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1970s Four Square laundry

A daring Covert Surveillance operation in Northern Ireland

1970s Four Square laundry

In an attempt to combat the threat posed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army, (PIRA), the British Army created the Mobile Reaction Force, (MRF) IN 1972. This small unit of approximately forty soldiers was tasked with sowing division with PIRA ranks and gaining intelligence via double agents, front companies and undercover surveillance.

One such front company was the Four Square Laundry. Using soldiers from Northern Ireland, including females, the laundry travelled the streets of catholic Belfast, collecting clothes to be cleaned and laundered. Once collected, the clothes would then be examined in a forensic laboratory for traces of explosives or gunpowder, as well as being laundered by a legitimate laundry service.

However, two of the MRF double agents, had been discovered by PIRA and was the redeployed by PIRA against the MRF. They had informed their PIRA handlers about the true nature of the Four Square Laundry, and on October 2nd, 1972 at approximately, the laundry van came under sustained firearms attack in the Twinbrook area of West Belfast, the driver, Sapper Edward Stuart was killed instantly. Lance-Corporal Sarah-Jane Walker, was at the door of a customer and survived the attack. The aftermath of the attack led eventually to the disbandment of the MRF in 1973, and was subsequently replaced by 14 Intelligence Company.

By Paul Teare

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