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1 November 2007 Edition

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The Resistance Campaign 50 years on







IRA campaign stepped up

In October and November 1957 the Irish Republican Army stepped up its guerrilla campaign in the Six Counties as the British government in London became increasingly concerned at the instability in its Irish colony.

The last day of September had seen a special security conference in Belfast when British Secretary for War John Hare flew in to meet Stormont Premier Lord Brookeborough, the British Forces General Officer Commanding in the Six Counties, Lieutenant-General Sir Brian Kimmins, and Stormont Home Affairs Minister W.W.B Topping. Hare spent two days in Ireland and inspected what a Stormont press release called “new security precautions”. Heavily armed RUC members, B-Specials and British Army contingents were inspected as well as newly fortified posts. Raids and arrests followed the top-level conference.
Despite the crackdown the IRA mounted a series of attacks. On 11 October they attacked crown forces at Roslea, County Fermanagh. In the early hours of the morning the guerrillas fired on the barracks in the town in order to draw out the RUC. As well as RUC members the convoy consisted of a detachment of the King’s Own Hussars, a British armoured regiment. A larger than expected convoy of 12 vehicles emerged. They drove into an ambush about one mile outside the town on the Lisnaskea Road.
Mines were detonated and an armoured vehicle and a number of jeeps were put out of action. The lead armoured vehicle careered off the road after the mine detonated. The driver and occupants were injured. The IRA fired on the stricken convoy and then withdrew under machine gun fire from the crown forces. No injuries were sustained by the IRA unit.
The British Army’s Magilligan Camp in County Derry was attacked on 24 October. Various other installations were damaged or destroyed including a B-Special building in Kilkeel, Co. Down, a post office centre in Enniskillen and a bus depot in Armagh.
The United Irishman reported that the Roslea attack had been subject to a news blackout as the RUC tried to minimise its impact. This emphasised the importance of the republican newspaper in giving uncensored news. The December issue reported that sales had reached 120,000 copies per month. The Stormont authorities knew the importance of the paper and three young Fermanagh men – Thomas MacTeggart, Edward Scott and Desmond Deveney – were each fined £5 for possession of The United Irishman.
South of the Border the paper reported in its October issue that there had been some improvement in conditions in the Curragh Internment Camp where 116 republicans were held without charge or trial. This followed widespread protests on the imposition of internment. Among reported protests was a rally of hundreds of people in Ballinamuck, Co. Longford which was led by students from the local Technical School where internee Pádraig Kelly was a teacher. “Release our Headmaster” read one of the placards.
The Irish in New York were also protesting and prominent among them was the legendary Irish trade unionist and republican Mike Quill, International President of the Transport Workers ‘Union of America. The October United Irishman reported a protest meeting in Gaelic Park, New York GAA headquarters, where Quill led the call for an end to internment and partition. The Irish were on the march in October when 4,000 paraded in New York. Quill was again among the speakers who also included Paul O’Dwyer and Michael Flannery.
There were reports of increased collaboration between the RUC and the Gardaí. On 20 October a party of 36 gardaí carried out a combined search with the RUC on the Cavan-Fermanagh border. December’s United Irishman exposed how the IRA had captured an RUC document profiling senior IRA members Charlie Murphy and Seán Cronin. The paper reproduced the document, including photographs which were from Garda files and had clearly been passed on to the RUC.
In November Sinn Féin contested the Dublin North Central by-election where Seán Garland, injured in the Brookeborough raid the previous January, was the candidate. He finished fourth, behind the Independent winner Frank Sherwin, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, but ahead of the Labour candidate.
The late autumn of 1957, however, was to serve as a prelude for the single biggest tragedy of the Resistance Campaign – the death of five republicans at Edentubber on 11 November. This will be described in full in next week’s An Phoblacht. 

An Phoblacht Magazine


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