Blood & Broken Glass: Northern Ireland's violent countdown towards peace, 1991-93, by Ken Wharton

An evidence based account of how criminal psychopaths and serial killers infiltrated and flourished within the IRA, UVF and UFF ranks
Blood & Broken Glass is Ken Wharton’s tenth tome and a triumphant tribute to all whom served on the troubled Emerald Isle. Told from the humble, patrolling foot soldiers’ point of view – an all too neglected perspective – it is an essential read for anyone who served in the province. But this is not just a book for the soldiers’ forgotten voices; it is a well-balanced counterweight to the prevailing left-wing narrative that has hijacked Troubles history in recent years and sought to portray Op Banner veterans as little more than demons of the state. Ken utterly demolishes this warped version of history and in his now famous, atrocity by atrocity, grinding style, forensically details virtually every single terrorist attack, sectarian murder and violent incident that took place from 1991 to 1993.

The details of what Ken uncovers are grim and unforgettable. Certainly, for anyone whoever claimed that either Republican or Loyalist violence was justified, their case would fall apart after reading this book.

The passage of time and the death or retirement of major terrorist players in the post-ceasefire years has loosened lips and given confidence to their victims to speak out. The fear of the midnight knock on the door from gangsters masquerading as freedom fighters has lifted and been replaced by a burning desire for the truth to out. Because they know he is only interested in the truth and has gained their trust relatives of lost loved ones on both sides of the divide are emboldened to open up to Ken in a brutally candid way. Their feelings come spilling out and amidst the anger and raw emotion are new insights and investigative gems that were overlooked at the time.

Retired detectives and army veterans in their twilight years with nothing to gain and no axe to grind share intimate details of their stories that they couldn’t before for fear of official reprimand or vexatious persecution, from either the UK government or Sinn Fein funded lawyers.

There are numerous stories of heartrending tragedy and unbelievable cruelty; an RUC Constable weeks from retirement helping his wife out in her antiques shop on a sunny afternoon when in walks an IRA assassin and shoots him dead on the spot; another RUC Constable describes the incredible whoosh of a high-velocity sniper round as like ‘being like hit in the face with a cricket bat’, as it races past his cheek and drops his comrade beside him. The cold-hearted betrayal of a mainland-based Paratrooper engaged to a local Protestant girl and ‘dicked’ to the IRA by a taxi-driver who regularly picked him up from the airport and dropped him off at her house, their romantic reunion shattered as he was shot to death by a murder gang in front of his new family. Or the young Lieutenant frantically searching through reeds and cold South Armagh streams for his dying Corporal with tears running down his face, as he realises he’s been shot and finds him with the life gurgling out of him.

Ken leaves no stone unturned and every single fallen member of the security forces killed or injured during this time, has his story lovingly, faithfully and accurately told, by comrades and independent witnesses who were there at the time. A Troubles veteran himself, he views this as a debt of honour and when it comes to remembering the fallen Ken adopts the famous American Ranger code of, ‘Leave no man behind.’ He doesn’t and their stories speak volumes.

It is an uncomfortable truth which Ken acknowledges that by the 1990s the IRA had evolved into an at-times highly capable and grimly impressive, ‘professional’ machine. The examples of the unnervingly accurate Downing Street bomb attacks and successful sniper strikes against patrolling soldiers show levels of planning, commitment and military skills that were impressive and effective by any standard. Reluctantly, one has to add – in the interest of journalist and historical balance – that on occasion courage and ingenuity was shown in the carrying out of full-frontal attacks on professional British soldiers.

But at the same time Blood and Broken Glass is packed with more typical accounts from innocent civilian victims of IRA, UVF and UFF attacks, which illustrate that many of the members of these organisations were anything but the ‘skilled’ terrorists described above, and more akin to serial killers and clinical psychopaths. I genuinely believe that to be a more accurate description, based on the compelling evidence presented by the author.

The book contains numerous extremely disturbing accounts of clearly psychotic individuals on either side of the divide routinely targeting, torturing and murdering people whom they knew to be innocent. Oftentimes they would gleefully mock surviving relatives and run off in fits of laughter to ‘celebrate’, despite knowing they had slaughtered an innocent man, woman or child. And then when a few days later the lie was inevitably exposed and the victims exonerated, they would casually chalk it up to ‘faulty intel’, issue a half-hearted apology containing a veiled threat, and carry on killing regardless.

Some individuals in Ken’s book are estimated to have personally killed and tortured over fifty victims – most of who are now accepted to have been completely innocent. And I’m not talking about planting bombs that take out several soldiers at once, but coldly and deliberately seeking out individual civilians for personal, prolonged torture, one at a time. These sorts of killers weren’t targeting security forces – unless an easy target presented - but instead actively sought out innocent members of civilian communities. Some have since been exposed as serial deviants or as individuals of extremely low character and I am genuinely puzzled as to why there has not been a governmental inquiry into their predation and why the Good Friday Agreement ‘go easy’ principles were applied to them.

It is clear to anyone with only a rudimentary knowledge of criminal psychology that many of these men – especially those in UVF and UFF leadership positions, or the internal discipline IRA ‘nutting squad’ were not actually terrorists but serial-killers given free reign. One sadistic individual even went to the time and trouble of designing his very own mediaeval torture chamber; needless to say it was primarily used on fellow Catholics and it never let him down once, securing confessions every time. This is not the behaviour of a ‘freedom fighter’ or a ‘traditional terrorist’, but that of a clinical psychopath who has become a serial killer, hiding in plain sight. There are no other words for it.

If in mainland Britain we had active criminal gangs containing individuals who were known to be torture fetishists, whom randomly kidnapped and kicked down the doors of sleeping innocents, then spirited them off into the night and had done this on twenty or thirty occasions – well those individuals would not be classified as terrorists or gangsters but serial killers, for that is what they would be. And once apprehended they would be treated as such and never released, but rather locked up where phycologists could study them at leisure, so society could at least gain some clinical value from their existence by increasing our knowledge of psychopathology.

Instead, what is truly remarkable and scarcely believable, is that many of these individuals are roaming free amongst us, rehoused in the UK mainland by British councils or even carrying official ‘Letters of Comfort’ issued by our very own government. Collectively these men wilfully carried out deliberate ‘bloody Sundays’ every day of the week against their own communities, yet it is utterly astonishing to think the law has washed its hands of them and that the psychiatric profession and mainstream media are completely disinterested in what they’re upto now or how many hundreds they may have killed.

The very highest levels of Sinn Fein/ IRA, UVF and UFF leadership must have known that they were harbouring such individuals in their ranks and it is hard to even contemplate their repeated complaints and attempts to rewrite history, which seem utterly trivial in comparison to the documented horrors of what went on in their names and under their very noses, for thirty long years.

Once again Ken Wharton is to be commended for his fearless work.

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