Loughgall: IRA team ambushed by the SAS had been responsible for series of brutal murders

Pacemaker
Pacemaker

The eight-man IRA gang shot dead by the SAS at Loughgall comprised dedicated terrorists aged between 19 and 32.

Weapons brought to attack the village’s RUC station, along with the 400lb bomb, included automatic rifles, shotguns and handguns.

The arsenal was reported to have been used in 19 separate incidents in which seven people were murdered.

Patrick Kelly, 32, was married with four children and lived in the Dungannon area.

An interview with his parents in the Guardian newspaper revealed he came from a long line of republicans – including a grandfather who was a friend of Easter Rising leader Thomas Clark, a father who commanded the IRA during the Treaty period and another relative elected as a republican MP during the 1950s.

It is understood he became the IRA’s ‘brigade commander’ in East Tyrone in 1985 and immediately began developing plans to attack isolated RUC bases in the area.

Jim Lynagh, from county Monaghan, had been tried and acquitted in Dublin for the murder of former UDR member Henry Livingstone near Tynan in 1980, according to the book Lost Lives.

He was elected as a Sinn Fein representative to the Monaghan and District Council in 1979.

Reports at the time of his death suggested he had been wanted by the RUC for questioning about the IRA attack on the Stronge estate (and Tynan Abbey) in which Sir Norman Stronge and his son James, an RUC officer, where murdered.

Patrick McKearney, 32, from Dungannon was a Maze escapee and the brother of another IRA man (Sean McKearney) who died when a bomb he was transporting exploded in 1974.

Another brother, Kevin, and their uncle John were both murdered by loyalists in a gun attack on the family butchers they ran.

Declan Arthurs, 21, was driving the digger used to bomb the RUC station when he was killed. He came from Galbally. Although well known to police, it is understood he had never been charged with any offences.

Tony Gormley, 25, was the second eldest of six children from the Galbally area of Co Tyrone. Newspaper reports from the time suggest he had not been known to the RUC’s Special Branch or suspected to have been involved in any previous IRA attacks.

Seamus Donnelly, 19, was the youngest of the IRA men killed at Loughgall. He also came from the Galbally area. At his inquest, the coroner heard how he had been shot at close range suffering wounds to his head, neck and torso.

Gerard O’Callaghan, 29, was the youngest of 11 children and came from Benburb. He had served a prison sentence and been released four years before the Loughgall attack, according to Lost Lives. Newspaper reports suggested he had been linked to two murders.

Eugene Kelly, 25, came from Cappagh. Reports at the time linked him to the murder of two UDR men in Dungannon in 1984.

Speaking at an event to mark the 30th anniversary of Loughgall, the party’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill said they laid down their lives “in the just cause for peace and Irish freedom”.

She said: “They were loved and are sorely missed. They were sons, devoted husbands, fathers, brothers and caring uncles and respected members of their communities.”

Ms O’Neill added: “They joined the national liberation struggle as young men because they consciously decided to not only reject, but also confront the political discrimination, inequality and injustice which was brutally inflicted by the British/unionist state and their forces upon the nationalist/republican people here in my own community of Co Tyrone and across the six counties at that time.”

The An Phoblacht publication reported that the eight men were “feared by the crown forces but highly respected and protected within their communities”.