New revelations show an undercover unit of the British army was sanctioned to carry out a shoot-to-kill policy in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, in the 1970s during conflicts known as the Troubles.
The Troubles refers to the violent thirty-year ethno-nationalist conflict that began in Northern Ireland with a civil rights march in Londonderry on October 5, 1968, and came to an end with the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998. The constitutional status of Northern Ireland is said to be at the heart of the conflict, which spilled over into England, the Republic of Ireland and even into parts of Europe.
The UK army unit, dubbed the Military Reaction Force (MRF), admitted for the first time that they had killed an unspecified number of Irish Republic Army (IRA) members regardless of them being armed or not.
Former members of the MRF made the confession to the BBC’s Panorama programme, saying that they had been tasked with “hunting down” the IRA in west Belfast and that they observed no laws in commissioning their mission.
The MRF, which was disbanded in late 1972, had also killed unarmed people on the street in drive-by shootings without any independent evidence showing they were part of the IRA.
“We were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group,” said one former soldier.
The force comprised about 40 men hand-picked from across the British army who operated in west Belfast for an 18-month period between 1971 and 1973, including all through 1972.
“The ex-members said their elite status meant they didn’t believe military regulations against opening fire unless their lives were in immediate danger applied to them,” said the report.
The revelations come as the families of victims in the conflict said they are outraged by Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin’s proposal to end the Troubles-related prosecutions.
The offer was made irrespective of the fact that more than 3,000 deaths are being investigated by detectives from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) as part of the peace process.
The Heath government orchestrated a smear campaign in an attempt to falsely blame the IRA for an infamous Belfast bar bombing in 1971, a Labour MP told Parliament today.
Fifteen people died when a UVF bomb tore through McGurk’s Bar in Belfast on December 4 1971.
Despite evidence to the contrary, the security forces initially blamed the atrocity on the accidental detonation of a republican device and suggested that IRA members who were carrying it may have been among the dead.
Then Stormont home affairs minister John Taylor said he believed the IRA was responsible.
In 1978 UVF member Robert Campbell was convicted for his part in the attack.
Last year the police Ombudsman said that there had been no collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries but concluded that there had been investigative bias towards blaming republicans for the massacre.
Speaking in the Commons, Michael Connarty MP said that a new book by Ciaran MacAirt cast doubt on the findings of the ombudsman’s report.
“There was collusion and it was clearly the British government, possibly up to the-then prime minister Edward Heath, who colluded and not only co-operated, but instructed that the false story be spread that this was a bomb carried by the people into that bar and it was an IRA bomb in transit,” he said.
Mr Connarty urged Prime Minister David Cameron to apologise and order a full investigation.
“Is it not time now for a proper investigation by the British government into the facts of this case, with all the files being open and the Prime Minister coming here to apologise to those families and the community for the malign way in which they were, for six years, blamed for a bomb that was clearly a vicious act against them?”
Leader of the House Andrew Lansley said he would ask ministers to respond to Mr Connarty’s claims.
celticvideo | July 13, 2012
A short documentary on the effects of thr racist Orange order marches through the small Republican community of Ardoyne in North Belfast on the 12th of July.
Filmed by Robin Wallace. Starring Joe Gilmartin. Thanks to the Ardoyne community for their cooperation in making this film.
- Orange Order sparks yet more violence (morningstaronline.co.uk)