Britain's dirty colonial war in Ireland

David Granville reviews A Very British Jihad: collusion, conspiracy and cover up in Northern Ireland by Paul Larkin, Beyond the Pale Publications, £10.99 pbk

BASED ON research undertaken by award-winning investigative journalist and film producer Paul Larkin, A Very British Jihad is an important contribution to highlighting the depths to which the British state has been prepared to sink in its war against Irish republicans.

Much of the material centres on research undertaken between the late 1980s and mid-1990s when Larkin worked on documentary film projects for the BBC Northern Ireland current affairs programme Spotlight, the Irish state broadcaster RTE and as an independent film maker .

At the heart of the author’s exploration of the murkier corners of the conflict lies the thorny issue of collusion between key sections Britain’s political, military and intelligence apparatus and the most sectarian elements of their imperial garrison allies, in the shape of loyalist murder gangs.

Larkin deals both with important individual cases, such as the murder Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, as well as wider issues, such as British-state involvement in the procurement of loyalist weaponry from apartheid South Africa.

Using his own research and extracts from the diary of convicted British agent Brian Nelson, Larkin paints a disturbing picture of the numerous levels on which collusion operated during Britain’s ‘dirty war’.

Larkin demonstrates that covert military, security and intelligence operations frequently involved more than just providing ‘useful’ information to loyalist killers or providing cover for their nefarious, and frequently bloody, deeds - in itself, shocking enough for most readers.

He also shows how paid British agents under the direction of intelligence service handlers were responsible for directing and participating in sectarian murder campaign and insists that knowledge and political oversight of the dirty war strategy reached the highest levels of government.

The author’s exploration of Ian Paisley and the DUP’s links to loyalist paramilitary activity is also given a rare and welcome airing.

However I must part company with the author over his contention that what has been going on in the six counties of Northern Ireland since the first stirrings of the civil rights movement constitutes a holy war, a jihad, prosecuted on an ‘ethnic’ basis in defence of Protestantism.

While it would be wrong to suggest that religion is not an important factor in the conflict, indeed the religious divide has been manipulated adroitly by the pro-empire loyalists at all levels of the British state and in the mainstream British media, its elevation above the political issues at the heart of the conflict is, in my opinion, both misleading and inappropriate.

More worryingly, in his attempt to prove the existence of a ‘jihad’ Larkin unintentionally reinforces the favoured British establishment view of the conflict as an intractable religious war between Catholic and Protestant 'tribes', a view used to great effect as a smokescreen to obscure the reality underpinning the British state’s dirty colonial war in Ireland.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2004-05-26 11:46:39.
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