March 17, 1976 | St Patrick’s Day bombing in Northern Ireland

The Hillcrest Bar bombing, also known as the Saint Patrick’s Day bombing, took place on 17 March 1976 in Dungannon. The Ulster Volunteer Force detonated a car bomb outside a pub crowded with people celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.

When we think of ‘The Troubles’ in Ireland we think IRA: they were not the only ones behind the violence.

DUNGANNON, NORTHERN IRELAND — There is nothing more Irish than St. Patrick’s Day. The celebration of Ireland’s patron saint is commemorated around the world in parades and pubs: the one in Dublin can attract as many as 500,000 people. In light of the COVID-19 virus this year’s version has been cancelled, which will be a heavy blow to the local economy.

As I have noted on many previous occasions, an event of this scale is a terrorist’s dream. Having that many revelers in a closed space having a good time and thus not overly worried about violent extremism presents a target-rich environment.

1976 Saint Patrick’s Day bombing

On this day in 1976 four people, including two boys, were killed and 12 others wounded in a bomb at the Hillcrest pub in the Northern Ireland town of Dungannon where a St.Patrick’s Day celebration was being marked.

Contrary to what you may have suspected, however, the attack was NOT the work of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). No, on this occasion the perpetrators were from the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary organisation formed to combat Irish nationalism. All in all the UVF was behind more than 500 murders.

Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the ‘justifications’

It is vital to remember that there are usually multiple sides to a conflict such as The Troubles. Similarly, groups feed off each other as they seek revenge for the acts of violence each commits.

Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the ‘justifications’ for the violence. The UVF may not have been as lethal as the IRA but it was responsible for acts of cruelty. We need to remain objective in our analysis of terrorism, as hard as that may be at times.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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