May 5, 1881: Fenians bomb Chester Barracks in the UK

On May 5, 1881 Fenians exploded a bomb at the Chester Barracks in Chester, England: there were no casualties

CHESTER BARRACKS, UK – Some terrorist groups carry out violence in many lands at the same time.

As we continue to obsess about terrorism in this ‘post-9/11‘ world it is clear that not all terrorists, nor terrorist groups, are cut from the same cloth. Some organisations, and yes they do merit the description as ‘organisations‘, are well-run, well-financed and capable of carrying out attacks in many places over a span of years. In this category I’d put Al Qaeda (AQ), Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram, all of which happen to be Islamist terrorists.

Then there are those which are anything but successful. They have a poor track record, have done next to nothing (that could change of course) and, at least to my mind, do not really qualify as terrorist groups. The Proud Boys comes to mind in this regard.

This extends to individual wannabes as well. We have seen those who seek to carry off spectacular acts of terrorism only to fail equally as spectacularly. Putting a bomb in your shoe (Richard Reid) or, gulp!, your underwear (Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab) ain’t a smart move.

He really put his foot into it this time! (Photo: David on flickr, CC BY 2.0)

What if I told you that a terrorist outfit had some degree of success spanning continents in mid- to late 19th century?

I am referring here to the Fenians, a bunch of Irish nationalists which were essentially the precursors to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). They were active in Canada, the US and the UK for decades beginning in the 1960s. I covered their terrorist campaign in Canada in my latest book The Peaceable Kingdom.

On this day in 1881

Fenians exploded a bomb at the Chester Barracks in Chester, England: there were no casualties. This attack was one of a series that spanned more than a decade. It happened to coincide with recent developments in explosives.

The problem of dealing with Fenian conspiracies may thus be stated; Fenians plot everywhere in the United States, on the continent and in the United Kingdom and they endeavour to carry out these plots in different parts of the United Kingdom.

UK Home Office memo

That the Fenians were so active for so long in so many locales says something about their dedication to an independent Ireland. They may not have killed many people, nor achieved their goal, but they did lay the groundwork for what eventually did transpire as the Republic of Ireland.

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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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