Published by Frontline Noir. Buy the book here
The Miami Showband Massacre was a 1975 atrocity during The Troubles in Ireland. Five musicians in band made up of both Catholic and Protestants were shot to death in cold blood when a bomb that British soldiers were planting in their van (at a British Army checkpoint – not a bogus checkpoint as some have reported) prematurely exploded, killing two of the bombers in the process.
What has become apparent is that official British policy of Collusion with Loyalist terrorists not only allowed this terrorist act to be carried out but actually instigated it too.
A few years ago, that statement would have been considered by many in UK like an Irish Republican press release. However, thanks to the tireless efforts of serious campaigners for truth in both Britain and Ireland, the fact that British official policy on Ireland during The Troubles had Collusion as one of its pillars is now universally accepted.
The group responsible for carrying out the Miami Showband Massacre, the Glenanne Gang, a grouping of UVF paramilitaries, serving policemen and soldiers, were not only known to British Intelligence but in fact utilised by them to carry out atrocities considered too atrocious to be carried out by the British Army proper. Other terrorist operations carried out by this gang include The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings which resulted in the single most deadly day in the most recent Troubles (1968 – 2005) when 33 men women and children were slaughtered by that state-sponsored gang. There were other operations too and one of the leaders of the Glenanne Gang was UVF leader Robin Jackson, known as The Jackal, and who was responsible for over 100 murders.
There are different degrees of Collusion. One is the “Rotten Apples” theory. This contends that the state is fundamentally moral and good but a few hotheads, sometimes understandably (according to the theory) take the law into their own hands. For years this was as far as the state would admit culpability in crimes committed by its agents whether they be policemen or soldiers. This nonsense was the State’s “get out” clause. How could a law-abiding state such as Britain contain these bad apples? And most people, not directly affected by the terror unleashed by the State, bought it.
The lack of will among many in the media and the State to investigate (although there were many notable exceptions) helped sustain the lie of the “Rotten Apple” theory for decades. This increased the pain of victims’ surviving relatives by adding the salt of alienation to their wounds. Losing a relative to murder is terrible enough but to have the state deliberately inhibit your quest for justice means moving on is not an option. Then to have the state make you feel like you are some insane conspiracy theorist because you dare to seek the truth over your loved one’s murder puts pain on pain. The state of course knows this full well and would be happy if you simply conceded that it is too great a battle and gave up.
However, the state did not factor in the indefatigability of the relatives and survivors of many of the atrocities its agents carried out. The McGurk’s Bar Bombing Relatives legendary quest for justice is matched by those of Bloody Sunday, The Springhill Massacre, The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings, Reavey and O'Dowd killings, Loughinisland and many more. With so many major terrorist events taking place patterns formed in the eyes of any objective investigator. The lack of will by the State to investigate the crime properly, in many cases actually destroying and tampering with evidence, was just one of the common features. It took a long time but thanks to efforts of those above and others, the Rotten Apple theory has ceased to be credible and anyone citing it in defence of the state is simply discounted as lacking any credibility.
Another degree of Collusion is illustrated by instances of British Army personnel actively supporting the acts of terrorism by covering the investigative trail in order to protect agents in organisations. Not every terrorist act committed by Loyalists was directed by British Intelligence. Often the British would not need to suggest any direction. Bearing in mind the state and the Loyalists had the same objective (defeating the IRA, ensuring the division of Ireland was maintained, and ensuring southern Ireland ceased to be - in their view - a safe haven for Republicans) all the State had to do often was ensure no impediments existed when Loyalist paramilitaries went about their business – and to clear up after them.
But the worst degree of Collusion is where the terrorist acts were actually conceived by intelligence agencies and then effectively sub-contracted to the relevant Counter Gang (British Brigadier Frank Kitson’s memorable description and part of the title of the book he wrote on the subject). In “Ulster”, the relevant Counter Gangs were the UDA (amazingly, legal until 1992) and the UVF (and later the LVF). These attacks were designed to have such an impact so as to further British policy in Ireland.
While some involved in these Loyalist organisations would contend they were directed by anyone, the body of evidence pointing towards their activities being at least guided by British Intelligence reached a critical mass some time ago with evidence uncovered by relatives groups and provided by whistle-blowers too.
However, The Miami Showband Massacre has all the hallmarks of the highest degree of Collusion. The perpetrators were known to operate from Glenanne Farm, owned by one of its members, James Mitchell (a reserve policeman). The land had been known by British Military Intelligence as a hub of Loyalist arms dumping and bomb making at least since 1972 when it appeared in internal documents identified as such.
The terrorists plan was to place the bomb and time it to explode as the van travelling through the south of Ireland, thus implicating the Showband members as republican terrorists. This, in turn, was supposed to ensure the Irish government felt under pressure to increase border security. For those who suppose this is too far-fetched, it was not the first time British Intelligence had used the gang to further its political aims. Bombs had gone off in Dublin in 1972 just as a debate in the Irish Parliament (The Dáil) regarding security legislation was taking place. On hearing the bombs explode, The Dáil passed the legalisation.
Some of the operatives involved in these terrorist activities were convicted, many were not. The State hoped that sending a few expendables to prison would satisfy the need for justice. But, as the campaign that one of the survivors of the Miami Showband Massacre is involved in believes, it is not just the immediate perpetrators who need to be held to account; those who instigated, facilitated and covered up those crimes must be held to account.
That is why the UK Ministry Of Defence, the ministry ultimately responsible for implementing the policy of Collusion, must join these killers in the dock. To that end, the campaign for truth and justice for the Miami Showband continues this month in the UK courts.