Who Armed the Provos? Dublin, Monaghan & the ‘Civil Rights’ Connection

Ulster- 1969

On the 16th of August, while parts of Belfast burned, Paddy Kennedy, then a protégé of Gerry Fitt, travelled to Dublin accompanied by fellow Stormont MP’s Paddy Devlin and Paddy O’Hanlon. They crossed the border looking for guns: making an impassioned appeal at a public meeting outside the GPO on O’Connell Street, and in private to officials in the Department of External Affairs. The crowd outside the GPO was sympathetic but largely unable to help. Later, the three were roundly rebuffed at Iveagh House. If these official channels proved uncooperative, however, other ‘official channels’ were more forthcoming.

It was through conversations with Paddy Kennedy that a certain John Devine first became aware of the importation and distribution of arms and ammunition to Irish nationalists and the role being played by certain Irish government minsters in facilitating this. Using information gleaned from Kennedy and others, including Paddy Devlin, Gerry Fitt and sources in the press, Devine began to piece together a remarkably detailed picture of covert operations that were ongoing across Ulster. Clearly a great deal of work went into compiling the document and checking the veracity of its claims. Devine stated:

Much of the information which follows has been checked out by me, and found to be fairly accurate. What is contained, unchecked, is passed on because it comes from what are described as “usually reliable” sources.”

The information that emerged subsequently- through the so-called “arms trials”, the investigation by the public accounts committee, Peter Berry’s diaries (published in ‘Magill’ magazine in 1980) and the numerous other exposés on the subject- have clearly demonstrated that the information contained in the memorandum were indeed remarkably accurate in every respect.

An early PIRA recruitment poster; Note how well armed the Provo gang in the above image is, just months after the formation of that organisation. How many of the Provo’s guns were gifted to them by the Irish state?

John Devine’s Investigation

Devine began by noting that since the publication of the Cameron report on the 12th of September, 1969, a great deal of media attention had been given to- “The influence of Left-Wing elements in the Civil Rights agitation in the North. While our attention has been diverted in that direction, certain other forces have been at work, and are working

He continued- “Since the recent major outbreaks of trouble an “agent” of Messrs. Haughey, Blaney and Boland, has been conducting military intelligence gathering on trips behind the barricades. Contacts are being built up and ammunition, arms and money have already been distributed…..the contacts are among the republican element in the North, who have more or less broken with the Dublin HQ of the IRA [those who would soon become known as the Provisional IRA], principally because this “agent” can deliver what the IRA cannot. The IRA is highly worried and indignant at the influence which these Fianna Fáil people are having among Northern republicans, the possibility of retaliation is likely from the Dublin end. Fianna Fáil have now established a chain of links from Belfast to Derry, including places like Dungannon, Newry, Armagh, Coalisland, Omagh and in other places where their sphere of contacts up to now has been negligible. Their aid is being accepted

The ‘Civil Rights’ Connection

Devine’s report went on to note that an office had been set up in Monaghan town, with the approval of the named ministers, from which the ‘Monaghan Civil Rights office‘ of NICRA (the so-called ‘Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association’) operated. Among those activities was the production of Irish republican propaganda, including the pamphlet ‘Terror in Northern Ireland‘ (written by the journalist and arch-republican Séamus Brady, who was close to Blaney), which Paddy Devlin had distributed in London. The ‘Monaghan Office‘ also organised public demonstrations such as the meeting outside the GPO in Dublin on the 27th of September, 1969.

Paddy Kennedy MP, Republican-Labour

At that meeting, speakers called for donations to be made to the ‘Monaghan Civil Rights Group‘, and Paddy Kennedy (‘Republican Labour’ MP for Belfast Central) had told the crowd that “I think you will know what I mean if I say that never again do we want an August 14th in my city“. Other speakers were much more explicit- one called for guns and explosives, with all donations to go to the ‘Civil Rights Group‘ in Monaghan, while another appealed for actual recruits, unequivocally stating that the “machine-guns and revolvers” bought with public donations would require able bodied men to fire them. John Devine’s report continued-

The activities directly attributable to the ‘Monaghan Office’ continue to expand. It is now clear that a large number of meetings have been organised, especially in the western counties [of Northern Ireland)], and are aimed purely at rising the spirit of republicanism”. On Friday next the first of a series of weekly propaganda newspapers [‘Voice of the North’] will be circulated and distributed in the North. The paper will be bitterly anti-Unionist. The committee of management involves some of those named on the ‘Monaghan Committee’; Blaney, Boland and Haughey’s agent, and others, also known to me. The paper will be printed in the ‘Anglo-Celt’, Cavan. Five or six vans, necessary for transporting the newspaper, have already been acquired. As well, plans are in hand for the setting up of a powerful mobile pirate radio . . . This also has cabinet backing“.

A Strange Conclusion

Having gathered and verified his information, which clearly implicated government ministers and agents of the state in the illegal importation of arms and the founding, organising and funding of a vicious terrorist grouping (the Provisional IRA) Devine was left in a terrible predicament. The Gardaí were aware of what was happening but there was no visible evidence that anything was being done to interfere, nor was it likely that anything would be done.

Knowing that the information was good but not legally publishable, Devine decided to pass the information to the one person he believed had the sophistication to deal with it in the appropriate manner: The Irish Labour Party’s Northern Ireland spokesman- Conor Cruise O’Brien. O’Brien held the appropriate portfolio, he was also sharp enough to appreciate what exactly was in the document and how to deal with it, introducing it into Dáil Éireann through supplementary questions or by other means. It would appear however that somebody had ‘gotten at’ O’Brien. A couple of weeks before he had been given the Devine’s report O’Brien’s play ‘King Herod‘ had opened at the Dublin Theatre Festival.
Later that month, O’Brien travelled to New York to meet a Broadway producer for discussions on the possibility of staging his latest theatrical effort. Before boarding his flight, he rang John Devine from a payphone in Dublin airport to tell him he was “going away“, and promptly boarded his flight and left. Devine believed that O’Brien would take action arising from his dossier when he returned, but strangely nothing ever happened.

Conor Cruise O’Brien
It is very difficult to comprehend how or why he failed to act on the intelligence provided to him, especially when it concerned his nemesis, Charles Haughey. We cannot know what, or who, stopped O’Brien from using the information given to him, neither can we be certain what would have happened had he used Devine’s information appropriately. What seems likely, however, is that, in the face of the accusations becoming public, Lynch would have been compelled to act sooner rather than later, and at the very least the “Arms Crisis” of the following year would have been averted. Perhaps some of the substantial aid given to the Provo murder gangs by the Irish government in 1970-71 would not have been given. How many deaths are directly attributable to the Irish government of that period who, in the final analysis, were responsible for organising, financing, arming and training the nascent Provisional IRA? Would the Ulster conflict have escalated to the nightmarish internecine war it became in 1972, ’73, ’74 and later?

Collusion is not an Illusion

Devine’s dossier is further evidence of the extent of collusion between the nascent Provisional IRA and the Irish government during the formative early years of the Provo’s existence. Without the money, banking facilities, arms, ammunition, safe houses and organisation provided to the PIRA murder gangs (and their immediate predecessors) by the Irish state in the years 1969-1972 (and almost certainly later), it is highly unlikely that the Provos could have sustained an effective campaign for more than 7 or 8 years. Of course, the unjustifiable slaughter of ‘Bloody Sunday’ gave the Provos not only an influx of new recruits but also an increase in support, both passive and active, within the community from which they first emerged. However, had the government of Éire not sponsored republican terrorism in Northern Ireland, ‘Bloody Sunday’ might never have happened. The outbreak of inter-ethnic violence which had erupted in the Summer of 1969 might well have petered out by the following Spring. Especially since most, if not all, of NICRA’s demands had been met by the NI government by early 1970.

Belfast, September 1969

At the time, and for many years since, a section of Loyalism and Unionism has maintained that, at least from 1968 onwards, the ‘Civil Rights’ movement had become a front for violent Irish nationalism. At one time I would have dismissed such claims, as most people did. Now however I am reasonably convinced that NICRA did indeed become a vehicle for Irish republican terrorists, acting in collusion with the Irish state. From early 1969, at the latest, NICRA, or a significant element thereof, had been thoroughly infiltrated by people who would go on to involve themselves in some of the most heinous, reprehensible, inhuman acts of violence ever committed.

Whilst researching this article I was put in touch with two gentlemen, now elderly, from the South L’derry area. Both are from a Unionist background and both had been involved in the ‘Civil Rights’movement, albeit briefly, in 1969. Their take on the events of that era was quite illuminating, as was the fact that both had turned their backs on Leftist protest politics by the beginning of 1970, so much so in fact that when I asked how they would describe themselves now, one man said- “I suppose I’d maybe call myself a TUV man now“. The other man declared unequivocally that since 1998 he would describe himself as a “Dissident Loyalist”. That is quite a turn around, even in 49 years, but it is perhaps unsurprising given the events, and the horrors, witnessed by the two men since 1969.

I will end this piece now with the words of one of those men (both of whom wish to remain anonymous) when I asked about his involvement in the ‘Civil Rights’ movement-

I saw injustice, not only among the Roman Catholic people but among Protestants too. Catholics in Derry lived in slum housing and there was gerrymandering as they called it as well. Protestants in Derry didn’t have it much better but there were things the government could have done and should have done. ‘One man one vote’ should have been brought in here [NI] when it was in England after the [Second World] War. Stormont did not listen, never did, and didn’t seem to care. Many more Protestants and Unionists would have come to support the Civil Rights Association but they [Irish republicans] couldn’t keep the gun out of it. They didn’t really want decent houses and a fair vote, they wanted to overthrow the very state and a lot of them just wanted to kill Protestants. They couldn’t keep the gun out of it. I soon saw what was happening, even though they [republicans] were wary of talking freely in ‘mixed company’, so to speak, it was blatantly obvious what was going to happen. I walked away from it. Four or five months was more than enough to see what way the wind was blowing.

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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

The Forgotten Minority; Catholic Unionists in Northern Ireland

Thin on the ground?

According to a 2014 opinion poll, 22.8% of Northern Ireland Catholics described themselves as “British”. The poll also revealed that 20.6% of Roman Catholic’s wanted Northern Ireland to remain an integral part of the UK. That is almost over one fifth of NI’s Catholic population. A surprising and extraordinary statistic, or at least it will be to some people. There have however, always been Catholic Unionists, some of them very prominent, although in recent years the number of Catholic Unionists, and Catholic Loyalists, seems to have increased.

In October, 2017, Stephen McCarthy was co-opted unto Antrim and Newtownabbey Council, as an Ulster Unionist Party councillor. Nothing unusual? Well, actually Cllr. Stephen McCarthy is a little unusual. A former altar boy, he grew up a Catholic in the republican stronghold of West Belfast, growing up in the St James area before moving to the Short Strand. His grandfather was shot dead in 1991 by the UVF while working as a taxi driver.

He joined the UUP aged 19 despite coming from what he is on record as describing as an “SDLP family”. In an interview with the Irish News Cllr. McCarthy stated- “There are many Unionists in the Catholic community.” Adding that he is a Unionist principally for “economic reasons” but also that he feels “both British and Irish”.

Cllr. McCarthy is not unique and in the coming years and decades there will be many more like him. Unionism and Loyalism, despite the vitriol of the usual suspects, has never been about religion. As time moves on and religion becomes less and less important in people’s lives, an increasing number people will base their political opinions, not on the traditional outlook of their parents or grandparents, but on their own thoughts, feelings and aspirations.

Sir John Gorman, Ulster Unionist MLA for North Down (1998-2003) and “Catholic Unionist”

The real bigots

Those 20.6% of Catholic’s who said they wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK are, very obviously, Unionists, even if many would be reluctant to describe themselves as such. It is interesting that the 2014 poll also revealed that there were more than twice as many Catholic Unionists as there were “Protestant Irish nationalists”. Again, for some that will no doubt be surprising, and troubling. For a significant proportion of Irish nationalists and republicans, that 20%+ of Catholics who are also pro-Union, are traitors. Many Catholic Unionists hide their real political leanings, sometimes even from their own families, for fear of becoming pariahs. Like it or not, believe it or not, the “CNR” community is much more tribalistic and insular than the “PUL” community.

Sir Denis Henry. Catholic, Unionist and the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland

That is an uncomfortable truth, but it is one that nationalists and republicans are going to have to come to terms with. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” as the saying goes. We will see then, which political camp really is the most tribal and sectarian over the course of the coming years and decades. I am confident that as the number of Unionists and Loyalists from outwith the Protestant community continues to grow, that it will be Irish nationalism which will be exposed as the sectarian, intolerant and parochial doctrine Loyalists have always known it is.

Fan Art

We here at It’s Still Only Thursday were very pleased (and surprised) when we received a very nice message, praising our humble wee blog and accompanied by a fantastic bit of what we can only describe as “fan art”. Even better, the budding artist hails from Denmark, further demonstrating the reach of I.S.O.T

Thanks very much S.A.

J. M. Andrews; Ulster’s forgotten Prime Minister

https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/j-m-andrews-ni-s-second-prime-minister-got-the-job-a-decade-too-late-1-8479933

A superb piece from the Newsletter on the subject of John Miller Andrews, second Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and something of a forgotten figure in Ulster history.

Andrews served as MP for Mid-Down (and before that as MP for Co.Down). He served as Minister of Labour from 1921 to 1937, and as Minister of Finance from 1937 to 1940. When Lord Craigavon died, in 1940, he became leader of the Unionist Party and the second Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

In April 1943 dissent from backbenchers forced him from office. He was replaced as Prime Minister by Sir Basil Brooke. Andrews remained, however, the recognised leader of the UUP for a further three years. Five years later he became the Grand Master of the Orange Order. From 1949, he was the last parliamentary survivor of the original 1921 Northern Ireland Parliament, and as such was recognised as the ‘Father of the House’. He is the only Prime Minister of Northern Ireland not to have been elevated to the peerage; both his successor and predecessor received hereditary viscountcies.

Throughout his life he was deeply involved in the Orange Order; he held the positions of Grand Master of County Down from 1941 and Grand Master of Ireland (1948–1954). In 1949 he was appointed Imperial Grand Master of the Grand Orange Council of the World.

J. M. Andrews as a young man, with his parents and family, including his brother Thomas

Andrews was a committed and active member of the ‘Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church’. Regularly attending worship in his home town of Comber. Andrews served on the Comber Congregational Committee from 1896 until his death in 1956 (holding the position of Chairman from 1935 onwards). He is buried in the small graveyard adjoining the church.

When the UFF bombed London

The Target

In the 1970’s, Biddy Mulligan‘s pub on High Road, Kilburn, northwest London, was a notorious Irish republican meeting place. The unofficial headquarters of both the Official and Provisional factions of the IRA and a focal point for republicans from all across London. The premises lacked any semblance of class or charm, although that did not seem to deter the clientele, which included not only militant Irish nationalist extremists but also Far-Left activists and a not inconsiderable criminal element. “Biddy’s” was frequented by terrorists, petty criminals, would-be Communist revolutionaries, terrorist sympathisers and political tourists. The collection bucket was passed round on an almost nightly basis, with the donations, or at least most of them, being sent across the Irish Sea to help fund the murderous activities of the Official IRA and PIRA/Sinn Féin. The pub was once described by a local Conservative as being “a festering boil on the face of north London”. Just before Christmas, 1975, that “boil” was lanced in violent and spectacular fashion.

“Lancing the boil”

On the evening of Sunday, 21st December, 1975, a young man entered the premises carrying a small holdall. After a brief altercation with the bar steward, John Constantine, the young man left. Nobody seemed to notice that when he went he no longer had his holdall with him. There were 90 people in the pub at the time and the IRA collection bucket had not long been passed round. It seemed to be business as usual in Biddy Mulligan’s. Then, at shortly before 10 o’clock, the pub was rocked by an explosion. Five people were fairly seriously wounded, although none of the injuries were life threatening, and a number of others suffered minor injuries (the majority of whom refused hospital treatment and quietly slipped away before the police could question them).

The Metropolitan Police later stated that a bomb, containing “about three to five pounds of explosive” had been left in the pub doorway. The Police also said that a phone call had been received by the BBC the previous night, from an individual claiming to represent the Ulster Young Militants, the youth wing of the UFF, calmly stating that the UYM were going to “carry the war against the IRA onto the mainland“. The Provisional republican movement in England were panicked, with Sinn Féin representatives openly expressing the concern that the Kilburn bombing was merely a prelude to a much wider ranging Loyalist bomb campaign against republican targets in England and Scotland. The Provos main concern however, was not the well being of republican activists and sympathisers. Tellingly one Sinn Féin man had spoken openly about how they raised “more than £17,000 a year” in Kilburn, most of that amount almost certainly coming out of Biddy Mulligan’s pub.

Aftermath

The following day landlords of Irish pubs across London and beyond put guards on the door to check people’s bags as they entered. Without the slightest hint of irony locals were said to be “very concerned” that the ‘Troubles’ had spread to Kilburn and told journalists that they now felt under “immense threat”. One might wonder how exactly they felt when they were stuffing pound notes into collection tins for Irish republican murder gangs, or if they ever spared a thought for the innocent victims of those gangs.
In October, 1976, four men appeared at the Old Bailey and were found guilty of carrying out the daring attack. Two young men from north Down received sentences of 14 and 15 years respectively. A 20 year old electrician from Belfast, the alleged bomb maker, got 12 years, and a 40 year old lorry driver, from Cumbernauld, Scotland, who allegedly procured the explosives for the bomb, received 10 years. In sentencing it was said the men were Loyalists who “were determined that the IRA and IRA sympathisers should not meet in the pub without retribution“. The judge said however that, “It should be clearly understood whatever political, religious or social feelings people may have, a crime of vengeance is not allowed“. Such is the lacklustre attitude of the UK establishment towards dens of sedition and terrorism in their own capital.

The Motive

It seems that the decision to strike at republican targets in England was taken by the Ulster Freedom Fighters in the wake of the events of Saturday, 8th June, 1974, when an estimated 3,000 people lined the streets of Kilburn for the funeral (or rather the first of three funerals) of Provisional IRA member Michael Gaughan. Gaughan, originally from Co. Mayo, Éire, had been living in the Kilburn area for a number of years when, in 1971, his ham-fisted attempts at armed robbery, supposedly on behalf of the OIRA, earned him a seven year prison sentence. Whilst in prison he defected to the Provos and in March, 1974, began a hunger strike that was to last 64 days and ultimately claim his life. He was joined on hunger strike by Hugh Feeney, the “Old Bailey bomber”, Frank Stagg, who along with Catholic priest, (Father) Patrick Fell, had commanded a PIRA unit based in the West Midlands, and Sinn Féin’s very own “medallion man”, Gerry Kelly, at the time better known as “bomber Kelly” for his part in bombing the Old Bailey and the Ministry of Agriculture in Whitehall.


Biddy Mulligan’s pub circa 1975


It would seem, with the benefit of hindsight, that the Ulster Freedom Fighters never had any serious intention of mounting a sustained campaign against republican targets in England. The Kilburn bombing seems to have been a warning, a “shot across the bows” as it were. It seems improbable that, if the UFF really had intended to strike at multiple targets in England and Scotland, that no other such attacks occurred. The capture of the Active Service Unit responsible for the attack on Biddy Mulligan’s was unfortunate, from the UFF’s point of view, but it would not have been at all difficult for them to have dispatched another ASU, or to have recruited one from Loyalists resident on the mainland. It is worth remembering that the UDA maintained, and to some extent still maintains, a “Mainland Brigade”, which is in actuality a number of brigades, with the UDA particularly strong in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Glasgow, the northeast of England, Yorkshire, the Midlands and London.

Undoubtedly the decision not to begin a wholesale bombing campaign in England was the correct one. Whatever the benefits of striking Irish republican targets on the Mainland, they are more than outweighed by the potential detrimental effects such a campaign would have brought. No doubt a Loyalist bomb blitz, regardless of the nature of the targets, would have cost Loyalism much support, or at least grudging respect, from the English populace. In this instance, the decision by the leadership of the Ulster Freedom Fighters to refrain from action was ultimately a prudent one.

The Irish diaspora in England seemed to heed the warning that the UFF had so ruthlessly delivered in London. Collections on behalf of the republican murder gangs became much less frequent and there were no more displays like Michael Gaughan’s funeral. Biddy Mulligan’s continued on into the 1980’s but it’s heyday was most definitely over. Today “Biddy’s”, the once notorious republican mecca, is a bookmakers shop. Few who live in Kilburn even remember the name of the infamous pub that was once bombed by the UFF.

What Ireland wants the rest of Europe to forget

Irish nationalists and republicans would like the world to believe that Eire (the Irish Free State) remained strictly neutral during WWII. They did not. Many in the Dublin government were quietly sympathetic to the Nazis. Some were more overt than others. One incident oft cited by Ulster Loyalists, which illustrates Eire’s pro-Nazi sentiments, is DeValera’s visit to the German Embassy to express his (and by default the Irish governments) condolences in the wake of Hitler’s suicide. Irish nationalists, who seem to be history experts to a man, either deny the incident ever occurred, or seek to downplay it. Every neutral country sent their condolences to Nazi Germany when the Führer blew his brains out they’ll say. But that is a lie. Merely diplomatic protocol they’ll say- a matter of good etiquette. That too is a lie. The most often repeated lie is the one that says ‘Ach sure it was only Dev. It was only one man’. So say the historical amnesiacs of Irish nationalism, but their lies are easily dis-proven.

Two days after Hitler and his consort Eva Braun committed suicide in their Berlin bunker, Irish Taoiseach, Eamon De Valera, who also served as foreign minister, and his aide, Secretary of External Affairs Joseph Walshe, visited the German Embassy in Dublin to sign a book of condolences for the departed Führer . They also met with the top German envoy to Ireland, Eduard Hempel, a committed Nazi . Irish envoys in other nations did likewise, including Leopold Kerney in Spain, who called on the German Embassy in Madrid to express his condolences and lament the loss of Adolf Hitler. Irish President Douglas Hyde also expressed his condolences for the Nazi leader.

And this after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bełżec, Chełmno, Jasenovac, Maly Trostenets, Sobibór and a whole host of other extermination camps. After it had become clear to the world that Nazi Germany (and it’s allies, most notably Croatia) had committed genocide on a huge scale. After the full horror of the ‘Final Solution’ had become all too clear. Other (supposedly) democratic nations did not offer their condolences on Hitler’s death, for to do so would have been shameful in light of the Nazi dictator’s crimes against humanity. Indeed, no other Western European democracies followed De Valera’s example – he found himself in the dubious company of two European fascist dictators, Francisco Franco of Spain and António de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal, in voicing condolences over Hitler’s suicide.

By the time of Hitler's death, extermination camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau had already been liberated by the Allies.

By the time of Hitler’s death, extermination camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau had already been liberated by the Allies.

The global media saw it as an expression of pro-Nazi sentiment. An editorial in The New York Times said of De Valera’s visit:

“Considering the character and the record of the man for whose death he was expressing grief, there is obviously something wrong with the neutrality of Mr. de Valera.”

The New York Herald Tribune also blasted De Valera.

“If this is neutrality, it is neutrality gone mad – neutrality carried into a diplomatic jungle – where good and evil alike vanish in the red-tape thickets: where conscience flounders helplessly in slogans of protocol”

Many ordinary Americans also condemned De Valera. A Mrs.Walsh of New York wrote to a local newspaper saying:

“Have you seen the motion pictures of the victims of German concentration camps, de Valera? Have you seen the crematoriums? Have you seen the bodies of little children murdered by Nazi hands? Have you seen the living dead, de Valera? Skin stretched over bone, and too weak to walk?”

Ireland’s neutrality in a war that cost millions of British and Allied lives remains a messy and controversial chapter in European history. But support for neutrality was strong in the country, with many Irish even expressing sympathy for the Germans as an “anti-British” entity. De Valera had already inflamed the British government in 1943 when he sent a note of congratulations to Indian nationalist (and German and Japanese ally) Subhash Chandra Bose following the latter’s declaration of Azad Hind – a “Free India” government-in-exile“, which was basically a puppet regime of Imperial Japan.

David Gray, the U.S. ambassador to Ireland in the 1940s, believed De Valera stayed out of the war on the bet that the Nazis would defeat the Allies. Gray also contended that some top Irish officials were, in fact, colluding with the Third Reich. In addition, in the two years just prior to the outbreak of the war in 1939, Eire refused entreaties to allow German Jewish refugees and other victims of Nazi persecution to settle there. Practicing a policy of “Aryans only” up until the 1960s.

Sadly Anti-Semitism is still rampant in Ireland.

Sadly Anti-Semitism is still rampant in Ireland.

Interestingly, De Valera did not extend the same courtesy to Winston Churchill as he did to Hitler when the British statesman died in January, 1965. In December, 1962, Sir Ian MacLennan, the British ambassador to Ireland, wrote in a secret memorandum to the Commonwealth Relations Office that De Valera would never honour Churchill, still angered by his responsibility in “carving up Ireland” and for criticizing Dublin’s neutrality during the war. De Valera declined an invitation to attend Churchill’s funeral, but deigned to release the following statement: “Sir Winston Churchill was a great Englishman, but we in Ireland had to regard him over a long period as a dangerous adversary.”

These facts are inconvenient to Irish nationalists and republicans. They would rather deny these parts of their history rather than examine them. They would rather be selective with history rather than accurate. Historical revisionism comes naturally to Irish nationalists. It is done almost without thinking. Ireland likes to forget the parts of history that do not fit into the ‘romantic little Ireland’ narrative that has been so carefully crafted over the last hundred years or so. Irish nationalists simply ignore that which doesn’t suit them, they’d rather any wrongdoing was simply forgotten, not just by the Irish but by the rest of Europe as well.