Socialist Worker

Documents reveal army given licence to kill in Northern Ireland during Operation Motorman in 1972

Issue No. 2479

Secret government files have been released about Operation Motorman. That was the large scale incursion by British troops against the “no-go” areas in Northern Ireland in July 1972.

The papers show soldiers and police were given assurances of immunity against prosecution for their actions.

Mural Northern Ireland

A mural in Derry depicting Operation Motorman

In the run up to the operation around 4,000 additional troops were drafted into Northern Ireland. Around 22,000 troops were involved.

British soldiers killed 15 year old Daniel Hegarty and 19 year old IRA man Seamus Bradley.

Seamus’s family say that after shooting him the army took him away and tortured him.

The documents are released as part of the case of the killing of Seamus. They state British forces wanted “an extension of legal powers to free our hands” and “modified rules of engagement within the principle of reasonableness to permit greater freedom of action”.

One document states, “Sporadic terrorist activity will probably continue, and bombing will present the most difficult problem for the Security Forces.

“A period of several weeks of selective search, arrest and surveillance operations backed by interrogation and internment, will be required before the IRA organisation is, in effect, neutralised.”

Paragraphs on how future intelligence operations were to be controlled and reinforced are redacted. So is the section outlining British “Interrogation Policy”.

The plan was to “swamp” IRA strongholds to “achieve complete domination and demoralisation, to force the IRA to fight and to exort such pressure on them that they have little opportunity to carry out their own offensive operations.”

To bolster the attempt to skew opinion in favour of the operation the military aimed to harness the media.

One portion of a document states, “All efforts must be applied to get the support of British newspapers, radio and television by briefings, appeals to Editors and if possible by the attachment of Government Information Officers attached to BBC and ITN in their Belfast newsrooms.

A press statement even referred to the Centurion tanks that were to be deployed, to remove barricades in the no-go areas, as “armoured bulldozers”.

At the original inquest into the killing on October 16, 1973 black and white images shown to the inquest jury did not reveal abrasions to Seamus’s neck.

The claim that the 19-year-old had a rope placed about his neck as part of the alleged torture was dismissed.

In 2013, a fresh inquest into his death and the circumstances surrounding it was ordered.

Richard Campbell, of Quigley Grant and Kyle Solicitors told the Derry Journal newspaper he is baffled as to why it took the MoD two years to release this information in relation to the Seamus Bradley case.

“It is very frustrating. These documents reveal that it was absolutely shocking the way they were setting all this up. It clearly helped formulate the mindset of the soldiers as they were being handed immunity.

“There would appear to be no other reason in this case why the MoD would cause major delays other than they did not want to reveal the mindset of the soldiers and how it was created.”

He added, “It strikes me that the MoD are delaying these inquests so much in the hope that are parties involve either die or lose interest.

“That will not happen because a new inquest has been granted and it will take place”.

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Article information

Tue 10 Nov 2015, 17:03 GMT
Issue No. 2479
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