared to. This is a good question. Any reader who Googles words like "Paul Larkin collusion" is immediately directed to the Fortnight magazine article written by Guelke in May 2004. Guelke's wholly negative and, in my view, poorly argued review can be read here:

However my reply to Guelke's criticisms has mysteriously vanished off the face of the web. So for those readers from Counties Antrim, Derry, Galway and Cork who have asked for it, as well as for the historical record, here is my response. Guelke it should be added is Professor of Comparative Politics at Queens University Belfast.

The more Cic Saor readers share and post links for this reply, the more chance it has of regaining its position vis-à-vis Guelke's article.


A BONE TO PICK WITH ADRIAN - Paul Larkin June 2004

I am grateful to Adrian Guelke for writing a review of my book. Guelke takes the issues I raise seriously and seeks to provide arguments against my thesis. In fairness, most reviewers of the book have engaged with the book, from various positions, in a lucid and forthright manner. Long may that continue. Guelke’s review is by no means positive but I accept his arguments as valid whilst at the same time taking him to task below for the strange lack of rigour he brings to his argument. There are important instances where Guelke’s statements regarding the book are incorrect and these errors need to be highlighted.

For those readers who did not read Guelke’s original review I reproduce the essence of his criticism and my reply to that in a question and answer format. In September 1991, Guelke was shot in his bedroom by the UFF and my book seeks to give the (Apartheid) South African/Loyalist background to that event. Guelke argues that the key issue was that his name was deliberately switched with that of another academic’s so that he became the target. This issue is a red herring. The real issue is that the UFF was carrying out terrorist activity on behalf of the then Apartheid state. I explain in my book that a sinister group of special operatives from the notorious Vlakplaas unit based in Pretoria had linked up with veteran loyalists and British agents Charlie Simpson and Brian Nelson. Vlakplaas assassin Leon Flores travelled to Northern Ireland on at least two occasions and was actually brought to Guelke’s house courtesy of the UFF.

Guelke says -
The switching of names part of the story does not appear in Larkin’s book. To my consternation, it isn’t even made clear that I am not a Republican, which is extraordinarily irresponsible of Larkin in the circumstances. However, he does just about manage to convey the impression to the reader that there was South African involvement and that the reason I was shot had something to do with my being ‘an enemy of apartheid’.

I find Guelke’s point about my ‘irresponsibility’ strange. It is made abundantly clear in the book that his targeting by loyalists in the shape of the UFF was at the behest of South African agents (at least one of whom was working for British Intelligence) and came about because of his opposition to apartheid. It is also made very clear that this conspiracy also involved the smearing of chosen targets by falsely linking them to the IRA. This is what the book says (on page 93):

"Guelke had been a victim of a covert South African operation called Project Echoes which was part of a series of moves to isolate and eliminate opponents of the South African regime living in Europe and at the same time ‘discredit’ the ANC by linking it to the IRA. I now know that a key hit man for the Apartheid regime, Leon Flores, had been ordered to target Adrian Guelke (amongst others) from the early 1990s onwards."

Can the above quote be any clearer about South African involvement? The answer is no. It is absolutely wrong, to say that I ‘just about’ manage to convey the impression of South African involvement. The shooting of Adrian Guelke, furthermore, is referred to in two chapters (chapters 8 and 16) which refer in depth to South Africa. Where Mr Guelke does have a point is that I should, perhaps, have made clear that he had never been involved with the ANC. This is not, however, Guelke’s main concern which seems to be to try and rubbish any idea of there being an overarching strategy on the part of the security forces. The spectacle of academics and journalists scrambling to defend this position becomes more unedifying with each new revelation about just how corrosive the acid of collusion has become to the body politic.

Guelke says:
The problem for Larkin is that my case hardly demonstrates the intimate level of collusion that he wishes to suggest existed among the Loyalists, elements of the security forces and the apartheid regime. Larkin claims that Brian Nelson, the UDA intelligence officer with both security-force and South African connections, had a role in supplying information about the file at the heart of my case. This seems highly improbable.

I had to read the above statement by Guelke several times before believing what I was seeing on the printed page. Guelke selectively avoids my reference to the fact that Brian Nelson’s sister approached Guelke and told him that the South African Bureau of Information had given intelligence to her brother about Guelke. This is referred to on page 94 of the book which Adrian Guelke has obviously read very closely. Not only do my interview notes with Guelke confirm this incident but Guelke himself confirms the Nelson/Bureau of Information connection in an e-mail to me on the 3rd of August 2001.

Nor does Guelke refer to the information in the book describing how seasoned Apartheid killer Leon Flores was working with both Charlie Simpson and Brian Nelson in the run up to the targeting of Guelke. Both Simpson and Nelson were agents of the British State. Flores was found to be carrying information about Guelke when he was arrested AFTER his being in Northern Ireland. Once again Guelke has confirmed to me that he knew of Flores interest in him. Given all the above, and given the fact that British agent Charlie Simpson was on first name terms with Leon Flores, how in the name of intellectual rigour can Guelke say that cooperation between these agencies was highly improbable?

We then come to what is really the fault line; not only in Guelke’s position but that of much of the academic and journalistic world in our post colonial society (North and South). That fault line is the complete failure to question the senior guardians of our peace as to how we ever got into this moral mess which is redolent of a Jacobean drama

Guelke says:
In particular, he [Larkin] does not take on board the fact that prosecutions of people involved in collusion point not to widespread collusion but rather the opposite, since if collusion had been routine practice the state would hardly have been in a position to have punished those responsible. The obvious defence of anyone prosecuted for crimes while engaged in collusive activity would have been to implicate those higher up. This is in fact what exposed the activities of assassination squads within the security forces in South Africa.

My book tackles the above question at length and the argument can be summed up in one name – William Stobie. The chapter ‘Unsavoury Game’ (chapter 9) deals directly with the issue of State punishment of those (ie loyalists) with whom it was also colluding. I regard it as a serious error on Guelke’s part to make the above statement without referring to the arguments I set out in chapter 9. William Stobie was arrested alongside other people in the UFF after the callous murder of Adam Lambert in a spurious, and drunken, reaction to the Enniskillen massacre. Some of Stobie's comrades went to jail for the murder of Lambert but, as we all know, or should know, Stobie was allowed to continue in assisting the UFF in its murder campaign but this time as a spy for Special Branch. This cooperation also involved direct assistance in the murder of Pat Finucane. Stobie then of course, to use Guelke’s phrase, sought to ‘implicate those higher up’ and was thrown to the wolves. Stobie’s superiors in RUC Special Branch meanwhile were found to be a ‘force within a force’ by the Patten report into policing in Northern Ireland. John Stevens, meanwhile, had his police protected offices burned down for having the temerity to question the ‘higher ups’ in the ‘Old Glory’ that is Six County Ulster. It could almost be funny except that we could be in Alabama in the 1950s.

Can Adrian Guelke give the readers of Fortnight the name of one Special Branch officer who has been prosecuted for colluding with loyalists? This, in a situation where the whole of the leadership of the UFF in the late 1980s/early 1990s, had a close relationship with those same officers. Of course the answer to Guelke’s point about those who are prosecuted for collusion seeking to implicate those higher up comes in the blizzard of security force photo montages blown on to our streets after the arrest of Brian Nelson. Nelson’s trial, meanwhile, was an acknowledged ‘set up’ to avoid bad publicity. How much more evidence do we need?

This leads me to my final point. Guelke describes as ‘foolish’ my desire to question ‘prominent people (‘higher ups’ if you like) with what he calls my ‘innuendo’. The questions I raise in the book with regard to prominent people are not ‘foolish innuendo’ but rather a statement of clear facts that pose a direct challenge to the former leaderships of the RUC and the British Army to explain how we got into a situation where, as Judge Cory describes, the Threats Book kept by RUC Special Branch in order to monitor threats to the lives of citizens in Northern Ireland was devoid of the names of Catholics and Nationalists. Who created this sectarian headcount? How did collusion become ‘endemic’ and ‘cultural’ to quote John Stevens? How did a young and lower ranking officer have the nerve to upbraid one of the highest ranking officers in his United Kingdom (John Stalker) for having the audacity to be seen publicly conversing with Pat Finucane on the steps of Crumlin Road courthouse? Who gave that young officer his confidence that he could behave in such a fashion?

Journalists and academics have produced tome after tome about the so called Troubles but have never, as far as I am aware, posed these questions to those Guelke describes as ‘prominent people’. My prediction is that prominent people will one day be held to account for the disaster that was perpetrated in this country in the spurious name of "Democracy" and "Law and Order".


@ Paul Larkin
Baile Átha Cliath
Mí Iúil 2004
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Title:  Unwittingly Demonstrating the Limits of Collusion - Paul Larkin's reply
Date posted: 16 Aug '11 - 23:23
Filed under: General
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