Former IRA leader admits detonating landmine on two soldiers 60 years ago
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Former IRA leader admits detonating landmine on two soldiers 60 years ago

A FORMER IRA leader has revealed his part in the 1959 Ballsmills ambush which left two members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary seriously injured.

Dubliner Michael Ryan details how he and his fellow IRA members set up a landmine at the ambush site.

He claims he personally detonated the mine.

The former IRA Director of Operations' made the revelations in his newly-released book My Life in the IRA, the first account by an IRA member who was active during the border campaign, which took place between 1956 and 1962.

“As it reached my marker I touched the open end of the flex to the battery; I did this by touch, as I had to keep my eyes glued on my marker. The mine exploded," he said.

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“The jeep was hit all right because I could see some parts of it fly into the air and land a few yards away. We were showered with clay and debris.

"The three of us immediately opened fire on the jeep, or where we thought it was lying.

"The two of us with Thompsons each fired off our 20-round magazine in a few bursts, while the rifleman got off a couple of rounds.

“The entire operation only took about 30 seconds. But, as the armored car was now half a minute away, we couldn’t afford to move in on the jeep to finish off the survivors.

"I thought, even as we were firing, that our bullets were wasted because it seemed that none of the occupants of the jeep could have survived the blast.”

Ryan also wrote that after escaping across the border, he was disappointed that the operation had not been as successful as he had hoped.

The two occupants of the jeep were 28-year-old Constable William Johnston and 21-year-old Special Constable Trevor Boyle.

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Boyle was also in the reserve police force known as the ‘B’ Specials.

The PSNI are now being called on to open an investigation into the claims made by the 81-year-old.

DUP MLA William Irwin told the Belfast Telegraph that Ryan should be brought before the courts.

"This was clearly attempted murder and anyone responsible for that needs to be brought before the courts," the Newry MLA said. "I think it's important that those responsible for acts are held accountable.

"He seems to suggest that he's sorry someone wasn't killed. I think it's an indictment of this man and I believe he needs to be arrested and questioned about these offenses.

"He's admitting to crimes that are very serious and admitting to the fact that he's sorry it didn't have a different outcome and he wasn't successful with his murder bid.

"Those officers suffered serious injuries which they had to live with for the rest of their lives.

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"If this particular man can boast about this in a book, then it's vital he's questioned and I would call on the PSNI to investigate these remarks."

The book, edited by former Irish Times journalist Padraig Yeates, will be launched by Mercier Press in Dublin on Thursday, January 11.

Elsewhere in the book, Ryan claimed that he was told a consignment of weaponry, including bazookas and rockets, were being sent by Irish supporters in the USA.

But, when they arrived, they were duds.

It also charts his internment in the Curragh camp in Kildare in 1958, and 1961, as well as his subsequent work as an insurance salesman with New Ireland Assurance.

The PSNI have said that they would consider a response to the nature of the material after the books release and its contents had been fully made available to the public.