30 year papers reveal political row over Aghalane Bridge

Published: 28 Dec 2012 16:45

No organisation claimed responsibility for blowing up Aghalane Bridge in November 1972 but it was widely believed to have been the work of loyalist terrorists.

The controversial Aghalane Bridge which opened in 1999.

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.

Jump to first paragraph.

Get more stories from our Roundup section

21 Apr 2014 15:00 • Meadhbh Monahan

Steering a safe path of expansion through the downturn

Liam Connolly Road Freight (LCRF) provides groupage services (i.e. from single pallet collections to full double-deck trailer collections) for over 300 customers throughout Ireland and the UK each day.

Social: Comments0 comments

21 Apr 2014 13:00 • Rodney Edwards

Irish President is latest to commend work of Enniskillen church leaders

THE work of Enniskillen’s two main church leaders, the Very Rev. Kenneth Hall and Monsignor Peter O’Reilly, has received a warm acknowledgement from yet another head of state.

Social: Comments0 comments

21 Apr 2014 09:00 • Editorial Department

Not against a community centre but not on ‘our doorstep’

“WE are not against a community centre, we just don’t want it on our doorstep.”

Social: Comments0 comments

20 Apr 2014 19:00

'We want to do it for the supporters' - Davy Black

Clogher Valley coach David Black has vowed to make up for their All Ireland Junior Cup Final defeat by winning the Ulster Towns’ Cup for their supporters when they take on Donaghadee at Ravenhill on Easter Monday.

Social:

20 Apr 2014 15:00 • Julie Kenwell

Family ‘sick of thought’ of third round of heart surgery for Alfie

THE family of Bellanaleck toddler, Alfie Keys are nervously looking ahead to this September.

Social: Comments0 comments

20 Apr 2014 13:00 • Editorial Department

Trust identifies ‘extreme risks’ that could kill patients

Extreme risks have been identified by the Western Trust which could “compromise client safety” or even lead to “injury or death of patients or staff”.

Social: Comments0 comments

20 Apr 2014 09:00 • Editorial Department

‘End of an era’ for Leslie and McCrea family

Tempo Primary’s long serving caretaker - whose family has a long connection with the Fermanagh school - was paid a warm tribute at the start of the school’s Easter Holidays.

Social: Comments0 comments

19 Apr 2014 21:00 • Brian Donaldson

First election nominations made at Townhall

The countdown to the first election for seats on the new Fermanagh and Omagh District Council on May 22 has begun with the first candidates nominating at Enniskillen Townhall this week.

Social: Comments0 comments

19 Apr 2014 17:10

Mallards gain another crucial point in safety battle

Ballinamallard took another step closer to safety as they claimed a share of the spoils at home to Ballymena today.

Social:

19 Apr 2014 15:00 • Meadhbh Monahan

Leading anti-fracker believes local protesters are on the right track

Founder of Frack Free Sussex and Britain and Ireland Frack Free, Vanessa Vine visited Enniskillen last Saturday to discuss the local anti-fracking campaign.

Social: Comments0 comments

19 Apr 2014 13:00 • Editorial Department

Road rage car chase for boxing champ who turned away from possible fight

A boxing champion shied away from a fight with a man over twice his age only to become embroiled in a road rage incident.

Social:

19 Apr 2014 11:00 • Editorial Department

Milk suppliers assured that Society is debt free

The forty-eight former Fivemiletown milk suppliers have been assured that Fivemiletown and Brookeborough Co-operative and Agricultural Dairy Society (the Society) is debt free and that they will “continue to be paid”.

Social: Comments0 comments

19 Apr 2014 09:00 • Rodney Edwards

Elliott votes against bill on powers for new Super Councils

ULSTER Unionist MLA Tom Elliott has joined his party colleagues in voting against the Local Government Bill, the legislation that sets out the powers of the new Super Councils. Mr. Elliott spoke of his concern around community planning ahead of the amalgamation which will see 26 Councils merge into 11, including the amalgamation of Fermanagh District Council and Omagh District Council

Social:

19 Apr 2014 08:30

Police name motorcyclist killed in Fivemiletown crash

Police can confirm that a male motorcyclist has died following a two vehicle road traffic collision on the Belfast Road in Fivemiletown last night, Friday 18 April.

Social:

18 Apr 2014 22:00 • Rodney Edwards

Orange audit: 93 per cent believe Catholics ‘suspicious’ of order

A MAJOR survey into the Orange Order in Fermanagh has found that 92.8 per cent of people who took part in the project believe Catholics are “suspicious” of the organisation.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 19:00

'We have a big eight days ahead of us' - Anderson

By 5pm on Saturday April 26 all the decisions will be made in the Danske Bank Premiership and Championship One. The destination of the title will be decided and who is going down or which teams are facing a play off will be known.

Social:

18 Apr 2014 17:00 • Rodney Edwards

Enterprise Minister disagrees with keeping Aventas Group all locally owned

ENTERPRISE Minister Arlene Foster says she cannot support the view of local political representatives, including her DUP colleague Maurice Morrow, that the Aventas Group in Derrylin must remain exclusively locally owned.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 15:00 • Editorial Department

Tweets of the Week - did you make it?

Charlie Lawson @charlie_lawson1 I’m reliably informed that my alter ego and constant companion is to return, so he is. Must contact The Home Secretary to confirm.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 13:00 • Editorial Department

Foster vows to take school merger to the Assembly

“I am not powerless, I will fight this,” declares Stormont Minister Arlene Foster as she reflects on the fall-out over the proposal by the Western Education and Library Board to amalgamate Portora Royal School with Collegiate Grammar School.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 11:00 • Lily Dane

Those were the days: Miss Derryclavin Selected

This image “Miss Derryclavin” Selected was featured in The Impartial Reporter on April 16, 1964.

Social: Comments0 comments