Northern Ireland police cover-up RUC report by “racist’ officer”

Posted By: October 09, 2017

Distributed by Irish National Caucus

“This article from the Irish Times of Dublin provides further proof — if proof be needed— that the former RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) was deeply racist and sectarian. In July 1920, Winston Churchill raised the infamous question: “What if the Protestants in the six counties were given weapons and . . . charged with maintaining law and order and policing the country?” Note well that Churchill —famed master of the most precise and compelling   word— did not use “Unionists/Loyalists ”  but “Protestants.’’ 

Thus, England set up the Six Counties of Northern Ireland as both a racist (anti-Irish, pro-British), and a sectarian (anti-Catholic, committed to Protestant supremacy) State. 

So that Congressional Staffers can have on hand further information on the RUC, I also attach a copy of my 1999 Congressional Testimony: “CREATING A NEW AND ACCEPTABLE POLICE SERVICE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND.” Testimony of Fr. Sean McManus, President, Irish National Caucus before the House International Relations Committee.  April 22, 1999.”

— Fr. Sean McManus.

PSNI criticized over refusal to release report on policing reform during the Troubles

Phil Miller. Irish Times. Dublin. Monday, October 9, 2017

John Morton who wrote an “ambitious” report recommending 
an increase in the size of the RUC special branch in 1973 as 
paramilitary violence was reaching a height

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has refused to release a report on policing reform during the Troubles which was written by a British intelligence officer who held racist views.

John Morton wrote an “ambitious” report recommending an increase in the size of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) special branch in 1973 as paramilitary violence was reaching a height.

The PSNI, which holds RUC records from that era, has refused to disclose the document, arguing that the Morton report was exempt from freedom of information laws because it related to a “security body.” A PSNI spokesperson declined to comment further on the matter.
Morton, who spent decades as a colonial policeman in India, wrote in his memoirs that, over time, “it dawned on me, and became deeply ingrained, that the British were the rulers of India and that the Indians were a sort of immature, backward and needy people whom it was the natural British function to govern and administer.


“Correspondingly, it also seemed the natural place for the Indians to serve their masters, the Sahibs, and show deference and respect towards them.”

Morton continued: “It was inspiring to realize that I was born into this splendid heritage and that to be British was to be a superior sort of person.”

Morton later became a director at MI5 and held various positions inside Whitehall. He died in 1985.

Queen’s University Belfast legal scholar Dr. Kevin Hearty criticized the PSNI’s decision to conceal the report.

“This is not a security issue by any stretch of the imagination, it’s about saving face over what is likely to be another damaging revelation about the RUC special branch.

“The PSNI should facilitate a proper and informed discussion of the ethos, culture and the directives that RUC special branch worked under by releasing this report,” he said.

Some declassified British files indicate Morton’s report considered how to enhance the intelligence capabilities of the RUC.

In the mid-1970s, officials planned to reduce the size of the British army in Northern Ireland and hand over some of its duties, like covert surveillance, to the police. The policy was known as police primacy.

Dr. Hearty said: “If special branch were working to police primacy policies devised by a racist, it would add further strain to their fragile reputation.”

The RUC special branch was involved in numerous controversies during the mid-1970s, including alleged collusion with loyalist groups.

Files from 1976 show that the RUC proposed “a comprehensive system of collation and speedy dissemination of information, together with protection of special branch intelligence and sources and the development of specialist high-level surveillance teams”.

One British official commented that “the Morton report set out proposals to cover this and progress has been made by the RUC”.

The report’s recommendations were still relevant as late as 1977 when a Northern Ireland office civil servant wrote that “the suggested special branch increase stems from the Morton report of 1973”.

Morton’s counter-insurgency advice was not just limited to the Troubles. He went to Sri Lanka in 1979 where the conflict between the Tamil minority and the ruling Sinhalese majority was brewing.

There, Morton made “practical recommendations for the total reorganization of the intelligence apparatus,” according to a UK foreign office file.

John Percival Morton, CMG OBE, better known as Jack Morton, was born in India in 1911. He joined the Indian Imperial Police Service in 1930 in the midst of anti-colonial unrest.

He commanded an armed paramilitary police unit before becoming a special branch officer. While raiding an Indian independence activist’s house in Amritsar, he found literature about Michael Collins and Sinn Féin.
“The Irish connection and the wider ramifications of the revolutionary movement made a deep impression on me at the time,” he said. “My interest in special branch matters now quickened.”

In 1944 Morton took charge of Lahore District at the age of 33, the youngest officer to command its 4,000-strong police force.

As partition unfolded, Morton was offered a job with MI5 in Baghdad. He rose through the ranks of MI5, becoming a director.



Testimony of Fr. Sean McManus, President, Irish National Caucus

before the House International Relations Committee.  April 22, 1999




If the peace process in Northern Ireland is to succeed — and if the great promise of the Good Friday Agreement is to be fulfilled — it is absolutely essential that there be a police service that is acceptable to the Catholic/Nationalist community.1]  There has never been such a police service in Northern Ireland — and that has always been one of the fundamental causes of The Troubles.


Indeed, the police personify what the conflict is about — the imbalance of power between the two communities and the inequality and sectarianism of the State of Northern Ireland.


To explain why Catholics have never accepted the police force in Northern Ireland, it is necessary to give this brief historical background. [2]  (It is not my wish to rake up the past but without basic knowledge of the history of the police we simply will not be able to understand why there is such a deep distrust of the police in the Catholic community.)


Before the British Government partitioned Ireland — through the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 — the whole island of Ireland was generally policed by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) [3], which was largely Catholic.


In 1912 the British Government voted to grant Home Rule to Ireland (self-government under Britain).  The Unionists in the north-east of Ireland raised an extra-legal army, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), to oppose Home Rule, on the grounds that “Home Rule is Rome Rule.”  The UVF was exclusively Protestant.  It boasted 100,000 men, and trained and drilled openly, with the collusion of powerful elements in the British Army.  In April the UVF even imported 25,000 rifles and 2,500,000 rounds of ammunition from Germany.


The Unionist Leader, Sir Edward Carson, was a Member of the British War Cabinet.  When the First World War broke out, the UVF was officially incorporated into the British Army as a separate Ulster Division — without decommissioning their weapons.  (After the 1916 Rising the Unionists consented to put most of their weapons into British Army arsenals for safety lest they be stolen by Irish rebels.  But some weapons were still kept by the UVF.)


The Irish War of Independence started in 1919 and was fought mostly in the 26 counties of Southern Ireland (what is now the Irish Republic.)  In 1920 the UVF (in what now makes up the six counties of Northern Ireland) began to reorganize — again with the approval and collusion of the British Government.  By October 1920 the UVF had 20,000-30,000 members.




In July 1920, Winston Churchill posed the question, “What if the Protestants in the six counties were given weapons and . . . charged with maintaining law and order and policing the country?”  The British Government then proceeded to set up the Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) and recruited the UVF wholesale into it.


The USC was composed of three sections: “A” Specials — full-time police; “B” Specials — part-time; and “C” Specials to be used in time of emergency.  (The “C” Specials were mostly armed from UVF arsenals.)  The “B” Specials stored their weapons at home and frequently patrolled their local areas.  By July 1921, the “A” Specials had 3,500 members and the “B” Specials had 16,000 members.  By the middle of 1922, the British Government estimated there were 48,000 in the USC.



In mid-1921 Partition came into effect and the brand new state of Northern Ireland was established with its own government (but still under the British Government) and given control over its police.

The Catholics/Nationalists suddenly found themselves cut off from the rest of Ireland — cornered as an artificially-created minority in the new, sectarian[4] State.  The Catholics would be treated as second-class citizens and “kept in their place” by a sectarian police force. Professor John Brewer, in his recent and very important book, Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, 1600-1998: The Mote and the Beam, says, “Anti-Catholicism in the new state of Northern Ireland existed in its pure form, operating at the levels of ideas, behavior and social structure  as it came to shape the society whose state Protestants now controlled . . . The ascendancy in the North was effected immediately by means of the Protestantisation of the administration and personnel of the state . . . The Protestantisation of the police was critical to the ascendancy (italics added).”[5]


In 1920-22, there were serious anti-Catholic “pogroms”.  Many thousands of Catholics were driven from their homes and work. James Craig, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, commended those responsible for the pogroms. The USC was involved in the pogroms.  Craig would later introduce legislation that would indemnify the police. [6]






On June 1, 1922, the Northern Ireland Government set up a new police force — the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).


The RUC was recruited from ex-RIC members and former “A” Specials.  The “B” Specials — numbering about 20,000 — were kept on.[7]  At the beginning, the RUC was 21% Catholic (mostly ex-RIC).  By the 1930’s the RUC was 17% Catholic and by 1969 it was 11% Catholic.  By 1998 it was 7% Catholic, in a region where Catholics are about 43%.[8]


In all of that time, there was not one Catholic member of the Northern Ireland Government until 1971.  Whether one takes the view that Catholics could not or would not participate in the Government of Northern Ireland makes little difference to the end result. As Prime Minister Craig would later boast, Northern Ireland had “a Protestant Government for a Protestant people.”[9]


The RUC and “B” Specials were seen by the Catholics as a sectarian police force — in effect the armed wing of the Unionist Party.[10]  Furthermore, the Special Powers Act[11] provided the police with unlimited powers, thus making Northern Ireland in effect a Police State.




The demands of the Civil Rights Movement in 1968 — apart from “one person, one vote” — were the following: (1) the disbanding of the “B” Specials; (2) repeal of the Special Powers Act; and (3) the disarming of the RUC.


The Civil Rights marchers were beaten off the streets by the RUC and the “B” Specials.  And in August 1969 hundreds of Catholics were burned out in Belfast.  The “B” Specials were involved in the attacks and the RUC did little to prevent the attacks. [12] Understandably, all this evoked memories of the “pogroms” of 1920-22.


The Scarman Report — commissioned by the British Government to investigate the disturbances in 1969 — said “the Catholic minority no longer believed the RUC was impartial” and that the “B” Specials were “totally distrusted by the Catholics, who saw them as the strong arm of the Protestant ascendancy.”[13]


The “B” Specials were disbanded in 1969 and were replaced by the Ulster Defense Regiment (UDR).  Many of the former “B” Specials became members of the UDR.  In 1991 the UDR was replaced by the Royal Irish Regiment and was incorporated into the British Army (reminiscent of how the original UVF was incorporated into the British Army in 1914.)  Needless to say, these cosmetic changes did little to instill confidence in the Catholic community.[14]






When the Civil Rights Movement was beaten off the streets, the Provisional IRA emerged to take their place, especially after Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972, when the British Army killed 14 unarmed innocent Civil Rights marchers in Derry.  And from 1971 until the cease-fire of 1994, the IRA fought a deadly war with the British Army and the RUC.

In their attempts to destroy the IRA the RUC treated the entire Catholic community as the enemy — the water in which the IRA swam.  Catholics were arrested, mistreated, tortured, and imprisoned.  The RUC were involved in collusion with the Loyalist paramilitaries, leaking confidential security files to them and providing them with other material and logistical help.[15]  Other RUC abuses included extra-judicial killings, a shoot-to-kill policy, serious human rights violations, terrorizing the Catholic community with indiscriminate and deadly use of plastic bullets, and harassment and intimidation of attorneys.  In August 1979 the Irish National Caucus succeeded in having a ban put on the sale of U.S. weapons to the RUC. [16]  That ban, despite British government lobbying, has remained in effect.  The RUC has been condemned by Amnesty International, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Commission on the Prevention of Torture (1994), Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, the Rapporteuer of the European Union, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (1995), and the United Nations Committee Against Torture (1995, 1998), the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation on Human Rights, and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.


Yet since 1968, despite all those crimes and abuses — and the killing of over 80 innocent victims — not one RUC member has spent a day in prison for crimes committed while on duty[17].  Furthermore, despite the RUC’s terrible history and record, the RUC refuses to accept that there is anything fundamentally wrong with the police in Northern Ireland.  That obdurate response — that deep denial — is probably the most serious problem of all.  All this makes it clear that the problem is not about just “a few bad apples” in the RUC.  The problem is the RUC and the RUC is the problem.


Can anyone seriously claim that the Scarman Report still does not apply today — 27 years later — when it says, “the Catholic minority no longer believed the RUC


was impartial?”[18]  Indeed, it could be argued that Catholics distrust the RUC now more than ever, especially because of the RUC’s disgraceful conduct in the case of Robert Hamill and because of the RUC’s death threats against Rosemary Nelson.[19]


That said, however, it must also be acknowledged that the RUC has suffered heavy casualties: 302 were killed and over 8,000 injured by the IRA and others.  We must sympathize with their loss, as we must sympathize with everyone killed and injured in The Troubles.






This brief history shows that the police tradition in Northern Ireland has been one of arming the dominant Protestants and allowing them to police the powerless minority.  The police tradition has not been one of serving the Catholic community.  Let me repeat the quote from Professor Brewer: “The Protestantisation of the police was critical to the ascendancy.”  Now, of course, the ascendancy is not what it used to be, but the fact that the RUC is almost exclusively Protestant means that the Unionist community has a monopoly on the ultimate power in Northern Ireland.


Therefore, a profound transformation — a root and branch change; a top to bottom shake-up — is needed.


The old discredited police system — based on dominance and supremacy — must be replaced by a police service that is seen to be dedicated to serving the community and protecting individual rights.


Until the little Catholic boy or girl in the working-class areas of Northern Ireland can look at a police officer and say, “I want to grow up and serve my community like that officer,” there will not be an acceptable police service in Northern Ireland.  Can anyone seriously claim that many Catholic kids in Northern Ireland could today have such an ambition or dream?


The peace process and the Good Friday Agreement give a chance to all the people on the island of Ireland to put aside the old grievances and hostilities and work together for a peaceful society, based on human rights, equality, mutual respect, and forgiveness.


The Good Friday Agreement states:

“. . .            They [the participants] believe that the agreement provides the opportunity for a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole . . . The participants believe it essential that policing structures and arrangements are such that the police service is professional, effective and efficient, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control; accountable, both under the law for its actions and to the community it serves; representative of the society it polices, and operates within a coherent and co-operative criminal justice system, which conforms with

human rights norms…”[20]

Surely it must be obvious to all that this can not happen without a profound transformation — a root and branch change — in the police.  The new police service must be one that Catholics could join and to which they could give their allegiance.  Mere cosmetic changes — as were done in the past — will not suffice.

The RUC is 93% Protestant, 90% male, and 100% Unionist.




A new police service for Northern Ireland is clearly and desperately needed.


The following proposals would seem to be the minimal requirements for a “new beginning to policing” that would be acceptable to the Catholic/Nationalist community:


  • The police must be downsized from 13,000 to about 3,000. [21]


  • The new police service must be about 43% Catholic in all areas and ranks, reflecting the Catholic population of Northern Ireland.


  • The police leadership must have the trust and respect of both communities in Northern Ireland.


  • A civilian Police Authority — with real authority to appoint and dismiss — should be created, fairly representing both sections of the community.


  • The title and uniform must not be offensive to  Catholic/Nationalists. The initials RUC have about as much chance of being acceptable in Catholic working-class areas as the initials  IRA have of being acceptable in Protestant areas or the initials             KKK  have of being acceptable in an African-American area.


  • The new police must be free from a sectarian/racist attitude.  They are there to serve the community, not to oppress it.


  • All repressive legislation must be revoked because oppressive legislation means an oppressive police.


  • Members of secret, anti-Catholic organizations — like the Orange Order — should not be permitted in the new police service


  • The police must be unarmed and live in the community they police. (Unarmed police may seem strange to Americans — but remember the  police in the rest of Ireland and Britain are unarmed.)


  • Close Castlereagh interrogation center — and the other interrogation centers — as an important gesture to many who see it as symbolic of the RUC abuses in the nationalist community.


  • Increased human rights training and respect for diversity training both for new recruits and current police personnel.  The increased training should also include cross-border efforts with the Garda in the Republic of Ireland as well.


  • Bring in new police leadership starting at the very top, who will publicly apologize to all of the community for past policing abuses to help bring about much-needed reconciliation.


  • The head of the policing service should have the clear and unequivocal authority (consistent with due process) to fire officers who do not measure up to new performance and human rights standards.








[1] The two parties in Northern Ireland that represent the overwhelming number of Catholics — the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) and Sinn Fein (which means “We Ourselves” or “Ourselves Alone”) both consistently insist that the RUC is unacceptable to Catholics.



[2] I rely heavily here on Michael Farrell’s book, Arming the Protestants: The Formation of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, 1920-7, Brandon Books, Ireland, 1983.



[3] The prefix “Royal” was added to the Irish Constabulary to “reward” them for crushing the Fenian Rising in 1867.


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[4] Sectarianism is the other side of the coin to racism.  Whereas racism is based on false claims about biological science, sectarianism is based on false claims about Scripture that justifies the mistreatment of a particular religious group.  Historically, British rulers treated Irish Catholics in a racist way — Prime Minister Tony Blair and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam being some of the very few exceptions.  Within Northern Ireland, Unionist/Protestant rulers treated Catholics in a sectarian way.  (Of course, racism and sectarianism often overlapped.) Just as one can not understand the mistreatment of African-Americans in the United States without reference to racism, neither can one understand the mistreatment of Catholics in Northern Ireland without reference to both racism and sectarianism.



[5] John Brewer, Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, 1600-1998: The Mote and the Beam, St. Martin’s Press, NY, 1998, p. 92-3.  Mr. Brewer, who is not Catholic but Protestant, is Professor of Sociology at Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.



[6] Brewer, ibid., p. 95.



[7] In 1926 the “A” Specials and the “C” Specials were disbanded.  The “C” Specials were allowed to keep their weapons — leading to the situation where Protestants would have an extraordinarily large number of licensed arms.  (For example today in Northern Ireland there are over 138,000 privately licensed arms, the vast majority in the hands of Protestants.) (Gerry Moriarity, “Decommissioning Legal Guns Stillan Issue,” Irish Times, September 28, 1998.)  “Most of these are shotguns and airguns, together with 13,000 small-bore rifles and 12,700 handguns.” (David McKittrick, “Ulster’s Arsenal”, Independent, December 19, 1998.)



[8] In 1992-93 the Opsahl Commission did extensive examination of attitudes in Northern Ireland.  It found that Catholic refusal to join the RUC was “due less to fear of reprisal from the IRA and more because of the Nationalist perception of the RUC as the instrument of a state which is still seen as British and Unionist and therefore as not ‘belonging to their community’.”



[9] Mr. David Trimble, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, has recently paraphrased this by saying he wants “a pluralist state for a pluralist people.”  That is to be greatly welcomed.  I hope Mr. Trimble will now support a “pluralist police for a pluralist people.”



[10] In 1936 the National Council of Civil Liberties (London) decried the lack of police autonomy and the political control of the RUC by the Unionist Party and charged that the Unionists had created “under the shadow of the British constitution a permanent machine of dictatorship.”



[11] Even the notorious South African Minister for Justice, BJ Vorster , expressed envy at the Special Powers Act, saying his government would “be willing to exchange all the legislation [of his Government’s new Coercion Act of 1963] for one clause [the right to imprison without charge or trial] of the Northern Ireland Special Powers Act.” (Brewer, ibid., p.93.)  The Special Powers Act was replaced by the equally draconian act, the Emergency Provision Act (1973), and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (1974).



[12] “Civil unrest was widespread in Belfast and Derry.  Thousands were burned out of their homes: RUC and ‘B’  Specials were attacking civil rights marchers.” (Liz Trainor, “Peace welcome but no IRA ‘surrender’ ”, Irish News, November 24, 1998.)



[13] Scarman Report, Vol. 1, 1972, pages 15-17.



[14] The Special Powers Act was not repealed.  A brief attempt was made to disarm the RUC; they were disarmed November 11, 1970, but re-armed in November 1971.



[15] c.f. Stevens Report, 1990.



[16] “A few years ago, the constabulary decided to re-equip with the Ruger, a fast-firing .357 Magnum handgun, to replace a European-made semi-automatic pistol.  What should have been a routine transaction aroused  the opposition of the Irish National Caucus . . . the caucus has its ardent partisans in Congress, and House Speaker O’Neill was moved to oppose granting an export license for the guns.” (New York Times editorial, “What’s A Boycott Between Friends?”, p. A22, May 28, 1980.)



[17] Some RUC members have been imprisoned for crimes committed while not officially on duty.  An inquiry in 1988 produced evidence of a conspiracy in the RUC.  Despite this, the British Attorney General, Sir Patrick Mayhew, later Secretary of State for Northern Ireland — ruled that it would not be “in the national interest” to prosecute the RUC officers involved.



[18] The very police officers criticized in the Scarman Report continued to be promoted over the following 20 years.  Former Taoiseach Garrett FitzGerald recounts a meeting with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in June 1985: “Looking recently at the Scarman Report we [FitzGerald and his staff] had recalled an incident in which there had been a machine-gun attack on the Divis Flats in Belfast in which a child had been killed, and a second incident in which whole streets of Catholics had been burned out.  In both these incidents and in a further one later on, all of which had been mentioned in the Scarman Report, a particular police officer had been involved, although he had not been named there.  We [FitzGerald and his staff] were astonished to hear recently that he had been appointed to one of the highest offices in the Northern Ireland police.  What kind of sensitivity did that show?  Did she [Margaret Thatcher] think that the minority could support a police force with that kind of thing happening?” (Garrett FitzGerald, “All In A Life”, McMillan and Co., London, 1991, p. 549.)  The case mentioned by FitzGerald in 1985 has an uncanny echo in the case of Stephen Lawrence.  Stephen Lawrence was a young Black man in England who had been murdered by a racist gang of Whites in April 1993.  The murder was never solved.  A British Government commission led by Sir William McPherson found that the investigation into his death had been marred by “racism, professional incompetence and bad leadership”.  The Report severely criticized a police officer, Jonathan McIvor, who was in charge of the investigation.  After being criticized for negligence, McIvor was transferred to the RUC in 1994.  He held several posts before being put in charge of the RUC’s training center.  Then in late 1998 he became sub-divisional commander of ‘L’ division in Enniskillen.  RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan defended McIvor, saying “he had every confidence in him.”  (Suzanne Breen, “Flanagan Says He Supports Officer”, Irish Times, February 26, 1999.)



[19] Robert Hamill of Portadown was kicked to death by a Loyalist mob on April 27, 1997, as heavily armed police officers sat in a Land Rover and refused to help.  Rosemary Nelson, a prominent human rights attorney in Lurgan — and the attorney of Robert Hamill and the Garvaghy Road Residents — was killed by a car bomb planted by the Red Hand Defenders on March 15, 1999.  She had claimed in her testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights that she had been subjected to personal and verbal abuse and had received death threats from the RUC.



[20] Good Friday Agreement, from the section entitled ‘Policing and Justice’, Paragraphs 1-2.



[21] The Northern Ireland population is 1.6 million.  So with a police force of 13,000 that means there is one RUC officer for every 135 citizens in Northern Ireland.  In England the ratio is 1 to 446, Scotland is 1 to 341.  The Irish Republic ratio is 1 to 325.  (c.f. Chris Ryder, “Patten Review turns RUC into an Insecurity Force”, Irish Times, Nov. 19, 1998.)









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