seamus dubhghaill

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


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The M62 Coach Bombing

m62-coach-bombingThe M62 coach bombing occurs on February 4, 1974 on the M62 motorway in Northern England, when a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb explodes in a coach carrying off-duty British Armed Forces personnel and their family members. Twelve people, nine soldiers and three civilians, are killed by the bomb, which consists of 25 pounds of high explosive hidden in a luggage locker on the coach.

The coach has been specially commissioned to carry British Army and Royal Air Force personnel on leave with their families from and to the bases at Catterick and Darlington during a period of railway strike action. The vehicle departs from Manchester and is making good progress along the motorway. Shortly after midnight, when the bus is between junction 26 and 27, near Oakwell Hall, there is a large explosion on board. Most of those aboard are sleeping at the time. The blast, which can be heard several miles away, reduces the coach to a “tangle of twisted metal” and throws body parts up to 250 yards.

The explosion kills eleven people outright and wounds over fifty others, one of whom dies four days later. Amongst the dead are nine soldiers – two from the Royal Artillery, three from the Royal Corps of Signals, and four from the 2nd battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. One of the latter is Corporal Clifford Haughton, whose entire family, consisting of his wife Linda and his sons Lee (5) and Robert (2), also die. Numerous others suffer severe injuries, including a six-year-old boy, who is badly burned.

The driver of the coach, Roland Handley, is injured by flying glass, but is hailed as a hero for bringing the coach safely to a halt. Handley dies at the age of 76 after a short illness in January 2011.

Suspicions immediately fall upon the IRA, which is in the midst of an armed campaign in Britain involving numerous operations, later including the Guildford pub bombing and the Birmingham pub bombings.

Reactions in Britain are furious, with senior politicians from all parties calling for immediate action against the perpetrators and the IRA in general. The British media are equally condemnatory. According to The Guardian, it is “the worst IRA outrage on the British mainland” at that time, whilst the BBC describes it as “one of the IRA’s worst mainland terror attacks.” The Irish newspaper The Sunday Business Post later describes it as the “worst” of the “awful atrocities perpetrated by the IRA” during this period.

IRA Army Council member Dáithí Ó Conaill is challenged over the bombing and the death of civilians during an interview, and replies that the coach had been bombed because IRA intelligence indicated that it was carrying military personnel only.

Following the explosion, the British public and politicians from all three major parties call for “swift justice.” The ensuing police investigation led by Detective Chief Superintendent George Oldfield is rushed, careless, and ultimately forged, resulting in the arrest of the mentally ill Judith Ward who claims to have conducted a string of bombings in Britain in 1973 and 1974 and to have married and had a baby with two separate IRA members. Despite her retraction of these claims, the lack of any corroborating evidence against her, and serious gaps in her testimony – which is frequently rambling, incoherent, and “improbable” – she is wrongfully convicted in November 1974.

The case against Ward is almost completely based on inaccurate scientific evidence using the Griess test and deliberate manipulation of her confession by some members of the investigating team. The case is similar to those of the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, and the Maguire Seven, which occur at the same time and involve similar forged confessions and inaccurate scientific analysis. Ward is finally released in 1992, when three Appeal Court judges hold unanimously that her conviction was “a grave miscarriage of justice,” and that it had been “secured by ambush.”

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Founding of Republican Sinn Féin

republican-sinn-feinRepublican Sinn Féin (Irish: Sinn Féin Poblachtach), an unregistered Irish Republican political organisation, is founded at the West County Hotel in Dublin on November 2, 1986.

Republican Sinn Féin (RSF) claim to be heirs of the Sinn Féin party founded in 1905 and take its present form in 1986 following a split with Provisional Sinn Féin. RSF members take seats when elected in local Irish councils but do not recognise the partition of Ireland and subsequently the legitimacy of the Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland governments, so does not register itself under them.

The decision to form, or to reorganise or reconstitute as its supporters see it, the organisation was taken in response to Gerry Adams-led Sinn Féin’s decision at its 1986 ard fheis to end its policy of abstentionism and to allow elected Sinn Féin Teachtaí Dála take their seats in Leinster House‘s Dáil Éireann. The supporters of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill who go on to form RSF oppose this move as it signals a departure from the traditional republican analysis which views the parliament of the Republic of Ireland as an illegal assembly, set up by an act of the British parliament. They argue that republicans owe their allegiance to the All-Ireland (32 County) Irish Republic, maintaining that this state exists de jure and that its authority rests with the IRA Army Council. Hence, if elected, its members refuse to take their seats in the Oireachtas.

The organisation views itself as representing “true” or “traditional” Irish republicanism, while in the mainstream media the organisation is portrayed as a political expression of “dissident republicanism.” Republican Sinn Féin rejects the Good Friday Agreement and indeed the Anglo-Irish Treaty. As part of this they refuse to discount Irish republicans using militant means to “defend the Irish Republic” and considers the Continuity Irish Republican Army (IRA) to be the legitimate army of the Irish Republic. The CIRA is designated as a terrorist organisation by the governments of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.


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The End of the “Border Campaign”

united-irishman-1962On February 26, 1962, due to lack of support, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) ends what it calls “The Campaign of Resistance to British Occupation,” which is also known as the “Border Campaign.”

The Border Campaign is the first major military undertaking carried out by the IRA since the harsh security measures of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland governments had severely weakened it in the 1940s.

The campaign is launched with simultaneous attacks by approximately 150 IRA members on targets on the Border in the early hours of December 12, 1956. A BBC relay transmitter is bombed in Derry, a courthouse is burned in Magherafelt, a B-Specials post near Newry is burned, and a half-built Army barracks at Enniskillen is blown up. A raid on Gough barracks in Armagh is beaten off after a brief exchange of fire.

On December 14, an IRA column under Seán Garland detonates four bombs outside Lisnaskea Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station before raking it with gunfire. Further attacks on Derrylin and Roslea RUC barracks on the same day are beaten off.

On the evening of December 30, 1956, the Teeling Column attacks the Derrylin RUC barracks again, killing RUC constable John Scally, the first fatality of the campaign. The new year of 1957 begins with Seán Garland and Dáithí Ó Conaill planning an attack on the Police station at Brookeborough but they assault the wrong building. Two IRA men, Seán South and Fergal O’Hanlon, are killed in the abortive attack. Garland is seriously wounded in the raid. He and the remainder of the group are pursued back over the border by British soldiers.

The year 1957 is the most active year of the IRA’s campaign, with 341 incidents recorded. In November, the IRA suffers its worst loss of life in the period when four of its members die preparing a bomb, which explodes prematurely, in a farm house at Edentubber, County Louth. The civilian owner of the house is also killed.

By 1958, the campaign’s initial impetus has largely dissipated with many within the IRA in favour of calling the campaign off. By mid-year, 500 republicans are in gaol or interned. The decline in IRA activity leads the Fianna Fáil government in the South to end internment in March 1959.

Following their release, some of the interned leaders met Seán Cronin in a farmhouse in County Laois and are persuaded to continue the campaign “to keep the flame alive.” The number of incidents falls to just 26 in 1960, with many of these actions consisting of minor acts of sabotage.

The final fatality of the conflict comes in November 1961, when an RUC officer, William Hunter, is killed in a gun battle with the IRA in south County Armagh.

By late 1961, the campaign is over and has cost the lives of eight IRA men, four republican supporters, and six RUC members. In addition, 32 RUC members are wounded. A total of 256 Republicans are interned in Northern Ireland during the campaign and another 150 or so in the Republic.

The Campaign is officially called off on February 26, 1962, with a press release drafted by Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and several other persons including members of the Army Council. The statement is released by the Irish Republican Publicity Bureau and signed “J. McGarrity, Secretary.”