Wednesday, May 20, 2009

CR gas - Chemical Warfare in Ireland

20 Bealtaine

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: or


E.Feighan said...

Gerry, The leadership of Britain in 1974 should be tried and convicted in the Hague and receive the same sentence as Saddam Hussein. The only difference between him and them is their gas took a little longer to kill. E.F.

Ceartais said...

A chara Gerry,

Thanks again for highlighting this gross injustice. Any help is more than welcome to expose what really took place on October 16, 1974.

Maire said...

Gerry, as a former member of the military in the US, the topic of governments using toxic chemicals, which exposed our soldiers has been a great concern of mine over the years.

Just the simple fact that the US government refused the offer to purchase CR gas, tells you that it must have been for lack of a better term "bad stuff" After all, the US military over the years, has exposed it's own troops, and civilians to chemicals that caused long term health problems, not only to its soldiers, but to their families. I personally know former soldiers from campaigns in Vietnam, and Desert Storm, who not only suffered great health problems, but who's children were born with horrible birth defects.

It was not ignorance, but yet another example of the blatant disregard for the prisoners, and their arrogant colonial attitude towards the Irish people that reigned supreme in their decisions to suject the prisoners to such cruel treatment.

An indepth research study, which
was done by the scientific community, both on animals and humans can be found here:,M1

They did summarize the reseach at that time by saying the long term effects on humans was not known. Later though, it was reported that the use of CR gas would not be used by policing authorities here, because of the possibility of long term carcinogetic occurances.

For the British government to admit the useage of CR, would mean an admittance of utilyzing this agent after the earlier studies indicated that the long term effects were not known. Bad enough to use these agents at all, worse that there were chemical agents already in useage, that could have been used, with fewer toxic side effects.

Enough said.

Linda Coleman said...

Hi, Maire,

I'm not former military, but I was thinking the same thing as you, and came over to post a link from the Vietnam Veterans of America about their exposure to toxic chemicals:

Hopefully, it will help Jim and the Ceartas group to read about what our vets are doing.

Timothy Dougherty said...

Gerry,Fada iarsma na droichbheirte. The British Army and the RUC Special Branch were full of vicious thugs, sadists and torturers.The British Army and the security forces, like any other army in the world, is conditioned and trained to institutionalized violence.The use of CS became a favourite anti-riot weapon for the troops until 1972,when questions were asked .It was just one more tool of a injustice. The topic should be keep out in the light for the truth to be told.

Linda Coleman said...

Timothy, I like your phrase "institutionalized violence," which pretty much says it all; a war-based economy filters down to all facets of society, from military torture to domestic violence. I'm going to borrow your phrase for my next "health care, not warfare" letters.

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