Volunteer Mac Giolla Bhrighde served in the regular Irish Army between February 1975 and June 1979. In 1979, while on leave from the Irish Army and secretly holding dual membership of the IRA and the Irish Army, Mac Giolla Bhrighde was stopped by Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers near Magherafelt while in possession of a rifle. He was detained at Strabane RUC barracks and was later imprisoned for three years for this operation.
Mac Giolla Bhrighde, according to IRA sources quoted by journalist Ed Moloney was noted for his hard line militarist republicanism. He is reputed to have backed a plan to form full time guerrilla units or "flying columns" based in the Republic, which would carry out four or five large-scale attacks in the north a year.
This approach was espoused by the militant Provisional IRA East Tyrone Brigade led by Padraig McKearney and Jim Lynagh, who wanted an escalation of the conflict to what they termed "total war". They were opposed by Kevin McKenna, the IRA Chief of Staff and by the republican leadership based around Gerry Adams, on the grounds that actions of that scale were too big a risk and unsustainable. The IRA leadership wanted a smaller scale campaign of attrition, supplemented by political campaigning by Sinn Féin.
After his release from prison Mac Giolla Bhrighde, who had made a number of friends and contacts in Norway, became involved in providing information for the Irish republican cause throughout Scandinavia. After returning from Norway in November 1984, Mac Giolla Bhrighde along with fellow volunteer, Ciaran Fleming, undertook their final operation.
In the early hours of Sunday morning on 2 December 1984, in cold sleety conditions, Mac Giolla Bhrighde and Fleming stole a Toyota van in Pettigo, County Donegal. The van was then loaded with 9 beer kegs, each containing 100 lbs of low explosives. They then crossed the border and travelled to Kesh, County Fermanagh. At the Drumrush Lodge Restaurant just outside of Kesh they planted a landmine in a lane leading to the restaurant and wired up a device which was connected to an observation point. From there a hoax call was made in order to lure the British Army to the restaurant on the pretence that there was a firebomb planted within the restaurant.
Mac Giolla Bhrighde observed an RUC patrol car approaching the restaurant and gave the detonation code word "one", however, the mine failed to explode. There was another car parked in the car park which Mac Giolla Bhrighde believed to contain civilians, and he got out of the van from which he was observing the scene to warn the civilian car to leave the area.
According to the republican sources, when he approached the car, two Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers got out and commanded him to halt and drop his gun. Mac Giolla Bhrighde, who was unarmed, informed the SAS of this and then one of the SAS men stepped forward and shot him on his left side. He was then handcuffed and shot dead.
RIP Vol. Mac Giolla ! Beidh Ar La Linn !