First described as "Bandit Country" by Merlyn Rees when he was Northen Ireland Secretary in , its undulating terrain and fiercely independent people made it the ideal theatre of war for the Provisional IRA. Toby Harnden has stripped away the myth and propaganda of both sides to produce one of the most compelling and important books of the Troubles. For the first time, the identities of men behind the Docklands and Manchester bombings of and the reasons why Captain Robert Nairac met his death are revealed. No other author has been able to penetrate both the IRA in South Armagh and the security forces who have battled to control an area which remains part of the United Kingdom in name only.
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First described as "Bandit Country" by Merlyn Rees when he was Northen Ireland Secretary in , its undulating terrain and fiercely independent people made it the ideal theatre of war for the Provisional IRA. Toby Harnden has stripped away the myth and propaganda of both sides to produce one of the most compelling and important books of the Troubles. For the first time, the identities of men behind the Docklands and Manchester bombings of and the reasons why Captain Robert Nairac met his death are revealed.
No other author has been able to penetrate both the IRA in South Armagh and the security forces who have battled to control an area which remains part of the United Kingdom in name only. And what drives them to continue their fight?
The full text of the book can be read here. His voice was calm and deliberate; it was not the first time he had delivered such a message. Codeword Kerrygold. Aware that a mistake on her part could lead to the deaths of scores of people, she requested that the caller repeat the details. In the decade she had worked at the newspaper, Mrs Brown had dealt with dozens of coded warnings but this was one she had never expected to hear. It was 5. They rose to the challenge. The British Prime Minister did not.
Instead of embracing the peace process, the British government acted in bad faith, with Mr Major and the Unionist leaders squandering this unprecedented opportunity to resolve the conflict. On both sides of the Irish Sea, few could bring themselves to believe that the statement or the warnings were genuine. Fifteen minutes later, an officer from Scotland Yard telephoned the Irish News to ask Anne Brown to go through once more what the South Armagh caller had told her.
John Bruton, the Irish premier, went ahead with a 6. Four officers had initially been despatched from Limehouse station shortly after 6pm to clear the Docklands Light Railway station.
But there was confusion about exactly where the IRA had said the bomb was and over the next hour another 16 officers were sent out to set up cordons and clear the streets. Some buildings were evacuated only for their occupants to be sent back in 10 minutes later; others very close to South Quay station knew nothing about the bomb warnings. Inside the lorry was more than 3,lbs of explosives made up of ammonium nitrate fertiliser mixed with icing sugar in plastic sacks. Designed to increase the power of the blast, the tubes had been made from parts of scaffolding poles drilled with holes and stuffed with 10lbs of Semtex high explosive.
Attached to the booster tubes were lengths of improvised detonating cord made from plastic tubing filled with PETN and RDX, the two constituent elements of Semtex. The bomb was to be set off by a nail attached to a kitchen timer which would complete an electrical circuit, sending power through to two detonators which would activate the detonating cord and, in turn, set off the booster tubes and trigger the main explosive charge.
The kitchen timer had been set for two hours so that it would run out at 7pm. The two policemen walked around the lorry and quickly concluded that if the IRA warnings were genuine, the bomb was probably inside the vehicle. Degraff went to the cab and was about to look inside when he stopped himself.
Had he opened the door, he would have set off the anti-handling device and activated the bomb. Degraff, 30 yards from the bomb, felt a deep rumble and a rush of wind as he was blown off his feet. Members of the Berrezag family, Moroccans who worked as cleaners at the Midland Bank branch in South Quay, were even closer to the blast.
Their car was virtually destroyed as they sat in it; Zaoui Berrezag, 51, suffered severe head injuries and never fully recovered his memory. Graeme Brown, an advertising designer, was knocked out; he woke a few minutes later surrounded by the water from a burst main. Debris had been spread over a radius of yards; where the lorry had been, there was a crater 32ft wide and 10ft deep.
Its impact was felt world-wide with television bulletins across the globe leading with the news. The IRA had struck another blow at the heart of the British establishment less than three years after devastating the City of London for the second time in 12 months.
As the home of merchant banks, television and advertising companies and, in Canary Wharf, the Mirror and Telegraph newspaper groups, Docklands was an ideal prestige target. While political argument raged during the next few days, two funerals went almost unnoticed. His elderly father Shere, who had to be supported by his second son as he went into the mosque, was to die within a year. White chrysanthemums had been arranged into guitar-shaped bouquets as a tribute to the amateur musician who had often busked at Underground stations.
He had called it Glad to be Alive.
Bandit Country by Toby Harnden
Bandit Country: The IRA & South Armagh