In the aftermath of Loughgall: The cover story…

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This from the new women’s blog Vixens with Convictions looks at some new documentary evidence around the SAS/RUC ambush at Loughgall

The full truth around Loughgall will probably never be exposed, however this note, written by someone who had more knowledge than most into events at that time, is of historical value.  We have decided that it is in the public interest to explore the questions that it will most likely raise for the reader.

Most sources believe that the security services had prior knowledge of the IRA attack weeks before nine men were shot dead by the SAS at Loughgall, which would suggest that Colette O’Neill could not have been the Loughgall informer, although she may have passed on some information – but the question that still needs to be fully answered is – just how did the SAS come to learn of the impending IRA attack?

 

 

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  • Turgon

    One should be careful not to play the man (or woman in this case) but the opening sentence tells a great deal in this blog’s case:

    “A typed note from one former IRA commander to another may shed light on a mystery surrounding the murder of eight IRA men and one civilian, shot by the SAS in 1987″ (emphasis mine).

    The 8 heavily armed terrorists were going there to murder RUC men. They had done this before and had murdered policmen in ones and twos in isolated rural police stations. They intended to do the same here. Several of the terrorists were known serial killers such as Lynagh.

    On this occasion the 8 terrorists with all their assualt rifles etc. met rather more of the gentlemen from Hereford with rather more assualt rifles (and by all accounts a machine gun or two). The result was predictable. Pretend soldiers who specialised in shooting men in ones and twos when they had no chance to repsond meeting professional soldiers used to delaing with people shooting at them and prepared appropriately.

    “Vixens with convictions” repeats the old line about some terrorists escaping. Well just possibly but it appears there were 30 or so members of the security forces with as mentioned above no lack of weapons. As such the “escaped terrorist” claim is more likely to be an attempt to bolster the claim that the terrorists were shot after having surrendered. As mentioned above since the SAS had at least one machine gun, apparently used the older higher velocity, larger calibre assualt rifles and fired more than1,000 rounds it is highly unlikely that they would have needed to “finish off” anyone. The terrorists would all have been dead extremely quickly.

    One should not glory in death and it is sad that the 8 terrorists died (it is an absolute tradegy that the innocent civilian died) but few will shed any tears that a sectrain murder gang of hardened killers decided to commit yet another sectarian murder and met more than their match.

    The reality is that if those IRA men had not gone to Loughgall and had decided not to commit that crime they would have been alive today as would the unfortunate civilian.

    The HET has found that the terrorists fired first and could not have been arrested.

    Republicans get agitated about who was or was not an informer and whether the IRA leadership had a hand in the security forces having knowledge of the attack. Why exactly is unclear: maybe to attack the current SF leadership maybe for other motives.

    The important reality is that the terrorists were the murderers and they were assuredly not murdered. Sad as anoyone’s death is those 8 terrorists went to murder and their own deaths stoppeed them committing many more murders. For “Vixens with Convictions” to call the terrorists deaths “murders” may cause some outrage but also causes a certain wry smile at their complete lack of self awareness.

  • Dec

    Turban

    The Loughgall attack was not to kill RUC men. The station closed at 7 pm and the IRA unit arrived around 7.15pm and proceeded to drive slowly past the station several times. At least 3 members of the unit were unarmed. All of which hardly points to an all out assault on a manned and fortified base.

    My own view on how the plan was detected by the security services was that the unit were simply careless preparing for the attack and alerted the security services to their planned attack.

  • Dec

    The above was addressed to Turgon obviously.

  • Harry Flashman

    Dec you’re not seriously suggesting that the unit drove slowly past the barracks to determine there was nobody inside so as to ensure they wouldn’t kill any peelers in the attack are you?

    Attacks on Newry and Ballygawley police stations not long before the Loughgall attack, heck the prior twenty years of the Troubles, would indicate that the more cops inside the better as far as the Provos were concerned.

    Anyway anyone who doesn’t now accept that the Brits got the info direct from West Belfast Sinn Fein HQ is officially living in cloud cuckoo land.

    The discovery of the Eksund, the systematic wiping out of East Tyrone IRA – including the Loughgall ambush – over two years, thus destroying the “hawk” faction within the Provisional Republican Movement, all played right into the hands of a very senior group of Provos, a group that was lousy with informers at the very highest level, and which was to benefit greatly from the resulting peace process.

    Not naming any names mind, but you can draw your own conclusions.

  • Turgon

    Dec,
    Your post is utter nonsense.

    “The station closed at 7 pm and the IRA unit arrived around 7.15pm”
    If the police station closed at 7pm it is highly likely police officers would still have been there at 7.15pm getting ready to go home: a perfect time for the IRA’s murder bid.

    Furthermore police officers were in the police station when it was attacked. Much more likely when the terrorists drove past they saw it was occupied. Then rather than delay or abort their attack they proceeded pleased that they would get to murder police officers as they had at Ballygawley.

    “At least 3 members of the unit were unarmed”
    Since there were eight terrorists and the following weapons were discovered: three Heckler and Kock rifles, one FN rifle, two FNC rifles, a Ruger revolver and a Spas-12 Shot gun there seems to have one weapon for each terrorist.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Nonsense indeed. As is the myth that terrorists escaped the scene.

    The Ruger revolver recovered had been removed from the body of a murdered police officer who died when the same IRA murder gang attacked Ballygawley police station using the same tactics they unsuccessfully used at Loughgall.

  • Dec

    Turgon

    I do recommend reading the Loughgall report which explains the presence of police officers in the station and why they didn’t leave the staion as planned. It also details the IRA actions on the day in and around the station as supplied by civilian and military witnesses. As I said the IRA unit arrived on the scene around 15 minutes after the station was to have closed. There were also scout cars in the area before the van and JCB arrived. On arriving at the station the IRA unit spend some time slowly driving up and down the road to ensure the RUC had left. I’ll put it this way, if the IRA’s intention was to surprise and kill RUC men, why did they turn up after the station was closed and announce their presence by slowly driving up and down past the station for around 10 minutes?

    Declan Arthurs, Gerry O’Callaghan and Eugene Kelly were unarmed. Unless, in the case of Declan Arthurs, you count possession of a cigarette lighter as being ‘armed’.

    SOS

    You mention Ballygawley but it didn’t involve a digger and it’s obvious there was a rethink after that attack which involved a gun battle and also required the IRA carrying the bomb into the station. The attack on the Birches station after Ballygawley showed the same MO as was to be used at Loughgall: unmanned station, JCB rigged with bomb driven up to the station and detonated.

  • Turgon

    Dec,
    8 terrorists: 8 weapons. One each.

    As to driving up and down past the police station of course they would want to check the area out. They may have had an inkling something was up: who knows? They did not announce their intention by driving past in a Toyota Hiace van: not unless they had “We are the IRA” written on the side of it.

    Since there were polic officers in the station at the time: following your logic they would lilkley have abandoned the attack not wanting to kill any policemen. The fact they pressed it home demonstrates they wanted to kill people. Also suggesting that the likes of Lynagh would try to avoid killing people it utterly ridiculous. Do not insult people’s intelligence.

  • Son of Strongbow

    I know some nationalists are heavily into rewriting the past but even I am startled to now learn that nationalist terrorists tried to avoid killing police officers. ;)

  • Dec

    Turgon

    The police officers were there to give the impression that the station was operating normally up until 7pm. As far as the IRA was concerned the station should have been and was unmanned. But I’ll withdraw now as clearly supposition trumps facts and witness accounts today.

  • Turgon

    <i." As far as the IRA was concerned the station should have been and was unmanned."

    Well had they wanted to be sure it was unmaned they would have waited till 8 or 9 pm. Sunset in May is about 9pm in Belfast – fractionally later further west in Loughgall.

    However, to continue your “logic” when the IRA men established ithe police station was occupied (by driving past it several times as you have pointed out) they left it alone as they did not want to kill anyone (they just drove about with loads of assualt rifles for fun).

    Oh no actually that is wrong they attacked it spraying gunfire at it and driving a digger with a big bomb in it to the police station – again all the time trying to avoid killing anyone – that being why you fire automatic weapons – unitl misnderstanding the sheer peacefulness of their actions the SAS shot them. Oh dear.

    As to “supposition trumps facts “ the fact is that there were eight terrorists and 8 weapons. Then we have the fact that the IRA opened fire first. I suppose maybe some unarmed terrorists walked up to the police station to ask if anyone were at home whilst the others fired at it. And of course some of them needed some extra guns as it would clearly be fun to try to fire two guns at once.

    The reality is 8 fully armed terrorists attacked a police station trying to murder those whom they expected to be inside. Unfortunately those inside and roundabout turned out to be better prepared, more numerous, more competent and better armed than their would be attackers. Hence, in very short order all the terrorists were killed.

  • Reader

    Dec, do you actually expect that the station routinely emptied at 7:00 each evening, with the police officers departing in a convoy and all taking the exact same route home at the exact same time every evening?
    Would you have followed that procedure in their position?
    Did the IRA not notice the cars in the car park as they drove past repeatedly? What actual signs of desertion were they looking *for*?

  • son of sam

    I’ll leave those who are apparently better informed to argue the toss on Loughgall.The interesting development is the appearance of the new women’s blog Vixens with Convictions which promises to stimulate debate in a number of areas.Apart from the Loughgall article above.one which was mentioned recently on Jude Collins.com(17th February ) dealt with West Belfast and challenged the idyllic picture often portrayed by Republicans in that area.The link to the article is given in one of the responses to Jude’s initial blog.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “A typed note from one former IRA commander to another may shed light on a mystery surrounding the murder of eight IRA men and one civilian, shot by the SAS in 1987″ (emphasis mine).”

    @Turgon,

    Judging from some past responses from people on this site I have concluded that the republican definition of murder is “a republican paramilitary killed under any circumstances by loyalists or the security forces.” It is just another example of words having unique meanings in Northern Ireland like: republican, loyalist, paramilitary, etc.

  • Mick Fealty

    Not sure why we’re arguing over definitions. The thing that struck me is that the way this story seems to suggest the ‘shoot to kill’ appears to have been concocted as a cover story just afterwards and stuck with the whole way through until only recently getting dumped.

  • tacapall

    Shoot to kill appears to have been concocted by who Mick ?

    If having prior knowledge and lying in wait until your prey emerges then without warning fire hundreds of rounds into the bodies of your victims is not shoot to kill then what is. Just like Gibraltar it was shoot first answer questions later except in this case at least their victims were armed.

  • Mick Fealty

    “Person already boxed off”?

  • tacapall

    “Person already boxed off”

    What way does that change the circumstance of shooting first and answering questions later ? Was the shooting dead of one innocent civilian and seriously injuring another not shoot to kill ?

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    ..your prey emerges..?

    Don’t you mean your would be predators emerge? If somebody is coming intent on murdering me, I would take no chances. If it was a war as some declare, it was simply a classic ambush.

  • tacapall

    Joe if you already know in advance what’s going to happen who’s the predator and who’s the prey.

    “If it was a war as some declare, it was simply a classic ambush”

    So was Jonesborough a classic ambush or was that murder ?

  • Reader

    tacapall: What way does that change the circumstance of shooting first and answering questions later ?
    The IRA opened fire first – covering fire while preparing the bomb. Until they opened fire, there were several possible outcomes. After they opened fire, there was only one.
    tacapall: Was the shooting dead of one innocent civilian and seriously injuring another not shoot to kill ?
    One lot of apologists needs to explain why a civilian was killed. The other lot need to explain why the other civilian survived.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    tacapall,

    I don’t know what you are referring to. All of the killings carried out by the various IRA and UVF groups under whatever names were quite simply murder.

  • Harry Flashman

    I had to pick myself off the floor whence I had rolled in laughter after realising that Dec did in all seriousness believe that the Provos attacking Loughgall did a thorough health and safety review to ensure no harm befell any RUC men.

    One can imagine the conversation, Jim Lynagh telling the boys of the East Tyrone brigade, “Now listen lads, I want yez to check, check and check again that there’s no peelers left inside, we wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to them right?”, “Aye Boss, you’re right I mean a couple of stiffed cops would just ruin the whole operation wouldn’t it?”

    Nuff said.

    As to shoot to kill, of course it was shoot to kill. The SAS was a no-nonsense military unit sent to contain a group of heavily armed guerrillas, let me break some shocking news to you, the SAS in such circumstances don’t shoot to put the wind up. And when the guerrillas in question have just blown one of Her Majesty’s police stations to smithereens and sprayed it with gunfire, well, the only response from the gunmen can be “It’s a fair cop guv, you have us bang to rights”.

    No one forced the bombing gang to go where they went and do what they did, they weren’t tricked into it by the government, they all knew what they were doing and fully understood the consequences of what would happen to them if someone in West Belfast tipped off the Brits. They went ahead anyway, and cannot complain about the end result.

    “Oh but why didn’t they try to arrest them earlier?” is the usual cry, to which I would reply “Why should they?” if the the bombers are insistent on attacking a police station with all the risks entailed when did it become the onus of their enemies to give them an easier way out?

    And no this is not bringing the government down or up to the same level as the paramilitaries. If you are staking out a criminal organization you don’t go in before the big bust, tipping your hand and arresting minor figures on lesser charges, you wait to the big job, when everyone including the leadership are together and you have them cold. If the criminals look at this point that they might be a threat to the law-enforcement agents those agents are fully justified in taking the gang out.

    As Mark Urban’s book put it, if you want to play in the big boys’ league you have to play by the big boys’ rules. Jim Lynagh was a big boy, he didn’t give any quarter and wouldn’t have expected any.

  • Richlinkedin

    I have encountered the humanitarian argument before. The Deal Barracks bombing 1989. The main body of young Royal Marines bandsmen was on the parade square. Half an hour (or an hour) earlier and they would have been caught in the explosion in the recreation block.

    Given the question was there a bomb timer error ? The answer from British Irish Rights Watch tended to suggest that the timer was set to minimise casualties.

    A more prosaic explanation may be that it was a Friday and there may have been an early start to enable an early finish for the weekend ?

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “If having prior knowledge and lying in wait until your prey emerges then without warning fire hundreds of rounds into the bodies of your victims is not shoot to kill then what is. Just like Gibraltar it was shoot first answer questions later except in this case at least their victims were armed.”

    @tacapail,

    Remind me again: what does the a in IRA stand for?

  • tacapall

    ““Oh but why didn’t they try to arrest them earlier?” is the usual cry, to which I would reply “Why should they?” if the the bombers are insistent on attacking a police station with all the risks entailed when did it become the onus of their enemies to give them an easier way out”

    Yeah Harry I suppose your right those two innocent civilians had it coming to them. I can see now the thinking behind shoot first answer questions later. I can relax now and console myself with the though that allowing someone to ignite a large bomb is the best way to avoid the loss of innocent life.

    Law enforcement agents – That’s a new one I bet the citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya along with the majority of Irish people wouldn’t agree with you.

  • Harry Flashman

    The family of the innocent victim, for whom I have every sympathy, are the only people who have a right to complain about what happened at Loughgall.

    For Republicans to complain about what happened is beyond parody.

  • tacapall

    “The family of the innocent victim, for whom I have every sympathy, are the only people who have a right to complain about what happened at Loughgall”

    There were two innocent victims Harry and everyone has a right to question the use of lethal force there is such a thing called the rule of law and everyone including police officers and soldiers have to abide by those rules.

    Its typical of “Gotcha” types to lump all republicans under the one banner, can you not be a pacifist and a republican.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “Its typical of “Gotcha” types to lump all republicans under the one banner, can you not be a pacifist and a republican.”

    @tacapail,

    The answer is no in the sense that the term is used in NI. If you are a pacifist and in favor of a united Ireland, you are simply a nationalist. Those who favor physical force are republicans.

  • tacapall

    “The answer is no in the sense that the term is used in NI. If you are a pacifist and in favor of a united Ireland, you are simply a nationalist. Those who favor physical force are republicans”

    Tmitch57 is it just cause Im Irish can I be a British republican and also be a pacifist.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    I wonder if those shooting police officers in the back of the head from behind with no warning while the officers were walking down the street in Portrush (?) are supposed to abide by those “rules of law”.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Mr J,

    I believe you may be referring to the murders of the community police officers Constables Graham and Johnston, murdered in Lurgan in June 1997.

    Of course it is easy to get confused as the same modus operandi was used by nationalist terrorists many, many times. The majority of murders of police officers occurred when they were targeted as ‘soft targets’: attending church, at home, or going about everyday tasks, even visiting relatives in hospitals.

    The majority of the murders of police officers remain unsolved.

  • Kevsterino

    I think that if the IRA men could have been captured then that is what should have been done. I don’t believe they could have been defeated without a firefight and I don’t believe any soldier or policeman is under obligation to allow folks to shoot at him with impunity. If it is true that the soldiers and cops were returning fire, then they did what I would have done and destroyed the source of the ordnance being used against them.

    I think the more interesting question is who tipped off the raid.

  • socaire

    There’s one subtle but important detail missing here. Some can’t grasp it and some choose not to grasp it. The serving soldiers of the Republican Army at Loch gCál who were shot and killed were on home territory in their own country. Their killers were pschopathic mercenaries from another country behaving as they always have done – to make things better for the natives.

  • socaire

    psychopaths

  • Barnshee

    “The serving soldiers of the Republican Army at Loch gCál who were shot and killed were on home territory in their own country. Their killers were pschopathic mercenaries from another country behaving as they always have done – to make things better for the natives.”

    Er the demise of these “soldiers” was greeted with approbation not to say delight by- er at least some of the “natives”

    PS if you are in an “army” and are “killed in action” by another “army” well tough that`s what happens in a “war”

  • Barnshee

    “I believe you may be referring to the murders of the community police officers Constables Graham and Johnston, murdered in Lurgan in June 1997.”

    Nope— these are the Portrush murders

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1987-04-13/news/8701280114_1_police-officers-eight-officers-two-gunmen-opened-fire

    “classic” IRA murders shot cops in back run away –and deny doing it

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “Tmitch57 is it just cause Im Irish can I be a British republican and also be a pacifist.”

    @tacapail,

    The natural assumption in Britain if you said you were republican is that you were opposed to the monarchy and wanted to replace the queen with an elected president. In NI it would mean that you supported insurgency against the British state and probably the replacement of the real Republic with a mythical 32-County republic proclaimed in Dublin in April 1916 but only in control of a few buildings for a week. In the U.S. it would mean that you are a member or supporter of the Republican Party.

    “Their killers were pschopathic mercenaries from another country behaving as they always have done – to make things better for the natives.”

    @socaire,

    Such a sentence reads like North Korean propaganda. It manages to pack three lies into only five words.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Barnshee,

    Thank you for the correction. As you say another “”classic”” as some would have it.

    No doubt there’s a ballad about the ‘Battle of Portrush Town” celebrating the exploits of the “serving soldiers” (lol) involved regularly keened at some nationalist shebeen of other.

  • socaire

    Which 5 words have you in mind? Killers – true. Psychopath – a tendency to commit violent acts and feel no guilt. That’s how you get ‘promoted’ to the SAS. Mercenary – a man hired to fight for a foreign army. Another country – not Britain. Where’s your problem?

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Could the 10 or so individuals who beat Paul Quinn to death, reportedly breaking every bone in his body, be fairly described as psychopathic killers from another country?

  • Turgon

    Very true Mr. Joe and reading the chilling account from Vixen’s with convictions regarding the murder of Anne Ogilby it is pretty clear that those involved had deeply unpleasant personalities. Many / most of the terrorist murderers seem to have been deeply unpleasant even psychopathic individuals who used politics as a cover for murdering: something they clearly enjoyed. That blog points out that those involved in Ms. Ogilby’s murder had criminal records from long before the troubles began.

    No one would better fit socaire’s comment of “pschopathic mercenaries from another country” than Jim Lynagh. He apparently personally murdered large numbers of people complete with his own “trademark” / “signature.” He was apparently brought in by various IRA units to kill people and of course was not from Northern Ireland and hence, not brought up under the “oppressive Orange state” etc. mope, mope. He was simply a psychopathic killer from another country. He may have been paid for his killings who knows so mercenary (probably the least insulting of socaire’s terms) may well apply to him as well.

    It is well worth periodically reminding ourselves just how deeply unpleasant most / all the terrorists personally were. It was not just the terrorist organisations which made them thus. The terrorist organisations simply gave them even more opportunity to develop their personal wickedness.

  • tacapall

    “The natural assumption in Britain if you said you were republican is that you were opposed to the monarchy and wanted to replace the queen with an elected president. In NI it would mean that you supported insurgency against the British state and probably the replacement of the real Republic with a mythical 32-County republic proclaimed in Dublin in April 1916 but only in control of a few buildings for a week”

    I’ve said a few times you haven’t a clue about Irish politics and you haven’t changed my thinking yet. Why cant I be opposed to the monarchy, support Ireland being independent politically yet believe both islands should have some sort of link, have an Irish identity and be a pacifist. Your crass remarks about 1916 shows your mythical bulldog mentality I bet they had to scrap you off the ceiling when Mrs Windsor paid homage to those Irishmen and women who give their lives in 1916 to ensure others could live as citizens rather than subjects.

  • socaire

    Mr joe as far as I know Jim Lynagh etc were from Ireland. Lived outside the British enclave and I know nothing about the demise of Paul Quinn – much the same as yourself. And Turgon, too many apparentlys, reportedlys and may have beens to give any credit to your post.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    ” Why cant I be opposed to the monarchy, support Ireland being independent politically yet believe both islands should have some sort of link, have an Irish identity and be a pacifist.”

    @tacapail,

    You can. But there is little there to distinguish you from a constitutional nationalist of the SDLP variety. Although John Hume would periodically make statements that he was a republican no one in the media took this very seriously. In the media, in books about Northern Ireland, etc. republican is used as a synonym for “physical-force nationalist.” I’m only taking the vocabulary as it is used. If you have a problem with this you should take it up with the journalists writing about Northern Ireland.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    ” I bet they had to scrap you off the ceiling when Mrs Windsor paid homage to those Irishmen and women who give their lives in 1916 to ensure others could live as citizens rather than subjects.”

    @tacapail,

    Actually I have very little interest in what members of the royal family say or do. I assume in most of their political statements they are coached by advisers from the government of the day. I deplore the attention given by the American media to the British royals or the attempts to create a royal family out of certain American political families like the Kennedys or the Clintons.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Well Minister O’Dowd said that neither the PIRA nor former members of that crowd had anything to do with that most callous of murders and we know that high ranking members of SF never tell lies.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    socaire,

    Presumably you understand the meaning of grasping at straws? If not, might I humbly suggest that you Google the phrase.

  • Dixie Elliott

    In the book ‘The IRA and Armed Struggle’ by Rogelio Alonso Brendan Hughes said before the Loughgall Ambush (May 1987) that at a meeting in Donegal he told McGuinness that the IRA needed at least a year’s training before a further upsurge in the campaign. McGuinness told him that they needed one right away as there were rumours that he and Adams were trying to undermine the armed struggle for politics.

    As it turned out and which is something now admitted by Adams that is in fact what they were doing at that time.

    So the attack on Loughgall was encouraged by a leadership who knew that they were in fact seeking a way out of the campaign.

    May 1987 is also the month that Brian Nelson passed on information which saved Gerry Adams’ life when the British moved to stop a UDA attack with a limpet mine on the armoured car which was to carry him to a meeting with The Housing Executive in Belfast City Center…(See the De Silva Report).