The Force Research Unit – How It Began

The Broken Elbow

By Ed Moloney and Bob Mitchell

In the wake of the de Silva report on the Pat Finucane assassination there has been a renewed interest, at least on the part of obsessives like ourselves, in the origins of British military intelligence operations in Northern Ireland. By coincidence BBC Panorama also has a documentary in the pipeline, postponed recently for some unexplained reason, on the Military Reaction Force (MRF), the prototype intelligence group established by the British Army’s counter insurgency guru, General Sir Frank Kitson. This fascinating period in the Troubles is being revisited on several fronts and deservedly so.

Some interesting light was shed on this early period in the development of military intelligence units and operations by a document released under the 30 year rule back in 2005. It is a Northern Ireland Office briefing paper prepared for a meeting in April 1974 between British prime minister Harold Wilson…

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