Suspected IRA militant charged in undercover agent’s killing

Robert Nairac

Robert Nairac

A man suspected by British authorities to be a former member of the Irish Republican Army has been charged with participating in the killing of a British army undercover agent, who tried to infiltrate the IRA in the 1970s. Robert Nairac, a captain of the British Army’s Intelligence Corps, was among numerous British government agents who attempted to infiltrate the IRA from the 1960s onwards. Although educated at Oxford, Nairac studied Irish republican culture and put on a convincing Northern Irish accent in order to carry out the infiltration. His activities centered on patronizing various pubs in Catholic stronghold areas of Belfast, using the cover name “Danny McErlaine”, and pretending to be a member of the Official IRA (an IRA splinter faction) from north Belfast. But on May 14, 1977, a group of IRA members abducted Nairac from a pub in South Armagh and drove him to a remote location, where they interrogated him prior to executing him. Nairac’s killing still intrigues researchers, as he is the only one of over 700 British soldiers killed in Northern Ireland in recent decades whose body has never been found. This may happen after the indictment earlier this week of Kevin Crilly, who has been formally accused of involvement in Nairac’s execution. Crilly, 58, fled to the US shortly after Nairac’s death. In 2004, he returned to Northern Ireland using the false name “Declan Parr”. British authorities traced his real identity and in 2008 charged him with kidnapping and falsely imprisoning Nairac. The latest indictment, which directly implicates Crilly in Nairac’s execution, surprised many in Northern Ireland, who believed that the former British Army captain’s killing had been forgotten after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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