Belfast Telegraph

British intelligence plotted a massacre at Catholic school, Glenanne Gang man tells film

Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A former RUC officer has made shocking claims that British military intelligence initiated a plan to carry out a massacre at a Catholic primary school in Co Armagh in the 1970s.

John Weir was a self-confessed member of the UVF's notorious Glenanne Gang.

The terror gang, which included members of the security forces, was linked to 120 murders, including the attack on the Miami Showband in 1975 in which two UDR men were killed when the bomb they were planting on the group's bus blew up prematurely.

Weir made the comments in new documentary Unquiet Graves: The Story Of The Glenanne Gang, which premieres in Belfast tomorrow.

"The plan was to shoot up a school in Belleeks," he said, which meant the murder of young children and teachers.

He said this was intended as retaliation for the Kingsmill massacre of January 1976 in which 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by the IRA.

Weir claims the plot came from military intelligence to make the Troubles "spiral out of control" into a full civil war.

He said the attack was only called off because even the UVF's bloodthirsty leadership in Belfast considered it a step too far.

The same claims were made in the past by former RUC officer Billy McCaughey, now deceased, who was convicted alongside Weir for the sectarian murder of a chemist in Ahoghill in 1977.

Filmmaker Sean Murray spent four years working on the documentary.

Former Glenanne Gang terrorist John Weir seen in 1999
Former Glenanne Gang terrorist John Weir seen in 1999

"John Weir said he firmly believed it was British intelligence, that's what I also believe," he said.

"When I say that, I mean 'hawks' within British intelligence, as I think there was an internal power battle going on.

"There were people who would have been against that, but the hawks wanted a gloves-off approach to the IRA. It's quite revealing the UVF were unwilling to go through with this."

He said he was prepared for any backlash against the film, adding that all of Weir's statements had been corroborated by the Historical Enquiries Team.

"I think films like this are the only viable option for some semblance of the truth for victims, particularly against state violence," he added.

"I hope to see similar films like this coming from all sides here, because there's no owners of history. It's a mosaic of different stories, even if they are competing."

In recent days the PSNI has faced criticism for failing to disclose legacy files to the Police Ombudsman over the Sean Graham bookmakers atrocity of 1992 in which five Catholics were murdered by the UFF.

"That feeds into what we're trying to say in Unquiet Graves. There isn't a lot of trust for the PSNI in certain sections of the community," said Mr Murray.

"Trust needs to be built for both communities to move on." Growing up in west Belfast, he said he and many others saw the UDR and RUC in the same way others viewed the IRA. "I viewed them as de facto paramilitary groups," he added. "But I'm still willing to speak and work with former members of the UDR and RUC to move forward."

Asked if Weir gave him an insight into the Glenanne Gang's mindset, he said: "It's OK to sit in 2019 and reflect that these people were psychopaths. In many ways, they were born into an era when this was sanitised. It was normal behaviour in many working class areas. I think admitting this is a great justice to the victims," he said.

"Without him, I'm not sure a lot of families would get some semblance of truth."

Unquiet Graves: The Story Of The Glenanne Gang premieres at The Movie House, Dublin Road, tomorrow at 6pm.

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