31st October – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

 31st October

Looking through todays deaths and events two  things struck me and stood out .

  1. Was how many paramilitary members /associates were killed due to sectarian , internal and local feuds. Life was hard for everyone  during the Troubles , but  those that perpetrated the slaughter didn’t always get away scot free and many  paid the ultimate price for their part in Northern Ireland brutal, bloody  conflict.

Karma Always collects its debts

    2.     Two Children lost their lives and the deaths of children always saddens me and  makes me question if there really is a god?


Sunday 31 October 1971

A man died two days after being mortally wounded by a British soldier

A British soldier died three days after being mortally wounded by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Belfast. A man was found shot dead in Belfast.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a bomb at the Post Office Tower in London.

[At the time part of the tower was open to members of the public and was a London tourist attraction. The public area was closed following the attack and did not reopen.]


Tuesday 31 October 1972

Benny’s Bar bombing

Paula Strong, Paula (6)
Clare Hughes (4)

Two Catholic children, aged 6 and 4 years, who were playing on the street were killed in a Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) car bomb attack on a bar in Ship Street, Belfast. Two other people were killed in separate incidents in Belfast.

Benny’s Bar bombing was a paramilitary attack on 31 October 1972 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A unit of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group, detonated a no-warning car bomb outside the Irish Catholic-owned Benny’s Bar in the dockland area of Sailortown, killing two small girls who were celebrating Halloween outside. Twelve of the pub’s patrons were also injured.

Benny’s Bar bombing
Benny's bar.jpg

Benny’s Bar after the bombing
Location Benny’s Bar, Ship Street, Sailortown, Belfast,
Northern Ireland
Date 31 October 1972
Attack type
Car bombing
Deaths 2 Catholic civilians
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Ulster Defence Association (UDA)

Lead-up to the attack

Since its foundation in September 1971, the UDA had killed over 30 Catholic civilians and attacked a number of Catholic-owned businesses. On 13 September 1972, UDA members opened-fire inside the Catholic-owned Divis Castle Bar on Springfield Road, Belfast. One Catholic civilian, the owner’s son, was killed.[1] On 5 October it detonated a bomb at another Belfast pub, the Capital Bar, killing a Protestant civilian.[2]

On the evening of Tuesday 31 October 1972 in Sailortown (a mixed Protestant and Catholic community beside Belfast Docks), a large group of local children in fancy dress were playing outside their houses near a bonfire in Ship Street to celebrate Halloween. Two small Catholic girls, Paula Strong (6) and Clare Hughes (4),[2] both dressed as witches, were approached by a white-haired man carrying a suitcase. He asked for directions to Benny’s Bar. After one of the girls gave him the directions, he gave her two pence and walked along Garmoyle Street to its junction with Ship Street, where the pub was located.[3] The two girls then went to the pub, knocked on the door and asked for pennies as a form of the traditional “trick-or-treating“.[4]

The explosion

The girls were in the vicinity of the Catholic-owned pub, which was full of patrons, when a maroon-coloured mini containing a 100 pounds (45 kg) bomb exploded outside the building’s Ship Street wall where it had been parked. No warning had been given.[3] Part of the building collapsed onto the customers inside, injuring 12 people. Flying glass and masonry was hurled out into the street, instantly killing Paula Strong and fatally injuring Clare Hughes. A local woman who came upon the bodies of the little girls described what she had seen: “They were just like bloody bundles of rags lying there”.[4]

The explosion took place only 20 yards (18 m) from the children’s bonfire, and the bomb had a very short fuse.[5] Houses and office buildings within a radius of several hundred yards suffered damage. The Strong family, who lived in the adjacent Marine Street felt the effects of the blast; Paula’s brother, Tony said that there was a massive explosion, the entire house shook and pictures fell off the walls.[6] Paula’s father, Gerry Strong, had gone to the pub to help dig out those buried beneath the rubble and found the body of his daughter on the pavement outside.[6] Clare Hughes’s brother Kevin had been playing near the bonfire when the bomb detonated. Their home was in Ship Street, facing the bonfire, and their mother immediately rushed to the scene and brought the gravely-wounded Clare into the house. She died shortly afterwards in hospital.[6]

The attack was the first major bombing in Northern Ireland for two weeks. With a total of 479 deaths—including those of the Bloody Sunday, Donegall Street, Springhill, Bloody Friday and Claudy atrocities—1972 was the bloodiest year of the 30-year ethno-political conflict known as the Troubles.[2]


Memorial plaque at St Joseph’s Church, Sailortown

The funerals of Paula Strong and Clare Hughes were conducted at the Roman Catholic St Joseph’s Chapel in Sailortown; many mourners lined the street and accompanied the coffins as they were carried inside the church.[3] The girls were buried in Milltown Cemetery.

The bombing had been carried out by a unit of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), which was the largest loyalist paramilitary organisation in Northern Ireland and which was legal at the time.[2][7] Benny’s Bar was targeted by the UDA as it was believed to have been an Irish republican drinking den.[5] The three men who had driven the carbomb to the pub pleaded guilty to the murders. It emerged during the trial that one of the bombers had worked with Paula Strong’s father at the docks.[6]

The UDA continued attacking pubs owned or frequented by members of the Irish Catholic and nationalist community. Less than two months after the bombing, on 20 December, the UDA launched a gun attack on another Catholic-owned pub in Derry. That attack killed five Catholic civilians.[8]

Benny’s pub and the houses in Ship Street have since been torn down, leaving a small section of the street near the Garmoyle Street intersection extant. This is now an industrial zone. Ship Street and most of Sailortown was demolished to build the M2 motorway. There is a memorial plaque on an outside wall beneath a stained glass window at St Joseph’s Chapel commemorating Paula Strong and Clare Hughes.



Wednesday 31 October 1973

Séamus Twomey

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) use a hijacked helicopter to free three of their members from the exercise yard of Mountjoy Prison, Dublin. On of those who escaped was Séamus Twomey, then Chief of Staff of the IRA.

[Twomey was recaptured in December 1977.]


Friday 31 October 1975

Thomas Berry (27), then a member of the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA), was shot dead by the Provisional IRA (PIRA) outside Sean Martin’s Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Club in the Short Strand, Belfast.

Seamus McCusker, a senior member of Provisional Sinn Féin (SF), was shot dead by the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) on the New Lodge Road, Belfast.

Both these killings were part of the continuing feud between the two wings of the IRA.

Columba McVeigh was abducted and became one of the ‘disappeared‘.

Columba McVeigh

[He is believed to have been killed by the IRA. His body has not been recovered.]

See The Disappeared for more info on Columba McVeigh

Friday 31 October 1980

Wednesday 31 October 1990

Peter Brooke, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that the talks initiative was ‘on hold’. The Fianna Fáil (FF) and Progressive Democrat (PD) coalition Government in the Republic of Ireland survived a vote of no confidence following the sacking of Brian Lenihan, then deputy leader of FF.

Saturday 31 October 1992

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) shot and killed Samuel Ward (30) who was a member of the ‘Belfast Brigade’ of the Irish People’s Liberation Organisation (IPLO).

The IRA also injured a further eight members of the IPLO.

[Following this action the ‘Belfast Brigade’ announced on 3 November 1992 that it would disband. A similar decision was announced by the Army Council faction of the IPLO based in Dublin on 7 November 1992.]

Tuesday 31 October 1995

Michael Ancram

Michael Ancram, then Political Development Minister at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), held a three hour meeting with representatives of Sinn Féin (SF).

[Further discussions were to be held until 3 November 1995 when they ended over disagreements on the issue of decommissioning of Irish Republican Army (IRA) weapons.]

Saturday 31 October 1998

Deadline for Formation of Executive

The deadline was missed for the formation of the Executive Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the North-South Ministerial Body. The main reasons for the failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement were to do with disagreements on the issue of decommissioning. Brain Service (35), a Catholic civilian, was shot dead by Loyalists after he left his brother’s house in north Belfast. Service was a single man from Ardoyne in Belfast.

[The Red Hand Defenders (RHD) later claimed responsibility for the killing. The RHD were a new Loyalist paramilitary grouping comprising dissent Loyalists opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and opposed to the ceasefires of the main Loyalist paramilitary organisations.]

In a joint statement the First, and Deputy First, Ministers pledged that the killing would not derail the peace process.

Sunday 31 October 1999

Michael Oatley

Michael Oatley, a former MI6 officer, wrote an article for the Sunday Times (a London based newspaper) in which he accused politicians in Northern Ireland and Britain of using the issue of the decommissioning of Irish Republican Army (IRA) weapons as an “excuse to avoid the pursuit of peace”

. [While involved in secret talks in Northern Ireland Oatley had been codenamed the ‘mountain climber’. He had been involved in secret talks during the hunger strikes and during the period 1990-1993.]

Tuesday 31 October 2000

Bertie Rice (63), an election worker for the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), was shot in the chest at his home in Canning Street in north Belfast. He died later in hospital. The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was blamed for this killing.

Later in the day, Tommy English (40), a former Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) politician, was shot dead at his home in Ballyfore Gardens in Newtownabbey, County Antrim. Loyalist sources said this was in retaliation for Bertie Rice’s death, and blamed the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) for the killing. The killings were part of a feud between the UDA and the UVF.

Wednesday 31 October 2001

Loyalist paramilitaries fired several shots at a Catholic taxi-driver who had gone to a house on the edge of the Loyalist Mourneview Estate, Lurgan, County Armagh. Several bullets struck the car. Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers said they were treating the attack as “attempted murder”.

[The attack may have been carried out by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF).]

A Catholic woman was injured when Loyalist paramilitaries threw a pipe-bomb at her home in Newington Street, north Belfast. The bomb exploded at the back of the house breaking all the windows at the rear of the three-storey house. The woman was treated for cuts.

Loyalist paramilitaries carried out a ‘punishment’ shooting on two men (both in their 30s) in a field at Ballyreagh Road, Newtownards, County Down. One was shot in both knees and the other was shot in one leg. Both were treated in hospital.

A man (41) is due to appear in court in Belfast charged with ‘riotous behaviour’ following disturbances in the Duncairn Gardens, Belfast, on Tuesday 30 October 2001.

Peter Weir and Pauline Armitage, both Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) then Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, held a meeting with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD). The two were seeking assurances that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) decommissioning initiative was both substantial and part of a continuing process.

[Both MLAs have stated that at present they do not intend to vote on Friday 2 November 2001 for David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), as First Minister.]




Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the death of the following  people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

– Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live  forever

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

  15  People lost their lives on the 31st October  between 1971 – 2000


31 October 1971

John Copeland,   (23)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Died two days after being shot near his home, Strathroy Park, Ardoyne, Belfast.


31 October 1971
Ian Doherty,   (27)

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died three days after being shot while on British Army (BA) mobile patrol, Stockman’s Lane, Belfast.


31 October 1971
Thomas Kells   (19)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk)
Found shot by the side of Flowbog Road, Dundrod, near Belfast, County Antrim.


31 October 1972
James Kerr,   (17)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Red Hand Commando (RHC)
Shot at his workplace, garage, Lisburn Road, Belfast.


31 October 1972
Richard Sinclair,  (19)

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Antrim Road, New Lodge, Belfast.


31 October 1972

Paula Strong,  (6)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Killed when car bomb exploded outside Benny’s Bar, corner of Garmoyle Street and Ship Street, Belfast.


31 October 1972

Clare Hughes,   (4)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Killed when car bomb exploded outside Benny’s Bar, corner of Garmoyle Street and Ship Street, Belfast.


Thomas Berry,   (27)

Status: Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot outside Sean Martin’s Gaelic Athletic Association Club, Beechfield Street, Short Strand, Belfast. Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) / Irish Republican Army (IRA) feud.


31 October 1975

Seamus McCusker,   (40)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA)
Shot as he walked along New Lodge Road, Belfast. Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) / Irish Republican Army (IRA) feud.


31 October 1975

Columba McVeigh,  (17)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Abducted in the Donaghmore / Dungannon area of County Tyrone. Presumed killed. Body never recovered. Alleged informer.


31 October 1984

Harry Muldoon  (45)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot at his home, Mountainview Drive, off Crumlin Road, Belfast.


31 October 1992
Samuel Ward,  (30)

Status: Irish People’s Liberation Organisation Belfast Brigade (IPLOBB),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot while inside Sean Martin Gaelic Athletic Association Club, Beechfield Street, Short Strand, Belfast.


31 October 1998

Brian Service,  (35)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Red Hand Defenders (RHD)
Shot while walking along Alliance Avenue, Ardoyne, Belfast.


31 October 2000

Herbert Rice,  (63)

Status: Civilian Political Activist (CivPA),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) member. Shot at his home, Canning Street, Tigers Bay, Belfast. Ulster Defence Association (UDA) / Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) feud.


31 October 2000

Tommy English,   (40)

Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot at his home, Ballyfore Gardens, Ballyduff, Newtownabbey, County Antrim. Ulster Defence Association (UDA) / Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) feud.

See Below for more info on Tommy English


Tommy English

Tommy English (loyalist)

Thomas English (1960 – 31 October 2000), usually known as Tommy English, was an Ulster loyalist paramilitary and politician. He served as a commander in the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and was killed by members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) as part of a violent loyalist feud between the two organisations. English had also been noted as a leading figure in the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) during the early years of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Ulster Defence Association

From an early age, English was involved in the North Belfast Brigade of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group. After his death, the Belfast Telegraph described him as a “UDA commander”,[1] while the BBC described him as a “paramilitary chief”.[2]

English also became involved in the political wing of the movement, the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), becoming its Chairman.[3] He stood for the UDP in North Belfast in the 1996 Northern Ireland Forum election, and was also placed eighth on the party’s top-up list, but he was not elected.[4][5] He was active on behalf of the party in the discussions which led to the Good Friday Agreement.[6] A noted critic of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) during his political career, English gained notoriety for an appearance at a UDA rally in the Ulster Hall in Belfast when he took to the stage wearing an Ian Paisley mask and a clerical dog collar and proceeded to lampoon the DUP leader.[7] He was a regular visitor to conferences and events at the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation and was close to Republic of Ireland peace activists Paul Burton and Chris Hudson, visiting the site of the Battle of the Somme with them in 1999.[7] On St Patrick’s Day 1998 he met President of the USA Bill Clinton in Washington DC as part of the UDP delegation visiting the US capital.[8] He hit the headlines in 1997 when he was given a bravery award after breaking down the front door of a burning house and bringing the occupier out to safety.[8]

Alongside his political activism he remained involved in the paramilitary side of the UDA and played a leading role in orchestrating riots at two interface areas in north Belfast i.e. the Limestone Road – which divides Catholic Newington and Protestant Tigers Bay – and the Whitewell Road.[7] English and his family lived in Tiger’s Bay before moving to Newtownabbey at an unspecified period so as to “give our kids a chance so they could have a decent life” according to his wife Doreen.[8]

English left the UDP in 1998 after making a public statement against the Orange Order at a time when the party was widely supporting them in their attempts to march in Catholic areas.[8] English also claimed that he had been the subject of allegations about misappropriating money in the UDA and stated that, whilst the allegations were not widely believed by the group’s leadership, worries about them had led him to attempt suicide and seek treatment in a psychiatric hospital.[8]

In 1999, he was arrested on suspicion of headbutting and kicking a patron of the Crows Nest bar, having allegedly arrived with three associates armed with baseball bats, breaking glasses along the bar.[6] The case was still outstanding, with English awaiting charges, at the time of his death.[8]


UDA South East Antrim Brigade mural close to English’s home in Ballyduff

On 31 October 2000, English was fatally shot at his home in Ballyfore Gardens, on the Ballyduff estate in Newtownabbey, by a group of four men. His three children were inside the house at about 18.30 when the men entered through the back door as his wife, Doreen was preparing food for a Halloween party. She called out to her husband and attempted to close the door but they pushed past her, one of the men shouting “Get out of the fucking way, Doreen”. She kept trying to intervene in an effort to protect English, but she received several hard blows, mostly in the head, and her skull was fractured. English was shot several times as he lay face down in the hallway of his home; the last shot struck him in the lower back. He was rushed to Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital where he died shortly afterwards.[9]

The murder was blamed on the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), who at the time were involved in a violent dispute with the UDA.[10] At his funeral, his coffin was covered in UDA flags, and it was accompanied by men in paramilitary uniforms.[11] Among the mourners was a member of the UVF who was closely related to English.[8] Sympathy notices placed in the local press at the time included one from Johnny Adair, who described English as a “good and faithful servant”.[8]

English’s murder was said to have been in retaliation for the killing of UVF veteran Bertie Rice earlier that same day.[12] The UDA killed Mark Quail, a 26-year-old UVF member, at his Rathcoole home in retaliation on the following day, with Quail the seventh and final man killed as part of the loyalist feud.[12] David “Candy” Greer, a UDA member killed in the feud three days before English, had been a close friend from English’s days in Tiger’s Bay.[8] English had initially been described in press reports as a relative of UDP colleague and former South East Antrim brigadier Joe English although this was later corrected as the two were not related.[13]

Ten men were put on trial for the murder of English, including UVF North Belfast commander Mark Haddock. However, nine were acquitted of all charges, while the tenth was convicted only of “possessing items intended for terrorism”.[14] Following the acquittals, his widow announced that she would be suing police for allegedly failing to take action against an informant who was involved in a number of UVF murders in north Belfast.[15]


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