Tuesday 21 August 2018

Former IRA leader denies 'boasting' about detonating landmine which seriously injured two RUC officers

Michael ‘Mick’ Ryan's book
Michael ‘Mick’ Ryan's book
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

A former IRA leader who claims to have detonated a landmine which seriously injured two RUC officers staunchly denies ‘boasting’ about the incident in his recently-released memoir.

Michael ‘Mick’ Ryan, (81), who grew up in Dublin’s East Wall in the 1940s and '50s before moving to Dundalk, Co Louth, took part in the IRA’s ill-fated ‘border campaign’ between 1956 and 1962 as Director of Operations.

In his memoir ‘My Life in the IRA - The Border Campaign'  – written during the 1980s but released this evening at a packed book launch at Liberty Hall in Dublin – Mr Ryan claims to have been involved in the detonation of a landmine in the border town of Ballsmill near Newry, Co Down in 1959.

The explosion seriously injured RUC officers Const William Johnston (28) and Special Const Trevor Boyle (21) who were in the reserve police force known as the ‘B’ Specials.

In the book, published by Mercier Press and edited by former Irish Times journalist and author Padraig Yeates, Mr Ryan wrote of the incident: “The jeep was hit all right, because I could see some parts of it fly into the air and land a few yards away.”

“We were showered with clay and debris. The three of us immediately opened fire on the jeep.”

He then describes fleeing back across the border to the Republic yet being disappointed with the outcome of the explosion.

The launch was attended by Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh and journalist Vincent Browne – who wrote a blurb to the book in which he said: “The insight into the madness, the horror and futility of the IRA's shambolic border campaign is what makes this book well worth reading.'”

Mr Ryan described the book as an ‘honest’ account of his involvement in the IRA as a foot soldier who “identified fully with the leaders of the 1916 Rising.”

He sided with the Official IRA after it split with the Provisional IRA in 1969.

“I hope it will give people a better understanding of what happened, why it happened and accept the integrity of our motives. We were young, idealistic and committed to the armed struggle as the only possible way to achieve our aims,” he said at the launch.

“We attempted to achieve that struggle on a military level. There was never an intention to injure civilians,” he added.

But Newry MLA William Irwin of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) told The Belfast Telegraph: "This was clearly attempted murder and anyone responsible for that needs to be brought before the courts.

"I think it's important that those responsible for acts are held accountable.”

"If this particular man can boast about this in a book, then it's vital he's questioned and I would call on the PSNI to investigate these remarks."

Speaking to Independent.ie, Mr Ryan said he isn’t worried about any criminal charges.

“If I was worried about it I wouldn’t have published it,” he said.

He wouldn’t comment on the RUC officers who were injured, except to say: “There were no cheers. I didn’t go back and celebrate.”

He also strongly denied ‘boasting’ about the explosion in the book or otherwise.

“You don’t do things for cudos. You do it because they’re necessary. That’s all I can say,” he said.

A spokesman for the PSNI this evening said no decision has been made on whether any charges may be forthcoming.

Quoting Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gray, he  said: “As the book is yet to be published, it is not possible for us to make a comment at this time. However the PSNI will consider a response once we have had the opportunity to consider the book’s contents.”

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