AP NEWS
Related topics

Rioting In Ireland After IRA Guerrillas Slain In Gibraltar

March 8, 1988

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Militant Roman Catholics rioted through the night and into the early morning over the killing of three unarmed Irish guerrillas in Gibraltar. The Irish government said it was ″gravely perturbed″ at the shootings.

Youths in Belfast pelted police with gasoline bombs and set ablaze several dozen automobiles in rioting that lasted into early today, police said. No injuries were reported.

It was one of the worst nights of violence in the British-ruled province since last summer, and was touched off by the shooting of two men and a woman Sunday in Britain’s fortress colony on Spain’s southern coast.

Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe said Monday that a ″dreadful terrorist act has been averted″ by the slayings.

″The three people killed were actively involved in the planning and attempted execution of that act,″ he told the House of Commons in London.

Police in Gibraltar said the three were believed to be involved in an Irish Republican Army plan to detonate a car bomb at the governor’s residence during a ceremonial changing of the guard today.

Fifty members of the Royal Anglian Regiment, just transferred from duty in Northern Ireland, took part in the ceremony which occurred without incident.

Security was heavy as Gibraltar police and British troops with dogs patrolled the fringes of a crowd of about 300 tourists and residents who watched the colorful ceremony in front of The Convent, official residence of Governor Sir Peter Terry.

The IRA, which is fighting a guerrilla war to drive the British from Northern Ireland, acknowledged that the three guerrillas were on a mission but accused the British government of needlessly killing them.

In Dublin, Prime Minister Charles Haughey’s government said it recognized the need for security forces ″to take all reasonable measures to combat terrorism.″

″The government is, however, gravely perturbed that three unarmed Irish people should have been shot dead ... when it appears from reports that they could have been arrested by the security forces,″ the government said.

Ireland is already embroiled in a series of disputes with Britain over security forces in Northern Ireland, including Britain’s unwillingness to prosecute police officers who allegedly carried out a shoot-to-kill policy in the province.

Howe said the soldiers opened fire after the guerrillas parked a Renault-5 with Spanish license plates near the governor’s residence and headed on foot for the Spanish border 800 yards away.

Howe said the three guerrillas ″made movements which led security personnel to believe their lives were in danger.″

Police searched Gibraltar and adjacent Spanish territory on Monday for another car believed connected with the three. The theory is the Renault-5 was reserving a space for a car bomb.

Howe said Spanish police tipped off the British after a fourth IRA guerrilla they were watching crossed into Gibraltar, apparently to carry out ″reconnaissance for an act of terrorism.″

The London newspaper the Daily Mail said Spanish police believe the fourth suspect may be Evelyn Glenholmes, who has been linked with several IRA attacks in past years. It quoted them as saying a women of her description was seen visiting the other three at an apartment in Malaga, two hours’ drive from Gibraltar.

Howe said a car for which the three slain guerrillas had keys was found parked on the Spanish side of the gate separating this 2.25-square-mile limestone rock from the Spanish mainland. He said it contained keys to a third car, three false passports and equipment including an alarm clock, insulating tape and wire that could be used to detonate a bomb.

Howe did not identify the British unit involved, but there was speculation they were from the elite Special Air Services Regiment, whose movements are secret. Witnesses said they wore jeans.

The outlawed IRA, in a statement from Belfast, identified the dead as: Mairead Farrell, 31, who had served 10 years jail for blowing up a hotel, Sean Savage, 24, and Daniel McCann, 30, both of whom have been arrested on explosive charges.

All three were from Catholic West Belfast, where the rioting broke out after Howe’s statement.

In Belfast, police fired plastic bullets to disperse gangs of youths who hurled gasoline bombs and set fire to 30 vehicles including buses, vans and trucks. Gunmen launched at least two sniper attacks on police and troops, police said.

The mainly Catholic IRA seeks to drive the British from Northern Ireland and unite the predominantly Protestant province with the overwhelmingly Catholic Irish Republic under socialist rule.

AP RADIO
Update hourly