seamus dubhghaill

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


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The Baltic Exchange Bombing

IRA Bombing of the Baltic ExchangeThe Baltic Exchange bombing, an attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) on London‘s financial centre, takes place on April 10, 1992, the day after the General Election which re-elects John Major from the Conservative Party as Prime Minister. The one-ton bomb, concealed in a large white truck and consisting of a fertilizer device wrapped with a detonation cord made from 100 lbs. of Semtex, is the biggest detonated on mainland Britain since World War II. The bombing kills three people, injures 91 others, and causes massive damage, destroying the Baltic Exchange building and severely damaging surroundings.

Since the PIRA’s campaign in the early 1970s, many commercial targets are attacked on the mainland which cause economic damage and severe disruption. Since 1988, Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin and John Hume of the Social Democratic and Labour Party are engaged in private dialogue to create a broad Irish nationalist coalition. British Prime Minister John Major refuses to openly enter into talks with Sinn Féin until the IRA declares a ceasefire. The risk of an IRA attack on London increases due to the lack of progress with political talks, resulting in a warning being circulated to all police forces in Britain highlighting intelligence reports of a possible attack, as it is believed that the IRA has enough personnel, equipment and funds to launch a sustained campaign in England.

On April 10, 1992 at 9:20 PM, a huge bomb is detonated in front of the Baltic Exchange building at 24-28 St. Mary Axe. The façade of the offices is partially destroyed, and the rest of the building is extensively damaged. The bomb also causes heavy damage to surrounding buildings. It causes £800 million worth of damage, £200 million more than the total damage caused by the 10,000 explosions that had occurred during the Troubles in Northern Ireland up to that point.

The IRA gives a telephone warning twenty minutes before the explosion, saying there is a bomb inside a van outside the London Stock Exchange. This is a half mile away from the actual location by the Baltic Exchange.

The homemade explosive is inside a white Ford Transit van parked in St. Mary Axe. The components are developed in South Armagh, shipped from Ireland, and assembled in England. The attack is planned for months and marks a dangerous advance to the British of the IRA’s explosives manufacturing capabilities. The bomb is described as the most powerful to hit London since the Luftwaffe raids of World War II.

A few hours later another similarly large bomb goes off in Staples Corner in north London, also causing major damage.

The next day, the IRA claims responsibility in a statement from Dublin. It is believed the IRA are trying to send a message to the Conservative Party who won the election, which also sees Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams lose his unused seat in the Westminster Parliament.

Many of the damaged buildings are once again badly damaged by the Bishopsgate bombing the following year. Both incidents contribute to the formation of the “Ring of Steel” in the city to protect it from further terrorism.

The Exchange sells its badly damaged historic building to be redeveloped under the auspices of English Heritage as a Grade II* site. However, the City and English Heritage later allow it to be demolished, seeking instead a new landmark building. The site, together with that of the UK Chamber of Shipping at 30–32 St. Mary Axe, is now home to the skyscraper commissioned by Swiss Re commonly referred to as The Gherkin.

The stained glass of the Baltic Exchange war memorial, which suffered damage in the bomb blast, has been restored and is in the National Maritime Museum in London.

(Pictured: The scene of devastation following the IRA bomb which destroyed London’s Baltic Exchange. Image credit: Gulf News Archives)

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Armed Rocket Launcher Discovered in Co. Tyrone

co-tyrone-rocket-launcherArmy bomb experts recover a fully armed handheld rocket launcher in County Tyrone on the morning of February 29, 2000. It is found at the side of a house near the rear of Killymeal Army base in Dungannon. The discovery comes just hours after it is learned that large amounts of Semtex high explosive have been stolen from Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) hides.

The weapon is linked to dissident republicans and is of a type not seen in the province before. It is believed to have originated in eastern Europe and has been abandoned by those about to carry out an attack at the rear of the army base. The weapon is similar to one recently seized by the security forces in the Republic of Ireland and linked to the Real IRA.

The rocket launcher is found just after pupils have finished traveling to three local schools. The nearby leisure centre is also closed. Families are removed from their homes on Killymeal Road while the device is investigated.

Superintendent Julie Lindsay says that to abandon such a device in the area is an “act of indescribable recklessness which clearly put the life of people living nearby in danger.” She says officers were able to prevent children from walking by the garden where the device was located as they were going to the leisure centre.

Ken Maginnis, Ulster Unionist Security spokesman and Member of Parliament (MP) for the area, says the discovery of the weapon vindicates his party’s insistence that paramilitaries should disarm. He also says it proves that republicans are “wedded to the past.”

Social Democratic and Labour Party councillor Vincent Currie says the find will bring back bad memories of a previous mortar bomb attack on the army base which devastated many houses in the area. He adds that it is lunacy to leave such a device on a road used by schoolchildren.