Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Michelle O'Neill and the Loughgall ambush

The eight members of the IRA gang who were killed at Louggall

Sinn Fein have posted a video of their new leader in Northern Ireland', Michelle O'Neill, and in it she refers to Loughgall.  'The Loughgall ambush happened and eight people lost their lives.'

On 8 May 1987, thirty years ago this year, a gang of Provisional IRA terrorists set off to attack the RUC station in the little village of Loughgall.  Their intention was to blow up the station and murder any police officers and they came well armed.  That's the background to Michelle O'Neill's 'Loughgall ambush'.

Weapons used by the IRA gang
However the security forces were aware of the impending attack and members of the SAS were waiting for the terrorists to arrive.  There was an exchange of fire and eight IRA men were killed - Patrick Kelly (32), the IRA commander in East  Tyrone,, Declan Arthurs (21), Seamus Donnelly (19), Michael Gormley (25), Eugene Kelly (25), James Lynagh (31), Patrick McKearney (32) and Gerard O'Callaghan (29).  It was the IRA's single greatest loss in the Troubles.  Sadly a civilian, Anthony Hughes (36), was also killed and his brother badly wounded when they were caught up in the crossfire.
Loughgall RUC station was destroyed by the IRA bomb
It was often alleged that the SAS had opened fire first but then some new information emerged in 2011 when it was reported that an HET investigation had concluded that the IRA men had opened fire before the SAS.

In January 2016 Peter Corrigan, a solicitor for the families of the IRA men, claimed that the SAS should have arrested the terrorists when they were entering the village and he called for a reopened inquest to be held speedily.  This would be one of the so-called 'legacy inquests'.  He said: 'The reason for the promptness and expedition is so that there is no perception in the public that the state are colluding or acquiescing in an unlawful act.'

Now no one doubts that the Army had prior information about the attack, otherwise why would the SAS men have been waiting for the gunmen to arrive.  Moreover that information could only have come from a source or sources within the Provisonal IRA and that brings you into a murky world of informants and IRA double agents.

The leader of the IRA gang was Patrick Kelly who was a member of the IRA Army Council and in 1986, the year before the ambush, he had crossed the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, Kelly had attended the IRA Army Convention where the main topic of discussion was the old republican principle of abstentionism.  It was the point where the republican movement was being edged toward abandoning that principle and Gerry Adams and others argued that they drop the rule and move into constitutional politics.  Kelly voted against the rule and a rift with the majority of the IRA Army Council ensued. 

So could there be a connection between that rift and the death of Patrick Kelly the following year?

The IRA was riddled with double-agents in its ranks, right up to the highest levels as illustrated by the case of Denis Donaldson, who was exposed as an informer and then murdered by republicans.  Indeed in September 2016 a BBC Spotlight programme reported the claim that the murder of Donaldson had been sanctioned by Gerry Adams.

Was it one of those double agents who passed information about Loughgall to the security forces and if so why?  

Could it have been a way of removing someone whom the Sinn Fein leadership might see as a threat?  Loughgall certainly got rid of Patrick Kelly and removed someone who might have become more problematic, a thorn in the side of Gerry Adams and the anti-abstentionists.  So who passed on the information about the planned attack and for what reason did they pass it on?

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