Rewriting of history causing anger: Ringland

Trevor Ringland said facts were 'being shaped to suit a political view'
Trevor Ringland said facts were 'being shaped to suit a political view'

Ex-members of the security forces are becoming increasingly angered by what they sees as the “rewriting” of the history of the Troubles, it has been claimed.

Trevor Ringland, a former UUP member of the board and campaigner for reconciliation, was speaking after a hard-hitting BBC documentary reported that UK security forces had thousands of agents inside paramilitary groups, many of whom were involved in murder.

Graph showing Troubles deaths by groups responsible. Each horizontal line represents 50 deaths (with annual death tolls rising to over 300 during the early 1970s).

Graph showing Troubles deaths by groups responsible. Each horizontal line represents 50 deaths (with annual death tolls rising to over 300 during the early 1970s).

Former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan told the BBC that some agents were “serial killers” who were given “impunity”.

The documentary also discovered that a gun used by the UDA to murder five Catholics had ended up on display in the Imperial War Museum.

Mr Ringland, whose father was in the RUC, said: “What we are increasingly finding is a selection of facts supposedly being taken together and shaped to suit a political view of what was going on by people who do not seem to understand what the security forces were trying to achieve.”

By the 1980s the intelligence services were preventing 90 per cent of attacks, forcing terrorists down the peaceful route, he said.

And he insisted that the 12,000 republicans and 8,000 loyalists imprisoned shows just how little leniency they had from the state.

“Many security force families have not protested as loudly as others in order to bolster the peace process,” he said.

“But some of them are getting increasingly angered by the one-sided slant in rewriting history.”

Mr Ringland said that during her time in office Nuala O’Loan had never brought any charges against any officer for collusion.

A Police Ombudsman spokesman said that she had uncovered cases of officers acting “inappropriately”, but that it was the role of the Public Prosecution Service to decide whether to prosecute.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, an ex-UDR soldier, said: “Republicans and loyalists were responsible for over 3,000 deaths, nearly 10 times that of the security forces.

“It suits some to allege that all of these were a result of collusion, but it is vital that such attempts to rewrite the past are challenged.”

He added that the Smithwick Tribunal found collusion between the Garda and the IRA, and highlighted the issue of Irish government minsters arming the fledgling PIRA.

“It is only right that we should establish the full level of collusion that existed between Irish state forces and republican terrorists. Unfortunately these issues were not part of the Panorama programme broadcast, and all too often are overlooked in the rush to focus on the activities of the British state.”

A former state agent who worked inside the IRA said informers saved many more lives than they cost during the Troubles.

Marty McGartland, whose life story became a major movie ‘Fifty Dead Men Walking’, said Chief Constable George Hamilton had got it “spot on” when he said agents saved “thousands of lives”.

“In all walks of live you get bad apples – just look at the journalists in the phone hacking scandal and the MPs’ expenses revelations,” he said.

He was recruited at 16 to infiltrate the IRA.

“I think Nuala O’Loan gave the impression in the [BBC Panorama] documentary that all agents were serial killers – but this is extremely unfair.

“There is no doubt some people in Special Branch got up to unsavoury things but in all my years with them, they never suggested anything illegal or that would allow anyone to come to harm.”

Mr McGartland is now suing the UK Government for withdrawing specialist medical treatment.

“Special Branch often went way beyond their call of duty to find out details on police officers who were being targeted in order to protect them. I believe opened files would show the public that they normally tried to do the right things in an unbelievably difficult conflict.

“There is no doubt some agents were allowed to engage in criminality but I believe that many thousands of lives may have been saved by agents.”

He said his work stopped the first Shankill bomb and an attack on a Bangor bar. “I believe agents saved many thousands of lives, but nobody should have lost their lives and for those that did the state should provide closure.”