23rd February – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

23rd February

Saturday 23 February 1974

In the Shankill Road area of Belfast taxi drivers hijacked buses and sealed off roads in a protest against alleged army harassment.

Monday 23 February 1976

Francis Rice



Francis Rice (24), a Catholic civilian, was abducted, beaten and had his throat and his body was found near Mayo Street, Shankill, Belfast.

Members of he Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang known as the ‘Shankill Butchers’ were responsible for the killing. [See: 20 February 1979]

See Shankill Butchers

Tuesday 23 Februay 1982

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) sunk a British coal boat, the St Bedan, in Lough Foyle.

Wednesday 23 February 1983

The Political Committee of the European Parliament took the decision to commission a report on Northern Ireland to see if the (then) European Economic Community (EEC) could help find a solution to the conflict. The Rapporteur was Mr N.J. Haagerup.

The British government opposed what it saw as external interference in its internal affairs.

Saturday 23 February 1985

David Devine                        Michael Devine,                           Charles Breslin,


Three members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were shot dead by undercover British soldiers in the outskirts of Strabane, County Tyrone.

David Devine


The IRA men were believed to be returning weapons to an arms dump when they were killed. A man alleged to be an informer was shot dead by the IRA in Derry.

[John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), walked out of a meeting with representatives of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) when it was suggested by the IRA that part of the proceedings be recorded on video. Information on what had occurred only became available some time afer the meeting.]

Monday 23 February 1987

Belfast City Council became the latest in a line of Northern Ireland councils to be fined for failing to conduct normal business. Many Unionist controlled councils had been refusing to conduct council business as part of a protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). The Department of the Environment appointed a commissioner to set a rate in those councils which have refused to do so.

Tuesday 23 February 1988

Ian Thain, a Private in the British Army and the first solder to be convicted of murder (14 December 1984) while on duty in Northern Ireland, was released from a life sentence. He had served 26 months and was allowed to rejoin his regiment.

Thursday 23 February 1989

Hugh Annesley, then Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, was appointed by the Northern Ireland Police Authority (NIPA) as the next Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

[Hugh Annesley took over the post on 31 May 1989.]

Monday 23 February 1998

A Republican paramilitary group exploded a large car bomb, estimated at 300 pounds, in the centre of Portadown, County Armagh. Many business premises in the centre of the town were severely damaged by the explosion and two buildings were completely demolished by the blast. There were no injuries in the explosion.

[It was thought that the bomb had been planted by the ‘Continuity’ Irish Republican Army (CIRA).]

Tuesday 23 February 1999

Stephen Melrose

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), was confronted by the family of a victim of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as he continued his eight-day visit to Australia. Roy Melrose, the father of Stephen Melrose, a Brisbane lawyer who was mistaken by gunmen for an off-duty British soldier in the Netherlands on 27 May 1990, criticised the way Adams was being feted at a civic champagne reception.


Friday 23 February 2001

An advertising campaign was launched to try to attract a large number of recruits to the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The target was to attract equal numbers of Protestants and Catholics. Nationalists and Republicans argued that they had not yet endorsed the new force which is due to replace the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Sinn Féin (SF) had attempted in court to stop the adverts.

Saturday 23 February 2002

Police arrested three people in north Belfast following sporadic rioting around the Limestone road. The three are being held charged with riotous behaviour.

A police spokesperson said one officer had to draw his firearm as a crowd wielding iron bars and sticks tried to prevent an arrest of a man in the Newington Street area.

Gerard Brophy, then a Sinn Féin (SF) councillor, said the trouble started when a crowd of up to 60 loyalists armed with bricks, bottles and baseball bats, attacked Nationalist homes. He said the attack was clearly orchestrated and the crowd included members of the neo-Nazi group Combat 18.

These claims were disputed by Loyalist residents.

Twenty children from the Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School in Ardoyne, north Belfast, met Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), during a short visit to Dublin. Ahern said the trip would show support for the children from the people of the Republic.


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.

7 People   lost their lives on the 23rd February between 1976– 1985


23 February 1976

Francis Rice,  (24)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Abducted while walking along Donegall Street, Belfast. Found stabbed to death several hours later, in entry, off Mayo Street, Shankill, Belfast.


23 February 1977

Peter Hill,  (43)

Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR)

 Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Shot outside his home, Daphne Gardens, off Limavady Road, Waterside, Derry.


23 February 1981

James Burns   (33)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot at his home, Rodney Drive, Falls, Belfast.


23 February 1985

Michael Devine,  (22)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) members, while returning arms to dump, in field, off Plumbridge Road, Strabane, County Tyrone.


23 February 1985

David Devine  (17)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) members, while returning arms to dump, in field, off Plumbridge Road, Strabane, County Tyrone.


23 February 1985

Charles Breslin,   (20)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) members, while returning arms to dump, in field, off Plumbridge Road, Strabane, County Tyrone.


23 February 1985

Kevin Coyle,  (24)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Found shot Corporation Street, Bogside, Derry. Alleged informer.



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