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1985 Newry mortar attack
Location Newry, Northern Ireland
Date 28 February 1985
18:32 (GMT)
Target RUC station
Attack type Mortar
Death(s) 9
Injured 37
Perpetrator Provisional IRA

The 1985 Newry mortar attack was an attack carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station, which killed nine RUC officers.

Contents

Background

The IRA, in particular the South Armagh Brigade, had repeatedly used home-made mortars but with limited success. Between 1973 and early 1978 a total of 71 mortar attacks were recorded, which failed to kill a single member of the security forces.[1] The IRA only conducted two successful mortar attacks prior to 1985. The first was on 19 March 1979, when a British soldier was killed at Newtownhamilton army base in County Armagh.[2] The second was on 12 November 1983, when a police officer was killed and several injured when Carrickmore police station was attacked.[1][3]

The attack

The attack was jointly planned by members of the South Armagh Brigade and an IRA unit in Newry.[4] In the early evening of 28 February 1985, nine shells were launched from a Mark 10 mortar bolted onto the back of a Ford lorry that had been hijacked in Crossmaglen.[1] Eight shells overshot the station, but one 50-lb shell landed directly on a Portakabin containing a temporary canteen. Nine police officers were killed, including a cousin of Unionist politician Jeffrey Donaldson, and 37 people were injured including 25 civilian police employees.[5] The death toll was the highest inflicted on the RUC in its history.[6]

Aftermath

The day was dubbed "Bloody Thursday" by the British press. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher described the attack as "barbaric", while Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald said it was "cruel and cynical", and pledged the help of Irish security forces to catch those responsible.[5] Although not involved in the attack, Newry IRA member Eamon Collins was arrested shortly afterwards and interrogated. After five days of questioning, Collins broke under interrogation and turned supergrass, leading to more than a dozen arrests of other IRA members.[7] The attack prompted calls from Unionist politicians to "increase security", and the British government launched a multi-million pound programme of construction to prevent bases from similar attacks. This involved installing reinforced roofs and building blast-deflecting walls around the base of buildings.[1]

After the successful attack on Newry, the IRA carried out a further nine mortar attacks in 1985.[8] On 4 September an RUC Enniskillen, County Fermanagh training centre was attacked, and 30 cadets narrowly escaped death due to poor intelligence gathering by the IRA unit responsible. The cadets were expected to be lying in bed asleep, but were instead eating breakfast when the bombs landed.[8][9] In November 1986 the IRA launched a second attack at the RUC station in Newry, but the bombs fell short of their target and landed on residential houses. A four-year-old Catholic girl was seriously wounded and another 38 people injured, prompting the IRA to admit "this incident left us open to justified criticism".[8]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Urban, Mark (1993). Big Boys' Rules: SAS and the Secret Struggle Against the IRA. Faber and Faber. pp. 206–208. ISBN 0-571-16809-4. 
  2. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland". CAIN. http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/chron/1979.html. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  3. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland". CAIN. http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/chron/1983.html. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  4. ^ Harnden, Toby (1999). Bandit Country. Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 232–234. ISBN 034071736X. 
  5. ^ a b "Northern Ireland Bloody Day". TIME. 11 March 1985. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,962598-1,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  6. ^ "The RUC: Lauded and condemned". BBC. 31 October 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/uk/2000/ruc_reform/780311.stm. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  7. ^ Kevin Toolis (3 July 1999). "Death foretold". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,290195,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  8. ^ a b c Bishop, Patrick & Mallie, Eamonn (1987). The Provisional IRA. Corgi Books. pp. 420–421. ISBN 0-552-13337-X. 
  9. ^ "A Chronology of the Conflict - 1985". CAIN. http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch85.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-20. 
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