Methods of attack have also varied : blast incendiaries were introduced in 1977 until the holocaust of La Mon when they were temporarily dropped . Car bombs have made a recent comeback but so far only in rural towns . Intruder detonated bombs and long-delay fused bombs were introduced during that period but while these and other more well known devices like culvert bombs and landmines accounted for heavy security forces’ casualties it was the introduction of the radio-detonated bomb in 1978 but especially in 1979 that really re-imposed the IRA’s threat .
In 1978 radio bombs were tried out in various areas of the North of Ireland but only one member of the ‘security forces’ was killed by one . In 1979 however radio bombs accounted for no less than 29 of the 86 deaths meted out by the IRA and this year (1980) they have killed 6 out of 30 . The radio bomb was also used in two of the IRA’s most traumatic deeds of the last ten years : the killing of 18 British soldiers at Warrenpoint and the assassination of ‘Lord’ Mountbatten and his boating party in August 1979 .
The development of the radio bomb , like the unsuccessful attempt to mortar Newry RUC station , also demonstrate another worrying factor for the RUC and the British Army – the IRA’s technical ingenuity , which has been amply demonstrated by their use of huge quantities of explosives not only in radio bombs but also in car bombs and landmines since 1978 . Bombs of 1000 or 2000 pounds are now quite common . In 1977 and 1978 the IRA was forced to experiment with new ways of producing explosives : legislation in the South had outlawed the sale of fertiliser containing benzine which together with sugar went to produce the terrifying blockbuster car bombs of the early 1970’s – and they virtually disappeared as a result . But in late 1978 the technical ingenuity of the IRA was called on again to address this problem…….
IRIS – ” It seems probable , despite all the delays , that Jim Prior’s assembly elections will take place this autumn . What is your understanding of the assembly’s future ? ”
IRA – ” There’s so much opposition to it that we don’t see it working . We have nevertheless taken a conscious decision to support Sinn Fein’s involvement in the election , which is on an abstentionist basis in that they won’t take seats if elected . Whatever political scenario the British impose , the republican response will remain the same. “
THE UNDAUNTED WOMEN IN ARMAGH…….
The full story of the republican prisoners in Armagh Jail has yet to be told. It has yet to be sung , and properly described , other than as an after-thought in public speeches – “…and of course the women in Armagh..” Republicans have a right to be proud of those women who, from the Divis Flats grandmother doing six months for what an Orange judge called “riotous behaviour” to the young IRA Volunteer inside for the second time and not yet 25-years-old , have managed, whether they numbered 12 or 120 , to maintain their resistance to the most vicious prison system in Europe. The words that follow , says writer Patricia Collins , were written to encourage more of those women to come forward and tell their story , and are based on conversations with several
ex-prisoners , and on visits and letters from those women presently imprisoned. They were written in the hope of jogging the memory of all those women who wrongly think their contribution to Ireland’s future peace is not worth mentioning.
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , August 1984.
While the women POW’s had Armagh Jail well in control , their male comrades in Long Kesh were regularly being attacked by the Brits stationed around the camp , constantly subjected to searches , and their privileges gradually eroded .
Tension had been mounting throughout the summer of 1974 in the compounds of Long Kesh : on Tuesday night , 15th October 1974 , republican POW’s burned their huts in protest at the inhuman conditions they were forced to endure and were savagely attacked by Brit soldiers in full riot gear . At dawn on Wednesday 16th a statement was read on the radio by a British official announcing the burning of the camp and stating that all privileges and visits had been suspended .
A lot of women heard that radio broadcast but were not surprised – news like that was expected . Most , if not all , of the women POW’s in Armagh had brothers , fathers or boyfriends in Long Kesh and were frightened with anguish over the events . On that Wednesday morning (16th October 1974) the Armagh prison administration refused the women’s request for a Sinn Fein spokesperson to come in and give them updates regarding their loved ones . One of those women POW’s , Kate McGuinness , said – ” We had a Company meeting and decided that we should organise a riot and cause as much damage as possible to the jail.” That riot was to lead to the forced imprisonment of four prison officials…….