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Death of a Hero: Captain Robert Nairac, GC and the Undercover War in Northern Ireland [Paperback]

John Parker
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Oct 1999
Captain Robert Nairac was a brilliantly successful undercover operative in the British Army, with a string of intelligence coups in the war against the IRA. But, until this book, the nature of his operations and the story of his betrayal and murder have remained shrouded in mystery. John Parker - author of a bestselling official history of the Special Boat Section - has obtained unprecedented co-operation from very senior Army sources, and from Nairac's friends and family, to reveal the truth behind the secret war in Northern Ireland - and the ferocious rivalry between MI5 and MI6 that contributed to Nairac's death. This book is a tribute to the heroism of Nairac and all those in Northern Ireland who gave their lives in the battle against terrorism.

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Metro Books,London; New edition edition (14 Oct 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1900512750
  • ISBN-13: 978-1900512756
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 48,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Parker, journalist, editor and writer all his working life, has produced more than three dozen books embracing high profile and often controversial subjects in biography, military history and investigative works, to date published in some 76 editions currently on the British Libraries lending list, in addition to those published in the United States and numerous other countries.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Of all the deaths in Northern Ireland's troubled history, few have aroused more controversy than that of British Army Captain Robert Nairac. In 1977, he was abducted outside a South Armagh pub, driven over the border to the Irish Republic, then interrogated and executed by the IRA. But what was he doing alone in a notorious Republican stronghold? Was he linked with an SAS shoot-to-kill policy? Was he betrayed? Crucially, where's his body?

Parker, a veteran Fleet Street journalist, has a string of investigative works to his bow including the bestselling Inside Story of the Special Boat Service, and seems well qualified to examine the mystery of Nairac's undercover operations. Drawing on new first-hand evidence from senior Army and SAS sources, he pieces together Nairac's final days in a fresh, compelling narrative, dispelling many of the conspiracy theories that have fermented over the past 20 years.

Parker's account, however, cannot be considered conclusive for much of the evidence he puts forward is contradictory. But what does come over very well and surprisingly is the man himself--a Catholic golden boy, Oxford educated, recruited by military intelligence--"A romantic and a bit of a Loner" who loved the country he spied on, who passionately believed he could help heal the sectarian divide and bring peace. Included are eight pages of photos, many of them grainy, but this only adds resonance to the story--family and school snapshots of a remarkable man who lived and died in a remarkable way. --Jim Rickards --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating yet many unanswered questions 30 May 2009
By Ger
Nairac was a fascinating character, intelligent, determined, and at times eccentric. He is believed to have a passion for Ireland and its people, acknowledged the discrimination of Catholics and the underlying cause of the "troubles." His role in the military undercover operations seems to conflict with that disposition, unless Nairac genuinely thought he could bring change to a long running dirty war.
Parker writes well on military issues and has excellent sources. Whatever your view on N Ireland, it is impossible to read this book and not relate and feel compassion for Nairac. There are too many unanswered questions. He is implicated in the assassination of a republican and the Miami show band murders, carried out by loyalist paramilitaries and rogue British military elements. If he is being used as a scapegoat, then this is callous and painful for his family. It does seem logical that he could patrol in South Armagh and then walk into the local bar and imitate an Irish accent. The book shows a photo of Nairac on the streets of Belfast, surrounded by youths. Look at his expression and demeanor, confident and relaxed. The opposite of any other officer at the time. This relaxed mindset may have cost him his life. There are many unanswered questions. Why did his superiors allow him to casually walk in and out of the barracks? Was he set up? We hope the truth comes out and his remains can be returned to his family for closure and those responsible convicted. A sad ending, to a very interesting, if not controversial officer.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good insight 19 Jun 2003
No other source has painted the picture of what Northern Ireland in the 1970s was like. Nairac was a fascinating if bizarre character and the only frustrating thing about the book is that we don't know what happened to him or why. But it is a great story that would make a excellent film and adds to one's understanding of the troubles better than any straightforward history book.
I would like the author to update it, if he can gind out more information - but in the meantime this is definitely worth a read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I've Nothing Against Heroes..." 18 Jun 2010
Jack Hawkin's crusty colonel in that fine old British film The League of Gentlemen says "I've nothing against heroes...except that they tend to crook it for other people"...a point of view shared by many. This book details the background, military service and squalid brave end of Captain Nairac, murdered in 1977.

Nairac was from a "posh" English Catholic background and attended Ampleforth (the so-called "Catholic Eton") and Oxford University (he also attended university at Dublin before before joining the Grenadier Guards). That background (and I once had the misfortune to be acquainted with a former Head Boy of Nairac's old school, the father of a girlfriend...) does tend to result in a certain arrogance and indeed hauteur, in Nairac's case accentuated by his prowess as a boxer (he refounded the Oxford Uni. Boxing Club).

Nairac was, despite the superficially very Establishment background, somewhat of an outsider in his life: his father, an eye surgeon, was of French background but born in Mauritius, as was Nairac himself. Nairac was a Roman Catholic in a mainly non-Roman Catholic country, university and regiment. He was, it seems, not entirely within the usual mould of Grenadier Guards officers and after one tour of northern Ireland volunteered for intelligence duties, attached to one of the "detachment" entities which started to grow up in the early-mid-1970's in N. Ireland.
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