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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Economic & Strategic Warfare; The UDA/UFF Bombing Campaign in Éire (Part 1)

“In Striking we Defend”

Although formed as a defensive organisation, shortly after its formation the leadership of the Ulster Defence Association came to the realisation that certain pro-active operations would have to be undertaken in order to preserve the existence of Northern Ireland and ensure the safety of the Loyalist and wider Unionist community.

The UDA Inner Council (the collective leadership of the organisation) recognised the fact that Irish republican extremists, primarily the breakaway PIRA, were recieving significant aid and material support from the Irish Republic. With the “Arms Crisis” of 1970 proving that the Dublin government had armed, funded and, at least partially, organised the nascent Provisional IRA, the UDA leadership made the decision to designate the Irish state, and the organs thereof, as “Enemies of Ulster“, thus making them legitimate targets.

Plans were put in place, as early as the summer of 1971, to undertake offensive operations against Éire, concentrating on certain symbolic, strategic and economic targets, although no such operations were attempted until the autumn of 1972.

The Ulster Defence Association, circa 1971

The “Autumn Offensive” 1972

On the night of the 28/29th of October, a bomb containing approximately 12 lbs of commercial explosives was discovered at Connolly Station, Dublin. The device was defused by Irish Army technical officers. Incendiary devices were also left at four Dublin hotels. These attacks were however, just the beginning of what would turn out to be an effective offensive.

On the evening of the 2nd of November, 1972, The UDA’s Londonderry & North Antrim Brigade (then known as the “Londonderry Command” or “North-West Command”) bombed the ‘Hole In The Wall’ pub, near St. Johnston, Co.Donegal. Armed volunteers from ‘A’ Company, 1st Battalion, ordered everyone out of the premises, before detonating a hand grenade and a large blast-bomb type device inside the pub, causing extensive damage.

Just over a fortnight later, on the 19th of November, the Londonderry & North Antrim brigade struck another target in Co.Donegal. On this occasion a car showroom, owned by a prominent republican, was targeted with a bomb containing 7 and a half pounds of explosive. The device exploded causing substantial damage.

Londonderry & Nth. Antrim UDA/UFF

At approximately 1:15am on Sunday, 26th of November, 1972, an “unusually large” bomb exploded outside the rear exit door of the ‘Film Centre‘ Cinema, Burgh Quay, Dublin during a late night showing of a film. The bomb went off in the laneway connecting Burgh Quay with Leinster Market injuring 40 people, around 20 of them seriously, including facial, leg and serious abdominal wounds. There were approximately 160 people (both patrons and staff) inside the cinema at the time of the blast and a Garda spokesman said that it had been “nothing short of a miracle” that there had been no fatalities. The force of the explosion had hurled customers out of their seats and onto the floor and one employee had been blown the full length of the central aisle.

A large number of shops and buildings in the immediate vicinity received extensive damage from the blast. The area was quickly sealed off by the Garda and they immediately launched a forsenic investigation 9f the scene. A ballistic officer determined that the epicentre of the explosion had been just outside an emergency door leading from the cinema to the laneway. However, due to the ferocity of the blast and the total combustion of the explosive material, no trace of the bomb or the explosives used were ever found. Garda detectives at the time suspected the bombing to be the work of republican “subversive elements”, soon after however, Gardai discounted republican involvement and intimated that they now believed the bomb attack to have been the work of Loyalists, most likely a UDA active service unit “from the Derry or Mid-Ulster areas“.

Political Gain: the 1st of December Dublin Bombings

On the 1st of December, 1972, shortly before 8pm, a large bomb, concealed inside the boot of a blue Hillman Avenger car, exploded at 29 Eden Quay, Dublin. The blast blew the Avenger apart and what remained of the vehicle was catapulted 18 feet away, coming to rest outside an optician’s office. Six cars parked in the vicinity of the Avenger were set on fire, and piled on top of each other. Every window of the nearby ‘Liberty Hall‘ and a number of other nearby buildings were shattered. Although a number of people suffered injuries – some horrific – nobody was killed.
At the same time the car-bomb detonated in Dublin, the Belfast Newsletter received a telephone call from a man warning that two bombs had been left in cental Dublin and would explode imminently, giving the locations of the bombs as Liberty Hall and Abbey Street. Staff at the newspaper immediately phoned the RUC who in turn relayed the warnings to the Garda Control Room, Dublin, at just before 8:10pm. A team of Gardai were immediately dispatched to investigate the area.

Dublin, 1972

At a quarter past eight that evening, a large explosive device, packed into the boot and rear foot-wells of a silver Ford Escort, detonated in Sackville Place, 40 feet away from the junction at Marlborough Street. Two CIÉ (Córas Iompair Éireann/Irish Transport) employees, George Bradshaw (30), a bus driver, and Thomas Duffy (23), a conductor, were killed. One witness described the aftermath as follows- “There was a large pall of smoke hanging over the area of the blast. At least six cars were on fire . . . there were people strewn all over the street. One man was lying unconscious in a pool of blood from his legs . . . everywhere there was sobbing and screaming . . . people were running in all directions.”

As well as the two bus-men who were killed over 130 people were injured in the two incidents. Around 50 of them seriously. As at Eden Quay, the Sackville Place bombing caused considerable damage to buildings and vehicles near the blast’s epicentre. Sackville Place being a narrow street off O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare.

The bombs however did not just cause death and destruction; they also literally blasted into law controversial new measures. Just as the bombs were exploding in the city centre, Dáil Éireann was debating the controversial bill to amend the Offences Against the State Act’, which would enact stricter measures against the Provisional IRA and other republican murder gangs. As a result of the two bomb attacks, the Dáil voted for the amendment which introduced special emergency powers. In particular this meant that a member of a terrorist group could be sentenced on the sworn evidence of a senior Garda officer in front of three judges. Before the bombings, many commentators had believed the bill – considered by some to be “draconian” – would be soundly defeated. Indeed, until it was interrupted by the sound of Loyalist bombs exploding, the debate in the Dáil had been a bitter and heated one. Neil Blaney, recently expelled from Fianna Fáil due to his part in the “Arms Crisis”, spoke out forcefully against the proposed measures, describing the Provos as “freedom fighters“. In turn, supporters of the new legislation described the Fianna Fáil government as having “blood on their hands”, whilst Edward Collins TD castigated them as “the godfathers of the Provisional IRA“. At the last minute, undoubtedly swayed by the sound of bombs just a short distance away, Fine Gael TD’s abstained, thus ensuring that the bill would pass.

Sackville Place, Dublin, 1st December, 1972

Militant Ulster Loyalists had forced the hand of the Irish government in an unprecedented manor, forcing the authorities in Éire to take active steps against Irish republican terrorists for the first time in the conflict. Although the violent deaths of two civilians is deeply regrettable, the 1st of December bomb attacks had been spectacularly successful. Timed to precision and ruthlessly carried out, the bomb blitz in the heart of Dublin had demonstrated to the Irish state, in brutal fashion, that they would have to take action against the very terrorist groups that they had helped to create just two years earlier, or face the consequences!

Although there is speculation about whether the 1st of December attacks were the work of the UDA or the Ulster Volunteer Force, such speculation is more or less meaningless. Physical force Loyalism had, once again, penetrated into the heart of the Irish capital to devastating, and deadly effect. Forcing the hand of the Irish government and denying Irish republican murder gangs free reign in that country, although Éire would continue to be both a safe haven and a base of operations for republican terror groups throughout the conflict in Ulster.

Part 2- next week

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.