Current Affairs History Politics

Licensed To Kill

Force Research Unit or FRU Britain's notorious death squad in Ireland
The Force Research Unit (FRU) – Britain’s notorious death squad in Ireland during the Northern War, c.1982

While the revelations about the murderous activities of British Army death squads in Ireland in the early and mid 1970s have shocked some for most seasoned observers it was simply further confirmation of what we already knew. And those soldiers-turned-terrorists never went away. From ten years ago a report in the New York Times:

“Officers from British Army intelligence and the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland actively helped Protestant guerrillas kill Roman Catholics in the late 1980’s, a report by Britain’s senior police official said today.

Sir John Stevens, commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, said that his 14-year investigation into the explosive allegations of official collusion had found that members of the army’s covert Force Research Unit, which handled informants, and the police Special Branch espionage arm “were allowed to operate without effective control and to participate in terrorist crimes.”

Speaking at a news conference in Belfast, Sir John said, “My inquiries have highlighted collusion, the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence and the extreme of agents being involved in murder.”

The report said that officers helped Protestant paramilitary fighters single out Catholics for attack, and that they failed to warn Catholics of intelligence they had which cast them in danger. Sir John said that innocent people had died because of the collusion, and that the Troubles, as the three decades of violence that cost the lives of more than 3,600 people are known, had been prolonged as a result.

He said the inquiry had taken so long in part because it was “wilfully obstructed and misled from day one” by police and military intelligence officers intent on covering up critical evidence.

The Belfast office he set up in 1989 was burned down by arsonists five months later, and in the years since, Sir John said, a pattern of concealment and non-cooperation had emerged in which official papers were destroyed or held back, investigators were spied on, arrests were sabotaged and misrepresentations were planted “deliberately designed to throw us off course.”

“It should not have taken 14 years to get to the point we are now,” he said. “None of us are above the law, and no future inquiry should have to be conducted in the way we have had to conduct ours.”

Only 20 of the 3,000 pages in the report were made public today because of what Sir John said were pending legal actions. More than 20 cases have been sent to the office of public prosecutions for possible criminal charges. Among them is one involving Brig. Gordon Kerr, the man who ran the Force Research Unit and is today the defence attaché at the British Embassy in Beijing.”

Ah, Gordon Kerr, the FRU, British Army Intelligence Corps and their terrorist best friends. The Guardian in 2003:

“The most senior British Army intelligence officer in Northern Ireland in the mid-1990s invited the feared Loyalist killer Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair to dinner and oversaw the leaking of military secrets about Republican suspects.

Adair’s fingerprints have been found on at least a dozen military intelligence dossiers uncovered during investigations by the Stevens Enquiry team into collusion between loyalists and the security services.

The Observer knows the identity of the officer concerned, but he cannot be named for legal reasons.

If the allegations are proved it will show that collusion existed at a higher level of British military intelligence in Northern Ireland than ever previously suspected.

The recently retired officer, who reached Brigadier rank and was honoured by the Queen for his services to the fight against terrorism, is believed to have struck up a working relationship with Adair in the early 1990s. This man was effectively in charge of Army intelligence during a period when loyalists were killing the IRA in Northern Ireland.

The officer even boasted to Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch officers that he had had dinner with Adair at the height of the loyalist terror campaign between 1991 and 1994.

Adair, who has been expelled from the Ulster Defence Association and is currently held in protective custody, has sought a deal with British intelligence officers who visited him last month in Maghaberry jail outside Belfast.

Although Adair was only in his mid 20s at the time of the Finucane killing the young loyalist was already starting to make a name for himself inside the UDA. Detectives in Belfast believe he knew all the players in the murder personally.

The retired brigadier was senior to Gordon Kerr, the head of the Force Research Unit, who has been questioned within the last six months about his handling of British Army agent Brian Nelson. The Army spy supplied the UDA with security force intelligence that led to the murders of several republicans and nationalists including Finucane. A report by Stevens found that the FRU and officers within RUC Special Branch knew about the murder plots but did nothing to stop them taking place.”

British state-sponsored terrorism: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s.

4 comments on “Licensed To Kill

  1. Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1 and commented:
    Do thuairim féin anseo… (más mian leat)


  2. Very one sided piece this is, war is an ugly business for both sides, but both sides are there, clearly to kill the other side, so why bother trying to bring out the moral compass at these times for a little critique session? Your compass appears to be always stuck at your favoured side.
    What was the IRA terrorists policy? Kill and maim, blow up shopping centers and other public areas of communities, to kill as many as possible whilst disguised as civilians before scarpering off towards the hills and bushes and then, eventually retreating into the slums like rats.
    It’s very easily to blame the other side, whom were all too well nearly always a victim of the circumstances, whilst completely ignoring the wrong doing and evil committed by your own isn’t it?


    • Hmmm, Robert – one side “…nearly always a victim of the circumstances”, the other side “scarpering…into the slums like rats.”
      Looks like your own compass is stuck. Which would not be a major problem except that you critise others for this.

      Slums…rats – disgraceful language.


    • Robert, if you search through the archives of An Sionnach Fionn you will find numerous posts critical of the military actions of the Irish Republican Army 1969-2005. On many occasions I have condemned specific actions and attacks, from so-called “punishment shootings” to the likes of the bomb attack at Enniskillen in 1987. I have gone further and argued more than once that some events should be regarded as war crimes and that those who committed them were war criminals. One need only think of the 1976 Kingsmill Massacre to find an example of that.

      If you are equating the actions of the Irish Republican Army with those of the British Army in the north-east of Ireland that is fair enough. The argument that it was a war and all sides in a war do terrible things can at least be teased out and examined.

      However the fact is the Irish Republican Army was designated by the British as a “terrorist” organisation. Over the course of 35 years up to 10,000 Volunteers were detained or imprisoned for membership of or active service with the Army. In contrast the British Forces, military and paramilitary, were legal organisations with a legal imprimatur for their actions. The number of serving British soldiers imprisoned over the course of 35 years can be counted on the fingers of one hand. In addition the largest British terrorist faction in Ireland, the UDA, was a legal terrorist organisation. It could organise, recruit, train and finance itself openly in the north-east of the country and in Britain.

      That represents a double-standard on several counts.

      Furthermore the British government has tacitly admitted to the use of “death squads” both directly and through the employment of counter-insurgency terror fronts such as the UDA-UFF. These extended from the MRF in the 1970s to the FRU in the 1990s. And as the British government’s own reports and investigations make clear (Stephenson, etc.) the actions of these groups, the deployment of “counter-terror”, demonstrably prolonged the conflict by years or decades.

      You should also figure the following into your consideration for the period 1969-2001:

      Percentage breakdown of fatalities caused by Irish Republican Forces/Insurgents: the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA), Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), Irish Peoples Liberation Organisation (IPLO), etc.

      52% were members of the British Occupation Forces

      35% were Civilians (incl. collateral casualties, etc.)

      9% were members of the Irish Republican Forces/Insurgents (incl. “friendly fire” casualties, etc.)

      2.7% were members of the British Terror Factions

      0.4% were members of Óglaigh na hÉireann (Defence Forces Ireland) / An Garda Síochána (the Civic Guard or Irish police)

      Percentage breakdown of fatalities caused by British Occupation Forces: British Armed Forces (BAF) incl. Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), etc.

      51.5% were Civilians (incl. collateral casualties, etc.)

      39.9% were members of the Irish Republican Forces/Insurgents

      4.9% were members of the British Terror Factions (incl. “friendly fire” casualties, etc.)

      3.5% were members of the British Occupation Forces (“friendly fire” casualties)

      Percentage breakdown of fatalities caused by legal and illegal British Terror Factions: the Ulster Defence Association-Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA-UFF), the Ulster Volunteer Forces (UVF), Red Hand Commando (RHC), Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), etc.

      85.4% were Civilians (incl. collateral casualties, etc.)

      9% were members of the British Terror Factions (incl. “friendly fire” casualties, etc.)

      4% were members of the Irish Republican Forces/Insurgents

      1.3% were members of the British Occupation Forces (incl. “friendly fire” casualties, etc.)

      Given the above you tell me who were the terrorists?


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