One of the most senior British army officers to operate during the conflict in Ireland and who is most identified with the deliberate killings of Irish civilians has died aged 97, according to reports.
General Frank Kitson led British military operations in the north at the beginning of the conflict and was the Brigadier in charge during the massacres by the British Parachute Regiment in Belfast’s Ballymurphy area in 1971 and Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972.
Kitson was regarded by his military and political commanders as an expert in colonial oppression, specialising in “counter-insurgency operations”
He helped put down resistance to the Crown in Kenya, Cyprus, Malaysia and the Middle East before being placed in command of forces in Belfast in 1970.
Despite his infamously brutality, he ended his career with the highest British military honours.
The 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, which carried out the Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy massacres in Ireland, had earned the nickname ‘Kitson’s private army’.
He also directed the notorious Military Reaction Force (MRF), which carried out drive-by killings of innocent Catholics, based out of the general’s Palace Barracks HQ in Belfast. The MRF is thought to have been formed based on Kitson’s murderous tactics against the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya.
Nationalists consider him to be the architect of the policy of collusion between the British forces and unionist paramilitaries which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocents.
In 2015, Kitson faced legal action for his involvement in the murder of 47-year-old minibus driver Eugene ‘Paddy’ Heenan, who was killed in a unionist grenade attack in 1973.
In 2019, two members of the group of internees known as the ‘Hooded Men’, who were tortured by the British Army in 1971, launched legal action against Kitson and other senior British establishment figures.
Relatives of those murdered by the UVF in the 1972 McGurk’s Bar bombing in Belfast have also called for Kitson to be questioned over revelations the general had advance knowledge of a UVF paramilitary bomb plot that killed fifteen people, two of whom were children, in Belfast in December 1971, and the subsequent cover-up which blamed an IRA ‘own goal’.
Brussels-based political analyst Duroyan Fertl described Kitson as a “blood-stained claw of Britain’s crumbling empire” and said his “brutality” towards and uprisings against British rule was “notorious and unrepentant”.
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said Kitson “bequeathed a legacy of state terror that runs like a rotten thread through the former British empire”.
A spokesperson for the Relatives for Justice group, which assisted the family of Mr Heenan in his 2015 action, said Kitson “did not see final justice” in a court but noted that the tenacity of Mary Heenan and families like hers had ensured his “deplorable” actions in Ireland nd their victims will “never be forgotten”.