In the aftermath of the slaughter of unarmed innocent marchers at a civil rights march in Derry, which is now known as Bloody Sunday, enraged nationalists in droves joined the IRA in every city, town and village in Ireland. The IRA set up ASUs (Active Service Units) in the hundreds, which in turn began to attack the British forces and police at an unbelievable rate. The death toll and casualties very quickly soared as the military effectiveness of the now swelled ranks became better trained and more experienced, portraying the IRA as winning the war, and, importantly the propaganda war.
Enter Sir Frank Kitson - the British government creator and head of their “Low Intensity Operations.” This was a fancy name for their “Dirty Tricks” and covert activities - which they had famously carried out in other strife-torn places around the world, like Kenya, Aiden and Malaysia to name but a few.
Kitson, in a bid to turn around the Irish conflict and its increasing bad publicity, created his own strategy to turn the tide, or at least create the public perception that the Brits were now on top of things.
The new strategy was to be known as “Ulsterisation”, a strategy which was to put the RUC./RUC Reserve and UDR more and more into the front line so they would take the brunt of attacks and portray the war in Northern Ireland as a religious sectarian conflict among the "stupid Paddy" with little to no British casualties.
The Army casualties were to be removed from the public view in a more sinister way. When a soldier or groups of soldiers were killed, Kitson’s group put out a publicity blanket over the attack or incident. At the same time they urgently approached the grieving family, explaining that if the soldiers’ killings were continuously publicised it would give the IRA a publicity boost and upper hand: creating the impression that they were winning the war and attracting more and more recruits for them, increasing the killing of more and more innocent British soldiers.
The families in return got a full military funeral and compensation while Kitson’s group explained, excused away and covered up the increasing death toll of army fatalities by declaring that they were killed in road traffic accidents in Germany. In some cases they were mini bus crashes or even full size bus accidents, whichever was needed to excuse away the IRA’s increasingly successful attacks and deaths of soldiers. This was ably assisted by The Sun and Daily Mirror and other embedded newspapers giving farcical publicity to the non-existent crashes.
An English journalist entered the Talk Of The Town Bar on the corner of Mall, Newry in 1973. He started small talk with some of the regulars dotted around the busy pub. But soon his conversation took on a more serious tone when he informed them that he was hired by a family of a young British soldier killed in Northern Ireland six months earlier to find out how and where their son was killed. The journalist tasked with the search used his professional background and quickly traced the young soldier’s last posting to a military base called the “UDR. Centre” on Newry’s main Belfast Road.
The only information the family had was that he was out on patrol in the back of an open top Land Rover. They had been taken in by Kitson's cover up but wanted to know the exact details of how and where he died ... not just the vague account that he was killed in a sniper attack somewhere in Newry.
The patrol was returning to its base a short distance away and, as they were just about to cross a bridge on the way back, their son was shot by an IRA volunteer who fired once, striking him on the head. He was hit by a bullet in Newry not a Volkswagen in Germany, another victim of the conflict in Ireland not as a result of another fictional car crash in Germany.
The Sniper On The Hill
I descended down the hilly steps, my rifle by my side
The light was dim, the night was still, the wind was on my side
I glance alert from side to side, and crouched not to be seen
I knew this night would change my life, I felt it was a dream
No fear, just consternation, alone, no back up team
I knew my skill would stand the test, my aim was good and bold
I broke my cover to cross the steps to reach the sniper's hole
I pressed my back into the high rise wall, the cold granite bit my skin
I sloped the gun to save the strain, the time line would be thin
The pistol grip was plastic, it moulded in my skin
The armalite weighed little, shiny black and made of tin
Two open top jeeps came around the corner, loaded to the brim
The street lights were nice and hazy, no need to zero in
They crawled across the fat street, it was all part of their game
To take control of our town, to make us feel the shame
But this night would be different, their turn to feel the shame
The Macho winged invaders soon feeling Irish pain
Inspired by the great hunger, 98 and 69
I leaned into the rifle my shoulder took the strain
My heart was beating faster now, but my chest was breathing low
I expelled the air and held my breath, my eyes as wide as stars
I squeezed the trigger slowly like many times before
The fast crack broke the silence, things were moving faster now
A man carrying the radio stack was bleeding from his brow
The shock and panic struck them, they ran in every way.
The target wasn’t moving he tumbled, and fell where he now lay
They returned fire to the sky line, but they didn’t know which way
The sniper has the upper hand, it’s always been that way
They shouted in their foreign voices, it gave their fear away
The young boy on the high rise at last had had his say
No more bloody Sunday’s was all that he would say
As he moved back up the hilly steps to fight another day
⏩ Brendan Curran, a married father of two, was jailed for fifteen years having being convicted of attempting to kill a British soldier. During his time in Long Kesh, he became a fluent Gaelic speaker and started to write poetry. He was elected to represented the republican community in Newry, remaining a district councillor for 30 years.