75 years of bombs and blunders

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The Independent Online
Attempts by the IRA to bomb themselves into peace talks - and for bombers to blow themselves up rather than the target - are nothing new, formerly secret Metropolitan Police papers released yesterday at the Public Record Office reveal.

In the summer of 1921, just as Michael Collins was planning his campaign to wrest independence from Britain, his active service units, whether officially sanctioned or freelance, were using more direct tactics to concentrate Prime Minister Lloyd-George's mind on the coming talks.

They torched the home of a Royal Irish Constabulary policeman in Tooting, south London, cut telephone wires along the rail lines to the West of England, shot and wounded a railway signalman and burnt his box, and set up a bomb factory with fatal consequences.

On 28 July 1921, a 21-year-old Irishman Michael McInerny, one of Collins's agents ordered, as today over to the mainland to apply pressure for a forthcoming political campaign, blew himself up at a garage in Greenwich, south--east London, which he had rented as a bomb-making factory. He died in hospital from his burns.

An Irishman giving the alias of James Edwards had rented the garage for 10 shillings a week paid in advance. McInerny, who posed as a mechanic, was one of his team.

In the debris of the garage, firemen found incendiary bombs, two revolvers, part of a Lewis gun and many rounds of ammunition. More importantly, in a burnt wallet, they found a complete formula for constructing incendiary bombs. The notes record: "When black powder is confined there is always a danger of explosion and if the box [drawn with a wick protruding from the top] is merely held in place by tacks there would be a tendency for the whole outfit to blow up."