By way of an apology to those who were expecting the Andy Tyrie interview the other night and did not get to read it then due to it being uploaded late, I have transcribed this interview with Michael Stone of Milltown infamy which was published in the UDA’s Ulster magazine in September 1991. Again, it is offered without comment or editorial. As with the Tyrie interview it is a fascinating artifact of the conflict as it stood in the early 90s, and an insight into the thinking of one of Northern Ireland’s most notorious paramilitary figures.
Michael Stone comes from the Braniel Estate, a working class area of East Belfast, where his father worked all his life as a steel worker at the Harland and Wolff shipyard. He is one of a family of six, with one brother and four sisters. Stone who married twice [has] seven sons and two daughters. He has been a loyalist paramilitant for twenty years and without doubt his picture, shown opposite, is one of the most dramatic to come out of our troubled history. It immediately evokes memories of that day in March 1988 when the world witnessed, on their television screens, the sight of this lone loyalist, carrying out a grenade and gun attack at Milltown Cemetary Belfast, in the face of thousands of republicans. For many loyalists his actions exemplified the firm, determined stand of beleaguered Ulster against twenty years of republican terror and British Government duplicity. For others especially in the republican community, his actions were an outrage. Robert Williams met Michael Stone, in the surprisingly bright and pleasant surroundings of the new visiting area of the Maze Prison, where he spoke openly and frankly on this and other questions.
Q: What inspired you to become a member of the UDA?
A: I became a member of the UDA in 1972 at the time of great political and civil upheaval, the PIRA had declared war on my community and country. I like so many other young men came forward in defence of our families our communities and ultimately our country, which was reeling from the effects of republican violence. Several members of my family were terrorized out of their homes at gunpoint by republican gunmen in the north & west areas of Belfast, friends and neighbours were victims of the IRA’s violent campaign. I literally joined up to protect all that I hold dear, my family, my political and religious freedom, my life. My heart has always held a special place for the UDA as a political and defence organization. The dedication and comradeship it[‘s] membership has shown in defence of our country throughout this conflict has been exemplary. I am known as a freelance loyalist volunteer and to a certain degree that is correct. However I have always been a UDA member, I was sworn into the UDA and throughout these years I’ve remained loyal to that organization.
Q: What you did at Milltown was described as an outrage – how do you feel about this?
A: As an active volunteer I did my duty to the best of my ability. I was engaged in a retaliatory operation against Provisional Sinn Fein/IRA. My targets were the President and Vice President of that republican organization. I would disagree with the term outrage. The slaughter of innocents at Enniskillen in which eleven Protestants were murdered as they remembered the dead of two World Wars would come into my thoughts when I think of outrages or atrocities. My mission was to assassinate the two republican targets, the method and execution of the mission were of course extreme! I won’t attempt to moralize on politically motivated actions. My actions were non-sectarian, they were aimed at known legitimate targets within the terrorist republican movement. My only regret is that I failed to achieve my military objective, ie. the termination of the two targets.
Q: Three people lost their lives at Milltown. Do you feel any remorse for this?
A: All violent deaths are regrettable, be they innocent civilians, members of the security forces, loyalist volunteers and even those republican terrorists who have declared war on the innocent populous of Ulster.
As for remorse with regards to the deaths of the three people killed at that terrorist funeral in Milltown cemetary. Remorse to an active loyalist volunteer is a luxury which one regrettably has to forgoe! That is not to say that I or my comrades are mindless or devoid of human emotion. We have our own families and loved ones, as do our republican enemies. I feel sorry for my enemies families, not for the active republican terrorists who pursue this war against us.
May I point out that one of those killed at Milltown was a known and active terrorist, the other two by their presence indicated to me that their loyalties and support was for the terrorist PIRA and the violence which has been carried out against the innocent populous of Ulster, particularly the loyalist population!
In a word[,] No! No remorse! No regrets and No Surrender!
Q: What do you believe your actions at Milltown have achieved?
A: Militarily! Who can honestly say what has been achieved by any act of politically motivated violence? As a loyalist volunteer, a soldier, I took the lives of three republicans, one an IRA member who would presumably have continued to support that organisation in taking the lives of those who opposed their barbaric and unjust campaign of violence. Politically! It has shown our people that those overlords within the republican movement, Sinn Fein, are no more than paper tigers, cowards. They seduce gullible young nationalists into their terrorist organisation, asking, ordering them to give their lives for old Ireland, to make the so called blood sacrifice…for republicanism. Then on that that day: 16th March 1988 when they, Adams and McGuinness had the chance to really show their supporters, if not the world, what true, if there is such a thing, true martyrdom was. Well I’m still amazed at how those so-called men retained their position and credibility within their republican areas. Propaganda value! I personally have received countless items of correspondence from loyalist supporters worldwide, they viewed my actions and those of all loyalists as just, in our fight against violent republicanism, these people who support our cause are second to none, true loyalists. It humbles me when I receive a letter or card from a widow or child who has lost a husband or father at the hands of the sectarian PIRA, these are the hidden victims of this conflict, my heart goes out to them.
Q: How do you see the immediate future of Ulster in political terms?
A: As a product of the political sterility which exists in our province, I personally cannot see a lasting solution to this conflict being found at this time. I sincerely wish those who genuinely do want to see an end to this war every success in their efforts, but realistically I don’t believe that our present political leaders have what it takes, these tired old men have had their day. I am not a politician, I am a paramilitary, I don’t have a political mandate from the Ulster electorate, but then again I am one of those who regularly put unionist politicians into the position of power. As a loyalist political prisoner, I support fully the statement issued by the command structure within this prison, in reference to the failed Brooke talks. I don’t believe that the government of the Irish Republic should have a say in the future of my, or any other loyal Ulster citizens lives. Compromise possibly, appeasement and surrender never.
Q: Would you encourage other Loyalists to follow the same path as yourself?
A: I would never be so presumptuous as to encourage any individual to become a loyalist volunteer, that is a personal decision that they have to make, and inevitably they have to live with. They have the choice to sit back and let others give their lives and liberty in defence of Ulster, or to stand up with pride by putting those once armchaired backsides on the line. It is regrettable that any loyalist should have to take up arms in order that his family, community, and country survives the sectarian genocide being waged by the PIRA, etc. From a personal standpoint I firmly believe that selective targeting of known PIRA terrorists followed by direct action is essential if we are to be victorious. I do not and never have supported random sectarian killings, I appreciate that they have happened in the past, but the freedom fighter of today is a new breed, one who is politically astute, and selective in his military actions. This is a credit to his training, motivation, and chain of command. My advice to any volunteer is, be true to yourself and above all be loyal and true to Ulster’s cause.
Q: What is your response to the accusations in the press that you were a homosexual, drug abuser, etc.?
A: My natural reaction on reading these fictitious stories in a Dublin-based scandal sheet were ones of anger which inevitably turned into hilarity. Can they say anything more derogatory about me as an individual? Who knows, maybe they will have me into bestiality next. When these republican-inspired lies appear in print, my post bag is literally flooded with letters of support from loyalists. Character assassination has been an old weapon used by one’s political opponents worldwide. It’s a case of rubbishing anyone who disagrees with their perverse, jaundiced sense of justice. The hatred of these people gives me strength. I am a father of nine wonderful children. I have never experimented with controlled substances of any description, my religious affiliations are the Church of Ireland, several of my sons are junior Orangemen, I could go on, but maybe one day I’ll disclose all those details which are relevant to my political beliefs. To go on would only serve those who wish to destroy that which is indestructible, my unquestionable loyalty to Ulster. To acknowledge their lies gives them credibility!
Q: Do you believe there is a political, as opposed to a military, solution to Ulster’s problems?
A: Whilst the Irish Republic claims through Articles Two and Three of their constitution that we are a part of their banana republic then this war will continue to be prosecuted against us by the terrorist PIRA. Some say remove these offending and illegal articles from their constitution and you will have out-manoeuvred the PIRA by removing their so-called cause. For me this is a fallacy as I, and many of my comrades, honestly believe that those engaged in republican terrorist activities against the innocents of Ulster are literally addicted to sectarian violence against the Protestant population, no romanticism, just a blood lust. Ulster loyalists, as a people, should call on the British government to unequivocally state that Ulster is an integral part of the United Kingdom, insist that the Irish Republic get their act together otherwise economic, military, and diplomatic sanctions will be used against them. Diplomatic, economic, then military action, in that order! I do sincerely wish that this war would end. I don’t want my children to grow up under the threat of republican violence and sectarian hatred, our children are our future. The nudge-nudge, wink-wink attitude towards PIRA by the Irish Republic is legendary, they are as one and should be treated as such!
Q: How do you view the re-emergence of the ULCCC in the context of the now-failed Brooke talks initiative?
A: I see the re-emergence of the ULCCC as a positive step, it represents all those parties within the loyalist community – the workers and paramilitaries, the individual on the street, they are uniquely placed to monitor the current grassroots opinions expressed throughout the country. It has the credentials to forward proposals to the unionist leadership for serious consideration in any future talks. When one thinks back to 1974 was it not the ULCCC which was instrumental in bringing down the unconstitutional Sunningdale Agreement, whilst several self-opinionated politicians of the unionist persuasion claimed that it was they who achieved this victory? One has to be realistic and acknowledge that it was the ULCCC with the backing of the loyalist working class who achieved this historic victory in the constitutional stoppage. I recall as a young volunteer taking part in those demonstrations. We distributed foodstuffs such as bread and milk to the needy, those with young children, the elderly, all these necessities of life were distributed fairly between all in our community, be they loyalist or nationalist. It remains a credit to the ULCCC leadership that their organisation ensured the fair and efficient distribution of essentials at a time when the normal supply system had ground to a complete halt. There were of course the other elements to that campaign. However the political victory will remain in the annals of Ulster’s history. Given the major role played by the ULCCC in the 1974 campaign I was amazed, as were many other loyalists, at our political representatives dismissive behaviour in not approaching the leadership of the ULCCC when in 1985 the treacherous Anglo-Irish Agreement was so callously forced upon us. Why did these politicians not ask those who had so successfully brought down the Sunningdale farce for their help and support? Had they merged into a combined force of people power, I believe that the Anglo-Irish Agreement would be nothing more than a bad memory. I’m positive that the ULCCC’s progressive proposals which were forwarded to our respective politicians reflect all our hopes and fears. I had hoped that those proposals would have been given the consideration they deserved. The ULCCC has the unequivocal support of all loyalist prisoners and its re-emergence should be welcomed by all right-thinking loyalists.
Q: Given that in many loyalist areas you are regarded as something of a folk hero, what message would you give to that community which has suffered and endured so much over the last twenty years?
A: I sincerely wish I had the answers. A magical formula that would remove your hurt and horror at the hands of Irish republican terrorists. I know I’m part of this war, like my loyalist comrades. I was engaged in counter-terrorist activities. Some may be appalled at our defensive and retaliatory actions. I acknowledge this rejection. However, personally speaking, if I had to take the lives of one hundred known republican terrorists in order that one innocent person, be they loyalist or nationalist, could survive their indiscriminate bombs and bullets, then so be it! In the aftermath of the failed Brooke initiative we must be wary, wary of Westminster’s treacherous behind closed doors dealings with Eire. We all want peace but at what price? Over the years our hopes and aspirations have been cleverly manipulated only to be dashed again and again. We must be wary too of those tired old men who would seek to march us up that infamous hill again. Ulster loyalists must remain resolute in the coming days while we awair the emergence of a new effective unionist leadership which will give direction to our cause, and bring an end to the sham of democracy under direct rule and the Anglo-Irish Diktat, and eventually lead us to peace and prosperity.
On a personal note I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those true loyalists who have given the loyalist prisoners help and support over these much-troubled years. Thank you, ‘Quis Separabit’.