The Greysteel shootings – 30 October 1993

Disclaimer – The views and opinions expressed in these documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

The Greysteel massacre

The Greysteel massacre[1][2] was a mass shooting that happened on the evening of 30 October 1993 in Greysteel, County Derry, Northern Ireland. Three members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group, opened fire in a crowded pub during a Halloween party, killing eight civilians and wounding thirteen. The pub was in an Irish Catholic and Irish nationalist area. The group claimed responsibility using their cover name “Ulster Freedom Fighters” and said that the attack was revenge for the Shankill Road bombing a week earlier.

See Shankill Road Bombing

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The Innocent Victims

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30 October 1993


Steven Mullan,   (20)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


Karen Thompson,  (19)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


James Moore,  (81)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


Joseph McDermott,   (60)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


Moira Duddy,  (59)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993
John Moyne,  (50)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993

John Burns,   (54)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993
Victor Montgomery,  (76)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry. He died 14 April 1994

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Background

On 23 October 1993, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb prematurely exploded in a fish shop on Shankill Road, west Belfast. Eight Protestant civilians, one UDA member and one of the IRA bombers were killed.[3] The IRA’s intended target was a meeting of UDA leaders, including brigadier Johnny Adair, which was to take place above the shop. Unknown to the IRA, the meeting had been rescheduled. Shortly after two IRA members, Thomas Begley and Sean Kelly, entered the shop dressed as deliverymen and carrying the time bomb under a tray, it exploded accidentally, killing Begley along with the nine others inside the shop at the time. This became known as the Shankill Road bombing.

The UDA launched a number of “revenge attacks” for the bombing. Later that day, it shot a Catholic delivery driver after luring him to a bogus call at Vernon Court, Belfast. He died on 25 October.[4] On 26 October, the UDA shot dead another two Catholic civilians and wounded five in an attack on the Council Depot at Kennedy Way, Belfast.[5]

Planning

UDA/UFF flags flying in Derry, where the massacre was planned

The Londonderry Sentinel newspaper revealed that the massacre had been carefully planned. Those involved in planning and organising the attack were Billy McFarland (‘Brigadier’ of the UDA’s North Antrim & Londonderry Brigade), a UDA commander with the initials ‘RS’, and Brian McNeill.[6] Stephen Irwin, Geoffrey Deeney and Torrens Knight, all members of the UDA’s North Antrim & Londonderry Brigade,[7] were to carry out the shooting. According to court documents, the gunmen were first briefed on the plans for the massacre on 27 October in a house-office owned by the Ulster Democratic Party at Bond’s Place, Derry.[6]

Before the massacre, the gunmen went to the pub to familiarise themselves with the layout and choose the best positions from which to shoot. Knight turned the office at Bond’s Place into a mock-up of the pub and made Irwin and Deeney rehearse the shooting. It was agreed that Irwin would enter the Rising Sun armed with an AK-47 and keep shooting until the magazine emptied. Whilst Irwin reloaded, Deeney would fire from his 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. Both would then keep shooting until Irwin’s second magazine was empty. Knight, armed with a shotgun, would ‘cover’ the front door.[6]

Two cars would be used for the attack. The gunmen would drive to the pub in an Opel Kadett with McNeill driving in front as a ‘scout car’. After the shooting, the gunmen would drive the Kadett to a pick-up point near Eglinton, where they would meet McNeill and the Kadett would be burnt.[6]

The massacre

On the evening of 30 October, the three UDA members, two of whom were wearing blue boiler suits and balaclavas, entered the “Rising Sun Bar” in Greysteel. There were about 70 people inside attending a Halloween party,[8] and so the masked men were not noticed until they produced an AK-47 and a 9 mm pistol, and started shooting into the packed crowd in the lounge area. The leading gunman, Stephen Irwin (who was carrying the AK-47), yelled “trick or treat” as he opened fire.[9] The scene was chaotic as people inside the lounge began to scream in panic, with women pleading for mercy from the gunmen. Six of those killed were Catholic civilians and two were Protestant civilians.[10] None had any known links to political parties or paramilitaries. The killers, laughing, then made their escape in their getaway car—an Opel Kadett driven by Torrens Knight. Afterwards they were said to have boasted about the killings.[11]

The following day, the UDA claimed responsibility for the attack using the cover name “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (UFF).[12] Its statement said that the “Greysteel raid”[1] was “the continuation of our threats against the nationalist electorate that they would pay a heavy price for last Saturday’s slaughter of nine Protestants”.[13] A West Belfast UDA member said that his organisation “had information that senior IRA men drank in the Rising Sun … Unfortunately they were not there on Halloween but our boys acted on the briefing they had been given”.[7]

The pub is still open in Greysteel. There is a memorial to the victims outside the building that says: May their sacrifice be our path to peace.

Convictions

In 1995, Irwin, Deeney and Knight were convicted along with two others for involvement in the attack.[8] Knight was also convicted for the Castlerock killings. In 2000, they were released early—along with other paramilitary prisoners—under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.[14] After his release, Irwin joined the Neo-Nazi militant group Combat 18.[15] Knight was also alleged to have had links to Combat 18.[16]

In 2005, Irwin received a four-year prison sentence for slashing a man with a knife. This meant that he also now had to serve the eight life sentences he received for the Greysteel massacre.[17] In 2006, he abandoned an appeal against the sentences.[18] In September 2013, Irwin was released from prison a second time after submitting an application to the Sentence Review Commissioners for early release. The commissioners ruled his application should be granted and he was released immediately.[19]

There have been claims in the media that Knight was a paid Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and/or MI5 informer.[20] Knight denied the claims.[21] In October 2007, a Police Ombudsman investigation concluded that police did not have any prior knowledge that could have helped them prevent the Greysteel attack. The investigators did not find any evidence that Knight was protected from the law.[

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