Letter: In the dark at Heathrow as the IRA's mortars 'fail'

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The Independent Online
Sir: In a radio interview this morning (14 March) John Hume of the SDLP said that the IRA mortar bombs on Heathrow were not intended to detonate. The IRA was merely making the point that this is what they could do if 'we are going to continue with this activity'.

His opinion is based upon his observation that the mortars were fired 'on three different occasions'. This reasoning should not go unchallenged. The two fixed mortars were already in place, and the time set for firing when the first mobile mortar was fired. There was therefore no opportunity for the IRA to correct any technical failure manifested by the failure of the first mortar bombs to explode.

If the IRA had not intended the bombs to explode, they would have packed them with some substance other than high explosives. In any case, if those missiles had hit an aircraft a major disaster could have ensued, whether or not they were intended to explode.

And if John Hume believes that the IRA were merely making a point about what they could do, the exercise would constitute an idle threat, and why would they risk personnel being captured for that? Perhaps he will think again.

Yours sincerely,



14 March