Category Archives: Deaths in Northern Ireland

Death of Robert Hamill: 27th April 1997

Death of Robert Hamill

Robert Hamill

Robert Hamill was an Irish Catholic civilian who was beaten to death by a loyalist mob in Portadown, County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Hamill and his friends were attacked on 27 April 1997 on the town’s main street. It has been claimed that the local Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), parked a short distance away, did nothing to stop the attack.

At the time of the murder, tension between loyalists (mainly Protestants) and Irish nationalists (mainly Catholics) was high, mostly due to the ongoing Drumcree parade dispute.

— Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries  are solely 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.

Death

Loyalism RUC Robert Hamill

Hamill and his friends were attacked by a group of loyalists while walking home from St. Patrick’s dance hall at about 1.30 a.m on 27 April 1997.

After walking along Market Street from the dance hall, they came to the intersection of Market and Thomas Streets in Portadown, where they were attacked. Hamill and his friend, Gregory Girvan, were kicked by the crowd while their attackers shouted abuse at them and Robert Hamill was knocked unconscious almost immediately.

Girvan’s wife and sister, Joanne and Siobhán Garvin, respectively, called for help from four RUC officers sitting in a Land Rover about twenty feet away from the attack, but they did not intervene to stop the attack. The assault lasted about ten minutes, leaving both men unconscious. Just before the ambulance arrived, one of the RUC men got out of the Land Rover and told Garvin to put Robert into the recovery position.

Robert Hamill never regained consciousness and died of his injuries eleven days later on 8 May 1997, aged 25. The cause of his death was recorded as

“Diffuse Brain Injury associated with Fracture of Skull due to Blows to the Head”.

Six people were arrested after Robert Hamill’s death, but only one was eventually tried for his murder.

Investigation

Trial of Paul Hobson

Paul R. Hobson was charged with murder, but found not guilty, though he was found guilty of unlawful fighting and causing an affray and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. The case under which Hobson was prosecuted is questionable as the main witness,

Constable Atkinson of the then RUC, was at one stage a suspect in conspiracy to cause murder in the same case. His solicitor also did not use crucial evidence in the case to cross-examine witnesses. Mr. Justice McCollum said during his verdict that the killing was a sectarian act, with a very large number of loyalists attacking a small number of nationalists, but that he could not decide whether the RUC men had left their Land Rover or not during the attack.

Allegations of police collusion

The RUC have been criticised for initially claiming in press releases that there was a riot between two large groups; then afterwards claiming it was a large group attacking a group of four. Rosemary Nelson was solicitor for the Hamill family until she was assassinated by a loyalist car bomb in Lurgan

See Rosemary Nelson

There have been allegations of collusion between the RUC and suspects. A public inquiry is currently being held on the recommendation of Cory Collusion Inquiry

New charges

In December 2010 it was announced that three people, including a former RUC officer, were to be charged in relation to Robert Hamill’s death.

In September 2014 District Judge Peter King, sitting at Craigavon court, ruled that a key witness was entirely unreliable and utterly unconvincing. The case against the three, ex-policeman Robert Cecil Atkinson, his wife Eleanor Atkinson, and Kenneth Hanvey, was not sufficient to try.

Man acquitted of Robert Hamill’s Murder in Portadown, March 1999

References

  1. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h Cory Collusion Report Robert Hamill
  2. Jump up to:a b c d e f g The Sectarian Killing of Robert Hamill Archived 2009-09-06 at the Wayback MachineAmnesty International, 1 October 1999.
  3. ^ Portadown man cleared of Robert Hamill’s murder, RTÉ News, 25 March 1999
  4. ^ Claims against RUC at Hamill inquiry, RTÉ News, 13 January 2009
  5. ^ Robert Hamill Inquiry
  6. ^ Moriarty, Gerry (22 December 2010). “Former RUC officer to be charged in Hamill case”The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  7. ^ “Robert Hamill murder: Three accused will not face trial”. BBC News. Retrieved 2016-07-23.

John Bingham UVF : Life & Death

John Bingham Life & Death

John Dowey Bingham (c. 1953 – 14 September 1986) was a prominent Northern Irish loyalist who led “D Company” (Ballysillan), 1st Battalion, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). He was shot dead by the Provisional IRA after they had broken into his home.

Bingham was one of a number of prominent UVF members to be assassinated during the 1980s, the others being Lenny Murphy, William Marchant, Robert Seymour and Jackie Irvine

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are solely 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.

Ulster Volunteer Force

John Bingham was born in Northern Ireland around 1953 and was brought up in a Protestant family. Described as a shopkeeper, he was married with two children. He lived in Ballysillan Crescent, in the unionist estate of Ballysillan in North Belfast, and also owned a holiday caravan home in MillisleCounty Down.

He was a member of the “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Lodge of the Orange Order. On an unknown date, he joined the Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation, the UVF, and eventually became the commander of its “D Company”, 1st Battalion, Ballysillan, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

See: Oranger Order

He was the mastermind behind a productive gun-running operation from Canada, which over the years had involved the smuggling of illegal weapons into Northern Ireland to supply UVF arsenals; however, three months after Bingham’s death, the entire operation collapsed following a raid on a house in Toronto by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in December 1986.

Bingham was one of the loyalist paramilitaries named in the evidence given by supergrass Joe Bennett, who accused him of being a UVF commander.  He testified that he had seen Bingham armed with an M60 machine gun and claimed that Bingham had been sent to Toronto to raise funds for the UVF.

These meetings opened contact with Canadian businessman John Taylor, who became involved in smuggling guns from North America to the UVF.  As a result of Bennett’s testimony, Bingham was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after being convicted of committing serious crimes.

He publicly denounced the supergrass system before live television cameras outside Belfast’s Crumlin Road Courthouse when he was released in December 1984 after his conviction had been overturned, having spent two and a half years in prison.

Dillon in 2020
Martin Dillon

On one occasion, Bingham allegedly placed a loaded pistol inside journalist Martin Dillon‘s mouth because of the latter’s offensive words he had used against him. In an attempt to make amends for his threat, Bingham invited Dillon to visit him at his home in North Belfast.

Dillon accepted the invitation and after several whiskeys and brandishing a pistol, Bingham offered to show him his racing pigeons as he was an avid pigeon fancier. He then told Dillon that he shouldn’t believe what people said about him claiming that he couldn’t harm a pigeon. As they said farewell at the front door, Bingham reportedly murmured in a cold voice to Dillon:

“You ever write about me again and I’ll blow yer fuckin’ brains out, because you’re not a pigeon”.

Killing

IRA Belfast Brigade, shoot & kill UVF Inner Council memember John Bingham 14 September 1986

In July 1986, a 25-year-old Catholic civilian, Colm McCallan, was shot close to his Ligoniel home; two days later, he died of his wounds. The IRA sought to avenge McCallan’s death by killing Bingham, the man they held responsible for the shooting.[

Bingham was also believed to have been behind the deaths of several other Catholic civilians.

Ballysillan, north Belfast, where John Bingham lived and commanded the Ballysillan UVF

At 1:30 am on 14 September 1986, Bingham had just returned to Ballysillan Crescent from his caravan home in Millisle. Three gunmen from the IRA’s Ardoyne 3rd Battalion Belfast Brigade, armed with two automatic rifles and a .38 Special, smashed down his front door with a sledgehammer and shot Bingham twice in the legs. Despite his injuries, Bingham ran up the stairs in an attempt to escape his attackers and had just reached a secret door at the top when the gunmen shot him three more times, killing him.

 He was 33 years old. He was given a UVF paramilitary funeral, which was attended by politicians from the two main unionist parties, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Members of his “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Orange Order (OO) Lodge formed the guard of honour around his coffin, which was covered with the UVF flag and his gloves and beret. Prominent DUP activist George Seawright helped carry the coffin whilst wearing his OO sash, and called for revenge.

See: George Seawright

In retaliation, the UVF killed Larry Marley, a leading IRA member from Ardoyne who was also a close friend of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. The IRA in their turn gunned down William “Frenchie” Marchant the following spring on the Shankill Road. The deaths of three leading UVF members caused suspicion amongst the UVF leadership that someone within their ranks was setting up high-ranking UVF men by passing on pertinent information to the IRA; therefore, they decided to conduct an enquiry.

Although it was revealed that the three men, Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy, Bingham, and Marchant had all quarrelled with powerful UDA fund-raiser and racketeer James Pratt Craig prior to their deaths, the UVF did not believe the evidence was sufficient to warrant an attack against Craig, who ran a large protection racket in Belfast.

Jim craig loyalist.jpg
James Craig

Craig was later shot to death in an East Belfast pub by the UDA (using their “Ulster Freedom Fighters” covername) for “treason”, claiming he had been involved in the assassination of South Belfast UDA brigadier John McMichael, who was blown up by a booby-trap car bomb planted by the IRA outside his Lisburn home in December 1987.

See : James Craig

In Ballysillan Road, there is a memorial plaque dedicated to the memory of Bingham. His name is also on the banner of the “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Lodge.

Dolours Price IRA Icon ? Life & Death

Dolours Price IRA Icon ?

Life & Death

Dolours Price (16 December 1950 – 23 January 2013) was a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer along with her younger sister Marian.

Early life

Dolours and her sister, Marian, also an IRA member, were the daughters of Albert Price, a prominent Irish republican and former IRA member from Belfast. Their aunt, Bridie Dolan, was blinded and lost both hands in an accident handling IRA explosives.

Albert Price

Copyright : Victor Patterson

Paramilitary activity

Price became involved in Irish republicanism in the late 1960s and joined the Provisional IRA in the early 1970s. She participated in the car bombing of the Old Bailey in London on 8 March 1973, which injured over 200 people and is believed to have contributed to the death of one person who suffered a fatal heart attack.

Gerry Kelly

The two sisters were arrested, along with Gerry KellyHugh Feeney and six others, on the day of the bombing, as they were boarding a flight to Ireland. They were tried and convicted at the Great Hall in Winchester Castle on 14 November 1973. Although originally sentenced to life imprisonment, which was to run concurrently for each criminal charge, their sentence was eventually reduced to 20 years. Price served seven years for her part in the bombing.

She immediately went on a hunger strike demanding to be moved to a prison in Northern Ireland. The hunger strike lasted for 208 days because the hunger strikers were force-fed by prison authorities to keep them alive.

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 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/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.

On the back of the hunger-striking campaign, her father contested West Belfast at the UK General Election of February 1974, receiving 5,662 votes (11.9%). The Price sisters, Hugh Feeney, and Gerry Kelly were moved to Northern Ireland prisons in 1975 as a result of an IRA truce. In 1980 Price received the Royal Prerogative of Mercy and was freed on humanitarian grounds in 1981, purportedly suffering from anorexia nervosa due to the invasive trauma of daily force feedings.

The Price sisters remained active politically. In the late 1990s, Price and her sister claimed that they had been threatened by their former colleagues in the IRA and Sinn Féin for publicly opposing the Good Friday Agreement i.e. the cessation of the IRA’s military campaign. Price was a contributor to The Blanket, an online journal, edited by former Provisional IRA member Anthony McIntyre, until it ceased publication in 2008.

Personal life

Dolours Price and Stephen Rea
With Stephen Rea

After her release in 1980, she married Irish actor Stephen Rea, with whom she had two sons, Danny and Oscar.

They divorced in 2003.

Later life

In 2001, Price was arrested in Dublin and charged with possession of stolen prescription pads and forged prescriptions. She pleaded guilty and was fined £200 and ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

In February 2010, it was reported by The Irish News that Price had offered help to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains in locating graves of three men, Joe Lynskey, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee, who were allegedly killed by the IRA and whose bodies have not been found.

She was the subject of the 2018 feature-length documentary I, Dolours in which she gave an extensive filmed interview.

Allegations against Gerry Adams

In 2010 Price claimed Gerry Adams had been her officer commanding when she was active in the IRA. Adams, who has always denied being a member of the IRA, denied her allegation. Price admitted taking part in the murder of Jean McConville, as part of an IRA action in 1972.

She claimed the murder of McConville, a mother of 10, was ordered by Adams when he was an IRA leader in West Belfast. Adams subsequently publicly further denied Price’s allegations, stating that the reason for them was that she was opposed to the Provisional Irish Republican Army’s abandonment of paramilitary warfare in favour of politics in 1994, in the facilitation of which Adams had been a key figure.

Boston College tapes

Graffiti criticising Boston College in Belfast

Voices from the Grave

Oral historians at Boston College interviewed both Dolours Price and her fellow IRA paramilitary Brendan Hughes between 2001 and 2006, the two giving detailed interviews for the historical record of the activities in the IRA, which were recorded on condition that the content of the interviews was not to be released during their lifetimes. Prior to Price’s death, in May 2011, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) subpoenaed the material, possibly as part of an investigation into the disappearance of a number of people in Northern Ireland during the 1970s.

In June 2011, the college filed a motion to quash the subpoena. A spokesman for the college stated that “our position is that the premature release of the tapes could threaten the safety of the participants, the enterprise of oral history, and the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland.”

In July 2011, US federal prosecutors asked a judge to require the college to release the tapes to comply with treaty obligations with the United Kingdom.

On 6 July 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit agreed with the government’s position that the subpoena should stand.

On 17 October 2012, the United States Supreme Court temporarily blocked the College from handing over the interview tapes. In January 2013 Price died, and in April 2013, the Supreme Court turned away an appeal that sought to keep the interviews from being supplied to the PSNI. The order left in place a lower court ruling that ordered Boston College to give the Justice Department portions of recorded interviews with Dolours Price. Federal officials wanted to forward the recordings to police investigating the murder of Jean McConville.

Death

See: DISSIDENT TERROR BOSS COLIN DUFFY AT DOLOURS PRICE FUNERAl

On 24 January 2013 Price was found dead at her MalahideCounty Dublin home, from a toxic effect of mixing prescribed sedative and anti-depressant medication. The inquest returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

Her body was buried at Milltown Cemetery in West Belfast.

Jean McConville

See: Jean McConville – The Shameful & Unforgivable Murder of a Widow & Mother of Ten

Image result for Columba McVeigh
Columba McVeigh   

See: The Disappeared – Northern Ireland’s Secret Victims

See: IRA Internal Security Unit – Nutting Squad

Say Nothing

A True Story Of Murder and Memory In Northern Ireland

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One night in December 1972, Jean McConville, a mother of ten, was abducted from her home in Belfast and never seen alive again. Her disappearance would haunt her orphaned children, the perpetrators of this terrible crime and a whole society in Northern Ireland for decades.

In this powerful, scrupulously reported book, Patrick Radden Keefe offers not just a forensic account of a brutal crime but a vivid portrait of the world in which it happened. The tragedy of an entire country is captured in the spellbinding narrative of a handful of characters, presented in lyrical and unforgettable detail.

A poem by Seamus Heaney inspires the title: ‘Whatever You Say, Say Nothing’. By defying the culture of silence, Keefe illuminates how a close-knit society fractured; how people chose sides in a conflict and turned to violence; and how, when the shooting stopped, some ex-combatants came to look back in horror at the atrocities they had committed, while others continue to advocate violence even today.

Say Nothing deftly weaves the stories of Jean McConville and her family with those of Dolours Price, the first woman to join the IRA as a front-line soldier, who bombed the Old Bailey when barely out of her teens; Gerry Adams, who helped bring an end to the fighting, but denied his own IRA past; Brendan Hughes, a fearsome IRA commander who turned on Adams after the peace process and broke the IRA’s code of silence; and other indelible figures. By capturing the intrigue, the drama and the profound human cost of the Troubles, the book presents a searing chronicle of the lengths that people are willing to go to in pursuit of a political ideal, and the ways in which societies mend – or don’t – in the aftermath of a long and bloody conflict.

Im currently reading this & will do a review when complete

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I, DOLOURS Trailer (2018) Militant IRA Activist Portrait

Máire Drumm: Life & Death

… Máire Drumm  Life & death 22 October 1919 – 28 October 1976 Máire Drumm (22 October 1919 – 28 October 1976) was the vice-president of Sinn Féin and a commander in Cumann na mBan. She was killed by Ulster loyalists while recovering from an eye operation in Belfast’s Mater Hospital. Born in Newry, County Down, to a staunchly Irish republican family. Drumm’s mother had … Continue reading Máire Drumm: Life & Death

John Bingham UVF : Life & Death

John Bingham Life & Death John Dowey Bingham (c. 1953 – 14 September 1986) was a prominent Northern Irish loyalist who led “D Company” (Ballysillan), 1st Battalion, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). He was shot dead by the Provisional IRA after they had broken into his home. Bingham was one of a number of prominent UVF members to be assassinated during the 1980s, … Continue reading John Bingham UVF : Life & Death

Patrick Rooney First Child killed in the Troubles 14th August 1969 : Northern Ireland History

Patrick Rooney Age 9 First Child killed in the Troubles Patrick Rooney 14th August 1969 Patrick was the first child to be killed during the Troubles he died shortly after being struck by a tracer bullet by the RUC as he lay in his bed in his family home in Divis Tower. The shot was … Continue reading Patrick Rooney First Child killed in the Troubles 14th August 1969 : Northern Ireland History

Dawn of the Troubles – August 1969: Northern Ireland History

Dawn of the Troubles – August 1969 Northern Ireland History During 12–16 August 1969, there was an outbreak of political and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, which is often seen as the beginning of the thirty-year conflict known as the Troubles. There had been sporadic violence throughout the year arising out of the civil rights … Continue reading Dawn of the Troubles – August 1969: Northern Ireland History

Ian Gow : Assassinated by the IRA 3oth July 1990

Ian Reginald Edward Gow Ian Reginald Edward Gow TD 11 February 1937 – 30 July 1990) was a British Conservative politician and solicitor. While serving as Member of Parliament (MP) for Eastbourne, he was assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), who exploded a bomb under his car outside his home in East Sussex. Early life Ian Gow was born at 3 Upper Harley Street, London, the … Continue reading Ian Gow : Assassinated by the IRA 3oth July 1990

Kevin Fulton ( aka Peter Keeley ) – Double Agent ?

Kevin Fulton aka Peter Keeley – Double Agent ?

Kevin Fulton is a British agent from NewryNorthern Ireland, who allegedly spied on the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) for MI5. He is believed to be in London, where he is suing the Crown, claiming his British military handlers cut off their connections and financial aid to him. In 2004 he reportedly sued the Andersonstown News, an Irish republican news outlet in Belfast, for revealing his identity as well as publishing his photograph. The result of that suit has not been made public.

– Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these blog posts/documentaries are solely 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

Undercover activity

In Unsung Hero, “Fulton” claims he worked undercover as a British Army agent within the IRA. He was believed to have operated predominantly inside the IRA’s South Down Brigade, as well as concentrating on the heavy IRA activity in South Armagh. “Fulton” and four members of his IRA unit in Newry reportedly pioneered the use of “flash guns” to detonate bombs.

In one incident, “Fulton” was questioned on responsibility for designing firing mechanisms used in a horizontal mortar attack on a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) armoured patrol car on Merchants Quay, NewryCounty Down, on 27 March 1992. Colleen McMurray, a constable (aged 34) died and another constable was seriously injured.

“Fulton” claims he tipped off his MI5 handler that an attack was likely.

IRA Informer on British Intelligence | Kevin Fulton

Arrest

On 5 November 2006, he was released without charge after being arrested in London, and transferred to Belfast to be questioned about his knowledge or involvement in the deaths of Irish People’s Liberation Organisation member Eoin Morley (aged 23), Royal Ulster Constabulary officer Colleen McMurray (34), and Ranger Cyril Smith (aged 21).

“I personally did not kill people”,

he stated. His lawyers asked the British Ministry of Defence to provide him and his family with new identities, relocation and immediate implementation of the complete financial package, including his army pension and other discharge benefits, which he had been reportedly promised by the MoD for his covert tour of duty. His ex-wife, Margaret Keeley, filed a lawsuit in early 2014 for full access to documents relating to her ex-husband.

She claims to have been wrongfully arrested and falsely imprisoned during a three-day period in 1994 following a purported attempt by the IRA to assassinate a senior detective in East Belfast.

Legal cases

On 26 November 2013, it was reported that The Irish News had won a legal battle after a judge ruled against Keeley’s lawsuit against the newspaper for breach of privacy and copyright, by publishing his photograph, which thereby also, he argued, endangered his life. Belfast District Judge Isobel Brownlie stated at least twice that she was not impressed with Keeley’s evidence and described him as “disingenuous”. Under British law, Keeley will also be billed for the newspaper’s legal costs.

On 31 January 2014, the Belfast High Court ruled that “Fulton” had to pay damages to Eilish Morley, the mother of IPLO member Eoin Morley, shot dead at age 23 by the IRA. The order was issued based upon his failure to appear in court. The scale of the pay-out for which he is liable was to be assessed at a later stage but was never published.

Covert Recording of MI5

Attempted Recruitment by MI5 Recorded

References

  1. ^ Keeley and Smithwick Tribunal, Bbc.com; accessed 5 May 2014.
  2. ^ “Former spy released without charge”Rte.ie. 6 November 2006. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  3. Jump up to:a b Fulton, Kevin, Jim Nally, and Ian Gallagher. Unsung Hero, John Blake Publishing Ltd., London (2006); ISBN 978-1-84454-034-1, pp. 146-47.
  4. ^ BBC‘s Hard Talk interview, 4 October 2006.
  5. ^ “Informer’s ex-wife Margaret Keeley to battle MoD legal move”BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  6. ^ “Stakeknife damaged my life – MI5 agent’s ex-wife”Bbc.co.uk. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  7. ^ Suzanne McGonagle, Irish News wins legal battle regarding spy’s photo”, Scribd.com; accessed 4 May 2014.
  8. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. “CAIN: Issues: Victims of the Northern Ireland Conflict”Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  9. ^ “British agent in IRA must pay damage to victim’s family, says court order”Belfast Telegraph, 31 January 2014; accessed 4 May 2014.

Main source : Wikipedia Kevin Fulton

See: Peter Keeley Wikispooks

See: Books about the Troubles

See: Double Agent : My Secret Life Undercover in The IRA

See: IRA Nutting Squad

See: Belfast: Telegraph Former intelligence agent Kevin Fulton, who was born in Newry but now lives “somewhere in the UK”……

See Irish News: Secret file proves existence of IRA informer

Posts about the Troubles

Tullyvallen Massacre – The Forgotten Massacre

Tullyvallen Massacre – The Forgotten Massacre

1 September 1975

The Tullyvallen massacre took place on 1 September 1975, when Irish republican gunmen attacked an Orange Order meeting hall at Tullyvallen, near Newtownhamilton in County ArmaghNorthern Ireland. The Orange Order is an Ulster Protestant and unionist brotherhood. Five Orangemen were killed and seven wounded in the shooting.

The “South Armagh Republican Action Force” claimed responsibility, saying it was retaliation for a string of attacks on Catholic civilians by Loyalists. It is believed members of the Provisional IRA carried out the attack, despite the organisation being on ceasefire.

Background

On 10 February 1975, the Provisional IRA and British government entered into a truce and restarted negotiations. The IRA agreed to halt attacks on the British security forces, and the security forces mostly ended their raids and searches.

There was a rise in sectarian killings during the truce. Loyalists, fearing they were about to be forsaken by the British government and forced into a united Ireland, increased their attacks on Irish Catholics/nationalists. They hoped to force the IRA to retaliate and thus end the truce.Some IRA units concentrated on tackling the loyalists. The fall-off of regular operations had caused unruliness within the IRA and some members, with or without permission from higher up, engaged in tit-for-tat killings.

On 22 August, loyalists killed three Catholic civilians in a gun and bomb attack on a pub in Armagh. Two days later, loyalists shot dead two Catholic civilians after stopping their car at a fake British Army checkpoint in the Tullyvallen area. Both of these attacks have been linked to the Glenanne gang. On 30 August, loyalists killed two more Catholic civilians in a gun and bomb attack on a pub in Belfast.

THE GLENANNE GANG – WHO ARE THEY? EXCLUSIVE BBC EXPOSE

Orange Hall attack

On the night of 1 September, a group of Orangemen were holding a meeting in their isolated Orange hall in the rural area of Tullyvallen. At about 10pm, two masked gunmen burst into the hall armed with assault rifles and sprayed it with bullets while others stood outside and fired through the windows.

 The Orangemen scrambled for cover. One of them was an off-duty Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer. He returned fire with a pistol and believed he hit one of the attackers.  Five of the Orangemen, all Protestant civilians, were killed while seven others were wounded.  Before leaving, the attackers also planted a 2 pound bomb outside the hall, but it failed to detonate.

The victims were John Johnston (80), James McKee (73) and his son William McKee (40), Nevin McConnell (48), and William Herron (68) who died two days later. They all belonged to Tullyvallen Guiding Star Temperance Orange Lodge.

Three of the dead were former members of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

Victims

01 September 1975

James McKee    (70)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot during gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.

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01 September 1975
Ronald McKee,   (40)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot during gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.

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01 September 1975
John Johnston,  (80)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot during gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.

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01 September 1975
Nevin McConnell,   (40)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot during gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.

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01 September 1975

William Herron,  (63)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot during gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh. He died 3 September 1975

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Aftermath

A caller to the BBC claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the “South Armagh Republican Action Force” or “South Armagh Reaction Force”, saying it was retaliation for “the assassinations of fellow Catholics”. The Irish Times reported on 10 September: “The Provisional IRA has told the British government that dissident members of its organisation were responsible” and “stressed that the shooting did not have the consent of the organisation’s leadership”.

In response to the attack, the Orange Order called for the creation of a legal militia (or “Home Guard”) to deal with republican paramilitaries.

Some of the rifles used in the attack were later used in the Kingsmill massacre in January 1976, when ten Protestant workmen were killed. Like the Tullyvallen massacre, it was claimed by the “South Armagh Reaction Force” (a cover name for IRA operatives in some operations at the time) as retaliation for the killing of Catholics elsewhere.

In November 1977, 22-year-old Cullyhanna man John Anthony McCooey was convicted of driving the gunmen to and from the scene and of IRA membership. He was also convicted of involvement in the killings of UDR soldier Joseph McCullough—chaplain of Tullyvallen Orange lodge—in February 1976, and UDR soldier Robert McConnell in April 1976.

South Armagh – “Bandit Country” (1976)

Main Source : Wikipedia

See also


Major Events in the Troubles

The Battle of Springmartin 13th –14th May 1972

Battle of Springmartin 13th -14th May 1972

The Battle at Springmartin was a series of gun battles in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 13–14 May 1972. It involved the British Army, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

See: IRA history & Background

See: UVF history & background

The violence began when a car bomb, planted by Ulster loyalists, exploded outside a crowded public house in the mainly Irish nationalist and Catholic district of Ballymurphy.

UVF snipers then opened fire on the survivors from an abandoned high-rise flat. This began the worst fighting in Northern Ireland since the suspension of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the imposition of direct rule from London. For the rest of the night and throughout the next day, local IRA units fought gun battles with both the UVF and British Army. Most of the fighting took place along the interface between the Catholic Ballymurphy and Ulster Protestant Springmartin housing estates, and the British Army base that sat between them.

Seven people were killed in the violence: five civilians (four Catholics, one Protestant), a British soldier and a member of the IRA Youth Section. Four of the dead were teenagers.

Northern Ireland in the 1960s/1970s Documentary

— Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in this post/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 error

Bombing of Kelly’s Bar

Aftermath of Bomb

Shortly after 5:00 PM on Saturday 13 May 1972, a car bomb exploded without warning outside Kelly’s Bar, at the junction of the Springfield Road and Whiterock Road. The pub was in a mainly Irish Catholic and nationalist area and most of its customers were from the area.  At the time of the blast, the pub was crowded with men watching an association football match between England and West Germany on colour television. Sixty-three people were injured, eight of them seriously. John Moran (19), who had been working at Kelly’s as a part-time barman, died of his injuries on 23 May.

At first, the British Army claimed that the blast had been an “accident” caused by a Provisional IRA bomb. The Secretary of State for Northern IrelandWilliam Whitelaw, told the House of Commons on 18 May that the blast was caused by a Provisional IRA bomb that exploded prematurely.

However, locals suspected that the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) had planted the bomb. Republican sources said that IRA volunteers would not have risked storing such a large amount of explosives in such a crowded pub. It later emerged that the bomb had indeed been planted by loyalists.

See: UDA History & Background

A memorial plaque on the site of the former pub names three members of staff who lost their lives as a result of the bomb and the gun battles that followed. It reads: “.

” ..here on 13th May 1972 a no warning Loyalist car bomb exploded. As a result, 66 people were injured and three innocent members of staff of Kelly’s Bar lost their lives. They were: Tommy McIlroy (died 13th May 1972), John Moran (died from his injuries 23rd May 1972), Gerard Clarke (died from his injuries 6th September 1989) “

The Gun Battles

Saturday 13 May

The night before the bombing, gunmen from the UVF West Belfast Brigade had taken up position along the second floor of an abandoned row of maisonettes  (or flats) at the edge of the Protestant Springmartin estate. The flats overlooked the Catholic Ballymurphy estate. Rifles, mostly Second World War stock, were ferried to the area from dumps in the Shankill.

Not long after the explosion, the UVF unit opened fire on those gathered outside the wrecked pub, including those who had been caught in the blast.

 A British Army spokesman said that the shooting began at about 5:35 PM, when 30 high-velocity shots were heard.  Social Democratic and Labour Party Member of Parliament Gerry Fitt said that shots had been fired from the Springmartin estate only minutes after the bombing. William Whitelaw, however, claimed that the shooting did not begin until 40 minutes after the blast.

Ambulances braved the gunfire to reach the wounded, which included a number of children.  Tommy McIlroy (50), a Catholic civilian who worked at Kelly’s Bar, was shot in the chest and killed outright. He was the first to be killed in the violence.

See: 13th May – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Members of both the Provisional and Official wings of the IRA “joined forces to return the fire”, using Thompson submachine gunsM1 carbines and a Bren light machine gun.

When British troops arrived on the scene, they too were fired upon by IRA units. Corporal Alan Buckley (22) of the 1st Battalion The Kings Regiment was fatally shot by the Provisionals on Whiterock Road.

 A platoon of soldiers then gave covering fire while a medical officer tried to help him. Another soldier was also wounded in the gunfight. Following this, 300 members of the Parachute Regiment were sent to back up the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

Over the next few hours there were 35 separate shooting incidents reported, making it the most violent night since the suspension of the Northern Ireland government and imposition of Direct Rule from London earlier that year.

The IRA exchanged fire with both the British Army and with the UVF snipers on the Springmartin flats. Most of the IRA’s fire was aimed at the Henry Taggart Army base—near the Springmartin flats—which was hit by over 400 rounds in the first 14 hours of the battle.  

Although most of the republican gunfire came from the Ballymurphy estate, British soldiers also reported shots being fired from the nearby mountain slopes. According to journalist Malachi O’Doherty, a source claimed that the British Army had also fired into Belfast City Cemetery between the Whiterock and Springfield roads.

If you hate the british army clap your hands! – Irish children’s music (Ballymurphy)

Two more people were killed that night. The first was 15-year-old Michael Magee, a member of Fianna Éireann (the IRA youth wing), who was found shot in the chest at New Barnsley Crescent, near his home. He died shortly after he was brought to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Two men who took him there claimed they were beaten by British soldiers who had just heard of Corporal Buckley’s death.  A death notice said that Magee was killed by the British Army but the republican publication Belfast Graves claimed he had been accidentally shot.

The other was a Catholic civilian, Robert McMullan (32), who was shot at New Barnsley Park, also near his home. Witnesses said there was heavy gunfire in the area at 8PM and then:

“a single shot rang out and Robert McMullan fell to the ground”.

It is thought that he was shot by soldiers firing from Henry Taggart base.

Trevor King Mural

On the first night of the battle, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) arrested two young UVF members, Trevor King and William Graham. They were found at a house in Blackmountain Pass trying to fix a rifle that had jammed. During a search of the house, the RUC found three Steyr rifles, ammunition and illuminating flares.

See: Trevor King

Sunday 14 May

The fighting between the IRA, UVF and British Army resumed the following day. According to the book UVF (1997), British soldiers were moved into the ground floor of the abandoned flats while the UVF snipers continued firing from the flats above them. The soldiers and UVF were both firing into Ballymurphy, and according to the book both were “initially unaware of each other”.

 However, according to a UVF gunman involved in the battle, there was collusion between the UVF and British soldiers. He alleged that a British foot patrol caught a UVF unit hiding guns in a bin but ignored their cache with a wink when the UVF member said the guns were “rubbish”.

According to Jim Cusack and Henry McDonald, Jim Hanna — who later became UVF Chief of Staff — was one of the snipers operating from Springmartin during the battle. Jim Hanna told journalist Kevin Myers that, during the clashes, a British Army patrol helped Hanna and two other UVF members get into Corry’s Timber Yard, which overlooked the Catholic Ballymurphy estate.  When a British Army Major heard of the incident he ordered his men to withdraw, but they did not arrest the UVF members, who were allowed to hold their position. The IRA’s Ballymurphy unit was returning fire at an equal rate and some 400 strike marks were later counted on the flats.

Squaddies on the Frontline – BBC Documentary 2018 – British Army in Northern Ireland

In the Springmartin estate, gunfire killed Protestant teenager John Pedlow (17) and wounded his friend.  According to the book Lost Lives, they had been shot by soldiers. His friend said that they had been walking home from a shop when there was a burst of gunfire, which “came from near the Taggart Memorial Army post and seemed to be directed towards Black Mountain Parade”.

However, Malcolm Sutton’s Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland states that he was killed by the IRA.  An inquest into Pedlow’s death found that he had been hit by a .303 bullet, which was likely a ricochet. Pedlow was given a loyalist funeral, but police said there was nothing to link him with any “illegal organisation or acts”.

UVF snipers continued to fire from the high-rise flats on the hill at Springmartin Road. About three hours after the shooting of Pedlow, a bullet fatally struck a 13-year-old Catholic girl, Martha Campbell, as she walked along Springhill Avenue.

She was among a group of young girls and a witness said the firing must have been directed at himself and the girls, as nobody else was in the area at the time. Reliable loyalist sources say that the schoolgirl was shot by the UVF.

Shortly afterwards, the loyalist UDA used roadblocks and barricades to seal-off the Woodvale area into a “no-go” zone, controlled by the UDA’s B Company, which was then commanded by former British soldier Davy Fogel.

Belfast 1969 : The Dawn of the Troubles ( Shankill / Falls Rd

Main Source : Wikipedia

Don’t forget to check out my homepage for a comprehensive database on deaths & events during the Troubles

See: The Loyalist Mod , extracts from my forthcoming autobiography

Jean McConville – The Shameful & Unforgivable Murder of a Widow & Mother of Ten

Jean McConville

Jean McConville

The Shameful & Unforgivable Murder of a Widow & Mother of Ten

Jean McConville (née Murray; 7 May 1934 – December 1972) was a woman from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who was kidnapped and shot dead by the Provisional IRA and secretly buried in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland in 1972 after being accused by the IRA of passing information to British forces.

In 1999, the IRA acknowledged that it had killed McConville and eight others of the “Disappeared”.

It claimed she had been passing information about republicans to the British Army in exchange for money and that a transmitter had been found in her apartment.

A report by the Police Ombudsman found no evidence for this or other rumours. Before the Troubles, the IRA had a policy of killing informers within its own ranks; however, from the start of the conflict the term informer was also used for civilians who were suspected of providing information on paramilitary organisations to the security forces. Other Irish republican and loyalist paramilitaries also carried out such killings.

As she was a widowed mother of ten,  the McConville killing was particularly controversial. Her body was not found until 2003, and the crime has not been solved. The Police Ombudsman found that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) did not begin to investigate the disappearance properly until 1995.

 

Biography

Jean Murray was born on 7 May 1934 to a Protestant family in East Belfast but converted after marrying Arthur McConville, a Catholic former British Army soldier, with whom she had ten children. After being intimidated out of a Protestant district by loyalists in 1969, the McConville family moved to West Belfast’s Divis Flats in the Lower Falls Road. Arthur died from cancer in January 1972.

At the time of her death, Jean McConville lived at 1A St Jude’s Walk, which was part of the Divis Flats complex.  This was an IRA stronghold, from which attacks were regularly launched against the British Army and RUC. Since the death of her husband, she had been raising their ten children, who were aged between six and twenty.

Their son Robbie was a member of the ‘Official’ IRA and was interned in Long Kesh at the time of her death; he would defect to the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1974.

 

Killing

In the months leading up to her death, tension and suspicion grew between McConville and her neighbours.  One night shortly before her disappearance, she was allegedly attacked after leaving a bingo hall and warned to stop giving information to the British Army.

According to police records, on 29 November 1972 a British Army unit found a distressed woman wandering in the street. She told them her name was McConville and that she had been attacked and warned to stop informing.

One of McConville’s children claimed she was kidnapped the night after this incident, but others gave the date of the kidnapping as 7 December.

On the night of her disappearance, four young women took McConville from her home at gunpoint, and she was driven to an unknown location. Dolours Price admitted that she was one of those involved in driving her across the border.

McConville was killed by a gunshot to the back of the head, there was no evidence of any other injuries to her body.

Her body was secretly buried across the border on Shellinghill Beach (also known as Templetown Beach) on the Cooley Peninsula in the north of County Louth, about 50 miles from her home. The place of her death is uncertain.

Although no group admitted responsibility for her disappearance, there were rumours that the IRA had killed her for being an informer. Another rumour is that she was killed because neighbours claimed they saw her helping a badly wounded British soldier outside her home; however, there is no record of such an incident.

McConville’s children say they recall her helping a wounded British soldier some time before their father died in January 1972.

In a 2014 interview published in the Sunday Life, former veteran Irish republican Evelyn Gilroy claimed the person who had tended to the soldier was her [Gilroy’s] sister.

The IRA did not admit involvement until after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. It claimed she was killed because she was passing information about republicans to the British Army. Former IRA member Brendan Hughes claimed the IRA had searched her flat some time before her death and found a radio transmitter, which they confiscated.

He and other former republicans interrogated her and claimed she admitted the British Army was paying her for information about republicans. Hughes claims that, because of her circumstances, they let her go with a warning. However, he claims when the IRA found she had resumed working for the British Army, it decided to “execute” her.

Reluctant to kill a clearly desperate woman – not least because of the adverse publicity it would engender – the Brigade HQ Staff allowed McConville to live, albeit with a warning of fatal consequences should she be caught spying again. By December their patience was ended and after a short discussion over “banishment” versus “execution” her death was ordered through a majority vote. Among those supporting the latter option was the brigade OC or officer commanding,

Gerry Adams. However the manner of her killing was hotly debated. There were continuing fears that the acknowledged detention and killing by (P)IRA of a widowed mother of ten children (including a young political prisoner) would have a disastrous effect on support for the movement; that it would be exploited by Britain’s well-oiled propaganda-machine, as well as Republican rivals in (O)IRA; and that the slaying could reduce moral among local Volunteers. In the end those favouring a “public execution” were out-voted by those supporting a secret death sentence and “disappearance”, a solution which would have the added benefit of sowing confusion amongst their adversaries in the British intelligence groupings.

This was a practice that was already beginning to take root – albeit intermittently and with a great  deal of controversy – in the conflict-cockpit of Belfast. In this decision it seems that Gerry Adams was again in the majority camp.

See: AN SIONNACH FIONN for full story

 

Usually the bodies of informers were left in public as a warning, but the IRA secretly buried McConville, apparently because she was a widowed mother-of-ten. The IRA had first done this two months earlier, when it killed and buried two IRA members who were found to be working undercover for the British Military Reaction Force (MRF).

Aftermath

After her disappearance, McConville’s seven youngest children, including six-year-old twins, survived on their own in the flat, cared for by their 15-year-old sister Helen. After three weeks, the hungry family was visited by a stranger, who gave them Jean’s purse, with 52 pence and her three rings in it.

On 16 January 1973, the story of the abduction appeared on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph, under the headline:

“Snatched mother missing a month”

The following day, the children were interviewed on the BBC television programme Scene Around Six. The children reported to the social services, and were immediately brought into local council care.

The family was forcibly split up by social services.Among the consequences of the killing, Jean’s orphaned son Billy was sent to De La Salle Boys’ Home, Rubane House, Kircubbin, County Down, notorious for child abuse; he testified in 2014 to the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, describing repeated sexual and physical abuse, and starvation, saying :

“Christians looking after young boys – maybe they were Christians, but to me they were devils disguised in that uniform.”

Within two days of her kidnapping, one of her sons reported the incident to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British Army. However, the Police Ombudsman did not find any trace of an investigation into the kidnapping during the 1970s or 1980s.

An officer told the Ombudsman that CID investigations in that area of Belfast at that time were “restricted to the most serious cases”. On 2 January 1973, the RUC received two pieces of information stating:

“it is rumoured that Jean McConville had been abducted by the [IRA] because she is an informer”

In March 1973, information was received from the British Army, saying the kidnapping was an elaborate hoax and that McConville had left of her own free will.  As a result, the RUC refused to accept that McConville was missing, preferring to believe an anonymous tip that she had absconded with a British soldier.

The first investigation into her kidnapping appears to have taken place in 1995, when a team of RUC detectives was established to review the cases of all those who were thought to have been kidnapped during the conflict.

In 1999, the IRA gave information on the whereabouts of her body.  This prompted a prolonged search, co-ordinated by the Garda Síochána, the Irish police service, but no body was found. On the night of 26 August 2003, a storm washed away part of the embankment supporting the west side of Shellinghill Beach car park, near the site of previous searches. This exposed the body.

Jean McConville boby.jpg

On 27 August, it was found by passersby while they were walking on Shellinghill Beach (also known as Templetown Beach) in County Louthat the eastern tip of the Cooley Peninsula. McConville was subsequently reburied beside her husband Arthur in Holy Trinity Graveyard in Lisburn.

Investigation

Police Ombudsman’s report

In April 2004 the inquest into McConville’s death returned a verdict of unlawful killing.

In 2006 the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Nuala O’Loan, published a report about the police’s investigation of the murder. It concluded that the RUC did not investigate the murder until 1995, when it carried out a minor investigation. It found no evidence that she had been an informer, but recommended the British Government go against its long-standing policy regarding informers and reveal whether she was one.

Journalist Ed Moloney called for the British Government to release war diaries relating to the Divis Flats area at the time. War diaries are usually released under the thirty-year rule, but those relating to Divis at the time of McConville’s death are embargoed for almost ninety years.

The police have since apologised for its failure to investigate her abduction.  In January 2005, Sinn Féin party chairman Mitchel McLaughlin claimed that the killing of McConville was not a crime, saying that she had been executed as a spy in a war situation.

This prompted Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole to write a rebuttal, arguing that the abduction and extrajudicial killing of McConville was clearly a:

“war crime by all accepted national and international standards”

The IRA has since issued a general apology, saying it :

“regrets the suffering of all the families whose loved ones were killed and buried by the IRA”.

PSNI investigation and Boston College tapes

 

In August 2006, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Sir Hugh Orde, stated that he was not hopeful anyone would be brought to justice over the murder, saying:

“[in] any case of that age, it is highly unlikely that a successful prosecution could be mounted.”

Boston College had launched an oral history project on the Troubles in 2001. It recorded interviews with republicans and loyalists about their involvement in the conflict, on the understanding that the tapes would not be released until after their deaths.

Two of the republican interviewees, Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, both now deceased, admitted they were involved in McConville’s kidnapping. Both became diehard opponents of the Good Friday Agreement and Sinn Féin’s support of it. They saw Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams as a traitor for negotiating the Agreement and persuading the IRA to end its campaign.

In 2010, after Hughes’s death, some of his statements were published in the book Voices from the Grave.   He claimed McConville had admitted being an informer, and that Adams ordered her disappearance.

In a 2010 newspaper article, Price also claimed McConville was an informer and that Adams ordered her disappearance, which has been strenuously denied by Ed Moloney.  Price, who died in 2013, said she gave the interviews as revenge against Adams.  Former republican prisoner Evelyn Gilroy, who lived near McConville, claimed Adams was an IRA commander and the only person who could have ordered the killing.

Adams has denied any role in the death of McConville. He said:

“the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice to her and her family”

In 2011, the PSNI began a legal bid to gain access to the tapes.  Acting on a request from the PSNI, the United States Justice Department tried to force Boston College to hand them over. Boston College had promised those interviewed that the tapes would not be released until after their deaths, and other interviewees said they feared retribution if the tapes were released. Following a lengthy court battle, the PSNI was given transcripts of interviews by Hughes and Price.

2014 arrests

In March and April 2014, the PSNI arrested a number of people over the kidnapping and killing of Jean McConville. Ivor Bell, former IRA Chief of Staff, was arrested in March 2014.  Shortly afterwards, he was charged with aiding and abetting in her murder.

In April, the PSNI arrested three people who were teenagers at the time of the kidnapping: a 56-year-old man and two women, aged 57 and 60. All were released without charge.

Following Bell’s arrest in March, there was media speculation that police would want to question Gerry Adams due to the claims made by Hughes and Price. Adams maintained he was not involved, but had his solicitor contact the PSNI to find whether they wanted to question him.

On 30 April, after being contacted by the PSNI, Adams voluntarily arranged to be interviewed at Antrim PSNI Station. He was arrested and questioned for four days before being released without charge. A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to decide whether further action should be taken, but there was “insufficient evidence” to charge him.

The arrest took place during an election campaign. Sinn Féin claimed that the timing of the arrest was politically motivated; an attempt to harm the party’s chances in the upcoming elections. Alex Maskey said it was evidence of a “political agenda […] a negative agenda” by elements of the PSNI.

Jean McConville’s family had campaigned for the arrest of Adams over the murder. Her son Michael said:

“Me and the rest of my brothers and sisters are just glad to see the PSNI doing their job. We didn’t think it would ever take place [Mr Adams’ arrest], but we are quite glad that it is taking place.” 

In a later interview on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, he stated that he knew the names of those who had abducted and killed his mother, but that:

“I wouldn’t tell the police [PSNI]. If I told the police now a thing, me or one of my family members or one of my children would get shot by those [IRA] people. It’s terrible that we know those people and we can’t bring them to justice”

 

Anthony Mc Intyre and the Boston Tapes

 

See: The Disappeared – Northern Ireland’s Secret Victims

 

Massereene Barracks shooting 2009 – The Despicable & Cowardly murder of two off-duty British soldiers. Lest We Forget!

 Massereene Barracks Shooting

Saturday 9th March 2009

Lest We Forget!

 

Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey

 Saturday 7th March

2009

Panther logo.jpg

On 7 March 2009, two off-duty British soldiers of 38 Engineer Regiment were shot dead outside Massereene Barracks in Antrim townNorthern Ireland. Two other soldiers and two civilian delivery men were also shot and wounded during the attack.

An Irish republican paramilitary group, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility.

The shootings were the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since 1997. Two days later, the Continuity IRA shot dead a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer; the first Northern Irish police officer to be killed by paramilitaries since 1998. These attacks marked the beginning of the most intensive period of “dissident republican” activity since the start of their campaign.

 

Massereene Barracks shooting
2009 Massereene Barracks shooting is located in Northern Ireland

2009 Massereene Barracks shooting
Location Massereene Barracks, Antrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Coordinates 54°43′18″N 6°13′51″WCoordinates54°43′18″N 6°13′51″W
Date 7 March 2009
~21:40 (UTC)
Attack type
Ambush
Weapons AKM automatic rifle
Deaths 2 soldiers
Non-fatal injuries
2 soldiers, 2 civilians
Perpetrator Real IRA

Background

From the late 1960s until the late 1990s, Northern Ireland underwent a conflict known as the Troubles, in which more than 3,500 people were killed. More than 700 of those killed were British military personnel, deployed as part of Operation Banner. The vast majority of these British military personnel were killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), which waged an armed campaign to force the British to negotiate a withdrawal from Northern Ireland. In 1997 the IRA called a final ceasefire and in 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

This is widely seen as marking the end of the conflict.

 

However, breakaway groups opposed to the ceasefire (“dissident Irish republicans“) continued a low-leve  armed campaign against the British security forces in Northern Ireland (see Dissident Irish Republican campaign). The main group involved was an IRA splinter group known as the ‘Real’ IRA. In 2007, the British Army formally ended Operation Banner and greatly reduced its presence in Northern Ireland.

The low-level ‘dissident republican’ campaign continued. In January 2009, security forces had to defuse a bomb in Castlewellan  and in 2008 three separate incidents saw dissident republicans attempt to kill Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers in DerryCastlederg and Dungannon. In all three cases, PSNI officers were seriously wounded. Two of the attacks involved firearms while the other involved an under-car booby-trap bomb.

Massereene Barracks.PNG

Shooting

At about 21:40 on the evening of Saturday of 7 March, four off-duty British soldiers of the Royal Engineers walked outside the barracks to receive a pizza delivery from two delivery men. As the exchange was taking place, two masked gunmen in a nearby car (a green Vauxhall Cavalier) opened fire with Romanian AKM automatic rifles.

The firing lasted for more than 30 seconds with more than 60 shots being fired. After the initial burst of gunfire, the gunmen walked over to the wounded soldiers lying on the ground and fired again at close range, killing two of them.

Image result for Sappers Mark Quinsey

Sapper Mark Quinsey with his mother Pamela and sister Jaime 

Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Sapper Azimkar was 21 and came from London. He joined the Royal Engineers in 2005 and completed his basic recruit training and combat engineer course before attending artisan training as a carpenter and joiner.

He was posted to 38 Engineer Regiment in Ripon, North Yorkshire, in 2007. In January 2008 he completed a construction task in Northern Ireland and then deployed to Kenya in support of the infantry unit with whom he was due to work in Afghanistan. Following his return he participated in the regimental move to a new permanent base in Northern Ireland.

Fiercely competitive, both as an individual and team player, Sapper Azimkar was a very talented footballer. He had represented his squadron and the regiment and, as a younger man, had trials with Tottenham Hotspur.

Sapper Azimkar was a jovial, courteous and fun-loving soldier whose easygoing character found favour with all ranks. Hugely enthusiastic about the regiment’s deployment to southern Helmand, Sapper Azimkar was looking forward to facing the challenges of his first operational tour and the potential of JNCO (Junior Non-Commissioned Officer) training thereafter.

Sapper Patrick Azimkar’s family issued the following statement:

Patrick was a great character and a good sport who never said anything bad about anyone. Decisive, generous, proud and dignified he really enjoyed army life. He particularly enjoyed living in Belfast and he talked of settling there with his girlfriend after his return from Afghanistan – a mission which he was within just two hours of leaving for.

Sapper Azimkar’s parents said:

We are completely devastated by the loss of our beautiful son Patrick. There are no words to describe what this senseless killing has done to our family in taking from us our beloved son and brother at just 21 years old.

Patrick was generous, loyal and tenacious. He brought great fun into our lives and we will miss him forever.

We are thankful for the messages of support we have received from the people of Northern Ireland.

We join with them in our sincere hope for a return to lasting peace.

Brother James said he was courageous, strong and a loyal and true friend.

The family ask that the media respect their wishes to be left to grieve in private.

See: here for more information on:  Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Those killed were Sappers Mark Quinsey from Birmingham and Patrick Azimkar from London. The other two soldiers and two deliverymen were wounded. The soldiers were wearing desert fatigues and were to be deployed to Afghanistan the next day.

A few hours later, the car involved was found abandoned near Randalstown, eight miles from the barracks.

Image result for Patrick Azimkar

Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Sapper Mark Quinsey

Sapper Quinsey was born in Birmingham in 1985 and joined the Army when he was 19. Following his basic training he attended the combat engineer course at Minley before qualifying as an electrician at the Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham. He served with 38 Engineer Regiment in both Ripon and Northern Ireland and deployed on a number of training exercises throughout the UK. Most recently he attended the intensive class 1 electricians’ course, which he completed with flying colours in 2008.

Sapper Quinsey was a charismatic and affable young soldier. Eager to put his recently gained trade knowledge to use, Sapper Quinsey was looking forward to the operational challenges that Afghanistan would offer. At only 23 he had already emerged as a mature, reliable and hugely capable young soldier with vast future potential.

Lieutenant Colonel Roger Lewis, Commanding Officer 38 Engineer Regiment, said:

Sapper Quinsey was an outwardly calm, resolute and motivated young soldier. A social live wire and hugely popular across the regiment, he was rarely away from the centre of the action.

Professionally his approach reflected his infectious enthusiasm for life. As one of the few soldiers within my regiment to have completed the demanding class 1 electricians’ course his trade skills were invaluable. He was hugely passionate about his trade and eager to put his new qualifications to good use in Afghanistan. We were expecting him to play a vital role maintaining the living and working conditions of British soldiers serving in southern Afghanistan. Tragically he has been denied this opportunity.

This has been a traumatic time and the regiment and I are devastated to have lost such a fine and promising soldier. It is with greatest sympathy that I extend my sincere and heartfelt condolences to Mark’s family and friends for their irreplaceable loss.

Major Darren Woods, Officer Commanding 25 Field Squadron, said:

The death of Sapper Quinsey has dealt a heavy blow to the squadron, many of whom have already deployed to Afghanistan. To lose such a charismatic young soldier in the prime of his life has been a tragedy of immeasurable magnitude.

I have known Sapper Quinsey for almost two years and in that time have never found him without a positive word or the ability to make light of any situation. His wide circle of friends pays testimony to his popularity. As a soldier he was committed to achieving the best he could in all areas. In particular he was an accomplished tradesman who new that his work could and would make a difference to the daily lives of his friends and comrades on operations. This was always Mark’s motivation.

My last and perhaps abiding memory of Sapper Quinsey will be him helping the second-in-command work late to complete the final deployment preparations to send the squadron on operations. It was neither Mark’s role nor responsibility, but he did it and did it well. That was his way; no complaints, just get it done. He will be sorely missed.

Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are now with Mark’s family throughout this period and into what will undoubtedly be a difficult time ahead.

Lieutenant Chris Smith, 2 Troop Commander 25 Field Squadron, said:

Sapper Quinsey was a humorous and willing soldier. He had a dry sense of humour and a thick brummie accent making him stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to get to know him as well as I would have hoped as he had recently returned to the troop having completed his electricians’ training.

He instantly threw himself back into troop life, both socially and professionally; keen to learn all the skills he needed for our deployment to Afghanistan this summer. In the short time I knew him I enjoyed working with him immensely; he was impossible not to like. I, and the Troop, send our sincere condolences to Sapper Quinsey’s family in Birmingham.

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Squadron Sergeant Major) Paul Dixon said:

If you ever needed a steady hand to crew the ship Mark was your man. He could and would turn his hand to most things. Yet, at the end of the working day, he would always be at the front, immaculate appearance, ready to party and charm the ladies with a bit of his brummie banter.

Sapper Sean Pocock, 2 Troop, 25 Field Squadron, said:

The thing is, he wasn’t just my friend in the Army, he was a friend from back home in Birmingham. It’s hard to believe he won’t be around anymore. He will be sorely missed by me and his comrades around him, within our troop especially.

Sapper Andrew Sharples, 2 Troop, 25 Field Squadron, said:

Mark Quinsey was a good friend of mine, I used to share a room with him back at camp and used to weight-train with him now and again. I can’t believe this has happened. My deepest sorrows go out to Mark’s family, he will be greatly missed by all in the Troop and Squadron.

Brigadier Tim Radford, Commander of 19 Light Brigade, said:

My thoughts and condolences go to all the families who have suffered such dreadful losses and to those who have been injured in this appalling incident.

The two young Royal Engineers from 19 Light Brigade, although based in Northern Ireland, were about to deploy to Afghanistan for 6 months as part of Task Force Helmand. These brave and dedicated men typify the professional and selfless nature of the Armed Forces. We will cherish their memory.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said:

See here for more information on Sapper Mark Quinsey

Dublin-based newspaper, the Sunday Tribune, received a phone call from a caller using a recognised Real IRA codeword. The caller claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Real IRA, adding that the civilian pizza deliverymen were legitimate targets as they were:

“collaborating with the British by servicing them”.

The shootings were the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in February 1997, during the Troubles. The attack came days after a suggestion by Northern Ireland’s police chief, Sir Hugh Orde, that the likelihood of a “terrorist” attack in Northern Ireland was at its highest level for several years.

Civilian Security Officers belonging to the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service were criticised for not opening fire during the incident, as a result of which plans were made to retrain and rearm them.

The barracks were shut down in 2010 as part of the reduction of the British Army presence in Northern Ireland.

Craigavon shooting

Two days after the Massereene Barracks shooting, PSNI officer Stephen Carroll was shot dead in CraigavonCounty Armagh. This was the first killing of a police officer in Northern Ireland since 1998.The Continuity IRA claimed responsibility for this shooting and stated that

“As long as there is British involvement in Ireland, these attacks will continue”.

Reaction

The morning after the attack, worshippers came out of St Comgall’s Church after mass and kept vigil near the barracks. They were joined by their priest and clerics from the town’s other churches. On 11 March 2009, thousands of people attended silent protests against the killings at several venues in Northern Ireland.

The killings were condemned by all mainstream political parties in Northern Ireland, as well as the Irish government, the United States government and Pope Benedict XVISinn Féin condemned the killings, but was criticised for being less vehement than others in its condemnation.

  • First Minister Peter Robinson suggested that the shooting was a “terrible reminder of the events of the past” and that “These murders were a futile act by those who command no public support and have no prospect of success in their campaign. It will not succeed”.

 

  • Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said “I was a member of the IRA, but that war is over now. The people responsible for last night’s incident are clearly signalling that they want to resume or restart that war. Well, I deny their right to do that.” He later stated that the shooters of the PSNI officer killed two days later were “traitors to the island of Ireland”.

 

  • Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams condemned the shootings, saying that those responsible had “no support, no strategy to achieve a United Ireland. Their intention is to bring British soldiers back onto the streets. They want to destroy the progress of recent times and to plunge Ireland back into conflict. Irish republicans and democrats have a duty to oppose this and to defend the peace process”.

 

  • British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the scene of the attack on 9 March 2009 and met political leaders in Northern Ireland to urge a united front in the face of the violence. He stated that “The whole country is shocked and outraged at the evil and cowardly attacks on soldiers serving their country” and also that “No murderer will be able to derail a peace process that has the support of the great majority of Northern Ireland”.

 

  • Taoiseach Brian Cowen said “A tiny group of evil people can not and will not undermine the will of the people of Ireland to live in peace together. Violence has been utterly rejected by the people of this island, both North and South”.

 

  • At a press conference on 25 March 2009, Richard Walsh, the spokesman for Republican Sinn Féin, a party linked to the Continuity IRA, said the killings were “an act of war” rather than murder. “We have always upheld the right of the Irish people to use any level of controlled and disciplined force to drive the British out of Ireland. We make no apology for that”. He also described the PSNI as “an armed adjunct of the British Army”.

 

Related image

The coffin of Sapper Patrick Azimkar is taken from Guards Chapel after his funeral

Trials

Image result for IRA prisoner Colin Duffy

On 14 March 2009, the PSNI arrested three men in connection with the killings, one of whom was former IRA prisoner Colin Duffy. He had broken away from mainstream republicanism and criticised Sinn Féin‘s decision to back the new PSNI.

On 25 March 2009, after a judicial review of their detention, all the men were ordered to be released by the Belfast High Court, however, Duffy was immediately re-arrested on suspicion of murder. On 26 March 2009, Duffy was formally charged with the murder of the two soldiers and the attempted murder of five other people. The following day he appeared in court for indictment and was remanded in custody to await trial after it was alleged that his full DNA profile was found on a latex glove inside the vehicle used by the gunmen.

Brian Shivers, a cystic fibrosis sufferer, was charged with the soldiers’ murders and the attempted murder of six other people. He was also charged with possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life. He was arrested in Magherafelt in July 2009.

In January 2012 Shivers was convicted of the soldiers’ murders, but Duffy was acquitted. In January 2013, Shivers’s conviction was overturned by Northern Ireland’s highest appeals court. A May 2013 retrial found Shivers not guilty. He was cleared of all charges and immediately released from jail. The judge questioned why the Real IRA would choose Shivers as the gunman, with his cystic fibrosis and his engagement to a Protestant woman.

Shivers’s solicitor stated:

Brian Shivers has suffered the horror of having been wrongfully convicted in what now must be described as a miscarriage of justice. He was convicted of the most serious charges on the criminal calendar. He was sentenced to a life term imprisonment, which would have seen him die in prison.

The original conviction was overturned on a narrow legal basis. It was only during his re-trial that important new material was disclosed which completely undermined the case against him. This failed prosecution – another failed prosecution – is a cautionary tale against the reliance upon tenuous scientific evidence in high profile criminal cases.

Image result for memorial to Sapper Patrick Azimkar

Jaime Quinsey, sister of Mark Quinsey, with James Azimkar, brother of Patrick Azimkar

Mum’s tribute to Massereene murder victim sapper Patrick Azimkar

geraldine ferguson

Geraldine Ferguson

The mother of a young soldier who was gunned down by dissident republicans will today make an emotional return to the spot where he was murdered.

Geraldine Ferguson, whose son, Sapper Patrick Azimkar (21) was killed outside Massereene Barracks on March 7, 2009, along with his colleague Sapper Mark Quinsey (23), will mark the eighth anniversary of her son’s death with a floral tribute.

The anniversary comes days after she spoke of the loss of her son at a seminar in Co Fermanagh, attended by other victims of paramilitary violence.

Today, Mrs Ferguson will make the heartbreaking journey to Antrim, to the spot where Patrick was killed.

“We will lay some flowers and then go to the memorial that Antrim council erected for Patrick and Mark,” she said.

“We will try and get through the day, but it is very difficult.

“The main feeling I will have is being absolutely broken-hearted.

“We said goodbye to Patrick a few weeks after his 21st birthday and we never saw him again. We feel very sad and upset and very churned up because it’s exactly where he fell and it’s a terrible waste of good, young lives. The futility of it, the pointlessness and senselessness of it.”

Mrs Ferguson explained that as the years go on, her emotions are not as raw but admits she finds it hard to describe the pain of losing her son.

“The horror and heartache is too deep for words,” she said.

“A very common experience when you lose a child is that the days that were once the best days suddenly become the worst days, including birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day. They are supposed to be family days but he’s not there any more.

“Our loss is most acute on those days. We always put a little candle where Patrick would have sat. It’s painful.”

Three people were arrested over the murders of Mr Azimkar and his colleague Mr Quinsey, whose grief-stricken mother Pamela Brankin died in 2013 aged 51.

See Belfast Telegraph for full story

See Deaths in the Troubles 7th March

 

See also

See: Operation Banner

 

 

29th January – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

29th January

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Thursday 29 January 1976

 Two Catholic civilians were killed in separate attacks in Belfast by Loyalist paramilitaries.

Saturday 29 January 1977

ira green book graphic picmonkey

 The Irish Republican Army (IRA) explode seven bombs in a series of attacks in the West End of London.

Friday 29 January 1982

John McKeague 2

John McKeague, who had been a prominent Loyalist activist, was shot dead by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in his shop, Albertbridge Road, Belfast.

See below for more details on John McKeague

Thursday 29 January 1987

The New Ulster Political Research Group (NUPRG), an organisation associated with the views of the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) and whose chairman was then John McMichael, published a document called Common Sense.

The document proposed a constitutional conference, a devolved assembly and a coalition government.

See here for more details on   John McMichael

Monday 29 January 1990

Belfast-Telegraph.png

 The ‘Belfast Telegraph’ newspaper published the results of an opinion poll of people in Northern Ireland. One result showed that 68 per cent of Protestants and 62 per cent of Catholics felt that the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) had made no difference to the political situation in Northern Ireland.

Saturday 29 January 1994

US Visa Given to Adams

clinton and adams

 Bill Clinton, then President of the United States of America (USA), ordered that Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), should be given a ‘limited duration’ visa to enter the USA to address a peace conference. [The decision was supported by the National Security Council and Irish-American Senators but was taken against the advice of the State Department and the British government.]

 An Irish Republican Army (IRA) incendiary device was defused in London.

Monday 29 January 1996

 The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) and the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), held their first meeting under the ‘twin-track’ negotiations.

Thursday 29 January 1998

Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, announced a new inquiry into the events surrounding ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Derry on 30 January 1972. Relatives announced that they could now consider Lord Widgery’s report to be “dead.”

[The new inquiry was to be known as the Saville Inquiry.]

See Bloody Sunday

Monday 29 January 2001

  Six members of one family escaped injury after a pipe-bomb was left in their refuse bin. The device was uncovered just after midnight at the rear of a house in a predominantly Nationalist estate in Greencastle. The attack was carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries.

 A Catholic couple escaped injury when a pipe-bomb was thrown through the living room window of their home in Coleraine, County Derry, shortly before midnight.

Just over an hour earlier the home of a Catholic mother-of-two was targeted in the Harpurs Hill area of Coleraine.

The woman was in her kitchen when a pipe-bomb was thrown through the window. It landed on the floor but failed to explode. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) said that both attacks were sectarian. The attacks were carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries.

Tuesday 29 January 2002

 [There was a petrol-bomb attack on flats in Ormeau Road, south Belfast, at approximately 9.50pm (2150GMT). The device caused scorch damage to the building but there were no injuries. It was not clear if the attack was sectarian.]

A Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) delegation travelled to Downing Street, London, for a meeting with Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister. The meeting discussed the controversy over the investigation of the Omagh bombing and also reforms to the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.

There were media reports that members of the security forces would soon lose the right not to have to give evidence at inquests. British Army soldiers and police officers are currently exempt from being compelled to attend inquests when they have been involved in fatal shootings. The change was expected to be introduced by the British government sometime in February 2002.

Solectron, an American company with a factory in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, announced that it was entering a 90-day consultation with its workforce over the future of the plant. It was reported that 200 jobs would be lost. The job losses are a direct result of the problems facing the telecommunications company Nortel – which have resulted in the loss of more than 1,000 jobs in Northern Ireland

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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 29th January  between  19723 – 1982

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29 January 1973

James Trainor (22)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ)

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot at his workplace, petrol filling station, Kennedy Way, Andersonstown, Belfast.

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29 January 1974

Matilda Withrington  (79)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ)

Killed by: Royal Air Force (RAF)
Shot while in her home during Irish Republican Army (IRA) sniper attack on Royal Air Force (RAF) bus, Shimna Parade, Newcastle, County Down.

RAF members returned fire.

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29 January 1974

William Baggley (43)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot while on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) foot patrol, Dungiven Road, Derry.

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29 January 1975

Robert McCullough  (17)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ)

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Shot at his workplace, United Paper Merchants, Downshire Place, off Great Victoria Street, Belfast.

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29 January 1976

 1

Joseph McAlinden  (44)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ)

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot at his home, Upper Cavehill Road, Belfast.

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29 January 1976

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Martin Crossen (26)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ)

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot during gun and bomb attack on Brady’s off licence shop, Antrim Road, Belfast.

 

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29 January 1982

John McKeague
John McKeague (51)

Protestant

Status: Civilian Political Activist (CivPA)

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Former Loyalist activist. Shot at his shop, Albertbridge Road, Belfast.

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See here for more details on John McKeague

See here for more details on John McKeague

 

 

John McKeague – Red Hand Commando – Life & Death

John Dunlop McKeague 

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John Dunlop McKeague (1930 – 29 January 1982) was a prominent Ulster loyalist and one of the founding members of the paramilitary group the Red Hand Commando in 1970. Authors on the Troubles in Northern Ireland have accused McKeague of involvement in the Kincora Boys’ Home scandal but he was never convicted.

He was shot dead by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in Belfast in January 1982

— Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in this post/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.

John McKeague

 

John McKeague.png

 

McKeague in a BBC interview in 1976
Born John Dunlop McKeague
1930
Bushmills, County Antrim
Died 29 January 1982
Albertbridge Road, Belfast
Cause of death Gunshot wounds
Nationality British
Occupation Shopkeeper
Notable work Loyalist Song Book
Home town Belfast
Title Leader of the Red Hand Commando
Term 1972–1973
Predecessor new position
Successor Winston Churchill Rea
Political party Protestant Unionist Party
Ulster Independence Association
Movement Ulster Protestant Volunteers
Shankill Defence Association
Red Hand Commando
Criminal charge Bombing
Incitement to hatred
Criminal penalty Acquitted of both charges

McKeague and Ian Paisley

 

A native of BushmillsCounty Antrim, McKeague, who long had a reutation for anti-Catholicism, became a member of Ian Paisley‘s Free Presbyterian Church in 1966.  McKeague and his mother moved to east Belfast in 1968, where he became a regular at Paisley’s own Martyrs’ Memorial Church on the Ravenhill Road and joined the Willowfield branch of the Ulster Protestant Volunteers.

Before moving to Belfast he had already been questioned in relation to a sexual assault on two young boys. The charges were dropped after the intervention of some friends who held prominent positions in Northern Irish society.

McKeague split from Paisley in late 1969 under uncertain circumstances. Rumours that a young man with whom McKeague was living was his boyfriend had been rife but McKeague did not discuss the details. He stated only that he had been summoned to a meeting by Paisley where he was told he was an “embarrassment” and would have to leave the Free Presbyterian Church.

While giving evidence to Lord Justice Scarman as part of his tribunal investigating the 1969 Northern Ireland riots Paisley stated that he and other Ulster Constitution Defence Committee leaders had agreed to expel McKeague from the UPV in April 1969 after he breached Rule 15 of the group’s code, which banned members from supporting

“Subversive or Lawless Activities”.

Whatever the circumstances, the two became bitter enemies, with McKeague frequently criticising Paisley in print.

 

Early loyalist involvement

William McGrath.jpg

McKeague’s relationship with William McGrath‘s Tara, a partially clandestine organisation that sought to drive Roman Catholicism out of all of Ireland and re-establish an earlier Celtic Christianity which it claimed had existed on the island centuries earlier, has been the subject of some disagreement.

According to Tim Pat Coogan McKeague was a founder-member of Tara of 1966 although he does not eleaborate on the details. Chris Moore, in his investigation into the Kincora scandal, insists that McKeague was never a member of Tara but that he and McGrath had met to discuss trading weapons between their two groups and that following these meetings McKeague had become a regular visitor to Kincora, where he was involved in several rapes of underage boys living at the home.

Although making no comment on his membership or otherwise of the group Jim Cusack and Henry McDonald insist that McKeague shared the far right conspiratorial views advanced by McGrath and UPV leader Noel Doherty.

Martin Dillon also makes no comment on McKeague and Tara but insists that he was one of a number of shadowy figures, along with McGrath, who played a leading role in the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in 1966 and in helping to direct its strategy for the rest of the 1960s.

In late 1969 Thomas McDowell, a member of the Free Presbyterian Church who held dual membership of the UPV and UVF, was killed after a bungled attempt to blow up the power station at Ballyshannon led to him being electrocuted, suffering severe burns.

 Investigations by the Garda Síochána, who found UVF insignia on McDowell’s coat, led them to question his associate Samuel Stevenson who named McKeague as a central figure in a series of UVF explosions that had been carried out at the time, many involving UPV members.

The case went north, where the previous explosions had taken place, and on 16 February 1970 the trial opened. McKeague, along with William Owens (McKeague’s 19-year-old flatmate), Derek Elwood, Trevor Gracey and Francis Mallon, were charged with causing an earlier explosion at Templepatrick.

The case collapsed after serious doubt was cast on the character of Stevenson, whose evidence was the main basis of the prosecution’s case

Shankill Defence Association

In 1968 McKeague became a regular figure amongst groups of locals who every night congregated in large groups in the Woodvale area close to Ardoyne after a series of incidents between loyalists and republicans during which flags from both sides had been forcibly removed.

Having split from the UPV due to its perceived inaction in May 1969, McKeague addressed a meeting of loyalists in Tennent Street Hall at which he called for organisation against Catholic rioters. From this meeting he founded the Shankill Defence Association(SDA), with the proclaimed intention to defend the Shankill Road from Catholic rioters.

However, in contrast to similar Protestant vigilante groups such as the Woodvale Defence Association which were for the most part reactive, the SDA played a leading role in fomenting trouble during the Northern Ireland riots of August 1969, leading attacks on Catholic homes in the Falls Road and Crumlin Road.

He became a notorious figure locally, usually prominent in the rioting, carrying a stick and wearing a helmet.

The violence of the SDA was accompanied by equally violent rhetoric from McKeague as he boasted that the group possessed “hundreds of guns” and vowed that

“We will see the battle through to the end”.

His militant stance won him the public support of Ronald Bunting who, like McKeague had earlier been associated with Paisley but had since broken from him.

In November 1969, McKeague was cleared of a charge of conspiracy to cause explosions. He was however sentenced to three months imprisonment for unlawful assembly.

McKeague’s absence on remand for the initial charges saw his stock fall on the Shankill, where he was already mistrusted due to being from east Belfast and where his reputation had been further blackened by supporters of his former friend Ian Paisley.

Leaving the Shankill he attempted to set up a group similar to the SDA on the Donegall Roadbut was declared persona non grata by the head of an existing local Defence Committee, who was a loyal Paisleyite. This, combined with a rumour that McKeague was a “fruit“, saw him abandon all initiatives in the west and south of the city and concentrate on east Belfast.

The SDA continued in his absence until 1971 when it merged with other like-minded vigilante groups to form the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

Political activity

McKeague was a candidate for the Protestant Unionist Party, the forerunner of the Democratic Unionist Party, in a Belfast Corporation by-election for the Victoria ward in the east of the city in 1969 but was not elected. He then stood as an Independent Unionist in Belfast North in the 1970 general election, but polled only 0.75% of the vote. He also began producing Loyalist News.

Much of the content of the magazine was of a low-brow nature, containing jokes and cartoons in which Catholics were portrayed as lazy, dirty, stupid and alcoholic or, in the case of women, highly promiscuous.

In 1971 he was tried for incitement to hatred after publishing the controversial Loyalist Song Book. The first man to be tried under the Incitement to Hatred Act, McKeague’s book included the line

“you’ve never seen a better Taig than with a bullet in his head”.

After the jury disagreed at his trial a retrial was ordered at which he and a co-defendant were acquitted.  Martin Dillon argues that it was around this time that RUC Special Branch first recruited him as an agent, allegedly using information they had obtained about his paedophile activities to force him to agree. He was handed over to the Intelligence Corps by Special Branch the following year.

Loyalist paramilitarism

 

John McKeague and mother

John McKeague and mother

His mother, Isabella McKeague, was burned alive on 9 May 1971 when the UDA petrol-bombed the family shop in Albertbridge Road, Belfast. Reporting on her death in Loyalist News, John McKeague claimed she had been….

“murdered by the enemies of Ulster”,

….a common term for republicans.

In fact, the UDA had tired of McKeague both for his loose cannon attitude in launching attacks and starting riots without consulting their leadership and due to his promiscuous homosexuality with teenage partners. According to Ed Moloney a dispute over money had also been central to the schism between McKeague and the UDA.

McKeague broke fully from the UDA and established the Red Hand Commando in the middle of 1972, recruiting a number of young men primarily in east Belfast and North Down.

McKeague had already been involved in organising the “Tartan gangs“, groups of loyalist youths who were involved in rioting and general disorder, and used these as the basis of his new group.

Following various attacks by his paramilitary organisation, in February 1973 he became one of the first loyalist internees and was later imprisoned for three years on an armed robbery charge (a conviction he disputed). He started two hunger strikes in protest against the Special Powers Act and prison conditions while in jail.

In his absence he lost control of the Red Hand Commando, which became an integral part of the UVF. UVF leader Gusty Spence however contended that he had secured McKeague’s agreement that the running of the Red Hand Commando should be taken over by the UVF not long after McKeague established the movement.

According to British military intelligence and police files McKeague was believed to have been behind the sadistic murder of a ten-year-old boy, Brian McDermott, in South Belfast in September 1973.

The killing, which involved dismemberment and the burning of the body in the Ormeau Park, was so gruesome that the local press speculated that it might have been carried out as part of a Satanic ritual. On 3 October 1975, Alice McGuinness, a Catholic civilian, was injured in an IRA bomb attack on McKeague’s hardware shop on the Albertbridge Road. She died three days later. McKeague’s sister was severely injured in the same bombing.

Ulster Nationalism

McKeague became a leading figure in the Ulster Loyalist Central Coordinating Committee (ULCCC), and in 1976 publicly endorsed Ulster nationalism in his capacity as an ULCCC spokesman.  The aim of the group, which McKeague chaired, was to co-ordinate loyalist paramilitaries with the aim of founding a unified “Ulster army” although this premise did not prevent a loyalist feud between the UDA and UVF continuing following its foundation.

With John McClure, McKeague contacted Irish republicans Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Joe Cahill to initiate talks in an attempt to find a common platform for an independent Northern Ireland. This collapsed after Conor Cruise O’Brien discovered and revealed the activity.

Gerry Adams (official portrait).jpg

McKeague met with Gerry Adams briefly to discuss the independence option but the meetings were unproductive and reportedly convinced Adams that such clandestine discussions with loyalist paramilitaries were a waste of time. The contact between McKeague and his allies and the republicans, which was not endorsed by the wider ULCCC, saw the group fall apart as both the UDA and Down Orange Welfare resigned from the co-ordinating body when it came to light.

McKeague was subsequently a leading figure in the Ulster Independence Association, a group active from 1979 in support of an independent Northern Ireland. McKeague served as deputy to George Allport’s leadership of the group.

Death

Image result for McKeague was shot dead in his shop on the Albertbridge Road, East Belfast

In January 1982 McKeague was interviewed by detectives investigating Kincora about his involvement in the sexual abuse. Fearful of returning to prison, McKeague told friends that he was prepared to name others involved in the paedophile ring to avoid a sentence.

However on 29 January 1982, McKeague was shot dead in his shop on the Albertbridge Road, East Belfast, reportedly by the INLA.

 It has been argued that following McKeague’s threats to go public about all of those involved in Kincora his killing had been ordered by the Intelligence Corps, as many of those who could have named were also agents (often more effective than McKeague, who by that time was highly peripheral in paramilitary circles). To support this suggestion it has been stated by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald that of the two gunmen who shot McKeague one was a known Special Branch agent and the other was rumoured to have military intelligence links.

See here for more details on John McKeague

See 29th January – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles