THE Irish government was warned about collusion between the Ulster Defence Regiment and Loyalist paramilitaries in 1980 – some nine years before the murder of Pat Finucane.
The human rights solicitor was shot 14 times in front of his wife while he was eating in his Belfast home in 1989 by Loyalist gunmen.
But according to State papers released to the National Archives Office in Dublin and published for the first time today, warnings about such ‘wholesale’ collusion were passed to the Department of Foreign Affairs by a press officer for the Irish Embassy in London.
Patrick Hennessy told Sean Farrell in the Department’s press office on March 14, 1980 about a meeting he had just had with a Washington Post reporter.
He said journalist James Lemoyne – who he said had a ‘rather serious Ivy League-type manner’ – had been to the North for a week and had stayed with the British Army in Newry, Crossmaglen and Cookstown.
Mr Hennessey said: ‘During this time he was given what appeared to be very ready access to the officers and other ranks inside the barracks and on patrol.’
It was while he was interviewing army officers that they made their frank admission about collusion between the UDR and Loyalist gunmen.
He said: ‘During his visit, he had a number of discussions with (British Army) officers on the role of the UDR and had gone on patrol in Co Armagh with a UDR Regiment.
‘’Army officers spoke openly of their disquiet in regard to the UDR and of their certain knowledge that intelligence information is being passed wholesale to Loyalist paramilitaries.
‘The official attitude seemed to be, however, that such malpractices were almost unavoidable and there was no indication of any positive determination to face up to this problem.’
The same letter also addressed a common view that the British Military viewed Northern Ireland as a training ground for its soldiers.
Mr Hennessey said: ‘Lemoyne said he was also struck by the number of officers with whom he spoke who dismissed suggestions that service in Northern Ireland was beneficial from a military training point of view.
‘All his contacts seemed to regard Northern Ireland tours as highly disruptive of training and as injurious to morale.
‘In this latter regard, there is apparently a high incidence of marital problems among troops serving in the North.’