A TOP RUC officer raised the issue of paramilitary collusion personally with Margaret Thatcher but his concerns were ignored, an explosive new documentary will claim.
Former head of Special Branch Raymond White said that the message he received from the then British Government on the use of agents in the dirty war was "carry on - just don't get caught".
The British Government's attitude to running agents and the extent of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces over three decades will be examined next week in a special RTE documentary, Collusion.
The documentary also features:
*An interview with former British Security Minister Michael Mates who conceded that the scale of collusion was much greater than he imagined when in power.
*Claims from a member of the gang responsible for the Dublin/Monaghan bombings that the intention was to foment a civil war.
*An interview with former PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde who said a former head of the Army's secret Force Research Unit (FRU), Gordon Kerr, should have been put on trial.
*Claims from former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan that senior British Government officials attempted to pressure her into halting her investigation into new murders involving collusion.
The documentary features interviews with most of the major players in policing and security over the last three decades.
Former Special Branch head Mr White told journalist John Ware that he personally asked the Thatcher administration for a legal framework for the handling of agents within paramilitary groups.
"Senior officials and senior ministers, as it were, did not give us the support or the guidance that I felt we were entitled to anyway," he told the programme.
Mr Ware then asked him: "The non-response as it were by Prime Ministers and officials to your request for a legal framework was 'carry on, but don't get caught'. Is that fair comment?"
To which Mr White replied: "Yes. I think that captures it in a nutshell."
The programme claims that the British Army decided early on that it could not fight a war on two fronts and concentrated its efforts on "destroying" the Provisional IRA, at the same time as publicly stating that it was dealing with the conflict in an even-handed way.
Such was the extent of collusion in the 1980s the programme claims that an RUC Special Branch officer tipped off a UDA brigadier about an informer - placing the man's life at risk. PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton told journalist Brian Rowan that a police officer could potentially face serious charges in relation to the allegations.
Covert Army squad FRU recruited and ran agents within paramilitary organisations during the Troubles. Former PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, told the programme he believed that justice would have been better served if Gordon Kerr, FRU commander from 1986 to 1991, had faced a public trial.
In 1987 Kerr recruited former soldier Brian Nelson as an agent. Nelson's job was to infiltrate the UDA.
Kerr regarded Nelson as his jewel in the crown.
For the next three years Nelson colluded with murder gangs to shoot IRA suspects and innocent nationalists. Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane was one of those murdered.
In a prison journal Nelson claimed that Kerr had suggested that the UDA should carry out a bomb attack on an oil refinery in Co Cork to put pressure on the Irish Government at a time when it was resisting efforts to extradite republican suspects back to the north.
Even as late as 2003, six years after the Good Friday Agreement, the British Government was still attempting to hide levels of collusion, according to former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.
Baroness O'Loan told the programme that when she began to investigate new murders involving collusion, senior British Government officials tried to put pressure on her not to continue.
Her investigation eventually uncovered shocking levels of collusion between police officers and what she described as serial killers. Her report found that Special Branch officers gave the killers immunity and officers ensured the murderers were not caught.
According to the RTE documentary, a new collusion investigation has been launched into 19 other linked killings.
*Collusion, a NewRed TV production in association with the RTE Investigation Unit, will be broadcast on Monday on RTE One at 9.35pm