Dramatic gun attack on Gardaí recalled
Dramatic gun attack on Gardaí recalled


A court action has been launched in a case in which a former 26 County policeman escaped death in a border gun attack he describes as a murder bid carried out by the British Army.

Des Fitzgerald was travelling with two other Gardaí close to the Armagh-Louth border when their clearly marked patrol car was struck by gunfire in July 1974.

The three officers managed to escape from the car, which was struck 12 times, before taking cover.

The incident took place near Hackballscross during a gun battle between the Provisional IRA and the British Army.

The three gardai, who were in County Louth, were fired on by British soldiers, who were on the northern side of the border.

One of the guards in the car, Des Fitzgerald, who retired in 2006 after 32 years of service, explained how the IRA were holed up in a derelict cottage in County Louth when British soldiers opened fire on their vehicle.

He said that as he changed seats in the car, high velocity shots shattered the windscreen and a bullet smashed into the seat he had just moved from.

“I was only a recruit, I was only two months out of training...I didn’t know what was happening and he put the car into reverse and the next thing the car spun around, they blew the back wheel off it. I got out and ran.”

He said that as he ran for cover in a nearby cottage rounds continued to rain down on him.

Seconds later the young garda had another close shave after finding out the house he had just taken cover in had no back door.

“So I walked out (the front) and there was a little walkway, say it was 20 yards, 15 yards, a little pathway out to a gateway with two pillars on it and just when I got to the gate the pillar on my right hand side blew up,” he said.

“Whoever fired the shot blew half the pillar away so I ran back in and said to yer man ‘this is crazy’.”

He then borrowed a coat owned by the home owner and put it over his uniform.

“I walked up the road and every step I took, I said, ‘will this be my last one or will the next one be the last’,” he said.

“That was the worst part of it.”

He revealed he was off work sick for around three months and described the experience as traumatic.

His lawyer Kevin Winters of KRW Law, said “this was an extraordinary attempted murder incident occurring nearly 50 years ago Des was a serving gardai officer when he fired upon by British military personnel.

“There was never any proper investigation by either police forces in the north and south consistent with many other conflict-related cross border incursions the whole incident was played down.”

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