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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The Ballygawley Land Mine Attack

ballygawley-land-mine-attackThe Ballygawley land mine attack is a bomb attack carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on July 13, 1983. The IRA explodes a land mine under an Ulster Defense Regiment‘s (UDR) mobile patrol at Ballygawley Road, near Dungannon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Four UDR soldiers are killed in the incident.

After the 1981 Irish hunger strike, floods of recruits sign up to join the IRA. Republicans in County Tyrone are especially angry over the death of Martin Hurson who was from the small Tyrone village of Cappagh and was one of Cappagh’s most famous sons. Cappagh becomes a Republican stronghold in the 1980s. Many young men flock to join the East Tyrone Brigade to avenge Hurson’s death. Some of those who join after being radicalized by the Hunger Strike go onto become famous IRA Volunteers like Declan Arthurs and Martin McCaughey who were both small children when the conflict broke out in 1969.

Sinn Féin member Francie Molloy said the following on Hurson’s funeral and the effect his death had on the young people of Cappagh:

“There was people everywhere. The village was black with them. It was the first sign in Tyrone of thousands and thousands of people assembling to honor the remains of a native son coming home. Martin was young when he went to jail and young when died on hunger strike. His death just made young people more determined that they were going to replace him. They saw ten men dead as the British government taking people out of the struggle. I think the young people of Cappagh and surrounding areas decided there and then that they were going to replace every one of them and replace them tenfold. And that is what they did. The number of young people who joined up in response was massive.”

On July 13, 1983, four British Army (Ulster Defence Regiment) soldiers (Ronald Alexander, Thomas Harron, John Roxborough, and Oswald Neely), all Protestant members of the 6th Battalion UDR, are travelling in their mobile patrol along a road in Tyrone close to the small town of Ballygawley. IRA Volunteers from the East Tyrone Brigade plant a 500 lb. land mine along the road the UDR patrol is traveling. The IRA unit notices the UDR takes a similar route every so often and has spotted weakness in the patrol. The IRA Volunteers are watching the UDR patrol while being well hidden. Once the UDR patrol is close to the land mine the IRA Volunteers detonate the land mine by remote control killing the four UDR soldiers almost immediately. This is the highest casualty rate suffered by the UDR in a single incident during The Troubles and worst attack suffered by the security forces since 1981. The attack is carried out by an Active Service Unit (ASU) of the IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade which is one of the most active and successful Brigade areas in the IRA during the 1980s.

Within five years the IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade launches two more high-profile attacks in Ballygawley. In 1985, during the Attack on Ballygawley barracks, an IRA unit led by Patrick Joseph Kelly and Jim Lynagh attacks the Ballygawley RUC barracks, shooting dead two RUC officers who are at the front of the station. A 200 lb. bomb destroys the entire barracks and injures three more RUC officers. In 1988, the IRA kills eight British soldiers and injures twenty-eight others during the Ballygawley bus bombing. Many Republicans see this as revenge for the Loughgall ambush the year before when the Special Air Service (SAS) shot dead eight IRA Volunteers.


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Birth of Cardinal Joseph MacRory in Co. Tyrone

cardinal-joseph-macroryJoseph MacRory, an Irish Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who serves as Archbishop of Armagh from 1928 until his death in 1945, is born in Ballygawley, County Tyrone, on March 19, 1861.

MacRory is one of ten children of Francis MacRory, a farmer, and his wife, Rose Montague. He studies at St. Patrick’s College, Armagh, and St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth. He is ordained to the priesthood on September 13, 1885 and serves as the first president of St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon from 1886 to 1887. MacRory teaches Scripture and Modern Theology at St. Mary’s College, Oscott in England until 1889, when he is appointed Professor of Scripture and Oriental Languages at his alma mater of Maynooth College. In 1906, he co-founds the Irish Theological Quarterly. In 1912, he is made Vice-President of Maynooth.

On August 9, 1915, MacRory is appointed Bishop of Down and Connor by Pope Benedict XV and receives his episcopal consecration on November 14 from Cardinal Michael Logue. During his tenure, his life is threatened repeatedly due to the turbulent atmosphere in Belfast. He is a member of the Irish Convention from 1917 to 1918.

MacRory is promoted to Archbishop of Armagh and thus Primate of All Ireland on June 22, 1928, in succession to Patrick O’Donnell. He is elevated to the cardinalate on December 16, 1929, by Pope Pius XI.

MacRory is the papal legate at the 1933 laying of the foundation stone of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral in England. He also serves as one of the cardinal electors who participate in the 1939 papal conclave which ultimately selects Pope Pius XII.

MacRory is a strenuous opponent of social injustice, National Socialism, Protestantism, and the Partition of Ireland. It is MacRory who suggests to Eoin O’Duffy that he raise an Irish Brigade to aid Generalissimo Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. In 1940, he voices strong objections to conscription in the North.

MacRory is a supporter of the Gaelic League. Errigal Ciarán GAC, one of the most famous GAA clubs in Ireland, plays at Cardinal MacRory Park in Dunmoyle, County Tyrone, which is built in 1956 in his honour.

After a brief illness, Cardinal MacRory dies on October 13, 1945, at the age of 84 from a heart attack at Ara Coeli, the residence in Armagh. He is interred in St. Patrick’s Cathedral Cemetery, Armagh.