England had been relatively untouched by the violence up until the beginning of 1973, but the IRA Army Council draws up plans for a bombing campaign to take place in England some time early in 1973. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, loyalist paramilitaries had bombed Dublin and other parts of the Republic of Ireland a number of times before the IRA began its bombing campaign in England. Following the Dublin bombings in late 1972 and in January 1973 carried out by Loyalists which killed three people and injured over 150, the media attention these bombings received helped the IRA decide to take its campaign to Britain in return. The arrest of top IRA personnel in both the Republic and Northern Ireland like Máire Drumm, Seán Mac Stíofáin, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Martin McGuinness in late 1972 help to convince the IRA to bomb England to take the heat off of the IRA in Ireland.
The IRA selects the volunteers who constitute the Active Service Unit (ASU) for the England bombing operation, which is scheduled to take place on March 8, 1973, the same day that a border poll, boycotted by Nationalists and Roman Catholics, is being held in Belfast. Volunteers from all three of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade Battalions are selected for the bombing mission. The team includes Gerry Kelly (19), Robert “Roy” Walsh (24), an expert bomb maker from Belfast, Hugh Feeney, a Belfast-born IRA volunteer and explosives expert, and two sisters, Marian (19) and Dolours Price (22) from Belfast and are from a staunchly Republican family, along with five other lesser-known volunteers from Belfast: Martin Brady (22), William Armstrong (29), Paul Holmes (19), William McLarnon (19), and Roisin McNearney (18).
Several days before the bombing, the leaders of the IRA ASU, which includes sisters Marian and Dolours Price, go to London and pick out four targets: the Old Bailey, the Ministry of Agriculture, an army recruitment office near Whitehall and New Scotland Yard. They then report back to their Officer Commanding (OC) in Belfast, and the IRA Army Council gives the go ahead. The bombs are made in Ireland and transported to London via ferry, according to Marian Price.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) warns the British that the ASU is traveling to England, but are unable to provide specifics as to the target.
The drivers and the volunteers who are to prime the bombs wake up at 6:00 a.m. and drive the car bombs to their various targets. Gerry Kelly and Roy Walsh drive their car bomb to the Old Bailey. It is planned that by the time the bombs go off around 3:00 p.m., the ASU will be back in Ireland. The bomb at New Scotland Yard is found at 8:30 a.m. by a policeman who notices a discrepancy in the licence plate. The bomb team starts lifting out 5-pound (2.3 kg) bags of explosives and separates them, so that if the bomb does go off, the force of the explosion will be greatly reduced. The bomb squad eventually finds the detonating cord leads, which run under the front passenger seat of the car. Peter Gurney, a senior member of New Scotland Yard, cuts the detonator cord leads, defusing the bomb.
However, at the Old Bailey the bomb explodes, injuring many and causing extensive damage. Scotland Yard states it had warned the City of London police at 2:01 p.m. to search near the Old Bailey for a green Ford Cortina. The car is not located until 2:35 p.m. and explodes at 2:49 p.m. while police are evacuating the area. Several more people are injured by the car bomb near the Ministry of Agriculture, which brings the total number injured to over two hundred. A British man, Frederick Milton (60), dies of a heart attack. Dolours Price writes in her memoir, “There were warnings phoned in but people had stood about, curious to see… If people ignored the warnings and stood around gawking, they were stupid. The numbers of injured came about through curiosity and stupidity.” The ASU is caught trying to leave the country at Heathrow Airport prior to the explosions, as the police had been forewarned about the bombings and are checking all passengers to Belfast and Dublin. All ten give false names that do not match their documents and they are detained. The IRA Volunteer who gave a warning about the bombs an hour before they exploded is the only one not captured.
The IRA volunteers have to be tried at Winchester Crown court in Winchester Castle as the Old Bailey is wrecked by the car bomb. The trial takes ten weeks and is set amid extremely strict security. William McLarnon pleads guilty to all charges on the first day of the trial. On November 14, 1973, a jury convicts six men and two women of the bombings. The jury acquits Roisin McNearney in exchange for information and she is given a new identity. As her verdict is handed down, the other defendants begin to hum the “Dead March” from Saul, and one throws a coin at her, shouting, “Take your blood money with you” as she leaves the dock in tears. Six of the nine people convicted admit to Provisional IRA membership.
The judge sentences the eight to life imprisonment for the bombings and 20 years for conspiracy, while William McLarnon, whose family was forced out of their home in August 1969, is sentenced to 15 years. When his sentence is read he shouts, “Up The Provisional IRA.” As the eight are led to the cells below the court, several give raised fist salutes to relatives and friends in the public gallery. The Price sisters immediately go on hunger strike, soon followed by Feeney and Kelly, for the right not to do prison work and to be repatriated to a jail in Ireland. The bombers on hunger strike are eventually moved to jails in Ireland as part of the 1975 IRA truce agreed with the British. In 1983, Kelly escapes from Maze Prison and becomes part of an IRA ASU in the Netherlands. He is recaptured three years later by the Dutch authorities and extradited.
One of the Old Bailey bombers, Marian Price, explains the IRA’s reasoning for bombing England. “It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s Irish people dying.” So if the armed struggle was to succeed then it was necessary to “bring it to the heart of the British Establishment.” Hence symbolic targets such as the Old Bailey “were carefully chosen.”
The Shankill Butchers, a gang of eleven Ulster loyalists, are sentenced to life imprisonment on February 20, 1979, for 112 offences including nineteen murders. Many of the gang are members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) that is active between 1975 and 1982 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The gang is based in the Shankill area and is responsible for the deaths of at least 23 people, most of whom are killed in sectarian attacks. The gang is notorious for kidnapping, torturing and murdering random or suspected Catholic civilians. Each is beaten ferociously and has their throat hacked with a butcher’s knife. Some are also tortured and attacked with a hatchet. The gang also kills six Ulster Protestants over personal disputes, and two other Protestants mistaken for Catholics.
Most of the Butchers are eventually captured and eleven of them come to trial during 1978 and early 1979. On February 20, 1979, the eleven men are convicted of a total of nineteen murders, and the 42 life sentences handed out are the longest combined prison sentences in United Kingdom legal history.
William Moore pleads guilty to eleven counts of murder and Bobby “Basher” Bates pleads guilty to ten counts. The trial judge, Lord Justice Turlough O’Donnell, says that he does not wish to be cast as “public avenger” but feels obliged to sentence the two to life imprisonment with no chance of release. Gang leader Lenny Murphy and his two chief “lieutenants,” however, escape prosecution.
In summing-up, Lord Justice O’Donnell states that their crimes, “a catalogue of horror”, are “a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry.” After the trial, Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Nesbitt, head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Murder Squad in Tennent Street Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) base and the man charged with tracking down the Butchers, comments, “The big fish got away,” a reference to Murphy (referred to in court as “Mr. X” or the “Master Butcher”) and to Messrs “A” and “B.”
Lenny Murphy is assassinated by a Provisional Irish Republican Army hit squad early in the evening of November 16, 1982, outside the back of his girlfriend’s house in the Glencairn estate. The IRA is likely acting with loyalist paramilitaries who perceive him as a threat.
The first of the Butchers to be released from prison is John Townsley, who had been only fourteen when he became involved with the gang and sixteen when arrested. Bobby Bates is released in October 1996, two years after the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994. He reportedly “found religion” behind bars. He is shot and killed in the upper Shankill area on June 11, 1997, by the son of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) man he had killed in the Windsor Bar. “Mr. B”, John Murphy, dies in a car accident in Belfast in August 1998. William Moore is the final member of the gang to be released from prison in August 1998, in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement, after over twenty-one years behind bars. He dies on May 17, 2009, from a suspected heart attack at his home.
The investigations by Martin Dillon, author of The Shankill Butchers: A Case Study of Mass Murder (1989 and 1998), suggests that a number of other individuals (whom he is unable to name for legal reasons) escape prosecution for participation in the crimes of the Butchers and that the gang are responsible for a total of at least thirty murders.
The Butchers brought a new level of paramilitary violence to a country already hardened by death and destruction.
From 1985 onwards, the IRA in East Tyrone had been at the forefront of a campaign against British state police and army facilities and their personnel. In 1987, an East Tyrone IRA unit was ambushed with eight of its members being killed by the SAS while they were making an attack on a police station in Loughgall, County Armagh. This was the IRA’s greatest loss of life in a single incident during The Troubles. Despite these losses, the IRA’s campaign continued, with it attacking nearly 100 police and military facilities over the next five years, wrecking thirty three and damaging the remainder to varying degrees. The SAS ambush has no noticeable long-term effect on the level of IRA activity in East Tyrone. In the two years before the Loughgall ambush, the IRA killed seven people in East Tyrone and North Armagh, and eleven in the two years following the ambush.
Three other IRA members – Gerard Harte, Martin Harte and Brian Mullin – had been ambushed and killed by the SAS as they tried to kill an off-duty Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier near Carrickmore, County Tyrone. British intelligence identified them as the perpetrators of the Ballygawley bus bombing, which killed eight British soldiers. After that bombing, all troops going on leave or returning from leave were ferried in and out of East Tyrone by helicopter. Another high-profile attack of the East Tyrone Brigade was carried out on January 11, 1990, near Augher, where a Gazelle helicopter was shot down.
On June 3, 1991, three IRA men, Lawrence McNally, Michael “Pete” Ryan and Tony Doris, were killed at the town of Coagh, when a stolen car they were driving in on their way to kill an off-duty Ulster Defence Regiment soldier was ambushed by the Special Air Service. Ryan was the same man who, according to Irish journalist and author Ed Moloney, had led an attack on Derryard checkpoint on the orders of IRA Army Council member Thomas “Slab” Murphy two years earlier.
The IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade lost 53 members killed by the British Forces during the Troubles – the highest of any “Brigade areaz.” Of these, 28 were killed between 1987 and 1992.
At 10.30 p.m. on the night of February 16, 1992, a stolen car and lorry carrying multiple IRA attackers drives into the centre of the village of Coalisland and, pulling up at its fortified Royal Ulster Constabulary security base, fires 30 rounds of armour-piercing tracer ammunition into it at close range from a Soviet Union made DShK heavy machine-gun that they had mounted on the back of the lorry. The heavy machine gun is fired by IRA member Kevin O’Donnell, the rest of the unit being armed with Soviet-made AKMassault rifles. The IRA attackers then drive off at speed up Annagher hill, without any apparent pursuit from the security forces. While making their escape they drive past the home of Tony Doris, an IRA man who had been killed by the British Army the previous year, where they stop to fire into the air, shouting, “Up the ‘RA, that’s for Tony Doris!” Witnesses also report the IRA men waving Irish Tricolours from the back of the lorry. After this they drive on at speed to the car park of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in the village of Clonoe, two miles away from Coalisland police station, arriving at 10.45 p.m., where getaway cars are waiting.
Immediately on arrival, the IRA attackers are in the process of preparing to abandon the attack vehicles and dismounting the DShK to take with them when they are assailed by a British Army detachment that had been lying in wait for them in the car park’s perimeter, primarily composed of soldiers from the Special Air Service, who engage them with sustained automatic fire. Patrick Vincent, age 20, the driver of the stolen lorry, is shot dead with five bullets while still in its cab. Peter Clancy, age 19, and Kevin O’Donnell, age 21) are killed while dismounting the DShK on the back of the lorry. Sean O’Farrell, age 23, is pursued on foot across the church grounds over a distance of 100 yards before being shot dead with five bullets while trying to climb over a fence. Two other IRA men, one of them being Aidan McKeever, who are found sitting in a car in the car park with the intention of acting as getaway drivers, surrender after being wounded and are taken prisoner. The roof of the church is accidentally set on fire after a stray round hit a fuel storage tank. One British soldier is wounded during the confrontation. An IRA statement reports that another active service unit made up of at least four volunteers taking part in the operation at Coalisland “escaped unharmed” under heavy fire in other vehicles after splitting up into two teams.
Several witnesses to the ambush later claim that some of the IRA men tried to surrender to the British Army engaging unit during the ambush but were summarily executed. Justice Seamus Treacy of Northern Ireland’s High Court awards McKeever, the IRA getaway driver, £75,000 in damages in 2011. It is unclear whether or not this decision is appealed, or whether the damages are ever paid.
A local IRA source points out areas of incompetence in the attack by the IRA unit involved that leads to its destruction:
The use of a long-range weapon for a short-range shooting. The DShK can be used up to 2,000 metres from the target, and its armour-piercing capabilities at 1,500 metres are still considerable.
The use of tracer rounds is ill-judged as they easily reveal the firing location of the gun if it is not being fired from a well-hidden position.
The escape route is chosen at random, with the machine-gun in full sight and the support vehicle flashing its hazard lights.
The gathering of so many men at the same place after such an attack is another factor in the failure to escape for most of the attacking force.
During the funeral services for O’Donnell and O’Farrell in Coalisland, the parish priest criticises the security forces for what happened at Clonoe church, which had resulted in the deaths of the four IRA men. The priest, Fr. MacLarnon, then appeals to the IRA and Sinn Féin to replace “the politics of confrontation with the politics of cooperation.” While Francie Molloy, a local Sinn Féin councillor, walks out of the church in protest, leading Sinn Féin politicians Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness remain in their seats. There are hundreds of Royal Ulster Constabulary police officers outside the church during the funeral, the RUC having changed its policy after the Milltown Cemetery attack. This show of force is criticised by Sinn Féin.
This is the last occasion that IRA members are killed in a series of ambushes by the British Army, spearheaded by the Special Air Service, in Northern Ireland. Growing tension between locals and the British military foot-patrols lead to street confrontations with soldiers from the Parachute Regiment three months later.
(Pictured: The ambush scene at Clonoe, County Tyrone, where four IRA men were shot dead by the British army in February 1992)
Magee joins the Belfast Brigade of the IRA and receives a five-year sentence in 1971 for possession of firearms. He is imprisoned in Long Kesh, where he holds the position of camp adjutant. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he is part of a four-man active service unit, along with Joe Doherty and Angelo Fusco, nicknamed the “M60 gang” due to their use of an M60general-purpose machine gun. On April 9, 1980, the unit lures the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) into an ambush on Stewartstown Road, killing Constable Stephen Magill and wounding two others. On May 2 the unit is planning another attack and has taken over a house on Antrim Road, when an eight-man patrol from the British Army‘s Special Air Service (SAS) arrives in plain clothes, after being alerted by the RUC. A car carrying three SAS members goes to the rear of the house, and another car carrying five SAS members arrives at the front of the house. As the SAS members at the front of the house exit the car the IRA unit opens fire with the M60 machine gun from an upstairs window, hitting Captain Herbert Westmacott in the head and shoulder. Westmacott is killed instantly and is the highest-ranking member of the SAS killed in Northern Ireland. The remaining SAS members at the front of the house, armed with Colt Commando automatic rifles, submachine guns and Browning pistols, return fire but are forced to withdraw. Magee is apprehended by the SAS members at the rear of the house while attempting to prepare the IRA unit’s escape in a transit van, while the other three IRA members remain inside the house. More members of the security forces are deployed to the scene, and after a brief siege the remaining members of the IRA unit surrender.
The trial of Magee and the other members of the M60 gang begins in early May 1981, with them facing charges including three counts of murder. On June 10 Magee and seven other prisoners, including Joe Doherty, Angelo Fusco and the other member of the IRA unit, take a prison officer hostage at gunpoint in Crumlin Road Jail. After locking the officer in a cell, the eight take other officers and visiting solicitors hostage, also locking them in cells after taking their clothing. Two of the eight wear officer’s uniforms while a third wears clothing taken from a solicitor, and the group moves toward the first of three gates separating them from the outside world. They take the officer on duty at the gate hostage at gunpoint and force him to open the inner gate. An officer at the second gate recognises one of the prisoners and runs into an office and presses an alarm button, and the prisoners run through the second gate towards the outer gate. An officer at the outer gate tries to prevent the escape but is attacked by the prisoners, who escape onto Crumlin Road. As the prisoners are moving toward the car park where two cars are waiting, an unmarked RUC car pulls up across the street outside Crumlin Road Courthouse. The RUC officers open fire, and the prisoners return fire before escaping in the waiting cars. Two days after the escape, Magee is convicted in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum recommended term of thirty years.
Magee escapes across the border into the Republic of Ireland. Eleven days after the escape he appears in public at the Wolfe Tone commemoration in Bodenstown Graveyard, County Kildare, where troops from the Irish Army and the Garda‘s Special Branch attempt to arrest him but fail after the crowd throws missiles and lay down in the road blocking access. He is arrested in January 1982 along with Angelo Fusco and sentenced to ten years imprisonment for the escape under extra-jurisdictional legislation. Shortly before his release from prison in 1989, he is served with an extradition warrant, and he starts a legal battle to avoid being returned to Northern Ireland. In October 1991, the Supreme Court of Ireland in Dublin orders his return to Northern Ireland to serve his sentence for the murder of Captain Westmacott, but Magee jumps bail and a warrant is issued for his arrest.
Magee flees to England, where he is part of an IRA active service unit. On June 7, 1992, Magee and another IRA member, Michael O’Brien, are traveling in a car on the A64 road between York and Tadcaster, when they are stopped by the police. Magee and O’Brien are questioned by the unarmed police officers, who become suspicious and call for back-up. Magee shoots Special Constable Glenn Goodman, who dies later in hospital, and then shoots the other officer, PC Kelly, four times. Kelly escapes death when a fifth bullet ricochets off the radio he is holding to his ear, and the IRA members drive away. Another police car begins to follow the pair, and comes under fire near Burton Salmon. The lives of the officers in the car are in danger, but Magee and O’Brien flee the scene after a member of the public arrives. A manhunt is launched, and hundreds of police officers, many of them armed, search woods and farmland. Magee and O’Brien evade capture for four days by hiding in a culvert, before they are both arrested in separate police operations in the town of Pontefract.
On March 31, 1993, Magee is found guilty of the murder of Special Constable Goodman and the attempted murder of three other police officers and sentenced to life imprisonment. O’Brien is found guilty of attempted murder and receives an eighteen-year sentence. On September 9, 1994, Magee and five other prisoners, including Danny McNamee, escape from HM Prison Whitemoor. The prisoners, in possession of two guns that had been smuggled into the prison, scale the prison walls using knotted sheets. A guard is shot and wounded during the escape, and the prisoners are captured after being chased across fields by guards and the police. In 1996 Magee stages a dirty protest in HM Prison Belmarsh, in protest at glass screens separating prisoners from their relatives during visits. He has refused to accept visits from his wife and five children for two years, prompting Sinn Féin to accuse the British government of maintaining “a worsening regime that is damaging physically and psychologically.”
In January 1997, Magee and the other five escapees from Whitemoor are on trial on charges relating to the escape for a second time, as four months earlier the first trial had been stopped because of prejudicial publicity. Lawyers for the defendants successfully argued that an article in the Evening Standard prejudiced the trial as it contained photographs of Magee and two other defendants and described them as “terrorists,” as an order had been made at the start of the trial preventing any reference to the background and previous convictions of the defendants. Despite the judge saying the evidence against the defendants was “very strong”, he dismisses the case stating, “What I have done is the only thing I can do in the circumstances. The law for these defendants is the same law for everyone else. They are entitled to that, whatever they have done.”
On May 5, 1998, Magee is repatriated to the Republic of Ireland to serve the remainder of his sentence in Portlaoise Prison, along with Liam Quinn and the members of the Balcombe Street Gang. He is released from prison in late 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and returns to live with his family in Tralee, County Kerry. On March 8, 2000, he is arrested on the outstanding Supreme Court extradition warrant from 1991 and remanded to Mountjoy Prison. The following day he is granted bail at the High Court in Dublin, after launching a legal challenge to his extradition. In November 2000 the Irish government informs the High Court that it is no longer seeking to return him to Northern Ireland. This follows a statement from Secretary of State for Northern IrelandPeter Mandelson saying that “it is clearly anomalous to pursue the extradition of people who appear to qualify for early release under the Good Friday Agreement scheme, and who would, on making a successful application to the Sentence Review Commissioners, have little if any of their original prison sentence to serve.” In December 2000 Magee and three other IRA members, including two other members of the M60 gang, are granted a Royal Prerogative of Mercy which allows them to return to Northern Ireland without fear of prosecution.
Collins develops ultra-leftist political beliefs in his late teens and supports the Northern Ireland civil rights movement but retains reservations about the use of violence. He is further radicalised by being beaten up by soldiers searching his family’s farm at Easter 1974 and by the downfall of the power sharing executive. He loses interest in his studies, leaves QUB in 1976 without completing his degree, and drifts for two years, joining an anarchist collective in Belfast. He comes back into contact with the republican movement through the blanket protest by Long Kesh inmates; he had known hunger strikerRaymond McCreesh as a teenager. In 1978 he joins the customs service in Newry and begins to pass information to the IRA, which he joins in 1979. He is central to IRA recruitment and intelligence in Newry and south Down. Without firing a shot himself he facilitates at least five murders, including that of a customs colleague.
In 1982 Collins marries and the couple has four children. By 1984 he has developed doubts about his activities. He antagonises the Belfast leadership, which is moving towards political engagement and away from the all-out revolutionary violence that he favours, and while he admires the hardline South Armagh IRA for its military professionalism, he regards its members as political primitives. On February 28, 1985, he is arrested after an IRA mortar attack in which nine Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) members are killed. He breaks down after six days of interrogation and is recruited as a “supergrass,” but retracts his evidence a fortnight later and is held on remand on the basis of his confessions.
In January–February 1987 Collins is tried for murder but acquitted after the judge rules his statements inadmissible. He completes an Open University degree while awaiting trial. After his release he is ostracised and is interrogated by the IRA, which in July 1987 orders him to leave Northern Ireland. He engages in youth work in Dublin from 1987 to 1990, taking a diploma in community work at Maynooth. His wife and children remain in Newry and he visits them regularly in defiance of the expulsion order. In 1990 he returns to live in Newry and teaches at the Ulster People’s College in Belfast. From 1992–94 he is a community worker in Edinburgh. His wife and children continue to live on the Barcroft Park estate in Newry.
In 1994 Collins returns permanently to Northern Ireland after securing a job at a youth club in Armagh. In April 1995 he describes his career in a television documentary, admitting the murders for which he had been tried. In 1997 he publishes a memoir, Killing Rage, a powerful account of life as a paramilitary, although it is not entirely reliable. After the 1995 documentary he experiences verbal and physical harassment. This intensifies after May 1998 when he testifies for The Sunday Times in a libel action by Thomas Murphy, whom the paper accuses of being a leading IRA member. Four months after Murphy loses the case, the family farmhouse in Camlough, which Collins is renovating, is burned down. After the Omagh bombing he publishes several articles denouncing the Real IRA, several of whose activists he had recruited into the IRA from the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in the early 1980s. Graffiti regularly appears outside his home in Newry denouncing him as a British agent.
Early in the morning of January 27, 1999, Collins paints out the latest graffiti, and is walking his dogs near the Barcroft Park Estate in Newry along a quiet stretch of country lane at Doran’s Hill, just within sight of Sliabh gCuircin (Camlough Mountain). His body also bears marks of having been struck by a car moving at speed. The subsequent police investigation and Coroner’s Inquest comments upon the extremity of weaponed violence to Collins’ head and face used during the attack.
Rumoured reasons behind the murder are that Collins had returned to Northern Ireland in breach of the IRA’s banning order, and further he had detailed IRA activities and publicly criticized in the media a multiplicity of Irish Republican paramilitary splinter groups that had appeared after the Provisional IRA’s 1994 ceasefire, and that he had testified in court against Murphy. Gerry Adams states the murder was “regrettable,” but adds that Collins had “many enemies in many places.”
After a traditional Irish wake, with a closed coffin necessitated due to the damage to his face, and a funeral service at St. Catherine’s Dominican Church in Newry, Collins’ body is buried at the city’s Monkshill Cemetery, not far from the grave of Albert White, a Catholic former Royal Ulster Constabulary Inspector, whose assassination he helped to organise in 1982.
In January 2014 the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) releases a statement that a re-examination of the evidence from the scene of the 1999 murder had revealed new DNA material of a potential perpetrator’s presence, and makes a public appeal for information, detailing the involvement of a specific car model, a white coloured Hyundai Pony, and a compasspommel that had broken off a hunting knife during the attack and had been left behind at the scene. In February 2014 detectives from the Serious Crime Branch arrest a 59-year-old man at an address in Newry in relation to the murder, but he is subsequently released without charge. In September 2014 the police arrest three men, aged 56, 55 and 42, in County Armagh in relation to inquiries into the murder, all of whom are subsequently released without charges after questioning. In January 2019 the police release a statement regarding the murder that one of the assailants had been seriously injured by an accidentally sustained knife wound during the attack, and had left traces of his own blood at the scene, and that recent scientific advances in DNA evidence had increased the possibility of his identification. In May 2019, three men aged 60 to 62 are arrested and questioned, but then released unconditionally.
The British administration in Ireland promotes the idea of bolstering the RIC with British recruits. They are to help the overstretched RIC maintain control and suppress the Irish Republican Army (IRA), although they are less well trained in ordinary policing. The nickname “Black and Tans” arises from the colours of the improvised uniforms they initially wear, a mixture of dark green RIC (which appears black) and khaki British Army. They serve in all parts of Ireland, but most are sent to southern and western regions where fighting is heaviest. By 1921, Black and Tans make up almost half of the RIC in County Tipperary, for example.
The Black and Tans gain a reputation for brutality and become notorious for reprisal attacks on civilians and civilian property, including extrajudicial killings, arson and looting. Their actions further sway Irish public opinion against British rule and draw condemnation in Britain.
More than a third leave the service before they are disbanded along with the rest of the RIC in 1922, an extremely high wastage rate, and well over half receive government pensions. Over 500 members of the RIC die in the conflict and more than 600 are wounded. Some sources state that 525 police, including 152 Black and Tans and 44 Auxiliaries, are killed in the conflict.
Many Black and Tans are left unemployed after the RIC is disbanded and about 3,000 are in need of financial assistance after their employment in Ireland is terminated. About 250 Black and Tans and Auxiliaries, among over 1,300 former RIC personnel, join the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Another 700 join the Palestine Police Force which is led by former British Chief of Police in Ireland, Henry Hugh Tudor. Others are resettled in Canada or elsewhere by the RIC Resettlement branch. Those who return to civilian life sometimes have problems re-integrating. At least two former Black and Tans are hanged for murder in Britain, and another wanted for murder commits suicide before the police can arrest him.
Due to the Tans’ behaviour in Ireland, feelings continue to run high regarding their actions. The term can still stir bad reactions because of their remembered brutality. One of the best-known Irish Republican songs is Dominic Behan‘s “Come Out, Ye Black and Tans.” The Irish War of Independence is sometimes referred to as the “Tan War” or “Black-and-Tan War.” This term is preferred by those who fought on the anti-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War and is still used by Republicans today. The “Cogadh na Saoirse” (“War of Independence”) medal, awarded since 1941 by the Irish government to IRA veterans of the War of Independence, bears a ribbon with two vertical stripes in black and tan.
Some sources say the Black and Tans were officially named the “RIC Special Reserve”, but this is denied by other sources, which say they were not a separate force but “recruits to the regular RIC” and “enlisted as regular constabulary.” Canadian historian D. M. Leeson has not found any historical documents that refer to the Black and Tans as the “Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve.”
(Pictured: A group of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries outside the London and North Western Hotel in Dublin following an attack by the IRA, April 1921)
At the age of 20, O’Hanlon is killed on January 1, 1957, along with Seán South while taking part in an attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks in Brookeborough, County Fermanagh, during the border campaign. Several other IRA members are wounded in the botched attack. The IRA flees the scene in a dumper truck. They abandon it near the border. They leave South and O’Hanlon, both then unconscious, in a cow byre, and crossed into the Republic of Ireland on foot for help for their comrades. The wounded IRA men are treated as “car crash victims” by sympathetic staff in the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Dublin.
O’Hanlon’s mother remains firmly committed to the IRA and is hurt by the suggestion that there was an alternative to IRA activity or that her son was anything other than an Irish hero.
A marble monument now stands at the spot where South and O’Hanlon lost their lives. An annual lecture has been held in memory of O’Hanlon since 1982, and approximately 500 people attended a 50th commemoration of the men’s deaths in January 2007 in Limerick.
In 1971, a monument is unveiled to O’Hanlon in his hometown on a hill overlooking the Clones Road on which he had made his last journey home. A Gaelic football team is founded in Monaghan in 2003 and called the Fergal O’Hanlons.
Robinson serves in the role of General Secretary of the DUP from 1975, a position he holds until 1979 and which affords him the opportunity to exert unprecedented influence within the fledgeling party. In 1977, he is elected as a councillor for the Castlereagh Borough Council in Dundonald, County Down, and in 1979, he becomes one of the youngest Members of Parliament (MP) when he is narrowly elected for Belfast East. He holds this seat until his defeat by Naomi Long in 2010, making him the longest-serving Belfast MP since the Acts of Union 1800.
In January 2010, following a scandal involving his wife Iris (née Collins), Robinson temporarily hands over his duties as First Minister to Arlene Foster under the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 2006. Following a police investigation, which recommends that he should not be prosecuted following allegations made by the BBC in relation to the scandal, he resumes his duties as First Minister. The Official Assembly Commissioner’s Investigation and Report clears Robinson of any wrongdoing.
In September 2015, Robinson again stands aside to allow Arlene Foster to become acting First Minister after his bid to adjourn the assembly is rejected. His action is a response to a murder for which a member of Sinn Féin, a party in the Northern Ireland Executive, had been questioned. He resumes his duties on October 20, 2015. On November 19, 2015, he announces that he will be stepping down as First Minister and as leader of the DUP. He subsequently steps down as First Minister on January 11, 2016 and is now fully retired from frontline politics.
Robinson is the author of a number of books and pamphlets on local politics and history including: Capital Punishment for Capital Crime (1974), Savagery and Suffering (1975), Ulster the Facts (1981), Self-Inflicted (1981), A War to be Won (1983), It’s Londonderry (1984), Carson – Man of Action (1984), Ulster in Peril (1984), Their Cry was no Surrender (1986), Hands Off the UDR (1990), Sinn Féin – A Case for Proscription (1993), The Union Under Fire (1995), Give Me Liberty (no date), Ulster—the Prey (no date).
After a 24-year armed campaign, the INLA declares a ceasefire on August 22, 1998. In August 1999, it states that “There is no political or moral argument to justify a resumption of the campaign.” On October 11, 2009, speaking at the graveside of its founder Seamus Costello in Bray, the INLA formally announces an end to its armed campaign, stating the current political framework allows for the pursuit of its goals through peaceful, democratic means and begins decommissioning its weapons.
The IRSP supports a “No First Strike” policy, that is allowing people to see the perceived failure of the Northern Ireland peace process for themselves without military actions.