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Title269616494 Political Murder in Northern Ireland
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Part Three

,The Killings: January-lune L973

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. The UDA call offthe assassins:
January 1973

Unlike the previous year, the New Year 1973 found Ulster in
gloom. The false hopes of previous new beginnings had

jtngendered a climate in which it was widely felt that things could
,Snly deteriorate - that some horror even worse than those
already suffered lay just around the corner. They were no fine

of hope to greet this New Year.

il On t January Great Britain and Northern Ireland, together
with Eire and Denmark, officially joined the Common Market.

was the subject of the leader of the Belfast Telegraph that
ovening, and it wrote, more in sorrow, perhaps, than in anger:

One of the worst faults of the Irish people is their obsession with the
They continue to fight the old battles while the world passes by,

i[he EEC is the best hope for the future if it makes people realize that
1.lhe world is bigger than Northern Ireland or Eire, and that 1973 is

more important than 1690 or 1916.
I Sir Winston Churchill in an eloquent passage once referred to the

Pffects of the Great War and its enormous significance for the future
ofEurope. 'But', he wrote, 'as the deluge subsides . .. we see the

steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again.'
lAs the map changes once more we can only hope that such a passage

not bejustified again.

This was not.a very optimistic outlook for the New Year.
the mood of depression was characterized well in a cartoon
on an inside page of the Belfast Telegraph, It depicted an aged
1972 passing the sands of time to a youtMul 1973, with the

: '- and you must learn of the horrors and shootings in
Ireland where, incidentally, about ninety-seven per

of the population want only to live in peace with each
' This indeed was the tragedy of Northern Ireland. The

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war by most of our allies as well as virtually all of our potential enemies.
Some evidence of this can be adduced by comparing the two instruc-
tors, four staf omcers and twelve team members employed by the
British with the numbers maintained by some of our allies. For example
the West Germans maintain Psychological Operations units totalling
3,000 men in their regular army to say nothing of reserve army units,
fp.18el

Thus was the British Army equipped when it embarked on its
duties in Northern Ireland, with just eighteen men trained for
psychological warfare. Nor, when Kitson was writing, were there
any plans to improve this. He argues that in the early stages of a
campaign insurgents would be most vulnerable to infiltration by
intelligence units, and it would be then that there is the greatest
need for action on the part of the Army.

He later discusses '. . . the sort of situation in which troops are
deployed rapidly and unexpectedly into an area where no in-
telligence organizationexists ...' [p.191]. Such was the situation
when inAugust 1969 British troops were sent to Northern Ireland.
Kitson goes on to give his formula for succoss in this situation:

An effective way of dealing with this problem would be to.establish
a unit which could carry out the two separate functions of setting up or
reinforcing the intelligence organization and of providing men trained
in operations designed to develop information by special means. If a
unit of this kind were formed the element designed to set up or rein-
force the intelligence organization would consist of a number of officers
available to move at short notice when needed. These men would be
majors or captains and they would be backed by a number of other
ranks to act as drivers and clerks. The unit could be a relatively large
one in which case there might be three or four groups each consisting
ofa major and several captains, the major being intended for deploy-
ment to a provincial or county intelligence headquarters, and the
captains to districts; a unit of this size would be commanded by a
lieutenant-colonel or senior major who could deploy to the intelligence
hdadquarters of the country concerned. [p.1 91]

Kitson then goes on to talk about the teams that would be
built by the men he has described. The teams would contain
mainly younger men, and they would be divided into cells: .The

actual organization of this cadre must be geared to the fact that,

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t, The Killers (III) - 11ii Br;rish Army

t',-.,, or"" doployed, the men in it will be used to direct indigenous
toams rather than to operate themselves. On this assumption, it

, , should be in a position to provide a number of cells each con-
rr,,, sisting of an omcer and one or two training sergeants' lp.lg}),
It What is to be made of this in the context of Norttrern Ireiand?

If it is assumed - and tho authors do - that it was primarily to
pnable him to put his theories into operation that the Army sent

r: Brigadier Kitson to Belfast in 1970, a number of suggestions can
be made. To come back to the difference between the SAS and the

. MRF, the preceeding passage gives a clue. The SAS, as said
' before, is a regular although specialized unit in the British Army.
" Its operations entail much of the counter-insurgency duties

1: that Kitson outlined. During the past few years the SAS has be6n
,, heavily committed fighting Arab insurgents in Oman and Muscat
' where, coincidentally, Brigadier Kitson also served.
. The officers of the SAS would have formed the nucleus of a
,, counter-insurgency psychological unit as outlined by Kitson

above on his taking up the Belfast command in 1970. Indeed, as'' the British Army, on his own admission, had so few such men,
" Kitson could hardly have got such specialists from any other

source within the British Army. The smaller units, or cells, that
he said should be set up by these men, with one officer and two
sergeants, bear a remarkable resemblance to the M RF or .mobile
patrols' that the Army in Northern Ireland admits to using,
though it has consistently denied SAS involvement. Kitson re-
produced in his book a diagram of a command structure of a
Special Unit. Such a unit would operate independently of the
main-force Army on the spot. Kitson argued that such a unit
should preserve its independence. The purpose of such units
would be determined in the context of the situation, but certainly
the small cells of a single junior officer, two sergeants and a
driver could be used for undercover intelligence work. In the
context of the Ulster situation, the diagram can be interpreted
quite easily to see the cells under the responsibility of the Special
Methods Group as the MRF squads, composed of various mem-
bers of different regiments, brought together for that specific
purpose ia Ulster. The other group, headed Organization, and

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composed of more senior omcers and various drivers and clerks,
would seem to be the SAS, which is not operational, but super-
visory.

Thus it would seem that at the time of the assassinations ther€
did exist a structure within the Army that would fit the apparent
description of assassination squads, and which did have at least
some justification for such a policy in military terms behind
them. But Kitson does not in his book refer to political assassina-
tion as a specific policy, and this is perfectly consistent. The
primary concern of Kitson is with military intelligence and the
Army's preparedness to fight a psychological as well as a military
campaign. It is clear that assassination for political purposes does
come within the terms of reference given by Kitson to his Special
Units, but the question one has to.answer in Northern Ireland is
whether this did indeed occur. On the basis of the evidence
produced in this chapter the case against the Army must be
declared unproven. On the four clear cases where the Army was
involved in killing or attempted killing of Catholics by its plain-
clothes troops, it is by no means certain that the soldiers'claim
to have been fired upon first was not correct, even if the victims
were not those responsible for the shootings.

On its own, the paucity of evidence against the Army would
be sufficient to rule the troops out of major consideration in the
assassinationcampaign. TheArmy may or may not beresponsible
for many abuses in Northern Ireland since it was posted there in
1969.It has not come within the scope of this book to oxamino
any of the allegations laid against it except in the context of the
assassinations. In this field, considering the number of assassina-
tions and attempted assassinations, the Amy's involvement has
been statistically insignificant. As with the Troubles generally,
one has to look to the Catholic and Protestant people of Ulster
for the causes, and the solutions, ofthe assassinations.

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