Sunday, 15 May 2011

15th May 1977 - Northen Ireland 'A terrible deed was born'

Captain Robert Nairac RIP
31st August 1948-15th May 1977

On the night of 15th May 1977, Captain Robert Nairac, a young officer in the Grenadier Guards and seconded to the SAS in Northern Ireland, was working undercover in a well known IRA pub in the Three Steps bar in Drumintee, close to the borders of the Republic.

Despite having the right appearance and accent, Nairac was under suspicion and, as he left at 11.30pm, a group of five men detained him in the car park. Robert Nairac was no stranger to danger; he was capable, strong and confident and it took a hard and bloody fight before he could be subdued and bundled into a car.

He was taken to an unknown place, deep in the countryside and he must have known then that his fate was sealed. The Provisional IRA then formally came into the picture having been alerted by one of the five thugs. What then took place can only be surmised but what is certain is that Captain Nairac was tortured most terribly before being brutally murdered.
His body has never been recovered and the PIRA has never offered any information as to its whereabouts. His family must grieve ever more deeply knowing that they cannot mourn for him at a graveside.

Several members of the ‘Provos’ have been put on trial but the evidence against them has never been enough for a conviction.

Robert Nairac came from an English Catholic family and had a brilliant career ahead of him. His death was a blow to all decent folk but the English Catholic population felt it most keenly; we knew we had lost one of our own. As for the IRA, they never had much of the badge of honour about them, any scrap of a decent element died when Michael Collins was murdered by his fellow countrymen.
Sadly, it was funds from Irish Americans that kept the savage IRA afloat for so long (any IRA links with the Socialist based Irish Republican Brotherhood being conveniently ignored). The IRA spread their poison around the world training and being trained by The Shining Path thugs, Gaddaffi’s henchmen and, of course, ironically, Al Qaeda.

Captain Nairac was posthumously awarded the George Cross in February 1979, his citation reads:-

On the night of 14/15 May 1977 Captain Nairac was abducted from a village in South Armagh by at least seven men. Despite his fierce resistance he was overpowered and taken across the border into the nearby Republic of Ireland where he was subjected to a succession of exceptionally savage assaults in an attempt to extract information which would have put other lives and future operations at serious risk. These efforts to break Captain Nairac's will failed entirely. Weakened as he was in strength-though not in spirit-by the brutality, he yet made repeated and spirited attempts to escape, but on each occasion was eventually overpowered by the weight of the numbers against him. After several hours in the hands of his captors Captain Nairac was callously murdered by a gunman of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who had been summoned to the scene. His assassin subsequently said 'He never told us anything'.
Captain Nairac's exceptional courage and acts of the greatest heroism in circumstances of extreme peril showed devotion to duty and personal courage second to none.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon him,
may he rest in peace. Amen


  1. "any scrap of a decent element died when Michael Collins was murdered by his fellow countrymen."

    Naturally I don't accept your position on the IRA but even if I did I would find this distinction (ie. peace loving Michael Collins versus those nasty republican thugs) to be somewhat arbitrary. Michael Collins was secretely supplying arms and funds to the Belfast IRA even after the Treaty. His successors in the army would later attempt a coup in 1924 ("the second Curragh mutiny"), partly because of what they felt was CNG's betraying of his legacy by recognizing partition and treating NI as a legitimate constitutional entity.

    "any IRA links with the Socialist based Irish Republican Brotherhood being conveniently ignored"

    The PIRA is descended (not 'linked') with the IRB (from which Michael Collins is also a product). The Provos were the explicitly ANTI socialist faction of the 1969 split. It was the Officials that were socialist. They were virulently anti-Provo and later became quasi-unionist. See 'The Lost Revolution' by Brian Hanley.

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  4. Shane - I disagree with your version of history but that's fine.
    However, any offensive posts will be removed by me.

  5. Obviously Irish Catholics are going to have their own perspective on these matters. It is an interesting fact that English Catholics have never had much sympathy with Fenianism.

    Nairac was a Old Amplefordian, from my house at Ampleforth, and there was a big display case including some of his possessions in the dining room. As a teanager I read the account of his death with awe.

    Well English Catholicism and Irish Catholicism are going the same way, perhaps before long we'll stop having to worry about these differences because Catholic culture will be forgotten everywhere. My old house at Ampleforth is boarded up now; I wonder where the Nairac display is.

  6. Thank you for this post, Richard.

    I, too, fell that any worth as a "freedom fighting" group that the IRA might have had was lost after Michael Collins's assassination / murder. (Are you related in any way?)

  7. Dylan, sadly I cannot claim any relationship to Michael although every Collins I have ever met has done so!
    Thanks for your kind comments.