Provisional IRA Derry Brigade

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Derry Brigade
Active December 1969–July 1997
Allegiance Provisional Irish Republican Army
Area of operations Derry
Martin McGuinness

The Derry Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) operated in Derry during the Troubles. It was one of the IRA's most active brigades, and an estimated 2% of the city's 50,000 Catholic population was imprisoned for IRA activities between 1971-86. 17% of all British military fatalities in the conflict were caused by the Brigade. Its killings of civilians was possibly proportionately the lowest of all IRA brigades in Northern Ireland.[1]


A small IRA battalion existed in Derry since the Troubles began, but it never had a steady amount of volunteers until Bloody Sunday. Following the killings of 14 unarmed protesters by the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, much of the city and surrounding areas were enraged. Hundreds of people applied to join the IRA and the South Derry Battalion became the Derry Brigade (sometimes referd to as the South Derry Brigade) while also absorbing battalions based in northeastern County Donegal and northern County Londonderry.

Notable events

Notable events involving the Derry Brigade include:

26 June 1970: three Brigade members and two young girls (the daughters of one of the volunteers) were killed when an IRA bomb prematurely exploded in a house in Creggan, Derry.[2]

18 December 1975: the Brigade killed two British soldiers, Cyril McDonald (aged 43) and Colin McInnes (aged 20), in a bomb attack, Bank Place, near Guildhall Square, Derry. It was later established that the soldiers had been lured out of their sangar by children who offered them sweets. While the soldiers were distracted IRA volunteers lowered a bomb onto the roof of their sangar which exploded a few minutes later.

1 April 1982: two undercover British soldiers (Michael Burbridge and Michael Ward) were killed in an IRA sniper ambush shortly after leaving Rosemount British Army/Royal Ulster Constabulary base, Derry, traveling in a civilian-type British Army van.[3]

28 August 1986: Mervyn Bell, a civilian contractor to the British Army, was shot dead by the IRA while sitting in stationary car outside his father's workplace, council depot, Strand Road, Derry. The IRA rejected claims that the killing was sectarian, stating: "The man's religion is of no interest to us. Despite previous warnings he continued to work for the UDR, and that was the reason he was targeted." [4]

8 March 1989: two British soldiers were killed and six others badly wounded when their vehicle struck a massive IRA landmine on the Buncrana Road in Derry. The second vehicle in the patrol was completely destroyed.[5]

28 January 1990: a civilian (Charles Love) was killed when he was hit by debris when an IRA bomb exploded on Derry's walls during a march to commemorate Bloody Sunday. The security forces described his death as a "freak accident" as he was a quarter of a mile from the bomb, which was targeting security forces. Love was a member of Republican Youth. He is commemorated at a Sinn Féin-organised march in his home town of Strabane each year.[6]

24 October 1990: in a proxy bomb attack, the IRA forced a British Army civilian employee (Patrick Gillespie), by holding his family hostage, to deliver a bomb to a British Army checkpoint at Buncrana Road, Coshquin,County Londonderry (on the County Donegal border). The bomb detonated, killing Gillespie and six British soldiers. As the bomb exploded an IRA unit opened fire from across the border. Over 25 houses in a nearby estate were damaged by the bomb.[7] (See also 1990 proxy bombs)

29 June 1991: High ranking Ulster Defence Association commander Cecil McKnight was shot dead by the Brigade in the Waterside area of Derry City. The IRA claimed he had been involved in the assassination of Sinn Féin councillor Eddie Fullerton. The IRA unit were pursued by the RUC after the shooting but escaped after they opened fire on an RUC patrol car.[8]