The device was not very large: a metal box the size of a paperback, with what looked like a coffee flask with screw cap, attached to it with yellow and green tape.
The art of mass slaughtering has been refined since the days when the IRA would destroy men, women and children with bombs weighing hundreds of pounds.
It must have been all too easy for prospective assassins to enter the industrial area 25 miles south of Belfast and then use magnets to repair their murderous equipment under a refrigerated truck trailer.
To circumvent the security barrier at the entrance, they could have just sneaked along the back of the compound – as I saw this week for myself.
Last weekend, Sinn Fein – a party that was despised by decent Irish people for decades as a mouthpiece for the IRA – triumphed for the first time in regular elections over regular rivals. Leader Mary Lou McDonald is pictured above with supporters
If everything had gone according to plan, the consequences would have been almost unthinkable.
The booby-traps truck had to be taken by passenger ferries from Belfast to the Scottish port of Stranraer, then England; and the bomb was timed to explode on January 31 and bring massacre to Brexit Day celebrations.
Exploded on the ship, it would certainly have killed or maimed passengers and crew. If it had reached Great Britain, motorists and pedestrians would have taken full advantage of the explosion.
The “Continuity IRA” – so-called dissident terrorists who shattered from the Forerunners and refused to accept the Ulster peace process – would have roasted what is known in their horrible lexicon as a “spectacular”; the first Republican bomb that was triggered on the mainland for 19 years.
Fortunately all this did not happen. The device appears to be defective and when Brexit Day passed the frustrated gang – claiming to raise their objection to the “sea border” between Ireland and Great Britain – the police were informed of the location, making it harmless .
This horrific plot – which would have caused untold political damage – is now overshadowed by a more memorable event in Ireland: a political revolution.
The device was not very large: a metal box the size of a paperback, with what looked like a coffee flask with screw cap, attached to it with yellow and green tape. The art of mass slaughtering has been refined since the days when the IRA would blow men, women and children to smithere with bombs weighing hundreds of pounds
Last weekend, Sinn Fein – a celebration celebrated by decent Irish people for decades as the mouthpiece for the IRA – prevailed for the first time in general elections over regular rivals.
By persuading – some would say seagulls – the electorate’s swaths, and in particular young people without remembrance of the problems, by believing that it is now a “progressive” left-wing party with the antidote to the social problems of Ireland, it won 24 percent of the vote, the largest share.
Just a few days before this dramatic victory in the South, Gerry Kelly, a member of the Sinn Fein of the Northern Irish assembly in Stormont, had tried to distance the party from its violent past by denouncing the bombing of the Brexit Day been “catastrophic” according to the consequences.
This was the same Mr. Kelly, who was a teenage terrorist in 1973 in the IRA cell that seceded in London and placed bombs outside the Old Bailey and the Department of Agriculture, killing one person and injuring 200.
The same Mr. Kelly, who was imprisoned for life, escaped from the Maze Prison and fled to the Netherlands, where he was recaptured in possession of 14 guns, 100,000 rounds of ammunition and bomb-making explosives.
While Sinn Fein starts negotiations with other Irish minority parties in an attempt to form a coalition government, this raises several pressing questions.
Have the terrorists ever left? What would happen if Sinn Fein – and their shadowy IRA puppet players – demanded a united Ireland, the only cause they really care about?
Are we going back to the days of violence on both sides of the Irish Sea?
This week, looking for answers, I traveled from Belfast through the one-off “bandit land” of Armagh and across the border to Dublin, whose bars were flooded with jubilant republicans.
But even before my trip we had a nerve-racking look at what awaits if and when Sinn Fein gets hold of the Leinster House, the Irish Parliament in Dublin.
Just a few days before this dramatic victory in the South, Gerry Kelly, a member of the Sinn Fein of the Northern Irish assembly in Stormont, had tried to distance the party from its violent past by denouncing the bombing of the Brexit Day been “catastrophic” according to the consequences
It came in the early hours of last Sunday when the seismic election results came in. In Dublin North-West, victor Dessie Ellis joined supporters in a raw chorus of the rebel song, “Come Out Ye Black And Tans” – a pejorative reference to agents recruited by the British after the First World War to join the Irish independence movement. to suppress. It includes the chorus: “Tell them how the IRA made you run away like hell.”
Mr Ellis, 68, was detained for 10 years on explosives during the 1980s, and it was said that released reports from the British intelligence service were “forensically” associated with about 50 murders during the problems.
Another triumphant “Shinner” candidate, David Cullinane, paid homage to a local IRA volunteer on a hunger strike in his victory speech. He ended it by calling “Up the Ra!” Snake for the Republican army.
Then there was Pauline Tully, a winner in the Cavan-Monaghan constituency. Once married to the infamous IRA assassin Pearse McAuley – who murdered a police officer during a robbery and was detained again in 2015 for stabbing Tully for their two children – Ms. Tully would have forwarded a pro-IRA song to the speakers of her campaign bus .
Although she claims that a video claims that this was “perhaps fake,” all of these tribal Republican scenes have been captured on camera.
As for the leader of Sinn Fein, Mary Lou McDonald, 50, who comes from a middle-class background, is educated in a private school for Roman Catholic girls and has a master’s degree, she has refused to condemn these highly provocative gestures.
Why is Gerry Adams’s successor so reluctant to speak out? According to seasoned Ireland hands, it is because she is walking in a cord.
On the one hand are the ordinary people whose support they need – people whose main concerns are the unaffordable rents and house prices of Ireland, closed schools, hospitals, police stations and bus routes, rising crime and the recent rise in retirement age from 65 to 68.
Have the terrorists ever left? What would happen if Sinn Fein – and their shadowy IRA puppet players – demanded a united Ireland, the only cause they really care about? IRA masked provisional provisions are shown that guide the coffin at the funeral of hunger striker Bobby Sands
These people don’t care about a united Ireland. Many have never even gone north and regard it as an insular, far away country.
However, it must also admit to those on the other side: the secret group of men (because they are invariably male) who fought, and often killed, in the name of civil rights and Irish unity.
They decide what the elected politicians of Sinn Fein should say and do. They are the ruthless Army Council of the IRA.
The party wants us to believe that this clique no longer exists. They claim that internal decisions are made by the Ard Chomhairle, an administrative body like that of any other political party.
But there are indications that this is not true. As recently as last November, Northern Ireland police told the Belfast “News Letter” that the Army Council is still determining the party’s “over-arching” strategy.
In the towns and villages where the IRA once waged a brutal war against the British army, and where the vicious criminal gangs they’ve produced still make rackets to make money, people don’t need the police to tell them who the perch. They know it from their own terrifying experiences.
Take Cullyhanna, a hamlet of 300 people, just north of the border, in the hills of South Armagh.
There I met Stephen Quinn (71) and his wife Breege (68) in an impeccably maintained bungalow last week reluctantly in the eyes of a storm, after their horrific story turned into an election debate.
It dates from October 2007, when their son, Paul, 21, a truck driver and a handyman, whom they describe as a “popular, good-natured boy, full of devilment,” quarreled with the son of the local IRA.
One Saturday he received a phone call asking him to go to a local farm and fatten out the shed – the kind of cash-in-hand job he rarely refused.
When he arrived, a dozen Provo villains were waiting for him. Listening to Mr. and Mrs. Quinn describing what happened to their son was an experience that will haunt me forever.
“They hit him with iron bars and clubs with nails to pierce his flesh,” said Mr. Quinn, his wife weeping.
It dates from October 2007, when their son, Paul, 21, a truck driver and a handyman, whom they describe as a “popular, good-natured kid, full of devilment,” quarreled with the son of the local IRA chief
“They have literally broken every important bone in his body under his neck. They beat his teeth together and pulled a piece off his ear. “
Paul’s pathetic squeaks were seen by a friend who was also taken to the shed and had broken his leg because he refused to make the call that attracted him. He later managed to call Paul’s girlfriend, and it was she who found him.
He was taken to the hospital and lived for a few hours. But when the doctor came to his parents, he could only say: “Sorry. There was nothing left to solve. “
“Usually when they bury someone, they fold their arms over their chest, but they couldn’t do that to Paul, so they put them by his side,” Mr. Quinn told me.
“We couldn’t let a rosary run through his broken fingers. But they succeeded in embalming him and putting on make-up, so we could have an open box, only with gauze over his face so that no one could touch it. “
Their adored boy was dead, but the torture of the Quinn had just begun.
Not long after the murder, local Sinn Fein MP Connor Murphy, a former member of the IRA, told the BBC that Paul had been involved in “crime,” as if it somehow justified the terrible crime.
He added that he had spoken directly with the IRA and was satisfied that they had not carried out the attack. For the Quinns, this damnation made their loss so much more painful.
Nevertheless, Murphy, now finance minister at Stormont, refused to withdraw his lie for 13 years. He also did not tell the police about the identity of the Provo boss with whom he consulted.
Murphy, 56, joined the IRA as a teenager and was sentenced to five years in prison for membership and possession of explosives before becoming a Sinn Fein activist.
In 2005, he became the first Irish republican to address the Tory party conference, but caused offense by refusing to regret the hotel bomb in Brighton, intended to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
After Paul was murdered, Mr. Murphy’s director, provided by Sinn Fein, was one of the 20 arrested suspects, but he was released without charge.
This week, after days of damaging media coverage of this affair and the embarrassment of Ms. McDonald about the issue in a debate among television leaders, Murphy finally offered the Quinns an unfortunate apology.
However, they will only accept it if he says that Paul was innocent. The couple is not interested in politics, but when it comes to the suitability of Sinn Fein for the government, Breege looks at me in surprise.
“Why would you ask me that?” She breathes. “I would not vote for a party that was involved in killing and beating people. The young people who voted for them should be reminded of what they really are and the things they did. “
A woman who knows exactly what they are and what they did is Mairia Cahill, a second cousin of former IRA chief of staff, Joe Cahill.
In the mid-nineties, when she was a 16-year-old member of the youth wing of Sinn Fein, she says she was systematically raped by an older IRA man.
Her moving case was highlighted in an award-winning BBC documentary and even discussed in parliament; and although criminal proceedings against her attacker collapsed, she abandoned her anonymity so that the shocking facts would be heard.
Mrs. Cahill, now 39 and a writer, politician, and critic of the extreme Republican movement, told me how IRA bosses in Belfast brought her through a terrible ordeal after telling them about the rape. Acting as police, judge and jury, they spent months investigating her complaint.
Take Cullyhanna, a hamlet of 300 people, just north of the border, in the hills of South Armagh. There I met Stephen Quinn, 71, and his wife Breege, 68, in an immaculately maintained bungalow last week, reluctantly in the eyes of a storm, after their horrific story turned into an election debate.
During this travesty, she was repeatedly interrogated and forced to confront her attacker in a bizarre form of trial.
When the IRA found her allegations unproven, she was warned never to talk about the matter again. Her abuser received money and a car and was arrested to England. He now lives in Croydon.
Who were the controlling men who chaired this disturbing case? Mrs. Cahill identifies some of me as challenging.
Among them were some of the most cordial suppliers of terror of the Provos. Men like Padraic Wilson, exposed as the boss of the Iraqi Civil Administration Unit of Belfast, who covered everyone with knees, tarred and feathered or shot dead who stepped out of order in the 1980s.
Wilson was imprisoned for 24 years for possession of bombs in 1991. Today, she says many of them are still members of the Army Council and dictate policies to elected politicians from Sinn Fein, North and South. These characters could soon run the Irish government.
It is a hair-raising prospect. Equally disturbing is the indifference that fans of Sinn Fein feel when the dark side of the party is mentioned.
For the two middle-aged female servers in a cafe in Castleblayney (where the Quinns store), the atrocities were “all in the past.”
They had voted for Sinn Fein because they were struggling with the minimum wage and angry parts of the local hospital had been closed.
As for a group of 16-year-old boys hanging out in the mall – because the city had so few youth facilities, they said – they were too young to vote last weekend, but would certainly support Sinn Fein in the next election.
Why? Especially because they had promised to build a new skating park.
When I asked them about the problems, the Brexit Day bomb and Paul Quinn, they stared openly at me.
It seems that the rise of the bomb and bullet festival is just beginning. We have to wait to see if Sinn Fein can understand the reins of power in Dublin.
And pondering what an Irish government controlled by IRA generals could mean for us in Britain.