Nationwide wave of repression
BY ART Mac EOIN
The final week of November 1987 saw a wave of repression across Ireland. A huge military and police operation witnessed the forces of the 26-County state joining with the British Army and RUC in hundrerds of raids, searches and arrests throughout the island.
The Fianna F‡il administration in Dublin showed their willingness to assist Britain's war in Ireland with vigour as they raided homes, harrassed republicans and lifted Long Kesh jail escapers and attempted to facilitate their extradition to the North.
A virtual state of emergency was declared by the Fianna F‡il Minister for Justice, Gerry Collins, when he announed the week-long sweep. The Fianna F‡il government said it had intelligence reports that shipments of arms had reached the IRA and that this was the purpose of the massive movements of troops and Garda’ that followed, with Collins claiming that the alleged cargo "threatened the very safety and security of the state".
The 26 Counties was saturated with 4,500 Garda’ and 2,000 troops. Raids and searches were carried out with little discrimination. The homes of hundreds of people were invaded by armed detectives and uniformed Garda’. Republicans and non-republicans, language and cultural activists, trade unionists, members and supporters of Sinn Fˇin, anti-extradition campaigners, party offices and premises were all visited.
Two former political prisoners who escaped from Long Kesh in 1983, Paul Kane and Dermot Finucane, were arrested in a raid by Garda’ and troops at a house in Granard, County Longford and brought before the courts on foot of British extradition warrants.
In Donegal, the home of Independent Fianna F‡il TD Neil Blaney was raided, as were those of several other members of his organisation. People with no connections with politics, with long past associations with republicanism or even those who merely held nationalist opinions were all singled out for attention.
Meanwhile, the British Army and RUC sealed off large areas of the border and carried out raids and arrests of republicans. Forty republicans including five Sinn Fˇin councillors from Derry and Armagh were all arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Those arrested were interrogated and some assaulted and beaten at Gough and Castlereagh holding centres.
Garda’ raided Sinn Fˇin Head Office in Dublin and the nearby offices of An Phoblacht, where staff were arrested and journalistic files and photographs confiscated.
In Cork city, the Sinn Fˇin office and shop at Ahern/Crowley Hall were raided two days in a row.
In the border area of North Monaghan, the frontier was completely sealed off in a joint operation, with British and 26-County troops dug in on both sides. Machinegun posts were set up during the troops' movements.
In many areas like Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon, house-to-house searches were carried out randomly.
The offices of the Irish Anti-Extradition Committee in Dublin were raided by Garda’, as was the advice centre of Sinn Fˇin Dublin City Councillor Christy Burke.
The nationwide wave of repression, dubbed Operation Mallard by 26-County forces, was condemned by Sinn Fˇin, which said it was the prelude to a full-frontal asssault on the party and was part of the Hillsborough Agreement's hidden agenda of more repression against the nationalist and republican people. An Phoblact/Republican News said the real purpose of the exercise was political information gathering, surveillance and intimidation of people for their political views. After a week of raiding in the 26 Counties, there was no sign of the arns shipments which were the pretext for the operation.
Operation Mallard, the huge secuiry clampdown which affected thousands of people across Ireland, took place in the last week of November 1987, 14 years ago this week.