South Armagh Republican Action Force
The South Armagh Republican Action Force was an alleged Irish republican paramilitary group that was active from 1975 to 1977 during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Its area of activity was mainly the southern part of County Armagh. According to writers such as Ed Moloney and Richard English, it was a covername used by some members of the Provisional IRA South Armagh Brigade. The journalist Jack Holland, however, alleged that the group was made up of members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). According to Malcolm Sutton's database at CAIN, it was responsible for 24 deaths during the conflict, all of whom were classified as civilians.
On 10 February 1975, the IRA and British government entered into a truce and restarted negotiations. The IRA agreed to halt attacks on the British security forces, and the security forces mostly ended its raids and searches. However, there were dissenters on both sides. Some Provisionals wanted no part of the truce, while British commanders resented being told to stop their operations against the IRA just when—they claimed—they had the Provisionals on the run. The security forces boosted their intelligence offensive during the truce and thoroughly infiltrated the IRA.
There was a rise in sectarian killings during the truce, which 'officially' lasted until early 1976. Loyalists, fearing they were about to be forsaken by the British government and forced into a united Ireland, increased their attacks on the Irish Catholic and nationalist community. Loyalists killed 120 Catholics in 1975, the vast majority civilians. They hoped to force the IRA to retaliate and thus hasten an end to the truce. Under orders not to engage the security forces, some IRA units concentrated on tackling the loyalists. The fall-off of regular operations had caused serious problems of internal discipline and some IRA members, with or without permission from higher up, engaged in tit-for-tat killings. INLA members, and current or former members of the Official IRA, were also allegedly involved.
On 1 September 1975, it claimed responsibility for a gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall near Newtownhamilton, County Armagh. The attack happened at about 10pm, when a group of Orangemen were holding a meeting inside. Two gunmen entered the hall and sprayed it with bullets while another stood outside and shot through a window. One of the Orangemen was an off-duty Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer. He returned fire with a pistol and believed he hit one of the attackers. Five of the Orangemen, all Protestant civilians, were killed while seven were wounded. The attackers also planted a 2 pounds (0.91 kg) bomb outside the hall but it did not explode. A caller to the BBC claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in retaliation for "the assassinations of fellow Catholics in Belfast". Shortly after, the Orange Order called for the creation of a lawful militia (or "Home Guard") to deal with republican paramilitaries.
On 5 January 1976, it claimed responsibility for the Kingsmill massacre. In that attack, its members stopped a minibus near Kingsmill in County Armagh and shot dead the ten Protestant men who were travelling in it. Four of the dead were Orangemen. Up to eleven gunmen took part in the massacre and were led by a man "with a pronounced English accent". The group claimed that the attack was in retaliation for the killing of six Catholics the night before and that there would be "no further action on our part" if loyalists stopped their attacks. He added that the group had no connection with the IRA.
In contrast, a 2011 Historical Enquiries Team investigation into the incident found that members of the Provisional IRA had carried out the attack despite the organisation being on ceasefire. It also found that the victims were targeted simply because of their religion.
Hugh Clarke killing
On 7 April 1977, it claimed responsibility for shooting dead Protestant man Hugh Clarke at Tullymacreeve near Forkill, County Armagh. The book Lost Lives says that the IRA shot Clarke. It adds: "the IRA claimed Hugh Clarke was involved in the killing of IRA member John Francis Green. On the night of the Green killing, he had been at the house where the IRA man's body was found".
- A Secret History of the IRA, Ed Moloney, 2002. (PB) ISBN 0-393-32502-4 (HB) ISBN 0-7139-9665-X p.320
- Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA, Richard English, 2005. ISBN 978-0-19-517753-4 p.171
- Malcolm Sutton's Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland – choose "organization" and "status" as the two variables
- Extracts from The Longest War: Northern Ireland and the IRA by Kevin J. Kelley. Zed Books Ltd, 1988. Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN)
- Taylor, Peter (1999). Loyalists. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. p.142
- Taylor, Peter. Brits: The War Against the IRA. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2001. p.182
- McKittrick, David. Lost Lives. Mainstream Publishing, 1999. p.572
- McKay, Susan. Northern Protestants: An unsettled people. Blackstaff Press, 2005. p.190
- CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict: 1975
- English, Richard. Armed Struggle: The history of the IRA. Pan McMillen, 2004. p.171
- 1976: Ten dead in Northern Ireland ambush. BBC News.
- "In Memory" – Armagh County Grand Orange Lodge website.
- "Blood in the Rain". The Belfast Telegraph. 5 January 2006. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- "BBC – 'Kingsmills families demand full inquiry into massacre'". BBC. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
- "Newsletter – Kingsmills Guns 'used 110 times'". Newsletter. 16 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
- "Newsletter – Kingsmills was "sectarian savagery"". Newsletter. 17 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
- Sutton Index of Deaths: 1977. Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN)
- McKittrick, David. Lost Lives. Mainstream Publishing, 1999. p.713