The Ulster Rebellion, 1966-72
By Chris Oakley
based on the series "It (Almost)Happened Here" by the same author
June 10th, 1966
Garda special action units raid a suspected FUA safe house near Dungarvan, turning up hundreds of pounds of explosives along with a highly detailed floor plan of the Shannon Historical Museum of the German Occupation; under questioning, one of the residents of the safe house confesses the explosives were to have been used in a bomb attack against the museum.
June 13th, 1966
Irish Air Corps jets bomb an FUA armory north of Lough Neagh, killing 18 and wounding 32.
June 14th, 1966
FUA guerrillas attack an Irish regular army recruiting station in Cork, killing nine and wounding eleven. That same day, a half-dozen further arrests are made in connection with the thwarted Shannon Historical Museum bombing plot.
June 18th, 1966
The chief masterminds of the Shannon museum bombing conspiracy are indicted on terrorism charges.
June 21st, 1966
In a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Russia, the Communist Party of Ireland denounces the FUA uprising and announces the formation of what it calls "people’s defense brigades" to fight the FUA insurgent forces.
June 23rd, 1966
FUA insurgents kill eight Irish regular army troops near the town of Larne.
June 24th, 1966
Opening arguments are heard in the Shannon museum bombing plot trial.
June 27th, 1966
Protestant militias attack an FUA training camp southeast of Belfast, with heavy casualties being incurred on both sides.
June 28th, 1966
In retaliation for the previous day’s training camp attack, FUA insurgents firebomb a Protestant church in Enniskillen.
July 1st, 1966
Irish regular army units raid an FUA supply depot in the seaside town of Portrush.
July 4th, 1966
The U.S. consulate in Belfast’s annual Independence Day party is disrupted by an FUA mortar attack; seven people are killed and at least ten others seriously injured. President Johnson condemns the attackers as "cowards" and pledges to increase military aid to the Lynch government. He also authorizes the FBI to dispatch a team of agents to Belfast to investigate a possible conspiracy to assassinate the U.S. consul general.
July 8th, 1966
Two Protestant deacons are gunned down in Armagh on the steps of their church; though the murders are initially blamed on Catholic extremists, Garda investigators quickly find evidence suggesting that the killings are actually the work of a suspected local FUA collaborator.
July 10th, 1966
FUA insurgents seize a half-dozen municipal buildings in the town of Kilkeel.
July 13th, 1966
The Irish regular army’s general staff orders the deployment of three battalions to Kilkeel to recapture the FUA-held buildings in that town.
July 14th, 1966
The municipal buildings in Kilkeel commandeered by FUA guerrillas four days earlier are retaken by Irish government forces after a bitter six-hour firefight in which both sides take massive losses in troops and equipment.
July 17th, 1966
The defendants in the Shannon museum bombing plot trial are found guilty on terrorism charges and sentenced to death by hanging.
July 19th, 1966
The Communist Party of Ireland national headquarters in Dublin is bombed by the FUA, killing seven and injuring thirteen.
July 22nd, 1966
A shipment of automatic weapons intended for Irish regular army units in Ulster is destroyed in a botched FUA hijacking attempt. All but one of the would-be hijackers are killed in this deadly fiasco; the lone surviving hijacker is later turned over to army intelligence officials for questioning.
July 24th, 1966
The head coach of Belfast’s Ulster Rugby professional rugby team announces his resignation amid charges that he has been secretly funneling a portion of his salary to the FUA to aid the group in buying weapons on the black market.
July 25th, 1966
Pro-FUA agitators incite a mutiny among Irish regular army troops stationed at the town of Downpatrick; two officers are hanged and a third shot before the mutiny is suppressed.
July 28th, 1966
The U.S. State Department begins quietly evacuating most of its remaining personnel from the U.S. consulate in Belfast.
July 30th, 1966
The FUA operatives who incited the Downpatrick mutiny five days earlier are arrested in Dublin while trying to buy tickets on a British Airways flight to London under assumed names.
August 2nd, 1966
Three Garda officers, two FUA partisans, and eleven civilians are killed in a fierce gun battle following a botched robbery attempt at Antrim’s Bank of Ireland branch.
August 3rd, 1966
FUA insurgents destroy an Irish regular army supply dump near the town of Ballymera.
August 5th, 1966
Communist volunteers in Belfast organize a new left-wing militia force, the People’s Brigade For The Defense Of Irish Unity.
August 7th, 1966
The Rev. Ian Paisley narrowly escapes death when an FUA loyalist crashes Paisley’s Sunday morning services and throws a grenade at his pulpit; the grenade turns out to be a dud.
August 10th, 1966
In their first major combat action, the People’s Brigade attack an FUA arms storage facility near the town of Giant’s Causeway.
August 12th, 1966
Irish regular army units are ambushed by FUA guerrillas near
August 13th, 1966
Dublin police arrest a suspected FUA sympathizer at the city’s oldest parochial school. The arrest prompts a nationwide inquiry into the possibility that other sympathizers may be hiding in the ranks of Ireland’s educational system.
August 17th, 1966
In response to the ambush of Irish regular forces at Cookstown four days earlier, government forces begin a three-prong thrust against FUA positions west of the town.
August 19th, 1966
Irish regular army units overrun a key FUA defensive position near Cookstown.
August 21st, 1966
Twenty Irish regular troops and nine FUA guerrillas are killed in a firefight at the town of Newtonards.
August 24th, 1966
Irish government forces overrun the last remaining FUA positions near Cookstown; to their alarm, however, they discover that many of the guerrillas previously occupying these positions have fled into the countryside.
August 27th, 1966
In a statement broadcast over the FUA’s official radio network Air Free Ulster, FUA general secretary Liam Delaney boasts his group has seized hundreds of pounds of ammunition from a half-dozen Irish regular army bases in northern Ireland and will soon use them in large-scale attacks on government facilities in Derry and Belfast.
August 28th, 1966
Prime Minister Lynch orders Irish regular army units dispatched to Belfast and Derry to guard against what is deemed an imminent FUA assault on both cities.
August 30th, 1966
The French and Swiss consulates in Belfast are temporarily shut down and evacuated; a dozen other foreign diplomatic facilities in the city will be closed during the next 24 hours.
August 31st, 1966
Twelve more foreign consulates in Belfast are temporarily closed down and their personnel evacuated to safer facilities elsewhere in Ireland; the skeleton staff at the city’s American consulate, unable to evacuate because of unexpected logistics problems, are busy barricading themselves behind the consulate compound walls.
September 2nd, 1966
Exactly seven months to the day after the Ulster Rebellion began, the FUA makes good on its threat to stage large-scale assaults on Irish government facilities in Belfast and Derry. At 12:30 in the afternoon an estimated 10,000 FUA insurgents attack a number of targets in Belfast including the city’s main Garda station, its Bank of Ireland branch, its army base, and its RTE transmission studios; another 8,000 fighters conduct similar attacks in Derry. At Belfast’s American consulate, two members of the consulate’s Marine guard detail are wounded in a firefight with FUA insurgent forces.
September 3rd, 1966
Determined to rescue the besieged U.S. diplomats at the Belfast consulate, President Lyndon Johnson convenes a special session of the National Security Council to devise an emergency extraction plan. Following this meeting, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara visits the Irish embassy in Washington for a private conference with the embassy’s military attaché.
September 5th, 1966
Derry’s city hall is seriously damaged in an FUA mortar attack.
September 7th, 1966
A detachment of US Navy SEALS, assisted by Irish government army special ops units, evacuate the U.S. Belfast consular staff amid heavy FUA gun and rocket fire; the diplomats are then driven by bus to the town of Lisnaskea before being flown via helicopter to Dublin.
The U.S. consulate in Belfast will remain closed until the spring of 1967.
September 10th, 1966
The FUA calls off its attack on Irish government facilities in Derry; after eight days’ fighting, more than 5500 of the 8000 FUA fighters originally committed to the attack are either dead or seriously wounded and another 200 have been captured by Irish regular army units. In Belfast, however, bitter fighting between FUA guerrillas and government troops continues unabated and shows sights of escalating as the opposing sides battle for control of Ulster’s capital city.
September 11th, 1966
Irish Air Corps jets bomb FUA positions along the northern edge of Belfast.
September 13th, 1966
After eleven days of the bloodiest fighting to be seen on Irish soil since the German invasion of southern Ireland during World War II, the FUA breaks off its attack on government facilities in Belfast. 7,257 of the 10,000 guerillas originally involved in the attack are dead or wounded; another 500 are listed by the Irish defense ministry as prisoners of war or missing. But although the FUA appears to have suffered a devastating setback in its fight for an independent socialist Ulster, nobody in the Lynch cabinet in Dublin is making the mistake of believing the war is over. And in fact, even as the FUA is licking its wounds the organization’s senior leadership is preparing to regroup for future attacks on the Dublin government.
September 17th, 1966
Closing arguments are heard in the Shannon museum bombing plot trial.
September 18th, 1966
Garda detectives find the body of a People’s Brigade recruiting agent near the town of Strabane. Police immediately suspect foul play, a suspicion confirmed when a friend of the deceased tells authorities the recruiter was part of a secret Brigade drive to lure disillusioned ex-FUA supporters over to the CPI.
September 21st, 1966
The jury in the Shannon museum bombing plot trial convicts the defendants on terrorism charges and sentences most of them to death by hanging; the rest are sent to prison for life(although a few will later have their sentences commuted).
September 24th, 1966
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover meets with President Johnson for a debriefing on the latest developments in Operation Finn MacCool.
September 26th, 1966
The U.S. and British embassies in Dublin are evacuated after an FUA bomb threat.
September 29th, 1966
An Irish Air Corps reconnaissance aircraft is shot down over Upper Lough Erne; the pilot barely manages to reach government-controlled territory alive after bailing out of his plane.
September 30th, 1966
Prime Minister Lynch orders the Irish regular army to sweep the Upper Lough Erne region for FUA guerrillas.
October 1st, 1966
Irish regular army troops commence sweeping the countryside around Upper Lough Erne for suspected FUA insurgents.
October 4th, 1966
FUA rebels ambush government forces near the northwestern edge of Lower Lough Erne; the resulting firefight will last about thirty-six hours and witness the Irish regular army suffering its fifty thousandth combat casualty since the Ulster Rebellion began.
October 7th, 1966
Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson offers to mediate cease-fire negotiations between the Lynch government in Dublin and the FUA.
October 8th, 1966
The Irish regular army’s chief of staff issues a memo to defense ministry headquarters in Dublin recommending that Prime Minister Lynch begin to activate the army’s reserve units at the earliest possible moment.
October 10th, 1966
FUA general secretary Liam Delaney rejects Pearson’s mediation offer, insisting the war will only end when the Dublin government grants the FUA’s demand for an independent Ulster.
To Be Continued