Northern Ireland

Former Army Chief: British Deployment To Northern Ireland Couldn’t Have Been Avoided

General Sir Mike Jackson completed three tours in Northern Ireland.

A warning, General Sir Mike Jackson's interview may be upsetting for some.

A former head of the British Army has told Forces News sending British troops on to the streets of Northern Ireland during the troubles in 1969 could not have been avoided.

General Sir Mike Jackson served for 45 years and completed three tours of Northern Ireland.

He went to Northern Ireland after the Army had been operational there for around a year.

Gen Jackson described the moment he arrived: "The security situation was deteriorating," he said.

"It got worse over the following year until August 1971 when a rather fateful decision was made to introduce internment", he added.

When questioned on whether he thought sending soldiers into the Troubles was the right thing, he said:

"I don't see how it could have been avoided.

"The police force then was relatively small and without doubt, the nationalist population had been discriminated against and what started as basically civil dissension became, to some extent, taken over by a violent fringe - in due course the IRA emerged," Gen Jackson said.

British Army Ferret armoured vehicles in Londonderry
British Army Ferret armoured vehicles in Londonderry, 1972 (Picture: PA).

Gen Jackson was an officer in the Parachute Regiment in the operations headquarters on Bloody Sunday.

He was one of the first to arrive on the scene of the Warrenpoint Massacre, where 18 soldiers were killed in a paramilitary double-bombing.

He described the aftermath of the massacre as "mayhem", he saw "burning vehicles, dead bodies" and "bits of bodies".

Following the attack, Gen Jackson had to identify one of his friends.

He said he will be visiting Warrenpoint to attend commemorations for its 40th anniversary.

Looking back, he said: "The IRA clearly put a lot of thought into this attack with the use of two bombs - the second quite cunningly thought through as to what might be the Army and the polices reaction, where would they go. 

"Tragically their apprehension of what the reaction would be was accurate and the second bomb was very effective."

Gen Jackson has given evidence relating to the Ballymurphy investigation.

Despite believing what the soldiers did was the right thing, he said it was difficult giving evidence and seeing the families because "they suffered a most terrible loss".