Sensitive documents detailing the SAS involvement in the killing of eight IRA terrorists attempting to wipe out the Loughgall Police Station and its staff are to be handed over so that prosecutors can try to find loopholes and prosecute the soldiers involved.

An eight man IRA unit had planned to blow apart the small police station with a bomb loaded onto a stolen digger (bulldozer) which was being driven by three of the eight man gang. They then planned to execute by way of shooting anyone not killed in the attack by storming the building afterwards. The rest of the cell was lying in wait in a Toyota Hilux van ready to react once the bomb had gone off on May the 8th 1987. They too would be joining in on clearing the scene of anyone left alive. It was to be the IRA’s largest lost of the Troubles as their bungling operators let the plans slip to the security services who were on hand to try to arrest them. The scene turned noisy when the IRA detonated the bomb and opened fire without warning. The East Tyrone Brigade claimed to be one of the most professional units within the province. They had openly declared that they would be trying to destroy bases so that they could never be reopened therefore denying the British key ground. They had already implemented similar attacks elsewhere with varying degrees of success. This was not to be their day, as the security services were on hand to foil their attempt.

Their intent could not be clearer as they drove both vehicles passed their target twice to make sure the coast was clear. All were wearing body armour and were armed to the teeth. The three hoods on the digger in their balaclava style masks were openly carrying while preparing to detonate the bomb after they had crashed it through the gates of the police station. They did exactly that and then set fire to the fuses. Before the bomb had gone off, they started to rake the area with fire. As the occupants of the van joined in, they were taken on by the security services. The act of aggression had been initiated by the IRA and there could be no complaint that the brave men who dealt with them were in grave danger as they regained advantage from such a dangerous position.

Weapons used by the East Tyrone Brigade, image courtesy of BBC.

The bomb did go off and injured three of the operatives on the ground. There was a fierce firefight but the IRA were overwhelmed. Their failure to expect any resistance was their undoing as they were met with force when they expected an easy ride. Far from blowing their way in and strolling round executing innocent targets, they were slain in the street. They gave the security services no chance other than to meet them with lethal force. To try to tickle a weapon from the hands of a man who wants you dead, is a futile exercise. These men would have shown little mercy should their plan have turned out in their favour.

As expected within hours of the successful operation conducted by the British, the relatives of those on the casualty list from the terrorist hit squad side were up in arms. Declan Arthur’s father actually tried to sue the ministry of defence. His son was driving the digger and was also responsible for lighting the fuze and opening fire. They all claimed the security services had implemented a “shoot to kill” policy rather than try to arrest those involved. Soldiers and police were all governed by the “Yellow card” there was no deviating from this. You either operated within its stricken guidelines or you were committing an offence. I have never heard of such a thing as a “shoot to kill” policy. It’s just something the republican spin doctors churned out in a desperate attempt to gain support for their despicable activities.

Shortly after the ambush, the Provisional IRA released a statement saying: “volunteers who shot their way out of the ambush and escaped saw other volunteers being shot on the ground after being captured” they were well-known for trying to twist the truth when things went against them.

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In December 2011 the Northern Ireland Historical Enquiries Team found that not only did the IRA team fire first but that they could not have been safely arrested. They concluded that the security services were justified in opening fire. This should have been case closed you would have thought. After years of complaining the facts were examined at length and there could be no other conclusion. Now fuelled by the recent announcement that investigations will be reopened again, the same faces are trying to claw back some of what they see as justice. It is a sad day when the powers that be are now appeasing these people. The IRA wanted to play soldiers but never wanted to face up to the reality of combat. And the fact is, sometimes you lose people. After pointing fingers everywhere and blaming everyone else involved, even searching for a mole within their own organisation, they still can’t accept the plain and simple fact that they decided to take on the security forces and lost. I shall be horrified to think that honourable men in their later years may be dragged into the mire by any sort of investigation suggesting they did anything except what they were paid to do; and more so courageously and without concern form their own safety. Any enquiry should be for the purpose of decorating these men who operated in hostile terrain for long periods without reward.

 

Featured image courtesy of The Irish Times