Tag Archives: Operation Banner

Massereene Barracks shooting 2009 – The Despicable & Cowardly murder of two off-duty British soldiers. Lest We Forget!

 Massereene Barracks Shooting

Saturday 9th March 2009

Lest We Forget!

 

Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey

 Saturday 7th March

2009

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On 7 March 2009, two off-duty British soldiers of 38 Engineer Regiment were shot dead outside Massereene Barracks in Antrim townNorthern Ireland. Two other soldiers and two civilian delivery men were also shot and wounded during the attack.

An Irish republican paramilitary group, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility.

The shootings were the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since 1997. Two days later, the Continuity IRA shot dead a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer; the first Northern Irish police officer to be killed by paramilitaries since 1998. These attacks marked the beginning of the most intensive period of “dissident republican” activity since the start of their campaign.

 

Massereene Barracks shooting
2009 Massereene Barracks shooting is located in Northern Ireland

2009 Massereene Barracks shooting
Location Massereene Barracks, Antrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Coordinates 54°43′18″N 6°13′51″WCoordinates54°43′18″N 6°13′51″W
Date 7 March 2009
~21:40 (UTC)
Attack type
Ambush
Weapons AKM automatic rifle
Deaths 2 soldiers
Non-fatal injuries
2 soldiers, 2 civilians
Perpetrator Real IRA

Background

From the late 1960s until the late 1990s, Northern Ireland underwent a conflict known as the Troubles, in which more than 3,500 people were killed. More than 700 of those killed were British military personnel, deployed as part of Operation Banner. The vast majority of these British military personnel were killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), which waged an armed campaign to force the British to negotiate a withdrawal from Northern Ireland. In 1997 the IRA called a final ceasefire and in 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

This is widely seen as marking the end of the conflict.

 

However, breakaway groups opposed to the ceasefire (“dissident Irish republicans“) continued a low-leve  armed campaign against the British security forces in Northern Ireland (see Dissident Irish Republican campaign). The main group involved was an IRA splinter group known as the ‘Real’ IRA. In 2007, the British Army formally ended Operation Banner and greatly reduced its presence in Northern Ireland.

The low-level ‘dissident republican’ campaign continued. In January 2009, security forces had to defuse a bomb in Castlewellan  and in 2008 three separate incidents saw dissident republicans attempt to kill Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers in DerryCastlederg and Dungannon. In all three cases, PSNI officers were seriously wounded. Two of the attacks involved firearms while the other involved an under-car booby-trap bomb.

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Shooting

At about 21:40 on the evening of Saturday of 7 March, four off-duty British soldiers of the Royal Engineers walked outside the barracks to receive a pizza delivery from two delivery men. As the exchange was taking place, two masked gunmen in a nearby car (a green Vauxhall Cavalier) opened fire with Romanian AKM automatic rifles.

The firing lasted for more than 30 seconds with more than 60 shots being fired. After the initial burst of gunfire, the gunmen walked over to the wounded soldiers lying on the ground and fired again at close range, killing two of them.

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Sapper Mark Quinsey with his mother Pamela and sister Jaime 

Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Sapper Azimkar was 21 and came from London. He joined the Royal Engineers in 2005 and completed his basic recruit training and combat engineer course before attending artisan training as a carpenter and joiner.

He was posted to 38 Engineer Regiment in Ripon, North Yorkshire, in 2007. In January 2008 he completed a construction task in Northern Ireland and then deployed to Kenya in support of the infantry unit with whom he was due to work in Afghanistan. Following his return he participated in the regimental move to a new permanent base in Northern Ireland.

Fiercely competitive, both as an individual and team player, Sapper Azimkar was a very talented footballer. He had represented his squadron and the regiment and, as a younger man, had trials with Tottenham Hotspur.

Sapper Azimkar was a jovial, courteous and fun-loving soldier whose easygoing character found favour with all ranks. Hugely enthusiastic about the regiment’s deployment to southern Helmand, Sapper Azimkar was looking forward to facing the challenges of his first operational tour and the potential of JNCO (Junior Non-Commissioned Officer) training thereafter.

Sapper Patrick Azimkar’s family issued the following statement:

Patrick was a great character and a good sport who never said anything bad about anyone. Decisive, generous, proud and dignified he really enjoyed army life. He particularly enjoyed living in Belfast and he talked of settling there with his girlfriend after his return from Afghanistan – a mission which he was within just two hours of leaving for.

Sapper Azimkar’s parents said:

We are completely devastated by the loss of our beautiful son Patrick. There are no words to describe what this senseless killing has done to our family in taking from us our beloved son and brother at just 21 years old.

Patrick was generous, loyal and tenacious. He brought great fun into our lives and we will miss him forever.

We are thankful for the messages of support we have received from the people of Northern Ireland.

We join with them in our sincere hope for a return to lasting peace.

Brother James said he was courageous, strong and a loyal and true friend.

The family ask that the media respect their wishes to be left to grieve in private.

See: here for more information on:  Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Those killed were Sappers Mark Quinsey from Birmingham and Patrick Azimkar from London. The other two soldiers and two deliverymen were wounded. The soldiers were wearing desert fatigues and were to be deployed to Afghanistan the next day.

A few hours later, the car involved was found abandoned near Randalstown, eight miles from the barracks.

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Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Sapper Mark Quinsey

Sapper Quinsey was born in Birmingham in 1985 and joined the Army when he was 19. Following his basic training he attended the combat engineer course at Minley before qualifying as an electrician at the Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham. He served with 38 Engineer Regiment in both Ripon and Northern Ireland and deployed on a number of training exercises throughout the UK. Most recently he attended the intensive class 1 electricians’ course, which he completed with flying colours in 2008.

Sapper Quinsey was a charismatic and affable young soldier. Eager to put his recently gained trade knowledge to use, Sapper Quinsey was looking forward to the operational challenges that Afghanistan would offer. At only 23 he had already emerged as a mature, reliable and hugely capable young soldier with vast future potential.

Lieutenant Colonel Roger Lewis, Commanding Officer 38 Engineer Regiment, said:

Sapper Quinsey was an outwardly calm, resolute and motivated young soldier. A social live wire and hugely popular across the regiment, he was rarely away from the centre of the action.

Professionally his approach reflected his infectious enthusiasm for life. As one of the few soldiers within my regiment to have completed the demanding class 1 electricians’ course his trade skills were invaluable. He was hugely passionate about his trade and eager to put his new qualifications to good use in Afghanistan. We were expecting him to play a vital role maintaining the living and working conditions of British soldiers serving in southern Afghanistan. Tragically he has been denied this opportunity.

This has been a traumatic time and the regiment and I are devastated to have lost such a fine and promising soldier. It is with greatest sympathy that I extend my sincere and heartfelt condolences to Mark’s family and friends for their irreplaceable loss.

Major Darren Woods, Officer Commanding 25 Field Squadron, said:

The death of Sapper Quinsey has dealt a heavy blow to the squadron, many of whom have already deployed to Afghanistan. To lose such a charismatic young soldier in the prime of his life has been a tragedy of immeasurable magnitude.

I have known Sapper Quinsey for almost two years and in that time have never found him without a positive word or the ability to make light of any situation. His wide circle of friends pays testimony to his popularity. As a soldier he was committed to achieving the best he could in all areas. In particular he was an accomplished tradesman who new that his work could and would make a difference to the daily lives of his friends and comrades on operations. This was always Mark’s motivation.

My last and perhaps abiding memory of Sapper Quinsey will be him helping the second-in-command work late to complete the final deployment preparations to send the squadron on operations. It was neither Mark’s role nor responsibility, but he did it and did it well. That was his way; no complaints, just get it done. He will be sorely missed.

Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are now with Mark’s family throughout this period and into what will undoubtedly be a difficult time ahead.

Lieutenant Chris Smith, 2 Troop Commander 25 Field Squadron, said:

Sapper Quinsey was a humorous and willing soldier. He had a dry sense of humour and a thick brummie accent making him stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to get to know him as well as I would have hoped as he had recently returned to the troop having completed his electricians’ training.

He instantly threw himself back into troop life, both socially and professionally; keen to learn all the skills he needed for our deployment to Afghanistan this summer. In the short time I knew him I enjoyed working with him immensely; he was impossible not to like. I, and the Troop, send our sincere condolences to Sapper Quinsey’s family in Birmingham.

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Squadron Sergeant Major) Paul Dixon said:

If you ever needed a steady hand to crew the ship Mark was your man. He could and would turn his hand to most things. Yet, at the end of the working day, he would always be at the front, immaculate appearance, ready to party and charm the ladies with a bit of his brummie banter.

Sapper Sean Pocock, 2 Troop, 25 Field Squadron, said:

The thing is, he wasn’t just my friend in the Army, he was a friend from back home in Birmingham. It’s hard to believe he won’t be around anymore. He will be sorely missed by me and his comrades around him, within our troop especially.

Sapper Andrew Sharples, 2 Troop, 25 Field Squadron, said:

Mark Quinsey was a good friend of mine, I used to share a room with him back at camp and used to weight-train with him now and again. I can’t believe this has happened. My deepest sorrows go out to Mark’s family, he will be greatly missed by all in the Troop and Squadron.

Brigadier Tim Radford, Commander of 19 Light Brigade, said:

My thoughts and condolences go to all the families who have suffered such dreadful losses and to those who have been injured in this appalling incident.

The two young Royal Engineers from 19 Light Brigade, although based in Northern Ireland, were about to deploy to Afghanistan for 6 months as part of Task Force Helmand. These brave and dedicated men typify the professional and selfless nature of the Armed Forces. We will cherish their memory.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said:

See here for more information on Sapper Mark Quinsey

Dublin-based newspaper, the Sunday Tribune, received a phone call from a caller using a recognised Real IRA codeword. The caller claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Real IRA, adding that the civilian pizza deliverymen were legitimate targets as they were:

“collaborating with the British by servicing them”.

The shootings were the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in February 1997, during the Troubles. The attack came days after a suggestion by Northern Ireland’s police chief, Sir Hugh Orde, that the likelihood of a “terrorist” attack in Northern Ireland was at its highest level for several years.

Civilian Security Officers belonging to the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service were criticised for not opening fire during the incident, as a result of which plans were made to retrain and rearm them.

The barracks were shut down in 2010 as part of the reduction of the British Army presence in Northern Ireland.

Craigavon shooting

Two days after the Massereene Barracks shooting, PSNI officer Stephen Carroll was shot dead in CraigavonCounty Armagh. This was the first killing of a police officer in Northern Ireland since 1998.The Continuity IRA claimed responsibility for this shooting and stated that

“As long as there is British involvement in Ireland, these attacks will continue”.

Reaction

The morning after the attack, worshippers came out of St Comgall’s Church after mass and kept vigil near the barracks. They were joined by their priest and clerics from the town’s other churches. On 11 March 2009, thousands of people attended silent protests against the killings at several venues in Northern Ireland.

The killings were condemned by all mainstream political parties in Northern Ireland, as well as the Irish government, the United States government and Pope Benedict XVISinn Féin condemned the killings, but was criticised for being less vehement than others in its condemnation.

  • First Minister Peter Robinson suggested that the shooting was a “terrible reminder of the events of the past” and that “These murders were a futile act by those who command no public support and have no prospect of success in their campaign. It will not succeed”.

 

  • Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said “I was a member of the IRA, but that war is over now. The people responsible for last night’s incident are clearly signalling that they want to resume or restart that war. Well, I deny their right to do that.” He later stated that the shooters of the PSNI officer killed two days later were “traitors to the island of Ireland”.

 

  • Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams condemned the shootings, saying that those responsible had “no support, no strategy to achieve a United Ireland. Their intention is to bring British soldiers back onto the streets. They want to destroy the progress of recent times and to plunge Ireland back into conflict. Irish republicans and democrats have a duty to oppose this and to defend the peace process”.

 

  • British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the scene of the attack on 9 March 2009 and met political leaders in Northern Ireland to urge a united front in the face of the violence. He stated that “The whole country is shocked and outraged at the evil and cowardly attacks on soldiers serving their country” and also that “No murderer will be able to derail a peace process that has the support of the great majority of Northern Ireland”.

 

  • Taoiseach Brian Cowen said “A tiny group of evil people can not and will not undermine the will of the people of Ireland to live in peace together. Violence has been utterly rejected by the people of this island, both North and South”.

 

  • At a press conference on 25 March 2009, Richard Walsh, the spokesman for Republican Sinn Féin, a party linked to the Continuity IRA, said the killings were “an act of war” rather than murder. “We have always upheld the right of the Irish people to use any level of controlled and disciplined force to drive the British out of Ireland. We make no apology for that”. He also described the PSNI as “an armed adjunct of the British Army”.

 

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The coffin of Sapper Patrick Azimkar is taken from Guards Chapel after his funeral

Trials

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On 14 March 2009, the PSNI arrested three men in connection with the killings, one of whom was former IRA prisoner Colin Duffy. He had broken away from mainstream republicanism and criticised Sinn Féin‘s decision to back the new PSNI.

On 25 March 2009, after a judicial review of their detention, all the men were ordered to be released by the Belfast High Court, however, Duffy was immediately re-arrested on suspicion of murder. On 26 March 2009, Duffy was formally charged with the murder of the two soldiers and the attempted murder of five other people. The following day he appeared in court for indictment and was remanded in custody to await trial after it was alleged that his full DNA profile was found on a latex glove inside the vehicle used by the gunmen.

Brian Shivers, a cystic fibrosis sufferer, was charged with the soldiers’ murders and the attempted murder of six other people. He was also charged with possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life. He was arrested in Magherafelt in July 2009.

In January 2012 Shivers was convicted of the soldiers’ murders, but Duffy was acquitted. In January 2013, Shivers’s conviction was overturned by Northern Ireland’s highest appeals court. A May 2013 retrial found Shivers not guilty. He was cleared of all charges and immediately released from jail. The judge questioned why the Real IRA would choose Shivers as the gunman, with his cystic fibrosis and his engagement to a Protestant woman.

Shivers’s solicitor stated:

Brian Shivers has suffered the horror of having been wrongfully convicted in what now must be described as a miscarriage of justice. He was convicted of the most serious charges on the criminal calendar. He was sentenced to a life term imprisonment, which would have seen him die in prison.

The original conviction was overturned on a narrow legal basis. It was only during his re-trial that important new material was disclosed which completely undermined the case against him. This failed prosecution – another failed prosecution – is a cautionary tale against the reliance upon tenuous scientific evidence in high profile criminal cases.

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Jaime Quinsey, sister of Mark Quinsey, with James Azimkar, brother of Patrick Azimkar

Mum’s tribute to Massereene murder victim sapper Patrick Azimkar

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Geraldine Ferguson

The mother of a young soldier who was gunned down by dissident republicans will today make an emotional return to the spot where he was murdered.

Geraldine Ferguson, whose son, Sapper Patrick Azimkar (21) was killed outside Massereene Barracks on March 7, 2009, along with his colleague Sapper Mark Quinsey (23), will mark the eighth anniversary of her son’s death with a floral tribute.

The anniversary comes days after she spoke of the loss of her son at a seminar in Co Fermanagh, attended by other victims of paramilitary violence.

Today, Mrs Ferguson will make the heartbreaking journey to Antrim, to the spot where Patrick was killed.

“We will lay some flowers and then go to the memorial that Antrim council erected for Patrick and Mark,” she said.

“We will try and get through the day, but it is very difficult.

“The main feeling I will have is being absolutely broken-hearted.

“We said goodbye to Patrick a few weeks after his 21st birthday and we never saw him again. We feel very sad and upset and very churned up because it’s exactly where he fell and it’s a terrible waste of good, young lives. The futility of it, the pointlessness and senselessness of it.”

Mrs Ferguson explained that as the years go on, her emotions are not as raw but admits she finds it hard to describe the pain of losing her son.

“The horror and heartache is too deep for words,” she said.

“A very common experience when you lose a child is that the days that were once the best days suddenly become the worst days, including birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day. They are supposed to be family days but he’s not there any more.

“Our loss is most acute on those days. We always put a little candle where Patrick would have sat. It’s painful.”

Three people were arrested over the murders of Mr Azimkar and his colleague Mr Quinsey, whose grief-stricken mother Pamela Brankin died in 2013 aged 51.

See Belfast Telegraph for full story

See Deaths in the Troubles 7th March

 

See also

See: Operation Banner

 

 

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Operation Banner – August 1969 – July 2007

Remembering all our murdered Hero’s

1441 British armed force personnel died in Operation Banner

During the 38 year operation, 1,441 members of the British armed forces died in Operation Banner. This includes those who were killed in paramilitary attacks as well as those who died as a result of assault, accidents, suicide and natural causes

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Operation Banner – The Forgotten War Tribute

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Operation Banner was the operational name for the British Armed Forces‘ operation in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007. It was initially deployed at the request of the unionist government of Northern Ireland to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). After the 1998 Belfast Agreement, the operation was gradually scaled down. Its role was to assert the authority of the government of the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland.

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The main opposition to the British military’s deployment came from the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). It waged a guerrilla campaign against the British military from 1970-97. An internal British Army document released in 2007 stated that, whilst it had failed to defeat the IRA, it had made it impossible for the IRA to win through violence, and reduced substantially the death toll in the last years of conflict

Number of troops deployed

At the peak of the operation in the 1970s, the British Army was deploying around 21,000 soldiers. By 1980, the figure had dropped to 11,000, with a lower presence of 9,000 in 1985. The total climbed again to 10,500 after the intensification of the IRA use of barrack busters toward the end of the 1980s. In 1992, there were 17,750 members of all British military forces taking part in the operation.

 

 

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The British Army build-up comprised three brigades under the command of a lieutenant-general. There were six resident battalions deployed for a period of two and a half years and four roulement battalions serving six-months tours.

In July 1997, during the course of fierce riots in nationalist areas triggered by the Drumcree conflict, the total number of security forces in Northern Ireland increased to more than 30,000 (including the RUC).

 

A British Army Ammunition Technical Officer approaches a suspect device in Belfast.

See: The Long Walk – Iconic Pictures & Story behind them

 

Equipment

Armoured vehicles:

Aircraft

Ships

Controversies

The British military was responsible for about 10% of all deaths in the conflict. According to one study, the British military killed 306 people during Operation Banner, 156 (~51%) of whom were unarmed civilians.

Another study says the British military killed 301 people, 160 (~53%) of whom were unarmed civilians.  Of the civilians killed, 61 were children.

Only four soldiers were convicted of murder while on duty in Northern Ireland. All were released after serving two or three years of life sentences and allowed to rejoin the Army. Senior Army officers privately lobbied successive Attorney Generals not to prosecute soldiers, and the Committee on the Administration of Justice says there is evidence soldiers were given some level of immunity from prosecution.

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Elements of the British Army also colluded with illegal loyalist paramilitaries responsible for numerous attacks on civilians (see below). Journalist Fintan O’Toole argues that “both militarily and ideologically, the Army was a player, not a referee”.

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Northern Ireland in the 1960s/1970s Documentary

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Relationship with the Catholic community

 

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Many Catholics initially welcomed the British Army’s deployment, as Catholic neighbourhoods had been attacked by Protestant loyalists and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

However, relations soured between the British Army and Catholics. The British Army’s actions in support of the RUC and the unionist government “gradually earned it a reputation of bias” in favour of Protestants and unionists.

In the British Army’s campaign against the IRA, Catholic areas were frequently subjected to house raids, checkpoints, patrols and curfews that Protestant areas avoided. There were frequent claims of soldiers physically and verbally abusing Catholics during these searches.

In some neighbourhoods, clashes between Catholic residents and British troops became a regular occurrence. In April 1970, Ian Freeland — the British Army’s overall commander in Northern Ireland — announced that anyone throwing petrol bombs would be shot dead if they did not heed a warning from soldiers.

 

 

A memorial to those killed by British soldiers during the “Ballymurphy Massacre”

The Falls Curfew in July 1970, was a major blow to relations between the British Army and Catholics. A weapons search in the mainly Catholic Falls area of Belfast developed into a riot and then gun battles with the IRA. The British Army then imposed a 36-hour curfew and arrested all journalists inside the curfew zone.

It is claimed that, because the media were unable to watch them, the soldiers behaved “with reckless abandon”. A large amount of CS gas was fired into the area while hundreds of homes and businesses were forcibly searched for weapons.

The searches caused much destruction and there were scores of complaints of soldiers hitting, threatening, insulting and humiliating residents. The Army also admitted there had been looting by some soldiers. Four civilians were killed by the British Army during the operation and another 60 suffered gunshot wounds.

On 9 August 1971, internment (imprisonment without trial) was introduced in Northern Ireland. Soldiers launched dawn raids and interned almost 350 people suspected of IRA involvement. This sparked four days of violence in which 20 civilians were killed and thousands were forced to flee their homes. Seventeen civilians were killed by British soldiers, 11 of them in the Ballymurphy Massacre.

No loyalists were included in the sweep and many of those arrested were Catholics with no provable paramilitary links. Many internees reported being beaten, verbally abused, threatened, denied sleep and starved. Some internees were taken to a secret interrogation centre for a program of “deep interrogation”.

The interrogation techniques were described by the European Court of Human Rights as “inhuman and degrading”, and by the European Commission of Human Rights as “torture“.

The operation led to mass protests and a sharp increase in violence over the following months. Internment lasted until December 1975 and during that time 1,981 people were interned.

 

Banner and crosses carried by the families of the Bloody Sunday victims on the yearly commemoration march

 

The incident that most damaged the relationship between the British Army and the Catholic community was “Bloody Sunday“, 30 January 1972. During an anti-internment march in Derry, 26 unarmed Catholic protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment; fourteen died. Some were shot from behind or while trying to help the wounded. The Widgery Tribunal largely cleared the soldiers of blame, but it was regarded as a “whitewash” by the Catholic community.

A second inquiry, the Saville Inquiry, concluded in 2010 that the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

On 9 July 1972, British troops in Portadown used CS gas and rubber bullets to clear Catholics who were blocking an Orange Order march through their neighbourhood. The British Army then let the Orangemen march into the Catholic area escorted by at least 50 masked and uniformed Ulster Defence Association (UDA) militants.

At the time, the UDA was a legal organization. That same day in Belfast, British snipers shot dead five Catholic civilians, including three children, in the Springhill Massacre. On the night of 3–4 February 1973, British Army snipers shot dead four unarmed men (one of whom was an IRA member) in the Catholic New Lodge area of Belfast.

In the early hours of 31 July 1972, the British Army launched Operation Motorman to re-take Northern Ireland’s “no-go areas“. These were mostly Catholic neighbourhoods that had been barricaded by the residents to keep out the security forces and loyalists. During the operation, the British Army shot four people in Derry, killing a 15-year-old Catholic civilian and an unarmed IRA member.

 

From 1971–73, a secret British Army unit, the Military Reaction Force (MRF), carried out undercover operations in Belfast. It killed and wounded a number of unarmed Catholic civilians in drive-by shootings. The British Army initially claimed the civilians had been armed, but no evidence was found to support this. Former MRF members later admitted that the unit shot unarmed people without warning, both IRA members and civilians. One member said :

“We were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group”.

 

At first, many of the drive-by shootings were blamed on Protestant loyalists. Republicans claim the MRF sought to draw the IRA into a sectarian conflict and divert it from its campaign against the state. The MRF was succeeded by the SRU, and later by the FRU.

See:  Military Reaction Force – Counter Insurgency Unit

Over time, the British Army modified its tactics and curbed the worst excesses of its troops in crowd control situations, leading to a gradual reduction in civilian fatalities. By the 1990s, these were a rare occurrence.

In May 1992, there were clashes between paratroopers and Catholic civilians in the town of Coalisland, triggered by a bomb attack which severed the legs of a paratrooper. The soldiers ransacked two pubs, damaged civilian cars and opened fire on a crowd.

 Three civilians were hospitalized with gunshot wounds. As a result, the Parachute Regiment was redeployed outside urban areas and the brigadier at 3 Infantry Brigade, Tom Longland, was relieved of his command.

Collusion with loyalist paramilitaries

A republican mural in Belfast with the slogan “Collusion Is Not An Illusion”

 

In their efforts to defeat the IRA, there were incidents of collusion between the British Army and loyalist paramilitaries throughout the conflict. This included soldiers taking part in loyalist attacks while off-duty, giving weapons or intelligence to loyalists, not taking action against them, and hindering police investigations. The Army also had double agents and informers within loyalist groups who organized attacks on the orders of, or with the knowledge of, their Army handlers.

The De Silva report found that, during the 1980s, 85% of the intelligence that loyalists used to target people came from the security forces. A 2006 Irish Government report alleged that British soldiers also helped loyalists with attacks in the Republic of Ireland.

The Army’s locally-recruited Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) was almost wholly Protestant.  Despite the vetting process, loyalist militants managed to enlist; mainly to obtain weapons, training and intelligence.

A 1973 British Government document (uncovered in 2004), “Subversion in the UDR”, suggested that 5–15% of UDR soldiers then were members of loyalist paramilitaries.

The report said the UDR was the main source of weapons for those groups,although by 1973 weapons losses had dropped significantly, partly due to stricter controls.

By 1990, at least 197 UDR soldiers had been convicted of loyalist terrorist offences and other serious crimes including bombings, kidnappings and assaults. Nineteen were convicted of murder and 11 for manslaughter.

This was only a small fraction of those who served in it, but the proportion was higher than in the regular British Army, the RUC and the civilian population.

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Operation ‘Banner’ 1969 – 2007

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Initially, the Army allowed soldiers to be members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). Despite its involvement in terrorism, the UDA was not outlawed by the British Government until 1992. In July 1972, Harry Tuzo (the Army’s GOC in Northern Ireland) devised a strategy to defeat the IRA, which was backed by Michael Carver, head of the British Army.

It proposed that the growth of the UDA:

“should be discreetly encouraged in Protestant areas, to reduce the load on the Security Forces”,

and suggested they “turn a blind eye to UDA arms when confined to their own areas”.

 

That summer, the Army mounted some joint patrols with the UDA in Protestant areas, following talks between General Robert Ford and UDA leader Tommy Herron.

In November 1972 the Army ordered that a soldier should be discharged if his sympathy for a paramilitary group affects his performance, loyalty or impartiality. Within three years, 171 soldiers with UDA links had been discharged.

In 1977, the Army investigated a UDR battalion based at Girdwood Barracks, Belfast. The investigation found that 70 soldiers had links to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), that thirty soldiers had fraudulently diverted up to £47,000 to the UVF, and that UVF members socialized with soldiers in their mess. Following this, two soldiers were dismissed on security grounds.

The investigation was halted after a senior officer claimed it was harming morale. Details of it were uncovered in 2011.

 

See: The Gleanne Gang

During the 1970s, the Glenanne gang—a secret alliance of loyalist militants, British soldiers and RUC officers—carried out a string of attacks against Catholics in an area of Northern Ireland known as the “murder triangle”.

It also carried out some attacks in the Republic. Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland claims the group killed about 120 people, almost all of whom were reportedly uninvolved Catholic civilians.

The Cassel Report investigated 76 murders attributed to the group and found evidence that soldiers and policemen were involved in 74 of those. One member, RUC officer John Weir, claimed his superiors knew of the collusion but allowed it to continue.

The Cassel Report also said some senior officers knew of the crimes but did nothing to prevent, investigate or punish. Attacks attributed to the group include the Dublin and Monaghan bombings (1974), the Miami Showband killings (1975) and the Reavey and O’Dowd killings (1976).

The Stevens Inquiries found that elements of the British Army had used loyalists as “proxies”.

Through their double-agents and informers, they helped loyalist groups to kill people, including civilians. It concluded that this had intensified and prolonged the conflict.

The Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) was the main agency involved. Brian Nelson, the UDA’s chief ‘intelligence officer’, was a FRU agent. Through Nelson, FRU helped loyalists target people for assassination. FRU commanders say they helped loyalists target only republican activists and prevented the killing of civilians

The Inquiries found evidence only two lives were saved and that Nelson/FRU was responsible for at least 30 murders and many other attacks – many of them on civilians.One victim was solicitor Pat Finucane. Nelson also supervised the shipping of weapons to loyalists from South Africa in 1988. From 1992–94, loyalists were responsible for more deaths than republicans, partly due to FRU.

Members of the security forces tried to obstruct the Stevens investigation.

Casualties

During the 38 year operation, 1,441 members of the British armed forces died in Operation Banner. This includes those who were killed in paramilitary attacks as well as those who died as a result of assault, accidents, suicide and natural causes.

  • 692 soldiers in the regular British Army were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 689 died from other causes.
  • 197 soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 284 died from other causes.
  • 7 soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 60 died from other causes.
  • 9 soldiers from the Territorial Army were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 8 died from other causes.
  • 2 members from other branches of the Army were killed as a result of paramilitary violence.
  • 21 Royal Marines were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 5 died from other causes.
  • 8 Royal Navy servicemen were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 3 died from other causes.
  • 4 Royal Air Force servicemen were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 22 died from other causes.

It was announced in July 2009 that their next of kin will be eligible to receive the Elizabeth Cross.

According to the “Sutton Index of Deaths”, at the Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN), the British military killed 305 people during Operation Banner.

Another detailed study, Lost Lives, states that the British military killed 301 people during Operation Banner.

  • 160 (~53%) were civilians
  • 121 (~40%) were members of republican paramilitaries
  • 10 (~3%) were members of loyalist paramilitaries
  • 8 (~2%) were fellow British military personnel
  • 2 were RUC officers[10]

Last years

Crossmaglen RUC/Army base, showing a watchtower built during the operation that was later demolished as part of the demilitarisation process. The barracks were handed over to the PSNI in 2007

The operation was gradually scaled down since 1998, after the Good Friday Agreement, when patrols were suspended and several military barracks closed or dismantled, even before the beginning of IRA’s decommissioning.

The process of demilitarisation started in 1994, after the first IRA ceasefire. From the second IRA ceasefire in 1997 until the first act of decommission of weapons in 2001, almost 50% of the army bases had been vacated or demolished along with surveillance sites and holding centers, while more than 100 cross-border roads were reopened.

Eventually in August 2005, it was announced that in response to the Provisional IRA declaration that its campaign was over, and in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement provisions, Operation Banner would end by 1 August 2007.

This involved troops based in Northern Ireland reduced to 5,000, and only for training purposes. Security was entirely transferred to the police. The Northern Ireland Resident battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment — which grew out of the Ulster Defence Regiment — were stood down on 1 September 2006. The operation officially ended at midnight on 31 July 2007, making it the longest continuous deployment in the British Army’s history, lasting over 38 years. 

While the withdrawal of troops was welcomed by the nationalist parties Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn Féin, the unionist Democratic Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist Party opposed to the decision, which they regarded as ‘premature’. The main reasons behind their resistance were the continuing activity of republican dissident groups, the loss of security-related jobs for the protestant community and the perception of the British Army presence as an affirmation of the political union with Great Britain.

Adam Ingram, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, has stated that assuming the maintenance of an enabling environment, British Army support to the PSNI after 31 July 2007 was reduced to a residual level, known as Operation Helvetic, providing specialised ordnance disposal and support to the PSNI in circumstances of extreme public disorder as described in Patten recommendations 59 and 66, should this be needed, thus ending the British Army’s emergency operation in Northern Ireland.

Analysis of the operation

In July 2007, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 the Ministry of Defence published Operation Banner: An analysis of military operations in Northern Ireland, which reflected on the Army’s role in the conflict and the strategic and operational lessons drawn from their involvement.

The paper divides the IRA activity and tactics in two main periods: The “insurgency” phase (1971–1972), and the “terrorist” phase (1972–1997). The British Army claims to have curbed the IRA insurgency by 1972, after Operation Motorman. The IRA then reemerged as a cell-structured organisation.

The report also asserts that the government efforts by the 1980s were aimed to destroy the IRA, rather than negotiate a political solution. One of the findings of the document is the failure of the British Army to tackle the IRA at strategic level and the lack of a single campaign authority and plan.

The paper stops short of claiming that :

“Northern Ireland has achieved a state of lasting peace” and acknowledges that as late as 2006, there were still “areas of Northern Ireland out of bounds to soldiers.”

 

The report analyses Israeli military theorist Martin van Creveld‘s comments on the outcome of the operation:

Martin van Creveld has said that the British Army is unique in Northern Ireland in its success against an irregular force. It should be recognised that the Army did not ‘win’ in any recognisable way; rather it achieved its desired end-state, which allowed a political process to be established without unacceptable levels of intimidation. Security force operations suppressed the level of violence to a level which the population could live with, and with which the RUC and later the PSNI could cope. The violence was reduced to an extent which made it clear to the PIRA that they would not win through violence. This is a major achievement, and one with which the security forces from all three Services, with the Army in the lead, should be entirely satisfied. It took a long time but, as van Crefeld [sic] said, that success is unique.

The US military have sought to incorporate lessons from Operation Banner in their field manual

Robert Nairac – Undercover Soldier & Hero His Capture & Death

Robert Nairac
Robert Nairac.jpg
Robert Nairac
Robert Nairac in his Grenadier Guards uniform
Born (1948-08-31)31 August 1948
Mauritius
Died 15 May 1977(1977-05-15) (aged 28)
Republic of Ireland
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svgBritish Army
Years of service 1972 – 1977
Rank Captain
Unit Grenadier Guards
Battles/wars Operation Banner
Awards George Cross

The views and opinions expressed in this page and  documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors

BBC Panorama – Bandit Country, South Armagh

Captain Robert Laurence Nairac

31 August 1948 –15 May 1977

Captain Robert Laurence Nairac GC (31 August 1948 –15 May 1977) was a British Army officer who was abducted from a pub in Dromintee, south County Armagh, during an undercover operation and killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on his fourth tour of duty in Northern Ireland as a Military Intelligence Liaison Officer. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1979.

A number of claims have been made about both Nairac’s involvement in the killing of an IRA member and his collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, although he was never charged.[1]

Whilst several men have been imprisoned for his death, the whereabouts of his body remains unknown.

Background

Nairac was born in Mauritius to English parents. His family – long settled in Gloucestershire – had ancestors from the south of Ireland.[2] His family name originates from the Gironde area of France. His father was an eye surgeon who worked first in the north of England and then in Gloucester. He was the youngest of four children, with two sisters and a brother.[3]

Nairac, aged 10, attended prep school at Gilling Castle, a feeder school for the Roman Catholic public school Ampleforth College which he attended a year later. He gained nine O levels and three A levels, was head of his house and played rugby for the school. He became friends with the sons of Lord Killanin and went to stay with the family in Dublin and Spiddal in County Galway.[4]

He read medieval and military history at Lincoln College, Oxford, and excelled in sport; he played for the Oxford rugby 2nd XV and revived the Oxford boxing club where he won four blues in bouts with Cambridge. He was also a falconer, keeping a bird in his room which was used in the film Kes.[5

]

He left Oxford in 1971 to enter Royal Military Academy Sandhurst under the sponsorship of the Grenadier Guards and was commissioned with them upon graduation.[6][7][8] After Sandhurst he undertook post-graduate studies at the University of Dublin, before joining his regiment.[9]

Nairac has been described by former army colleagues as “a committed Roman Catholic”[10] and as having “a strong Catholic belief”.[11]

Military career in Northern Ireland

Nairac’s first tour of duty in Northern Ireland was with No.1 Company, the Second Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. The Battalion was stationed in Belfast from 5 July 1973 to 31 October 1973. The Grenadiers were given responsibility first for the Protestant Shankill Road area and then the predominantly Catholic Ardoyne area. This was a time of high tension and regular contacts with paramilitaries. Ostensibly, the battalion’s two main objectives were to search for weapons and to find paramilitaries. Nairac was frequently involved in such activity on the streets of Belfast. He was also a volunteer in community relations activities in the Ardoyne sports club. The battalion’s tour was adjudged a success with 58 weapons, 9,000 rounds of ammunition and 693 lbs of explosive taken and 104 men jailed.

The battalion took no casualties and had no occasion to shoot anyone. After his tour had ended he stayed on as liaison officer for the replacement battalion, the 1st Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The new battalion suffered a baptism of fire with Nairac narrowly avoiding death on their first patrol when a car bomb exploded on the Crumlin Road.[12]

Rather than returning to his battalion, which was due for rotation to Hong Kong, Nairac volunteered for military intelligence duties in Northern Ireland. Following completion of several training courses, he returned to Northern Ireland in 1974 attached to 4 Field Survey Troop, Royal Engineers, one of the three sub-units of a Special Duties unit known as 14 Intelligence Company (14 Int). Posted to South County Armagh, 4 Field Survey Troop was given the task of performing surveillance duties. Nairac was the liaison officer among the unit, the local British Army brigade, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.[13]

He also took on duties which were outside his official jurisdiction as a liaison officer – working undercover, for example. He apparently claimed to have visited pubs in republican strongholds and sung Irish rebel songs and acquired the nickname “Danny Boy”. He was often driven to pubs by former Conservative[14] MP Patrick Mercer, who was then an Army officer.[15] Former SAS Warrant Officer Ken Connor, who was involved in the creation of 14 Int, wrote of him in his book, Ghost Force, p. 263:

Had he been an SAS member, he would not have been allowed to operate in the way he did. Before his death we had been very concerned at the lack of checks on his activities. No one seemed to know who his boss was, and he appeared to have been allowed to get out of control, deciding himself what tasks he would do.

Nairac finished his tour with 14th Int in mid-1975 and returned to his regiment in London. Nairac was promoted to captain on 4 September 1975.[16] Following a rise in violence culminating in the Kingsmill massacre, British Army troop levels were increased and Nairac accepted a post again as a liaison officer back in Northern Ireland.

Nairac on his fourth tour was a liaison officer to the units based at Bessbrook Mill. It was during this time that he was abducted and killed.

Shot by the Provisional IRA

On the evening of 14 May 1977, Nairac arrived at The Three Steps pub in Dromintee, South Armagh, by car, alone. He is said to have told regulars of the pub that his name was Danny McErlaine, a motor mechanic and member of the Official IRA from the republican Ardoyne area in north Belfast. The real McErlaine, on the run since 1974, was killed by the Provisional IRA in June 1978 after stealing arms from the organisation.[17]

Witnesses say that Nairac got up and sang a republican folk songThe Broad Black Brimmer” with the band who were playing that night. At around 11.45 p.m., he was abducted following a struggle in the pub’s car park and taken across the border into the Republic of Ireland to a field in the Ravensdale Woods in County Louth. Following a violent interrogation during which Nairac was allegedly punched, kicked, pistol-whipped and hit with a wooden post, he was shot dead.[18]

He did not admit to his true identity. Terry McCormick, one of Nairac’s abductors, posed as a priest in order to try to elicit information by way of Nairac’s confession. Nairac’s last words according to McCormick were: ‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned’.[19]

His disappearance sparked a huge search effort throughout Ireland. The hunt in Northern Ireland was led by Major H. Jones, who as a colonel in the Parachute Regiment was to be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross in the Falklands War. Jones was Brigade Major at HQ 3rd Infantry Brigade. Nairac and Jones had become friends and would sometimes go to the Jones household for supper. After a four-day search, the Garda Síochána confirmed to the Royal Ulster Constabulary that they had reliable evidence of Nairac’s killing.[20]

An edition of Spotlight broadcast on 19 June 2007, claimed that his body was not destroyed in a meat grinder, as alleged by an unnamed IRA source.[21] McCormick, who has been on the run in the United States for thirty years because of his involvement in the killing (including being the first to attack Nairac in the car park), was told by a senior IRA commander that it was buried on farmland, unearthed by animals, and reburied elsewhere. The location of the body’s resting place remains a mystery.[22] Nairac is one of nine IRA victims, whose graves have never been revealed and who are collectively known as ‘The Disappeared’. The cases are under review by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains.

In May 2000 allegations were made claiming that Nairac had married, and fathered a child with a woman named Nel Lister, also known as Oonagh Flynn or Oonagh Lister. In 2001, her son sought DNA testing himself and revealed the allegations to be a hoax.[23][24]

Criminal prosecutions

In November 1977, Liam Townson, a 24-year-old IRA member from the village of Meigh outside Newry, was convicted of Nairac’s murder. Townson was the son of an Englishman who had married a County Meath woman. He confessed to killing Nairac and implicated other members of the unit involved. Townson made two admissible confessions to Garda officers. The first was made around the time of his arrest, it started with

“I shot the British captain. He never told us anything. He was a great soldier.”

The second statement was made at Dundalk police station after Townson had consulted a solicitor. He had become hysterical and distressed and screamed a confession to the officer in charge of the investigation.[25]

Townson was convicted in Dublin’s Special Criminal Court of Nairac’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He served 13 years in prison and was released in 1990. He was part of Conor Murphy‘s 1998 election campaign team and as of 2000 he was living in St. Moninna Park, in Meigh.[26]

In 1978, the RUC arrested five men from the South Armagh area. Three of them – Gerard Fearon, 21, Thomas Morgan, 18, and Daniel O’Rourke, 33 -were charged with Nairac’s murder. Michael McCoy, 20, was charged with kidnapping, and Owen Rocks, 22, was accused of withholding information. Fearon and Morgan were convicted of Nairac’s murder. O’Rourke was acquitted but found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for ten years. McCoy was jailed for five years and Rocks for two. Morgan died in a road accident in 1987, a year after his release. O’Rourke became a prominent Sinn Féin member in Drumintee.

Two other men, Terry McCormick and Pat Maguire, wanted in connection with this incident remain on the run.[27] Maguire has been reported as living in New Jersey in the US.[28]

————————

Man charged with murder of undercover British Army officer in 1977

A man has been charged with the murder of Robert Nairac, an undercover British Army officer, in Northern Ireland more than 30 years ago

Kevin Crilly: Man charged with murder of undercover British Army officer in 1977

Crilly was interviewed by detectives in the weeks after the incident but left for the United States before officers could arrest him on suspicion of murder Photo: PA

Kevin Crilly, 59, from Lower Foughill Road, Jonesborough, Co Armagh, is already facing charges of kidnapping and falsely imprisoning the 29-year-old Grenadier Guardsman near the Irish border in 1977.

The captain, originally from Gloucestershire, was interrogated, tortured and then shot dead by the IRA after being snatched from a pub car park near Jonesborough and driven to a field at Ravensdale, Co Louth. His body has never been found.

Prosecutors laid the murder charge before Crilly as he appeared at Newry Magistrates’ Court for a routine bail hearing on the two lesser counts, with which he was charged last year.

District Judge Austin Kennedy granted Crilly bail; however, he ordered him to remain in custody after Crown lawyers indicated that they may seek to appeal against the decision in the High Court in Belfast.

In the years after Capt Nairac’s disappearance, three men were convicted of his murder, but police have always said they were looking for more suspects.

Crilly was interviewed by detectives in the weeks after the incident but left for the United States before officers could arrest him on suspicion of murder.

Judge Kennedy was told today that the suspect had remained in the US for almost 30 years.

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Barry Graham said that, when he returned, he took another name, explaining that Crilly was adopted as a child and had assumed his birth name of Declan Parr.

“The only reason he returned to Northern Ireland was because he was in a long-term relationship in America and that relationship had broken down,” he said.

The officer told the judge that he could connect Crilly with the murder charge and the two other counts of kidnapping and false imprisonment.

Crilly, dressed in a black leather jacket, white check shirt and blue jeans, spoke only to acknowledge that he understood the charges that he was facing.

His defence team objected that the prosecution had given them no prior warning that the murder charge would be put to their client or that they would be objecting to his bail.

Noting that Crilly had complied with all bail requirements since his original arrest 18 months ago and pointing out that, at that point, the defendant was aware that the Public Prosecution Service was examining whether there were grounds for charging him with murder, Judge Kennedy rejected the prosecution objection to bail.

The magistrate said any appeal against his decision would have to be lodged within two hours. He ordered that Crilly was held in the cells until the PPS signalled its intentions.

————————

On 20 May 2008, 57-year-old IRA veteran Kevin Crilly of Jonesborough, County Armagh, was arrested at his home by officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). He had been on the run in the United States but had returned to Northern Ireland under an alias after the 1998 Belfast Agreement. He was charged the following day with the kidnapping and false imprisonment of Nairac.[29] In November 2009, Crilly was also charged with the murder of Robert Nairac at Newry magistrates’ court during a bail hearing on the two counts on which he had been charged in 2008.[30] Crilly was cleared on all counts in April 2011 as the Judge considered that the prosecution failed to prove intention or prior knowledge on the part of Crilly.[31]

Nairac’s killing is one of those under investigation by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET).[32]

George Cross award

On 13 February 1979 Nairac was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

Captain Nairac’s posthumous George Cross citation reads, in part:[33]

[…]On his fourth tour Captain Nairac was a Liaison Officer at Headquarters 3 Infantry Brigade. His task was connected with surveillance operations.

On the night of 14/15 May 1977 Captain Nairac was abducted from a village in South Armagh by at least seven men. Despite his fierce resistance he was overpowered and taken across the border into the nearby Republic of Ireland where he was subjected to a succession of exceptionally savage assaults in an attempt to extract information which would have put other lives and future operations at serious risk. These efforts to break Captain Nairac’s will failed entirely. Weakened as he was in strength – though not in spirit – by the brutality, he yet made repeated and spirited attempts to escape, but on each occasion was eventually overpowered by the weight of the numbers against him. After several hours in the hands of his captors Captain Nairac was callously murdered by a gunman of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who had been summoned to the scene. His assassin subsequently said ‘He never told us anything’.

Captain Nairac’s exceptional courage and acts of the greatest heroism in circumstances of extreme peril showed devotion to duty and personal courage second to none.

Collusion allegations

Claims have been made abouts Nairac’s involvement in the killing of an IRA member in the Republic of Ireland and his relationship with Ulster loyalist paramilitaries.

Hidden Hand documentary

Dublin Monaghan Bombings 1974 – First Tuesday -1993

Allegations were made concerning Nairac in a 1993 Yorkshire Television documentary about the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings of 1974 entitled Hidden Hand. The narrator of Hidden Hand states:

We have evidence from police, military and loyalist sources which confirms the links between Nairac and the Portadown loyalist paramilitaries. And also that in May 1974, he was meeting with these paramilitaries, supplying them with arms and helping them plan acts of terrorism against republican targets. In particular, the three prime Dublin suspects, Robert McConnell, Harris Boyle and the man called ‘The Jackal’ (Robin Jackson, Ulster Volunteer Force [UVF] member from Lurgan), were run before and after the Dublin bombings by Captain Nairac.

According to the documentary, support for this allegation was said to have come from various sources:

They include officers from RUC Special Branch, CID and Special Patrol Group; officers from the Gardaí Special Branch; and key senior loyalists who were in charge of the County Armagh paramilitaries of the day….

Holroyd

It was alleged by a former Secret Intelligence Service operative, Captain Fred Holroyd, that Nairac admitted involvement in the assassination of IRA member John Francis Green on 10 January 1975 to him. Holroyd claimed in a New Statesman article written by Duncan Campbell that Nairac had boasted about Green’s death and showed him a colour Polaroid photograph of Green’s corpse taken directly after his assassination.[34]

These claims were given prominence when, in 1987, Ken Livingstone MP told the House of Commons that Nairac was quite likely to have been the person who organised the killing of three Miami Showband musicians.[35]

The Barron Report stated that:

The evidence before the Inquiry that the polaroid photograph allegedly taken by the killers after the murder was actually taken by a Garda officer on the following morning seriously undermines the evidence that Nairac himself had been involved in the shooting.

Holroyd’s evidence was also questioned by Barron in the following terms:

The picture derived from this is of a man increasingly frustrated with the failure of the British Authorities to take his claims seriously; who saw the threat to reveal a crossborder SAS assassination as perhaps his only remaining weapon in the fight to secure a proper review of his own case. His allegations concerning Nairac must be read with that in mind.[36]

Barron report

Nairac was mentioned in Justice Henry’ Barron’s inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings when it examined the claims made by the Hidden Hand documentary, Holroyd and Colin Wallace

Former RUC Special Patrol Group member John Weir, who was also a UVF member, claimed he had received information from an informant that Nairac was involved in the killing of Green:[37]

The men who did that shooting were Robert McConnell, Robin Jackson and I would be almost certain, Harris Boyle who was killed in the Miami attack. What I am absolutely certain of is that Robert McConnell, Robert McConnell knew that area really, really well. Robin Jackson was with him. I was later told that Nairac was with them. I was told by… a UVF man, he was very close to Jackson and operated with him. Jackson told [him] that Nairac was with them.

In addition, “Surviving Miami Showband members Steve Travers and Des McAlee testified in court that an Army officer with a crisp English accent oversaw the Miami attack” (see Miami Showband killings), the implication being that this was Nairac.[38] Fred Holroyd and John Weir also linked Nairac to the Green and Miami Showband killings. Martin Dillon, however, in his book The Dirty War maintained that Nairac was not involved in either attack.[39]

Colin Wallace, in describing Nairac as a Military Intelligence Liaison Officer (MILO) said “his duties did not involve agent handling”. Nevertheless, Nairac “seems to have had close links with the Mid-Ulster UVF, including Robin Jackson and Harris Boyle”. According to Wallace, “he could not have carried out this open association without official approval, because otherwise he would have been transferred immediately from Northern Ireland” [40] Wallace wrote in 1975; Nairac was on his fourth tour of duty in 1977.

Robin Jackson was implicated in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974, and Harris Boyle was blown up by his own bomb during the Miami Showband massacre.

The Barron Inquiry found a chain of ballistic history linking weapons and killings under the control of a group of UVF and security force members, including RUC Special Patrol Group members John Weir and Billy McCaughey, that is connected to those alleged to have carried out the bombings. This group was known as the “Glenanne gang“. Incidents they were responsible for “included, in 1975, three murders at Donnelly’s bar in Silverbridge, the murders of two men at a fake Ulster Defence Regiment checkpoint, the murder of IRA man John Francis Green in the Republic, the murders of members of the Miami showband and the murder of Dorothy Trainor in Portadown in 1976, they included the murders of three members of the Reavey family, and the attack on the Rock Bar in Tassagh.”[41] According to Weir, members of the gang began to suspect that Nairac was playing republican and loyalist paramilitaries off against each other, by feeding them information about murders carried out by the “other side” with the intention of “provoking revenge attacks”.[42]

The Pat Finucane Centre stated when investigating allegations of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, that although Nairac has been linked to many attacks, “caution has to be taken when dealing with Nairac as attacks are sometimes attributed to him purely because of his reputation”.[43]

See Forkhil – Bandit Country

See The Disappeared

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