Tag Archives: David Sweeney

24th October – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

 24th October

Sunday 24 October 1971 A member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was shot dead by undercover Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers during a bomb attack in Belfast.

Ruairi O’Brady

Ruairi O’Brady, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), addressed a SF Ard Fheis in Dublin and said that the North of Ireland must be made ungovernable as first step in achieving a united Ireland.

Tuesday 24 October 1972

Michael Naan & Andrew Murray

Two Catholic men were found dead at a farm at Aughinahinch, near Newtownbbutler, County Fermanagh. The incident was referred to as ‘the pitchfork killings’ and was initially thought to have been carried out by Loyalists. However it was later discovered that British soldiers had carried out the killings.

pitcfork murders
Newspaper Report on the murders

Thursday 24 October 1974

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a bomb attack on a cottage in the grounds of Harrow School in north-west London. No one was injured in the explosion. The time bomb, estimated to have contained 5lbs of explosives, exploded shortly before midnight just outside the cottage which had until just before this date been occupied by the head of the school’s Combined Cadet Force.

At 11.30pm a telephone warning about the bomb had been given to the Press Association.

Sunday 24 October 1976

Oakfield Street, 1970’s

Two British soldiers died as a result of a gun attack at Oakfield Street, Ardoyne, Belfast. The attack was carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Monday 24 October 1977

Michael Neill (16), a Catholic boy, was shot dead by the British Army on Cliftonville Road, Belfast. He had been in the vicinity of an attempted bus-hijacking.

Sunday 24 October 1982

Joseph Donegan (48), a Catholic civilian, was abducted, tortured, and beaten to death by members of a Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang in an attack that bore the hallmarks of the ‘Shankill Butchers’.

See Shankill Butchers

[Lenny Murphy, who had been leader of the ‘Shankill Butchers’, was one of the gang who abducted and killed Donegan (Dillon, 1990).]

Lenny Murphy

Friday 24 October 1986 The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) announced that legislation would be introduced to allow public houses in Northern Ireland to open on Sundays.

Wednesday 24 October 1990 ‘Proxy Bomb’ Attacks

proxy bomb

See Coshquinn Proxy Bomb

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) launched three bomb attacks at British Army check points. The attacks became know as ‘proxy bombs’ or ‘human bombs’ because three Catholic men, whom the IRA claimed had worked for the security forces, were tied into cars which had been loaded with explosives and ordered to drive to the check points. At the Coshquin checkpoint near Derry five soldiers and the man who was forced to drive the car were all killed.

In a second attack, at Killeen near Newry, a soldier was killed. The third bomb, that had been driven to Omagh, County Tyrone, failed to detonate. The attacks resulted in widespread outrage.

The Protestant Action Force (PAF) shot and killed a Catholic taxi driver, Francis Hughes, near Moy, County Tyrone.

Monday 24 October 1994

British Army (BA) soldiers stopped patrolling in Derry.

[Troops had been patrolling the city since August 1969.]

Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers in Belfast began to patrol without bullet-proof (‘flak’) jackets. A six member delegation of Loyalist representatives addressed the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in Washington. The delegation was led by Gary McMichael, then leader of the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), and David Ervine, then leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP).

Saturday 24 October 1998

David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), delivered a speech to the Annual Conference of the UUP. Trimble repeated his view that Sinn Féin (SF) members could not become part of an Executive before decommissioning by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Wednesday 24 October 2001

Two men were arrested when RUC officers stopped a car near Moira, County Down, and discovered a sub-machine gun. The car was on the Moira interchange at the M1 motorway.

[The two men were believed to be members of a dissident Republican paramilitary group. The incident happened at approximately 4.00pm (1600BST).]

There were disturbances on the Crumlin Road, north Belfast. Loyalists blocked the main road at approximately 4.30pm (1630BST) thus preventing Catholic school children from getting home. Nationalists tried to get up the Crumlin Road to escort their children home and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) moved between the two groups. Bricks and bottles were thrown by both groups.

Flax Street – Crumlin Road

[The Crumlin Road is the ‘alternative’ route that Loyalists want Catholic children and their parents to use when going to and from the Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School on the nearby Ardoyne Road.]

A man (40) was shot in the leg at 8.00pm (2000BST) in the Kilcooley Estate, Bangor, County Down.

[The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) were investigating the motive for the shooting.]

There were a number of statements in the House of Commons. Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, welcomed the decommissioning by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), said that he had reappointed the three UUP Ministers to the Northern Ireland Executive “without prejudice” to the decision to be taken by the UUP executive on Saturday 27 October 2001. However, Trimble asked Blair,

“what sanctions will the government apply to them [those who had not decommissioning by February 2002] so as to avoid others having to apply sanctions?”.

[Trimble was thus explicitly setting a new deadline in the peace process.]

John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that work had begun on the dismantling of two British Army observation towers in south Armagh. One on Sturgan mountain and one on Camlough mountain. He also announced that work would begin on Thursday 25 October 2001 on demolishing a sangar at Newtownhamilton police station in south Armagh, and also on demolishing the British Royal Irish Regiment (British Army) base in Magherafelt, County Derry. Reid also pledged to introduce a progressive programme of security normalisation as the paramilitary threat lessened.

[The demolition work is expected to take a year to complete. There was no word on the other watch towers (12?) in south Armagh. It is envisaged that there would be further cuts in the number of British Army troops based in Northern Ireland. It is also likely that the British government will make further movement on police-reform legislation, review criminal justice, and honour human rights and equality measures. Some of the security (and other) measures were ones outlined in the British and Irish governments’ Implementation Plan published on 1 August 2001.]

Tony Blair with Martti Ahtisaari (c) and Cyril Ramaphosa (r)

Cyril Ramaphosa and Martti Ahtisarri, the two independent arms inspectors, announced that they had resigned their positions. They said that they were no longer required given that the IICD and the IRA were dealing with the weapons issue. [The arms inspectors had been appointed on 14 May 2000.] The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) called on Loyalist paramilitaries to begin the process of decommissioning their weapons.

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Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the death of the following  people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

– Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live  forever

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

  18 People lost their lives on the 24th  October  between 1971 – 1990

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24 October 1971


Martin Forsythe,  (19)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
Shot by undercover RUC during bomb attack on Celebrity Club, Donegall Place, Belfast.

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24 October 1972
Robert Mason,  (19) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Naples Street, off Grosvenor Road, Belfast.

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24 October 1972
John Morrell,   (32) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died ten days after being injured when detonated booby trap bomb while searching house, Drumarg, Armagh.

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24 October 1976
Anthony Abbott,  (19) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by snipers while checking abandoned car, Oakfield Street, Ardoyne, Belfast.

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24 October 1976
Maurice Murphy,   (26) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by snipers while checking abandoned car, Oakfield Street, Ardoyne, Belfast. He died 23 November 1976.

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24 October 1977


Michael Neill,   (16)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot while in the vicinity of an attempted hijacking of bus, junction of Cliftonville Road and Oldpark Road, Belfast.

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24 October 1979


Walter Moore,   (50)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot outside his home, Lyndhurst Parade, off Ballygomartin Road, Belfast.

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24 October 1982


Joseph Donegan,   (48)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Kiddlled by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Abducted while walking along Falls Road, Belfast. Found beaten to death, in entry, off Brookmount Street, Shankill, Belfast, on 25 October 1982.

See Shankill Butchers

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24 October 1983


Cyrus Campbell,  (49)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Shot while driving car at his farm, Carricklongfield, near Aughnacloy, County Tyrone.

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24 October 1986
Kenneth Johnston,  (25)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot while sitting in his firm’s stationary car, Magherafelt, County Derry. His firm contractor to British Army (BA) / Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

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24 October 1990


 Francis Hughes,  (61)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Protestant Action Force (PAF)
Taxi driver. Found shot in his burnt out car Derryane Road, near Moy, County Tyrone.

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24 October 1990
Stephen Burrows,   (30) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry.

See Coshquin Proxy Bomb

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24 October 1990
Stephen Beacham,   (20) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry.

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24 October 1990


Paul Worrall,  (23) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry.

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24 October 1990
Vincent Scott,   (21) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry.

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24 October 1990
David Sweeney,  (19) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry.

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24 October 1990


Patrick Gillespie,   (42)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

#Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry. A civilian employed by British Army (BA), he was forced to drive the van bomb to the Vehicle Check Point (VCP).

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24 October 1990


Cyril Smith,   (21)

Catholic
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
From Northern Ireland. Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Dublin Road, Killeen, County Armagh.

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Coshquin Proxy Bomb – IRA Slaughter six Innocent people –

Coshquin Proxy Bomb 

Buncrana Road,

On 24 October 1990

On 24 October 1990 the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) developed the tactic by introducing the so-called “human proxy bomb”. Three men deemed by the IRA to be “collaborators” (i.e. helping the security forces in some way)  were strapped into three vehicles and forced to drive to three British military targets.

However, unlike the earlier proxy bombings, they were not given the chance to escape. The three synchronised attacks took place at Coshquin (near Derry), Cloghoge (near Newry), and Omagh in the early morning of 24 October 1990.

The Coshquin attack was the deadliest, killing the human proxy and six soldiers. One soldier was killed at Cloghoge, but the proxy survived. At Omagh there were no fatalities due to a faulty detonator.

Memorial stone

The Innocent Victims

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24 October 1990
Stephen Burrows,   (30) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry.

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24 October 1990
Stephen Beacham,   (20) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry.

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24 October 1990

Paul Worrall,  (23) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry.

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24 October 1990
 Vincent Scott,  (21) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry.

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24 October 1990
 David Sweeney,   (19) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry.

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24 October 1990

Patrick Gillespie,   (42) Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in van bomb attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Buncrana Road, Coshquinn, near Derry. A civilian employed by British Army (BA), he was forced to drive the van bomb to the Vehicle Check Point (VCP).

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Proxy Bomb

The proxy bomb (also known as a human bomb) was a tactic used mainly by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland during the conflict known as “the Troubles“. It involved forcing people (including civilians, off-duty members of the British security forces, or people working for the security forces) to drive car bombs to British military targets, after placing them or their families under some kind of threat. The tactic was later adopted by FARC in Colombia  and by rebels in the Syrian civil war.

The tactic has been compared to a suicide bomb, although each bomber in these cases is coerced rather than being a volunteer. 

Early proxy bombs

The first proxy bombs took place in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. By 1973, increased searches and surveillance by the British security forces was making it harder for IRA members to plant their bombs and escape. In response, the IRA introduced the ‘proxy bomb’ tactic in March of that year.

In these early proxy bombings, the driver and nearby civilians would usually be given enough time to flee the area before the bomb detonated. One of the proxy bomb attacks carried out by the IRA during this period took place in 1975, when an employee of Northern Ireland‘s Forensics Laboratory in Newtownbreda was forced to drive a car laden with explosives to the building. The explosion caused moderate damage, and operations resumed quickly. The Laboratory would be the subject of one of the largest IRA bombings in 1992, when a 1,700 kg van bomb abandoned in the laboratory parking lot demolished the facilities and caused widespread damage inside a radius of 1 km.

The proxy bomb was also used by Northern Irish loyalists, on at least one occasion. On 11 September 1974, masked gunmen in British Army uniform hijacked a car in Northern Ireland, placed a time bomb inside and forced the owner to drive it into the village of Blacklion in the Republic of Ireland. They claimed to be from the Ulster Volunteer Force and threatened to attack his family if he did not comply. The village was evacuated and the Irish Army carried out a controlled explosion on the car. They estimated that the bomb would have destroyed most of the village.

October 1990 proxy bombings

October 1990 proxy bombings
Part of the Troubles
Proxy bomb is located in Northern Ireland

Coshquin
Coshquin
Cloghoge
Cloghoge
Omagh
Omagh
LocationCoshquin, Cloghoge and Omagh, Northern Ireland
Date24 October 1990
TargetBritish Army bases and checkpoints
Attack type
vehicle bombs
Deaths8 (7 soldiers, 1 civilian)
Non-fatal injuries
14
PerpetratorProvisional IRA

On 24 October 1990 the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) developed the tactic by introducing the so-called “human proxy bomb”. Three men deemed by the IRA to be “collaborators” (i.e. helping the security forces in some way)were strapped into three vehicles and forced to drive to three British military targets. However, unlike the earlier proxy bombings, they were not given the chance to escape.

The three synchronised attacks took place at Coshquin (near Derry), Cloghoge (near Newry), and Omagh in the early morning of 24 October 1990. The Coshquin attack was the deadliest, killing the human proxy and six soldiers. One soldier was killed at Cloghoge, but the proxy survived. At Omagh there were no fatalities due to a faulty detonator.

Coshquin

The Coshquin operation involved 11 members of the IRA’s Derry City Brigade.  RUC Special Branch had received some intelligence about the operation, but it was said to be only a “vague outline” of an “impending assault against a base” in the area. 

A Catholic, Patrick Gillespie (aged 42), who lived in the Shantallow area of Derry and worked as a cook at the Fort George British Army base in the city, had been warned to stop working at the base or risk reprisal. On one occasion, the IRA had forced him to drive a bomb into the base, giving him just enough time to escape. However, that bomb had failed to detonate.

On 24 October 1990, members of the IRA’s Derry City Brigade took over Gillespie’s house.  While his family was held at gunpoint, he was forced to drive his car to a rural spot on the other side of the border in County Donegal. Gillespie was then put in a van loaded with 1,000 pounds (450 kg) of explosives and told to drive to the Coshquin permanent border checkpoint on Buncrana Road.

An armed IRA team followed him by car to ensure he obeyed their commands.  Four minutes from the checkpoint, the IRA team armed the bomb remotely. When Gillespie reached the checkpoint, at 3:55 AM, he tried to get out and warn the soldiers, but the bomb detonated when he attempted to open the door.

IRA bomb makers had installed a detonation device linked to the van’s courtesy light, which came on whenever the van door opened. As a safeguard, the bombers also used a timing device to ensure the bomb detonated at the right moment. Gillespie and six soldiers were killed,  including Ranger Cyril J. Smith, from B. Coy. 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rangers, was posthumously awarded the QGM as he tried to warn his comrades about the bomb rather than running for cover.

Smith was a Roman Catholic and native of Northern Ireland.

Witnesses reported hearing “shouting, screaming and then shots” right before the explosion. The bomb devastated the base, destroying the operations room and a number of armoured vehicles. It was claimed that the death toll would have been much higher had the soldiers not been sleeping in a recently built mortar-proof bunker. The blast damaged 25 nearby houses.[10]

At Gillespie’s funeral, Bishop Edward Daly said the IRA and its supporters were

“…the complete contradiction of Christianity. They may say they are followers of Christ. Some of them may even still engage in the hypocrisy of coming to church, but their lives and their works proclaim clearly that they follow Satan.”

Cloghoge

In tandem with the Coshquin operation, members of the IRA’s South Down Brigade took over the house of a Catholic man, James McAvoy (aged 65) in Newry. He was allegedly targeted because he served RUC officers at his filling station, which was beside the house.

He was driven away in a Toyota HiAce van while his family was held at gunpoint.  At Flagstaff Hill, near the border with the Republic, members of the IRA’s South Armagh Brigade loaded the van with one ton of explosives. McAvoy was strapped into the driver’s seat and told to drive the van to the accommodation block at Cloghoge permanent vehicle checkpoint. Before he drove off, a senior IRA member seemed:

“to have a pang of conscience” and whispered in McAvoy’s ear, “don’t open the door; go out through the window”.

An IRA team followed the van in a car and turned into a side-road shortly before it reached the checkpoint. When McAvoy stopped the van and climbed out the window, a soldier came over and began shouting at him to move the vehicle.  Moments later, a timer detonated the bomb. The soldier was killed outright and 13 other soldiers were injured. McAvoy survived but suffered a broken leg.

Omagh

At about the same time, there was a third attempted proxy bombing in County Tyrone. A third man was strapped into a car and forced to drive it to Lisanelly British Army base in Omagh while his family was held at gunpoint.

This third bomb weighed 1,500 pounds (680 kg) but, due to a faulty detonator, the main explosive charge failed to explode.

Later proxy bombs

Several more ‘human proxy bombings’ were planned, but the operations were called-off, partly because of the outrage it drew from all sections of the community.

Nevertheless, there were a few more ‘traditional’ proxy bombings in the following months.

At 9:30 am on 22 November 1990, the IRA took over a man’s house in Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh While his parents were held at gunpoint, he was forced to drive a Toyota Hilux pick-up truck to Annaghmartin military checkpoint.

He was told that the truck carried a bomb on a five-minute timer. When he reached the checkpoint he shouted a warning and a small explosion was heard, but the main bomb failed to detonate. The vehicle was found to contain 3,500 pounds (1,600 kg) of homemade explosives; the biggest IRA bomb up to that point.

The same checkpoint was the subject of a heavy machine gun attack on 26 December.

In early February 1991, another proxy bomb wrecked an Ulster Defence Regiment base in Magherafelt, County Londonderry, but there were no fatalities.

The proxy bomb tactic caused outrage in both the unionist and Irish nationalist communities. The final IRA use of proxy bombs came on 24 April 1993, when they forced two London taxi drivers to drive bombs towards Downing Street and New Scotland Yard. There were no casualties, however, as the drivers managed to shout warnings and to abandon their cars in time. A conventionally delivered bomb was detonated by the IRA on the same day in the financial centre of Bishopsgate in central London.

In the early 2000s, FARC rebels began to use proxy car bombs in Colombia. This has been attributed to training given to FARC by members of the Provisional IRA. In the Colombian province of Arauca in February 2003, three brothers were forced to drive car bombs into military checkpoints, each told that the other brothers would be killed if they did not comply.

In December 2013 Óglaigh na hÉireann, a Real IRA splinter group, claimed responsibility for an attempted bomb attack on Belfast City centre in which a car was hijacked and its driver forced to deliver the bomb to its intended target. The bomb only partially detonated leaving no casualties.

Effect of the tactic

The ‘human proxy bombings’ of October 1990 caused widespread outrage even among some IRA supporters, who claimed it irreparably damaged the republican movement.

According to journalist and author Ed Moloney:

 “as an operation calculated to undermine the IRA’s armed struggle, alienate even its most loyal supporters and damage Sinn Féin politically, it had no equal.”

Moloney has suggested that the tactic may have been calculated to weaken the position of alleged “hawks” in republicanism—those who favoured armed action over electoral politics. At the same time Moloney argues that the widespread public revulsion would have strengthened the position of those in the IRA such as Gerry Adams who were considering how republicanism could abandon violence and focus on electoral politics.

Peter Taylor wrote of the proxy bombs that, by such actions and the revulsion they caused in the community, IRA hardliners inadvertently strengthened the hand of those within the republican movement who argued that an alternative to armed struggle had to be found.