Belfast Telegraph

Nairac: His death was one of most callous, cowardly acts of IRA

By Doug Beattie

The moment Capt Robert Nairac was beaten and abducted by at least seven men in a pub car park in Drumintee, South Armagh, a number of things would have gone through his mind.

Firstly, he would have been looking for a means of escape before he was taken to an area he did not know. Secondly, his training to resist interrogation would have kicked in and he would have been vigorously sticking to a cover story in an attempt to create doubt in the minds of his captors. Thirdly, he would have been contemplating the inevitable - that he would be murdered and his body dumped on a border lane to be recovered - as was the modus operandi of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA).

Having been savagely beaten, Captain Nairac was driven the relatively short distance across the border to Ravensdale Woods, County Louth in the Irish Republic. Once there, he was brutally tortured once again in an attempt by his captors to gain information from who they now knew was a British intelligence officer. Although weakened by torture and the relentless beatings, Captain Nairac never divulged any information that would be of use to PIRA. A gunman was finally summoned to the spot where Capt Nairac was being held to murder the unarmed and vulnerable captive.

Had this been a war, this would have been a war crime in the same way the abduction, torture and burial of the other Disappeared would have been a war crime. When I was an Instructor at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, I used to pass by the portrait of Capt Robert Nairac hanging on a wall of the Old College Headquarters stairwell. By this stage the officer, who was murdered in 1977 at the age of 28, had been awarded the George Cross (GC) posthumously for his exceptional courage and devotion to duty.

I used to wonder about those last moments of his life, although he would have felt fear, the fact was he never gave up the fight and had tried to escape on numerous occasions although weakened by his ordeal.

I wondered about those who had tortured and murdered him; did they feel a sense of pride in what they had done to this defenceless unarmed prisoner.

Captain Nairac GC was buried at an unknown spot and his body is yet to be given a Christian burial. Those who tortured and murdered him know exactly where his body was hidden because the capture of a British military intelligence officer was not a usual event - it was highly unusual and the very top of the PIRA chain of command would have known and given clearance for this murder and subsequent hiding of the body.

Maybe they will not divulge the location of his body because if it was to be found the signs of torture would be all too evident.

Maybe it is just the callousness of the republican movement that will not allow this brave British soldier the Christian burial he deserves. In thinking about the short life of Captain Robert Nairac GC, I think about the suffering of the families of all those who were murdered and dumped in an unmarked grave - probably one of the most disgraceful acts of the Troubles.

Belfast Telegraph


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