Forty Years On From Assassination of Lord Mountbatten, Fears Grow Of Resurgence of IRA Violence

© AP Photo / Peter MorrisonAn Irish Republic Army (IRA) mural on a wall in west Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006.
An Irish Republic Army (IRA) mural on a wall in west Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006.  - Sputnik International
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said he is willing to push through a no deal Brexit even if it means a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland. Sputnik looks at the assassination of one of a British VIP during The Troubles 40 years ago.

Viscount Mountbatten - a former Royal Navy admiral, the last Viceroy of India and the Queen’s second cousin - was killed by a Provisional IRA bomb while on holiday in the Republic of Ireland in August 1979.

He was the highest profile VIP victim of The Troubles, ranking above Airey Neave, a Conservative MP killed by an INLA bomb at the Houses of Parliament just five months earlier, and Ian Gow, another Tory MP assassinated in 1990.

Mountbatten, who was 79, enjoyed his summer holidays at Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore, County Sligo, even though he was aware they made him a target for the IRA.

On the morning of 27 August 1979 Mountbatten went out into Donegal Bay on a lobster boat, unaware an IRA Active Service Unit had crept onto the Shadow V the night before and planted a 50lb bomb.

The bomb exploded, killing Mountbatten, 83-year-old Dowager Lady Brabourne, her grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, who was 14, and a 15-year-old boy from Northern Ireland, Paul Maxwell. Nicholas’s twin brother, Timothy, and his parents were seriously injured.

The bombing, and especially the deaths of the two children, was an outrage which former IRA member Anthony McIntyre has described as a “war crime”.

But the IRA and its political wing, Sinn Fein, have never formally apologised for the bombing.

In 2015 Sinn Fein’s then leader Gerry Adams met Prince Charles, who was Mountbatten’s great-nephew, and shook his hand and they discussed The Troubles.

​Adams, who has always denied being a member of the IRA, said: “Both he and we expressed our regret for what happened from 1968 onwards. He and his family were hurt and suffered great loss by the actions of Irish republicans. I am very conscious of this and of the sad loss of the Maxwell family, whose son Paul was killed at Mullaghmore, and I thank all involved, including Charles, for their forbearance.”

On the same day as Mountbatten was assassinated, the IRA blew up a British Army bus carrying soldiers to reinforce a barracks in Northern Ireland. The explosion, at Warrenpoint, County Down, killed 18 soldiers - the worst single loss suffered by the British Army during The Troubles.

It was a heavy double blow for the government of Margaret Thatcher, who had only arrived in Downing Street three months earlier.

​Thatcher said: “By their actions today, the terrorists have added yet another infamous page to their catalogue of atrocity and cowardice. If reports of their involvement in the death of Lord Mountbatten prove true, they will earn the condemnation and contempt of people of goodwill everywhere. By the same token, the senseless murder of members of the security forces has reinforced the repugnance felt for those who seek to advance their political ends by these evil means. The government will spare no effort to ensure that those responsible for these and for all other acts of terrorism are brought to justice. The people of the United Kingdom will wage the war against terrorism with relentless determination until it is won.”

Thatcher’s belligerent remarks set the tone for her attitude towards Northern Ireland - a stubborn refusal to negotiate with terrorists.

Two years later IRA prisoners in the Maze prison in Northern Ireland staged a hunger strike. Thatcher refused to bow to their demands and Bobby Sands died, following by nine other IRA men.

Attitudes hardened on both sides and the violence continued for another decade before the IRA and Sinn Fein were brought to the table by a “dirty war” in which loyalist gunmen murdered innocent civilians who were related to IRA members, allegedly with collusion by the security forces.

​The Good Friday Agreement led to power-sharing but the working partnership between Sinn Fein and the main pro-British group, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), foundered in January 2017.

The political deadlock at Stormont has been exacerbated by fears of a return of a hard Irish border, a possible result of the no-deal Brexit preferred by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In recent months dissident Irish republicans have been stoking up violence in Northern Ireland. 

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