Sunday, 9 June 2019

ON THIS DAY IN 1979, CORBYN'S MATES...

The Provisional IRA engaged the British Army in a firefight near the village of Keady in County Armagh.  Up to five IRA gunmen had taken up position on a cattle truck and were thought to be preparing a rocket attack when members of the Royal Green Jackets appeared and there was a very brief gun battle.  The soldiers claimed to have struck at least one of the terrorists and told how they heard screaming as the gunmen fled. 

However, the terrorists weren't finished for the day.  They travelled to the home of a prison officer nearby, but were fired on again there.  The warden fired three shotgun blasts at his assailants before they finally scurried back over the border, taking their wounded with them.  Over the course of the two incidents three of them had been hit, one fatally.  24-year-old Peadar McElvanna from Armagh was already dead when he was dumped at Monaghan Hospital (in the Republic) along with his two wounded comrades.

There was confusion as to who had fired the fatal bullet.  Initially it was thought he was killed by the Royal Green Jackets, but it was later reported that he died from a shotgun pellet lodged in his heart. One of the soldiers involved in the gunfight was a young squaddie who is now better known as 'Andy McNab', the famed author.

"It was all over in 30 seconds.  Then it came over the radio that they were in Monaghan and a boy went down.  The army assumed it was our contact he went down in and the champagne flowed".
Andy McNab

Several months before the bungled IRA attack McElvanna had been acquitted of the murder of an off duty soldier who was shot dead on his wedding day in 1978.  Acquitted alongside him was Dessie O'Hare, one of the other wounded men.  O'Hare would become known as the 'Border Fox' and is thought to have been responsible for numerous murders on both sides of the border, some of which involved gruesome torture.  He left the IRA after the Keady incident and joined the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).  He was imprisoned twice in the 1980s and in 1987 was sent down for the kidnapping of a dentist from Dublin in which two of the victim's fingers were removed with a hammer and chisel.  He was released in 2006 and returned to Northern Ireland.

IRA/INLA terrorist Dessie O'Hare