The Committee

Sensational claims in 'The Committee - political assasination in Northern Ireland,' that the murder of political opponents were ordered by prominent members of the Unionist establishment led to the book being banned. With the current crisis in the peace process, Lee Stephens highlights the 'inextricable links' between David Trimble and the accused.

David Trimble knew King Rat. They were on speaking terms. Maybe not bosom buddies but certainly closer than in December 1992 when in the House of Commons Trimble described him 'as a gentleman known as Billy Wright... who... 1 am told is a gangster.' The LVF leader was one of Trimbles' Portadown constituents, and so the intimate tete a tete witnessed by the BBC's Peter Taylor in the midst of the 1996 Drumcree standoff might have been considered by many typical of a social encounter between a high profile powerful politician and an unemployed working class man with limited formal education.

Except that while one was assured and confident and the other eager to please and uncomfortable, it was Trimble who was sweating.

Wright was named in McPhilemy's book as a prominent member of 'The Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee' who with others, including a senior Ulster Bank executive; a Presbyterian minister; a prominent solicitor, a staff member at Queen's University and an Ulster Independence Committee member conspired to with RUC/UDR 'inner force' connivance to murder their political opponents. Those listed above were six of the two dozen committee members named by McPhilemy, and Nobel Peace prize winner David Trimble has a direct political connection with all of them. When David Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, the world held it's breath, as he proceeded to address his audience with perhaps the most ungracious acceptance speech in the prize's history. Trimble's speech was a concerted attack upon the Republican Movement and a return to the largely irrelevant issue of decommissioning as part of the Unionist's attempt to wreck the peace process from within.

For some time now the Unionist/Loyalist side in the process has required the input of their political equivalent to South Africa's F.W. De Klerk. Someone who recognises that the "jig is up" and who is prepared to negotiate the best possible deal available to that community. Instead they have their own P.W. Botha in the shape of Trimble, stalling and filibustering the entire peace process in order to maintain the status quo.

An analysis of Trimble's political background reveals however that he is pursuing a political line that in his own terms is at least a consistent one. In February 1988, as a law lecturer at Queens University and before commencing his parliamentary career, William David Trimble penned a pamphlet entitled, "What Choice For Ulster". In it Trimble argued that the Anglo Irish Agreement had signalled Britain's intention to withdraw the birthrights of the "Ulster British" and he presented the case for an 'Independent Ulster' as an alternative. Indeed his stated view's on the subject have become the 'blue print' for the most extreme elements of the loyalist community, whose object is to regain exclusive control of the government of the six counties. The establishment of a pro-Independent Ulster bloc in the loyalist community also mirrored the sharp increase in loyalist paramilitary terror attacks carried out against the nationalist community in general and republicans in particular.

This group who saw the Anglo-Irish Accord of 1985 as the final straw in Britain's attempt to sell their birthrights to Dublin, once organised, became increasingly influential in every area of Unionist and Loyalist life. They promoted the idea of a 'Doomsday Scenario' where Ulster would be sold out by the British and that it would therefore be up to the Ulster (Protestant) people to go it alone. Their aim was in effect to create a "junta in waiting" ready to assume leadership of the 'Ulster Nation' when the need arose. In the short term their aim was to deal with the "enemy within,' nationalism and republicanism. Their first step was to reorganise the forces of reaction, the loyalist death squads, the RUC and the UDR, into a co-operative unit which colluded and implemented a military campaign of terror against the Catholic Community. According to James Sands, former member of the 'committee' and chief source of Sean McPhilemy's book: "Before then, Ulster people on the loyalist side were never really organised. There was wee small groups in various towns done their own thing But because of the signing of the agreement in 1985, which brought a lot of middle upper classes into Ulster Loyalism, that these men have, these people have seen that there is a British withdrawal, gradual, but still a withdrawal. And from a business point of view, they want to look after themselves. They don 't want to be left high and dry with the British withdrawal. And they're putting their business expertise, their business knowledge to the good of Ulster.'

So hiding behind the cloak of respectability, some of Northern Ireland's most prominent businessmen, politicians, policemen, lawyers and clergy became directly involved in the loyalist assassination campaign. Their involvement was to provide the loyalists with the money, arms and political direction that they had previously lacked. Loyalist assassins like Billy "King Rat" Wright and Robin "The Jackal" Jackson and their gangs were the hired guns of The Committee, whose access to detailed official files and information, as well as their ability to provide the hands-on involvement of RUC units in death squad murders, was to make them seem virtually untouchable. The conspiracy however goes much deeper than simply providing loyalist nutters with gear and security files. According to McPhilemy's book, the conspiracy goes to the very heart of the Unionist Establishment and involves a secret "inner force" within the RUC, which in turn is run by a core leadership known as the Inner Circle. The Inner Force within the RUC is organised from a divisional level right down to a station by station "cell" structure. McPhilemy also contends that the overall commander of this secret grouping is the ex- Head of RUC Special Branch.

As a result of similar allegations made by McPhilemy in a Channel Four documentary broadcast October 2 1991, a Presbyterian Minister appeared on Right to Reply three days later to refute unfair inferences he believed were contained in the programme. He was accompanied by his MP David Trimble who forcefully and repeatedly insisted thereafter that it was all a 'hoax and republican propaganda.' (When the Sunday Express repeated the hoax accusations outside of Parliament it would eventually cost them a cool £500,000 in damages and costs as a result of losing a libel action brought by McPhilemy in 1996)

That the loyalist assassins became better armed and better informed during the late 1980's and early 1990's cannot be denied. There have always been claims made by the nationalist community that there has been widespread collusion between the state forces and the death squads throughout the present period of conflict. You only have to look at the long list of RUC and UDR/RIR personnel convicted of loyalist terrorist offences to put paid to the lie that the forces of law and order are policing the six counties impartially. Father Raymond Murray's book, The SAS In Ireland, documents the collusion with, and direction of, the loyalist death squads by the British Army's most elite units.

Robin Jackson was one of those so directed. A seasoned 'terrorist' in the true sense and meaning of the word. He was recruited by British Army Intelligence in 1974. They facilitated his activities and, according to McPhilemy's sources, "...trained him in the assassin 's art. '' The former British Intelligence officer, Captain Fred Holroyd, who was himself based in Portadown between 1973 and 1975 has no doubt that Robin Jackson was a "licensed killer" for the "security services." Jackson and Wright were in effect the Committee's hired help, contracted to carry out operations on it's behalf. Jackson's career as a hit-man for the RUC and Army made him an obvious choice to carry out the Committee's "dirty work." Both men enjoyed co-operation from their police and army counterparts and immunity from prosecution. Indeed, not only did they escape prosecution, they could also rely upon the direct involvement of RUC officers in certain operations. In one example, McPhilemy alleges that two on-duty RUC officers belonging to the 'Inner Force' acting on instructions from the Committee, selected a victim by checking the license plate of his car through the RUC computer in order to establish whether he was a Catholic. The two officers then arranged to meet Billy Wright and guide him into the lover's lane where he and his girlfriend had parked the car. This murder, of the young Catholic man, Denis Carville, was a so-called 'revenge attack' for the IRA killing of UDR soldier, Colin McCullough at the same spot. As Jim Sands stated: "They wanted someone who was in the same situation, a young man sitting with his girlfriend in the car. " In light of the sectarian murder of a constituent by Billy Wright, the comment by the local MP for the area, that "some idiot had taken the law into his own hands' was both bizarre and politically loaded. That MP was David Trimble.

Another of the Committee's victims was the leading nationalist defence solicitor in the north of Ireland. Patrick Finucane. The RUC, in particular, deemed that Finucane was basically "a Provo" because he was prepared to act as legal counsel to members of the republican movement. Thus, in February, 1989, Pat Finucane also became a victim of the Committee. Following the C4 screening of The Committee a prominent loyalist solicitor launched proceedings of criminal libel against McPhilemy in December 1992. He sued McPhilemy, claiming that because he could be recognised from the programmes description, he was in a fact being set up for assassination 'and had been placed in a similar position to Pat Finucane.' Precisely because he was personally present in the Finagh Orange Hall in January 1989 when the murder of Finucane was commissioned, this typical display of "chutzpah" according to McPhilemy, drew particular admiration from his loyalist co-conspirators. The claim that he was indeed recognisable was supported by two sponsors: another solicitor, and David Trimble who swore an affidavit stating that he was in "absolutely no doubt" that his friend and had been the solicitor identified. The fellow solicitor, who backed up Trimble, happens to be in legal practice with, according to information supplied to McPhilemy by an informer in 1991, yet a another member of 'The Committee.' It also turns out, that this is the same partner ship that looks after Trimble's legal affairs.

Sometimes in the past evidence of collusion was dismissed as being carried out by rogue elements among the security forces. But, as Sean McPhilemy points out the conspiracy is deep and wide. As well as a former Asst. Chief Constable and the ex-head of RUC Special Branch, McPhilemy names five other senior RUC officers with links to 'The Committee,' plus two Army Majors still serving in the UDR/RIR. Unionist councillors, Presbyterian Ministers, Queen's University academics and a number of solicitors, lawyers and businessmen are also alleged to be full participants in the conspiracy. Unsurprisingly, their influence within the constituency of unionism is pervasive.

In particular the political hand of 'the Committee' can be seen especially around the issue of Drumcree where it has been their political influence, in their own heartland of Portadown, that has been the driving force behind the intransigent position adopted by the local Orangemen. It may have been as a result of the influence of 'the Committee,' along with a mistrust of the local RUC's ability to maintain order, that convinced British direct ruler, Mo Mowlam to call in the Parachute Regiment to bolster the lines at Drumcree last year.Trimble is after all the MP whose constituency takes in Drumcree and the town of Portadown. Portadown is the town at the heart of the Committee's "murder triangle" and Drumcree has become a symbol for the most sectarian Orange elements. Anyone who crossed such individuals may well be taking their own life into their hands - if, that is, they genuinely disagreed politically with The Committee. Trimble's own political background would suggest however that any differences that might exist between him and the members of the Committee is as likely to be one of emphasis and presentation, rather than the ultimate objective. Trimble is, after all, a published exponent of the Committee's preference for an Independent Ulster. In addition when a member of the faculty staff at Queens University in the late '80's, both he and another faculty member sat on the executive of the extreme loyalist Ulster Clubs. The latter would later join the Committee. And when another fellow executive, and uncompromising Loyalist was shot dead by the IRA in1988, his brother a leading Bank executive, and ex RUC officer, responded by draw ing together the Loyalist coalition that would become the The Committee.

In 1991, the former RUC officer, apparently for his own amusement posed as "driver" for the extremely shadowy Ulster Resistance when escorting a Channel Four reporter to an interview.

On the way, the researcher became aware that the driver was being waved through RUC road blocks by officers who appeared deferential towards him. Laughing, the driver turned to the researcher and said: "It makes you wonder who runs this place, doesn't it?"

By his stance on decommissioning, and the tenor of his Oslo acceptance speech, Trimble made it clear that if he wasn't exactly speaking for the people 'who run the place,' he was certainly still speaking to them.

Reproduced from RA Vol 3, Issue 5, February/March 1999