Loughgall terrorists could not have been arrested

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The Belfast Telegraph and BBC are reporting the results of the HET enquiry into the Loughgall ambush in 1987 where eight members of the IRA’s est Tyrone brigade and an innocent passer-by were killed. For those who do not remember the incident the IRA gang attacked the small RUC station in the village of Loughgall; this attack being part of a pattern of attacking small rural RUC stations (previously Ballygawley and the Birches had been attacked).

The terrorists arrived in a digger with a bomb in its bucket and a van. The digger smashed through the perimeter of the police station and the terrorists emerged from the van firing at the police station. The SAS and police officers waiting then opened fire on the terrorists and in the ensuing gun battle all eight terrorists were killed. All were wearing boiler suits and gloves: tragically a completely innocent passer by Anthony Hughes was driving past along with his brother; both having the misfortune to be wearing boiler suits. Mr. Hughes was killed and his brother seriously injured when they were mistaken for terrorists.

A number of relatives of the dead terrorists have claimed that the IRA members should have been arrested. However, the HET has concluded not only that the IRA members fired first but that the IRA members could not have been safely arrested and that the security forces were justified in opening fire.

The original ITN news report is here

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  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    When you decide to take part in, even initiate, a “war”, you have to accept that you will normally lose some battles. The IRA men who launched this assault had murder on their minds. The tables were turned; so be it.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Constable: “excuse me sir would you kindly desist from discharging that assault rifle in my general direction? I believe you may be committing an offence as you appear to have parked your van in the middle of the road causing a possible obstruction to the free flow of traffic.

    I would be obliged if you would accompany me to the nearest police station to assist me with my enquiries.”

  • Decimus

    Truly the Provos were a pathetic organisation. They wanted to be able to declare that they were prosecuting a war, to libetate their nation no less, and one in which they showed absolutely no mercy and took no prisoners. At the same time they expected the full mercy of British and European law. They claimed not to be criminals, but expected the mercy which is shown to criminals under law. Even in cases where they clearly deserved to be gunned down they bleat about injustice.

    The main excuse they seem to be rolling out about Loughall is that it was a limited opening station and therefore the Provos would not have been killing anyone during their attack. Ergo killing them was unnecessary. However Ballygawley police station was also limited opening and they gunned down two police officers there before stopping to loot their bodies. There were people in the station and Kelly and co were trying to murder them. Therefore their deaths were justified.

    No one should forget that this was the ASU that launched an audacious attack on 80 year old unarmed Somme veteran Sir Norman Stronge. Killing him and his son before burning down their house. The reaction of Gerry Adams was to say that people he knew had only one complaint, that he hadn’t been shot earlier. That is what people here vote for.

    Loughall was a great success which saved countless lives by removing a group of serial killers in one fell swoop. Republican whining about it just makes them look all the more ridiculous.

  • dwatch

    SF MLA Barry McIlduff refused to answer the BBC journalist “Did the IRA not have a shoot to kill policy when they attacked the Loughall plolice station?

    Funny Barry never came out with one of his usual tongue in cheek remarks. “Ah! sure one of the boys was only out to fetch a couple of soda farls for his granny when he was shot by the SAS.”

  • michael-mcivor

    The s.a.s gang were not allowed to arrest anyone-they are not police-
    The Provos target that day was an r.u.c station which was destroyed-

  • Decimus

    HM Forces also had powers of arrest under the EPA.

  • between the bridges

    I agree with micheal-mcivor it was a very successful operation.

  • John Ó Néill

    Turgon – were RUC officers involved or just SAS (you might need to amend the post)? It was announced earlier in the week, via OPONI, that HET investigating RUC is a breach of EU law. If so, OPONI have invalidated this report (I thought it was just SAS involved).

  • vanhelsing

    According to Barry McElduff they were Irish republicans who were out just looking for the local golf course when they were murdered by the SAS in cold blood. If only he’d told us that before hand we wouldnt have needed the HET report…

  • Decimus

    John,

    I think the RUC’s HMSU may also have been involved, but probably as cut offs etc.

  • Decimus

    Just to add. The RUC were heavily involved in the planning etc of Loughall as can be seen in ‘Phoenix Policing the Shadows’.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Phoenix-Policing-Shadows-Jack-Holland/dp/0340666358

  • tomthumbuk

    For goodness sake!
    Have people no sense of humour?
    Do people not realise Barry McElduff is doing a Jeremy Clarkson?
    He’s winding people up by talking a lot of sensationalist nonsense to promote a Christmas DVD or book.
    I suppose humour is a personal thing, but I don’t think it’s funny, (well maybe funny peculiar!).
    Anyhow, well done Barry for your self promotion, but you didn’t fool me!
    I’ll listen out for you on the Nolan show next week!

  • Harry Flashman

    I’m as much a fan of revisionist history as the next man and I thoroughly enjoyed Peter Hart’s book on the IRA in West Cork and in particular his analysis of Tom Barry. However I couldn’t get as worked up about the ambush of the Auxiliaries at Kilmichael as he did. I couldn’t see the problem frankly, the Auxies were an elite bunch of extremely tough anti-guerrilla fighters who fought to the death and took no prisoners, Barry ambushed them and killed everyone of them, fair enough, the Auxies would have done the same to him and his men if they had got the chance.

    So I never regarded the Warrenpoint ambush as “terrorism”, it was an excellently planned, well executed ambush of a detachment of Paras, I don’t think it is physically possible to “terrorize” a platoon of fully armed and trained British paratroops.

    Thus Loughgall, absolutely justifiable and within the law, the Provos knew what they were doing and the risks they were taking, they were wiped out on active service and in fairness I have never actually heard Republicans claim that it was unjustified.

    Condolences of course to the families of the Hughes brothers should be extended.

    By the way wasn’t this part of the series of successful operations against the East Tyrone IRA in the late ’80s? The time when they wanted to go for the Clogher Valley “Tet Offensive” option while Gerry Adams wanted to go down the peace route? Around the same time the Eksund shipment was compromise by a high up source in Sinn Fein too as I recall.

    All very convenient for Gerry at the time as it turned out, he’s done well for himself since, hasn’t our Gerry?

  • Alias

    It should put an end to the “PIRA were soldiers” nonsense but there is no risk of that termination actually occuring. They did okay with roadside bombs or jumping out from behind bushes and shooting unarmed folks in the back of the head but only managed an Epic Fail when confronted with actual soldiers.

  • USA

    IRA statement – “British soldiers could not have been arrested”.

    So what’s the deal? It’s okay for the British soldiers to kill armed Irishmen, but not okay when armed Irishmen kill British soldiers?

    Double standards????

  • Cynic2

    The first version of the SF Statement on Loughgall has just been discovered.

    “Loughgall was a disgrace and the HET report if a clear cover-up.,

    These poor innocent Sinn Feiners were merely testing out a new Irish developed device for digging holes in the road much more efficiently than traditional methods. This was designed to blow the matreial up then allow it to come back down again in a controleld manner forming the bed of the new roadway.

    It was always intended that this would revolutionise road reconstruction allowing the development of a full dual carriageway along the A5 from Derry To Dublin in the mid 80’s, leadng to a new era of peace prosperity and reconcilliation. {Play ‘A Nation Once Again’ in the background; hand out onions}

    Indeed, they were only carrying all those rifles because they wanted to protect the techncial details of their device from the Army working on behlf of rapacious major British construction companies trying to steal Irish technical know how.

    This terrible British Industrial Espoinage set back all these plans and forced the Party to endure another 20 yeras of violence while SF negotiated their rightful place and salaries sitting in the shadow of Carsons Statue in a British Regional Assembly exercising thoise powers that Her Majesty has graciously decided to devolve to them.

    Tiocfaidh ár lá – ach ní ar feadh i bhfad go fóill.Fós féin, nuair a chailleann duine an chogaidh, cad is féidir a dhéanamh ar cheann eile

  • Jo

    The IRA have no power or authority to “arrest”?

  • Reader

    Jo : The IRA have no power or authority to “arrest”?
    They didn’t have authority to kill people either, but they killed 2000. The reason they didn’t arrest people was because it would have been inconvenient, or they preferred 2000 dead. Whereas the police and army arrested many, many times more people than they killed.

  • sonofstrongbow

    It is interesting, I’ll put it no stronger than that, what Harry Flashman considers “fair”. The Kilmichael Ambush was indeed that, an ambush.

    Setting aside for a moment Barry’s legitimacy in waging ‘war’, (he had none) shooting dead the wounded who no longer pose a threat is a war crime. Indeed Barry’s gang went further when one of the wounded escaped from the ambush site. This individual, Cecil Guthrie, was pursued and shot dead as he sought aid for his wounds.

    A further peek at Harry’s moral compass reveals the needle pointing to ‘excellent planning’ and Warrenpoint. No doubt the needle would track the same path in the case of, oh I don’t know but let’s say Peter Sutcliffe for his excellently planned ambushes on women?

  • Decimus

    IRA statement – “British soldiers could not have been arrested”.

    USA,

    This is another standard IRA excuse for their butchery. The claim being that they had no facilities to hold captured soldiers etc. However the excuse does not hold water because under the rules of law captured British soldiers should have been released under parole. There is no option under those rules for murdering captured prisoners. Indeed to do so is a war crime.

  • Reader

    sonofstrongbow: A further peek at Harry’s moral compass reveals the needle pointing to ‘excellent planning’ and Warrenpoint.
    Harsh. I think it’s legitimate to speak in the abstract about things that upset partisan folk on both sides. It’s good style to be even handed if you do that. So fair enough on the approach.
    But I think he is wrong on the tactics – the reason Kilmichael was a bloodbath is because that is what the IRA wanted. The reason Loughgall was a bloodbath is because the IRA opened fire first – they were doomed from that instant, and I suppose it was always the most likely outcome because that was a fairly usual method of attack.
    The death of one Hughes brother challenges the SAS narrative, the survival of the other Hughes brother challenges the IRA narrative.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The reason Loughgall was a bloodbath is because the IRA opened fire first – they were doomed from that instant, and I suppose it was always the most likely outcome because that was a fairly usual method of attack.

    I think it is slightly jumping to a conclusion to believe that the IRA “unit” in question would have been arrested had they not chosen to open fire.

  • Dec

    I’m pretty sure the ‘Brits’ documentary contained interviews with British officers who confirmed the IRA were under surveillance well ahead of their arrival in Loughgall. I’ll be interested to read who the first IRA shots were aimed at as I’ve always understood they did fire a volley at the barracks after the explosion. I’ll be surprised if the report states the IRA engaed the SAS first. As for it being a successful operation well I suppose it was from the point of view that one of the Hughes brothers survived.

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: I think it is slightly jumping to a conclusion to believe that the IRA “unit” in question would have been arrested had they not chosen to open fire.
    That particular IRA unit as a special case? But really, many more people were arrested than shot by the army, and an IRA unit arrested with a huge bomb and weapons that had been used in multiple murders would have been locked up for a long, long, time. The only question being, how safe would it have been for the arresting officers?

    Dec: I’ll be interested to read who the first IRA shots were aimed at as I’ve always understood they did fire a volley at the barracks after the explosion.
    There were many shots heard before the explosion, and there could have been lots of reasons for the IRA to open fire first. Most obviously, covering fire at the blast wall in front of the station door, to allow the unarmoured digger to be driven up to the station with the bomb. Also, to keep people from leaving the station before the bomb was planted, and then afterwards. Even if they hadn’t seen a tactical need, they might have wanted to let off a few rounds while they had the weapons out of storage. They would certainly have been hopped up on adrenalin at the time.

  • Harry Flashman

    SoS

    Had the Auxiliaries been waiting for Tom Barry’s flying column do you think they would have allowed any of them to escape alive? The Auxies regarded themselves as tough troops fighting a dirty war, they couldn’t complain too much when their enemy took them at their word and gave as good as they got.

    The Guthrie thing is a load of oul’ nonsense and irrelevant, the Auxies took it on the chin just as the Provos did at Loughgall, if you’re a soldier you take the risks, no need to be too precious about it.

    As for comparing a platoon of fully armed and trained assault troops being attacked by enemy combatants in open battle to a vulnerable woman being murdered by a sex fiend, well I’m not sure that British paratroops would thank you for the comparison, it wouldn’t be doing their reputation any favours.

    The Paras took it on the chin at Warrenpoint, they knew what they were signing up for and I doubt if they had any complaints about the nature of the conflict.

  • Harry Flashman

    “I think it is slightly jumping to a conclusion to believe that the IRA “unit” in question would have been arrested had they not chosen to open fire.”

    Who fired the first shot is irrelevant, the East Tyrone IRA were on active service and fully armed, they were met by the British Army who were also on active service and fully armed.

    No need to parse and analyse the exact sequence of events after each side came within firing range of their respective enemy.

    In Mark Urban’s words, if you play in the big boys’ league you play by the big boys’ rules.

  • sonofstrongbow

    HF,

    More nonsense from you I’m afraid. To suggest that on every occasion the security forces met the IRA they killed them to a man is tosh. Many IRA were captured by the British, interned and subsequently released following the truce.

    Again it’s informative that you describe the coldblooded killing of a wounded man following an engagement as “irrelevant”. The guests of the nation just get a bullet? I suppose it saves on all that oul’ POW nonsense.

    I’ve never been a fan of those ‘true crime’ publications where the derring-do of criminals is related in salacious detail, but each to their own.

    However even the authors of crime magazines use the bare facts of the cases they report. To describe Warrenpoint as an attack by “enemy combatants in open battle” is simply outlandish and has I confess left me dumfounded.

    Time for a little tincture of something potent, yet mellow, that will allow me shake my head occasionally between sips as I reflect on your comments.

  • Decimus

    The Guthrie thing is a load of oul’ nonsense and irrelevant, the Auxies took it on the chin just as the Provos did at Loughgall, if you’re a soldier you take the risks, no need to be too precious about it.

    Harry,

    Yeah, but the Provos didn’t take it on the chin did they? They’ve been crying about it like the big girls’ blouses that they are ever since.

    If one of them had been captured and butchered like Guthrie was then you can be fairly certain that there would have been international hand wringing and bed wetting shit all over the platz!

  • fordprefect

    Could someone tell me, then, what “authority” the British Army and RUC had in killing Carol Anne Kelly, Julie Livingstone, Majella O’Hare and Nora McCabe? I could go on, but was the scumbag that looked through their gun sights before pulling the trigger on these innocent people, any less a terrorist than the people referred to at Loughgall?

  • fordprefect

    In fact, I’d say that the scumbag terrorists that killed the people I mentioned were/are worse than the guys killed in Loughgall.

  • Mick Fealty

    If you have your copy of Lost Lives, I am sure you can go on and on Ford…

    I would recommend anyone struggling with the law around this, to read Michael’s piece currently at the top of the site. It seems that the killing of the group of armed men on the site of the police station at that time was never in question.

    The only legal ambiguity lies in the way the review of the events were conducted. At this stage there appears to be no ambiguity over the legality of their killing.

  • latcheeco

    If you are the forces of law and order, and you knew this was coming, why not arrest them en route and break it up? Makes sense unless you were hoping to execute them. No, that couldn’t be right, the U.K. doesn’t have a death penalty.

  • Mick Fealty

    You have reason to suspect that was a viable option?

  • fordprefect

    Mick
    Latcheecho has a point, if the Brits and Cops had prior knowledge of that operation, why didn’t they, say, set up checkpoints around Loughgall? That would have put them off wouldn’t it? You could say that if that happened, it would point to an informer, but the fact that they were all killed points to an informer as well. And yes, I do have a copy of Lost Lives, I was actually sorry that I read it because it depressed the f*** out of me!

  • Mick Fealty

    Is there an obvious reason to explore that possibility which has been previously ignored?

    The counter conditions like logistics, risk of detection etc would likely give the state ample reason to lay in wait and strike where they knew the attackers would arrive and where they would also be outside their own territory.

    It’s not as though the pattern of the attack would have been unknown. Here’s Wikipedia on the outcome of previous operations by the same unit:

    “…attacks involved raking the bases with gunfire, breaching the reinforced fences and detonating a bomb inside. In both attacks, the bases were wrecked and most or all of those inside were killed.”

  • fordprefect

    Mick
    Believe me (as a Republican) I am not gurning about what happened at Loughgall. The guys that were involved in that operation obviously knew what would have befell them if the Brits were lying in wait. If the IRA unit involved had got wind of the Brits lying in wait for them, they would have killed them without hesitation. No complaints here (although I’m not a member of any of the families of the Vol’s involved).

  • Harry Flashman

    SoS

    “To suggest that on every occasion the security forces met the IRA they killed them to a man is tosh.”

    I never made any such claim, as you point out the RIC and most ordinary British troops did capture prisoners. However that was not the role of the Auxiliaries, they were unashamedly shock troops, they were recruited on the basis of being tough counter-terrorist forces who would go into rebel held areas and give the IRA as good as they got. If they had been waiting in ambush for Barry’s flying column I am fairly confident the result would have been similar to that in Loughgall sixty five years later.

    “Again it’s informative that you describe the coldblooded killing of a wounded man following an engagement as “irrelevant”. ”

    I also said it was nonsense for the simple fact that as all crown forces were killed on site there is no way of verifying this incident. Furthermore there was an alleged false surrender before the killing which led to the shooting of three IRA men, the Auxies were trained veterans of war, they knew the consequences of continuing to fight after surrender.

    War is not pretty, these men were trench warfare veterans, read accounts of that war and what was done to enemy soldiers in trenches who tried to surrender to assaulting parties, bayonets thrust through the soft abdomen of soldiers with their hands up was the usual response. The Auxies would have done such things in Flanders, they weren’t shrinking violets you know.

    “To describe Warrenpoint as an attack by “enemy combatants in open battle” is simply outlandish and has I confess left me dumfounded. ”

    I am afraid if you are dumbfounded by plain English I’m not sure I can help you out. What occurred at Warrenpoint was done in the middle of a bright summer’s afternoon on a main road over the period of an hour or so and involved a prolonged attack on an military convoy and its airborne support units. A well-planned and executed military ambush. You are much too precious about these matters, the Paras would have no grounds for complaint about what happened and most of their own casualties came through poor response to the initial attack.

    Decimus

    “Yeah, but the Provos didn’t take it on the chin did they? They’ve been crying about it like the big girls’ blouses that they are ever since.

    If one of them had been captured and butchered like Guthrie”

    I’m not sure Republicans have complained too much about Loughgall, as regards Guthrie see my reply to SoS above.

  • Billy

    And if this firefight during this war had of succeded in the Provo’s taking prisoners, where would they have been held??I just wish there had of been a shoot to kill policy by the military/ RUC against those terrorists who coldy and cowardly took lives.

  • latcheeco

    Mick,
    No reason other than common sense.

  • Alias

    “Is there an obvious reason to explore that possibility which has been previously ignored?

    The counter conditions like logistics, risk of detection etc would likely give the state ample reason to lay in wait and strike where they knew the attackers would arrive and where they would also be outside their own territory.

    It’s not as though the pattern of the attack would have been unknown.”

    Actually, there were only 3 attacks of that type by Lynagh’s men during his tenure so it wasn’t actually predictable. Given that 36 SAS men were present, it isn’t credible to assume that that number could be dedicated to each rural police station indefinately and without detection on the assumption that Mr Lynagh might that a fancy one of these fine days to blowing it up. They clearly had very detailed intelligence.

    The question, apart from which very senior member of PIRA supplied it to them, is why did they allow the operation to go ahead when they could have prevented it by arrest prior to it?

    As Henry McDonald and Ed Moloney point out, if “Lynagh and his unit lived, the history of the peace process would have taken a very different course.” That’s a pretty good reason for those promoting the process to want/need him dead.

  • Harry Flashman

    “The question, apart from which very senior member of PIRA supplied it to them, is why did they allow the operation to go ahead when they could have prevented it by arrest prior to it?

    As Henry McDonald and Ed Moloney point out, if “Lynagh and his unit lived, the history of the peace process would have taken a very different course.” That’s a pretty good reason for those promoting the process to want/need him dead.”

    As I hinted in my post at 3 Dec. 3.08am, it is now fairly obvious that the East Tyrone brigade was a severe inconvenience to the Republican leadership and needed to be removed.

    How any Republican with more than two functioning synapses can look at what happened to the East Tyrone active service units over that five year period and then look at Gerry Adams today and not feel sick to his stomach I don’t know.

    It must be the indoctrination they go through or something but a blind man can see what happened to the IRA in the late eighties and who was responsible for it, yet still the provo-bots revere their great leader.

  • michael-mcivor

    Harry Flash- hope that you keep taking advice from Henry McDonald and Ed Maloney because very few Republicans do-they were for the brit army during the war so they fool no-one- all one has to do is look at all the jobs that the Provos done before and after s.a.s killings- unless you think that the brits put the tonne bombs of in england in 1996 themselves-

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Harry Flashman,
    “The Paras took it on the chin at Warrenpoint, they knew what they were signing up for and I doubt if they had any complaints about the nature of the conflict.”

    Soldiers generally want to be in armed combat at some point in their career, but I can also tell you they generally didn’t see Northern Ireland as the kind of thing they wanted to be doing – precisely because it was it patently wasn’t armed combat, but heavy duty policing. They did it because they were told to. If you talk to senior army people they’ll tell you it’s not what the army is really supposed to be there for and they do it under sufferance.

    While you’ll find some in the army loosely referring to ‘fighting a war’ in Northern Ireland, they don’t use the term in the same way the IRA did and Sinn Fein still does. In particular, they don’t mistake it for an actual war. Northern Ireland simply does not count on their list – when I last spoke to soldiers in detal in 2000, they counted the last proper armed combat as the Falklands in 1982 and Falklands veterans had a status (informally) not accorded to people who had done tours in Northern Ireland.

    The occasional loose use of this language by some soldiers has been seized upon by Republicans as vindication that the IRA “war” fantasy had some objective reality to it. But the soldiers using it were expressed their own need to feel they had been in a war, precisely because they HADN’T been in one. They come back to the language of war and armed combat because that’s the language of their army training – even in the Troubles years, soldiers were primarily trained to fight wars, not for peace-keeping. But soldiers will sometimes talk about it as a “war”, loosely, because they were risking their lives in a similar way to a real war situation. They were expressing their identity as soldiers, they were not analysing the conflict or trying to legally define it.

    By any objective measure, terrorists are not soldiers and declaring yourself an army and killing people doesn’t make you one. There is objective reality to contend with here.

    The Paras take things on the chin because they are trained to be tough, not because they recognise the IRA as of equal combatant status with themselves. Not that it would make any difference if they did, they are soldiers not lawyers. Some may have admired the proficiency with which an IRA operation was conducted and recognised quasi-military skills among some of the terrorists, but again this is very different from regarding an IRA attack as identical to a wartime military ambush.

    There also a bit of Stockholm syndrome that inevitably takes hold with some soldiers towards terrorist opponents – an overblown respect for the bad guy, which is a way of dealing with the humiliation of powerlessness. It’s a psychopathy one might expect to arise among deeply frustrated soldiers, trained to fight and kill but constrained from doing so, exposed to an opponent who is able to do what they can’t.

  • Decimus

    Mainland Ulsterman,

    Excellent points. In simple terms the soldier regards himself as being in a war if he is allowed to shoot his opponents. They didn’t generally have that luxury in Northern Ireland, at least not after the early days.

    Much has been made of Warrenpoint being an excellent ambush etc, but I would take issue with that. Warrenpoint was success for PIRA because the army made two huge mistakes. One was transiting large numbers of troops in soft skinned vehicles close to the ROI border. The second was in setting up their Incident Control Point in the most obvious location possible, namely the gatehouse and unsurprisingly that is where the secondary device was located.

    There were no more Warrenpoints precisely because the army learned those lessons the hard way. Indeed by the end of the troubles PIRA could only kill soldiers by the use of human bombs and the occasional snipe in south Armagh, though that also came to an end when the SAS captured the sniper team.

  • Alias

    “How any Republican with more than two functioning synapses can look at what happened to the East Tyrone active service units over that five year period and then look at Gerry Adams today and not feel sick to his stomach I don’t know.” – Harry Flashman

    Well, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “To lose one PIRA member in East Tyrone to a SAS bullet over a five-year period may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose 28 looks like carelessness.”

    The spin put on it by PIRA supporters at the time was that it was bad luck that the SAS just happened and that it was very bad manners to shoot-to-kill. None of them thought it odd that 36 SAS members flown in from Hereford just happened to be having a picnic in the area at that time or that they were test-firing weapons used by Lynagh’s men three weeks before the ambush so that they could distinguish the sound of them from their own weapons.

    That shift of focus away from a high-ranking informer wasn’t surprising given that PIRA itself had no means of detecting informers within its ranks – thanks to Mr Adams appointing British agents to run its Internal Security Unit.

  • Alias

    Typo: “…it was bad luck that the SAS just happened to be there

  • Zig70

    Mairead Kelly was fairly impressive in interview. She said we should wait for the report, So I will.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Northern Ireland simply does not count on their list”

    Very myopic of them as it accounted for the same number of casualties as the Korean War and vastly more than any other post-WWII conflict.

    I am not saying what happened in Northern Ireland was a “war”, it wasn’t but nor was it merely some sort of over-extended policing issue.

    Just because it wasn’t a war doesn’t mean those Paras, who incidentally returned fire and engaged the IRA in the course of the ambush (qv. Decimus), engaged in Warrenpoint weren’t involved in active military service of a kind and scale they never experienced in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    You can’t dismiss a platoon of dead soldiers including a lieutenant-colonel, two massive smoking craters, dozens injured, a helicopter almost brought down and a firefight as some sort of local crime issue needing a few extra patrols of bobbies and a neighbourhood watch scheme to sort out.

    Decimus you say it wasn’t well thought through because the Paras made mistakes, so then the Loughgall ambush wasn’t well thought through because the IRA made mistakes then?

    Come on I’m no supporter of the Provos, the merest glance at my previous postings would show how obvious that is, but I’m no knee-jerker either. Warrenpoint – an ambush in broad daylight, organized by local country lads with minimal training and very basic equipment and weaponry wiped out a convoy of some of the finest fighting soldiers in the world – was an excellent piece of military planning and execution.

    The paras didn’t cry about it, they are professional tough soldiers but they got their clocks cleaned that day.

  • USA

    Obviously the IRA would not be taking prisoners, that was not the point. I was merely pointing out how stupid it is to sanction murder using that excuse. It gives rational to every killing of a British soldier.

    The British Army had legal authority?
    Whose authority was that, the British?
    Sure everyone knows the British have no legal or moral right to be on Irish soil !!!!
    South Africa had aparthied laws and the US had Jim Crow laws, but that does not mean they were right.

    And as for 2,000 dead? The British have murdered millions in Ireland, using scorched earth Cromwellian tactics to Famine induced by British law

    I’m not taking positions here, just pointing out that there is a lot of flag waving going on with some folks not able to see weakness of their own positions.

    If Loughgall was a crime then the Warrenpoint was a crime. If Loughgall was a military action, then Warrenpoint was a military action. Bloody Sunday, Ballymurphy, Teebane, Kingsmill etc….that was murder.

  • Harry Flashman

    @michael-mcivor

    So the systematic destruction of the most efficient active service units and who were coincidentally most opposed to Adams’ plans was all just a remarkable coincidence then was it? No one high up was giving the Brits any help were they? Just dumb good luck on the part of the SAS who just happened to show up every time the East Tyrone IRA went on ops. And the Eksund was found by accident by the French, sure it was, whatever helps you sleep at night.

    Tell me do you get free frontal lobotomies in Connolly House when you join Sinn Fein?

    I swear to Christ, the Moonies make more sense than the average Chuck.

  • Brian

    “Setting aside for a moment Barry’s legitimacy in waging ‘war’, (he had none) shooting dead the wounded who no longer pose a threat is a war crime. Indeed Barry’s gang went further when one of the wounded escaped from the ambush site. This individual, Cecil Guthrie, was pursued and shot dead as he sought aid for his wounds.”

    Legitimacy? What legitimacy did the Auxies have? The people of West Cork of that time will tell you who had their approval, and it wasn’t the Auxies.

    As for shooting of the wounded (assuming it happened besides Gurthrie), when a fake surrender is used and results in two of your men being killed any laws of war go out the window in that battle.

    As for the Provos, they, unlike the original and only legitimate IRA, didn’t take prisoners ever so they have no room to complain. Why risk even one casualty arresting these gunmen instead of just taking them out?

  • Decimus

    Just because it wasn’t a war doesn’t mean those Paras, who incidentally returned fire and engaged the IRA in the course of the ambush (qv. Decimus),

    Harry,

    Actually they returned fire at and engaged an English tourist who had the misfortune to be on the other side of the border.

    Decimus you say it wasn’t well thought through because the Paras made mistakes, so then the Loughgall ambush wasn’t well thought through because the IRA made mistakes then?

    Come on I’m no supporter of the Provos, the merest glance at my previous postings would show how obvious that is, but I’m no knee-jerker either. Warrenpoint – an ambush in broad daylight, organized by local country lads with minimal training and very basic equipment and weaponry wiped out a convoy of some of the finest fighting soldiers in the world – was an excellent piece of military planning and execution.

    I didn’t say that it wasn’t well thought out, but to say that it was an excellent piece of military planning etc is nonsense. It was a bomb at the side of the road aimed at soft skinned vehicles with a secondary device planted at the most obvious place that the soldiers would go to for cover. All detonated from the absolute safety of the ROI. The army should not have been driving around in soft skinned four tonners along the border, and they should not have taken cover and set up their ICP in such an obvious location. That they did so handed the Provos a massacre on a plate.

  • michael-mcivor

    Harry Flash- Your old arguments not working so you resort to calling names- i will not lower myself to that level-i will just
    stick with the truth- the Provos killed more british army than those brits killed Provos- how many tout army generals did the queen pin a medal on-

  • Reader

    michael-mcivor: i will just
    stick with the truth- the Provos killed more british army than those brits killed Provos

    And if the security forces had acted like the provos and shot everyone instead of taking thousands of prisoners would you have been impressed by their tactical superiority? Or would you have complained about their attitude?

  • michael-mcivor

    Reader- i am just on about when the Brit army and the Provos went toe to toe- you want to bring in the r.u.c mi5 /6
    and prison guards as well-

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Well, I think the Army would regard both Iraq (initial phase) and most certainly a lot of the work in Afghanistan as armed combat operations of the type they train for – quite different from Northern Ireland, with very different rules of engagement.

    But true there are few clean wars these days. Having done some work with the ICRC, I’m also aware they have had to give serious thought to how the Geneva Conventions apply to modern warfare, as wars now typically have more grey areas than they did at the time of the Battle of Solferino.

    But I’m afraid Warrenpoint was indeed an example of the Troubles being an over-extended policing issue. The Paras were on active military service yes; in a combat situation no, except in very limited and rare circumstances. Even when shot at, they had to follow guidelines much stricter than the rules of war would allow, precisely because their role was as a support to the police (at least after the security forces sorted themselves out in the mid 70s).

  • Harry Flashman

    “Well, I think the Army would regard both Iraq (initial phase) and most certainly a lot of the work in Afghanistan as armed combat operations of the type they train for – quite different from Northern Ireland, with very different rules of engagement.”

    Because the British Army has the unerring knack of training for precisely the wrong war. Thus they went charging into Iraq in great big main battle tanks, just like they had trained in Salisbury Plain and they always wanted to do when the Red Army crossed the Elbe.

    However that wasn’t the war they ended up fighting in Iraq was it?

    No, they fought over a period of years in Basra from badly constructed sangars and bases, sandbagged up former factories for the most part where they were subjected to sniper and mortar fire continuously. They would send out fleeting foot patrols or armoured personnel carriers and one squaddie might be picked off every other week by a roadside landmine or sniper, they’d patrol the streets hoping to God they could persuade the recalcitrant natives they were their friends before smashing down their doors and dragging their sons and fathers off to the barracks.

    Hmmmm, that war in Iraq sounds very familiar to another situation, can’t quite place it but I’m sure it must have been somewhere that the British Army regarded as a “real” war, unlike say Belfast in the 1970’s.

    As for Afghnistan, another so-called real war, let’s see; hostile rural terrain, populated by suspicious natives filled with hatred and folklore of fighting British troops over centuries in these self same rugged hillsides and valleys. Where snipers and roadside bombs mean that the British have to go everywhere by helicopter and where they know the guerrillas will simply fade into the local villages and country lanes when the shooting is over.

    A real war in other words, not like that nonsense in South Armagh.

  • Harry Flashman

    Michael,

    See those big bombs that were sent to London, who made them? That’s right the all but autonomous IRA in South Armagh, the IRA unit that wouldn’t let head office in Belfast within twenty miles of their operations because they knew damn well what was going on there.

    The bombs in Britain didn’t come from Derry or Belfast did they? Why do you think that is? Why in fact is it that to all intents and purposes the war against the Brits in Derry and Belfast pretty much had fizzled out by 1990?

    Who was in control in those two areas? It wouldn’t have been the same two men who ended up doing very nicely thank you out of the Peace Process by any chance would it? It wouldn’t have been the two senior Provisionals who by a remarkable coincidence were the only Provos not lifted in the countless supergrass operations of the 1980’s could it? One of those men has been credibly accused of setting up Brian Keenan in a sting operation but I’m sure that’s all Brit rumour-mongering.

    Open your eyes michael, a child of five could see what was happening to the IRA in the late eighties and early nineties but then there are none so blind as those who will not see.

    All hail the Great Leader, all hail the Great Leader.

  • Brian

    ‘the Provos killed more british army than those brits killed Provos”

    Yes, and the Nazis killed more Soviets than the Soviets killed Nazis. It doesn’t change the outcome of the war one bit, does it?

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    All hail the Great Leader

    just found out that Mr.Putin, the chairman of the United Russia Party (which won the recent election) isn’t a member of the Party. Hmm; tickles some sort of memory.

  • michael-mcivor

    Harry Flash- ” There are none so blind as those who will not see- to true-

    Well i can see that there were no more 1 tonne bomb attacks in england since the Provo peace-so much for the hardliners who have never killed anyone in england-

    You are talking about the South Armagh Provos who agree
    with the peace process- its the facts on the ground that tells the tale not made up storys-

  • Decimus

    Because the British Army has the unerring knack of training for precisely the wrong war. Thus they went charging into Iraq in great big main battle tanks, just like they had trained in Salisbury Plain and they always wanted to do when the Red Army crossed the Elbe.

    However that wasn’t the war they ended up fighting in Iraq was it?

    Harry,

    It was initially when they invaded alongside the Americans and went toe to toe with Soviet era main battle tanks. After they defeated the Iraqi army and overthrew the Saddam regime they then adopted Northern Ireland type tactics in the hope that they could win hearts and minds and keep a lid on any simmering sectarianism.

    Unfortunately their Northern Ireland style tactics were precisely the wrong ones required for fighting enemy militias which were willing to go toe to toe with them on the streets of Basra.

    Likewise in Afghanistan where British soldiers went in with their berets on hoping to replicate a Northern Ireland type scenarion and again found themselves fighting toe to toe with Afghan Mujahadeen.

    I certainly don’t recall the British army engaging in bayonet charges in Belfast do you? In Afghanistan the Royal Irish Regiment found itself having to shoot Taliban fighters off the walls of their patrol bases with pistols as they were running out of rifle ammunition. Do you recall anything like that happening in south Armagh? I certainly don’t recall the army calling in artillery strikes onto Crossmaglen. It might have been a considerably shorter ‘war’ if they had.

    If you want to know the major difference between combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and policing operations in Northern Ireland it is that Britain’s enemies in the former two countries were willing to fight, whilst her enemies in the latter were only willing to engage in murder.

  • Brian

    Decimus

    Would you call planting IEDs are all over the place ‘facing your enemy’?

    The enemy militias or AQI groups you speak of in Iraq did, at times go toe to toe with the Brits/US but often only for short periods before turning to negotiations or media propaganda to stall their foes, or simply resorting to outright terrorism. Their challenging of Americans/Brits didn’t last long. By the later stages of the occupation anything more than brief, real small scale attacks on Western forces were rare…as the saying went “All the dumb ones are dead.” They focused on the Iraqi defense forces and their favorite target, helpless unarmed civilians including anyone willing to work in developing a democratic system (‘collaborators’).

    As bad as sectarian violence was in the late 70s and early 90s here, it is nothing compared to what Iraq experienced. Foreign and some homegrown insurgent groups reveled in bombings of mosques and market places, often killing hundreds at time. ( I don’t recall the Provos or Loyalists ever descending to those depths). Militia death squads murdered thousands of people after snatching them off the street.

    We can be thankful that our wee statelet never came close to such large scale barbarism

  • Decimus

    Brian,

    The Iraqi insurgents turned to the use of IEDs and close quarter assassinations after they found themselves no longer capable of fighting guerrila style actions. PIRA used them from the start. Incidents of PIRA engaging in toe to toe combat with British soldiers are rare and generally involve hiding behind the border, or as at Derryard, having vastly superior manpower and firepower (they still ran away though). PIRA human bombs were delivered by innocent civilians rather than fanatical martyrs.

    There really is no comparison.

  • Harry Flashman

    With the greatest respect Decimus you risk falling into the colonial British mindset that it’s the job of those damn natives to stand still and be wiped out by Maxim guns rather than do sneaky things like use terrain and local knowledge to kill our fine chaps. Dashed unsporting and all that what?

    If Iraqis were so stupid as to climb up on the walls of barracks in full view of defending troops in order to give the British a rerun of Rorke’s Drift that’s their lookout. Irish guerrillas preferred to adopt a somewhat more intelligent approach to asymmetrical warfare.

    You seem to feel that using the Irish border was somewhat underhand as if you expect the IRA to line up in ranks with bright green Tam O’Shanter hats and carrying pikes as they charged British lines, well the Irish rebels tried that in 1798 and you’ll forgive them if they decided to rely on more subtle tactics in later campaigns.

    Just for the record what do you call the use by the British of long range cruise missiles fired from hundreds of miles away against Iraqi military convoys? In what way morally and militarily does that differ from Warrenpoint, other than the Brits being way, way further back from their enemy and the chance he might actually shoot back.

    When RAF Tornadoes dropped high explosives on Iraqi, Afghan or Libyan bases at night from five miles up in the air, was that “murder” too like at Derryard? Or is it OK when the British do it?

    And speaking of murder, if you believe the IRA killing of fully-armed, trained and equipped British troops is murder, what do you call the massacre by unarmed civilians, many with their hands up, by British Paras in Derry?

  • sliabhluachra

    When I first saw the title, I thought it asked why did the PIRA not arrest the Para terrorists, the Paras being miles ahead of other sections of HMF for taking out unarmed Micks during the Troubles.
    There are text book definitions of what constitutes a war, with so many kills bring needed. The Troubles fell short of this. Trimble’s squalid little war sound bite is a good one.
    During the Algerian war of Independence against French terrorist rule, the Algerians agreed to swap their smaller bombs for the bigger ones of the French. Eamonn McCann and others often quoted this. One man’s terrorist etc.
    Calling the East Tyrone or South Armagh Provos terrorists whilst not calling the Paras and Marines the same is selective; remember the young Carraher fellow shot in the back by the Marines occupying his native Crossmaglen.
    Loughall was part of a shoot to kill policy ordered by Thatcher after Airey Neave died for Irish freedom. There is nothing new in it. This policy was aimed at the North and South Armagh and East Tyrone PIRAs. It eas aided by The Jackal and King rat, both of whom got considerable help in their “terrorist” activity by HMF. The Glenane gang were helped too in their Dublin and Monaghan attacks and then there were the “easy deniability” Littlejohn brothers.
    The British used guerrilla/terrorist tactics against Napoleon in France and against Hitler in Europe. They have an entire key book on it, Frank Kidson’s Low Intensity Operations, based on British terrorist activity in Aden, Kenya, Cyprus and some other places.
    One of the pro Brit posters said the Brit terrorists (peace keeping forces) went into Iraq and Afghanistan to win hearts and minds. The Paras are assault troops: they don’t do heart and minds as they are not community cops. In the North, they beat up and stole from Catholics, all Catholics without fear or favour. They did the same in Iraq, making sure, of course, to set Sunni against Shiite and do a few provocative bombings of their own. Remember the SAS terrorist arrested in Basra but freed by a full British frontal assault.
    Before I get booted off again for odd reasons, two things: a particularly flawed and paranoid poster believes this site is a target for anti Provo Alliance republican psy ops forces. But looking at SO’T’s Alexa profile, I doubt the readers of this site would be such a target.
    Finally, I was last posting on the inconsistencies, to put it mildly, of the Republican ideology. Jim Lynagh was one of the Irishmen killed by foreigners at Loughall. He was a RSF public representative and, militarily, he was a hard nut. Yet RSF refused to allow a RSF cumann to be named after him even though his record of armed resistance would be second to none. Armchair revolutionaries are an odd lot.

  • michael-mcivor

    sliabhluachra-

    Jim Lynagh was an elected Sinn Fein public representative
    dont know where you heard that he was in RSF- but you are right about the armchair revolutionaries who were opposed to the Provos during the war and now they want to tell us all how hardline they are-

  • sliabhluachra

    Michael: I am sure Lynagh switched to RSF and I am equally sure politics was not his thing and that neither PSF nor RSF particularly bothered him; another boiler suited councillor also died that day at Loughall and polite politics was not his thing either.

    RSF types have tried hard to claim the McKearneys and Lynaghs but their stringent and somewhat silly criteria exclude anyone tainted with PSF and thus Lynagh presents a farsical dillemma for those who gave The Life of Brian script writers much of their material.
    At Lynagh’s funeral. Gerry Adams, who was never in PIRA, seemed most upset that the priest did not drone on about the circumstances leading to Mr Lynagh’s demise. Nice to see Mr Adams hoping the priest would steal his thunder.
    It might be well noted that members of Lynagh’s family and of McKearney’s and of other of the “Loughall Martyrs” were later very severely beaten up by members of the Provisional Alliance.

    Given the nature of the ambush the SAS terrorists set that day in Loughgall and the types of weapons they used and the amounts of bullets they fired, there was obviously no intention to take the IRA chappies alive.

    One does not need a British HET enquiry to see the obvious or to why some families like the Grews had a hard war and others chew the cud in Leinster House and Stormont.

  • Decimus

    Harry,

    With the greatest of respect to you we were discussing the issue of whether or not the counter terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland could be regarded as a war. You cited Warrenpoint as an example which you believe proved that it was. I then explained that it was not. You then went on to try and compare the NI situation with Iraq and Afghanistan in order to prove your ‘war’ theory. I then explained the more obvious differences between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the policing action in NI.

    If you want to discuss the merits or otherwise of adopting terrorist tactics rather than guerilla tactics then that is a whole different subject. Suffice to say that it is regarded as a sure sign that a guerilla organisation is on its last legs when it switches to that type of tactic. PIRA used them from the start so perhaps they had already conceded defeat back then.

    Your point about indirect fire, air support etc would stand if it was all that the British and Americans were doing in Afghanistan. Just as bombing and murdering was all that PIRA ever did here.

    The point about Bloody Sunday is merely irrelevant whataboutery. I am not here to support the actions of Support Company 1 PARA on that day.

  • michael-mcivor

    sliabhluachra-

    ” I am sure lynagh switched to RSF ” history is not just your thing then as it was Gerry Adams which said the funeral oration over Jims grave- why do facts seem to trip you up- you even say that Gerry spoke at the funeral-
    you do know that people read these comments-when you fall over a claim you make it means that you could be telling yarns about everything-

  • sliabhluachra

    Michael: I am sure Jim Lynagh was a member of RSF. I was confusing Cllr Martin McCaughey, shot dead in the back by terrorists with Desie Grew, with his Loughall friends and I could be getting it wrong on Lynagh and RSF. But I doubt it and it is a rather moot point, except for the unsavourysquabble both PSF and RSF had had for his legacy.
    Lynagh’s brother and McKearney’s cousins both got unmerciful beatings by members of the Provisional Alliance for not singing from the Adams’ hymn sheet. Others, as you know, got the bullet in the head to help the peace process and Sinn Fein’s electoral strategy. No mistake there.

    Gerry Adams spoke at Lynagh’s grave presumably because of Lynagh’s alleged PIRA connections rather than his SF/RSF connections. That unholy squabble continues to this day.
    I am sure we can agree both Lynagh and McCaughey had more pressing matters than Council business on their minds.

  • Alias

    Michael, do you remember what that oration by Adams had to say about those who did what Adams was preparing the ground to do at that time?

    “Anyone who does business with the British, the SDLP or the Free State establishment are fools as they’ve all sold out on the Irish people.”

    It’s a case of hiding in plain sight…

  • Harry Flashman

    Actually Decimus I made plain in an earlier post that I did not regard the Troubles as a war but neither could it be described as simply criminal activity requiring some robust policing.

    The British Army fought something in Northern Ireland, the amount of troops they lost and the investment in time, weaponry, training, equipment, hardware and manpower gives the lie to the idea that it was all just a wee bit of lark, not like a “proper” war in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Seven hundred dead squaddies seems to indicate something more than an extended training operation. Call it a conflict or a state of emergency if the term war rankles that much, fine I’m not bothered but don’t insult anyone’s intelligence by belittling the longest active service in the history of the modern British Army as something minor and unimportant.

    The Brits know what they fought in Northern Ireland and veterans of that campaign wouldn’t take lightly having their service dismissed so airily.

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    This discussion/argument has reached the end of its legs, I believe. Some are thinking that they are disagreeing but are merely agreeing in different ways. On that day the IRA set about a murderous operation and lost. Story over.

  • Skinner

    Sliabhluachra –

    “Jim Lynagh was one of the Irishmen killed by foreigners at Loughall.”

    I am British just like the guy who shot Jim Lynagh and my family have lived in Northern Ireland for centuries. Am I a foreigner too?

  • sliabhluachra

    Skinner: I take it you are and never were a supporter of the East Tyrone and South Armagh Provies.
    At the time of partition, large swathes of Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan had Protestant pro Unionist majorities. Should they be British too? Other areas, South Armagh and South Down being two, had Cathlic Nationalist majorities.
    Are you saying the McKeanrnys, the Grews and the Cappagh Gun Club, killed by foreigners and their local triggermen ( including the Jackal and King Rat) were not Irish?

    If you wish to argue that Moy and South Armagh are not Irish, the only way you can so argue is that someone planted a foreign flag there and that flag flutters on, courtesy of foreign gunmen and local collaborators of all hues.
    The fight over Lynagh’s legacy will also get a few footnotes.

    As regards this being the end of Loughall, it is not. Historians (not Martina Anderson) will probe into the goings on of the SAS, the FRU, the Jackal, the Glenane Gang and the rest long after we are gone.

    Personally, I find it odd that Gerry Adams, who was never in PIRA, and McGuinness who left it in 1972 and some other subious souls got to the top of the Peace Pile.

    Incidentally, anyone know how Margaret McKearney is doing these days? Still with the one handed Ardoyne hubby? Stil with PSF or has she grown up?

  • Skinner

    Ok a yes or no was all that was required but I’m just going to leave it now