The architects of collusion to receive writ from bereaved Irish family

(l-r) Clara Reilly, Mary Heenan and Eugene Heenan

Family of Patrick E. Heenan, murdered by agents of the State, to serve writ on MoD & Frank Kitson in London, Thursday April 30th 2015


Public statement/article from the Heenan family, Relatives for Justice & KRW Law LLP


(l-r) Clara Reilly, Mary Heenan and Eugene Heenan
(l-r) Clara Reilly, Mary Heenan and Eugene Heenan

This Thursday the family of Patrick Heenan, murdered by State agents within the UDA on February 1st 1973 in East Belfast, will travel to London with Relatives for Justice (RFJ) and KRW Law to issue legal proceedings against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and retired British Army Commander in Chief Frank Kitson.


Kitson, who at the time of Mr. Heenan’s murder was a Brigadier posted to the north, is specifically named in the writ, the first of this kind whereby senior military figures have been included in relation to murders in Ireland.

General Frank Kitson
General Frank Kitson


Patrick Heenan, aged 47, was killed when the minibus he was travelling in was targeted by the UDA in East Belfast. Patrick was a foreman joiner overseeing part of the construction of a Catholic school in the east of the city.


The Catholic workers on the site had suspected that their car details had been noted and passed onto loyalist paramilitaries. Patrick decided not to travel by car but instead to travel in a minibus with other Catholic workers from West Belfast, where he lived.


On the morning of the attack the minibus had stopped to allow what appeared to be a partially sighted man to cross the road. As it transpired this was simply a ploy to stop the minibus at which point it was attacked and a British Army issue hand grenade thrown into the main body of the bus containing the workmen. Patrick immediately threw himself on top of the grenade taking the full force and shielding the other passengers. Another man, who subsequently died, lost a leg and several others were seriously injured.


Patrick Heenan with his young family
Patrick Heenan with his young family



Speaking from the offices of RFJ Patrick’s widow Mary said:

“Patrick was a good man. His was a deeply religious man who just lived for the five kids and me. He was a devoted Pioneer within the church. He’d do anyone a good turn and was always helping neighbours. His selfless action in immediately thinking of others was just his way and had he not have done so then the fatalities and injuries would have been much worse. I take a comfort in that at times, though I miss him terribly every single day. He would be so proud of his children and their achievements and of how they turned out. He was robbed of all of that and we were robbed of him. And to think that a government just instigated it all and covered it up makes it more unbearable. That’s why we need accountability”.

Patrick Heenan 2

Kitson has long been cited by many, including the NGO Relatives for Justice (RFJ) who are supporting the Heenan family, as “establishing the policy framework and enabling architecture of pseudo gangs and counter gangs involved in countless sectarian murders and political assassinations involving agents recruited and deployed for such purposes by the State during the conflict”.


RFJ’s Chairperson, Clara Reilly and the Heenan family said:

“Families are under no illusion about the collusive acts that claimed hundreds of lives throughout the conflict and for these families Kitson’s manuals undoubtedly set the entire framework of the time and for decades to follow ultimately leading to an unimaginable toll of human suffering and misery in which impunity was also systemic.


“Policy makers like Kitson should not be allowed to simply sail into the sunset after having played havoc with countless lives and consequently entire communities that are still living with and trying to come to terms with the awful consequences of his actions; actions that continue to be denied and where the bereaved and injured are vilified for daring to speak out.


“It’s now time for truth and above all families want accountability”.


At the end of May 1973 a British soldier, Albert ‘Ginger’ Baker, handed himself into Warminster County Police Station confessing to Patrick’s murder including three other murders. Baker was part of a UDA gang modeled on Kitson’s manual Gangs & Counter Gangs. A sham trial, the first of its kind and known as a ‘supergrass’ trial involving Baker, effectively kept a lid on the entire affair and activities of several key UDA agents also involved. Baker received a life sentence. In prison visits Baker subsequently spoke at length to the Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray of the Association for Legal Justice (ALJ) and also to the Labour Party’s Ken Livingstone revealing his collusive activities and links to British Military Intelligence.


Eugene Heenan, Patrick’s son, said:

“The motivation behind this legal writ and the position of the Heenan family and supported by RFJ is that this is not just about one case – it is about a key policy maker and hundreds of bereaved families and people injured in collusive acts. Today, even decades later, these State crimes cry out for resolution and accountability”.

Patrick Heenan 4

KRW Law LLP, instructed by the Heenan family has named the MoD and Frank Kitson because there is sufficient evidence in the public domain to suggest that the MoD and their employee Frank Kitson were in whole or in part liable for the murder of Patrick Heenan through the actions of Baker and others in the UDA.


Kevin Winters of KRW Law said:

“It is well established that Frank Kitson was the British army officer in the north commanding the 39th Brigade whose doctrine of counter-insurgency warfare was key during British Army operations during this period. This doctrine included the use of ‘counter-gangs’, subversion, psychological operations and the creation of covert military units such as the Military Reaction Force (MRF). Kitson had published on his doctrine in Low Intensity Operations and Gangs and Counter-Gangs articulating his military theories based on his deployment in Malaya and Kenya. His command and influence were such as to make him liable for the actions of Baker and others in the murder of Patrick Heenan.


Mary Heenan is the same age as Frank Kitson - on Thursday she will travel to London to hold him accountable for the policy that took her husband's life
Mary Heenan is the same age as Frank Kitson


“These are civil proceedings for damages but their core value is to obtain truth and accountability for our clients as to the role of the British army and Frank Kitson in the counter-insurgency operation in the North of Ireland during the early part of the Conflict and the use of Loyalist paramilitary gangs to contain the Republican-Nationalist ‘threat’ through terror, manipulation of the Rule of Law, infiltration and subversion all core to the Kitson military of doctrine endorsed by the British army and the British government at the time”.


RFJ also note that equally in the decades to follow the persistent failure of the UK government to establish a legal framework for agent handling meant that a deliberate zone, void of legal accountability for agents and their handlers, existed that facilitated the policy objective of collusion in which impunity was assured.


This was clearly exemplified at a meeting in Downing Street in the late 1980’s concerning intelligence and agent handling where Margaret Thatcher is quoted as asking a senior RUC Special Branch (SB) officer, referred to in the de Silva Review as R/15, what more was needed to ‘…combat terrorism effectively…’ In the exchange the SB officer highlighted that agents were operating in a ‘grey’ area and involved in the ‘…commission of terrorist offences…’ and in the absence of a legal framework guidance was required. The answer he got was that this was too difficult and that SB should continue as before. R/15 interpreted this as ‘carry on with what you are doing but don’t tell us the details’.


This inevitably meant that murders involving agents and collusion continued not least the importation of weapons from South Africa arming loyalists in the late 1980’s involving State agents and the systematic dissemination of intelligence on Catholics. This led to hundreds of sectarian murders from late 1987 onwards, a hitherto and unprecedented capacity of combined loyalism.


In his review of the Pat Finucane murder de Silva cites that 85% of all intelligence held by loyalists came from RUC Special Branch and MI5. The Kitson strategy continued.


Baker’s role is very similar to that of Brian Nelson, one of the key subjects of de Silva’s review. Nelson, also a British soldier, was secreted into the UDA/UFF in the 1980’s and made a meteoric rise within that organization becoming the head of intelligence with responsibility for selecting and targeting, through his agent handlers, people for assassination. His eventual trial, after being uncovered by the Stevens Enquiry Team despite the best efforts from his military handlers to prevent his arrest including sabotage and arson, was also a sham where the truth remained hidden as deals were struck involving senior political and legal figures within the government.


The agent handling of Nelson by the British Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) is also described as a modern equivalent of the Military Reaction Force (MRF) to which Baker belonged. The FRU appearing to be somewhat more sophisticated and resourced to it’s predecessor but again modeled on Kitson’s manuals.


Clara Reilly added;

“Throughout the conflict I dedicated my best efforts in a voluntary capacity within the community to assisting those harmed and who were denied justice. Our work was and remains about protecting human rights and addressing abuses when they occur.


“These were ordinary people with very little to no means at their disposal to defend and right those wrongs against the might of the British State and establishment. As part of the Association for Legal Justice (ALJ) we documented torture and brutality, including the Hooded Men; forced confessions; false imprisonment; internment; attacks and murders; the use of rubber and plastic bullets – the list geos on. That work is also seen in my current role as Chairperson of RFJ and increasingly the lid is being lifted on the ‘dirty war’ of the State. And this is no small measure to the determination of families like the Heenan’s and especially Mary in her late 80’s and who is still continuing to seek truth and accountability. She is an inspiration.


“More recently we have witnessed a growing international solidarity with people from around the globe who also witnessed terrible atrocities at the hands of the British forces in their own countries too; the people of Kenya, referred to as the Mau, Mau, who recently took their case to the London High Court with success, and just last week the relatives of 24 people massacred in the Malayan village of Batang Kali in 1948 took their case to the London Supreme Court seeking a public inquiry. Representatives of the Pat Finucane Centre, Right Watch UK and RFJ joined the families of the massacre and KRW Law also represented the above NGO’s to intervene in that case”.


Eugene Heenan added:

“Like the families of Kenya and Malaya, and of many other British colonies, we too are stepping into the legal arena that seeks to directly hold to account those individuals ultimately responsible for the murder of my father and hundreds of other people here through the policy of collusion. A policy also practiced and perfected decades beforehand in these countries”.


Mary Heenan added:

“I am 88 years of age, roughly the same age as Frank Kitson. I am entitled to accountability and we seek answers from the person we believe bears a significant, if not sole, responsibility for my husband’s murder. When we talk about a government and a policy in reality it comes down to individuals who think up these policies and then carry them out. Our family is firmly of the view that in the absence of Kitson’s manuals and involvement here then Patrick would not have been murdered”.


Mary and Patrick with their son
Mary and Patrick with their son Joe

Concluding Clara Reilly said:

“From my knowledge over those years I can say that much of the above abuses stemmed from government policies and practices. In my experience all roads lead to Kitson as being the influencing architect of those policies”. ENDS


Editors Notes:

Mary Heenan, Eugene Heenan, Clara Reilly (RFJ), Christopher Stanley of KRW Law & Mark Thompson (RFJ) will be in London on Thursday supporting the Heenan family in delivering the legal documents and writ. Accredit RFJ and KRW Law.


Contacting numbers for the Heenan family whilst in London on Thursday via;

Mark Thompson – 07739876128

Via Chris Stanley – 09790519831