27 March 1997 Edition
By Mick Naughton
As further information emerges about a covert British Intelligence operation at the Derryhirk Inn in Aghagallon near Lurgan Co Armagh on Friday 14 March, Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy has linked the incident to other covert operations in Derry's Creggan Estate, Clonoe and Derrylin.
Molloy described the Aghagallon incident as being perhaps the most serious, ``with people's lives being deliberately put at risk to cover up a botched surveillance operation near the public house''.
In the incident, on the same night that Belfast nationalist John Slane was shot dead by loyalists, three men dressed in military fatigues and balaclavas, when challenged by the bar's doormen in the carpark, ran towards the pub firing at least 12 shots before bursting into the bar and threatening to shoot customers. The scene is close to the spot where Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick's body was found last July after being shot by the UVF.
One woman aged 76 was made to lie on the ground in the packed bar while others scrambled under tables believing they were going to be shot.
Bar owner Patsy Mulholland believes that bullet proof glass in the windows saved his customers lives.
After the trio burst into the bar other RUC members, this time in uniform, speedily arrived at the rural pub which has a mixed clientelle.
Since then the RUC displayed three AK 47 rifles in an attempt to shift attention away from their actions.
But in a statement on Thursday 20 March the IRA said the weapons were IRA rifles that ``were discovered by enemy forces at a completely different location''. The IRA also stated that ``none of their personnel were in the area at any time that evening''.
Undercover activity increases
Sinn Fein councillor Ivan Barr has told An Phoblacht that heavily armed and camouflaged men were spotted patrolling around Clady and Strabane in Tyrone over the past few weeks.
``There has been a heavy military presence in the area with the RUC harassing people,'' said Barr. He said the men, who were wearing balaclavas, were seen emerging from a field in Clady and linking up with an RUC patrol before being driven off.
The Sinn Fein councillor claimed that unmarked RUC cars were also seen crossing the border at Clady with a reliable source reporting seeing two plainclothes Gardai, from Castlederg, crossing the Clady-Castlederg bridge, and being picked up by an RUC car.
This suspicious military activity by the crown forces across the six counties is highlighted by the article carried on the front page of last week's An Phoblacht, concerning a shooting involving a British Army officer and driver at Aldergrove airport in February.
We queried the facts behind the shooting which was wrongly attributed to the IRA. Within a day of the article appearing, the RUC announced it had charged Royal Engineer Jonathan Smiley with possessing a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances.