An update on the revelations late last year by a BBC news documentary examining the murderous activities of the British Army’s covert Military Reaction Force (MRF) during the early days of the conflict in the north-east of Ireland. From 1971 to 1973 the unit carried out a series of terrorist attacks against the civilian population and suspected Irish Republican activists, largely confined to Belfast, as well as acting in concert with various British terror factions (notably in the atrocity known as the McGurk’s Bar Bombing which took the lives of fifteen men, women and children). Now reports are coming in from Australia of attempts to bring former gunmen of the MRF living under assumed identities in the country to justice. From an article in WAToday:
“A member of a violent and secretive unit which allegedly hunted IRA members in Northern Ireland in the 1970s is thought to have fled to Queensland.
Former sergeant Clive Williams was a member of the Military Reaction Force, a group of undercover soldiers, who were active mainly in nationalist west Belfast in 1972.
He is understood to now be living in Queensland under another name, and the Australian government is being urged to investigate.
The MRF carried out a series of drive-by shootings in which two civilians were killed and 12 others were injured – even though there was no evidence that any were armed, or IRA members.
They included Patrick McVeigh, a 44-year-old father of six and 18-year-old Daniel Rooney, who was shot on St James Road.
Some members of the unit told a recently broadcast BBC Panorama program they ‘‘were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group”.
The MRF say they sometimes acted as bait, goading the IRA to come out and fight.
In the Panorama program, Mr Williams was confronted by reporter John Ware in Brisbane, but refused to answer questions.
In 1973, Mr Williams was put on trial at Belfast Crown Court accused of attempted murder, for shooting four unarmed men on the Glen Road in west Belfast.
Mr Williams claimed they had fired at him first. No guns were found at the scene and forensic tests on all four proved negative. None were members of the IRA.
Mr Williams told detectives he had fired from a standard army issue gun, but when confronted with evidence of bullet casings he said he had used a Thompson sub machine gun – a weapon frequently used by the IRA at the time.
He was subsequently promoted, left the army with the rank of captain and a military medal for bravery.”
From the late 1960s onwards the former subject territories of the British Empire have served as a convenient bolthole for British soldiers, paramilitary police, spies, informers and civil servants who participated in some manner in Britain’s dirty war in Ireland. At the expense of British taxpayers new lives and new identities, frequently in some splendour, were provided for those who needed to be placed beyond the reach of the law or journalistic endeavour. While members of the British Unionist minority in Ireland invariably choose Canada, South Africa or New Zealand, those from Britain favoured Australia. One wonders how many other former death squad killers, official or unofficial, are living the good life in lands faraway from those they brought such pain and misery to?