Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

British plotted to attack primary school in Belleek, ex-RUC officer claims

A former RUC officer has claimed British intelligence was behind a plot to attack a south Armagh primary school during the Troubles.  Ex-RUC man and self confessed Glenanne Gang member John Weir made the shocking claim in a a new documentary, which premiered in Belfast on Thursday last.

In ‘Unquiet Graves: The Story of the Glenanne Gang’, Weir alleges that British intelligence tried to persuade the Ulster Volunteer Force to attack Belleek Primary School and kill children and teachers in retaliation for the 1976 Kingsmill massacre where 10 protestant workmen were killed. 

“The plan that was decided on was to shoot up a school in Belleek,” Weir tells filmmaker, Sean Murray in the feature length documentary, adding that the targets would be “children and teachers”.  Gunmen from the UVF ultimately refused to carry out the horrifying attack on the local school. Details of the planned school attack were previously revealed last summer.

Unquiet Graves Director, Murray said speaking to Mr Weir, who now lives in South Africa, was “by far, the most chilling part of creating this documentary.”

“As a former member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) who admitted to being in the Glenanne gang, his claim that the British military intelligence tried to arrange for loyalist paramilitaries to attack a primary school is shocking.”

Weir said the alleged plans by British Intelligence for loyalist paramilitaries to attack the primary school were an attempt to cause the situation in the North to “spiral out of control” and foment a “civil war”.

“From their vision such a war would be quite short; they thought they could have a quick, short and sharp process of cleansing out the IRA,” said Mr Murray, who said that, in granting the interview with the filmmaker, Weir was engaging in a “cathartic process – I think he was trying to get as much information off his chest as possible”.

The film is based on Anne Cadwallader’s book, Lethal Allies which details how the Glennane Gang of loyalist paramilitaries, working in collusion with RUC officers and Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers in the mid-Ulster area, is estimated to have killed more than 120 people, the vast majority of them Catholics, between 1972 and 1976.

“Collusion has left a dark and terrible stain on the north of Ireland, the pain that’s been caused to thousands of people here is incredible,” said Belfast born filmmaker, Murray.

“If there is ever going to be a healing process on this island, if we’re ever going to move forward in reconciliation, people need to be able to tell their stories, but more importantly we need truth from the state about their role in the conflict.”

“This is another square in that mosaic, the Glenanne story.  There is a school of thought in transitional justice that you should work from below, it should be victim-centred and my work situates itself in that.”