30 year papers reveal political row over Aghalane Bridge
Published: 28 Dec 2012 16:45
Whoever detonated the bomb precipitated the closure of the main Enniskillen to Dublin road just south of Derrylin and severed the links between communities in Fermanagh and Cavan.
They also ignited a political row between unionists and nationalists over whether or not it should be re-opened, Government papers released after 30 years reveal.
According to the documents held in the Public Records Office in Belfast the British security forces did not want the bridge rebuilt.
At the time Fermanagh was being ravaged by bloodshed and violence. In the weeks prior to the bridge being blown up members of the UDR and IRA engaged in a gun battle near Newtownbutler, a shop was destroyed in an explosion at Tullyhommon, a 700 pound bomb was defused in Rosslea and soldiers were injured in a blast at Oakfield, Magharveely. Around that time 5,000 people attended the funeral of Reserve Constable Joseph Calvin, from Derrin Road, Enniskillen, killed when a bomb went off under his car in the town's Quay Lane Car Park. Another police officer, Constable Robert Keys, a father of six from Bannaghmore, between Kesh and Pettigo, died in a rocket attack on Belleek Police Station.
In the midst of the violence Aghalane Bridge was blown up, prompting a letter from the local nationalist MP, John Carron, to Lord Windlesham, Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, calling for it to be re-opened.
Mr. Carron said the cross-border bridge served the whole western side of Northern Ireland and its closure would hit "the only source of employment in the area, mainly local sand and gravel companies which traded with the Republic".
In a note for the Minister on December 12, 1972, a Government official referred to the "political aspect" of the issue.
"The protestant community of this area are in constant fear of raiders from across the Border," he said.
"They have already suffered loss of life and damage to property," he added.
"Irrespective of who destroyed the bridge, they will view its restoration with suspicion," the official stated.
The issue was raised by Lord Kilbracken, an Irish peer in the House of Lords and the road was re-opened when a temporary bridge was erected from the County Cavan side.
However, in December 1972 a bomb exploded in nearby Belturbet in County Cavan, killing two teenagers, Geraldine O'Reilly and Patrick Stanley.
Captain John Brooke, unionist Chief Whip and Chairman of Fermanagh County Council blamed Lord Kilbracken and Cavan County Council for the deaths.
He alleged that they had "re-opened the bridge", thereby giving "easy access for terrorists".
On December 27, 1972, Lieutenant-Colonel A. T. P. Millen noted that "the destruction" of Aghalane Bridge "suits us well in that it closes a route frequently used by Republic-based terrorists".
The temporary bridge was subsequently blown up, closing the main Enniskillen to Dublin road for over a quarter of a century.
It was not until 1999 that a new bridge across the Woodford River re-opened the route.
Get more stories from our Roundup section
15 Apr 2014 22:00
A 35-year-old man has been fined £425 and banned from driving for three months after he took his wife’s car without her permission.
15 Apr 2014 19:00
Police in Fermanagh and other parts of F District are asking everyone who uses the roads to promote safety messages through social media over the next three Bank Holiday Mondays.
15 Apr 2014 15:00 • Editorial Department
In Fermanagh I don’t think there is anything that causes so much anger and frustration than the weather; specifically the abundance of rain.
15 Apr 2014 13:00
A mentally ill man who bludgeoned his elderly uncle over the head with a hammer until he thought he was dead has been committed to hospital indefinitely.
15 Apr 2014 11:30
Enjoying your chocolate egg but don't know what to do with the packaging?
15 Apr 2014 09:00
POLICE are dealing with a security alert in Fintona, County Tyrone, after an incident in the early hours of this morning (Tuesday).
14 Apr 2014 22:00
A 44-year-old businessman has been fined £500 for failing to knock down a block of apartments that pose a danger to drivers.
14 Apr 2014 19:00
Fermanagh District Council is encouraging householders to have their heating appliances, which have been well used over the winter, serviced and chimneys cleaned to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.
14 Apr 2014 16:00
A 28-year-old man involved in a fight outside a pub claimed remarks had been made about his former partner.
14 Apr 2014 13:00 • Meadhbh Monahan
Fermanagh tourism providers have to “work harder” because the county is “not the first choice destination.”
14 Apr 2014 11:00 • Brian Donaldson
The mother of a soldier serving in the First World War, had to resort to writing for financial help after her son died as result of the appalling conditions right at the end of the War in November 1918.
14 Apr 2014 09:30 • Lily Dane
An inspirational young Fermanagh woman, Rachel Wilson (formerly Byers) was only married a matter of months when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
14 Apr 2014 08:21
A 28-year-old single mother who betrayed the trust of her employer of over 11 years by stealing from his shop has been given 200 hours of community service.
13 Apr 2014 16:00 • Editorial Department
When the competition hotted up at the 37th Annual Fermanagh Bridge Congress over the weekend, bridge playing talents from the county demonstrated they ‘can hold their own.’
13 Apr 2014 14:00 • Editorial Department
THE Watermill Lodge Restaurant, Lisnaskea scooped an awards treble at the Ulster Regional Finals of the Irish Restaurant Awards this week.
13 Apr 2014 12:30 • Editorial Department
Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal was this year supported by over 12 local primary schools in the Clogher and Fermanagh areas.
13 Apr 2014 10:00 • Julie Kenwell
AN important part of Fivemiletown’s past has secured a place in the village’s future thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
12 Apr 2014 18:30 • Editorial Department
The new club season rolls into action this weekend and the 2014 league will have added significance for clubs with placings for the 2015 Championships based on how sides perform in the league this season.
12 Apr 2014 18:30 • Editorial Department
Results will matter right from the outset in SFL Division Two this year as changes in the structures in the division will see the league split at the midway stage.