PROLETARIAN HISTORY: 1987 British Forces Ambush Irish Republican Army at Loughgall, Killing Nine

By Mike Talavera

Thirty-two years ago today, the East Tyrone Brigade (ETB) of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) led an attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) base in the Northern Irish village of Loughgall, detonating a 200 pound bomb that destroyed half the police station. Shortly after, British Special Air Service soldiers opened fire from hidden positions, killing all eight IRA members as well as one civilian. It was the most devasting loss of life in a single day for the IRA since 1921, when the infamous Black and Tans division of the RUC killed a dozen members.

Loughgall RUC station

New evidence released in 2017 suggests that reformist Sinn Féin party leader Gerry Adams orchestrated the ambush. Jim Lynagh, an ETB commander who had begun to apply the teachings of the Great Leader Chairman Mao Zedong to Irish conditions in the 1980s, was an outspoken critic of Adams and his proposals for a nonviolent “peace” process with the British.

The declassified documents reveal that a priest, who knew the IRA members involved in the attack, told the Department of Foreign Affairs that Adams had been afraid of being targeted by the ETB and was concerned that the armed national liberation struggle was jeopardizing his negotiations with British authorities.

It is unclear if Adams worked directly for the British, although not implausible, considering examples of informants like Denis Donaldson, an MI5 agent who had infiltrated the IRA. Donaldson was killed in 2006, allegedly by the New IRA.

The Loughgall attack was not the first of its kind for the IRA, but part of the strategy for Protracted People’s War to establish base areas in Northern Ireland. In the preceding years the ETB, under the command of Pádraig McKearney, Lynagh, and others, had successfully attacked police stations in places like Ballygawley and The Birches, killing policemen and those who attempted to repair the stations.


Today, Sinn Féin has degenerated further, a spineless shell of its rebellious origins. Traitors to the cause of Irish liberation, Sinn Féin regularly takes the side of British imperialism against those who have carried on the noble legacy of the Loughgall Eight, waging armed struggle for national liberation against their oppressors.

This was the case when Sinn Féin politician Pearse Doherty said that those who fought against British raids in Derry last month, accidentally killing journalist Lyra McKee in the crossfire, “besmirch[ed] the name of the IRA.”

This two-faced comment recalls what the snitch Adams said at Lynagh’s funeral: “Anyone who does business with The British, The Freestate establishment, or The SDLP are fools for they have all sold out on the Irish people,” lying through his teeth in 1987.

Reformists like these are not only enemies to the people of Ireland but enemies of all oppressed and exploited people the world over. The Loughgall massacre is an important lesson to future revolutionaries and a reminder to combat liberalism and to struggle against all enemies of the people, including those who pretend to be on the right side. Long live the Loughgall Eight!