THE BLOG
21/11/2013 09:40 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

Britain's Undercover Services Exposed Again?

By Jan Needle, author of Other People's Blood.

The illicit activities of Britain's undercover services has once again jumped to the top of the news schedules.

The same week that my novel, Other People's Blood - a grimly exotic story of government-inspired murder of supposed terrorists, was published, Panorama is showing a special programme about an undercover unit that allegedly did just that.

Former members of the unit - known as the Military Reaction Force - openly admit that they sometimes ignored the 'Yellow Card' rules on using deadly force.

The MRF - dubbed Britain's Secret Terror Force by the programme - are said to have shot unarmed civilians. The claims were repeated on the Today Programme this morning, and the Ministry of Defence later said they have been passed to the police.

But a PSNI spokesman insisted they would not comment until they had viewed the programme.

One of the soldiers told Panorama of their role in 1970's Northern Ireland: 'We were there to act like a terror group. We had our own rules, but I don't recall being involved in the shooting of an innocent person.'

As well as using illegal tactics, the unit apparently used unusual weapons and vehicles, including a Tommygun (Thompson sub machinegun) and Ford Cortinas.

I heard about the alleged activities of the Military Reaction Force many times when I was researching Other People's Blood, but could never get it officially confirmed, not surprisingly. It was common knowledge among journalists in the Province during the worst of the Troubles, although they could never write about it.

Now the existence of the Military Reaction Force has been exposed - if not fully admitted - it will be fascinating to see what other secrets ooze out of Northern Ireland's tragic, troubled history.

It is a beautiful country, and a country which I love. Hopefully, the more truth that is finally revealed, the more chance there will be for a genuine and final reconciliation.

Jan Needle is the author of Other People's Blood, published by Endeavour Press.