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The Troubles

Britain’s secret force ‘used IRA tactics’ during the Troubles

The activities of the Military Reconnaissance Force in the 1970s are subject to a Panorama investigation tonight and former members break their 40-year-silence.

Note: This article was first published at 11.24am on 14 November. It is reproduced here ahead of tonight’s programme.

THE MINISTRY OF Defence in Britain has referred a number of allegations against one of its units that operated in the 1970s to police.

Details of how the British Army allegedly ran a secret undercover unit during the Troubles in the 1970s will be revealed in a Panorama programme to be shown on BBC One next Thursday.

The Military Reconnaissance/Reaction Force (MRF) had only existed for about 14 months when it was disbanded in 1972. At the time, senior army figures said the plain-clothed soldiers operated in Belfast for the purpose of ‘reconnaissance’ so they could keep an eye on what the IRA were doing.

During his investigation, BBC reporter John Ware spoke to some of the unit’s former members. According to the broadcaster, they break their silence for the first time in 40 years and speak candidly about “how they took the war to the IRA, sometimes even imitating the IRA itself”.

Although the soldiers believe they saved many lives, Panorama says it has uncovered evidence that reveals some members operated outside the law, “firing on and killing unarmed civilians”.

Those allegations have been passed to police by the MOD.

Padraig Ó Muirigh, a solicitor for two families who will feature in the documentary, has called on the Attorney General to launch fresh inquiries into the deaths of Patrick McVeigh in May 1972 and Daniel Rooney in September 1972.

A Belfast native and shipbuilder, McVeigh was gunned down in a drive-by shooting on the night of 12 May 1972.

Rooney was just 19 when he was shot by the secret unit. He had been standing with a friend in the Falls area when the shots were fired from a passing car.

In a statement issued to, the solicitor said:

“We believe this programme will shed further light in relation to the role of the British Army in the conflict in the north of Ireland. The unlawful actions of the British Army undercover unit, the Military Reaction Force, which included civilian assassinations to achieve military solutions to the conflict, is a damning indictment of British Government policy.

“The families of Patrick McVeigh and Daniel Rooney will be making an application to the Attorney-General to direct fresh inquests into the circumstances of the deaths of their loved ones. They will also be issuing civil proceedings against the British Ministry of Defence in light of new evidence uncovered by John Ware and the BBC.”

First published 11.24am, 14 November.

Panorama: Britain’s Secret Terror Force will air at 9pm tonight.

Read: Plans to allow children aged 12 to use guns legally in NI

More: Enda Kenny proposes an all-Ireland soccer team to play against England

Poll: Is Gerry Adams’s position compromised by the Disappeared documentary?

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