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SAS ambush brother beaten up by Provos

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday World)

The brother of the IRA leader killed in the SAS ambush at Loughgall has been beaten up by a Provo gang in Co Monaghan.

Today (Sunday), republicans will gather to commemorate the anniversary of Jim Lynagh and his seven-man IRA unit who were shot dead by the SAS in the Tyrone village exactly 24 years ago.

But last weekend, the dead IRA commander's brother Colm – himself an ex-republican prisoner – was threatened and set upon by six Provos outside a bar in Clones. He was punched several times and ordered to stop criticising Sinn Féin leaders.

"They called me a traitor for speaking out against the party line and saying the Provisionals are no longer republicans. I was attacked by men in their 20s and 30s – ceasefire soldiers not fit to tie Jim's boots," said Colm Lynagh.

"I'm worried they'll come after me again but neither myself nor my family will be intimidated. Sinn Féin has abandoned the cause of Irish freedom and we wont be silenced. Being Jim's brother gives my views more credibility and makes me more of a target."

Lynagh claimed his attackers were "henchmen" from across the border in Roslea, Co Fermanagh, who are under the orders of a well-known, senior IRA commander.

Jim Lynagh (31) of the East Tyrone Brigade was one of the IRA's most feared and 'successful' commanders. The security forces blamed him over two dozen killings. Police nicknamed him 'the executioner' and said he was one of the hardest men they ever interrogated.

A Sinn Féin councillor in Monaghan, Lynagh was extremely left-wing. He didn't trust the Army Council and was drawing up plans with fellow IRA members to work independently as flying columns, blowing up police stations across Tyrone and creating "no go zones" for the British.

In May 1987, the eight-man IRA team walked into an SAS ambush as they mounted a bomb and gun attack on Loughgall RUC station. The SAS hit them with over 600 bullets.

Lynagh, Padraig McKearney, Patrick Kelly, Declan Arthurs, Seamus Donnelly, Eugene Kelly, Gerry O'Callaghan and Tony Gormley all died from head wounds. Innocent civilian, Anthony Hughes, was also shot dead.

It was the IRA's biggest loss of life in the conflict. There are suspicions that Lynagh and the others were set up by some Provisional leaders who wanted rid of them because of their militancy.

Today, Colm Lynagh will address a commemoration for the Loughgall IRA men at a monument on the hillside at Drumferrer on the Tyrone-Monaghan border. Breandan MacCionnaith of Eirigi will deliver the main oration.

Lynagh (46) said: "The people who assaulted me might claim to be IRA but they are blackshirts and fascists who want to shut up anyone in the republican community who speaks out against them.

"I campaigned for two independent republican candidates in the council elections and they didn't like that. They stalked me around Clones, telling people they were going to shut me up for good.

"Three times I left where I was and went elsewhere but they kept following me. I was talking to a friend's daughter on the street when they came over. I was punched several times. I didn't respond to my attackers in any way."

Lynagh, who served eight years in Portlaoise as an IRA prisoner and was a prominent Sinn Féin member until 2004 said he was "deeply shaken" by the incident.

He was previously involved in the campaign for justice for Paul Quinn (21) from South Armagh. Quinn was beaten to death by up to eight Provos with iron bars and nail-studded cudgels in a Co Monaghan farmhouse in 2007.

"Our family know what the Provos are capable of but we will continue to speak out. We're very disillusioned with Sinn Féin. They've signed up to a British process and support right-wing policies at Stormont," Colm Lynagh said.

Gerry Adams delivered the oration at Jim Lynagh's funeral. At that time, Martin McGuiness was already engaged in secret meetings with MI6 agent Michael Oakley.

Yet Adams told mourners at the graveside: "Anyone who does business with the British, the SDLP or the Free State establishment are fools as they've all sold out on the Irish people."

May 16, 2011

This article appeared in the May 15, 2011 edition of the Sunday World.

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