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South Derry Independent Republican Unit

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South Derry Independent Republican Unit
Participant in the Troubles
IdeologyIrish Republicanism, Revolutionary socialism
LeadersFrancis Hughes
Area of operationsmainly south County Londonderry, also north County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Size1 active service unit
Opponent(s)British Army, Royal Ulster Constabulary, Economic targets.

The South Derry Independent Republican Unit (SDIRU) was an independent Irish Republican Active Service Unit in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, that operated & carried out attacks around southern County Londonderry and sometimes they would patrol & operated around north west County Tyrone but not as much as in the South Londonderry area.


The SDIRU was formed by Irish Republicans and socialists from the south County Londonderry village of Bellaghy. During the time the unit was active it was not a part any larger Republican paramilitary like the Official IRA, Provisional IRA, or the INLA known as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) from 1974 - 1976. The SDIRU was active from 1973 up until 1976 when the unit merged with the Provisional IRA's South Derry brigade. While the SDIRU was active it carried out ambushes & sniper attacks on British Army patrols as well carrying out bomb attacks in neighbouring towns such as Magherafelt, Castledawson, and Maghera. [1] Although the unit was in no way part of another paramilitary ot would borrow weapons from time to time from both the Official & Provo IRA, and if an operation was successful the SDIRU would claim the attack on behalf of which ever organizations weapons they used.[2]


Some members of the SDIRU went on to play a very big role in the The Troubles.

  • For example, Francis Hughes, who first joined the Official IRA left over that groups May 1972 ceasefire,then went on to became a legendary figure in the Provisional IRA for his exploits & shoot-outs with the British Army & RUC and was the second hunger striker to die after Bobby Sands during the 1981 Hunger Strike, Hughes began his hunger strike on the 15 March & died 59 days later on the 12 May 1981.[3]
  • Hughes formed the unit along with cousin Thomas McElwee who only would have been about 16 at the time. McElwee also took part in the 1981 Hunger Strike. He was the ninth hunger striker to die, after 62 days on hunger strike he died on the 8 August 1981, aged just 23 he was the youngest hunger striker to day out of the ten who evntually did die.[4]
  • Dominic McGlinchy was another member of the unit who would go on to make his own mark on the conflict, first a Volunteer in the Provisional IRA and then as leader of the Chief of Staff of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in the early 1980s. Under McGlinchy's leadership the INLA enjoyed it's most successful military period. The INLA was at its most active under McGlinchy & two of the INLA's most famous attacks happened under his leadership, first the Droppin Well bombing in December 1982 in which 17 people were killed (11 British soldiers & 6 civilians) and in November 1983 the Darkley killings in which three armed INLA members using the cover name Catholic Reaction Force shot dead three worshippers inside a Pentecostal Church. McGlinchy admitted to being in some part responsible for these attacks.[5] McGlinchy was himself shot dead in County Louth in February 1994 by unknown killers.[6]
  • Also part of the unit was Ian Milne. Milne along with Hughes & McGlinchy became the North's three most wanted men, and the RUC issued wanted posters for them. When the unit merged with PIRA South Derry Brigade the brigades activity dramatically increased, making it one of the most active brigades of the mid - late 1970s.[7]



  • 4 January - A UDR soldier was shot dead outside his home in Feeny, County Londonderry.



  • 25 January - A UDR soldier was killed in a land mine attack while searching a field near Ballyronan, County Londonderry.
  • 15 March a Protestant civilian was killed in a lorry bomb blat at Magherafelt, County Londonderry.
  • 18 April - A Catholic civilian was killed by a booby-trap bomb in farm near Moneymore, County Londonderry.
  • 23 July - A corporal in the UDR, John Conley (43), was killed by a car bomb in Garvagh, County Londonderry.



  • 6 October - A RUC officer was killed in a bomb attack near Limavady, County Londonderry.



  • 5 January - A RUC officer was shot dead while on mobile patrol in Castledawson.
  • 22 January - A off-duty UDR soldier was shot dead while driving his firms minibus near Claudy.
  • 12 February - A RUC officer was shot dead while on foot patrol in Claudy.
  • 1 April - A off-duty UDR soldier was shot dead in his work place in Castledawson.
  • 2 April - A off-duty UDR soldier was shot while on his postal round and shortly after near Maghera, County Londonderry.
  • 30 July - A off-duty UDR soldier was killed by a booby-trap bomb attached to his fathers gate in Moneymore.


See Also[edit]

  • South Armagh Republican Action Force
  • Provisional IRA's Balcombe Street Gang
  • Catholic Reaction Force
  • 1975 Central Bar bombing


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