Book lifts lid on over 120 killings by loyalist gangs

‘Lethal Allies’ asks why the authorities did not move properly to stop the killings

Among the victims of loyalist violence were members of the Miami Showband

Among the victims of loyalist violence were members of the Miami Showband


More than 120 people were killed by loyalist paramilitary gangs operating out of mid-Ulster, many of them working in collusion with RUC officers and Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers, it is claimed in a book published today.

The volume, Lethal Allies, tells the story of the Glennane gang and other loyalist groups who in various permutations – but frequently with the sectarian figure of Robin Jackson at its centre – killed more than 120 people on both sides of the Border between 1972 and 1976.

Most of the victims were Catholics. Many of these killings directly or indirectly involved members of the RUC and the UDR, it is claimed in the book written by Anne Cadwallader.

The work is based largely on declassified papers and official reports and on investigations carried out by the Historical Enquiries Team, which is a division of the PSNI.

The gang’s victims included the 33 people killed in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, those killed in the 1975 gun and bomb attack on the Miami Showband, the 1976 killings of six members of the Reavey and O’Dowd families in south Armagh – killings that the IRA used to justify the shooting dead of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmills – and the killings in August 1975 of Seán Farmer and 22-year- old Colm McCartney, a cousin of the late Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney.

Mr Farmer and Mr McCartney were shot dead at a bogus British army checkpoint near Newtownhamilton in Co Armagh by UVF members wearing UDR uniforms. They were stopped as they returned from the All-Ireland football championship semi-final matches between Tyrone and Kerry minors, and Derry and Dublin seniors.

Heaney, in his poem The Strand at Lough Beg, dedicated to Colm McCartney, wrote: “What blazed ahead of you? A faked road block? The red lamp swung, the sudden brakes and stalling. Engine, voices, heads hooded and the cold-nosed gun?”

Central to Cadwallader’s book are the relentless accounts of the murders that took place in, or emanated from, what was called the Murder Triangle of mid-Ulster, but also the high level of RUC and UDR collusion with the mainly UVF killers.

It asks the question: how could the authorities at the highest levels in the RUC, British army and political establishment not know what was happening and not properly act to stop it?

Some of the stories recount high-profile incidents such as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. But many more are about people shot or blown up in attacks that are now fading from memory or are forgotten, apart from in the minds of the bereaved and the survivors.

Cadwallader names more than 20 RUC or UDR members from the time, former or serving, who were implicated in many of the murders. Probably the most notorious are Jackson, a sectarian UVF killer both as a serving and former UDR member, and James Mitchell, a godfather figure and RUC reserve member who owned the Glennane farm in Co Armagh where loyalists and security force members met, marched and drilled, conspired and plotted the killings of scores of Catholics.

Both led astonishingly charmed lives, as is outlined in the book. Despite what many would construe as good evidence against them, neither was convicted. Mitchell died five years ago aged 88, Jackson from cancer in 1988 aged 49.

The only republican paramilitary figure killed by the gang was John Francis Green, says Cadwallader.

Publication of the book comes at a time of renewed debate about the past, which US diplomat Richard Haass and an all-party Assembly committee are attempting to address.