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Remembering Britain’s Victims in Ireland


In a week which saw further revelations concerning the widespread extent of British state involvement in the murder of Irish civilians, éirígí Béal Feirste held a well attended vigil on Thursday night (October 24) to remember those killed by state-sponsored death squads drawn collectively from the ranks of the British Army, RUC and unionist paramilitaries.

Over 70 people attended the candle-lit vigil at the Beechmount ‘Collusion Wall’. The vigil was organised in opposition to the lighting up, in red, of Belfast City Hall to mark the start of the annual Poppy Appeal. That City Hall event had been publicly supported by erstwhile republicans and so-called nationalists.

Vigil for victims of British violence

While the Poppy may be portrayed as an emblem of remembrance, the actual purpose of the Poppy Appeal fund-raising is not remembrance but is, according to the British Legion, to provide support to current serving and ex-serving members of the British armed forces.

The Poppy Appeal is about standing, as the British Legion publicly states, “shoulder to shoulder with all who serve” in Britain’s forces.

It therefore follows that supporting the Poppy Appeal equates to demonstrating support for those members of the British Army, among them members of the long-discredited UDR and other British military units who carried out a campaign of assassinations of Irish citizens, and who today still lie and conceal the truth regarding their actions on behalf of the British state.

Giving support to the Poppy Appeal also equates to giving financial and moral support to those members of the British armed forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, including those based in the Six Counties.

Standing “shoulder to shoulder” with either serving or ex-serving members of the British Army is certainly not a position which any person with a desire for freedom, justice and truth should ever choose to take.

On Thursday night, members of éirígí and others chose to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the victims of those same British forces.

Vigil for victims of British violence

The vigil also coincided with the publication of a new book, Lethal Allies, which documents in detail how, in a four year period from 1972-1976, over 120 people died at the hands of one British death squad operating in the infamous “Murder Triangle” centred on North Armagh and East Tyrone.

The reign of terror conducted by that particular death squad extended into counties Monaghan and Louth and into the very heart of Dublin city.

Out of over 120 victims of that death-squad, only one was a Republican activist.

All the other victims were chosen for assassination because of their perceived religious beliefs. Nevertheless, in the state’s eyes, they were part of a ‘rebellious minority’, and the reign of terror against them was designed to intimidate and subdue the wider nationalist population.

That County Armagh-based death squad was one of number established in the Six Counties by the British Army and RUC Special Branch. The establishment of the death squads followed well-established practices and procedures which the British had perfected elsewhere.

In order for an ordinary lay man or woman to understand the connection between over 120 murders during the 1970s and British “national security”, it is necessary to comprehend the roles and the inter-connecting links between the various elements of the British security apparatus in the Six Counties.

It should also be borne in mind that the tactics and policies implemented by all these elements of the British “national security” apparatus are not unique to Ireland. They have been refined over many decades through experiences gained at the expense of citizens in other countries where Britain was once the imperial power.

This is particularly true in relation to what has become widely known as “collusion” in the Irish context.

The use of covert death squads by the British state has always been a favoured tactic of its forces.

Lest anyone doubt that, official British military manuals are quite explicit about their use. British Army Field Manuals which are restricted from publication are very open about this. Such manuals from the 1970s, as well as more recent editions, openly assert:

Irregular Forces. Units may also be raised locally from the police, the host nation’s army and from friendly sections of the civilian population for the purpose of defensive, or offensive operations against insurgents. ... In Kenya, during the Mau Mau campaign of the early 1950s, “pseudo-gangs” were used to attack insurgents in their own territory. Such use of irregular troops is, however, relatively sophisticated and these operations can be developed only over a protracted period in an environment which is very well understood by the intelligence organisation.”

The above extract helps to explain Britain’s willingness to recruit death squads from among members of the RUC and UDR/RIR, as well as by placing British military intelligence personnel and agents provocateur to assist, control, arm and direct unionist paramilitaries.

It is only through understanding the various roles and inter-connected links of British policy that a spider’s web emerges which involves the British political establishment, includes the so-called Secret Intelligence Services otherwise known as MI6 and MI5, and encompasses the most senior echelons of the RUC and PSNI along with the senior ranks within the British Army.

The secrets and knowledge contained within the web of “national security” also explains why the British state and all its forces and agencies continue to deflect focus away from key unanswered questions posed by the families of their many victims – questions which are as still relevant today as they were forty years ago.


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