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UPDATED: Newly discovered evidence of a secret Kitson-RUC plot to safeguard the UVF. By David Burke.

Emerging details of a clandestine conspiracy hatched by Frank Kitson, the British Army's dirty tricks specialist, and the RUC in December 1971, threatens to expose the roots of British State collusion with Loyalist terror gangs.

Frank Kitson

The campaign for the truth about the infamous McGurk’s bar bombing has uncovered the existence of a covert intrigue hatched by the British Army’s counter-insurgency (i.e., dirty tricks) guru, Brigadier Frank Kitson, and the RUC, to conceal the truth about the UVF’s bomb attack massacre at McGurk’s bar fifty years ago.

Kitson and the RUC conspired to blame the attack on the IRA.

The explosion caused the building to collapse, killing fifteen Catholic civilians—including two children—and wounding seventeen more. It was the deadliest attack in Belfast during the Troubles.

The Ministry of Defence has told the campaign that it has no record of the scheme to switch blame from the UVF to the IRA.

The PSNI (as successor to the RUC), is being non-committal. They undoubtedly know full well that (a) there was a secret arrangement and (b) precisely what it entailed, but don’t want to admit the deeply shameful truth.

The reason for believing the PSNI knows what happened is because the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has details of the secret compact. It is not prepared to provide them to the families of the deceased, at least not at this stage.

McGurk’s bar

What are the MoD and PSNI/RUC trying to hide? What is so controverdial that it merits a cover-up 50 plus years after the event?

What are the MoD and PSNI/RUC trying to hide? What is so controverdial that it merits a cover-up 50 plus years after the event?

The British Army was deployed in Northern Ireland in 1969 to protect Nationalists from organised Loyalist attacks involving attempts to burn them out of their homes. The Army was sent to their rescue. The soldiers were welcomed by the Nationalist/Catholic community. Their arrival ushered in a ‘honeymoon’ period during which relations between the Army and Catholics were harmonious, if not warm. At the time, the threat to the Army and police emanated from Loyalists. In October 1969 Loyalists rioted and murdered Victor Arbuckle, the first police officer to die during the Troubles.

Frank Kitson

The honeymoon period began to peter out as 1970 dragged on. The reasons for its decline are complex, multifaceted and controversial. What is crystal clear, however, is that Brigadier (later General Sir) Frank Kitson, who had been sent to Belfast in September 1970, chose to abandon peacekeeping and go on the offensive instead. He decided he did not want to take on both Nationalist and Loyalists and opted to attack the IRA (then consisting of the Officials and Provisionals). He used ancient dirty trick tactics which he had brought up to date in colonies such as Kenya and Malaya. In a nut shell, he used Loyalist terror gangs as proxy assassins to kill IRA members.

I set out the evidence that Kitson and elements within the RUC were using the UDA assassination squad commanded by Tommy Herron of the UDA’s Inner Council as proxy assassins in my recent book on Kitson. It includes a chapter on Herron and one of his top killers, Albert ‘Ginger’ Baker. If the UVF attack on McGurk’s had sparked  the internment of the UVF, it was likely that figures in the UDA such as Herron and Baker would have become targets too.

When internment was introduced in August 1971, Kitson’s Loyalist cats’-paws were not interned. The McGurk’s bar bomb atrocity of December 1971 – four months later – threatened to change this set of affairs. Had the truth about the bomb attack emerged, i.e. that the UVF was responsible for the bomb in the bar – not the IRA, it would have amplified calls to intern members of the UVF and UDA. Who would carry out Kitson’s assassination programme if the Army and RUC were ordered to intern Loyalist gunmen?

These books by Ciarán MacAirt are essential reading for anyone interested in the McGurk’s bar bomb scandal.

At the time, Kitson and the SAS were also training a secret army, the MRF. Its personnel were drawn from the Army. The MRF had an assassination wing. When the MRF was deployed on shoot to kill missions in 1972, they wore civilian clothing thereby inviting the public to conclude they were Loyalist terrorists when the circumstances so demanded. If Loyalists were to be interned in a widespread and effective manner, it had the potential to strip the MRF assassins of their cover i.e., the public perception that MRF hits were the work of the UVF and UDA.

Overall, the McGurk bar bombing was a threat to Kitson’s various lethal strategies. Hence, the McGurk attack was portrayed as an IRA ‘own goal’. Kitson, a black propaganda expert, saw to it that the attack was blamed on a non-existent IRA unit which was meant to have carried the bomb into the pub en route to its final destination, but that it exploded prematurely.

Kitson knew that this was a lie.

Kitson’s books on counterinsurgency tactics. They are incredibly frank about his military career in Kenya, Malaya, Oman and Cyprus. Kitson, who is still alive,  has never described his experience in Ireland.

Kitson’s template for the exploitation and manipulation of Loyalist gangs as proxy assassins was pursued for three decades by MI5, the MRF, RUC Special Branch, the FRU and a host of other secret departments. The UVF was deeply involved in these clandestine programmes. Robin ‘the Jackal’ Jackson of the UVF featured prominently in collusive murders during the 1970s and 1980s.

Lethal Allies by Anne Cadwallader and A State in Denial by Marget Urwin. Both of these acclaimed books address Loyalist-State collusion.

The newly discovered Kitson-RUC arrangement by the McGurk’s bar bomb campaign for justice threatens to reveal some of the early roots of this practice.

UPDATE 2 May 2022:

The following information is from a press release from the campaign for the truth about the McGurk’s bar massscre

Chief Constable Snubs Massacre Families and Withholds Evidence

The Chief Constable of Police Service Northern Ireland has yet again snubbed the families of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre despite a protest at the Policing Board to mark the 50th anniversary of the atrocity and an official request to meet with him. Instead, a police representative of the Chief Constable has informed the families that PSNI is withholding critical evidence of the police and British Army cover-up of the massacre.

On 2nd December 2021, families of those killed and injured in the McGurk’s Bar Massacre were left out in the cold at the Policing Board when Chief Constable Simon Byrne refused to meet with them to discuss the PSNI’s withholding of critical evidence regarding the police and British Army cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre.

The families then submitted a formal request for a meeting with the Chief Constable as promised by the Chief Executive of the Policing Board. The families’ asked Chief Constable Simon Byrne to either substantiate the police lies about their loved ones or admit that the police fabricated them.

On 16th December 1971, Chief Constable Graham Shillington of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and his head of Special Branch lied directly to the Northern Ireland Prime Minister and General Officer Commanding of the British Army at a Joint Security Committee meeting in Stormont:

Circumstantial evidence indicates that this was a premature detonation and two of those killed were known IRA members at least one of whom had been associated with bombing activities. Intelligence indicates that the bomb was destined for use elsewhere in the city.

The families tracked this disinformation back to a secret agreement between the British Army’s Brigade Commander of Belfast, then Brigadier Frank Kitson, and the RUC just over 4 hours after the explosion which claimed the lives of 15 civilians including 2 children. Kitson ordered Brigade staff:

RUC have a line that the bomb in the pub was a bomb designed to be used elsewhere, left in the pub to be picked up by Provisional IRA. Bomb went off and was a mistake. RUC press office have a line on it – NI should deal with them.

There was no response from the Chief Constable, so the families contacted his office in late February to request the promised meeting again. His representative only replied at the end of April 2022.

The Chief Constable ignored the request for a meeting and failed to substantiate the police lies or admit the police fabricated them.

Instead, the Chief Constable’s representative affirmed that PSNI is exempting itself from providing the provenance of the RUC’s lies. Previously, PSNI “neither confirmed nor denied” it had this evidence but now tells the families that it has the evidence, but they are not getting it.

A subsequent response informed the families that PSNI was withholding this critical evidence of the mass murder due to:

  • National Security
  • Information supplied by or concerning certain security bodies
  • Investigations
  • Law Enforcement
  • Personal Information

Ciarán MacAirt is a grandson of two of the McGurk’s Bar victims. He said:

“This is a simple request to the Chief Constable: substantiate the police lies about our loved ones or admit that the police fabricated them.”

“Instead, Chief Constable Simon Byrne chose the damaging route of his predecessors: bury the evidence and perpetuate the police cover-up of the McGurk’s Bar Massacre.”

“I have traced the police lies back to a secret agreement between General Sir Frank Kitson, British Army Commander, and the RUC hours after the bombing which claimed the lives of fifteen civilians, including two children. Kitson is a living witness to the British Army and RUC cover-up, but the PSNI has failed to question him under caution despite our urgent requests.”

“Half a century after the McGurk’s Bar Massacre and police cover-up, it is shameful that Chief Constable Simon Byrne chose to withhold critical evidence rather than meet with us and offer our families a modicum of truth. Many of our family members are old and infirm, but we will have to battle even longer as yet another Chief Constable chooses to protect a sectarian police force in the past rather than upholding the basic human rights of our families for truth, justice and acknowledgement today

North Belfast News front page headline.

There is a lot more to the McGurk bar bomb scandal including ugly political machinations between Ted Heath and Brian Faulkner. This article merely glimpses at the tip of an iceberg of deceit and deception. Further details can be found here:

See also: The McGurk’s Bar cover-up. Heath’s Faustian pact. How a British prime minister covered up a UVF massacre in the hope of acquiring Unionist votes to enable the UK join the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the EU.

David Burke is the author of ‘Kitson’s Irish War’. It can be purchased here:


Bloody Sunday: Brigadier Frank Kitson and MI5 denounced in Dail Eireann

The covert plan to smash the IRA in Derry on Bloody Sunday by David Burke

Soldier F’s Bloody Sunday secrets. David Cleary knows enough to blackmail the British government.

Learning to kill

Colin Wallace: Bloody Sunday, a very personal perspective

Lying like a trooper. Internment, murder and vilification. Did Brigadier Kitson instigate the Ballymurphy massacre smear campaign? Where was Soldier F and his ‘gallant’ death squad during it?

Another bloody mess. Frank Kitson’s contribution to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 300,000 have died in Afghanistan since 1979.

Lying like a trooper. Internment, murder and vilification. Did Brigadier Kitson instigate the Ballymurphy massacre smear campaign? Where was Soldier F and his ‘gallant’ death squad during it?

A Foul Unfinished Business. The shortcomings of, and plots against, Saville’s Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

Kitson’s Private Army: the thugs, killers and racists who terrorised Belfast and Derry. Soldier F was one of their number.

Soldier F and Brigadier Kitson’s elite ‘EFGH’ death squad: a murderous dirty-tricks pattern is emerging which links Ballymurphy with Bloody Sunday. A second soldier involved in both events was ‘mentioned in despatches’ at the behest of Kitson for his alleged bravery in the face of the enemy.

Mentioned in Despatches. Brigadier Kitson and Soldier F were honoured in the London Gazette for their gallantry in the face of the enemy during the internment swoops of August 1971.

Soldier F, the heartless Bloody Sunday killer, is named.

Mission accomplished. The unscrupulous judge who covered-up the Bloody Sunday murders. Soldier F and other paratroopers have been protected by the British State for five decades. None of them now face prosecution. This perversion of justice began with the connivance of the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, John Widgery, a former British Army brigadier, Freemason and oath-breaker.

Counterinsurgency war criminals, liars and cowards: Kitson and Wilford, the brigadier and colonel who led the soldiers who perpetrated the Ballymurphy Massacre.

Brigadier Kitson’s motive for murdering unarmed civilians in Ballymurphy.

The McGurk’s Bar cover-up. Heath’s Faustian pact. How a British prime minister covered up a UVF massacre in the hope of acquiring Unionist votes to enable the UK join the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the EU.