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28 July 2005 Edition

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IRA - the people's army

The IRA defending their communities in the 1970s

The IRA defending their communities in the 1970s

as a prime target. The small nationalist district, cut off from the city centre and West Belfast by the River Lagan, was in great danger.

Short Strand fell within the jurisdiction of the IRA's Third Battalion, Belfast Brigade. A small group of Volunteers under the command of Billy McKee, took up positions in St Matthew's Churchyard and opened fire on the attacking unionists. McKee was wounded in the gun battle and local man Henry McElhone was badly wounded. But Short Strand had been saved by the courageous defence offered up by the IRA Volunteers. The IRA had sent out a message of intent. It had 'arisen from the ashes' of the burned-out nationalist districts and had come to the defence of the community with whatever small amount of weaponry and personnel were to hand.

The Battle for St Matthews marked a turning point in the relationship between the nationalist community and the re-emerging and re-organised IRA. The British Army claim that it would defend beleaguered nationalists was exposed as a lie. The British army were not here to defend nationalists and were clearly seen as a prop to Orange domination. The people now looked to the IRA as defenders of the community — the people's army was reborn.

IRA responds to British aggression

In 1971 the British policy of aggression and confrontation with the nationalist community was pursued with vigour. Support grew for the republican argument that partition and British rule were at the root of the injustice in the Six Counties. The people supported republican demands and support for the IRA itself grew. The people's army responded to British aggression and on 6 February 1971, the first British soldier to be killed on combat duty in Ireland since the Tan war was shot dead in North Belfast.

The British and Stormont Governments saw the combination of continuing civil rights agitation and armed struggle as a threat to British rule itself and responded by introducing internment without trial on 9 August 1971.

Those rounded up included student leaders, councillors, civil rights activists and republicans. Internment was introduced brutally — 22 people being killed within the first four days.

IRA structures and capability were unaffected and support for the organisation increased dramatically. Internment was a complete failure.

In 1972 marches and demonstrations demanding an end to Internment took place across the North. At one such demonstration in Derry on Sunday 30 January 1972, British Paratroopers were sent in to confront the peaceful marchers. They shot and killed 14 people, and wounded 12 others. The British made clear that peaceful political protest was now a potentially fatal activity. Nationalists could be shot on sight in their own streets for demanding justice. The British had declared war on the nationalist population. Support for and recruitment to IRA ranks soared.

IRA Escape from prison ship

Seven internees escaped from the prison ship Maidstone in 1972 by swimming across Musgrave Channel and hijacking a bus.

Of the 'Magnificent Seven' who escaped, Jim Bryson was re-captured but escaped again, this time from Crumlin Road Courthouse. He was shot and killed in disputed circumstances in 1973 involving British Paratroopers and the Workers' Party-linked 'OIRA'. Tommy Kane was killed in a road accident in July 1976. Tommy Tolan was shot by the so-called OIRA in July 1977.

1972 Ceasefire

On 26 June 1972 the IRA declared a truce and a republican delegation was flown to London on an RAF plane for secret talks with William Whitelaw. The truce broke down when the British Army used troops to prevent nationalist families moving into homes which had been allocated to them in Belfast's Lenadoon Avenue. Gun battles erupted.

Freedom guns

Off the Waterford Coast in March 1973, a 298-tonne ship, the Claudia was intercepted carrying rifles, small arms, mines and explosives, destined for the IRA.

Arrested on board the Claudia was IRA leader Joe Cahill. He made a speech from the dock of the court in which he said:

"All my life I have believed passionately in the freedom of my country. I believe it is the God-given right of the people of Ireland to determine their own destinies without foreign interference and, in pursuit of these aims and ideals, it is my proud privilege as a soldier of the Irish Republican Army, just as I believe it is the duty of every Irish person, to serve or assist the IRA, in driving the British occupation forces from our shores.

"If I am guilty of any crime, it is that I did not succeed in getting the contents of the Claudia into the hands of the freedom fighters in this country. And I believe that national treachery was committed off Helvick when the Free State forces conspired with our British enemies to deprive our freedom fighters of the weapons of war."

Helicopter escape

Also in 1973 in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin, a hijacked helicopter landed in the prison yard. Three well-known IRA Volunteers — JB O'Hagan, Séamus Twomey and Kevin Mallon jumped on board and escaped.

A ballad celebrating the escape rose to number one in the Irish popular music charts.

Talking of the escape some years later JB O'Hagan said: "We landed at the old Baldoyle Racecourse. We thanked the pilot for the lift and headed off to the roadway and our car, then approaching. It was only later, we three sitting back with a cup of tea in our hands, that we fully appreciated the achievement. It was a real spectacular. However, all credit is due to those on the outside who planned and carried out the escape. They were the real heroes."

Michael Gaughan

IRA Volunteer Michael Gaughan from Ballina in County ber bullets. Prisoners courageously resisted the final assault by British troops but many were very badly beaten.

Internees in the ruins of Gage 5 began digging a tunnel which ran for 65 yards and on 6 November 1974, 33 prisoners broke out of Long Kesh, 29 being re-captured within a few yards. During this escape 24-year-old Hugh Coney was shot dead by a British soldier.

In March 1975, Long Kesh prisoners being tried for attempting to escape, broke out of Newry Courthouse. Ten got away.

Portlaoise Jail

Following the dramatic IRA helicopter escape from Mountjoy Jail, 120 republican POWs were transferred to a maximum security, fortress-type prison at Portlaoise in the midlands. This was where most IRA Volunteers and other republicans, captured in the 26 Counties, were incarcerated during the course of the struggle over the next three decaderontations with the OIRA and loyalist gangs resulted in the deaths of Volunteers.

In the absence of other effective forms of political struggle, and in the face of a refined British political and military strategy, this ceasefire was subsequently seen to mark a step backwards for Oglaigh na hÉireann. The ceasefire ended before the year was out and IRA attacks against British forces in the North resumed.

British strategy refined

The British Labour Govern-ment's strategy in relation to Ireland entitled 'The Way Ahead' consisted of a policy of 'criminalisation, Ulsterisation and normalisation'.

Any person charged in the Six Counties with a politically-motivated offence after 1 March 1976 was to be denied political status and treated like a criminal — forced to wear a prison uniform, do prison work and accept the authority of the administration as being supreme. It was an attempt to criminalise the IRA and divorce the guerrilla army from the people.

It involved a huge propaganda effort and the use of the media to relay the new message in new British terms. The IRA was increasingly referred to in British propaganda as 'criminals' 'mafia' and 'godfathers of violence'.

Under Ulsterisation, the primacy of the RUC was emphasised and the UDR replaced the British Army in a number of areas. This allowed the British the advantage of presenting the republican struggle as an internal, sectarian problem. It also meant that casualties would be increasingly borne by the locally-recruited RUC and UDR instead of soldiers from Britain whose deaths directly affected British public opinion and turned sentiment against the occupation of Ireland.

The thrust of this new military strategy would be supplemented by an injection of capital, new housing programmes and the building of leisure centres, which was meant to emphasise that 'normality' was returning.

26-County collaboration

In the 26 Counties, the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition Government of 1973-'77, fully supported the new British strategy. It was determined to smash IRA structures in the South and suppress all public support for nationalist resistance in the North. It's means were to so overhaul the Irish courts, the state security services, the media and even the culture of the state itself, so that no public expressions of support or sympathy would be tolerated, not only with the IRA, but with the idea of republicanism itself.

It introduced the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act, and declared a State of Emergency which led to the resignation of the President and eventually contributed to the defeat of the coalition in 1977.

A Garda 'Heavy Gang' was unleashed on republicans and there were countless incidents of brutality against political activists in Garda barracks. The amount of frame-ups increased leading to cases such as the Sallins mail train case.

Collaboration with British counter-insurgency strategy became the hallmark of Dublin Governments of both hues in subsequent years. This was true of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil-led administrations, and Labour Party Ministers over the years, such as Conor Cruise O'Brien and Proinsias de Rossa, were among the most rabid anti-republican voices in Leinster House.

The Brixton Brigade

Following a gun-attack on a Belgravia restaurant frequented by members of London's society elite, police chased and cornered a four-strong IRA Active Service Unit in a flat in Balcombe Street.

After a six-day siege the IRA unit, one of the most successful and effective to have operated in Britain gave themselves up. They were Joe O'Connell from Ennis, County Clare, Eddie Butler from Castleconnell, County Limerick, Harry Duggan, Feakle, County Clare and Hugh Doherty from Glasgow and Donegal.

At their trial in January 1977 three of the Volunteers announced that it was they who had bombed two English pubs in October 1974 frequented by British soldiers in Guildford and Woolich for which four innocent people had been framed and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Joe O'Connell ended his speech from the dock of a British court with these words:

"We admitted to no 'crimes' and to no 'guilt' for the real crimes and guilt are those of British imperialism committed against our people. The war against imperialism is a just war and it will go on, for true peace can only come about when a nation is free from oppression and injustice.

"Whether we are imprisoned or not is irrelevant for our whole nation is the prisoner of British imperialism. The British people who choose to ignore this or to swallow the lies of the British gutter press are responsible for the actions of their government unless they stand out against them.

"As Volunteers in the Irish Republican Army we have fought to free our oppressed nation from its bondage to British imperialism of which this court is an integral part."

Frank Stagg

On 12 February 1976 IRA Volunteer Frank Stagg from Mayo died on hunger strike in England's Wakefield Prison. As his body was being returned to Ireland it was hijacked in mid air and brought to Shannon Airport on the orders of the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition Government who carried out the interment amid tight security. Frank's coffin was buried below four feet of concrete and Garda patrols kept round-the-clock watch on the cemetery to prevent the dead man's last wishes being honoured.

However, on the night of 5 November, in torrential rain, the IRA broke open the concrete tomb, exhumed the remains and re-interred Frank Stagg alongside the grave of his IRA comrade and fellow Mayo man Michael Gaughan in Leigue Cemetery, Ballina.

British Ambassador ambushed in Dublin

On 21 July 1976, the IRA executed the British Ambassador to the 26 Counties, Christopher Ewart Biggs. As he travelled by car to the British Embassy in South Dublin, accompanied by a civil servant from Stormont and the Permanent Under-Secretary a the Northern Ireland Office, Brian Cubbon, a culvert bomb was detonated.

The IRA claimed that Ewart Biggs was a senior figure in British Military Intelligence and was attached to Century House, the base of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).

Torture fails to break IRA

In the late 1970s the 'Conveyor belt' system swung into full gear. The British Government, despite assurances given earlier to the European Court of Human Rights, once again gave the clearance for brutality and ill-treatment to be used in interrogation centres in an attempt to break the IRA and its support base.

The Conveyor belt system comprised of seven-day period interrogations in RUC detention centres by specially trained interrogators in Omagh, Gough, Strand Road and Castlereagh. Detainees were beaten and forced into signing self-incriminating statements. These statements were then largely accepted by the Orange judiciary who agreed to the lowering in the standard of proof. Those convicted were then transferred to the H-Blocks where they were stripped and again beaten in an attempt to criminalise them the and thus criminalise the republican cause.

The Amnesty International mission in 1977 was denied vital doctors' reports but was still able to show that while the Strasbourg Court was examining the 1971 and 1972 torture allegations against Britain, which the European Commission had confirmed, the beatings were still going on.

British Labour MP Roy Mason was the British direct ruler during the period of torture of detainees. Every Monday morning he presided over security meetings in Stormont Castle which afterwards issued statistics boasting about the rate of arrests.

In 1978 Mason claimed he was "squeezing the IRA like toothpaste". He left Ireland in 1979 and from then on lived in fear of his life in a fortress in Barnsley, England, with round-the-clock police protection.

The Long War

In the late 1970s Oglaigh hÉireann reorganised itself internally to counter the new challenges posed to its campaign of resistance by the Conveyor belt system and the new British strategy of Ulsterisation, criminalisation and normalisation.

The British had clearly settled in for the long term. The IRA had to respond and it did, gearing itself now for a long war of attrition against the British forces. This was summarised in an exclusive Republican News interview in November 1978 with a member of the IRA leadership.

The IRA spokesperson explained how the organisation "undertook a massive re-organisation of the movement" in which the old locally-based pyramid structure was replaced with a new cell system.

The IRA spokesperson also spoke of the costs inflicted on IRA Volunteers: "We have to suffer imprisonment, torture, being constantly on the run, isolated from our families. Then our friends and comrades are being killed and many of us constantly run the risk of summary execution."

The intent and capability of the IRA re-organisation was clearly shown on 14 November 1978. In a 45-minute period the IRA launched bomb attacks on Dungannon, Omagh, Cookstown, Enniskillen, Derry and Belfast, two weeks after an IRA spokesperson told Republican News that "we are committed to and more importantly geared to a long war".

British propaganda shattered as IRA intercepts intelligence document

In a scoop which shattered the thrust of the British Government's criminalisation propaganda, the IRA intercepted and published a secret assessment of the guerrilla organisation prepared by the commander of British Land Forces in the Six Counties, Brigadier James Glover. Entitled Document 37 — that was the number of the copy that was seized — it said:

"Our evidence of the calibre of rank-and-file terrorists does not support the view that they are merely mindless hooligans, drawn from the unemployed and unemployable.

"PIRA is essentially a working-class organisation based in the ghetto areas of the cities and in the poorer rural areas. Thus, if members of the middle class and graduates become more deeply involved they have to forfeit their lifestyle."

Brigadier Glover continued:

"The Provisional leadership is deeply committed to a long campaign of attrition. The Provisional IRA has the dedication and the sinews of war to raise violence intermittently to at least the level of early 1978, certainly for the foreseeable future."

The overall conclusion of the document was the most damaging one to the public British contention that they could defeat the IRA's armed struggle. It said:

"The Provisionals' campaign of violence is likely to continue while the British remain in Northern Ireland... we see little prospect of political development of a kind which would seriously undermine the Provisionals' position."

IRA inflicts biggest blow to British since 1921

In a major military operation which shook the British establishment Lord Louis Mountbatten, former Chief of the United Kingdom Defence Staff and cousin of the British Queen, was killed in a remote-control bomb attack on board his yacht off Mullaghmore, County Sligo.

Just Four hours later the most successful IRA attack against British forces in 58 years took place at Narrow Water Castle, close to Warrenpoint in South Down. A full rifle platoon of British Paratroopers — 18 British soldiers in all — was wiped out in a single ambush laid, according to a British Army spokesperson "with enormous skill".

European attacks

During 1980 an IRA Active Service Unit ambushed Colonel Mark Coe, a staff officer at the British Corps Headquarters in Bieleffeld, West Germany. In claiming responsibility the IRA also claimed responsibility for bombings against British Army NATO bases in 1978 and 1979; an explosion in Brussels which injured four British Army bandsmen in August 1979; and the execution of Sir Richard Sykes, British Ambassador to the Hague in March 1979.

Sykes had carried out the investigation into the execution of Ewart biggs in Dublin in 1976. The IRA claimed that Sykes, like Biggs, was connected to Britain's secret intelligence services.

Attacks against British military targets on mainland Europe were to be recurring features of the IRA's armed struggle in the 1980s and again in the 1990s.

Hunger Strikers destroy criminalisation policy

In 1980, in an attempt to reach a settlement of the protest for political status, the IRA unilaterally called off its armed campaign against prison warders. Catholic Cardinal Tomás O Fiaich and Bishop Edward Daly entered into prison talks with British Direct Ruler Humphrey Atkins. When these failed a hunger strike began in the H-Blocks and ended shortly before Christmas, without loss of life, when the British promised the introduction of a more liberal prison regime.

The British quickly reneged on these promises, refused prisoners access to their own clothes, and set the ground for the historic second Hunger Strike. The Hunger Strike saw the deaths of seven IRA Volunteers and three members of the INLA. The leader of the Hunger Strike, IRA Volunteer Bobby Sands was elected MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone as he lay dying in the H-Blocks.

The Hunger Strike led to a huge mass movement on the streets of Ireland North and South in support of the prisoners demands. There was increased recruitment to the IRA all over Ireland and masses of people joined Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin's increasing radicalisation and development as a political party was given a massive boost and the organisation was catapulted into developing a serious electoral strategy. The Hunger Strike was headline news all over the world and the event further internationalised the Irish republican struggle.

The heroic H-Block Hunger Strikers through their supreme sacrifice utterly destroyed Britain's policy of criminalisation.

Crumlin Road Jail escape

During the historic year of 1981 eight IRA Volunteers shot their way to freedom out of Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast.

Seven of the Volunteers were in on charges connected with the IRA's M-60 team — so-called for their deployment of an M60 Machine gun in ambushes against the British Army, and were charged with killing an RUC member and a captain of the British Army's notorious SAS. The eighth Volunteer, Pete Ryan from County Tyrone was charged with killing a UDR soldier and an RUC reservist.

Of the eight escapers, seven were arrested within a year. Six were sentenced in the 26 Counties under the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act for the escape and upon expiration of their sentences five of the men faced extradition charges; another escaper Joe Doherty escaped to the United States where he was detained and later deported. Pete Ryan was killed on active service with the IRA in 1991, while Paul 'Dingus' Magee was arrested in the 1990s while on IRA active service in Britain.


In 1982 six nationalists were summarily executed by crown forces in County Armagh in the space of a month. All of those killed were unarmed. Three of them were IRA Volunteers in Lurgan, two were members of the INLA and the sixth was a 17-year-old nationalist youth

Such was the public outrage that three RUC men were charged in connection with the murders of Eugene Toman, Seán Burns and Gervaise McKerr in Lurgan. The three were acquitted in 1984 by Lord Justice Gibson who said that the three RUC officers were "absolutely blameless" and he commended them "for their courage and determination in bringing the three deceased men to justice, to the final court of justice."

Gibson's remarks demonstrated for many people that the 'shoot-to-kill' policy was sanctioned at the highest level.

In April 1987 Gibson was killed in an IRA landmine as he crossed the border at Killeen.

The IRA's greatest escape

In the most daring ever IRA prison escape, 38 Volunteers broke out of the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, 'the most secure jail in Europe'. It was a huge blow to the British and a major morale boost for IRA Volunteers and republicans throughout the country, particularly coming as it did just two years after the Hunger Strike deaths.

Armed IRA Volunteers took control of H-7, arrested the warders, some of whose uniforms they used, hijacked a food lorry and bluffed their way through a number of security gates before they were discovered and had to fight their way out of the rest of the camp.

Escaper Kirean Fleming from Derry drowned in the Bannagh River between Fermanagh and Donegal after a shoot-out with the SAS when his comrade Antoine Mac Giolla Bhrighde from Magherafelt and an SAS officer were shot dead in December 1984.

Escaper Séamus McElwaine from County Monaghan was executed by the SAS in Fermanagh in April 1986.

Larry Marley, who played a major part in planning the escape, but who stayed behind in the H-Blocks, was assassinated in his North Belfast home by unionist paramilitaries a year after his release.

Escaper Pádraig McKearney was shot dead along with seven comrades and a civilian by the SAS at Loughgall in May 1987.

Escaper Gerry McDonnell was subsequently arrested in Britain on active service and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Escapers Robert Russell and Paul Kane were arrested in the 26 Counties and extradited into the hands of the British. Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane and Gerry Kelly, later to become a Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast, were caught on active service in Amsterdam in January 1986 and extradited back to the North.

Escapers Dermot Finucane and Séamus Clarke were imprisoned in Portlaoise. On their release both were successful in defeating attempts to extradite them back to the Six Counties.

In February 1988 IRA Volunteers Brendan Burns and Brendan Moley who had provided military back-up for the escapers, died in a premature explosion in South Armagh.

Marita Ann

The Marita Ann, carrying a cargo of weapons destined for the IRA, was intercepted by the 26-County Navy off the Kerry coast in late September 1984.

At least two of the five men arrested on board, Martin Ferris, later to become Sinn Féin TD for Kerry North, and Gavin Mortimer, were beaten by their captors. They were handcuffed to the deck of the naval vessel which brought them to shore and, despite high tides and rough seas, both men were kept in this position throughout the 20-hour journey.

Brighton bombing

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Tory cabinet was the target of a 100lb IRA bomb, which ripped through the Grand Hotel, Brighton, England, in the early hours of Friday 12 October 1984. The explosion killed four people in, or associated with, the Tory leadership.

The explosion blew out the facade of the four top floors in one section of the hotel, while internally the top rooms crashed down more than seven floors into the basement. Thatcher's bedroom, which she had vacated just minutes before the blast, was wrecked by falling masonry.

In a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, the IRA said: "Mrs Thatcher will now realise that Britain cannot occupy our country, torture our prisoners, and shoot our people on their own streets and get away with it.

"Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be luck once — you will have to be lucky always.

"Give Ireland peace and there will be no war."

Blasting the barracks

In an attack that shattered RUC morale and inflicted the highest level of fatalities on the RUC in any single incident since the foundation of the sectarian paramilitary force, the IRA fired a number of mortars at the barracks in Newry on 28 February 1985. The attack, a combined operation by the IRA's South Down and South Armagh Brigades killed nine RUC members.

Following the Newry attack, the RUC Police Authority announced a massive £20 million investment by the British Government in the construction of new barracks, the renovation of older barracks and the general improvement of resources.

In response IRA active service units launched a huge wave of attacks on barracks across the North. In a 12 month-period 44 attacks had been mounted against crown forces' installations. In the following years many barracks and British bases were completely destroyed while others were extensively damaged.

In a strategy of further isolating the enemy, the IRA also issued warnings to builders and contractors working for the RUC saying that they were assisting the British military presence. A number of contractors and builders were subsequently executed for failing to heed the warnings.


In the worst single blow suffered by the IRA since the Tan War, eight active service Volunteers were executed on Friday 8 May 1987 by the SAS during an attack on a British Army/RUC Barracks at Loughgall, County Armagh.

IRA funerals attacked

Between 1983 and 1987 over 25 republican funerals were systematically attacked by the RUC as a matter of deliberate British policy.

The objective was to drive mourners off the streets so that later Britain could claim dwindling support and sympathy for the IRA and the republican struggle as evidenced by the small numbers attending the funerals of fallen Volunteers.

But the exact opposite happened. More and more people came out to defend the remains of IRA freedom fighters, and the RUC was exposed as being as brutal and sectarian as ever.

The courage of the nationalist people and damaging international news coverage eventually forced the British Government to order the RUC to adopt a less publicly aggressive policy.

British casualties reach new high in 1988

In 1988 fatalities for British soldiers, excluding the locally recruited UDR, stood at 25, the highest annual figure since 1979.

In carefully planned attacks using the powerful plastic explosive Semtex, six British soldiers were killed in a mini-bus in Lisburn in June 1988 and a further eight soldiers were killed when their coach was blown up by a roadside bomb in August at Ballygawley.


In 1988 in the British colony of Gibraltar three unarmed IRA Volunteers, Mairéad Farrell (former IRA OC at Armagh Jail and a former Hunger Striker), Seán Savage and Dan McCann, were assassinated by undercover British SAS soldiers.

Huge crowds lined their funeral route from Dublin to Belfast. Just outside their native city of Belfast the RUC hijacked the hearses containing their remains and diverted them away from thousands of sympathisers who had gathered in Andersonstown in the early hours of the morning.

At their interment in Milltown Cemetery a mercenary unionist assassin attacked mourners with hand grenades and pistols, killing three and injuring over six men, women and children.

At the funeral of IRA Volunteer Caoimhghín Mac Brádaigh, one of the three killed in Milltown, two armed and plain-clothed British soldiers drove into the cortege at high speed causing scenes of panic once again.

After the soldiers opened fire, the crowd captured and beat the two soldiers before the IRA intervened and shot them.

The slayings of three IRA Volunteers in Gibraltar was meant to dissuade other republicans from leaving Ireland and confronting British forces abroad. It failed.

Within weeks of the Gibraltar assassinations the IRA struck against British soldiers in Holland and West Germany, killing three and wounding four others.

By August the IRA had returned to England and at Inglis Barracks on the edge of Margaret Thatcher's Finchley constituency, a British soldier was killed and several others seriously injured in a massive explosion.

RUC top brass ambushed

Two senior RUC detectives, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan were killed in an IRA ambush as they drove back across the border from a secret meeting with Gardaí in Dundalk. The IRA seized secret documents after the ambush.

In the previous year Breen had been privy to the premeditated SAS ambush of the eight volunteers at Loughgall and had triumphantly posed for the press with the captured IRA weapons.

A sustained campaign

By the late 1980s the IRA's armed struggle had developed into a number of identifiable strategies. Bomb attacks on commercial targets, mortar attacks on the crown forces and their bases across the Six Counties, a range of attacks in Britain and Europe and in the early 1990s in a successful use of weaponry in ongoing sniper attacks against the crown forces.

Bombing Britain

IRA attacks on prestige commercial targets in Britain in the 1990s left the British Government with costs running into billions of pounds sterling, with massive bombs at the Baltic Exchange and Bishopsgate causing severe financial damage to London's position as an international financial services location.

These large-scale bomb attacks in the heart of the British capital also grabbed international headlines on a virtually unprecedented scale and destroyed British efforts to contain and localise the armed struggle.

When the historic IRA cessation called in 1994 broke down in two years later, the IRA returned to Britain and the biggest ever IRA bomb was detonated at London's Canary Wharf in February 1996. The bomb caused massive devastation, inflicted huge financial costs on the British Government and the City of London and grabbed international news headlines. And most important of all the Canary Wharf bomb was subsequently viewed by analysts and commentators as a major factor in refocussing British Government attention on the Irish Peace Process and injecting new political momentum, eventually leading to the restoration of the IRA cessation in July 1997.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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