A new book on the Loughgall ambush, in which eight IRA members were killed as they launched a bomb attack on the village police station, has dismissed suggestions that the armed terrorists could have been arrested.
‘Secret Victory:The Intelligence War That beat The IRA’, written by former Special Branch detective William Matchett, also details how sketchy intelligence was interpreted to predict the attack on the barracks.
It documents how one uniformed officer volunteered to remain at the station to create an air of normality.
The joint RUC/SAS operation inflicted the IRA’s heaviest loss of life during a single encounter.
A civilian, Anthony Hughes, was also killed by the SAS when he and his brother accidentally drove into the ambush area.
In the book, Matchett says the police had no option but to request an SAS deployment and, on the night in question (May 8, 1987), a team comprising 26 of the elite troops took up positions in and around the police station.
“There was nothing in law enforcement anywhere in the world capable of tackling seasoned killers in heavily armed gangs like the IRA’s cross-border brigades,” Matchett said.
Reflecting on the IRA unit’s reputation as invincible, the author adds, “They were intoxicated by republican myths and had lost touch with reality.”
Several hours prior to the attack the terrorists took a Ford digger at gunpoint from a family and concealed a 400lb bomb in its bucket. They managed to detonate the bomb, injuring three RUC officers who were inside the station.