Belated Truth on MRF

Martin Galvin with a letter that initially featured in the Irish News on 16 December 2013.


A chara,

Fergal Hallahan was more right than he imagines (25th November) about the derision accorded anyone with the temerity to accuse Britain of deploying a Military Reaction Force of plain-clothes British troopers who gunned down unarmed nationalists using non-military weapons.

During my years as both editor of the IRISH PEOPLE weekly American newspaper and National Director of Irish Northern Aid, I was tasked with presenting such facts to the American public and especially Congressmen.

The contention we Republicans repeatedly made was that the crown had sent out the MRF, and later wiped British fingerprints from their killings by shifting from the MRF to having the shots fired by loyalist proxies. This tactic had obvious advantages, including avoiding British Army casualties like those inflicted by the IRA at the Four Square Laundry. It allowed the British plausible deniability. Collusion in murders carried out by loyalists could be denied outright or blamed on a cadre of crown force bad apples, no matter how much targeting intelligence, agent control or safe passage the British had supplied.

Britain’s answer to these charges never changed. British officials would declare, self-righteously that “Her Majesty’s government” would never stoop to deploy such a unit. The British Army “yellow card” rules were sacrosanct, they scoffed, and this code was rigorously applied whenever British troopers opened fire. These sanctimonious British denials were believed by the public, politicians and journalists to the extent that this hand-picked death squad remained largely unknown to the public.

Panorama’s programme, Britain’s Secret Terror Force proves that Republicans were right about Britain’s deployment of a terror force, the MRF. It proves that those high-ranking British officials who denied that the crown would stoop to such tactics were either deliberately misled by the crown or deliberately misleading others on the crown’s behalf. Members of this British terror squad have no worries that they will face justice for killing unarmed Irish civilians like Daniel Rooney or Patrick McVeigh. They freely boast of their misdeeds, for the television cameras, confident that they enjoy a selective immunity and impunity, not granted Republicans like Gerry McGeough, Seamus Kearney or John Downey.

We Republicans were right about the MRF and just as right about Britain’s tactical shift from the MRF terror force to doing their ‘dirty war’ work through loyalist proxies. Must we await another Panorama documentary before people face the facts about Britain’s complicity with loyalist killers in collusion murders? Must we wait to see members of British forces who directed collusion murders congratulating themselves in televised interviews?


  1. chara your last paragraph just sums up the British mentality. Republicans go on armed operations were all terrorist scum. When their army carries out the exact same tactic their heroes fighting behind enemy Lines. Its the Orwellian mindset anyone who is against the state is a lunatic terrorist.The genocidal maniacs who carry out atrocities for the state well their heroes who brag about killing people on national tv.
    Its laughable, the problem is their people believe the bullshit and well for us were not important enough to worry about.

  2. Great article. When I watched the Panorama documentary the only thing that surprised me was the obvious lack of any asense of guilt or fear of retribution displayed by the former MRF members interviewed.

    Never trust the British Imperial War machine. To them we are just primitive natives in need if 'civilizing'.

    If a few innocent lives are lost in the process, it's for the greater good of Queen and country.

  3. Rory

    You right, its done for their queen and their country, it is not a mere over site the British military swear allegiance to the monarch, not the people or even parliament as happens in 'normal' democracies. If the need arose they will treat us in the same way as they have treated the Irish down the centuries.

    Those Brits who consider the members of the British military as 'our boys' would do well to remember the Military Reaction Force death squads were let loose on people who lived in what was and sadly still is part of the United Kingdom.

    It's worth asking the question what type of government sends death squads to murder and maim its citizens on their own streets.


  4. Mick.

    A simple answer to your question we were not considered citizens as we were viewed as a threat to the British establishment and deaths squads with orders to kill wouldn’t discern between involved and uninvolved.

    the kind of government that sends death squads is the kind that remains powerful as they are inventive and creative when it comes to eliminating the opposition.
    Why not send in death squads who would question the government and who would hold them accountable for murdering innocent people.
    The MRF killing Paddies for the queen was a pleasure not a job one that they gladly boast off.

  5. Mick.

    "A simple answer to your question we were not considered citizens as we were viewed as a threat to the British establishment and deaths squads with orders to kill wouldn’t discern between involved and uninvolved."

    Tain Bo,

    That may well be true, but we should not let the British government get away with claiming they are the sovereign power who acts as an honest broker, whose duty it is to protected its citizens, when at the same time it is organising and recruiting death squads to murder some of those citizens.

    Death squads are not creative nor inventive, the exact opposite in fact as they are a very blunt instrument and often a sign of panic when used by governments on their home turf.

    Not only do they rarely achieve their aims,
    but due to the way they were hatched they leave lineage, as we have witnessed in Argentina, Chile and i have no doubt at some time in the six counties too. (I am not talking about outsourcing here)

    Comradely regards

  6. Mick.

    Isn’t that what happened with the GFA and the very conditional surrender? These actions bowed down and give the British back sovereign power which in turn brings them legitimacy as honest brokers?
    In world opinion they with the aid of America brought peace to the warring tribes and in turn buried their dirty role deeper than the decommissioned weapons.

    I agree with you that government sanctioned death squads are a very blunt instrument with lethal consequences for those caught in their crosshairs.
    In my opinion they were creative as they had a third party more than willing to accept responsibility for BA kills.
    This ensured a clean slate for the Brits and a boost for loyalist Paramilitaries who would have been seen as taking the war to the IRA as for the better part the PUL community viewed each kill as one less taig to worry about. That is regardless if it was one of the many innocent victims or confirmed combatant.

    I have already argued the utter failure of the MRF basically concluding they were a gang of well paid murderers I remain unconvinced they achieved any of their military objectives and resorted to enhance sectarian war which succeeded in a small sense but ultimately ended in failure.

    Is it possible the linage you mention is already on the ground and just awaiting the order to go eliminate militant dissidents or any other person they view as a potential threat to the peace process?
    Is it possible that well placed agents within republican and loyalist circles are intentionally heating things up?

    Respectfully Mick I disagree on creative and inventive even though I understand your point. Pre- operation Motorman the British government along with local government and the security forces had really no sense of how to deal with the IRA.
    There was a hesitancy to engage the no go areas head on militarily.
    Rather than believe the official version of events or even the speculation that Black Friday was the last straw that led to the invasion.

    I personally believe the IRA and the no go areas had the Brits in a psychological quandary.
    It wasn’t a case of they were going to let the no go areas remain under IRA control eventually they knew they had to retake large areas of the province.
    This would take place when they were satisfied that the IRA was lightly armed and would not engage the invaders.
    This is where they get creative as prior to the invasion they had a psychological media blitz intentionally informing the IRA that if you value your life you will either stay at home or take off and go into hiding.



  7. The intentional overkill of the invasion wasn’t so much about retaking the lightly defended no go areas as it was more a spectacle for the world to witness the sheer force of the BA.
    At this juncture the operation was a physical success but more importantly it was a psychosomatic victory as it sent shockwaves throughout the province.

    The victory was short lived as it failed to decimate the IRA but the British government was satisfied they had restored British law and order to the province.
    More importantly they had restored their international image and established a foothold to wage a counter insurgency.

    Move on a few years and now the British governments have a bigger problem to deal with than no go areas a more personal problem of losing British troops on the ground and explaining the high loss ratio to the English Scottish and Welsh people.
    The creative solution reduce the number of British troops and give the UDR and RUC a higher visible role explaining their deaths and casualties’ was a lot more palatable for the British public after all it was a private tribal war.
    The RUC and UDR had no problem with this as their bigotry got in the way of common sense and refused to believe they were merely cannon fodder.

    The psychological war is now being waged the ending of POW status is implemented now they have removed any political legitimacy the IRA had and parceled it off as a war against criminals and terrorists.
    They controlled the media so it took little effort on their part to portray the republican movement as terrorist engaging in a sectarian tribal conflict and they were assuming the role of peacekeepers.
    Undercover death squads ensured that image would convince the world that the Brits were indeed the peacekeepers caught in the middle.

    Don’t get me wrong British intelligence didn’t view the republican movement as mere criminals they understood how ingenious and creative the movement was both outside and inside the jails.
    Everything the Brits threw at the RM they hit back at some point some bright spark(s) in the British think tank decided every approach they had was circumvented by the RM.


  8. The reality it was a military stalemate as they knew they couldn’t defeat the RM and they certainly couldn’t mount another invasion as it would be a military disaster for them as they had hard intelligence that the RM were now heavily armed more sophisticated and war proven unlike the cakewalk of operation Motorman.
    At some point probably as early as the late seventies early eighties British intelligence had found the right people through psychological profiling and began negotiating with what they viewed as the weakest link or those they considered more pliable and fostered a healthy relationship with them all the while patting them on the back and eventually convincing them to come to the table and begin negotiations.
    Later talks would have to involve some key figures in the movement as I doubt Gerry Adams was alone in his compromising.
    The Brits at last could see the light at the end of the tunnel and with some very creative ingenuity managed to convince SF to not only come to the table but also representatives of the RM leadership and convinced them of the military stalemate and effectively convinced them to conditionally surrender.

    And the rest is history albeit British revisionism but to the victor go the spoils.

    I am sure the BA would agree that the volunteers of PIRA/INLA give them a run for their money but in the end were sold out by the leadership.

    My apology if this appears a bit long winded but somewhere in there is a reality of what physical force republicans are up against.
    The reality they are fighting a lost cause or more appropriately a surrendered cause.

  9. Tain Bo

    No apology necessary, it was a very informative reply worthy of a article in itself. Your points about the psychological warfare that led to Operation Motorman is spot on and something I have not given enough thought to.

    Indeed as you make clear, psychological warfare has played a massive role throughout the conflict. I remember in the mid 1980s a TV documentary McGuinness appeared in, (I forget its title) it was a powder puff, clearly designed to massage his own ego, and advance his reputation with the volunteers on the ground, etc.

    Two words from your piece sprang from the page, "Conditionally Surrender," not a term I have heard before, but totally apt in this case.

    Thanks for taking the time to post this.


  10. Mick,

    thanks, I appreciate the high regard you give my comment.

    I think I seen that one as well with Marty Mc and Bangers along with Billy Hutchinson (can’t remember his last name) and the braggart now Sir general Ford.
    Where Marty boasts he was still able to run free after the invasion but if you get a chance to watch it again their mouths say one thing but their body language and facial expressions say another.

    I used the term “surrender conditionally” as that is what it was.
    The psychology of war is often overlooked pre invasion the Brits were busy studying the effect of American troops returning in body bags and the anti government /anti war protesters in the USA.
    They didn’t want that sort of public disorder to breakout as if it had have taken off the British people could have forced the Government to withdraw from Ireland.

    I think that played a major role in letting things fester on our streets and even when they decided to invade the MOD released a suspected casualty count somewhere in the region of as high as 5 thousand wounded or killed so that report told the troops going in expect to take losses and had them fooled.

    If I remember correctly on that show one Brit said he was disappointed they didn’t get to go in guns blazing but to his credit and probably more to do with age he did acknowledge how terrified he was and like anyone else didn’t want to die for some stupid reason.