History repeating: Brookeborough and Crossmaglen

Today I am sure there will be commemorations by republicans (presumably dissident and otherwise) of the IRA raid on Brookeborough on New Year’s Day 1957. Whilst there was a major commemoration in 2007 (the fiftieth anniversary, covered by Miss Fitz) it seems to be a tradition to mark this attack. To many republicans the attackers of Brookeborough RUC station are heroes; helped no doubt by the famous songs about Sean South and Fergal O’Hanlon who were left dead or dying at Moane’s Cross, the fairly desolate area (the more so at this time of year) at the foot of the Slieve Beagh mountains, whilst their comrades fled following the attack. Unionists have never made that much of the story. However, it is worth noting that the one sergeant and two constables in Brookebourough RUC station were going about their normal lawful business when they were attacked without warning by terrorists. Outnumbered almost 5 to 1, taken by surprise and faced with men equipped with a machine gun, they still managed to beat off the attackers. If republicans wish to celebrate the heroes of this raid there are three unsung police officers who deserve recognition.

I have mentioned this episode previously and suggested that the dissident attacks we are seeing now are in some ways like those of the IRA border campaign, an idea which is echoed in reviews of the latest book on the Border Campaign (Barry Flynn’s Soldiers of Folly). I still fail to understand how Sinn Fein draw a distinction between the current campaign and that of the IRA of the Border campaign. Indeed the latest attack this time on Crossmaglen police station has a certain resonance; Sinn Fein’s response if (and probably when) some of the current terrorists meet South or O’Hanlon’s fate will be interesting.

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