Friday, July 11, 2014

Pillar - a very close call

Liam Sutcliffe
Click image for a larger version

I have long had an interest in The Pillar, not least because I observed and photographed its dismantling after Nelson was blown off it in 1966. However, I never really took very much notice of who was supposed to have blown it up. The all encompassing term "The IRA" served the purpose very well.

It was only in very recent times, with the publication of Donal Fallon's new book, The Pillar, that I realised the IRA had condemned the explosion on the grounds that this sort of thing distracted attention from their main mission which was to change the system itself and not just its cosmetic aspects.

The only person so far to have come forward, in 2000, and claim/admit to having been involved is Liam Sutcliffe. He was at the launch of Donal's book the other evening and I went Googling for a caption to a photo I was blogging when I came across an hour long interview with him on Youtube, some ten minutes of which were devoted to the Pillar operation.

Believe you me, it was scary, really scary.

According to his account he took his three and a half year old child up the Pillar with him when he was helping out the man setting the explosives. As if that wasn't enough, the man setting the explosives was clearly an incompetent idiot who could easily have blown them all to kingdom come.

In the first place, the explosive device was a complete mess - miswired and with an unreliable type of battery. In the second place, the timing device (an alarm clock - very popular in those days) had been set to go off at four in the morning, except it was now around half two in the afternoon and this was a traditional twelve hour alarm clock.

When the trio came down from the Pillar, Liam and his son went to see "the funnies" in a picture house in Grafton St. The other man went back to report success in laying the charge to Joe Christle, the nominal boss of the operation. When Christle pointed out that the bomb would not go off at four in the morning, when presumably there would be nobody around, but at four in the afternoon, in about an hour's time when town would be packed, the man who laid the charge wanted to call the Special Branch to get in the army to dismantle it. Christle would hear none of it and decreed that it be left to go off as set.

As Liam later said, when he learned of this, "there would have been mayhem".

Fortunately, the bomb did not go off and it would be another week before the real explosion blew at half one in the morning. In the course of that week Liam had redesigned the package and it didn't let them down second time round.

Really scary.

Have a listen.

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