Economic & Strategic Warfare; The UDA/UFF Bombing Campaign in Éire (Part 2)

The Campaign Continues-

On the 20th of January, 1973, Dublin was once again hit by a Loyalist bomb. Bus conductor Thomas Douglas (25) was killed and 17 people injured when a car bomb exploded in Sackville Place, off O’Connell Street. The car used in the bombing had been hijacked earlier at Agnes Street, Belfast. No group claimed responsibility for the attack but it was most likely the work of the Ulster Volunteer Force, who throughout 1973, would match the Provisional IRA almost bomb for bomb.

After the January bomb attack there was something of a lull in offensive operations against targets in the Irish Republic, as both the UFF and UVF concentrated on targets within Northern Ireland.

On the 17th of March, the North Antrim & L’derry Brigade of the UDA/UFF lost a courageous and dedicated young NCO, Sergeant Lindsay Mooney, who was only 19 years old. Sgt. Mooney, of ‘A’ company, 1st Battalion, was killed when the IED he was taking to its target exploded prematurely, outside ‘Kirk’s Bar’, at Cloughfinn, near Lifford in Co.Donegal.

Mural dedicated to the memory of Sergeant Lindsay Mooney- 1st Btn, A coy.

On the 28th of September, 1973, a UFF Active Service Unit from the Border Counties Brigade (which comprised battalions from Armagh, Fermanagh, South & West Tyrone), detonated a car bomb in the centre of Pettigo, Co.Donegal. Thirteen people were wounded. This would be the last bomb attack carried out against a target in Éire by the Ulster Freedom Fighters for some time.

The Dublin Airport Bombing

Despite some minor sabotage operations, including the destruction of two stone bridges in Co.Monaghan in late ’73, the placing of some small incendiary type devices etc, the Ulster Freedom Fighters concentrated on operations within Northern Ireland for most of 1973-74. The UWC strike, which had brought down the hated ‘Sunningdale Agreement’, had consumed much time and energy and the UDA/UFF had also been busy in other areas. Significant time and resources had been put into the establishment of small arms factories, often in garages and workshops in rural Ulster, producing home-made sub-machine guns, pistols and ammunition.

On the 29th of November, 1975, Dublin Airport was rocked by an explosion. A bomb exploded in the public toilets in the arrivals terminal. The explosion killed Aer Lingus employee, John Hayes (38), and injured nine others (some reports put the number of wounded at 12). The device was hidden in a toilet tissue dispenser and went off after Hayes washed his hands and was about to leave. The blast ripped through a wall into the public bar. The airport was evacuated and a second, larger device, was discovered and made safe.

The aftermath of the Dublin airport bombing 1975

The bombing of the airport was designed to damage Éire’s burgeoning tourist industry,and therefore damage the economy of that state. Although in a statement admitting responsibility the UFF said –

We are striking back against the Irish Republic in retaliation for the murders of members of the security forces by the Provisional IRA, operating unhindered from the safe-haven of the Irish Republic with the blessing of the Dublin government“.

Further evidence that the attack was intended to damage the Irish tourist industry came on the 20th of February, 1976, when a 40 lbs. bomb exploded inside the ‘Shelbourne Hotel’ in Dublin causing extensive damage. No fewer than eight incendiary bombs also exploded in department stores and shops in the Grafton Street and Henry Street areas.

On the 3rd of July, 1976, the UFF detonated bombs at four hotels across the Irish Republic. There were explosions in Dublin, Limerick, Rosslare, Co.Wexford and Killarney, Co.Kerry. Adequate warnings were given in all cases and there were no fatalities or serious injuries, although substantial damage was caused. Five days later another UFF bomb exploded at the rear of the ‘Salthill Hotel’, Salthill, Co.Galway. Again there were no fatalities.

UFF Policy Changes

Towards the end of 1976 the leadership of the Ulster Freedom Fighters decided to call a halt to offensive operations in Éire. Although the situation in Northern Ireland was still critical, it was decided that further attacks against targets south of the border may be counter-productive, at least for the time being.

As it transpired, the “bomber holiday” would last a few years. With increased security on the border and a growing realisation that bomb attacks in Éire which caused civilian casualties did nothing to enhance the Loyalist cause, and with increasing success by the Security Forces in combating Irish republican violence within Northern Ireland itself, “bombs across the border” were no longer part of UDA/UFF strategic planning.

The 90’s

With the exception of a handful of, largely symbolic attacks, against the offices of ‘An Phoblacht‘ in 1981, and against economic targets in the Irish Republic in the wake of the signing of the ‘Anglo-Irish Agreement‘ in 1986-87 for example, the Ulster Freedom Fighters did not mount any kind of sustained bombing offensive against targets in Éire until the 1990’s.

With the UFF resurgent in Northern Ireland (benefiting as it did from the removal of certain senior figures in the late 1980’s), it was only a matter of time before economic and strategic warfare against the Irish Republic resumed.

In February, 1991, two incendiary devices were left in a Dublin department store but failed to detonate. On the 10th of March, 1991, an incendiary device partially exploded in a clothing store in Dundalk, Co.Louth, but it caused only minimal damage.

On the 25th of May, 1991, a UFF Active Service Unit assassinated PIRA/SF supremo Eddie Fullerton at his home in Co.Donegal. The UFF unit crossed Lough Foyle in a collapsible dinghy before making their way to Fullerton’s home in Buncrana. The UFF said that they killed Fullerton, a Sinn Féin councillor and also (allegedly) the former O/C of the Provisional IRA in Donegal, because of his involvement in the murder of a Co.Tyrone man, who had been shot dead by a Provo murder gang near the Tyrone/Donegal border earlier in the year.

PIRA/SF “activist” Eddie Fullerton

During the night of the 27th/28th of July, 1991, seven UFF incendiary bombs exploded in shops across Dublin, causing significant damage. Three days later a further three firebombs exploded in premises in Letterkenny, Co.Donegal.

At the beginning of 1992, a number of letter bombs were intercepted at mail sorting offices in the Irish Republic. Most of the devices were inside hollowed out books and addressed to PIRA/Sinn Féin activists living in counties Dublin, Monaghan and Louth. On the 29th of March a Dublin shop was extensively damaged by an incendiary device. The UFF later claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the run up to Christmas, 1992, the UFF carried out eight firebomb attacks against commercial targets- four in Dublin and two each in Moville and Buncrana, Co.Donegal- over a 48 hour period, causing significant damage. On the 20th of December Gardai confirmed that a “powerful incendiary device” started a fire in city centre store. It’s believed the UFF were responsible.

On the 18th of September, 1993, On the day of the “All-Ireland hurling final”, the Ulster Freedom Fighters claim responsibility for planting a bomb outside Store Street Garda station, Dublin. The Garda station’s phone lines were also cut during the attack. On Christmas eve, 24th of December, 1993, incendiary type devices were found at a school in Dundalk Co. Louth and at a postal sorting office in Dublin. The devices had not detonated. On the 24th of January, 1994, five more UFF incendiary devices were discovered in Dublin and in Co.Cavan. On the 8th of June, in what would prove to be the last UDA/UFF bomb attack in Éire before the CLMC ceasefire, a small incendiary device exploded at a snooker hall in Trim, Co.Meath, causing only superficial damage.

Armed UFF volunteers delivering an official statement- circa 1993

Epilogue

It is almost impossible to gauge how much the UDA/UFF bombing campaign against economic and strategic targets in Éire effected public opinion in that country, or impacted government policy. Unquestionably it was Loyalist bombs that forced the Irish government in 1972 to pass draconian anti-terror legislation and distance themselves from the Provo murder gangs that they, the Irish state, had helped to create, fund and arm.

Later on in the mid 1970’s, it was Loyalist bombs that forced the Dublin government to tighten up security on their side of the border, consequently making it somewhat more difficult for Irish nationalist terrorists to transport arms, explosives and personnel into Northern Ireland from their logistical bases in the Republic.

For those reasons alone the UDA/UFF bombing campaign in Éire, and the equally effective (although more deadly in terms of civilian casualties) campaign of the Ulster Volunteer Force, must be regarded as a strategic and militarily successful one. Whilst the Ulster Defence Association and later the Ulster Freedom Fighters did their utmost to minimise “collateral damage”, i.e. civilian fatalities, it must be remembered that Irish civilians did die as a direct result. That is regrettable. It was right and correct therefore that the CLMC ceasefire pronouncement of 1994 offered “abject and true remorse” for any such civilian deaths.

“As we express our remorse, we must never forget that the most sincere form of contrition is not merely to utter the words, but also to live by them”

Humbly dedicated to the eternal memory of Sgt. L. Mooney. Forever young. QS

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