Guest writer former H Block blanketman, Alec McCrory, taking a look at a book on the role of  British Special Forces in the North's conflict. The book was written by former British combatant, Simon Cursey.

In late 1971 an elite 'counter terrorist' unit was set up within the British army to take the war to the IRA unencumbered by the formal rules of engagement. Regular troops struggled to seize the initiative as the IRA intensified its shooting and bombing campaign. They possessed entirely the wrong equipment for the task of combating an invisible and versatile enemy. Something else was needed in order to confront the threat head on otherwise the "terrorists" would win the day.

So, the MRF was conceived by someone within the top brass as a blunt instrument for dealing with the IRA. A similar tactic had been used in other conflict theatres, such as in Kenya and Malaya, with great effect. General Frank Kitson, the chief exponent of counter-insurgency warfare served here in the early 70's, being awarded a (CBE) for his sterling efforts. In his book Low Intensity Operations he formulated the concept of pseudo-gangs as an effective weapon in 'asymmetrical warfare'. Simply put: a pseudo-gang is a highly specialized unit operating secretly outside of the normal chain of command and control of a conventional army.

In his new book, MRF Shadow Troop, Simon Cursey offers revealing insights into the dark world of pseudo-gangs operating in the six-counties during the early days of the conflict. His firsthand account provides intimate knowledge of the structure, function, membership and modus operandi of the covert unit in a matter of fact manner. His writing style appeals to me for its directness and economy.

Cursey came from an infantry background. He joined the army when he left school and spent two years at an Army training camp in the north of England. He took to it like a duck to water. By the time he turned 18 he was well trained "in all things military" acquiring the rank of Junior Lance Corporal. After passing out in 1968 he was assigned to Support Company, a plum posting for "the best and most talented soldiers." His superiors considered him a bright individual with a good future ahead.

For many years the acronym MRF was understood to mean Military Reconnaissance Force or Mobile Response Force, however, this has now been corrected. The Military Reaction Force was a secret unit that consisted of 30 to 40 men from elite formations such as "the Parachute Regiment, Royal Marines, Military Police, former SAS members and Special Boat Service." All of them were handpicked for their specialist skills, abilities and sangfroid. Operating deep inside enemy territory was extremely hazardous and stressful, therefore, only a certain type of individual was suited to the task. It certainly was not a job for the faint hearted.

In the first years of the war British soldiers in uniform, with scant body armour and open top vehicles, were easy targets for the IRA. Because they lacked local knowledge and up to date intelligence, squaddies were sitting ducks while out on patrol. Active service units of the IRA attacked them from every street corner and alleyway with crippling accuracy. From behind the barricades young men and women inflicted injury and death on the foreign invaders and then disappeared into the night like ghosts. British military personal claimed they were constrained by the 'yellow card', and that IRA volunteers acted unhindered by any code or regulations. Many on the British side thought the game unfair.

1972 was to be the most violent year of the conflict with over 500 deaths, more than half of them civilians. The situation was spiralling out of control and it appeared to many that the 'terrorists'' were gaining the upper hand. But military planners would quickly learn to adopt to the demands of fighting a highly motivated enemy in an urban setting using unconventional methods. Asymmetrical warfare required some out off the box thinking and application.

When Cursey was invited to join the MRF in March 1972 he was unaware of the existence of a covert group operating deep undercover against the IRA. He was a keen convert to the idea. The selection process was intensive beginning with his company sergeant major (CSM), Battalion HQ and military intelligence. Men in suits conducted hours of interview and screening to access his suitability for the job. Cursey was in no doubt this was an army operation from the highest level. The following is a short quote from the 'Boss', the Officer Commanding the unit, at Cursey's initial briefing.

Officially we, the MRF, don't exist - on paper, that is - and very few people actually know anything about us. We're directly responsible to the GOCN [General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland] and no-one else.

Military Reaction Force was based at Hollywood barracks only a short distance outside of Belfast. It had a separate self-contained compound that acted as the operational nerve centre of the unit. The entire outfit was wholly self-sufficient so it did not have to interact with other elements of the regular army.

Military dress code and etiquette were absent and the atmosphere was relaxed though disciplined. In a short period the group developed a strong esprit de corps fashioned by the extremely risky and dangerous nature of the job. Shadow troop saw itself as the cutting edge of the fight to destroy the IRA.

Recent claims that the MRF was responsible for killing several civilians does not come as a blinding revelation to many. In the case of Daniel Rooney and Brendan Brennan it was commonly known by the local population that the British had a hand in their murder. The ten innocents identified by Panorama as victims of the unit are only the tip of the iceberg. For if we accept Cursey's boast that the MRF was the "seed bed" of 14 intelligence company and FRU, then the potential list of victims rises to dozens. Sometimes it is easier to separate the fish from the water by simply pulling the plug.

What is not covered in Cursey's book was the role of rouge IRA elements in the activities of the MRF: He makes only one reference to the involvement of IRA informers in the Four Square Laundry operation. Young men turned under interrogation were used to carry out black operations, shooting and bombing attacks, in nationalist areas for the purpose of discrediting the IRA or fermenting sectarian strife. Some of these agents were uncovered, executed and buried in shallow graves.

The Military Reaction Force was the brainchild of the British High command to deal effectively with the IRA in Belfast at a time when the war was raging. Its MO was to use lethal force unrestrained by the normal chain of command and control. The IRA was to be stopped by using its own methods against it. Penetration, infiltration, eradication; these were the guiding principles of Shadow Troop.

This book is what it is. Wrote in the first person it has bravado, panache and its fair share of self-justification. I shall finish off with Cursey's own words in the final paragraph of the book:

Finally, a little further on the left, entering Andersontown, I'd walk into Milltown Cemetery thinking of those good friends of mine that didn't make it and were murdered, left behind. I would take a long casual look around the cemetery, which is now the permanent home to so many IRA terrorists. I'd be searching for the old, familiar, notorious names - the names of those evil terrorist killers of women and babies who didn't really deserve the right to life - and then I'd piss on them.

He Who Dares Sins


Guest writer former H Block blanketman, Alec McCrory, taking a look at a book on the role of  British Special Forces in the North's conflict. The book was written by former British combatant, Simon Cursey.

In late 1971 an elite 'counter terrorist' unit was set up within the British army to take the war to the IRA unencumbered by the formal rules of engagement. Regular troops struggled to seize the initiative as the IRA intensified its shooting and bombing campaign. They possessed entirely the wrong equipment for the task of combating an invisible and versatile enemy. Something else was needed in order to confront the threat head on otherwise the "terrorists" would win the day.

So, the MRF was conceived by someone within the top brass as a blunt instrument for dealing with the IRA. A similar tactic had been used in other conflict theatres, such as in Kenya and Malaya, with great effect. General Frank Kitson, the chief exponent of counter-insurgency warfare served here in the early 70's, being awarded a (CBE) for his sterling efforts. In his book Low Intensity Operations he formulated the concept of pseudo-gangs as an effective weapon in 'asymmetrical warfare'. Simply put: a pseudo-gang is a highly specialized unit operating secretly outside of the normal chain of command and control of a conventional army.

In his new book, MRF Shadow Troop, Simon Cursey offers revealing insights into the dark world of pseudo-gangs operating in the six-counties during the early days of the conflict. His firsthand account provides intimate knowledge of the structure, function, membership and modus operandi of the covert unit in a matter of fact manner. His writing style appeals to me for its directness and economy.

Cursey came from an infantry background. He joined the army when he left school and spent two years at an Army training camp in the north of England. He took to it like a duck to water. By the time he turned 18 he was well trained "in all things military" acquiring the rank of Junior Lance Corporal. After passing out in 1968 he was assigned to Support Company, a plum posting for "the best and most talented soldiers." His superiors considered him a bright individual with a good future ahead.

For many years the acronym MRF was understood to mean Military Reconnaissance Force or Mobile Response Force, however, this has now been corrected. The Military Reaction Force was a secret unit that consisted of 30 to 40 men from elite formations such as "the Parachute Regiment, Royal Marines, Military Police, former SAS members and Special Boat Service." All of them were handpicked for their specialist skills, abilities and sangfroid. Operating deep inside enemy territory was extremely hazardous and stressful, therefore, only a certain type of individual was suited to the task. It certainly was not a job for the faint hearted.

In the first years of the war British soldiers in uniform, with scant body armour and open top vehicles, were easy targets for the IRA. Because they lacked local knowledge and up to date intelligence, squaddies were sitting ducks while out on patrol. Active service units of the IRA attacked them from every street corner and alleyway with crippling accuracy. From behind the barricades young men and women inflicted injury and death on the foreign invaders and then disappeared into the night like ghosts. British military personal claimed they were constrained by the 'yellow card', and that IRA volunteers acted unhindered by any code or regulations. Many on the British side thought the game unfair.

1972 was to be the most violent year of the conflict with over 500 deaths, more than half of them civilians. The situation was spiralling out of control and it appeared to many that the 'terrorists'' were gaining the upper hand. But military planners would quickly learn to adopt to the demands of fighting a highly motivated enemy in an urban setting using unconventional methods. Asymmetrical warfare required some out off the box thinking and application.

When Cursey was invited to join the MRF in March 1972 he was unaware of the existence of a covert group operating deep undercover against the IRA. He was a keen convert to the idea. The selection process was intensive beginning with his company sergeant major (CSM), Battalion HQ and military intelligence. Men in suits conducted hours of interview and screening to access his suitability for the job. Cursey was in no doubt this was an army operation from the highest level. The following is a short quote from the 'Boss', the Officer Commanding the unit, at Cursey's initial briefing.

Officially we, the MRF, don't exist - on paper, that is - and very few people actually know anything about us. We're directly responsible to the GOCN [General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland] and no-one else.

Military Reaction Force was based at Hollywood barracks only a short distance outside of Belfast. It had a separate self-contained compound that acted as the operational nerve centre of the unit. The entire outfit was wholly self-sufficient so it did not have to interact with other elements of the regular army.

Military dress code and etiquette were absent and the atmosphere was relaxed though disciplined. In a short period the group developed a strong esprit de corps fashioned by the extremely risky and dangerous nature of the job. Shadow troop saw itself as the cutting edge of the fight to destroy the IRA.

Recent claims that the MRF was responsible for killing several civilians does not come as a blinding revelation to many. In the case of Daniel Rooney and Brendan Brennan it was commonly known by the local population that the British had a hand in their murder. The ten innocents identified by Panorama as victims of the unit are only the tip of the iceberg. For if we accept Cursey's boast that the MRF was the "seed bed" of 14 intelligence company and FRU, then the potential list of victims rises to dozens. Sometimes it is easier to separate the fish from the water by simply pulling the plug.

What is not covered in Cursey's book was the role of rouge IRA elements in the activities of the MRF: He makes only one reference to the involvement of IRA informers in the Four Square Laundry operation. Young men turned under interrogation were used to carry out black operations, shooting and bombing attacks, in nationalist areas for the purpose of discrediting the IRA or fermenting sectarian strife. Some of these agents were uncovered, executed and buried in shallow graves.

The Military Reaction Force was the brainchild of the British High command to deal effectively with the IRA in Belfast at a time when the war was raging. Its MO was to use lethal force unrestrained by the normal chain of command and control. The IRA was to be stopped by using its own methods against it. Penetration, infiltration, eradication; these were the guiding principles of Shadow Troop.

This book is what it is. Wrote in the first person it has bravado, panache and its fair share of self-justification. I shall finish off with Cursey's own words in the final paragraph of the book:

Finally, a little further on the left, entering Andersontown, I'd walk into Milltown Cemetery thinking of those good friends of mine that didn't make it and were murdered, left behind. I would take a long casual look around the cemetery, which is now the permanent home to so many IRA terrorists. I'd be searching for the old, familiar, notorious names - the names of those evil terrorist killers of women and babies who didn't really deserve the right to life - and then I'd piss on them.

106 comments:

  1. Good stuff Alec. Enjoyed reading that. Have the book on Kindle so will try to get it read. Have still to see that Panorama documentary on this type of thing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. A brilliant but disturbing review.
    The arrogance of the Brits seemingly knows no bounds or constraints.
    Most of their thinking was formed from a contemptuous logic that they were superior and we were inferior.
    Like those they enlisted from the Loyalist death Squads, the MRF were cold psychopathical killers, who cared nothing for innocence or guilt .
    How people have chosen to write on other threads,that they are proud to be British, I don't know. I would be bloody ashamed.

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  3. There was one evening when we were ordered to provide security for an Army major meeting his IRA informer. We didn’t like the location, a bar off the Crumlin Road and four of us got there early.

    Inside there were five or six other drinkers and a blonde woman sitting alone at a table, dressed in jeans and an off-white blouse. The major arrived at about 9.30pm. He went over to join her, looking out of place in his shirt and tie, brown sports jacket and slacks – an outfit that screamed British public school and military.

    All went well until two men entered the lounge and exchanged whispers at the bar. We all knew the signal: if one of us, a bloke called Mike, stood up, we would all draw our nine-millies. Mike would go for the major, Tug would cover our exit while Kev and I would confront the threat.

    Suddenly, one of the two men moved, his hand shot to his waistline and we glimpsed the handle of a pistol. It was them or us. From a range of about 5ft, we fired two rounds each into the chests of the two men and they just dropped like stones, wide-eyed. Arresting armed terrorists was never a option.

    After I checked them and picked up their two pistols, in a split second Kev and I were out of the door. No one in that bar had any idea who we were. That was just the way we liked it. Only the IRA would know that they were suddenly missing two volunteers, and they would be scared. That was also the way we liked it.


    That's an extract from the book that recently appeared in the Daily Mail. I can't find any other report about two IRA volunteers being shot dead in a shoot out in a bar of the Crumlin Road..

    I'm not denying the MRF killed catholics to sow whatever seeds they wanted..I am wondering if Simons memory is clouded with fog because of time.

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  4. frankie,

    this incident didn't ring a bell with me either, nor does his recounted first engagement with two IRA vols in the lower Falls. These stories shouldn't be difficult to cross reference. Perhaps Lost Lives would contain some information on this very public shoot out in a bar? I think we will find that some of Cursey's stories of derring-do are highly suspect. Nevertheless, the book is an informative insight in to the workings, activities, function, and mindset of those involved in this Kitsonian pseudo-gang.

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  5. Or Maybe Alec he simply changed names & locations to protect himself and his buddies within the MRF...

    I am with you in that it gives an insight into how they thought and executed not only their plans but innocent people too..

    ReplyDelete
  6. I too found this story suspicious.

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  7. One event that does stack up is his recounting of the murder of Daniel Rooney in the St James area of Belfast. He claims his Section 83 actually carried out this killing and that he was present. As justification he regurgitates the official army line of the time that young Rooney was armed. This account has always been contested by witnesses to the murder and by the local community.

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  8. some of the stuff in the book is suspect and a glorification of british counterinsurgency.

    they still can't admit that rather than targeting IRA operatives they just went for the soft kill of targeting any catholic available. it is reminiscent of the loyalist mind-set which decrees all catholics are IRA members or supporters despite the overwhelming evidence that most catholics didn't belong to or support the IRA.

    a worthwhile read if only to reiterate that the british will always look upon us as lesser human beings, lesser human beings deserving of death because we are irish. and if they get caught out an apology will suffice.

    I wonder if Scotchy Kearny said sorry would they let him out tomorrow?????

    we are children of a lesser god in the eyes of the british and bastards like simon cursey will continue coming here to kill innocents and urinate on the graves of those they kill ....

    and it continued with 14Int. and the FRU. catholic civilians were killed as a policy; the british state killed civilians in the north of Ireland as a matter of policy.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anything to sell a book , glory hunter, People like this would lie through there teeth, just to get a sale.

    I wouldn't waste my money on it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. To be honest I find this article merely 'tarts up' what were no more than a band of thieves and cut-throats. Their claim to fame is driving by unarmed civilians and gunning them down in the back before making their escape -they reveled in their own acts of cowardice; and that remains their legacy.

    "Simply put: a pseudo-gang is a highly specialized unit" Wrong. Pseudo-gangs carry out attacks under false flag which requires no specialized skill sets -the more cowardly and vile their acts then the better their desired effect on the targeted civilian community (and not combatants who might be able to fight back).

    ReplyDelete
  11. tiarna,

    I am not sure whether you are accusing me or criticizing me for tarting up the MRF. My personal opinion of Cursey and his ilk is that they were professional killers with psychopathic tendencies. The MRF attracted certain personality types predisposed to the dark arts of warfare. You are totally wrong when you say these soldiers were not highly trained individuals; the best the army had to offer at the time. The fact they were siphoned from the elite battalions speaks volumes. As for the self-perception, they view themselves as the cutting edge of the army's war against the IRA. What you clearly find distasteful in the article is that it projects that self image.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Kitson's theories on counter insurgency were not plucked out of the sky. Quite the contrary, they were carefully thought out by a man with intimate knowledge of insurgency and rebellion in several countries. The MRF, using rouge IRA elements, carried out black operations with a clear agenda in mind, to discredit the IRA and ferment sectarianism.

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  13. Alec

    I found it difficult to differentiate between what is Cursey's MRF hype and what is your own spin.

    However you do assert above that I am: "totally wrong when you say these soldiers were not highly trained individuals; the best the army had to offer at the time."

    I am sure the Brit Army trained these men to some degree --but from the innocent people that they murdered in Belfast there is no discernible evidence of any "highly trained individuals" being involved. Perhaps you have 'absorbed' the hype that any of these men where the cream of various battalions --you say they were "siphoned" --my guess from what they did and how they did it --they were the rejects and misfits from every battalion. In fact I would go so far as to say that your article does a disservice to the courage and daring with which some British Soldiers actually did distinguish themselves.

    Further-still, in the 1990's loyalist paramilitaries did a better job of bringing the war to the IRA than the MRF can ever claim. And if Loyalists performed better than the MRF then res ipsa loquitur (the matter speaks for its self).

    Perhaps the only skill the MRF could do better than most loyalists is maybe they know how to read.

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  14. tiarna

    I can only accept at face value Cursey's account of his army career previous to joining the MRF. Furthermore, I have no way of knowing whether what he says regarding battalions of origin is factually true. Photographs of others who now claim to have been members of the unit are available on the worldwide web showing soldiers wearing the red beret of the Parachute Regiment and Military Police; both recruiting pools for the MRF as claimed in the book. Perhaps you have other information to the contrary.

    The distinguished service of British soldiers in the north of Ireland is not something I could commend. It would turn my republican stomach to accord them such high praise. The British army may lavish its soldiers with meritorious awards for their bravery and valor on foreign soil, not I.

    As for your proposition they were rejects and misfits, this just does not wash. To me this sounds like a poor attempt to absolve the the good guys of any culpability for the actions of a small number of bad apples. These particular bad apples were constituted, armed and directed by the British army at the highest level.

    The military effectiveness of the the loyalist paramilitaries in later years was greatly assisted by the collusion of the British state. I did not require above average reading ability to extract information from the hundreds of intelligence files and photo montages supplied to Brian Nelson by his handlers. It is now clear from the evidence that 'collusion was not a republican illusion' at all.

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  15. Alec

    You are way of target with your assertion that: "As for your proposition they were rejects and misfits, this just does not wash. To me this sounds like a poor attempt to absolve the the good guys of any culpability for the actions of a small number of bad apples."

    My focus is not on the ratbag collection of misfits and rejects -they were what they were and they were by no means the highly skilled men you would have us believe. Those in leadership selected them, armed them and set them loose to kill at will because they knew that was all they were good for. Ultimately, those same people in leadership found loyalists to me more effective and cost efficient (though collusion was already happening, see Anne Cadwalladers excellant book on the subject).

    You have redefined Pseudo-gangs as some sort of elite SAS style unit --the role and make-up of a pseudo-gang is to resort to the lowest common denominator and to carry out atrocities under false flag -or better still use turned Mau Mau, Malayan Communists or in NI, IRA or Loyalists to commit the atrocities. What is overlooked is that it was not just the MRF that became a liability but Kitson himself as he was removed from NI at an early stage. He you will find was the head of the chain of command of every unit that carried out many atrocities from Ballymurphy to Derry. In fact he introduced the Kenyian machette to Malaya --and likely the Shankill Butchers.

    It is a matter of record that senior British Military leaders were reporting the the House of Commons that they could not defeat the IRA. If even begrudgingly, some British Soldiers have publicly expressed a respect for the IRA. I was not commending the presence of British Soldiers in Ireland. Whoever the perpetrators of the McGurk Bar Massacre --soldeirs at the scene and who were not involved set their guns aside and dug through the rubble --In Lurgan I am aware of soldiers setting their guns aside and joining with republicans on top of a barricade to fend of Orange Marchers with their feet and fists. I am aware of the role of several British Soldiers in the Troops Out Movement or Anti plastic Bullet Campaign -in fact I know of one soldier who gave his Medal of Honour to the family of a child who had been killed by a plastic bullet --the idea of keeping it repulsed that soldier.

    Rather than state factual truths to expose Cursey your whole article reads like a blurb to promote his book. That may not have been your intention but don't blame me for how you delivered your article. Obviously, I am not impressed by your arguments.

    ReplyDelete
  16. "Further-still, in the 1990's loyalist paramilitaries did a better job of bringing the war to the IRA than the MRF can ever claim. And if Loyalists performed better than the MRF then res ipsa loquitur (the matter speaks for its self)."

    tiarna, the loyalists by this stage were being run by a more sophisticated latter day mrf, the fru. brian nelson was the only loyalist the fru ran, their war was exclusively directed against us and they channelled intelligence to nelson directly (while working away at compromising and recruiting republicans... or killing us.

    the mrf were the cream of the milk in the day (for the brits,)they evolved into the 14th intel. and the fru when the brits analysed the pros and cons of the mrf, their initial prototype. hope this helps animate the discussion.


    ReplyDelete
  17. tiarna,

    I have not set out to convince you of anything in regard to the skills and abilities of the MRF agents. I reviewed a book and projected their self image as opposed to anything else. That they were soldiers from the elite regiments of the British army is a self evident fact. That they were selected for their suitability is not just obvious but entirely credible. These were members of the regular army acting in another guise at the behest of their superiors. You can continue disputing this but it seems a wasted effort.

    As I understand it there is little contradiction or distinction to be found between the activities of the MRF and the use of some loyalist elements as proxies. Both fit the pseudo-gang paradigm. In saying this much I do not reduce the essence of loyalism to that of pseudo-gangs, but there was clearly that aspect to it.

    In regard to the MRF, I feel the definition is less about the physical make up of the unit and more to do with nature and purpose of it. Whether it be soldiers, vagabonds or pimps the essence of a pseudo-gang is the same. Because the MRF was made up of British soldiers from elite regiments was by deliberate design.

    I am somewhat bewildered by your response to the review. The first problem I have is in not being able to identify the person behind the handle. Suffice to say, I did not write the piece to meet with your approval. It has received several hundred hits without drawing much of a response; whether this is a good or bad sign, I do not know. Still, you are entitled to your opinions.

    Underneath it all I sense there is little disagreement between us on much of the subject matter. I don't doubt for a moment that soldiers are capable of acts of individual heroism and decency. Even in the Nazi extermination camps there were examples of individual acts of human kindness and empathy.

    You did not like the review so we will leave it there.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think it is a good review Alec and guess it will survive the criticisms thrown at it thus far. The fact that it is being discussed by Tiarna and others is positive. Be much worse if it prompted no reaction or interest. Not everybody will see things the same way. All my experience of reading about these type of troops suggests to me that they are not the run of the mill soldier but are either members of special forces or linked to special forces.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Daily Record

    THE soldier who led a hit squad accused of murdering unarmed IRA suspects has been branded a “stone cold killer” by a former comrade.

    Clive “Taffy” Williams was named in a shocking Panorama exposĂ© about the Military Reaction Force (MRF).The 40-strong unit– which was handpicked from across the Army – is accused of at least 20 state-sponsored killings of terror suspects in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s as well as gunning down unarmed civilians.

    Now a former soldier has given a chilling insight into the work of Williams, who was a Royal Military Police officer, and the MRF. The 57-year-old Glaswegian, who cannot be named for security reasons, said: “Forget James Bond, that’s laughable.

    “Taffy Williams was the real deal. He was sent to kill the enemy, the IRA. No one was better at the job.

    “His motto was ‘show no mercy’ and he didn’t . But I believe that he worked within the law.”

    The BBC Panorama programme Britain’s Secret Terror Force, broadcast earlier this month, said the so-called ghost squad posed as drunks and binmen to get close to suspects and executed them in drive-by shootings.

    Three former MRF members admitted they were ordered not to act like soldiers but a terror group. The Scot, who was also in the Royal Military Police, added: “Just like terrorist Carlos the Jackal, Taffy was also a master of disguise and he was always armed to the teeth.

    “The Panorama programme may have shocked the public but it didn’t shock guys like me. “Taffy had a job to do, and he did it. He showed no emotion. Terrorists were despatched in the blink of an eye.

    “If they were a man or a women, it didn’t matter to Taffy. If they broke the rules, they were dead.” The Scot – whose code name was G6 – was trained by Williams, who now lives in Australia.

    Our source said: “Williams was so hated by the IRA, he was No.6 on a top 10 hit list discovered in the Maze prison. “Top target at that time was an Army officer implicated for Bloody Sunday while Maggie Thatcher was No2.

    “Taffy took me under his wing and trained me to such a level that I was picked to be the close bodyguard of the commander of the Ulster Defence Regiment for two years. “The commander was the IRA’s No3 target and, as his bodyguard, I’d be taken out first if the IRA ever got their hands on us.

    “Taffy swore he stayed within the rules but was ruthless in pursuing legitimate IRA targets, shooting them if he felt he or others were in danger.

    “He told me he threatened to blow the lid on the MRF if he was found guilty of shooting anyone. "He was taken to court in 1973 for allegedly opening fire on three taxi drivers and another man in Andersontown but was found not guilty.

    “He left the forces as a captain and went home to Wales for a short while but has spent years on the move. “He will never settle because he will always be a target, no matter how many years pass.”

    The veteran claims that the MRF was not the only secret Army unit operating in Ulster at the height of the Troubles.

    He said: “There were several others, all with their own speciality.

    “One unit were experts in armoury and they carried out forensics on every weapon seized from the IRA. “Their job was to trace where the weapons came from and they were highly successful at it too.”

    In 1972, the MRF shot dead dad-of-six Patrick McVeigh as he stopped to talk to friends at a barricade on the estate where he lived. Williams’s statement at the time claimed: “One of the men in the group raised his weapon and fired three rounds at our vehicle.”

    But forensics showed none of the men was carrying a weapon.

    It was weeks before McVeigh’s family were told he had been killed by an Army unit.

    Ulster police have launched a probe into the Panorama claims.
    The revelations came after Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin suggested an end to prosecutions for killings during the Troubles

    ReplyDelete
  20. Alec

    We know they were selected for a reason --you say it was because they were highly trained and the cream of the army. Instead of just swallowing Brit hype or making presumptions contrary to the facts --just consider for one minute which of their victims required bravery and skill to the standard both you and the Brits claim that these men had?

    Remember the only thing that we know about these men is that they cut down unarmed men while traveling in a passing car?? I say MRF members were selected because the Brits knew that was the best that they could get out of them and that was all that was expected from them. In fact, by their own account the MRF say that their orders were to act like terrorists. Perhaps you will argue that they too don't realise what they are saying about themselves?

    Anthony and gerard hodgins

    I am not 'throwing criticism' I am pointing out reality based upon MRF actions --they were replaced by loyalists who were more competent and that says a lot!! The distinction between MRF and Fru is that the FRU played the role of feeders and handlers rather than directly taking random life while sitting safely in a passing car --nothing sophisticated about FRU in those terms.

    MRF were not just a proto-type their like were around in Kenya, Malaya and Oman but their 'terrorist' tactics were less acceptable in an white urban European City.

    Maybe you should read today's Irish News -the Brits said the same kind of hype about Brian Nelson as they have said about MRF and at Nelsons trial they went on about the lives that he saved --familiar narrative to that of the MRF. Ciaran McAirt has finally rubbished the hype the Brits spun about Nelson. Neither Nelson nor the MRF were highly trained nor the cream of the British Army as Alec has repeatedly maintained. Don't make them into an elite myth because you presume to think you know how the Brits came to select these particular men -All that they were required to do was to drive around in cars and gun down innocent unarmed people. The MRF say that they were ordered to act like terrorists and they did; and that remains their legacy.

    ReplyDelete
  21. tiarna,

    firstly, I lend no weight to the claims of Cursey in his book. In my review I attempt to get into the minds of these people as they perceived themselves. I'm afraid your refusal to acknowledge these were not the run of the mill soldiers weakens your argument. Because they had psychopathic tendencies does not detract from the fact they were also highly trained soldiers from the elite regiments. I do believe that undercover work attracts a certain type of personality with a penchant for danger and adventure.

    To say I am so naive that I would buy in to the hype is nonsense. I have been around long enough to be able to appreciate the difference between hype and fact. The MRF was responsible for the deaths of innocents, of this there is no doubt, but it also targeted the IRA and posed a serious threat to the organization. The execution of rouge members is proof the IRA did not take the threat lightly: And the threat did not just exist on the streets of Belfast. The MRF hatched a plan to poison Brendan Hughes in Long Kesh using IRA members who had been turned.

    Reading you last post it is clear we are engaging in a contest of shadow boxing. Your criticism is based on a false assertion that I have bought in to the hype of the MRF myth. Later day organizations like 14 intelligence company and FRU were more finely tuned, but the concept of counter-insurgency was still very much present. And as I stated in a previous post, the successes of the loyalist paramilitaries in the 90's owes much to agents like Brian Nelson who was being directed by his FRU handlers with a clear objective in mind.

    The one point we do agree on is that these dark forces were the creation of the British state in its war to defeat the IRA. And that there was no tactic, no mater how foul, they would not use in order to achieve this goal.

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  22. Tiarna,

    you are free to criticise. That's what gets done here. Nothing wrong with it.

    I think the reason they handed over to the loyalists was down to plausible deniability plus the anticipate longevity of the conflict rather than the loyalists having better ability.

    The Brits manufactured the narrative around Brian Nelson not to inflate his efficency but to mask it. The people he was tasked with saving were people considered essential to British strategic needs in Ireland. I think there is more waiting to come out.

    His handlers (FRU) arguably played a significant role in bringing the IRA to its knees.

    That said, I hope to write shortly on some of the observations Clive Fairweather had to make about the SAS: efficient shaggers and boozers was how he summed them up.

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  23. AM & Alec

    There is no evidence of any of these men being highly trained nor from their actions were they run of the mill soldiers either. They competed to the bottom to be the best terrorists that they thought they could be -that did not take intellect or courage which are qualities that 14 Intel and SAS do tend to look for.

    Yes AM, dependability was a main factor for using Loyalists but by mistake rather than design in comparison Loyalists performed better than MRF. But, Loyalists did not perform better because they were given better intelligence than MRF who were 'basically' the source for Loyalists.

    "The Brits manufactured the narrative around Brian Nelson not to inflate his efficency but to mask it."

    My point exactly about the MRF: because they were selected to do what they did does not by default mean that they were elite and highly trained as Alec argues --the only skills we know they had is that they could pull a trigger and drive away fast, big deal. (and to be trite we do not know that any member of MRF could had more than one skill ie, could drive and shoot) To follow the reasoning that has been made here then next it will be claimed that the Cairo Gang were the per-cursor to Marvel's Supermen.

    It is bad enough that the SAS are highly overrated but to take a bunch of cut throats and thieves (possibly straight from prison) and make them out to be something they were not is a bit hard to digest.

    There is not one shred of evidence that these men were ever trained beyond how to drive and/or pull a trigger, that does not make them elite.

    ReplyDelete
  24. PS: Alec

    You repeat MRF cliams that they "posed a serious threat to the organization (IRA)." Really??

    Any IRA volunteer standing at a corner probably would have been concerned about being shot by the MRF --not because they were IRA but because they were unarmed and on a street corner. I think you even do a disservice to the IRA to imply that they would not have taken on the MRF at any opportunity they could -the one chance they did get was the Four Square Laundry operation.

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  25. tirana,

    to suggest the IRA of the day did not take the MRF seriously is ludicrous. When the poison threat was uncovered in Long Kesh the IRA left no stone unturned to discover the source. Many of the men I have spoken to who were on the streets then took the threat very seriously. You continue to contest the abilities of soldiers from the elite regiments while ignoring the basic hierarchy that exists within the army. Even without their involvement in special forces members of the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines are generally consider to be the top of the regimental food chain. These regiments are the preferred pool of recruitment for the SAS and SBS. Cursey was from an infantry background but performed well above the average. He was a weapons training expert, if he is to be believed, and therefore an obvious choice for special operations.

    In those early days the division of labour between the various strands of the counter intelligence network was not so finely tuned. The evolution of more refined organizations like 14 Intel and FRU would take some time. I agree with Mackers that the element here was the deniability factor. Whereas you accuse me of glorifying the MRF, I feel you give too much credit to the loyalist paramilitaries in the later years. They benefited from a steady flow of information from their handlers which made their job easier. Brian Nelson was an invaluable asset. It is believed that 4 of the 5 loyalist involved in the murder of Pat Finnucane were agents working for the security services.

    You have a habit of drawing improper inferences from what I say. The IRA did take on the MRF whenever the opportunity presented itself; the Four Square Laundry being just one example. During my time in jail I met many of the men who were on the streets then and they were not the type to shy away from a confrontation. Again none of this detracts from the threat posed by the MRF whether real or imagined.

    I think I have spent expended enough time and space defending my review. Hopefully, other readers took different view of it.

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  26. PS

    At the risk of sounding facetious, being a weapons technician necessitates a bit more training than what is required to drive and/ or pull a trigger.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Alec,

    I think Tiarna's point amounts to the type of drive by shootings the MRF not requiring any great deal of training. Which is sustainable enough. But that does not amount to them not being trained in some specialist way or that they were not a specialist unit. I always suspect that these units have a training and a specialisation. Most of what I have read indicates that these people are pulled from their day job in the army so to speak and then skilled up in a variety of techniques. I think the people they recruited to do their dirty work were much less skilled.

    As for the 1974 jail scare, the IRA took it extremely seriously. I suppose that was part of its success - they had the IRA all over the place without having to poison anybody. In my own view the backstory there probably reveals a level of sophistication on the part of the MRF that we certainly don't see in drive by shootings.

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  28. Alec & Am

    What I say is based upon the facts that there is no evidence that the MRF were capable of anything more than drive by shootings!. Maybe (I will presume) they had some loose association with the Para or Marine Regiments namely they were their rejects and misfits and the MRF gave them some sort of 'specialised' drop out route.

    Anthony sums up what you both have to say: "I always suspect that these units have a training and a specialisation." The operative word is 'suspect' or jump to conclusions that they were (Alecs pure fantasy): 'highly trained and the cream of the elite regiments'.

    Alec defends the MRF reputation as follows "At the risk of sounding facetious, being a weapons technician necessitates a bit more training than what is required to drive and/ or pull a trigger." That still would not make them "highly trained" in a combat sense.

    Other than the IRA was at times paranoid and consumed with all the dis-information flooding the media, newspapers and grapevines the MRF had no discernible adverse affect upon the IRA (regardless if they had or had not killed Brendan Hughes). The MRF and Alec are wrong to boast that the MRF were so effective that they "posed a serious threat to the organization." There is no evidence to say that MRF, or even Loyalists, killing of innocent civilians posed a serious threat to the IRA.

    Based upon the type of killings the MRF carried out there is nothing to support either of your claims that these ratbags were trained, skilled, or functional to the standards of any elite unit.

    Alec you misread my reference to Loyalists: "I feel you give too much credit to the loyalist paramilitaries in the later years." I was emphasizing the cowardice and terrorist nature of the MRF that even the Loyalists could out do them in actually targeting and killing Republicans as opposed to unarmed innocent civilians. It could be said that Loyalists were using second hand information from the security forces whereas the MRF had unlimited straight access and an even more certain license to murder.

    Alec initially I was unsure whether you or Cursey had 'tarted up' the MRF's role. Consistently in defence of the MRF you have repeatedly argued that the MRF were better than their actions portray them. Unfortunately I would agree with you that you have said too much in defence of the MRF as being the soldiers you claim.

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  29. Mackers,

    I am personally happy with the review. My line of approach was to project the military and psychological rationale underpinning the MRF without in any way glorifying its members or actions. I thought that would have been obvious from reading it.

    I'm happy to let it rest there.

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  30. Alec,

    I was happy with it too and glad to carry it. These things always produce differences of opinion. No bad thing.

    ReplyDelete
  31. From Alec

    Tiarna,

    correct me but how many of those murdered by loyalist paramilitaries were armed? The UDA/RHC and UVF killed innocent civilians by the dozens. The vast majority of their operations were against unarmed, innocent civilians going about the normal business. Are you saying these were courageous acts unlike the cowardice of the MRF who killed civilians also? Your whole point seems to be that the loyalist paramilitaries were better at killing innocent civilians than were the MRF. In doing this they were directed and informed by their handlers in the FRU.

    It is you that lacks any information to prove Cursey et al were rejected by their home regiments. If you have evidence of this then I would been keen to see it. Otherwise, I fail to see how you can make this assertion.

    Soldiers are trained for combat, as I understand it, and the training always precedes the experience of combat. This is a no brianer really.

    "Other than the IRA was at times paranoid and consumed with all the dis-information flooding the media, newspapers and grapevines the MRF had no discernible adverse affect upon the IRA (regardless if they had or had not killed Brendan Hughes). The MRF and Alec are wrong to boast that the MRF were so effective that they "posed a serious threat to the organization." There is no evidence to say that MRF, or even Loyalists,
    killing of innocent civilians posed a serious threat to the IRA".

    There are a few whoppers here. Opinions stated as facts once again. To say the IRA was impervious to all these threats is really fanciful.

    "Alec initially I was unsure whether you or Cursey had 'tarted up' the MRF's role. Consistently in defence of the MRF you have repeatedly argued that the MRF were better than their actions portray them. Unfortunately I would agree with you that you have said too much in defence of the MRF as being the soldiers you claim".

    This final paragraph is highly provocative. Therefore, I ask you to
    identify yourself so that I can know my accuser. Or do you prefer to hide behind in a bush and snipe at those who, at least, are prepared to show themselves?

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  32. Tiarna,

    I think it is simply wrong to make the accusation that Alec is defending the MRF. He is doing anything but, merely explaining what he thinks. I suspect you know that and throwing a cheap shot in is hardly consistent with your normal pursuit of debate.

    As for the MRF effect on the IRA, the purpose was to breed mistrust and paranoia which in turn had a disruptive effect within the jails and caused headaches outside it. There is a view that it was one ingredient in laying the gounds for the ceasefire of 1974. I know how demoralising it was within the jails. The IRA got over it but the impact lasted a while. It was still being investigated as late as 82.


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  33. AM

    I appreciate Alec's background and would accept that his intention may not have been to defend the MRF. But I do not respect a bunch of men who did nothing more daring than drive by shootings of innocent people to then be portrayed in history as some sort of elite --that is bullshit.

    Alec

    It would help if you read what I wrote: " Maybe (I will presume) they had some loose association with the Para or Marine Regiments namely they were their rejects and misfits and the MRF gave them some sort of 'specialised' drop out route." You see I did not put that as fact.

    The IRA were not impervious to all that was going on around them, history tells us that they were overly paranoid about every whisper at times. The effects of a collective of events / matters may have disturbed or unnerved republicans but they were not preventative to what they saw to be their Struggle which they continued.

    Fair enough, I can accept that you can't accept what I say. Military experts were cognizant of the effectiveness of the MRF (combined with other agencies) and the chances of defeating the IRA. These Military experts were advising the Government that the IRA could not be defeated. Were they wrong too?

    The reputation of Loyalists is well documented and MRF were trying to out do even them. The facts are that the MRF would be more closely likened to Loyalists than any elite, or highly trained combat troop. I was not saying that Loyalists targets were armed but that on few occasions the Loyalists departed from their usual killing of random innocent people to targeting Republicans specifically. That was an option that was always available to the MRF but they choose softer targets.

    You repeatedly re-affirmed your opinion that the MRF were better caliber of men than I say they were. You find it provocative because I point that out to you? More to the point I think it very in appropriate for you to want to know my details? My identity has no bearing on the arguments. I think the best settlement is that in future I will not read or comment on anything you have to say, lest I provoke you.

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  34. Tiarna,

    fine but you could have handled it better. Now we have a a decent discussion formed from two contrasting positions frittered away. And I think it did give people something to think about.

    Alec's point about your identity is that he doesn't think it is wrong to use a pen name but does feel it is wrong to use it for the purposes of hurling abuse rather than disseminating opinion. In my view he is right. This is why anonymity causes so many problems. As a rule I think we should be able to stand over what we say although it is not something I intend imposing on this blog. It is not always ;ractical for some.

    That said, I won't be revealing your identity to anyone. We make agreements and we abide by them.

    I don't think you should refrain from commenting on future material by Alec. You bring a different perspective to bear and while I am more persuaded by the case Alec made than I am by your own (even if it is on the grounds of suspecting he is right), the idea of the same old same old has no appeal.

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  35. AM

    Alec stated much earlier that "I am somewhat bewildered by your response to the review. The first problem I have is in not being able to identify the person behind the handle." emphasis added.

    I clicked on Alec's 'handle' and he withholds his own identity so he cannot demand from others what he himself does not disclose. Albeit, in order to publish on TPQ I presume he had to waive his anonymity. As you have said I was the only one to take issue with what he wrote and how he wrote it; and that, from the above quote, appears to be his initial reason for wanting to know who I am.

    Given your own legal journalistic battles on ethics I took it as a given that you do not disclose any contributors details without their express permission to do so.

    I played the ball not the man and it was no fault of mine that Alec was entrenching himself in a corner by repeatedly asserting that the MRF are higher grade soldiers regardless of the only facts we have, namely, they predominantly only conducted drive by shootings of innocent people before high tailing to the nearest fortified structure for protection. There is no evidence of their training or ability beyond the cowardly way they conducted themselves.

    He also mistakenly defined what 'pseudo gangs' are and seemed to take offense that I defined their role and make-up.

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  36. Tiarna,

    I think you started out playing the ball but towards the end played the man.

    He did have a problem - like most other people dealing with the pen name writer, even when they are backing you - but it transformed into an issue for him as you began to man play.

    He was not asking from you what he does not give himself. It is well known who Alec is on this blog; his comments make no attempt to conceal his identity. When I exchange coments with him I make no effort to conceal his identity. Whereas in your case, in my comments to you I say nothing that might lead to your identity being revealed. Readers of this site have no idea who you are. They all know who Alec is and if they don't but want to they only have to ask.

    I don't think Alec painted himself into a corner. I think you threw a few barbs when you failed to persuade him or others. That's how I read it. There are just some exchanges we can't win. Often these discussoons are good for throwing out an idea and having it tested for its strength, not clinging to it rigorously or having to defend it with verbal muscle if it doesn't pass muster.

    I think Alec did very well in the exchange but I had a predisposition towards his view anyway. I think you made a very good contribution that has us mulling over the thing. I think Alec is right but I don't think his position is unassailable. The argument is still there to be waged and won.

    I just feel that at the heel of the hunt you could have handled it better, made you case minus the slurs about him defending the MRF. Which from any reading that I can think of simply does not stand up.



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  37. I have been writing for TPQ under my own name for sometime and well you know it. You have gone out of your way to provoke me with scurrilous claims and assertions. You played the ball by attempting to take out the player, which you have failed to do.

    Journalist ethics my ass. If you are going to accuse me of defending those who killed innocent civilians then have the decency, and the balls, to identify yourself.

    The indiscriminate tactic of drive by shooting is the only hook upon which you have hang your argument. You fly in the face of the facts by continuing to argue that theses were not soldiers from the elite regiments of the British army. That they engaged in unsavory, indiscriminate drive by shooting does not alter the fact.

    I asked to produce evidence that Cursey et al were rejects and drop outs. Why make this assertion and then fail to support it. Mackers has attested to the impact of the poison plot in the prison without a response from you. He also mentioned the possibility that the MRF may have been a factor leading to the 1974 ceasefire.

    This is my final word on the subject unless you are prepared to come out from under your rock. What do you have to hide?

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  38. False flag (or black flag) describes covert military or paramilitary operations designed to deceive in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by other entities, groups or nations than those who actually planned and executed them. Operations carried during peace-time by civilian organizations, as well as covert government agencies, may by extension be called false flag operations if they seek to hide the real organization behind an operation.

    This is a definition on Wikipedia for the benefit of the readers. It is clear here that a pseudo-gang can, and often does, have a covert military and/or paramilitary aspect. The essence of a pseudo-gang lies not in its make up but in its function and design.

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  39. Alec,

    is that your very last, pinky promise, comment on the subject or what? LOL. I think you have been talling us for about three weeks now you were finished here!!

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  40. Mackers,

    I didn't address tiarna. I should have said I was finished with that rather than the subject.

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  41. Are you trying to get rid of me. You wouldn't be the first, lol.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Winding you up. Must get a read of this book myself. But so much to read it is unbelieveable. Might just start putting books on the fire to heat the house but for the reputation I would get as a book burner!!

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  43. AM

    I have rechecked and the one paragraph that Alec indicates flamed him and I presume you read it that way too is: "Alec initially I was unsure whether you or Cursey had 'tarted up' the MRF's role. Consistently in defence of the MRF you have repeatedly argued that the MRF were better than their actions portray them. Unfortunately I would agree with you that you have said too much in defence of the MRF as being the soldiers you claim".

    I will accept that might come across as a bit caustic but it is a little difficult to rephrase it and not be read the same way. I will attempt to break it down to its constituent parts.

    Cursey and the MRF say that the MRF were an elite squad of sorts being the cream of the Brit Army. That they brought the war to the IRA and all but defeated the IRA by taking its members out whenever or wherever they sighted them.

    My understanding of Alec argument is that he pretty much replicates what Cursey has to say other than he correctly disputes the status of those the MRF killed.

    Given the MRF's body count is overwhelmingly or completely made up of unarmed civilian 'soft-targets' I disagree with Cursey on all counts and with Alec on the elite nature of their composition and their actions. I say in summary of my position -(using the phrase Alec used about me and not the MRF) -- the MRF had no balls.

    I follow there was panic in the Crum over a poisoning scare. I too was in the Crum when there was a similar scare of poison in the food, and smuggled Stanley blades to cut our throats. Everyone was concerned and conscious of it but to my knowledge not one man folded on account of it. I gather its an issue for you but in the grand scheme of things even that does not make the MRF elite.

    Alec I have not said one thing anywhere in this blogg that I would not say while in the same room or cell as you. I am known for speaking my mind regardless of who dislikes what I say or who I offend, I have never been known to run with the pack so to speak. But you will have to take my word for that because i have my reasons why I do not broadcast who i am on the net. I stand up and be counted when it matters and the internet for me is usually just a place to pass a bit of time and no more.

    My identity was an issue for Alec at an early stage where that is not strictly playing the ball when your more fixed on the man --my arguments and reasoning were and remain the only relevant contribution to this discussion.

    Taking the whole blogg into consideration he is more fixed on my identity than the character whose book he painstakingly wrote about. What you have remarked upon AM is that I am the only person to challenge what Alec has to say. Alec grumbled that "I am somewhat bewildered by your response to the review."

    Sorry Alec that I didn't buy it.

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  44. PS

    I took my definition of 'Pseudo gangs' from Kitson's books 'Gangs and counter Gangs' and 'Low Intensity Operations'. And JK Cilliers book on Counter Insurgency in Rhodesia confirms Kitson's definition --i don't much care what Wikipedia says. I have defined 'Pseudo gangs' pretty much as Kitson and Cilliers define them.

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  45. Tiarna,

    it was not the issue of your reasoning about Alec's review, it was the way you depicted him as defending the MRF. As you say the caustic ... I'd have felt the same way had he did it to you. I preferred the chess you both played rather than the boxing. It seemed a blemish on a good exchange.

    At the same time it is Big Boys Rules and we can't get our sensibilities offended too much if both you and Alec bareknuckle it. We all have out moments and I would not like to see anybody held too tightly to account for what they say in the comments section of a blog. I see much of it as thinking out loud. I don't believe in thought crime or seeing poeple punished for it.

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  46. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  47. Mackers,

    as we are now using you as a conduit I want to make something very clear. Why would someone who admits to knowing my background then accuse me of defending a unit of the British army responsible for innocent deaths? My approach to the book review was to project the MRF through the eyes of its creators and of its members. To be accused of hyping up the book, of buying in to the myth, was, in my opinion unfair comment. On that ground alone, I think I was entitled to ask this person to identify themselves. They have refused to do so, therefore , I am unable to make any assessment of their motives.

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  48. Alec,

    I feel more like a condom than a conduit - a dick sitting in the middle of a bun fight. FFS call it quits if that is what you are going to do.

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  49. Alec

    Forgive my inattention to trying to address two people at the same time, though I did define that i was addressing you also, see; "Alec I have not..." --stop throwing prima donna hissy fits.

    "Why would someone who admits to knowing my background then accuse me of defending a unit of the British army responsible for innocent deaths? My approach to the book review was to project the MRF through the eyes of its creators and of its members."

    this is how i saw your article as a blurb to promote a book about the MRF --you replicate how the person calling him/herself Cursey 'tart the MRF up' rather than critique a gang who resorted to vile and cowardly deeds --you then repeatedly asserted that they were highly trained and the cream of bla bla bla --Undoubtedly I expected better from you --you seem to have made a bad judgment call. That I see your article and your following defence of your article as mostly hype is a fair and value-laden judgment call on my part.

    I have no ulterior 'motive' -- do not try and use that you do not know who I am as a strawman argument, that is just a cop-out --I have written everything of relevance and pertinence for you to see and consider --i have not written any word traps or tried to lure you into anything -that is just plain fanciful nonsense.

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  50. Without knowing who you are I can not make a judgment. Sin e.

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  51. Alec

    Do you know Cursey better than Tiarna? But then you did state that "I can only accept at face value Cursey's account..." I mean you literally regurgitated the MRF's own propaganda unmolested, you state in your own words that you wanted to portray the MRF "through the eyes of its creators and of its members."

    Well I looked at them through the cold light of reality and i don't like or respect what I see nor their ridiculous claims that by murdering innocent civilians they would bring the IRA to its knees. Utter nonsense that even their own have referred them to the Prosecution service because they ignore their hype and bullshit.

    When I called you on it, one minute I am provoking you and now you are using your right to silence.

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  52. Take the brown bag of your head and show yourself in the cold light of day.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Put a brown bag on yours --ok you did not 'defend' the MRF I was wrong. Writing about the MRf "through the eyes of its creators and of its members." is a well established writing technique called being sympathetic with the subject.

    You appear irrational and volatile and so I will promise not to critique your articles again if it effects you that much.



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  54. Tiarna,

    Not to jump in or sound like I am taking sides in what sounds like a needling match but I would have to agree with you on the purpose of the MRF.

    The introduction of the MRF was not to bring the IRA to their knees if nothing else it had the opposite effect much the same on a larger scale when the Nazis bombed London or when the Brits and Yanks carpet bombed Germany the peoples resolve didn’t change.

    If the MRF units had been elite troops then their recorded kill ratio would prove that as elite troops would have had a higher kill rate of legitimate combatant targets.
    I believe giving their actions the main qualifying attribute for selection into the MRF was psychopathic tendencies.
    Considering they were operating outside the law and they found the combatants a little more elusive which must have proved frustrating it simply became easier to murder innocent civilians after all they knew they had a license to kill without any concerns as they would never be held accountable for murder.

    We could use all the fancy terms we want but it was simply a tool at the time to strike terror into republicans.
    There was nothing brave or noble about a bunch of cold blooded murderers who like to boast they were hunting down the IRA but won’t admit they failed miserably at that endevour and without reservation turned their blood lust on innocent people.
    There is no defense for their actions much the same there will be no justice for the innocent victims they murdered.

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  55. tiarna,

    I am far from being irrational and volatile. I simply asked you to identify yourself, nothing irrational in that.

    For by being an established writing technique projection does not imply sympathy. My critique of the MRF in the review is more nuanced than you ever thought to give it credit for. No reading of it could lead one to conclude that I have any interest in defending, promoting or hyping up the MRF.

    Tain Bo,

    I take no issue with your post. It does not attack me for any perceived wrongdoing. The actions of the MRF were anything but brave or noble, but this has no bearing on whether they were soldiers from the elite regiments. Is there a case being made that certain types of soldiers are incapable of committing certain types of acts? British soldiers from the elite Parachute regiment murdered fourteen innocent people in Derry. Six weeks before the same regiment shot dead eleven civilians in Ballymurphy in 36 hours of absolute terror. Being the cream does not imbue one with noble attributes.

    In one of my early comments I described Cursey et al as professional killers with psychopathic tendencies. I believe this is so with many of the personalty types who involve themselves in the dark world of counter-insurgency.

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  56. Alec

    Cream they say rises to the top so the general understanding of the term is one of nobility or a person of higher character.

    Your loaded nuances!! LOL! Is that what your calling it now?

    Who I am adds not one iota to the arguments - who you are is not someone I much care about either-- maybe if our paths cross in person I will tell you then who i am -until that day I am not persuaded by what comes across as bully and aggressive tantrums along with your no balls insults.

    Big deal that you broadcast yourself on the internet -most people don't and more to the point most people on TPQ don't -generally everyone posts and responds at face value to the arguments or political nuances in the arguments --i have never actually gotten the same rush that you do that I must know the identity of who is commenting -what they write is all that matters.

    You are selective when it suits you. A glaring contradiction in your postulating is that you do not know Cursey's real identity but that did not stop you buying his book Nor (i think) promoting it by writing a blurb as if 'through his eyes'. After all this exchange I am walking away thinking that you seem to have mistook Cursey's opinions as your own.

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  57. Firstly, I didn't buy the book. It was loaned to me by a friend. But don't let this small detail stop you from jumping to conclusions as is your habit. Now you have taken to notions of being the victim of my bullying and irrationality. Stop gurning and grow up. The differences between us have been flogged out on an open fourm for all to see. If you would fancy debating this subject in public I would be more than willing to accommodate you. At a place of your choosing so that you feel safe, obviously.

    As for identifying yourself there are other ways of doing that without exposing yourself here. People who hide behind a mask and hurl abuse at others are cowardly and insecure.

    This really must be the end of it now. We have entertained the forum long enough and I have become bored with the debate. No doubt we shall cross swords again on other matters.

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  58. Alec

    Don't flatter yourself all your gruff is in one ear and out the other.

    From AM's input above it is obvious that you went directly to him trying to find out who I am. That didn't work so then you attempted to bully my name out by confining the reason for my anonymity that it must because i have no balls and I hide under rocks(it was your attempt to be "highly provacative") you were playing the man but i don't much care about your bluster. Bottom line is I don't owe you any explanations nor will calling me names make me crumble to what Alec McCrory wants. I used the word bully because that is the stuff from school playgrounds.

    Apparently I was the only person to have questioned your book blurb therefore it seems I am the only one with no balls and hiding under a rock --or are you calling everyone who posts on this blog site cowards if they don't broadcast their names for you? Or is it only those who do not agree with you? It is very noticeable that the Cursey character escaped your wrath on anonymity if you feel so passionate about it.

    This brings me back to the subject matter. I disagree with both you and Cursey. To use your own terminology I basically said the MRF had no balls (I said cowards). You say I am wrong about that the MRF were the elite and cream of the army.

    You don't really address half of what I say you resort repeatedly to playing the man --personally your free to do that because it doesn't escape me that that is the only answer you can give and your reason for using these sort of tactics are as a diversion.

    Here is the big taboo 'defending the MRF' which I afforded you the chance to explain a bit better by saying ok I was wrong --it was fair enough that i did that -the ball was then back in your court to do so. I postulated various responses in attempt to get you to elaborate more but you, in my eyes, remained defensive of the MRF and your blurb about them.

    Throughout this blog you repeatedly re-affirm your opinion that the MRF were better caliber of men than I say they were. I actually do not see any difference between either: defending the professionalism of the MRF, or, writing a sympathetic book blurb to "project the MRF through the eyes of its creators and of its members" I am being genuine --I just don't see the distinction.

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  59. Alec,

    my apology for the late response I appreciate you took no offense at my comment as none was intended.
    My initial remark of it sounding like a needling match may be a bit unfair after all I have had a few of them myself on here.

    I think you are looking at the same side of the coin. I would say that you citing the Ballymurphy and Derry massacres’ as being the same as a unit specially adapted to infiltrate and eliminate combatants ( as originally intended) are so far apart and can only be held together with the deaths of innocent people. After that there is nothing to compare regular soldiers and undercover secret death squads.

    The Ballymurphy and Derry murders were carried out by extremely well disciplined soldiers and are not a case of discipline breaking down. It was not a case of some jumpy Brit hearing a car backfire and begin shooting at ghost gunmen.
    Both massacres’ were ordered and it was the discipline of the soldiers that ensured there would be a heavy death and casualty toll.

    In both cases we can find the Brits frustration with being unable to combat what they seen (they being the elite generals) as a bunch of cowboys and when the tea and biscuits stopped through the eyes of any Brit the ordinary people were no different than the combatants.

    I think we overlook some important details from the early 70s the Brits were on the ground along with the UDR/RUC and what they considered friendly loyalist paramilitaries.
    That should sound like enough to make it almost impossible for ASU’s to operate let alone operate and inflict heavy casualties.

    The Murph and Derry murders were a warning that the Brits were in control and would be in control and the orders may have been given by the commanders at the time but ultimately lethal force orders were handed down to them.

    Much like when the IRA scrambled to put together a defensive army and formulate a long term strategy the Brits were doing the exact same thing finding their footing and what was and was not an effective way of taking control of the country.

    It was exactly the qualities that these elite troops involved in both massacres held that would qualify them for a spot in an MRF unit.
    The ability to shot down unarmed innocent civilians without conscious would clearly separate them from other soldiers who would refuse to butcher innocent people.

    I am sure the bright spark that came up with the MRF made it look and sound great on paper an easy sell.
    In practice that became a different matter with their failure to hunt down combatants they became more or less another Brit Paramilitary group and followed the motto any taig will do.

    In essence all they created was a willing sectarian death squad with the blessing of the union jack.

    Perhaps they should have asked the Israeli Defense Forces for direction as they seemed to have had better success hunting down the Munich Olympic gang.

    Alec there is a great difference between a uniformed army and a secret army dressed as civilians. The MRF were there to uphold the law by breaking the law they were not soldiers but cowardly cold blooded killers.

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  60. Tain Bo
    Does it not follow then, that they were an elite specialised unit?
    To say they were elite and specialised does not detract one iota from the idea that they were psychopaths with low values and low on the ethical scale.
    It does mean however, that they were hand picked and intensively trained because they possessed certain qualities.
    My Da used to say the RUC were one of the most advanced police forces in the world. Did that mean he was a fan of the RUC and all they stood for, absolutely not. All it meant was that he was stating what he believed to be the obvious.
    At one time the IRA would have had specialised training, pre 69 they most certainly did.
    That specialised training definitely produced a different type of volunteer from the many who followed after 69.

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  61. Nuala,

    your father was correct about the RUC being highly advanced and grew more sophisticated in their methods and tactics as the war progressed.
    That would be a result of having standard police training combined with military training which was essential as they were up against a very worthy adversary one were standard police training just would not suffice.

    Armies are not in the business of peace they are trained for war and for one purpose to kill the enemy.
    They were an elite force in an asymmetrical manner by design and by that I mean they would have to fit a certain psychological profile.
    In a nutshell the type of people they would enlist would be almost parallel with the mentality of Lenny Murphy. Much despised and feared but a proficient and “elite” killer.

    The type of people who would have no ethics or morals when it came to killing innocent people and probably go back to base and have a laugh about it.
    More importantly they would do a tour go home and say nothing about their role in a death squad and I am sure in certain cases some people might describe them as decent friendly and the salt of the earth.
    Unaware that they essentially were serial killers and probably took some perverse pleasure in being free to kill Catholics at will.

    I would assume before the MRF reached the streets their original training was based on hunting down and killing combatants.
    That didn’t work out well as the Brits unleashed a bunch of sociopaths with one aim to kill.

    I could imagine they became frustrated not being able to get the people on their list and at the same time hearing about this Brit being shot or blown up certainly would have heightened their anger toss in the booze and drugs and the next thing you know is shooting an innocent person is just as good as shooting a combatant.

    Basically they were elite terrorists paid by the crown but like every other cold blooded murder they committed against innocent civilians it will go unnoticed after all they were only defending the crown.

    I don’t think it would read the same if the RA had sent secret death squads to England just to gun down random innocent people.

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  62. Tain Bo,

    There is a clear suggestion being made that the indiscriminate shooting of civilians demonstrates an indiscipline on the part of Cursey et al. Why so? In my opinion these attacks were entirely in line with the MRF's modus operandi of the time. The argument that they were rejects with murder in mind, rather than soldiers acting out the role assigned to them by their superiors, absolves the British state of liability for this group. Killing civilians in drive by shootings, or by whatever other means, was a deliberate act carried out by disciplined soldiers. Indeed, Cursey boasts of the professionalism of the unit in the execution of its duties. Hence their desire today for recognition of their service to Queen and country.

    The MRF was acting on direct orders every bit as much as were the Para's that shot down innocents on the streets of Belfast and Derry. If they over stepped the mark on occasions it was not due to indiscipline but rather over zealousness. Their actions were concealed by the top brass through the dissemination of misinformation and false claims.

    Through out this debate we have been working at cross-purposes. As I have already said, these individuals had a propensity for violence and adventure. From any republican perspective they were killers with no justification.

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  63. Alec,

    on my part it is not a suggestion as I stated the BA murders of civilians were not the result of discipline breaking down but the result of a direct order from superiors who would have been issued those orders from a higher source.

    In no way does it absolve the State as it would be the state that would have given the nod of approval at time it was a win, win situation one where if blame for the murder of innocent Catholics was needed then the Loyalist death squads would have taken credit for them.

    You are correct to a point but I will explain where I see discipline breaking down.

    These selected soldiers were handpicked as they met the criteria of both military professionalism and physiological background that would ensure they would not hesitate when it came to shooting someone.
    I believe they originally arrived with the intention of wiping out republican combatants and those that they did manage to kill were killed in the professional manner demanded of them

    It would seem there was a very clear deviation from the original goal to that of a secondary purpose which was shooting unarmed civilians.
    This is where discipline breaks down as their primary objective and role had changed dramatically from being the hunters of combatants to that of wanton killers thirsty for revenge.

    Yes they were still professional disciplined killers but failures as an elite outfit as they didn’t get the job done or stay on par with the objective at hand.

    Human emotion would dictate revenge as they were seeing and hearing about their fellow soldiers taking a bad beating from republicans the very same republicans that this elite outfit was supposed to eliminate.

    Therefore with poor results at killing primary targets they were set loose to wipe out any poor soul that crossed their sights.
    Obviously on the ground they found out they were not as efficient at hunting down the people on their lists.
    As professional elite soldiers they failed and could not even come close to finishing the job they were sent to do.
    Obviously, some higher up the food chain general decided that since they invested all the time and money in this elite group why not have them kill civilians.
    Sitting at a desk and looking at numbers on paper making a very unprofessional decision to allow this unit to kill civilians based on the fact they were on the ground and to a point useless at what was the primary objective.

    That is where discipline breaks down they are no longer professional soldiers engaging armed opponents but a paid professional gang of highly trained killers who preyed on the weakest and unarmed innocent victims.

    How would that excuse the government after all they set the killers loose and when they failed they employed the killers to act as a loyalist death squad.

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  64. Tain Bo,

    it is not unusual for disciplined soldiers to murder innocent civilians as part of a false flag operation; this being a deliberate aspect of their role and function. Those who were responsible for directing the unit didn't question whether the target was innocent or not. In fact, the working premise of Cursey and his colleagues was that there were few, if any, innocents in the nationalist districts of the Lower Falls and Andersontown. If you were of a certain age, standing at a barricade or street corner wearing a certain type clothing, it was open season. I can appreciate the point you are making, however, these professional killers would not have seen themselves as acting in an undisciplined manner. They were proud of their work and boast about it openly. Civilians were killed to get the IRA the blame or, to make it appear that the organization was incapable of protecting the community. Either way the MRF, in my opinion, acted with clear and deliberate intent. The lack of accountability and the cover stories provided for their actions points to culpability at the highest level of the British army.

    Soldiers are ultimately trained to kill and in unconventional warfare the demarcation lines separating combatants from non combatants are easily crossed over.

    I think for my part I have flogged this particular horse to death. There is not much more I can add to the debate.

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  65. Alec,

    that would be an unusually high expectation one that I don’t think the people expected the movement to completely protect their districts.
    On the opposite side given the saturation of security forces from part time RUC right up to the SAS and they were unable to protect their interests.

    The MRF were very disciplined they followed orders but again that is where discipline breaks down as they failed with their initial objective,
    Those in charge had a quota to fill so naturally they ordered the killing of innocent Catholics.
    I assume when reports where handed in the term suspected member was used as a cover for innocent kills.
    Certainly they would boast about it as they were sociopath’s dedicated and disciplined killers who would be extremely eager to shoot the innocent as they were failures at killing those they had intelligence on.
    They succeeded in murdering innocent people but ultimately they also failed with that initiative as both their primary or secondary objective produced no noticeable result militarily if anything they lost more ground and strengthened the movement and the support of the people.

    I doubt any regiment would look upon this gang with pride if anything they would laugh at them for being so cowardly. The uniformed soldiers on patrol showed more bravery than these cowards dressed as civilians.

    Soldiers are professional killers by trade but I completely disagree with you on the demarcation lines being easily crossed.
    Asymmetrical warfare or not in the case of the MRF the line was not in question it was a well planned well orchestrated murder campaign.
    There is no excuse or mistake, the only mistake being they were inefficient and as a result of their inefficiency innocent people would die so the numbers would add up in order to justify keeping them on the ground.

    There is no justification for their actions the same way there will be no accountability and that is the whole outfits success getting away with murder.

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  66. Alec

    Your whole reasoning is illogical and I find highly questionable. Let me just go through what you say and how you contradict yourself:

    "The argument that they were rejects with murder in mind, rather than soldiers acting out the role assigned to them by their superiors, absolves the British state of liability for this group." Who said that? I said two things which has been totally misinterpreted by you: I made a judgment call based on their actions (facts) which suggests that the MRF were more likely rejects and misfits than elite crack combat troops (occam's razor principle). You initially accept, "at face value" Cursey's account you then go on to bolster Cursey about the MRF by referring to some photographs wherein berets and caps are worn.

    "Cursey boasts of the professionalism of the unit in the execution of its duties. Hence their desire today for recognition of their service to Queen and country." You have tediously argued with me in agreement with Cursey's account that they should be recognized as the elite soldiers that they were. They should be exposed not glorified as elite men of courage.

    "The MRF was acting on direct orders every bit as much as were the Para's that shot down innocents on the streets of Belfast and Derry." This does not advance your defense of these man as elite troops it simply suggests that there was a common chain of command (namely Kitson). As has been repeatedly stated above "they were ordered not to act like soldiers but a terror group." And they carried out their orders.

    You claim the the MRF success lay in their ability to "getting away with murder." They did not escape prosecution through their elite courage, cunning,stealth or guile. The people who gave them guns and their orders also controlled the Prosecution Service and Police AND that is not to the MRF's credit or professionalism.

    "...they were inefficient and as a result of their inefficiency innocent people would die..." By their own account they say they were efficient and effective, they still defend their actions and how good they were at killing soft targets. Further, By Your own account, YOU say they almost defeated the IRA. They killed who they were told to kill -namely any random nationalists as a means of terrorizing the nationalist community. Proximity to barricades seems to have been what marked people for death. They were efficient and effective at killing unarmed civilians as the record shows.

    I find it staggering that you continue to argue the professional virtues of the MRF as elite soldiers rather than the cowardly bastards that they were. What did it take to shoot soft targets from a passing cars before driving away fast?

    Remember Alec you had this to say when I suggested that
    "The distinguished service of British soldiers in the north of Ireland is not something I could commend. It would turn my republican stomach to accord them such high praise. The British army may lavish its soldiers with meritorious awards for their bravery and valor on foreign soil, not I."

    You take the prize for this one:
    "I doubt any regiment would look upon this gang with pride if anything they would laugh at them for being so cowardly. The uniformed soldiers on patrol showed more bravery than these cowards dressed as civilians.

    That is what I have consistently been arguing throughout --in fact I said in comparison with Loyalists the Loyalists come out looking like Spartans. But you took issue with me on that as well.

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  67. CORRECTION: Sorry Tain Bo

    I had hit the send button as I realised my mistake as you wrote the following not Alec.

    "I doubt any regiment would look upon this gang with pride if anything they would laugh at them for being so cowardly. The uniformed soldiers on patrol showed more bravery than these cowards dressed as civilians.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Tiarna,

    no need for an apology it was a simple mistake and easy to do on here but thanks for pointing it out.

    I think you have clearly and concisely argued as to why there should be no brass band trumpeting their murderous role even the very name MRF suggests they would be a take no prisoners outfit from the word go.

    Even if we look at their primary role of reaction rather than prevention it only highlights the next logical step being kill civilians to cook the books and make it look like money well spent of a “special force” that ultimately was a complete military failure as they abandoned their primary objective and used well disciplined ghost terror on random Catholics.
    Rather than dispute their role as it seems very intently clear it would be interesting if their government would release the names of those murdered by this outfit.

    That would end all speculative argument and show the real enemy was not the combatants but the ordinary people.
    A fact that the government doesn’t seem to mind though and individual shot here or there is no different than those shot in Ballymurphy or Derry or any other innocent victim that was murdered by the BA throughout the war, the only difference being the MRF were by design a terror weapon rather than an effective counter force and I don’t see any other reason for their deployment.

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  69. Tain Bo, these are the facts.

    1. The MRF was set up in 1970/71 by the British army high command.

    2. It was intended as a counter-insurgency unit to combat the IRA using unconventional methods.

    3. It was made up of soldiers from the elite regiments of the BA, and rouge elements of the IRA.

    3. It was not subject to the normal channels of control and command.

    4. Its members underwent an intensive selection process for suitability.

    5. It targeted IRA personnel and conducted false flag operations against the civilian population.

    6. It was perceived as a threat by the IRA.

    7. Its actions were covered up by the BA using misinformation and false claims.

    8. No member of the MRF has ever been charged with the willful murder of civilians.

    9. Its commander ended his military career as senior ranking officer of the BA.

    10. Frank Kitson received a CBE) for his services in 'northern Ireland, finally reaching the rank of General.

    11. In 1974 the MRF was replaced by 14 intelligence company with a few of its members, including Cursey, transferring to the new unit for a short time.

    These are the facts are none suggest to me that the British army was ever embarrassed by the work of the MRF. If anything it creators and members were awarded for their services.

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  70. "Modus operandi

    "Many details about the unit's modus operandi have been revealed by former members. One issued a statement to the TOM in July 1978. In 2012–13, a former MRF member using the covername 'Simon Cursey' gave a number of interviews and published the book MRF Shadow Troop, about his time in the unit. In November 2013, a BBC Panorama documentary was aired about the MRF. It drew on information from seven former members, as well as a number of other sources."

    "The MRF was based at Palace Barracks in the Belfast suburb of Holywood.[3] The MRF's first commander was Captain Arthur Watchus.[4] In June 1972, he was succeeded as commander by Captain James 'Hamish' McGregor.[3] It was split into sections, which were each commanded by sergeants or sergeant-majors who had served in the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment.[5] The unit consisted of up to 40 men, handpicked from throughout the British Army.[6] It also included a few women.[7] According to military sources, the MRF would have up to nine soldiers deployed at any one time, with nine more on standby and the others resting.[5]"

    "The MRF had both a 'defensive' surveillance role and an 'offensive' role.[3][1] MRF operatives dressed like civilians and were given fake identities and unmarked cars equipped with two-way radios.[7] They patrolled the streets in these cars in teams of two to four, tracking down and arresting or killing suspected IRA members.[7][6] They were armed with Browning pistols and Sterling sub-machine guns. Former MRF members admitted that the unit shot unarmed people without warning, both IRA members and civilians,[6] knowingly breaking the British Army's 'Rules of Engagement'.[5] Former MRF members claim they had a list of targets they were ordered to "shoot on sight",[7][3] the aim being to "beat them at their own game"[7] and to "terrorise" the republican movement.[5] According to Cursey, the unit was told that these tactics had British Government backing, "as part of a deeper political game".[7] He said his section shot at least 20 people: "We opened fire at any small group in hard areas [...] armed or not – it didn't matter. We targeted specific groups that were always up to no good. These types were sympathisers and supporters, assisting the IRA movement. As far as we were concerned they were guilty by association and party to terrorist activities, leaving themselves wide open to the ultimate punishment from us".[5] Cursey mentions two occasions where MRF members visited pubs and "eliminated" IRA members.[5] One member interviewed for the BBC's Panorama, Soldier F, said "We were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group".[6] Soldier H said "We operated initially with them thinking that we were the UVF", to which Soldier F added: "We wanted to cause confusion".[4] Another said that their role was "to draw out the IRA and to minimise their activities".[6] They said they fired on groups of people manning defensive barricades, on the assumption that some might be armed.[3] The MRF member who made a statement in 1978 opined that the unit's role was one of "repression through fear, terror and violence".[9] He said that the unit had been trained to use weapons favoured by the IRA.[9]"

    "Republicans argued that the MRF deliberately attacked civilians for two main reasons: firstly, to draw the IRA into a sectarian conflict with loyalists and divert it from its campaign against the state; and secondly, to show the Catholic community that the IRA could not protect them, thus draining its support.[10]"

    These are an extracts from Wikipedia I think may help to inform the discussion.

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  71. I appreciate that Tain BO.

    Had we not been white Europeans the MRF would have been even worse. In Malaya and Kenya MRF type pseudo gangs were used to even more terrorizing effect. After killing their victims they would severe the head and put the head/s on polls to display in village centers and round up all the villagers to look at the heads to identify who they had killed.

    I don't think it is a small coincidence that Kitson was involved in Kenya and Malaya as a counter-insurgent before being given command in NI while still at the lower rank of Brigadier. The para's involved in both Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy were under his command as were the MRF --Kitson was removed from NI and to our knowledge was not returned.

    In his book Counter-gangs Kitson talks of the satisfaction he got from when a machete finds human flesh. The man was a complete sociopath and I would say the Father of modern Terrorism.

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  72. Alec,

    Modus operandi citied from Wikipedia or a book that shows favour to the outfit is hardly a defense or an accurate depiction of their role.
    I wouldn’t be throwing in my sixpence if I was arguing from a blind corner on the MRF and their role.

    You repeat the term false flag are you suggesting there was a clean flag.

    It is not a question of those members who play down their role with the polite excuse they were aware they were breaking BA rules of engagement. Of course they were as they were ordered to masquerade as a gang and inflict as much terror as possible hence breaking any law they want as they were the law.

    That’s a brave we tale they open fire on anyone who might be up to no good what a load of rubbish. The truth being they open fired without reason all the latter does of up to no good is justify their action and makes them sound like heroes.

    I stood on street corners with friends and was sympathetic to the cause and given the area I lived in was far from hard-line republicans were easy targets and on a daily bases had to contend with the standard harassment from the RUC/UDR/BA.
    His excuse that he shot at groups of people for being up to no good is laughable as again it didn’t stop people from gathering in small clusters at certain spots.
    If anything people gathered out of boredom as there was basically not much else to do than knockabout.

    The one Brit again modifies the role by stating they were not there to act as an army unit but a terror group which sort of absolves his guilt and puts distance between the MRF and the BA. He is partially honest as they were there as a paid professional BA terror gang.

    Citing Wikipedia is hardly a reliable factual source and does not enhance your argument as I said I would not be arguing on the issue if I had not done my homework.

    I am sure the common soldier on boot patrol would be disgruntled knowing for an apt reverse of hanging about being up to no good that he and his mates would have been viewed as being up to no good and easy targets.
    Meanwhile his counterparts in the MRF had an easy touch dressed as civilians carrying out a ghost campaign of murder and terror.

    Certainly the ordinary soldier would view them as cowardly even if they understood the MRF role they would still be considered an embarrassment to regimental pride.
    Take a visit to any BA forum and ask what the ordinary soldier thinks of the MRF.

    Again they were failures; cowards and the MRF were doing nothing heroic to save the Queens captured land.
    They were lower than the UVF/UDA/RHC at least the loyalists made no excuses and were not paid by the shilling but attacked with a belief they were defending their people.
    I am sure they welcomed the MRF’s role of stiffing taigs but wouldn’t view them as they viewed themselves.

    In the end game they did inflict terror and confusion, confusion being the lesser evil but ultimately they failed and alone that would suggest embarrassment crack troops failing to combat the movement.

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  73. Tiarna,

    how true in a sense our lily white skin saved us from the full ferocity of British terror.
    I have read in-depth the exploits and methods used by the British whilst taming the savages and how they viewed these people dictated the horrific treatment handed out by the Queens own proud soldiers.

    It makes one wonder how anyone would take pride in human butchery. I think you might be right about Kittson he was a dedicated serial murderer and in another time he would have made the perfect ruthless inquisitor.

    I think part of his war if not his entire wars were more about keeping the old guard ways and would go to any length to protect his right wing WASP world from anything that remotely disagreed with his politics.

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  74. Tain Bo,

    It is clear you have not did your home works at all. You have not cited a single source. Your arguments are supposition and conjecture. Wikipedia, whilst not the final say on most matters, attempts to source its information. Please do not try to score points by assuring me that you have did you home work.

    "Certainly the ordinary soldier would view them as cowardly even if they understood the MRF role they would still be considered an embarrassment to regimental pride.
    Take a visit to any BA forum and ask what the ordinary soldier thinks of the MRF."

    So, you have been to BA sites to ask ordinary soldiers for their personal views on the MRF? Perhaps you might share those exchanges here. Something supporting the above statement would strengthen your argument.

    "They were lower than the UVF/UDA/RHC at least the loyalists made no excuses and were not paid by the shilling but attacked with a belief they were defending their people.
    I am sure they welcomed the MRF’s role of stiffing taigs but wouldn’t view them as they viewed themselves."

    I don't think you actually believe this for a second. Loyalism was permeated with paid agents form the bottom to the top. Frankly, I find the suggestion that the Shankill Butchers were less cowardly and motivated by higher principles unsettling. From the earliest days of the conflict the loyalist paramilitaries were assisted by the British state, either officially or unofficially. The Glenanne gang was a motley crew of British soldiers, RUC officers, and members of the Mid-Ulster Brigade of the UVF. Agents like Brian Nelson greatly enhance the killing power of the UDA and there were undoubtedly others before him. Robin Jackson, aka The Jackal, was the Mid-Ulster Brigadier at the time of the Glannanne gang and is believed to have been both a special Branch and MI5 agent.

    To say the MRF failed is a misnomer. They existed within a very specific time frame i.e between 1971 and 1974, and were superseded by 14 Intelligence Company. Counter-insurgency continued to play a central role in the fight against the IRA and, as Mackers alluded to, may have been a significant factor in the ceasefires.

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  75. Tain Bo,

    I find myself covering old ground and feel that I have exhausted my contribution. We can continue trading punches but, I doubt either one of us shall deliver the knock out. There comes a point in every debate when someone must have the final word: I am happy to leave it with you.

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  76. Alec,

    I was unaware we are/were trading punches nor have I been seeking the knockout as you put it.
    You make a comment then a second that suggests nobleness on your part gracing my uninformed opinion with the last sound.
    Makes for an awkward out of position reply as you appear needled and angered that someone would address what sounds and reads like your quiet admiration for a bunch of Brit murderers.

    Twist my words to suit your position what part of lower than loyalist Paramilitaries don’t you understand.
    Passing of the loyalist as a well paid gang is utter rubbish certainly they were influenced and helped by the security forces but ultimately their war with us was based on their belief they were/are superior and without hesitation they would murder Catholics with or without aid from the security forces.

    Undoubtedly the security forces had certain uses for certain members of these groups but to imply they could not operate at will without the security forces is utter nonsense as much as I loathe loyalist paramilitaries I give them credit for defending their beliefs and respect them as an enemy even to this day as they are a very capable outfit but then again murdering innocent Catholics is their Protestant duty.

    The MRF didn’t function on personal belief but strict orders to kill combatants which again they failed at and resulting from that failure the need to kill Catholics.
    Do you really believe any of these shites give a toss about who they killed is it possible that they in order to promote sectarian warfare killed innocent Protestants?
    And, yes, that is pure speculation on my part.

    You will have to forgive my ignorance on the matter as I was unaware that you are the sole authority on the MRF concluding they operated solely in two parts of the city and targeted groups of people dressed in certain clothes acting in the manner of up to know good.
    Would most of what you say not meet the quality of speculation and subjective conjecture as you cite no serious source that holds no bias on the actions and role of the MRF?

    View it as you may but militarily they failed an example of military success would be Operation Motorman the massive number of troops had an objective which they achieved.
    I am sure if the IRA had have been equipped to defend the no go areas the BA reaching their objective would have had a different ending.

    Even though you say you have exhausted you part on the issue do you see anywhere in their history they accomplished their order objective.

    I don’t mind you insulting my intelligence but don’t insult your own and don’t ask me to play fetch as I said go to any BA forum and ask the regular soldier what their opinion is on the MRF.

    You have to be joking if you think the ordinary Brit on boot patrol a visible easy target would not view those dressed as civilians as cowards.
    For the better part they would view them as they viewed the RA as cowards hiding behind civilians.

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  77. Alec

    "To say the MRF failed is a misnomer... [They] were superseded by 14 Intelligence Company"

    Bit of an oxymoron wouldn't you say Alec?


    Tain Bo

    Well put.

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  78. Tanin Bo,

    I am not needled at all. What is the reason for this sensitivity. My use of a boxing analogy was not to be taken literally. Personally, I have come to the point where I have tired of the discussion after 80 comments. In this vain, I will not respond any further except to say that I respect your views on the subject matter.

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  79. Tain Bo
    To say our skin colour saved the Irish from the horrors the Brits unleashed on others is simply not true.
    Our people have been massacred, starved, imprisoned and butchered wholesale.

    I also disagree, well you know I do, that Loyalists acted in defence of their own people.
    I have asked the question many times and never had it answered! Who or what were Loyalists defending in 1964/66/67/69 when they engaged in the murder of total innocent Catholics.
    Tiarna in an earlier post said, Loyalists took the war to the IRA!
    The only time they ventured in that direction was when they were guaranteed safe passage via the Brits.
    The targets of Loyalism were almost always innocent unarmed Catholics

    Theoretically, there maybe similiarities in the type of people that made up Loyalists gangs and the MRF but it doesn't deflect from the unsavoury notion that the latter were hand picked
    and specially trained to unleash what they unleashed.

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  80. Alec

    "What is the reason for this sensitivity" That's a bit of self projection and a means of cop-out from the arguments put to you. Tain Bo's contributions are neither emotional nor touchy but well reasoned and articulate.

    Throughout you have not shifted from your position (you said) that "I can only accept at face value Cursey's account..." and not the empirical facts that the MRF were cowardly scumbags far removed from any noble elite (namely highly trained cream of the Queen's own that you and Cursey would claim that they were).



    Fionnuala Perry

    "To say our skin colour saved the Irish from the horrors the Brits unleashed on others is simply not true. Our people have been massacred, starved, imprisoned and butchered wholesale."

    We are not talking in terms of centuries but from 1960's onward. What the MRF or Brits did from 1969 holds little comparison to what they did in Kenya or Malay or Cypress pre 1969.

    In response to Alec's claim of the elite nature of the MRF I said that in comparison; Loyalists had a better track record of 'taking the war to the IRA' particularity in the 1990's where they did target republicans more effectively (with Brit assistance) than the MRF ever did (that is now historical fact). MRF always had access to intelligence files and and license to kill where loyalists didn't always (though collusion has always been evident) -In other-words even loyalists actions (as you say) put emphasis on the cowardly nature of the MRF. (None of that implies that Loyalist were not as you say, it is generally accepted that Loyalists operated on an 'any taig will do' basis)

    By your own view what defines loyalist slaughter of innocents from MRF doing the same thing?? If one accepts Alec's unfounded assertions (or reliance on MRF spin sheets) then Loyalists could do from instinct or hatred what the MRF needed to be highly trained and elite combat troops to do --shoot and run.

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  81. PS: Alec

    I have found your arguments tedious. I do not think you and Cursey's re-writing history to portray the MRF as the best of the best so much so that they almost defeated the IRA.

    The MRF didn't take on the IRA they shot unarmed civilians and ran for cover. As you say had they shot any IRA then they still would have shot unarmed people.

    The only real engagement between the MRF and IRA seems to have been the Four Square Laundry operation -if I recall the IRA got the better of the MRF -in those terms it would be more accurate to claim the IRA defeated the MRF.


    I find your consistent attempt to create an elite myth about who the MRF were is unconscionable.

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  82. Tiarna
    My concern first and foremost is the scale of what they did in Ireland.
    Our skin colour did not accord us any favours. In longevity terms what the Brits done here has not been matched by their record anywhere else.
    You actually make it sound as if we should be grateful that they spared us their really barbarity!

    As for the Loyalists. The only campaign they took anywhere was to unarmed innocent people.
    The Brits picked the targets and colluded with UVF and UDA murder gangs to carry them out.
    I don't need to refer to what is documented I lived through it.

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  83. Nuala,

    pre 69 all the way back to partition loyalist murders were operating from the same hymn book that Catholics were/are evil.
    The murders you cite were as I said before testing the waters in our wee private war we tend to overlook the loyalist position.
    As we view our own as revolutionaries by default the loyalists would be the counter revolutionaries.

    I don’t believe I said they were defending their people but defending their belief that their people were entitled to the British way of life even at the expense of murdering innocent Catholics.
    The pre 69 murders were no different from post 69 with the exception that they were part of stoking the PUL fires as they were not prepared to share the country with what they viewed as second class people and worse Papists.

    The initial terror campaign wasn’t just carried out by thugs it was the so called educated who incited hatred on a massive scale which fueled the terror campaign which followed.
    Hate speech riddled with racism and sectarianism would promote little else but murder as the working and unemployed class of PUL were being railroaded into believing the Papists were plotting (as usual) breeding like rabbits and on the rise to take away the Loyalist British way of life and worst of all trying to make Ulster Irish and Catholic.
    The mobs carried out the dirty work and their leaders got away with inciting what we politely call the troubles a term I disagree with as it suggests hardship rather than horror.

    Historically you are correct the English treated the Irish no fairer however the campaigns Tiarna cited are post World War 2 and we would like to believe that such atrocities’ only existed in the past.

    In the WASP world non-whites are still considered less than human and were subject to horrific murder campaigns.

    As Tiarna pointed out the father of false terror being the maniacal Brigadier Kitson ironically was also used in South Africa were we have all those world learders’ posturing with crocodile sympathy for a man they probably consider a terrorist they tamed.

    I believe for the better part Alec underestimates the role of the MRF and for that matter the role of the entire British dirty war machine.
    I do believe Tiarna is correct and the RA literally put the MRF out of business.

    I would still contend that the kill ratio of innocent Catholics is probably higher than what the Brits have admitted after all the loyalists would willingly accept responsibility even if they did not make the kill.
    And even saying that the Brits didn’t need the loyalists to take credit who would investigate or argue with an official news report as I said in an earlier comment it was a win, win situation for the Brits.

    The dirty trick of shooting whites in SA in order to create a backlash against blacks has been confirmed fact.
    What is there to say that the Brits didn’t stiff a few innocent Protestants just to keep the hatred ripe?

    Nuala as I have said before I always welcome your opinion and give you credit for posting your views straight forward with no back doors.

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  84. Alec,

    It’s the nature of the beast were you see sensitivity I see logical reasoning.
    Have a gander through the history of Kitson perhaps others more knowledgeable than I may persuade your high opinion of his NI heroes.

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  85. Tain Bo,
    In a bizarre way I felt the book review was turned on its head and presented in a way that I initially did not think it was presented or remotely intended.
    Loyalists all of a suddened appeared to be thrown in as almost noble in comparrison to the MRF.
    I still believe the latter were a hand picked elite force given specialised training.
    The fact that they did not murder to a set criteria or deviated from initial rulings does not mean they were amateur.

    Robert Nairac was considered an elite soldier, was he an elite person?
    He delved into situations that sewer rats would have avoided such as murdering and maiming totallly innocent people.
    It doesn't take away from the fact he was trained and specialised and considered elite.
    It just poses more and more questions about when does the humane stop and the barbaric start?

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  86. Fionnuala Perry

    In many ways Nairac seemd to be trying to emulate the whole concept of the pseudo-gang/selous scout type of operative. Though Nairac did more than just shoot and run unlike the MRF.

    And yes Loyalists had more nerve and killed more republicans in-comparison to the MRF. The point being made however was that the MRF could be better likened to Loyalists than to elite combat troops.

    We all agree the MRF were hand picked the dispute is over the caliber of men they were by their actions; were they cowards or heroes who waged a war against unsuspecting unarmed civilians? A cursory glance at the list of victims shows little evidence that they were fighting the IRA much less anywhere near defeating the IRA. That remains their legacy and not Alec nor Cursey's brag or presumption that they were highly trained elite band of brothers. The innocent civilians they killed say they never were.

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  87. Nuala,

    I don’t think the review was turned on its head loyalists would at some point be entered into it as their role is a vital artery in the war to keep Ulster British.

    If anything the review is weepy and apologetic in nature which depicts the IRA as opportunists taking pot shot at soft army targets.
    Why where they initially soft targets simply because they hadn’t a clue and had no idea what they were up against.
    I laughed at reading the ever so clear and present YELLOW CARD rule which makes the Brits sound like the victims and not the invaders.

    That is also an important part of why I mention the shites as being lower than the loyalists at least the loyalists for the most part are indigenous and their actions were expected.
    The review makes those yahoos’s sound like the poor man’s James Bond and trumpets their role as critical in persuading the movement to come to the table and talk.
    Obviously that theory had no wings and never took off their role was to inflict terror and terror committed in a nationalist area would echo throughout loyalist areas as they like us would wait the return fire.

    It is not a defense of loyalist death squads but we never once said after a Catholic was stiffed that a crack Brit unit was behind it as they had us believe the loyalists were doing all their dirty work.

    To say they were equal with loyalist death squads would be to acknowledge that these foreigners had the right to murder Catholics.
    Not that the loyalists had any right but they had something stronger belief and they acted on their beliefs much the same as republicans acted on our beliefs.

    All the review does is make it sound like these wanton killers had a hard time in fact toss in the sad background music and a box of tissues and the review would be perfect for its defense for the MRF whether directly or indirectly.

    They were and are lower on the kill chain as put aside the noble modus operandi Alec suggests and all we are left with is a bunch of killers paid by the government meaning the tax payer. Loyalists would kill for the same sick reason but I doubt they were paid weekly to do so.
    They were not heroes but drunks and hopped up sociopaths who enjoyed the thrill of the Catholic kill. We can pretend they were doing their duty and only hunting down hard targets.

    I believe Tiarna broke the review with ease by challenging the view of the MRF and their role in serial murder. Why with ease in my opinion it is flawed and leaves the reader with the impression that these were admirable foes and not the rats that crawled out of the sewers at night that they are/were.

    Nairic is just another glorified myth no better than his cowardly comrades who mowed down 3 unarmed combatants in Gibraltar and if we follow the trail after the fact the SAS unit done effectively what the MRF failed to do.
    The death and fear that followed I am sure brought a grin to Kitson’s bake even the two SAS men that “innocently” decided to drive into a PIRA funeral very questionable what their true intent was.

    Humans by nature create wars humanity is the right of the victor the vanquished throughout time have always been viewed as less than human.

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  88. Tiarna,
    I have re read Alec's review several times and I fail to see what you see or more precisely read into it what you do.
    You say, 'Loyalists had more nerve' but you have no way of knowing that.
    How would you measure nerve, bravado whatever?
    If you are measuring it against the target, well then collusion and safe passage makes that argument redundant.
    I agree with a lot of what you have written, where I depart from you is the idea that Loyalist showed any iota of bravery or took the war to Republicans.
    I also disagree that this review was in anyway promoting the MRF as some sort of 'band of brother' as I think the final line about pissing on graves blew that out of the water.
    That's how I read it and if we disagree we disagree.
    Anyway goodnight to you and all!

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  89. Nuala,

    Like you I found the review excellent and did not find the critique substantive.

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  90. Nuala


    I can only measure my understanding of nerve against the level or type of actions either MRF or Loyalists were involved.
    But certainly one example that sets MRF and Loyalists apart might be that no member of the MRF could be said to measure up to Stone's attack on Miltown.

    Tain Bo has pointed out the fundamental differences between what motivated the MRF and loyalists. Loyalists knew that if they got caught they were on their own -that would not be the case for the MRF. Not all loyalists were touts and not all broke; they took the risk and did their time (many did life).

    Loyalists were also more likely to be killed by the IRA/INLA than the MRF because Loyalists could be tracked down more easily.

    So in answer I would say that Loyalists had more to loose and took greater risk.

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  91. Tiarna
    I think both groups wre very unsavoury but I can't fault you on this.

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  92. Unfortunately the author of this piece has found himself in Maghaberry Prison in what looks like another erosion of civil liberties rooted in British political policing practices in the North. Just on Saturday both he and I visited Seamus Kearney in Maghaberry also targeted by the same British police force.

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  93. Mackers,
    What can you say! Only stomach churning.

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  94. This is a very, very interesting subject and discussion.

    I think that it's important to keep in mind that the MRF did more than drive around shooting civilians. Their intelligence wing showed some signs of sophistication (Four Square, prison agitation and so on) and they also undoubtedly turned IRA members into informers.

    With this in mind, it's actually quite incredible that they also drove around the Falls (and, it appears, the Shankill) randomly shooting civilians, often not even managing to kill them. It's pretty clear that they wanted to totally destabalise Belfast, which of course would lead to widespread murder and destruction.

    The question I'd like to pose is this. Could it be that within the MRF there was a unit (or two or three) who were, basically, lustful for blood and just wanted to kill people? Of course, nobody within the MRF would inform on others who indulged in this, and the top brass would protect them.

    But that's what it appears to me - within the MRF there were intelligent operatives, who were a danger to the IRA, and there were pathetic murderers, indulging in crime for kicks.


    @ Tiarna

    I think that your points about loyalist murders lack merit. The IRA, in my opinion, were never particularly affected by the killings of Nationalist civilians, or the creation of the very occassional martyr from their own ranks. Loyalist violence was self-serving, from the point of view of the perpetrators, but in the bigger picture, it aided the IRA - stretched the RUC and army and destabalised Northern Ireland. Arguably, loyalist violence worked to the IRA agenda.

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  95. Re: the incident in the bar on the Crumlin Road

    That absolutely aroused suspicion, let's face it, it just didn't happen. So why is he claiming it did? Perhaps Cursey is unaware that students and former participants of the conflict can readily identify a fantasist quite easily.

    The vile and ridiculous John Black and his easily refutable tome Killing For Britain being a case in point.

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  96. @ Tain Bo

    "The dirty trick of shooting whites in SA in order to create a backlash against blacks has been confirmed fact.
    What is there to say that the Brits didn’t stiff a few innocent Protestants just to keep the hatred ripe?"

    There is evidence that exactly this happened. An MRF car crashed on the Shankill after a shooting, and a UDR man was the victim of numerous assassination attempts. The Broken Elbow contains a link to a pamphlet about the MRF that's very, very interesting.

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  97. Spon:

    If my memory serves me correctly when that so called shooting of two volunteers in a bar just of the crumlin rd, by that time time, there wasn't one bar standing on the crumlin rd, they were all burnt to the ground, and , I don't know of any bars just off the crumlin rd , because as sure as hell is hell, there was none on the nationalists side of the crumlin rd, and , to walk across to the other side of the crumlin rd was signing your own death warrant, I'm sure i would have remembered two volunteers being shot in a mysterious bar. don't forget, its being implied its a catholic bar and safe for the ira , because its stated the two ira men entered and spoke to the staff.

    That's nothing but fantasy island.

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  98. Alec said: “The argument that they were rejects with murder in mind, rather than soldiers acting out the role assigned to them by their superiors, absolves the British state of liability for this group.”

    No it doesn’t because if they were rejects or not they were recruited by the Brits to do what they did.

    Alec said: “Killing civilians in drive by shootings, or by whatever other means, was a deliberate act carried out by disciplined soldiers.”

    Perhaps….but that’s not proof that they were disciplined soldiers or just the Dirty Dozen.

    Alec said: “Indeed, Cursey boasts of the professionalism of the unit in the execution of its duties.”

    Well…to quote Mandy Davis: “He would wouldn’t he?”

    Alec said: “Hence their desire today for recognition of their service to Queen and country.”

    Shocker that. There’s a movie going around the States now about a Naval Seal unit getting it’s ass kicked by the Taliban in the Afghan mountains like the 7th Calvary got it’s kicked at the Little Bighorn. But that doesn’t stop the usual suspects in the usual places from trying to portray these invading death squad units as heroes. The only recognition they should receive is in a police lineup before conviction at The Hague.

    Alec said: “The MRF was acting on direct orders every bit as much as were the Para's that shot down innocents on the streets of Belfast and Derry.”

    Yes.

    Alec said: “If they over stepped the mark on occasions it was not due to indiscipline but rather over zealousness.”

    How would you know that and what difference does it make? As they say: “Mission, mission, mission.”

    Alec said: “Their actions were concealed by the top brass through the dissemination of misinformation and false claims.”

    Well yes of course but that's not evidence per se of them being disciplined elite soldiers.

    Alec said: “As I have already said, these individuals had a propensity for violence and adventure.”

    These are the attributes of all imperial death squads disciplined or not.

    Alec said: “From any republican perspective they were killers with no justification.”

    I disagree…they were killers with justification, i.e. to root out and defeat a native insurgency by any means.

    Alec said: “In fact, the working premise of Cursey and his colleagues was that there were few, if any, innocents in the nationalist districts of the Lower Falls and Andersontown.

    I've heard this before: “If they run they’re VC and if they stand still then they’re well-disciplined VC.” ---Full Metal Jacket.

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  99. Owen,

    unfortunately Alec is no longer around to respond to you. He is in Maghaberry Prison.

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  100. Sorry to hear that!

    Please email me his mailing address there if you have it.

    Tx

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  101. Owen,

    Alec McCrory
    Roe House
    Maghaberry Prison
    Balinderry
    Co Antrim
    North of Ireland

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  102. Anthony,

    Thank you for all that information.

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  103. SPON,

    My apologies for the late reply you add some very astute observations to the debate.
    I am inclined to agree with you on the impact killing innocent Catholics had on PIRA/INLA in the greater sense I don’t believe it would merit any serious attempts at retaliation nor did it affect them operational wise.
    That is not to deny they were involved in futile sectarian killings that is not in dispute.

    It would be more probable that in my opinion the BA death squads targeted innocent Protestants knowing what the predictable outcome would be.
    They knew and understood the psychology of the Loyalists and manipulating them would prove easier than manipulating the nationalists.

    The two communities being already bitterly divided it would make sense from a BA strategic point to force both sides into a deeper sectarian war.

    I don’t think the British military command viewed the RUC as an effective tool in their war with PIRA/INLA I doubt there would have been much concern if the local security forces were stretched beyond capacity.
    The relationship between the BA and local security forces was not as healthy as they would want us to believe.

    I think that is made clear by the 1974 strike were the BA were ready to take on the UDA but in the end were ordered to stand down.
    That infuriated the British military who were tired of babysitting the local security forces.
    This role of the BA being forced into a quasi police force certainly affected the pride and morale of the BA.
    It is no accident or surprise that shock tactics were introduced not only as a means of hitting nationalists where it hurts but also to bolster the moral of the troops on the ground who were taken a bad beating.

    You are correct in pointing out that certain dirty tactics by the BA did backfire not just in terms of stretching the security forces beyond their limits but also in terms of failing to deliver the incapacitating blow to PIRA/INLA.
    Rather than force the RM into the role of defense it sent them on the offense which the security forces at the time bore the brunt of.

    I hope some of that makes sense as I am a little on the foggy side today.

    I Appreciate your input

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