CR gas - Chemical Warfare in Ireland
This blog comes to you from Cork City. Earlier today Big Marshall got a fine send off from all of his friends and comrades in the Upper Springfield/Ballymurphy area and the many others who attended the funeral from across Belfast and farther afield. I was very honoured to deliver the funeral oration.
Among those in the cortege was Jim McCann, a former Long Kesh prisoner who, as I mentioned before, has for years has been campaigning to get the truth behind the British Army’s use of CR gas – a highly toxic chemical agent - in the aftermath of the burning of Long Kesh in 1974.
Jim and the Ceartas group, he and other former prisoners established several years ago, believes that the British government cleared the use of CR Gas against prisoners. According to Ceartas over 50 former prisoners, have died as a result of cancer.
Jim believes that this high incidence of cancer is linked directly to the use of CR gas in Long Kesh in 1974 and has uncovered significant information to confirm this.
Marshall knew of all of this and was concerned at the role CR gas may have played in his own cancer.
35 years ago Long Kesh was the main prison holding republican POWs. Hundreds of internees, remand prisoners, and sentenced prisoners were held there. Over 1000 republicans in total. There were also several hundred loyalist prisoners.
The summer of 1974 was a period of great tension between the republican prisoners and the prison administration over prison conditions. A decision by the prison governor on the evening of October 16th to send British troops into the prison in breach of an agreement with the prisoners, saw republicans destroy the camp.
The following morning during intense hand to hand fighting with heavily armed British soldiers hundreds of prisoners were seriously injured. The British Army also used low flying helicopters to pump in gas in an effort to incapacitate the prisoners.
We quickly realised that this gas was different from the CS normally used. The effects were more severe.
CR Gas was developed in the late 1950 and early 60s by the British Ministry of Defence. Its full name is dibenzoxazepine. It is said to be up to ten times more powerful that CS gas and causes temporary blindness, uncontrollable coughing and gasping for breath, loss of body motor control, intense burning of the skin and immediate incapacitation. It is a suspected carcinogen, that is, it can cause cancer.
The British government has claimed that it never used CR ‘operationally’ but it is known that CR Gas was kept at Long Kesh at that time. The Guardian newspaper reported in March 1974 that ‘the chemical has already been issued to Long Kesh military guards and will be used in the event of serious rioting.’
A report in the Observer newspaper 4 years ago said that ‘The British government secretly authorised the use of a chemical riot control agent, to be used in prisons at the height of the troubles … CR gas was permitted from 1973 to be used on prison inmates in the event of an attempted mass breakout.’
And three years ago Daily Ireland interviewed former British soldiers who admitted that CR Gas was used in Long Kesh in October 1974.
Should we be surprised by any of this? No.
Marshall Mooney certainly had concerns that his illness could be linked to the CR gas. In the time ahead this blog intends to ask questions on this issue. Jim McCann has done great work.
If anyone out there wants to help you can contact Ceartas at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org