Gunmen disguised as priests and hospital orderlies fought a duel with police on Sunday night (26 November) in the corridors of a Dublin hospital in an attempt to rescue Sean MacStiofain, reputed to be the chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army (I.
Gunmen disguised as priests and hospital orderlies fought a duel with police on Sunday night (26 November) in the corridors of a Dublin hospital in an attempt to rescue Sean MacStiofain, reputed to be the chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.).
At least four people including one gunman and one policeman were wounded in the gun battle. Eyewitnesses said at least eight gunmen, some dressed as priests and hospital workers, made the rescue attempt. MacStiofain was on he eighth day of a hunger and thirst strike. Earlier he was said to be close to death. But on the same night as the rescue attempt, a hospital spokesman said his condition was remarkably good and "there was no cause for anxiety."
MacStiofain was taken to Dublin's Mater Hospital on Saturday night after being sentenced to six months jail for belonging to the outlawed I.R.A. Up to the trial he had been in custody in a prison close to the hospital. The gun battle at the hospital took place in a narrow corridor leading to the ward where MacStiofain was held.
The unsuccessful rescue attempt followed a bomb explosion which injured forty people earlier in the way. The two incidents have increased fears in Dublin that the three years of violence in British ruled Northern Ireland was spreading to Eire in the south. The Provisional wing of the I.R.A. has denied responsibility for the explosion at the cinema in Dublin's O'Connell Street.
Staff of the Republic's state broadcasting network, RTE, declared a forty eight hour strike in support of the RTE reporter, Kevin O'Kelly, who was jailed for contempt during the Macstiofain trial for refusing to identify the I.R.A. leader.