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THE DIRTY WAR by Martin Dillon


by Martin Dillon

Pub Date: April 13th, 1999
ISBN: 0-415-92281-X
Publisher: Routledge

An amazingly detailed and profoundly disturbing examination of the “dirty” covert war between Northern Ireland’s paramilitary groups and British security forces. Investigative journalist Dillon focuses on the chaotic years of 1969—90 to describe how British security forces attempted to infiltrate and destroy the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). The two sides fought a deadly, no-rules war with spies, informers, assassination, misinformation, and wholesale coverup. While the IRA tried to destabilize Northern Ireland by bombing, compiling weapons, and murdering British troops, British security forces established their own “unofficial” hit squads to identify and murder IRA operatives. Dillon brilliantly illuminates the deadly, murky underworld of spies and informers, meticulously describing how British intelligence would arrest “vulnerable” IRA members and “turn” them with threats of imprisonment, blackmail, torture, and monetary rewards. Dillon also reveals how the IRA systematically searched out and eliminated informers within their midst—usually with a bullet to the head. Dillon fully understands the devastating political and cultural implications of Northern Ireland’s “dirty” war. He repeatedly points out that governmental counterterrorism, waged in secrecy and thus lacking accountability, “raises serious issues for a democracy.” He cites the brutal murders of Andrew Murray and Michael Naan, two suspected IRA members killed by British soldiers. Although dozens within the British army knew about the murders, the crime was systematically covered up for eight years. Dillon’s account of the Murray/Naan murders makes for shocking and fascinating reading. The “dirty” war in Northern Ireland has created a diseased culture of silence, betrayal, and selective memory. Though a decade old (it was a bestseller when first published in Ireland), Dillon’s book is investigative journalism at its relevant best. He’s put himself in harm’s way to get at the dark truth, gaining access to both British intelligence sources and the IRA. A seminal, if dated, study of Northern Ireland’s nightmarish legacy of official and unofficial violence.