11-12th December 1956 Operation Harvest launched- the 1st Night.

11-12 December 1956, Operation Harvest launched- The first Night.

It was fifty nine years ago tonight that the Irish Republican Army launched ‘Operation Harvest’ (also known as the ‘Border Campaign’). The campaign began with a series of attacks on British military, administrative and communication properties across the northern state – eleven attacks in all, according to the Times of London (13 December 1956).

Pipeband-posterClick on poster to enlarge

The republican forces were made up, broadly, of four flying columns – modelled on the columns of the earlier campaign of 1919-23. This strategy was the brainchild of Sean Cronin, a journalist who had returned to Ireland from New York, subsequently rising through the ranks of the IRA. The three dominant personalities within the movement at this time were the “three Macs”; Paddy McLogan, Tony Magan and Tomás MacCurtain, son of the murdered Lord Mayor of Cork. Cronin’s strategy envisaged the use of columns made up predominantly of southern Volunteers, operating from across the border, launching strikes into the northern state.

Operation Harvest continued until early 1962, at which point its failure was conceded by the republican leadership. An original prohibition on the targeting of locally-raised security force members was seen as a central strategic flaw; proto-Ulsterisation being an effective deterrent to IRA attacks, perhaps. Although 1957 was quite an active year in terms of IRA operations, ultimately the campaign failed to live up to the expectations of its architects. In their statement calling for a cessation of the campaign, culpability for its shortcomings was placed by the republican leadership on the Irish people

In the three days following its launch, the campaign made the front headline of theIrish Press:

  1. Raid on Armagh Barracks (12 December 1956)
    Biggest Manhunt ever in the Six Counties (13 December 1956)
    Fermanagh RUC Attacked (14 December 1956)An excerpt from the Irish Times‘ reporting of the campaign’s launch stated:

Earlier to-day a raid was attempted on Gough Military Barracks, Armagh, and about the same time the B.B.C. relay transmission station in Derry was blown up, while the Quarter Sessions Courthouse at Magherafelt, Co. Derry, was set on fire by raiders.

At 2.30 o’clock a police spokesman stated that the raiders had been repulsed, but he added: “We have had a great deal of trouble within the past hour, and it is still going on.” Sirens whined all over the border areas of Northern Ireland at 2 a.m. to call out the Royal Ulster Special Constabulary. Police reinforcements were rushed to Armagh.

Irish Times, 12 December 1956.

Many of those who would later become senior leadership in various republican organisations were involved in this campaign. These include Seamus Costello (later INLA chief-of-staff), Sean Garland (later senior Official IRA member), Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Daithí Ó Conaill (two of the founders of the Provisional IRA). Cathal Goulding and Seán MacStiofáin, respective future chiefs-of-staff of the Official and Provisional IRA, were serving prison sentences in England during the campaign for their part in an arms raid during its build-up.

Operation Harvest continued until early 1962, at which point its failure was conceded by the republican leadership. An original prohibition on the targeting of locally-raised security force members was seen as a central strategic flaw; proto-Ulsterisation being an effective deterrent to IRA attacks, perhaps. Although 1957 was quite an active year in terms of IRA operations, ultimately the campaign failed to live up to the expectations of its architects. In their statement calling for a cessation of the campaign, culpability for its shortcomings was placed by the republican leadership on the Irish people:

The leadership of the Resistance Movement has ordered the termination of the Campaign of Resistance to British occupation launched on 12 December 1956. Instructions issued to Volunteers of the Active Service Units and of local Units in the occupied area have now been carried out (…) Foremost among the factors motivating this course of action has been the attitude of the general public whose minds have been deliberately distracted from the supreme issue facing the Irish people – the unity and freedom of Ireland.

Thank’s to Seamus Napoleon,Politics.ie .

Ser.5 No.17

Below is the link to (Cedar Lounge Revolution) Miscellaneous Notes by Jim Lane.https://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/irish-left-open-history-project-miscellaneous-notes-on-republicanism-and-socialism-in-cork-city-1954%E2%80%9369-by-jim-lane-cork-2005/


Jim Lane Part 1.-

Jim Lane Part 2.-

Jim Lane Part 3.-

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