The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Loughall - A Truth To Remain Untold


Anthony McIntyre • 23 August 2004

The decision by Mairead Kelly to meet PSNI boss Hugh Orde in a bid to acquire more information about the death of her brother Paddy has generated a certain amount of public discourse. Paddy Kelly died at Loughall in 1987 while on active service with the Provisional IRA. He and seven comrades were ambushed by the SAS and RUC in a carefully constructed ‘killing zone’ and finished off. It was as merciless as it was premeditated.

There is no doubting the lethal intent of the eight republican volunteers who set out that May evening. They were on a mission against an enemy installation and personnel and knew the risks involved. They were heavily armed and some did manage to fire the weapons they held at their British state attackers, presumably with a view to killing them, before being felled themselves. Many in the unionist community have subsequently protested that they got what they deserved and that that should be the end of the matter. On today’s BBC Talkback, Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP articulated such sentiment, arguing that republicans like myself who feel further exploration of the issue is purposeful are being inconsistent. Many of those who later contacted Talkback went further and accused republicans of downright hypocrisy.

The main contention of the unionists is that Provisional IRA volunteers claim to have been involved in a war and could not therefore expect to have benefited from the niceties of arrest. Conveniently ignoring the state interception – when it suited – and arrest of heavily armed UDA killers en route to kill unarmed nationalists, Jeffrey Donaldson persists in the myth that death before detention is the only plausible option open to British state security personnel monitoring republican active service units equipped with modern weaponry.

In a war it is anticipated that there are rules of engagement. While the Provisional IRA has violated them incessantly it was certainly not alone. The British can ill afford to stand on some moral plateau and wax ethical to others on these things. Seamus McIlwaine was administered the coup d’grace by a member of the SAS while he lay on the ground injured, having been earlier shot and then interrogated by his captors. At least one of the Loughall volunteers had covered some distance on foot before being captured unarmed and then shot at point blank range.

In justifying this, the unionists provide an unwitting justification for the war waged by the Provisional IRA. If the British were not involved, as their advocates and apologists over the past thirty five years have insisted, in prosecuting a war but were merely responding to an ‘aggregated crime wave’, then war-like measures have no part to play in that response. State murder of those involved in ‘crime’ is precisely that – murder. And if the state murders those it claims are its own citizens, it hardly encourages others to desist from responding in kind. Those seeking an insight into the origins and development of the Provisional IRA campaign need look no further than 1969 and subsequent state policy. British indifference created the organisation; British repression sustained it. Its volunteers did not carry some genetic code dating back to 1916 predisposing them towards physical force. How otherwise can it be explained that the settlement of Good Friday 1998, so readily embraced and celebrated by those volunteers, does not vaguely resemble the objectives of Easter Sunday 1916?

Unionists such as Jeffrey Donaldson wish to place their bets each way. On the one hand, the IRA was not at war and was a mere criminal enterprise. On the other, because it claimed it was at war its volunteers could therefore be subjected to the merciless rigours of the battlefield with no means of legal recourse. And the war measures used to suppress the IRA of course absolves the British state of any culpability for human rights violations which it would most certainly have to answer for in circumstances other than war. Quintessential unionist cant, both self-serving and pompous.

The Loughall massacre certainly throws up a range of challenges. But unionism is not alone in facing them. One avenue that will never be fully explored, no matter how many meetings take place between Mairead Kelly and Hugh Orde, is the possibility that IRA volunteers were deliberately targeted at Loughall after the British Government was made aware by a key element within the republican leadership that it was willing to parley and settle for considerably less than those who died that night were intent on securing; something that they might have revolted against had they not have been slain; something which in order to succeed necessitated their removal. Whether the British killed those volunteers to facilitate what later became known as the peace process may by the real story of the Loughall massacre.







Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

24 August 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Loughall - A Truth to Remain Untold
Anthony McIntyre

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America
Ned McGinley

The Harp New-strung: Music in Ireland
Seaghán Ó Murchú

There's a Uniform that's Hanging...
Kathleen O Halloran

Understanding the raison d'être for the armed struggle
Mick Hall

More on Captain Kelly Campaign
Report sent in By Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh

The North's Future Depends on Tony Blair's Bravery
Paul A. Fitzsimmons

Standing With RSF
Sean O Lubaigh

Genetic Contamination of Mexican Maize
Toni Solo

The Letters page has been updated.

19 August 2004

Rathenraw Threat
Anthony McIntyre

Troubled Waters
John Kennedy

International Conference Misled by Sinn Fein
Francie Mackey

Rearming the Provos with Picket Signs
Marty Egan

Richard Wallace

Fionnbarr Ó Dochartaigh and the Captain Kelly Campaign
Liam O Comain

Imperfect Peace: Terence O'Neill's Day Has Come
Anthony McIntyre



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices