Attack on RUC Birches barracks

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Attack on The Birches RUC barracks
Part of The Troubles
Location The Birches, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Coordinates 54°27′45.02″N 7°1′50″W / 54.4625056°N 7.03056°W / 54.4625056; -7.03056Coordinates: 54°27′45.02″N 7°1′50″W / 54.4625056°N 7.03056°W / 54.4625056; -7.03056
Date 11 August 1986
Attack type
shooting, bombing
Weapons automatic rifles
explosive charge
Deaths 0
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Provisional IRA East Tyrone Brigade

On 11 August 1986 the East Tyrone Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) attacked the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) base at The Birches, County Armagh. The base was first raked with gunfire before being completely destroyed by a bomb, which was driven through the gate of the base in the bucket of a JCB driven IRA Volunteer Declan Arthurs.


In the wake of the 1981 Irish hunger strike in which ten Irish Republican prisoners died the IRA's East Tyrone brigade became one of the most active brigades during the Irish conflict in 1980s.[1] Two of the Brigades most successful and high-profile attacks occurred in Ballygawley, County Tyrone. The first in 1983 killed four members of the Ulster Defence Regiment in the Ballygawley Land Mine Attack.[2] The next attack in December 1985 the Attack on Ballygawley barracks destroyed the RUC base in Ballygawley and two RUC officers were killed and another three were injured during the attack.[3]


The attack on The Birches barracks would be similar to the attack on Ballygawley barracks in December 1985 but a JCB digger would be used by the bomb team to deliver the bomb to its target. The RUC station was umanned at the time and nobody was hurt in the IRA assault on the station.

The IRA stragey in East Tyrone developed by Jim Lynagh and Padraig McKearney was to first destroy British Army and RUC bases and threaten construction workers who did repairs for British bases forcing the enemy to give up ground to the IRA.

The IRA Active Service Unit (ASU) was split into two teams, a gun team led by the East Tyrone brigade commander Patrick Joseph Kelly first raked the base with gunfire using an array of automatic rifles including AR-18 Armalites, AK-47's and Heckler & Koch rifles, then a second team headed by Declan Arthurs loaded a 200lb bomb into the bucket of a digger which was then driven through the perimeter fence of the station were the fuse on the bomb was then lit and exploded destroying most of the barracks as the IRA team retreated to safety.[4]


After a number of high-profile successful operations the IRA unit was very confident.[citation needed]

The IRA units next major target was the RUC police station at Loughgall. This operation was a disaster for the IRA as the operation ended with the IRA unit being ambushed by the SAS and the whole IRA unit (eight Volunteers) along with a civilian were killed.[5] The funerals of the IRA Volunteers killed at Loughgall were some of the biggest IRA funeral since the deaths of the Hunger Strikers in 1981.

Despite the loss of one of the IRA's most experienced units the East Tyrone brigade was still a formidable military force. In August 1988 they killed eight British soldiers and injured 28 others in the Ballygawley bus bombing this was the most successful IRA attack against the British army since the Warrenpoint ambush nine years earlier. Two years later in 1990 the brigade managed to shoot down a British Army helicopter in the 1990 British Army Gazelle shootdown. [6][7]

Mural commemorating those killed in the Loughgall Ambush

News Report

  • "IRA attacks on RUC Stations Birches and Ballygawley 1986 - YouTube". Retrieved 3 March 2017. 


  • The Provos: The IRA and Sinn Féin - Peter Taylor
  • CAIN project


  1. ^ "CAIN: Events: Hunger Strike of 1981". Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  2. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  3. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  6. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  7. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
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