Current Affairs Politics

Guns For Hire – From RIC To RUC

In the 1920s, following the British defeat in Ireland’s War of Independence, many serving members of Britain’ paramilitary police force in Ireland, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), went on to become “guns-for-hire” throughout the waning British Empire. What they failed to do in Ireland, the defeat of an anti-colonial revolution, they attempted to do in many an outpost of the Pax Britannica. The most infamous of these ex-RIC officers were the former gunmen of the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve (the loathed Black and Tans) and the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (the notoriously barbaric Auxies). Many ended up in the Middle East fighting with Britain’s Palestinian Police Force, the Transjordan Frontier Force and other paramilitary outfits against Arab and Israeli nationalists while others served in India and the Far East.

A decade after Britain’s compromise peace in the North of Ireland some former members of the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of the country, the hated Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), are once again turning up in Britain’s overseas conflicts, in an eerie rerun of history. Journalist and Irish civil rights activist Eamonn McCann touches upon this in an article for CounterPunch:

“Norman Baxter may find policing in Kabul these days more congenial than policing in Belfast. The former RUC and PSNI Detective Chief Superintendant is one of a number of senior Northern Ireland police officers who have decided that the new, reformed force is not for them, have taken redundancy and signed up with a private firm of “security consultants” with a contract from the Pentagon to help train the new Afghan police force.

Since leaving the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2008, Baxter has spoken and written of his anger and frustration at changes which have seemed to him to belittle the sacrifices of Royal Ulster Constabulary in the long fight against the IRA and at policies brought in under the peace process which he believes now hamper the force in its continuing fight against terrorism. A year and a half ago, Baxter joined New Century, founded and led by Belfast-born Tim Collins, a commander in the Royal Irish Rangers.

He has been joined in the upper echelons of New Century by a cluster of colleagues, including Mark Cochrane, former RUC officer in charge of covert training; David Sterritt, a 29-year RUC/PSNI veteran and specialist in recruitment and assessment of agents; Joe Napolitano, 25 years in the RUC/PSNI, retiring as a Detective Inspector running intelligence-led policing operations; Raymond Sheehan, 29 years a Special Branch agent handler; Leslie Woods, 27 years in the RUC/PSNI, with extensive Special Branch handling the selection, assessment and training of officers for covert intelligence-led operations. And many others.”

The whole article is essential reading for anyone wanting to know why the echoes of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland continue to rumble so loudly. And why it continues to be unfinished business.

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