Category Archives: Documentaries on Northern Ireland

Documentaries on Northern Ireland Troubles and relevant issues

The Battle of the Diamond & The Peep o’ Day Boys

The Battle of the Diamond & The Peep o’ Day Boys

 

Capture

The Battle of the Diamond was a planned confrontation between the Catholic Defenders and the Protestant Peep o’ Day Boys that took place on 21 September 1795 near Loughgall, County Armagh, Ireland.

The Peep o’ Day Boys were the victors, killing some 30 Defenders, with no casualties in return. It led to the foundation of the Orange Order and the onset of:

 

“the Armagh outrages”.

 

Background

In the 1780s, County Armagh was the most populous county in Ireland, and the centre of its linen industry. Its population was equally split between Protestants, who were dominant north of the county, and Catholics, who were dominant in the south. Sectarian tensions had been increasing throughout the decade and were exacerbated by the relaxing of some of the Penal Laws, failure to enforce others, and the entry of Catholics into the linen industry at a time when land was scarce and wages were decreasing due to pressure from the mechanised cotton industry. This led to fierce competition to rent patches of land near markets.

 

peep boys.JPG

By 1784, sectarian fighting had broken out between gangs of Protestants and Catholics. The Protestants re-organised themselves as the Peep o’ Day Boys, with the Catholics forming the Defenders. The next decade would see an escalation in the violence between the two and the local population as homes were raided and wrecked

Planned confrontation

 

site of battle of dimond.jpg

The Diamond, which was a predominantly Protestant area, is a minor crossroads in County Armagh, lying almost half-way between Loughgall and Portadown. For several days groups from both sides had been arriving at the crossroads. The Defenders had made their base on Faughart Hill in the townland of Tullymore, less than a quarter of a mile south-west of The Diamond.

The Peep o’ Day Boys, which historian Connolly states were of the “Orange Boys” faction,encamped on a hill in the townland of Grange More to the north-east.

Word of a planned confrontation appears to have been widespread well before it took place, even being gossiped about by militia-men stationed Dublin and Westport.[

Catholic Bernard Coile, from Lurgan, County Armagh, who had rose to become a merchant in the linen industry, called upon the local two parishes to agree to a non-aggression pact. This appears to have succeeded in regards to the Lurgan area, were no Lurgan men were amongst the combatants. There would also seem to have been adequate time for preparations, with one County Tyrone militia-man sending home a guinea to purchase a musket for the Defenders,  and Peep o’ Day Boys scouring Moy, County Tyrone for gunpowder.

The fact word seems to have been so widespread meant that the government could not have been unaware that trouble was stirring.

The Peep o’ Day Boys are cited in three accounts of the battle as possessing Volunteer muskets, with additional weapons provided by local squires.  One account, by Charles Teeling, who had given up hopes of being a mediator, stated that on his return to Lisburn, County Down, he saw re-formed Volunteer corps with all of their equipment heading for The Diamond.

The Defenders on the other hand may not all have been armed and possessing lesser quality firearms.

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The days before the battle

The numbers had increased so much that by Friday 18 September 1795, a local magistrate, Captain Joseph Atkinson, who lived about a mile north of The Diamond, called for a peace conference between four Protestant landowners and three Catholic priests.  A priest accompanying the Defenders persuaded them to seek a truce after a group called the “Bleary Boys” came from County Down to reinforce the Peep o’ Day Boys.

At some point large numbers of Defender reinforcements from counties Londonderry and Tyrone are claimed to have been prevented from crossing the River Blackwater by James Verner and his sons who led a detachment of the North-Mayo militia, based in Dungannon, northwards to seize the boats by the river.

The Defenders failed to await substantial reinforcements from Ballygawley, County Tyrone and Keady, County Armagh, and were starting to become panicked by the situation, being on enemy soil and winter not far away.

The landowners summoned by Atkinson were: Robert Camden Cope, of the grand Loughgall Manor, MP for County Armagh and Lieutenant Colonel of the Armagh Militia; Nicholas Richard Cope and his son Arthur Walter Cope, proprietors of the much smaller Drumilly estate; and James Hardy, the squire of Drumart.

The priests were father’s: Taggart, possibly Arthur Taggart, parish priest of Cookstown, County Tyrone, who was notoriously erratic; McParland, future parish priest of Loughgall from 1799, possibly Arthur McParland; and Trainor. William Blacker claims a leader of the Defenders, “Switcher Donnelly”, was also present.  According to Patrick Tohall, there is reason to doubt the sincerity of all the delegates at this peace conference. He claims some may have used it to blindside the genuine peace-makers, with the two armed sides seeing the clash as inevitable.

On Saturday 19 September, the priests who had stayed the night in Atkinson’s house, left apparently satisfied at the outcome.  There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. According to Tohall, writing in 1953, the local Catholics had obeyed the priests, and this is evidenced by none of them being counted amongst the eventual combatants. He goes on to state that the priests seemingly failed to go to Faughart Hill and persuade the Defenders.  Blacker, who was there on the day of the battle on the Protestant side, however said when he was being questioned by a government Select Committee meeting on the Orange Order on 4 August 1835, that the Defenders had agreed to disperse and that the Peep o’ Day Boys would do likewise.

Later that day there was sporadic shooting, which didn’t trouble Atkinson, and this was followed on Sunday 20 September by overall quietness.

Some Defender reinforcements from County Tyrone however made it to The Diamond and appear to have encouraged their comrades to become:

“determined to fight”

and a decision seems to have been taken that night to advance the next day. Blacker claims:

“a large body of ‘Defenders’ not belonging to the County of Armagh, but assembled from Monaghan, Louth and I believe Cavan and Tyrone came down and were disappointed at finding a truce of this kind made, were determined not to go home without something to repay them for the trouble of their march”.

 

The battle

On the morning of 21 September, the Defenders, numbering around 300, made their way downhill from their base, occupying Dan Winter’s homestead, which lay to the north-west of The Diamond and directly in their line of advance.  News of this advance reached the departing Peep o’ Day Boys who quickly reformed at the brow of the hill where they had made their camp.  From this position, they gained three crucial advantages: the ability to comfortably rest their muskets, allowing for more accurate shooting; and a steep up-hill location which made it hard for attackers to scale; and a direct line-of-sight to Winter’s cottage which the Defenders made their rallying point.

This has been claimed as showing that the Peep o’ Day Boys had more experienced commanders.

The shooting began again in earnest,  and after Atkinson gave his weapon and powder to the Peep o’ Day Boys, he rode to Charlemont Garrison for troops to quell the trouble. There was no effective unit stationed in the garrison at the time, despite the fact a detachment of the North-Mayo Militia was stationed in Dungannon and a detachment of the Queen’s County Militia was at Portadown.

The battle according to Blacker, was short and the Defenders suffered “not less than thirty” deaths.  James Verner, whose account of the battle is based on hearsay, gives the total as being nearly thirty, whilst other reports give the figure as being forty-eight, however this may be taking into account those that died afterwards from their wounds.

A large amount of Defenders are also claimed to have been wounded.  One of those claimed to have been killed was “McGarry of Whiterock”, the leader of the Defenders. The Peep o’ Day Boys on the other hand in the safety of the well-defended hilltop position suffered no casualties.  Blacker praised the Bleary Boys for their prowess in the fight.

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200th Anniversary Battle of the Diamond Parade 1995

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Aftermath

 

See also: Orange Order and Peep o’ Day Boys § The Armagh outrages
In the aftermath of the battle, the Peep o’ Day Boys retired to James Sloans inn in Loughgall, and it was here that James Wilson, Dan Winter, and James Sloan would found the Orange Order, a defensive association pledged to defend :

“the King and his heirs so long as he or they support the Protestant Ascendancy”.

The first Orange lodge of this new organisation was established in Dyan, County Tyrone, founding place of the Orange Boys.

One historian claims that the victors saw the battle as:

“a Godly conquest, construed as a sanction for the spoliation of the homes of the Philistines”.

This saw violence directed firstly at the Catholics in the vicinity of The Diamond who had refrained the participating in the battle, before spreading throughout the county and further afield.

The winter of 1795–6, immediately following the battle, saw Protestants drive around 7,000 Catholics out of County Armagh in what became known as “the Armagh outrages”. In a sign that tension over the linen trade was still a burning issue, ‘Wreckers’ continued the Peep o’ Day Boys strategy of smashing looms and tearing webs in Catholic homes to eliminate competition.

This resulted in a reduction in the hotly competitive linen trade which had been in a brief slump. A consequence of this scattering of highly-political Catholics however was a spread of Defenderism throughout Ireland

 

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The Peep O’Day Boys of Ulster

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See : Peep o’ Day Boys

 

 

 

 

 

Raymond Gilmour – IRA Supergrass Found Dead

29th  October 2016

Raymond Gilmour

Image result for raymond gilmour

IRA supergrass Raymond Gilmour found dead at home in Kent

A former supergrass who infiltrated the IRA at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland has been found dead at his home in Kent.

Raymond Gilmour, from Londonderry, was found dead by his son, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

He became an RUC Special Branch informer when he was 17 and was the only witness in a trial of 35 IRA suspects that collapsed in 1984.

Ramond Gilmour lived under an assumed identity for more than 30 years.

It is understood that his death is not being treated as suspicious.

See BBC News for full story

See Belfast Telegraph for additional information

 

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Raymond Gilmour

Background & History

 

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Photographed Recently

Raymond Gilmour
Born 1959
Derry, Northern Ireland
Died 29 October 2016 (aged 56–57)
Kent
Occupation Police agent, author
Known for Successful infiltration of the INLA & Provisional IRA

Raymond Gilmour (1959-2016) was a former Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer who worked clandestinely from 1977 until 1982 for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) within those paramilitary organisations. His testimony was one of the main elements of the supergrass policy, which hoped to convict large numbers of paramilitaries.

Early life

He was born in 1959 into a working class Catholic, nationalist family in Creggan, Derry to Patrick and Brigid Gilmour. He was the youngest of eleven siblings and grew up as The Troubles began in Derry City in the early 1970s. A cousin, Hugh Gilmour, was shot dead by the British Army on Bloody Sunday, a seminal event in the development of the “Troubles” and a traumatic event witnessed by the 12-year-old Gilmour himself.

His parents were reportedly split over the issue of political violence. He described his father as an “armchair supporter” of the IRA, while his mother was reportedly fiercely opposed to their actions.

capture-kneecapping

 

Two of Gilmour’s brothers were kneecapped by the IRA for alleged anti-social behaviour.

He was also given a beating by British soldiers at age 13 for petty crime and they attempted to recruit him as an informer.Gilmour left school without sitting for his O Level exams and drifted into crime. When he was 16, he was again in trouble with the authorities, this time for armed robbery.

On remand in Crumlin Road Prison, he was severely beaten by IRA prisoners. It was at this point that he apparently agreed to become an undercover agent for British security forces.

INLA member

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Several months later, he joined the INLA. He chose the INLA over the IRA as a number of his friends were already in the organisation. Gilmour participated in, among other activities, a botched car hijacking in which a friend, Colm McNutt, also an INLA member, was shot dead by an undercover soldier. In 1978, after two years with the INLA as an RUC agent, he left on police instructions. He got married the same year and fathered the first of two children.

IRA career

BBC NI Spotlight: The Special Branch spy that infiltrated IRA & Sinn Féin.

After an interlude of several months, Gilmour was instructed by his RUC handler to join the IRA. He was offered £200 a week with bonuses for arrests and weapons finds.

The IRA vetted him for several weeks before accepting his application in late 1980. They attached him to an active service unit in the Brandywell area of Derry. Over the following two years, he was involved in many IRA operations, mostly as a getaway driver. Most of these operations were “shoots” or sniping attacks, but on only one occasion, in January 1981, his activities result in the death of a British soldier, who was shot and killed at Castle Gate, near Derry’s city walls.

Gilmour claims that he helped to foil many other IRA attacks, saving the lives of numerous police and soldiers. In November 1981, he was arrested by the RUC, along with two other IRA members, on their way to carry out a shooting attack on riot police, who were combating disturbances arising out of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. Gilmour was sent on remand to Crumlin Road Prison. After a riot that destroyed much of the republican wing there, he was transferred to the Maze Prison.

His RUC handler then applied pressure on the authorities for his release, he was freed on 1 April 1982.

Supergrass

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He left the IRA and went into protective custody in August of that year, as he believed that his position in the IRA was about to be discovered after his information led to the capture of an M60 machine gun.

Around 100 IRA and INLA members were then arrested in Derry on his evidence, of whom 35 were charged with terrorist offences.

In November, Gilmour’s father was abducted by the IRA. He was held in secret in an unknown location for almost a year. Gilmour was then sent to Cyprus and then Newcastle by the RUC. The following year, Gilmour gave evidence in a special Diplock Court, jury-less trial against the 35 people he had incriminated. Under the “supergrass” scheme, his was the only evidence available against them.

On December 18, 1984, the presiding judge, Lord Lowry, ruled that Gilmour was not a credible witness. He said he was,

“entirely unworthy of belief … a selfish and self-regarding man, to whose lips a lie comes more naturally than the truth”.

Exile and plea to return home

Since then, Gilmour has been in hiding outside Northern Ireland. He states that of the IRA and INLA members he knew, almost half were dead or missing by the end of the conflict. In 1998, he published a book, Dead Ground; Infiltrating the IRA, telling of his experiences.

Image result for martin mcguinness gun

In 2007, Gilmour publicly voiced his desire to return home to Derry, asking Martin McGuinness for assurances of his safety. He also revealed that he had a heart complaint and was an alcoholic. McGuinness said Gilmour must decide for himself whether or not it was safe to return to Derry and that he was not under threat from Sinn Féin, nor – he believes – from the IRA.

McGuinness stated that if de facto exiles such as Gilmour wanted to return home, it was a matter for their own judgment and their ability to make peace with the community.

Gilmour’s former RUC handler advised him not to return, citing the 2006 murder in Glenties, County Donegal, of Denis Donaldson, a high-ranking Sinn Féin politician and activist who was revealed to have been a long-term informer.

In April 2014, Gilmour’s second book What Price Truth was published; in the book Gilmour goes into greater detail about his life within the IRA and INLA.

Death

On 29 October 2016 Gilmour was found dead in his flat in Kent, where he had been lying abandoned and alone, for up to a week. He was reportedly an alcoholic with serious psychological problems, and died from natural causes

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See Freddie Scapatticci

See Dead Man Walking

See Brian Nelson

The Nutting Squad

Freddie Scapatticci British Agent License to Kill

The Battle of the Boyne -What’s it all about?

 

The Battle of the Boyne 1690

King James II

 

The Battle of the Boyne (Irish: Cath na Bóinne IPA: [ˈkah n̪ˠə ˈbˠoːn̪ʲə]) was a battle in 1690 between the English King James II, and the Dutch Prince William of Orange, who, with his wife, Mary II (his cousin and James’ daughter), had overthrown James in England in 1688.

King Billy

 

 

The battle took place across the River Boyne near the town of Drogheda on the east coast of Ireland, and resulted in a victory for William. This turned the tide in James’s failed attempt to regain the British crown and ultimately aided in ensuring the continued Protestant ascendancy in Ireland.

The battle took place on 1 July 1690 in the old style (Julian) calendar. This was equivalent to 11 July in the new style (Gregorian) calendar, although today its commemoration is held on 12 July,[1] on which the decisive Battle of Aughrim was fought a year later. William’s forces defeated James’s army, which consisted mostly of raw recruits. The symbolic importance of this battle has made it one of the best-known battles in the history of the British Isles and a key part of the folklore of the Orange Order. Its commemoration today is principally by the Protestant Orange Institution.

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Battle of  Boyne

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Battle of the Boyne
Part of the Williamite War in Ireland
BattleOfBoyne.png
Painting of the battle by Jan Wyck c. 1693
Date 1 July 1690 O.S.[A]
Location Oldbridge, County Meath, Ireland
Result Williamite victory
Belligerents
Jacobite forces
 France
Williamite forces
 Dutch Republic
Commanders and leaders
James VII and II
Earl of Tyrconnell
Duc de Lauzun
William III
Duke of Schomberg 
Strength
23,500 36,000
Casualties and losses
~1,500 casualties ~750 casualties

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Background

The battle was the decisive encounter in a war that was primarily about James’s attempt to regain the thrones of England and Scotland, resulting from the Invitation to William and William’s wife, Mary, to take the throne. It is regarded as a crucial moment in the struggle between Irish Protestant and Catholic interests.

Duke of Scomberg

 

 

The previous year William had sent the Duke of Schomberg to take charge of the Irish campaign. He was a 75-year-old professional soldier who had accompanied William during the Glorious Revolution. Under his command, affairs had remained static and very little had been accomplished, partly because the English troops, unaccustomed to the climate,[citation needed] suffered severely from fever. William, dissatisfied with the state of affairs in Ireland, decided to take charge in person.

In an Irish context, the war was a sectarian and ethnic conflict, in many ways a re-run of the Irish Confederate Wars of 50 years earlier. For the Jacobites, the war was fought for Irish sovereignty, religious tolerance for Catholicism, and land ownership. The Catholic upper classes had lost almost all their lands after Cromwell’s conquest, as well as the right to hold public office, practice their religion, and sit in the Irish Parliament. They saw the Catholic King James as a means of redressing these grievances and securing the autonomy of Ireland from England. To these ends, under Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnel, they had raised an army to restore James after the Glorious Revolution. By 1690, they controlled all of Ireland except for the province of Ulster. Most of James II’s troops at the Boyne were Irish Catholics.

The majority of Irish people were Jacobites and supported James II due to his 1687 Declaration of Indulgence or, as it is also known, the Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience, that granted religious freedom to all denominations in England and Scotland and also due to James II’s promise to the Irish Parliament of an eventual right to self-determination.[2][3]

Conversely, for the Williamites, the war was about maintaining Protestant and English rule in Ireland. They feared for their lives and their property if James and his Catholic supporters were to rule Ireland, nor did they trust the promise of tolerance, seeing the Declaration of Indulgence as a ploy to re-establish Catholicism as the sole state religion. In particular, they dreaded a repeat of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, which had been marked by widespread killing. For these reasons, Protestants fought en masse for William of Orange. Many Williamite troops at the Boyne, including their very effective irregular cavalry, were Ulster Protestants, who called themselves “Inniskillingers” and were referred to by contemporaries as “Scots-Irish“.

Ironically, historian Derek Brown notes that if the battle is seen as part of the War of the Grand Alliance, Pope Alexander VIII was an ally of William and an enemy to James; the Papal States were part of the Grand Alliance with a shared hostility to the Catholic Louis XIV of France, who at the time was attempting to establish dominance in Europe and to whom James was an ally.[4]

Commanders

The opposing armies in the battle were led by the Roman Catholic King James II of England, Scotland, and Ireland and opposing him, his nephew and son-in-law, the Protestant King William III (“William of Orange”) who had deposed James the previous year. James’s supporters controlled much of Ireland and the Irish Parliament. James also enjoyed the support of his cousin, Louis XIV, who did not want to see a hostile monarch on the throne of England. Louis sent 6,000 French troops to Ireland to support the Irish Jacobites. William was already Stadtholder of the Netherlands and was able to call on Dutch and allied troops from Europe as well as England and Scotland.

James was a seasoned officer who had proven his bravery when fighting for his brother – King Charles II – in Europe, notably at the Battle of the Dunes (1658). However, recent historians have noted that he was prone to panicking under pressure and making rash decisions, possibly due to the onset of the dementia which would overtake him completely in later years. William, although a seasoned commander, was hardly one of history’s great generals and had yet to win a major battle.

Many of his battles ended in stalemates, prompting at least one modern historian to argue that William lacked an ability to manage armies in the thick of conflict. William’s success against the French had been reliant upon tactical manoeuvres and good diplomacy rather than force. His diplomacy had assembled the League of Augsburg, a multi-national coalition formed to resist French aggression in Europe. From William’s point of view, his takeover of power in England and the ensuing campaign in Ireland was just another front in the war against King Louis XIV.

James II’s subordinate commanders were Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, who was Lord Deputy of Ireland and James’s most powerful supporter in Ireland; and the French general Lauzun. William’s second-in-command was the Duke of Schomberg. Born in Heidelberg, Germany, Schomberg had formerly been a Marshal of France, but, being a Huguenot, was compelled to leave France in 1685 because of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

Armies

Williamite Army

 

 

The Williamite army at the Boyne was about 36,000 strong, composed of troops from many countries. Around 20,000 troops had been in Ireland since 1689, commanded by Schomberg. William himself arrived with another 16,000 in June 1690. William’s troops were generally far better trained and equipped than James’s. The best Williamite infantry were from Denmark and the Netherlands, professional soldiers equipped with the latest flintlock muskets. There was also a large contingent of French Huguenot troops fighting with the Williamites. William did not have a high opinion of his English and Scottish troops, with the exception of the Ulster Protestant irregulars who had held Ulster in the previous year. The English and Scottish troops were felt to be politically unreliable, since James had been their legitimate monarch up to a year before. Moreover, they had only been raised recently and had seen little battle action.

Jacobite Army

 

 

The Jacobites were 23,500 strong. James had several regiments of French troops, but most of his manpower was provided by Irish Catholics. The Jacobites’ Irish cavalry, who were recruited from among the dispossessed Irish gentry, proved themselves to be high calibre troops during the course of the battle. However, the Irish infantry, predominantly peasants who had been pressed into service, were not trained soldiers. They had been hastily trained, poorly equipped, and only a minority of them had functional muskets. In fact, some of them carried only farm implements such as scythes at the Boyne. On top of that, the Jacobite infantry who actually had firearms were all equipped with the obsolete matchlock musket.

The battle

Battle of the Boyne between James II and William III, 11 July 1690, Jan van Huchtenburg.

William had landed in Carrickfergus in Ulster on 14 June 1690 and marched south to take Dublin. He was heard to remark that ‘the place was worth fighting for’. James chose to place his line of defense on the River Boyne, around 30 miles (48 km) from Dublin. The Williamites reached the Boyne on 29 June. The day before the battle, William himself had a narrow escape when he was wounded in the shoulder by Jacobite artillery while surveying the fords over which his troops would cross the Boyne.

The battle itself was fought on 1 July OS (11th NS), for control of a ford on the Boyne near Drogheda, about 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) northwest of the hamlet of Oldbridge (and about 1.5 kilometres (0.9 mi) west-northwest of the modern Boyne River Bridge). William sent about a quarter of his men to cross the river at Roughgrange, about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) west of Donore and about 6 miles (9.7 km) southwest of Oldbridge. The Duke of Schomberg’s son, Meinhardt, led this crossing, which Irish dragoons in picquet under Neil O’Neill unsuccessfully opposed. James, an inexperienced general, thought that he might be outflanked and sent half his troops, along with most of his artillery, to counter this move. What neither side had realised was that there was a deep, swampy ravine at Roughgrange. Because of this ravine, the opposing forces there could not engage each other, but literally sat out the battle. The Williamite forces went on a long detour march which, later in the day, almost saw them cut off the Jacobite retreat at the village of Naul.

At the main ford near Oldbridge, William’s infantry, led by the elite Dutch Blue Guards, forced their way across the river, using their superior firepower to slowly drive back the enemy foot soldiers, but were pinned down when the Jacobite cavalry counter-attacked. Having secured the village of Oldbridge, some Williamite infantry tried to hold off successive cavalry attacks with disciplined volley fire, but were scattered and driven into the river, with the exception of the Blue Guards. William’s second-in-command, the Duke of Schomberg, and George Walker were killed in this phase of the battle. The Williamites were not able to resume their advance until their own horsemen managed to cross the river and, after being badly mauled, managed to hold off the Jacobite cavalry until they retired and regrouped at Donore, where they once again put up stiff resistance before retiring.

The Jacobites retired in good order. William had a chance to trap them as they retreated across the River Nanny at Duleek, but his troops were held up by a successful rear-guard action. The Dutch secretary of King William, Constantijn Huygens Jr., has given a good description (in Dutch) of the battle and its aftermath, including subsequent cruelties committed by the victorious soldiers.[5]

The casualty figures of the battle were quite low for a battle of such a scale—of the 50,000 or so participants, about 2,000 died. Three-quarters of the dead were Jacobites. William’s army had far more wounded. At the time, most casualties of battles tended to be inflicted in the pursuit of an already-beaten enemy; this did not happen at the Boyne, as the counter-attacks of the skilled Jacobite cavalry screened the retreat of the rest of their army, and in addition William was always disinclined to endanger the person of James, since he was the father of his wife, Mary. The Jacobites were badly demoralised by the order to retreat, which lost them the battle. Many of the Irish infantrymen deserted. The Williamites triumphantly marched into Dublin two days after the battle. The Jacobite army abandoned the city and marched to Limerick, behind the River Shannon, where they were unsuccessfully besieged.

Soon after the battle William issued the Declaration of Finglas, offering full pardons to ordinary Jacobite soldiers but not to their leaders. After his defeat, James did not stay in Dublin, but rode with a small escort to Duncannon and returned to exile in France, even though his army left the field relatively unscathed. James’s loss of nerve and speedy exit from the battlefield enraged his Irish supporters, who fought on until the Treaty of Limerick in 1691; he was derisively nicknamed Seamus a’ chaca (“James the shit”) in Irish.

There is an oral tradition stating that no battle took place at all, that a symbolic victory was shown by the crossing of the River Boyne and that the total fatalities were a result of Williamite cavalry attacking the local able-bodied men.

It is well documented that Williams’ horse on that day was black, despite all Orange Order murals depicting it as white with William holding his sword between the horse’s ears to make it resemble a unicorn as a symbol of his “Saviour” status. Depictions of William have been strongly influenced by Benjamin West‘s 1778 painting The Battle of the Boyne.

Aftermath

The battle was overshadowed by the defeat of an Anglo-Dutch fleet by the French two days later at the Battle of Beachy Head, a far more serious event in the short term; only on the continent was the Boyne treated as an important victory. Its importance lay in the fact that it was the first proper victory for the League of Augsburg, the first-ever alliance between the Vatican and Protestant countries. The victory motivated more nations to join the alliance and in effect ended the fear of a French conquest of Europe.

The Boyne also had strategic significance for both England and Ireland. It marked the end of James’s hope of regaining his throne by military means and probably assured the triumph of the Glorious Revolution. In Scotland, news of this defeat temporarily silenced the Highlanders supporting the Jacobite Rising, which Bonnie Dundee had led. In Ireland, the Boyne fully assured the Jacobites that they could successfully resist William. But it was a general victory for William, and is still celebrated by the Protestant Orange Order on the Twelfth of July. Ironically, due to the political situation mentioned above, the Pope also hailed the victory of William at the Boyne, ordered the bells of the Vatican to be rung in celebration.

Some Irish Catholics who were taken prisoner after the battle were tortured until they agreed to convert to Protestantism.[6]

The Treaty of Limerick was very generous to Catholics. It allowed most land owners to keep their land so long as they swore allegiance to William of Orange. It also said that James could take a certain number of his soldiers and go back to France. However, Protestants in England were annoyed with this kind treatment towards the Catholics, especially when they were gaining strength and money. Because of this, penal laws were introduced. These laws included banning Catholics from owning weapons, reducing their land, and prohibiting them from working in the legal profession.

Commemoration

 

River Boyne, west of Drogheda, today

View of the commemorative obelisk, prior to 1883. It was destroyed in 1923.

Medal Struck to Commemorate the Battle of the Boyne (Robert Chambers, p.8, July 1832)[7]

Originally, Irish Protestants commemorated the Battle of Aughrim on 12 July (old style, equivalent to 22 July new style), symbolising their victory in the Williamite war in Ireland. At Aughrim, which took place a year after the Boyne, the Jacobite army was destroyed, deciding the war in the Williamites’ favour. The Boyne, which, in the old Julian calendar, took place on 1 July, was treated as less important, third after Aughrim and the anniversary of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 on 23 October.

In 1752, the Gregorian calendar was adopted in Ireland, which erroneously placed the Boyne on 12 July instead of Aughrim (the correct equivalent date was 11 July, as the difference between the calendars for the year in question, 1690, was not 11 days but only 10 days). However, even after this date, “The Twelfth” still commemorated Aughrim.[clarification needed] But after the Orange Order was founded in 1795 amid sectarian violence in Armagh[further explanation needed], the focus of parades on 12 July switched to the Battle of the Boyne.[further explanation needed] Usually the dates before the introduction of the calendar on 14 September 1752 are mapped in English language histories directly onto the Julian dates without shifting them by 10 or 11 days.[8]

Being suspicious of anything with Papist connotations, however, rather than shift the anniversary of the Boyne to the new 1 July[clarification needed] or celebrate the new anniversary of Aughrim, the Orangemen continued to march on 12 July which was (erroneously) thought to have marked the battle of the Boyne in New Style dates.[clarification needed] Despite this, there are also smaller parades and demonstrations on 1 July, the date which maps the old style date of the Boyne to the new style in the usual manner and which also commemorate the heavy losses of the 36th (Ulster) Division on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.[citation needed]

The memory of the battle also has resonance among Irish nationalists. In 1923, IRA members blew up a large monument to the battle on the battlefield site on the Boyne and destroyed a statue of William III in 1929 that stood outside Trinity College, Dublin in the centre of the Irish capital.[citation needed]

“The Twelfth” in Great Britain and Ireland today

Main article: The Twelfth
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Twelfth in Northern Ireland 2013 (BBC Documentary)
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The Battle of the Boyne remains a controversial topic today in Northern Ireland, where some Protestants remember it as the great victory over Catholics that resulted in the sovereignty of Parliament and the Protestant monarchy.

In recent decades, “The Twelfth” has often been marked by confrontations, as members of the Orange Order attempt to celebrate the date by marching past or through what they see as their traditional route. Some of these areas, however, now have a nationalist majority who object to marches passing through what they see as their areas.

Each side thus dresses up the disputes in terms of the other’s alleged attempts to repress them; Nationalists still see Orange Order marches as provocative attempts to “show who is boss”, whilst Unionists insist that they have a right to “walk the Queen’s highway”. Since the start of The Troubles, the celebrations of the battle have been seen as playing a critical role in the awareness of those involved in the unionist/nationalist tensions in Northern Ireland.

The battlefield today

The site of the Battle of the Boyne sprawls over a wide area west of the town of Drogheda. In the County Development Plan for 2000, Meath County Council rezoned the land at the eastern edge of Oldbridge, at the site of the main Williamite crossing, to residential status. A subsequent planning application for a development of over 700 houses was granted by Meath County Council and this was appealed by local historians to An Bord Pleanala (The Planning Board). In March 2008 after an extremely long appeal process, An Bord Pleanala approved permission for this development to proceed. However, due to the current economic climate in Ireland, no work has yet started on this development.

The current Interpretive Centre dedicated to informing tourists and other visitors about the battle is about 1-mile (1.6 km) to the west of the main crossing point. This facility was redeveloped in 2008 and is now open for tourists. The battle’s other main combat areas (at Duleek, Donore and Plattin – along the Jacobite line of retreat) are marked with tourist information signs.

On 4 April 2007 in a sign of improving relations between unionist and nationalist groups, the newly elected First Minister of Northern Ireland, the Reverend Ian Paisley, was invited to visit the battle site by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern later in the year. Following the invitation, Paisley commented that “such a visit would help to demonstrate how far we have come when we can celebrate and learn from the past so the next generation more clearly understands”. On 10 May the visit took place, and Paisley presented the Taoiseach with a Jacobite musket in return for Ahern’s gift at the St Andrews talks of a walnut bowl made from a tree from the site. A new tree was also planted in the grounds of Oldbridge House by the two politicians to mark the occasion.[9]

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 -The Glorious 12th of July –

Extracts from Belfast Child Autobiography

My Story

 

Chapter Four

The Glorious 12th

protestant boys

Extracts from Belfast Child.

See above for additional chapters

See The Siege Of Derry what’s it all about

Like the vast majority of Protestants in Northern Ireland apart from my Birthday, Christmas and our family holiday to Ballyferris, the 12th of July was the biggest and most important day of the year. In 1663 the Protestant King Billy defeated the Catholic King James at the Battle of Boyne and changed the course of Irish history forever. Three hundred years later on the 12th of July every year Northern Ireland came to a standstill as the Protestant majority took to the streets and celebrated the most sacred day in the Protestant calendar. As a child I loved the whole 12th experience and counted the days down until the great day arrived. For weeks before the 12th all the children, with the help of adults would gather all sorts of burnable material for the bonfire that would be lit the night before, to signal the beginning of the celebrations. After school we would rush home, have something to eat and head of in the hunt for wood and whatever else we could find that would burn. Sometimes there would be dozens of us going back and forth to the gel carrying whatever we could find and placing it on the ever growing bonfire in the middle of the square. In Glencairn alone there would be about five or six bonfires and it was always very competitive to see which area could collect the most wood and have the biggest bonfire. Competition between the various parts of the estate were fierce and as the eleventh grew closer, the older boys would be allowed to stay out all night with suitable adults and guard the wood from raids from those at the top or bottom of the estate. As the day grew closer, the excitement was almost tangible and in the early evening sunshine we would gather around the ever-growing tower of wood and play until darkness. There was always a hunt, the command centre and if we were lucky the older boys would let us go inside and wait until they returned from another hunt for wood. One day when there was only myself and a few of the other younger children guarding the wood , the boys from the top of the estate came charging through the square in a bare faced raid on our precious wood. There were only about five of us and there was about fifteen of them and they were all older than us and there was little we could do but stand by and watch as they made off with their precious bounty. Taking control I told David to run as fast as he could and find the rest of our gang. Picking up stones from the ground I began pelting the enemy with missiles. The others soon joined in and before long the enemy had to duck and hide as we threw everything we could find at them. But we were well out numbered and it was only a matter of time before they had over powered us and decided to take me prisoner, as I seemed to be in charge.

Shankill Road Bonefire

Panic and terror washed over me as I was lead away to the enemy camp at the top of the estate. To add insult to injury a boy named Y forced me to help him carry a door stolen from our bonfire. I was threatened with a dig in the face if I tried to run away or do anything stupid, so I decided self preservation was the best course of action and was a model prisoner. As we marched in single file towards the top of the estate and the enemy bonfire, I wondered with dread what fate awaited me when we arrived there. A few weeks before John Jackson had also been captured in a raid and when he was finally set free he had a black eye and a busted lip. As I marched on all sorts of thoughts of pain and torture were going through my mind, when suddenly I heard the sound of running feet and raised voices. As I turned I was delighted to see my brother and about ten of our gang running towards us. Panic set into the enemy as they realized what was happening and some of them dropped what they were carrying and fled. Before I knew what was happening my rescuers had caught up with us and a massive fight broke out between the two warring sides. I dropped my end of the door I was carrying and jumped on Y terrorising him with a blood curdling scream that rose from deep within me. I was free! The noise was deafening as the two sides fought a running battle, but reinforcements had arrived from our gang and before long we had beaten the enemy into retreat. When they had all fled, we gathered up our stolen wood and sang as we made our way back to our camp.

I was a hero and that night guarding the bonfire I wallowed as all those present praised my heroic deeds of the day and I now had access to the hut whenever I liked.

dad  and margaret

Why Ireland split into the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland

As the great day drew closer our house was always in a state of complete chaos. Dad was busy making sure everything was ready for the bands biggest and most important march of the year. There were over forty people in the band and they all had to have uniforms that fitted perfectly and instruments that were at the peak of their working year. While dad got on with that, Granny took us down town and rigged us out with new clothes and shoes for the big day. Image was everything and regardless of how scruffy and dirty we looked the rest of the year, on the 12th of July we would be immaculately turned out. Granny had an old friend called Isaac who lived in Ballysillan and although he was half blind, deaf and always drunk, he had in his day been a competent barber and Granny saw no reason not to continue sending me and David over to Isaac whenever a hair cut was in order, even though he had been retired for over thirty years. Besides he only charged £1.50 and as money was always tight it made perfect sense. Unfortunately for us he would give us a cut that would have shamed a corpse and eventually I came up with the idea that we should cut each other’s hair and pocket the money for ourselves.

111 coffin

These plans went well for a few months until one-day granny give us the money to go and get our hairs cut. When we got back, Granny was stood by the door waiting for us, which was most unusual and asked us had Isaac cut our hair? When we answered yes, she asked us how he was. By now we were both starting to get a bit suspicious and nervously answered ok. How were we to know that he had died the night before from a sudden heart attached and was now in the morgue having the final hair cut of his life. Needless to say Granny went ape and we got a good thumping for the lies. From that day on Granny personally escorted us to the barbers and watched with a critical eye as we had our hairs cut.

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The Sash my Father Wore

SHANKILL PROTESTANT BOYS FLUTE BAND, SINGING THE SASH

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Growing up in loyalist Belfast every child knew the words to the Sash and it was our national anthem.

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Lyrics

So sure l’m an Ulster Orangeman, from Erin’s isle I came,
To see my British brethren all of honour and of fame,
And to tell them of my forefathers who fought in days of yore,
That I might have the right to wear, the sash my father wore!

Chorus:
It is old but it is beautiful, and its colours they are fine
It was worn at Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne.
My father wore it as a youth in bygone days of yore,
And on the Twelfth I love to wear the sash my father wore.

Chorus

For those brave men who crossed the Boyne have not fought or died in vain
Our Unity, Religion, Laws, and Freedom to maintain,
If the call should come we’ll follow the drum, and cross that river once more
That tomorrow’s Ulsterman may wear the sash my father wore!

Chorus

And when some day, across the sea to Antrim’s shore you come,
We’ll welcome you in royal style, to the sound of flute and drum
And Ulster’s hills shall echo still, from Rathlin to Dromore
As we sing again the loyal strain of the sash my father wore!

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As the 12th grew closer and closer there was always an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation whilst everyone counted the days down. The various bonfires were now mountains of burnable material that towered high above the houses and flats that surrounded the area. Apart from the hundreds of bands and orange lodge’s from Northern Ireland that would be marching on the day, dozen’s more would travel over from Scotland, Mainland England and as far afield as Canada & Australia. This was the most sacred day in the Loyalist calendar. Loyalist’s from across the world would make the pilgrimage back to Northern Ireland to celebrate their culture and age old traditions. Even at nine years old I felt a tremendous sense of pride and loyalty and passion at the Protestant culture and traditions that governed my daily life in Loyalist West Belfast. I was no different from any other child from a working class Protestant family in Northern Ireland. Although unlike my peers I had a secret Catholic mother.

Like all other Loyalist areas of Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland Glencairn was awash with Loyalist flags, red, white and blue bunting, murals and countless houses had Union Jacks and Red Hand of Ulster flag’s flying proudly from the front. As the twelfth of July approached this visual proclamation of Protestant pride took on a new meaning and the paving stones would be painted red, white and blue whilst almost every house in the estate flew a Loyalist or Protestant flag of some description. As a child this added to the sense of excitement for me and I took this as a sign of the glorious party that everyone would take part in to celebrate the twelfth.

When the 11th of July finally arrived Granny would come round to our house first thing and sort dad and us all out and make sure we had enough food to see us over the holiday period. We would be almost bursting with excitement and as soon as breakfast was over, David, Shep and I were out the door and heading towards the bonfire, where we would meet up with our mates and spend the day collecting last minute material for the fire and generally playing around. As evening approached adults would gradually start to gather around the bonfire and the celebrations would get in to full swing. Loud Loyalist music would be blaring from various houses around the square and as the night wore on more and more people would gather and the whole square came alive with the sound of laughter and people enjoying themselves. Everybody took part in the celebrations and the whole community mucked in to make sure the occasion was really special and a night to remember. Local women would prepare loads and loads of food for the party and this would be distributed throughout the day to anyone who needed a bite to eat. As the evening wore on the music got louder, the adults would become very loud and funny as the drink kicked in and as darkness engulfed Belfast the time to light the children’s bonfire would arrive. Finally when everyone was in place, to cries of delight from the gathered crowds, an Effie of the pope was placed on the top of the bonfire. On this night more than any other, the two communities of Northern Ireland were divided more than ever, as the Protestant majority noisily celebrated its supremacy over the Catholic minority. Surrounded by all my family and friends I watched in awe as the bonfire was lit and the flames, slowly at first, then faster licked their way up towards the top and the pope. As the flames grew higher and higher and finally reached the pope and engulfed him in flames, screams of joy rang out through the summer’s nights and echoed around the estate and Protestant Northern Ireland. Shouts of encouragement egged the flames on until finally the pope disintegrated in front of our eyes and we all took great joy from the fact the he was obviously suffering a terrible death.

Pope John

As grew older & wiser my hatred of the Pope and all things Catholic diminished ,but my hatred of Republicans & The IRA is as strong today as it was when I was a Child. I blamed them for the misery & slaughter they unleased in their quest for a United Ireland and the 1000’s of innocent victims now in too early graves.

We had killed and burned to cinders the father of the hated Catholic Church and her people and we sang and yelled with pleasure as the ritual the stirred in us. As the fire burned the crackle of the wood and the spit of the flames filled the air and children would dance round the fire, laughing and singing with the adults until it was time for bed. Eventually Granny would come and find David, Shep and me and bring us home in protest to bed. As soon as we were settled down she would go out into the square again and David and I would climb out of bed and watch from our bedroom window, the antics of the drunken adults as they sang and danced the night away around the burning bonfire.

First thing next morning Granny would be round at the crack of dawn and yell for us to get up as she busied herself making everyone a full Ulster Fry and getting us ready. Before long the house was in complete chaos as Granny washed and fed us and made sure we were smartly turned out for the day. As the morning wore on members of the band would arrive for last minute preparation and before long the whole street was out and about, as the band nervously got in a few last minutes of practice. At about eight thirty the whole band would start to gather outside the shops and take up their places. By now the route out of the estate was lined with hundreds of people, regardless of age or hangovers, who had come to see them off. When everyone was in place dad took up his position at the right of the procession and after one last check shouted, “March” and they would strike up a tune and begin to march. Every year a loyal crowd of followers would fall in beside them and accompany them on the 26 mile march to the field. Much to my annoyance I was too young to be allowed to go with them and I longed for the day when I would be old enough. As we stood on the kerb watching them go my heart was full of pride as I watched dad in his uniform lead them down the Road and out of the estate. When they were out of sight we would all travel down to Ormeau Road, where hundreds of bands and Orange men would meet before making their way to the field. Tens of thousands lined the route and as a child it seemed to me the whole world had gathered to celebrate with 12th of July. Our family always sat outside the garage on the lower Ormeau road and watched as hundred of bands, of all shapes and colours, lead thousands of bowler hatted Orangemen and women to the field.

Orange Men

Throughout Northern Ireland dozens of similar parades were taking place, but the march in Belfast was always by far the biggest and the most important of the day. We watched with mounting excitement as various bands passed and waited with baited breath for dad’s band to come into view, so we could cheer them on.

Each band would be attached to an Orange lodge that marched in front of them all the way to the field. They all had a unique uniform that extinguished them from the other bands marching. The hardcore Loyalist and paramilitary flute bands always got the loudest cheers and when a talented leader came into view everyone watched with nervous anticipation as he done various tricks with his pole, flinging it high into the sky, before catching it on the way down and immediately throwing it over his neck or under his legs before going into an routine.. Although dad’s band was an accordion band and we all took great pride in them being part of the parade, the flute and hardcore Loyalist bands were the crowds favourite and when they played a familiar tune huge cheers arose from the gathered crowd and people would join in and sing a long at the top of their voices until the band passed and another came into view. I always loved the sound of the Lambeg drums as they made their way to where we were standing and their mournful tunes drifted far over our heads and echoed through the streets of Belfast, as a warning to the Catholic people that today was our day and we were the masters of Northern Ireland. A sea of colour washed past as band after band marched by us on their way to the field. Apart from local and famous flute bands getting the loudest cheers , bands from the Shankill Road brought the loudest cheers of encouragement and joy , these were our people, come to our shore to support us in our never ending war against the IRA and Catholic people and we made sure they knew we appreciated their commitment. When dad’s band finally came into sight a huge cheer rang out from all of us and those among the spectators from Glencairn and the surrounding areas. As they passed us we would call dad’s name and when he and the other’s from the band noticed us they would all turn and salute us as they marched past. I almost burst with pride as I watched them move off and disappear in to the distance and always regretted that I was not going with them. The parade took about two hours to pass us and when it was all over, Granny would take us home. Exhausted from shouting and singing after dinner we would while away the time until 17:30, when we would go back to town to cheer them on their homeward journey from the field. When it was all over there would always be lots of parties in the estate as we clung desperately to the day and never wanted it to end. By the time we eventually got to bed I would be counting down the days until next year and the time I was old enough to take part in the parade and go all the way to the mystical field with dad and the rest of the band. Sleep came easily and I dreamt I was the leader of one of the more famous bands and the best leader in the whole wide world.

Every year on the 13th July the entire Chambers clan, aunties, uncles, grandparents, cousin’s, close friends and an assortment of animals would descend on Ballyferris Caravan Park to start the annual holidays. Ballyferris is a small seaside town on the east coast of County Down and like all other aspects of our life it was a Protestant town and a favourite destination for Protestants throughout Belfast and the Shankill road area. It was like a home from home and we all loved and looked forward to our yearly visits there. In the early years we never had a car and would travel down on the bus or train, depending on how much money we had. We must have looked like a Sunday school outing as 9 adults shepherded over a dozen kids through the centre of Belfast towards the train or bus station. When we finally arrived in Ballyferris we would all help unpack the luggage and settle into various caravans that stood side by side looking out towards the sea. There were that many of us that it must have looked as though we had taken over the whole caravan site and the other children always sought us out as they wanted to become part of our massive gang. There was a huge green in the centre of the site and at every opportunity two teams were rustled together and a football match would get under way. I used to love it if I got picked to play on the same side as dad and other members of the family and the rest of the family cheered on from the touchline. I dreamt that I was George Best, playing for Manchester United. When we weren’t playing football or flying our kites David, wee Sam , Pickle and me would go down to the beach in search of crabs and other sea life and if they were lucky to survive being captured , we would bring them up to the green and race them for packets of sweets and crisps etc. Once wee Sam and I got separated from the other as we climbed further and further over the rocks until we were right by the sea’s edge. We lost all sense of time as we cast our crab lines out as far as possible in our quest to catch the biggest crab. Gradually it started to rain and as it began to fall heavier and heavier we decided to pack up and head back to the caravan with our bucket of nervous crabs. As we turned to leave we noticed with mounting panic that the tide had come in and we were completely surrounded by the rising sea water. Our frantic cries finally caught the attention of a man walking his dog on the beach and before long the whole family and most of the other people staying at the caravan site were gathered at the edge of the water telling us not to move and the coastguards were on their way. Panic turned to excitement as a dot appeared in the distance sea and the coast boat came slowly into view. Wee Sam and I were pleased as punch as the boat drew up and the coastguard helped us into the boat. As the boat made its way to the beach we waved like royalty to the gathered crowds on the beachfront. Sadly our joy was short lived as when we arrived on the beach we got a severe ticking off from our parents and any other adult who felt like having a go. Not that we let this spoil our new found fame and at every opportunity for the rest of the holiday we boasted to our peers about our daring rescue by the coast guard from the jaws of certain death.

In the evening if the weather was good we would all gather as much food and drink as we could carry and go down to the beach to have a BBQ or picnic. We would collect wood from the beach and before long we would have a fire going and cook baked potatoes and roast sausages round the edge. As darkness rolled in we would sit around the fire singing Loyalist song and telling stories and before long I would fall asleep on dad’s knee and the next thing I knew I was waking up the next morning, in the caravan to the sounds and smells of Granny making breakfast. The best part of the whole holiday for me and the other children was when we would all be gathered up and went to Millisle , a seaside town about two miles away with a huge funfair. Sometime’s when the weather was really good we would walk to Millisle along the beach front and as it came into view we would race over the sand dunes in a scramble to see who could get there first. The day would be spent going from one ride to another and although I loved it all, I enjoyed the dodgem cars best of all and I drove like a kamikaze pilot as I crashed into dad and anyone else I could catch. Dad always seemed to enjoy our time at the funfair and he took part in loads of different games until he had won us all a present of some description. After exhausting ourselves on the rides we would join our grandparents and others on the beach for a picnic and if we were really lucky we were treated to fish and chips from one of the many chippies along the seas front. After dinner dad and his brothers would go for a pint in one of the local bars and we kids would amuse ourselves by burying each other in the sand and paddling by the water’s edge. It was always with great sadness for me when these days came to an end and I would feel heartbroken as we packed up our things for the bus back to the caravan site. I never wanted these holidays to end and when the day came that we would be travelling back to Belfast I would take long walks along the beach and through the caravan site and considered hiding until everyone else had left and I could stay there forever. Dad and the others were used to my wander lust and a search party was soon despatched to find me and bring me back into the fold. As the bus pulled away from the caravan site, taking us home, I fought to hold back my tears as I said a silent goodbye to Ballyferris and the bright lights of the fun fair.

Years later as a teenager, with my life in tatters and on the brink of suicide, I ran away from home and ended up back in Ballyferris. But this time I was all alone and it was mid winter, snowing, freezing cold and the funfair was in complete darkness. And my beloved father was dead.

 

If you would like to read more of my story please see home page of follow this link Belfast Child’s Autobiography .

Military Reaction Force – Counter Insurgency Unit

The Military Reaction Force

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The views and opinions expressed in this documentary and page 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

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The Military Reaction Force, Military Reconnaissance Force or Mobile Reconnaissance Force (MRF)[1] was a covert intelligence-gathering and counter-insurgency unit of the British Army active in Northern Ireland, during the Troubles/Operation Banner. The unit was formed during the summer of 1971[1] and operated until late 1972 or early 1973. MRF teams operated in plain-clothes and civilian vehicles, equipped with pistols and sub-machine guns. They were nominally tasked with tracking down and arresting, or killing, suspected members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The MRF also ran double agents within the paramilitary groups and ran a number of front companies to gather intelligence.[2] In October 1972, the Provisional IRA uncovered and attacked two of the MRF’s front companies—a mobile laundry service and a massage parlour—which contributed to the unit’s dissolution. One former member of the unit has described it as a “legalised death squad“.[3] It has also been accused of colluding with illegal loyalist paramilitaries and carrying out false flag attacks. The MRF was succeeded by the SRU (or 14 Intelligence Company) and, later, by the FRU

Origins and structure

The MRF was established in the summer of 1971. It appears to have its origins in ideas and techniques developed by British Army Brigadier Sir Frank Kitson, who had created “counter gangs” to defeat the Mau Mau in Kenya. He was the author of two books on counter-insurgency tactics: Gangs & Counter Gangs (1960) and Low Intensity Operations (1971). From 1970 to 1972, Kitson served in Northern Ireland as commander of the 39th Infantry Brigade. It has been claimed that he was responsible for establishing the MRF and that the unit was attached to his Brigade.[1]

The MRF was based at Palace Barracks in the Belfast suburb of Holywood.[4] The MRF’s first commander was Captain Arthur Watchus.[5] In June 1972, he was succeeded as commander by Captain James ‘Hamish’ McGregor.[4] It was split into squads, each of which was led by a Senior NCO who had served in the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), the Royal Marines or the Parachute Regiment.[6] The unit consisted of up to 40 men, handpicked from throughout the British Army.[7] It also included a few women.[8] According to military sources, the MRF would have up to nine soldiers deployed at any one time, with nine more on standby and the others resting.[6]

Modus operandi

In March 1994, the UK’s Junior Defence Minister Jeremy Hanley issued the following description of the MRF in reply to a parliamentary written question: “The MRF was a small military unit which, during the period 1971 to 1973, was responsible for carrying out surveillance tasks in Northern Ireland in those circumstances where soldiers in uniform and with Army vehicles would be too easily recognized”.[9]

Martin Dillon described the MRF’s purpose as being “to draw the Provisional IRA into a shooting war with loyalists in order to distract the IRA from its objective of attacking the Army”.[10]

Many details about the unit’s modus operandi have been revealed by former members. One issued a statement to the Troops Out Movement in July 1978. In 2012–13, a former MRF member using the covername ‘Simon Cursey’ gave a number of interviews and published the book MRF Shadow Troop about his time in the unit. In November 2013, a BBC Panorama documentary was aired about the MRF. It drew on information from seven former members, as well as a number of other sources.

The MRF had both a “defensive” surveillance role and an “offensive” role.[4][1] MRF operatives dressed like civilians and were given fake identities and unmarked cars equipped with two-way radios.[8] They patrolled the streets in these cars in teams of two to four, tracking down and arresting or killing suspected IRA members.[8][7] They were armed with Browning pistols and Sterling sub-machine guns. Former MRF members admitted that the unit shot unarmed people without warning, both IRA members and civilians,[7] knowingly breaking the British Army’s Rules of Engagement.[6] Former MRF members claim they had a list of targets they were ordered to “shoot on sight”,[8][4] the aim being to “beat them at their own game”[8] and to “terrorise” the republican movement.[6] According to Cursey, the unit was told that these tactics had British Government backing, “as part of a deeper political game”.[8] He said his section shot at least 20 people: “We opened fire at any small group in hard areas […] armed or not – it didn’t matter. We targeted specific groups that were always up to no good. These types were sympathisers and supporters, assisting the IRA movement. As far as we were concerned they were guilty by association and party to terrorist activities, leaving themselves wide open to the ultimate punishment from us”.[6] Cursey mentions two occasions where MRF members visited pubs and “eliminated” IRA members.[6] One member interviewed for the BBC’s Panorama, Soldier F, said “We were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group“.[7] Soldier H said “We operated initially with them thinking that we were the UVF“, to which Soldier F added: “We wanted to cause confusion”.[5] Another said that their role was “to draw out the IRA and to minimise their activities”.[7] They said they fired on groups of people manning defensive barricades, on the assumption that some might be armed.[4] The MRF member who made a statement in 1978 opined that the unit’s role was one of “repression through fear, terror and violence”.[11] He said that the unit had been trained to use weapons favoured by the IRA.[11]

Republicans argued that the MRF deliberately attacked civilians for two main reasons: firstly, to draw the IRA into a sectarian conflict with loyalists and divert it from its campaign against the state; and secondly, to show Catholics that the IRA could not protect them, thus draining its support.[12]

The MRF’s surveillance operations included the use of front companies (see below) and disguises. Former members claim they posed as road sweepers, dustmen and even homeless meths-drinkers while carrying out surveillance.[7] The MRF is known to have used double agents referred to as ‘Freds’. These were republican or loyalist paramilitaries who were recruited by British Military Intelligence. The Freds would work inside paramilitary groups, feeding back information to the MRF. They were also ferried through Belfast in armoured cars, and through the gunslit would point-out paramilitary individuals of note. Through this method the MRF compiled extensive photographs and dossiers of Belfast militants of both factions.[13]

According to Cursey, the MRF also abducted and interrogated people for information. They used shock treatment on prisoners to force them to give information. This involved immediately breaking one of the suspects’ arms and threatening to break their other arm.[8] Cursey says that they then “dropped them off at the roadside for the uniformed forces to pick up later”.[6]

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BBC Panorama – Shoot to kill, lethal force

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Attacks on civilians

In 1972, MRF teams carried out a number of drive-by shootings in Catholic and Irish nationalist areas of Belfast, some of which had been attributed to Ulster loyalist paramilitaries.[2] At least fifteen civilians were shot. MRF members have affirmed the unit’s involvement in most of these attacks. There are also allegations that the unit helped loyalists to carry out attacks.

McGurk’s Bar bombing

On 4 December 1971, the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) detonated a time bomb at the door of McGurk’s public house in Belfast. The pub was frequented by Irish Catholics/nationalists.[14] The explosion caused the building to collapse, killing fifteen Catholic civilians and wounding seventeen more. It was the deadliest attack in Belfast during the Troubles.[15] The book Killing For Britain (2009), written by former UVF member ‘John Black’, claims that the MRF organized the bombing and helped the bombers get in and out of the area.[16] Two days before the bombing, republican prisoners had escaped from nearby Crumlin Road Prison. Security was tightened and there were many checkpoints in the area at the time. However, locals claimed that the security forces helped the bombers by removing the checkpoints an hour before the attack.[17] One of the bombers—Robert Campbell—said that their original target had been The Gem, a nearby pub that was allegedly linked to the Official IRA. It is claimed the MRF plan was to help the UVF bomb The Gem, and then blame the bombing on the Provisional IRA. This would start a feud between the two IRA factions, diverting them from their fight against the security forces and draining their support. Campbell said that The Gem had security outside and, after waiting for almost an hour, they decided to bomb the nearest ‘Catholic pub’ instead. Immediately after, the security forces claimed that a bomb had accidentally exploded while being handled by IRA members inside McGurk’s.[18]

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‘Secret British Army hits’ on IRA Watch extracts from BBC expose

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Whiterock Road shooting

On 15 April 1972, brothers Gerry and John Conway—both Catholic civilians—were walking along Whiterock Road to catch a bus.[19][11] As they passed St Thomas’s School, a car stopped and three men leapt out and began shooting at them with pistols.[19][11] The brothers ran but both were shot and wounded.[19] Witnesses said one of the gunmen returned to the car and spoke into a handset radio. Shortly after, two armoured personnel carriers arrived and there was a conversation between the uniformed and the plainclothes soldiers.[19] The three vehicles then left, and the brothers were taken by ambulance to the Royal Victoria Hospital.[19] The British Army told journalists that a patrol had encountered two wanted men, that one fired at the patrol and that the patrol returned fire.[19] In a 1978 interview, a former MRF member claimed he had been one of the gunmen.[11] He confirmed that the brothers were unarmed, but claimed his patrol had mistaken the brothers for two IRA men whom the MRF were ordered to “shoot on sight”.[11]

Andersonstown shootings

On 12 May 1972, the British government announced there would be no disciplinary action against the soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday. That night, MRF teams shot seven Catholic civilians in the Andersonstown area.

Patrick McVeigh

 

 

An MRF team in an unmarked car approached a checkpoint manned by members of the Catholic Ex-Servicemen’s Association (CESA) at the entrance to Riverdale Park South.[1] The CESA was an unarmed vigilante organization set up to protect Catholic areas.[20] The car stopped and then reversed. One of the MRF men opened-fire from the car with a sub-machine gun, killing Catholic civilian Patrick McVeigh (44) and wounding four others.[1][19] The car continued on, turned, and then drove past the scene of the shooting.[19][21] All of the men were local residents[21] and McVeigh, who was shot through the back,[7] had stopped to chat to the CESA members as he walked home.[21] He was a married father of six children.[21] The British Army told journalists that gunmen in a passing car had fired indiscriminately at civilians and called it an “apparently motiveless crime”.[19] The car had come from a Protestant area and had returned the same way. This, together with the British Army statement, implied that loyalists were responsible.[19]

An inquest into the attack was held in December 1972, where it was admitted that the car’s occupants were soldiers belonging to an undercover unit known as the MRF.[21] The soldiers did not appear at the inquest but issued statements to it, claiming they had been shot at by six gunmen and were returning fire. However, eyewitnesses said none of the CESA members were armed and this was supported by forensic evidence.[19] The MRF members involved were never prosecuted.[1][19] Former MRF member ‘Simon Cursey’ claimed the unit fired on the men because they included IRA members who were on their ‘wanted’ list.[8] However, there is no evidence that any were in the IRA.[22] An MRF member stated in 1978 that the British Army’s intention was to make it look like a loyalist attack, thus provoking sectarian conflict and “taking the heat off the Army”.[11]

Minutes before the shooting at the checkpoint, two other Catholic civilians had been shot nearby by another MRF team.[4] The two young men—Aidan McAloon and Eugene Devlin—had got a taxi home from a disco and were dropped off at Slievegallion Drive.[4] As they began walking along the street, in the direction of a vigilante barricade, the MRF team opened fire on them from an unmarked car.[4] The MRF team told the Royal Military Police that they had shot a man who was firing a rifle. Witnesses said there was no gunman on the street and police forensics experts found no evidence that McAloon or Devlin had fired weapons.[4]

Two weeks later, on 27 May, Catholic civilian Gerard Duddy (20) was killed in a drive-by shooting at the same spot where Patrick McVeigh was killed. His death was blamed on loyalists.[23]

Killing of Jean Smith

Jean Smith

 

 

On the night of 9 June 1972, Catholic civilian Jean Smith (or Smyth) was shot dead on the Glen Road. Jean was a 24-year-old mother of one.[24] She was shot while sitting in the passenger seat of a car at the Glen Road bus terminus. As her male companion turned the car, he heard what he thought was a tyre bursting. When he got out to check, the car was hit by a burst of automatic gunfire. Smith was shot in the head and died shortly after.[24] Her companion stopped a passing taxi and asked the driver to take her to hospital. However, the taxi was then stopped by police and diverted to Andersonstown RUC base, where they were held for several hours.[25]

The security forces blamed the killing on the IRA. In October 1973, however, the Belfast Telegraph published an article suggesting that Smith could have been shot by the MRF.[24] Documents uncovered from the British National Archives reveal that the MRF fired shots in the area that night. They claim to have fired at two gunmen and hit one of them.[25][26] The Belfast Telegraph article also suggested that Smith could have been shot by the IRA, who fired on the car thinking it was carrying MRF members.[24] The IRA deny this and claim that it was not in the area at the time of the shooting.[25]

Two weeks after Smith’s killing, the MRF fired on a car at the same spot, wounding four people.

Glen Road shooting

On 22 June 1972, the Provisional IRA announced that it would begin a ceasefire in four days, as a prelude to secret talks with the British Government.[27] That afternoon, MRF members in an unmarked car shot and wounded three Catholic men standing by a car at Glen Road bus terminus. A man in a nearby house was also wounded by the gunfire.[28] Shortly after, the MRF unit’s car was stopped by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and they were arrested. Inside was a Thompson sub-machine gun, “for years the IRA’s favourite weapon”.[1] One of the MRF members—Clive Graham Williams—was charged with attempted murder. He told the court that two of the men had been armed and one had fired at the MRF car. He claimed he was returning fire. Witnesses said that none of the civilians were armed and that it was an unprovoked attack.[28] Police forensics experts found no evidence that the civilians had fired weapons.[4] However, key witnesses were not called to give evidence in person[4] and Williams was acquitted on 26 June 1973.[1] He was later promoted and awarded the Military Medal for bravery.[4]

St James’s Crescent shooting

On the night of 27 September 1972, the MRF shot dead Catholic civilian Daniel Rooney and wounded his friend Brendan Brennan.[19][29] They were shot from a passing car while standing on a street corner at St James’s Crescent, in the Falls district.[30] The British Army told journalists that the two men fired at an undercover patrol and that the patrol returned fire.[30] It further claimed that the two men were IRA members.[30] The IRA, the men’s families, and residents of the area denied this, and Rooney’s name has never appeared on a republican roll of honour.[30] An inquest was held in December 1973. The court was told that forensic tests on the men’s hands and clothing found no firearms residue.[30] The six soldiers involved repeated the British Army’s claim, but they did not appear at the inquest. Their statements were read by a police officer and they were referred to by initials.[30] In 2013, former MRF member ‘Simon Cursey’ again claimed that they were returning fire, but said that only one of the men was armed.[8]

New Lodge Six

There are also allegations that the MRF was involved in a drive-by shooting in the Catholic New Lodge area on 3 February 1973. The car’s occupants opened fire on a group of young people standing outside a pub on Antrim Road, killing IRA members James Sloan and James McCann and wounding others. The gunmen drove on and allegedly fired at another group of people outside a takeaway. In the hours that followed, a further four people—an IRA member and three civilians—were shot dead in the area by British snipers. The dead became known as the “New Lodge Six”.[31][32][33]

In June 1973, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association issued advice on how to behave in the event of being “shot by MRF/SAS squads”, saying for example that people should “pretend to be dead until the squad moves away”.[34]

Front companies

The MRF ran a number of front companies in Belfast during the early 1970s.[35] They included Four Square Laundry (a mobile laundry service operating in nationalist West Belfast) and the Gemini massage parlour on Antrim Road.[36]The MRF also had an office at College Square. All were set up to gather intelligence on the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Irish nationalist movement.

A Four Square van visited houses in nationalist West Belfast twice a week to collect and deliver laundry.[37] One “employee” (a young man) drove the van while another (a young woman) collected and delivered the laundry. Both were from Northern Ireland.[37] Four Square initially gathered customers by offering “discount vouchers”, which were numbered and colour-coded by street.[38] Clothes collected for washing were first forensically checked for traces of explosives, as well as blood or firearms residue. They were also compared to previous laundry loads from the same house—the sudden presence of different-sized clothes could indicate that the house was harbouring an IRA member.[39] Surveillance operatives and equipment were hidden in the back of the van or in a compartment in the roof. Further intelligence was gathered by staff observing and “chatting” to locals whilst collecting their laundry.[39]

Kevin McKee

 

 

However, in September 1972 the IRA found that two of its members—Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee—were working for the MRF as double agents.[40] Under interrogation, McKee told the IRA about the MRF’s operations, including the laundry and the massage parlour.[41] The leaders of the Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade ordered that the companies immediately be put under surveillance. This surveillance confirmed that McKee’s information was correct.[42] The IRA later took Wright and McKee to South Armagh, where they were “executed” as spies.[43] Their bodies have not been recovered and were cases considered by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains.

October 1972 attacks

Following these revelations, the leaders of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade planned an operation against the MRF, which was to take place on 2 October 1972. The 2nd Battalion would attack the Four Square Laundry van and the office at College Square, while the 3rd Battalion would raid the massage parlour.[44] At about 11:20AM[37] on 2 October, IRA volunteers ambushed the Four Square Laundry van in the nationalist Twinbrook area of West Belfast. Four volunteers were involved: one drove the car while three others did the shooting.[44] They shot dead the driver, an undercover British soldier of the Royal Engineers, and machine-gunned the roof compartment where undercover operatives were thought to be hiding.[44] The other Four Square employee—a female operative from the Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC)—was collecting and delivering laundry from a nearby house at the time. The residents, who thought that loyalists were attacking the van, took her into the house and kept her safe.[44] The woman was later secretly invested at Buckingham Palace with an MBE.[40]

About an hour later, the same IRA unit raided College Square but found nobody there.[44] Meanwhile, a unit of the 3rd Battalion made for the room above the massage parlour, which they believed was being using to gather intelligence. They claimed to have shot three undercover soldiers: two men and a woman.[44] According to some sources, the IRA claimed to have killed two surveillance officers allegedly hidden in the laundry van,[45] and two MRF members at the massage parlour.[39] However, the British military only confirmed the death of the van driver on that day.[46] Brendan Hughes said that the operation “was a great morale booster for the IRA and for the people that were involved”.[44]

The MRF, realising its undercover operations were blown, disbanded the units and was itself disbanded shortly afterwards.[44] Nevertheless, the incident was believed to have prompted the establishment of a new undercover intelligence unit: the 14 Intelligence Company (also known as “The Det”).[47]

 

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Segregation in Northern Ireland

Segregation in Northern Ireland

Segregation in Northern Ireland is a long-running issue in the political and social history of Northern Ireland. The segregation involves Northern Ireland’s two main voting blocs – Irish nationalist/republicans (mainly Roman Catholic) and unionist/loyalist (mainly Protestant). It is often seen as both a cause and effect of the “Troubles“.

A combination of political, religious and social differences plus the threat of intercommunal tensions and violence has led to widespread self-segregation of the two communities. Catholics and Protestants lead largely separate lives in a situation that some have dubbed “self-imposed apartheid”.[1] The academic John H. Whyte argued that “the two factors which do most to divide Protestants as a whole from Catholics as a whole are endogamy and separate education

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Inside Story – How divided is Northern Ireland

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Education

Education in Northern Ireland is heavily segregated. Most state schools in Northern Ireland are predominantly Protestant, while the majority of Catholic children attend schools maintained by the Catholic Church. In all, 90 per cent of children in Northern Ireland still go to separate faith schools.[3] The consequence is, as one commentator has put it, that “the overwhelming majority of Ulster’s children can go from four to 18 without having a serious conversation with a member of a rival creed.”[4] The prevalence of segregated education has been cited as a major factor in maintaining endogamy (marriage within one’s own group).[5] The integrated education movement has sought to reverse this trend by establishing non-denominational schools such as the Portadown Integrated Primary. Such schools are, however, still the exception to the general trend of segregated education. Integrated schools in Northern Ireland have been established through the voluntary efforts of parents. The churches have not been involved in the development of integrated education.[6]

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Why Ireland split into the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland

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Employment

Historically, employment in the Northern Irish economy was highly segregated in favour of Protestants, particularly at senior levels of the public sector, in certain then important sectors of the economy, such as shipbuilding and heavy engineering, and strategically important areas such as the police.[7] Emigration to seek employment was therefore significantly more prevalent among the Catholic population. As a result, Northern Ireland’s demography shifted further in favour of Protestants leaving their ascendancy seemingly impregnable by the late 1950s.

A 1987 survey found that 80 per cent of the workforces surveyed were described by respondents as consisting of a majority of one denomination; 20 per cent were overwhelmingly unidenominational, with 95–100 per cent Catholic or Protestant employees. However, large organisations were much less likely to be segregated, and the level of segregation has decreased over the years.[8]

The British government has introduced numerous laws and regulations since the mid-1990s to prohibit discrimination on religious grounds, with the Fair Employment Commission (originally the Fair Employment Agency) exercising statutory powers to investigate allegations of discriminatory practices in Northern Ireland business and organisations.[7] This has had a significant impact on the level of segregation in the workplace;[8] John Whyte concludes that the result is that “segregation at work is one of the least acute forms of segregation in Northern Ireland.” [9]

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BBC Spotlight – Poverty in Northern Ireland

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Housing

Gates in a peace line in West Belfast

Back of a house behind a “peace line”, on Bombay Street Belfast

Public housing is overwhelmingly segregated between the two communities. Intercommunal tensions have forced substantial numbers of people to move from mixed areas into areas inhabited exclusively by one denomination, thus increasing the degree of polarisation and segregation. The extent of self-segregation grew very rapidly with the outbreak of the Troubles. In 1969, 69 per cent of Protestants and 56 per cent of Catholics lived in streets where they were in their own majority; as the result of large-scale flight from mixed areas between 1969 and 1971 following outbreaks of violence, the respective proportions had by 1972 increased to 99 per cent of Protestants and 75 per cent of Catholics.[10] In Belfast, the 1970s were a time of rising residential segregation.[11] It was estimated in 2004 that 92.5% of public housing in Northern Ireland was divided along religious lines, with the figure rising to 98% in Belfast.[1] Self-segregation is a continuing process, despite the Northern Ireland peace process. It was estimated in 2005 that more than 1,400 people a year were being forced to move as a consequence of intimidation.[12]

In response to intercommunal violence, the British Army constructed a number of high walls called “peace lines” to separate rival neighbourhoods. These have multiplied over the years and now number forty separate barriers, mostly located in Belfast. Despite the moves towards peace between Northern Ireland’s political parties and most of its paramilitary groups, the construction of “peace lines” has actually increased during the ongoing peace process; the number of “peace lines” doubled in the ten years between 1995 and 2005.[13] In 2008 a process was proposed for the removal of the peace walls.[14]

The effective segregation of the two communities significantly affects the usage of local services in “interface areas” where sectarian neighbourhoods adjoin. Surveys in 2005 of 9,000 residents of interface areas found that 75% refused to use the closest facilities because of location, while 82% routinely travelled to “safer” areas to access facilities even if the journey time was longer. 60% refused to shop in areas dominated by the other community, with many fearing ostracism by their own community if they violated an unofficial de facto boycott of their sectarian opposite numbers.[13]

Intermarriage

In contrast with both the Republic of Ireland and most parts of Great Britain, where intermarriage between Protestants and Catholics is not unusual, in Northern Ireland it has been uncommon: from 1970 through to the 1990s, only 5 per cent of marriages were recorded as crossing community divides.[15] This figure remained largely constant throughout the Troubles. It rose to between 8 and 12 per cent, according to the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, in 2003, 2004 and 2005.[16][17][18] Attitudes towards Catholic–Protestant intermarriage have become more supportive in recent years (particularly among the middle class)[19] and younger people are also more likely to be married to someone of a different religion to themselves than older people. However, the data hides considerable regional variation across Northern Ireland.[20]

Anti-discrimination legislation

In the 1970s, the British government took action to legislate against religious discrimination in Northern Ireland. The Fair Employment Act 1976 prohibited discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of religion and established a Fair Employment Agency. This Act was strengthened with a new Fair Employment Act in 1989, which introduced a duty on employers to monitor the religious composition of their workforce, and created the Fair Employment Commission to replace the Fair Employment Agency. The law was extended to cover the provision of goods, facilities and services in 1998 under the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998.[21] In 1999, the Commission was merged with the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Northern Ireland Disability Council to become part of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.[22]

An Equality Commission review in 2004 of the operation of the anti-discrimination legislation since the 1970s, found that there had been a substantial improvement in the employment profile of Catholics, most marked in the public sector but not confined to it. It said that Catholics were now well represented in managerial, professional and senior administrative posts, although there were some areas of under-representation such as local government and security but that the overall picture was a positive one. Catholics, however, were still more likely than Protestants to be unemployed and there were emerging areas of Protestant under-representation in the public sector, most notably in health and education at many levels including professional and managerial. The report also found that there had been a considerable increase in the numbers of people who work in integrated workplaces.

 

Martin McGartland – Dead Man Walking

 

Martin “Marty” McGartland (born 30 January 1970 in Belfast, Northern Ireland)[1] is a former British agent who infiltrated the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA)[2] in 1989 to pass information to RUC Special Branch.

When he was exposed as an agent in 1991 he was abducted by the IRA, but escaped and was resettled in England. His identity became publicly known after a minor court case. He was later shot six times by an IRA gunman, but recovered from the injuries. He has written two books about his life, Fifty Dead Men Walking: The Terrifying True Story of a Secret Agent Inside the IRA and Dead Man Running

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Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this documentary/ies and page 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

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The Informer – BBC Panorama Martin McGartland

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Childhood in west Belfast

Born into a staunchly Irish republican, Roman Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland, McGartland grew up in a council house in Moyard, Ballymurphy at the foot of the Black Mountain. His parents were separated and he had one brother, Joe, and two sisters, Elizabeth and Catherine. As the violent religious-political conflict known as the Troubles escalated, republican areas such as Ballymurphy increasingly came under the control of the local Provisional IRA (IRA) who, in the absence of normal policing, took on some policing functions. Their methods were not met with approval by all residents.[4] One of the effects of the continuous rioting and the campaign of bombings and shootings in Belfast and all over Northern Ireland was to make McGartland grow up quickly.[5]

McGartland described his childhood in West Belfast as one in which he would join with older boys in stone-throwing to goad the British Army. He also became involved in battles with other Catholic youths against Ulster Protestant boys from nearby loyalist estates; this mostly involved throwing stones at each other. His sister Catherine was one of many children who joined the youth movement of the IRA. She was later killed after accidentally falling through a skylight at her school. He attended Vere Foster Primary School, a “controlled” school located in Moyard, Ballymurphy. The school closed in 2011. McGartland later attended St. Thomas’ Secondary School.[6] He befriended a homeless man who sheltered in the disused Old Broadway cinema on the Falls Road, and provided the man with food and money. McGartland’s first job was working a paper round, and later delivering milk.[7]

Special Branch agent

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IRA Informers Documentary

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McGartland became involved in petty crime, which brought him to the notice of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). His activities also attracted the attention of the IRA and on several occasions he narrowly escaped local disciplinary squads. Since the beginning of the Troubles, many Irish republicans reported offences to Sinn Fein, a political party associated with the IRA, rather than the RUC. This effectively made the IRA a police force in some areas.[8] McGartland says because he was sickened by increasing Provisional IRA violence directed at young Catholic petty lawbreakers in the form of punishment beatings (often carried out with iron bars and baseball bats) and knee-cappings, in 1986 at the age of 16 he agreed to provide information to the RUC about local IRA members, thereby preventing them from carrying out many attacks against the security forces. At the same time, the IRA employed him as a security officer in a protection racket; his job was to guard a building site in Ballymurphy which was under the protection of the IRA.[9] He then worked for a local taxi firm as an unlicensed driver, paying a percentage to the IRA. This enabled him to better identify suspects who had been targeted by RUC Special Branch. He recounted in his book Fifty Dead Men Walking that he occasionally drove IRA punishment squads around and overheard them boast about the beatings they had meted out to their victims. McGartland asserts many were innocent people who had somehow incurred the wrath of a member of the IRA.[10]

Infiltration of the IRA

McGartland later infiltrated the IRA in autumn 1989, having been asked to join by Davy Adams, a leading IRA member and a nephew of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. This was after being recommended by childhood friend Harry Fitzsimmons, part of an IRA bomb team, whom McGartland often drove around Belfast. Davy Adams immediately gave McGartland his first assignment which was to check the house of a well-known Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) figure.[11] McGartland was given the code name Agent Carol by the RUC.[12]

Holding the rank of lieutenant in the IRA Belfast Intelligence unit, he ended up working mainly for Davy Adams, whom he drove to meetings and to survey potential IRA targets. McGartland had a special tracking device attached to his car.[13] He was also recruited by an IRA Active Service Unit (ASU) which was headed by a man known as “Spud”.[14] He convinced his IRA associates that he was a committed member of the organisation and he successfully led a double life, which was kept secret even from the mother of his two sons. From 1989-91, he provided information about IRA activities and planned attacks to the RUC Special Branch. During his time as a Special Branch intelligence agent, he became close to senior IRA members, having daily contact with those responsible for organising and perpetrating the shooting attacks and bombings throughout Northern Ireland.[15] He also worked closely with Belfast actress Rosena Brown, a prominent and highly skilled IRA intelligence officer.[16] Working in the IRA Intelligence unit enabled McGartland to learn about the organisation’s command structure pertaining to finance, ordnance, intelligence and the detailed planning of operations.[17] He discovered how IRA sympathisers had infiltrated various public institutions and businesses, and many members acquired computer skills, thereby enabling the IRA to gain access to detailed information on a wide range of people in Northern Ireland including politicians, lawyers, judges, members of the security forces, Ulster loyalist paramilitaries, and prison officers.[18]

Although McGartland prevented the IRA from carrying out many “spectaculars”, including the planned bombing of two lorries transporting British soldiers from Stranraer to Larne that could have resulted in the loss of over a dozen lives,[19] his reported greatest regret was his failure in June 1991 to save the life of 21-year-old Private Tony Harrison. Harrison, a soldier from London, who was shot by the IRA at the home of his East Belfast fiancee where they were making wedding plans. McGartland had driven the IRA gunmen’s getaway car and had been brought into the operation so late he had no time to advise his handlers although he had previously indicated the IRA’s interest in the area.[20] A taxi driver and republican sympathiser, Noel Thompson, who picked Harrison up at Belfast airport and informed the IRA was later jailed for 12 years for conspiracy to murder.[21]

Exposed as an agent

In that same year 1991, McGartland provided information about a mass shooting attack planned on Charlie Heggarty’s pub in Bangor, County Down, where British soldiers frequently drank after what was generally a football match between the prison wardens. The RUC intercepted the two couriers delivering the guns to be used to shoot the soldiers and McGartland was exposed as an infiltrator.[22] Diaries of the late Detective Superintendent Ian Phoenix, head of the Northern Ireland Police Counter-Surveillance Unit, revealed that he and the other Special Branch officers had advised senior RUC officers against stopping the gun couriers’ vehicles as doing so would put McGartland’s life at risk as well as allow the actual IRA gunmen to escape.[23] The penalty for informing on the IRA was death, often preceded by lengthy and sometimes brutal interrogations.

With his cover blown, McGartland was kidnapped in August 1991 by Jim “Boot” McCarthy and Paul “Chico” Hamilton, two IRA men with previous convictions for paramilitary activities. He would later allege that McCarthy and Hamilton were RUC informers based on what he had personally observed of the men during his kidnapping as he waited to be interrogated, tortured and subsequently executed. These allegations, however, were strongly denied by both men.[24] McGartland escaped being killed by jumping from a third floor window in the Twinbrook flat where he had been taken for interrogation following his abduction.[25]

England

He moved to England and received nearly £100,000 to buy a house and establish a new life in Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear, going by the name Martin Ashe.[26] He failed in his attempt to receive compensation for his injuries.[27]

Three years after moving to England, the IRA sent his mother a Catholic mass card with McGartland’s name written on it. Mass cards are sent as tokens of sympathy to bereaved families when a member of the family has died.[28]

In 1997, his identity was revealed publicly by the Northumbria Police in court when he was caught breaking the speed limit and subsequently prosecuted for holding driving licences in different names, which he explained as a means of avoiding IRA detection.[12] He was cleared of perverting the course of justice.[29] In June 1997, the BBC broadcast a television documentary on his story.[30]

Journalist Kevin Myers praised McGartland’s heroism and the Sunday Express newspaper described him as a “real-life James Bond“.[31]

Shooting

McGartland
The street in Whitley Bay where McGartland was shot in June 1999

 

In 1999, he was shot six times at his home by two men receiving serious wounds in the chest, stomach, side, upper leg and hand. He had attempted to wrestle the gun away from his assailant, but was shot in the left hand, the blast almost destroying his thumb. He received assistance from his neighbours and was rushed to intensive care in hospital where he recovered from his injuries. The IRA was blamed.[32][33] He was relocated immediately, protected by 12 armed officers and given a specially armoured car. Total costs, including the investigation, amounted to £1,500,000.[34]

In 2000, Lord Vivian asked in the House of Lords whether the government intended to remove police protection from McGartland and was told by Lord Bassam of Brighton that “Individual protection arrangements are a matter for the chief constable of the police force concerned and are not discussed for security reasons.”[35]

The day after he was shot, the incident, along with the murders of Eamon Collins, Brendan Fegan, and Paul Downey, was cited by Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble in an interview with reporters in Belfast, to question whether the IRA ceasefire was being maintained. He reminded Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, that this was a condition of the early release of paramilitaries under the Good Friday Agreement.[36] A week later, it was mentioned in the Northern Ireland Grand Committee as evidence that IRA arms decommissioning had not taken place,[37] and in January 2000 by Robert McCartney in the Northern Ireland Assembly.[38]

In 1997 McGartland published a book about his life, Fifty Dead Men Walking.[3] The title indicates the number of lives he considers he saved through his activities.[12] The following year he won his lawsuit against Associated Newspapers, publishers of The Daily Mail, The Evening Standard and This is London web site, which had published an article alleging the shooting might be related to connections with local criminal gangs.[39]

In 2003, PIRA member Scott Gary Monaghan,[40] a native of Glasgow, whose republican career began there in the Kevin Barry Flute Band, and who had been sentenced to 1004 years imprisonment in 1993, sued Northumbria Police for £150,000 for alleged ill-treatment when he was arrested (but not charged) over McGartland’s shooting.[40] McGartland criticised the police for inadequate protection but offered to testify on their behalf, saying: “There are people who have been the victims of terrorist attacks, who’ve lost loved ones, and some of them haven’t been compensated. It’s a scandal. I am the victim of an attack and I got around £50,000 in compensation, which is not a big amount considering my injuries. I’m not complaining. At the end of the day I was grateful to be alive. The reason I will help Northumbria Police is that this is an injustice.”[29] Monaghan’s main claims were for false imprisonment, assault and wrongful interference with goods. They were rejected by the High Court in January 2006. However, he was awarded £100 for a delay in returning items of property. As of September 2008, no one was ever charged with the shooting.[41][42]

Threats to his family

After the 1994 ceasefire, McGartland appealed to be allowed to return home to West Belfast. When he asked Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, when he would be able to, he was informed that it was a matter between him and the IRA.[12] McGartland has said that his relatives have received harassment from Republicans;[12] in 1996, his brother Joe was subjected to a severe and prolonged IRA punishment beating with baseball bats, iron bars and a wooden plank embedded with nails. The assault left him confined to a wheelchair for three months.[43] In August 2006 Ian Paisley told Peter Hain, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, “We have also heard how the sister of IRA informer Martin McGartland was told by police that her safety was under threat. This news broke immediately after the Secretary of State’s comments that he believed the IRA had ended all of its illegal activity.”[44]

Home Secretary denial

Despite McGartland being known as one of the best agents to operate during the Troubles,[45] British Home Secretary Theresa May told a court in early 2014 that she refused to confirm or deny that he was a British agent working for MI5 offering as explanation, “in case providing such information would endanger his life or damage national security”.[45]

McGartland responded by lambasting May, pointing out that “this is one of the daftest things I have ever heard; everyone who is interested knows my past … “[n]o current security interest is at stake.” After highlighting the two books he has written about his life as an undercover agent, one of which was made into a successful film, there have also been six television documentaries on him and a number of newspaper articles. He went on to state, “the authorities wrote to the BBC back in 1997 admitting that I have been resettled and was being protected because of my service to them. I wonder how well briefed the Home Secretary is?”.[45]

There are letters extant which demonstrate that Crown authorities through their solicitors Burton & Burton wrote to the BBC and confirmed that McGartland had worked for them under the code name Agent Carol. And while MI5 admitted in a letter that there was a continued threat to McGartland’s life, they commented “it is not such that he needs immediate police protection or to abandon immediately his residence”. The Crown authorities advised in the same letter that he take up the offer of a new identity. All the comments within the letters had been agreed with Northumbria Police.[46] The following is an extract from the Northumbria Police newspaper “The Crown authorities reject any suggestion that Mr. McGartland has been treated unreasonably. Individuals who have given valuable service to the country and who may be at threat as a result deserve – and receive – considerable support at public expense to ensure their safety”.[citation needed]

May’s department the Home Office oversees MI5 and she herself had signed the application in a court case brought by McGartland and his partner, both of whom are obliged to live under secret identities that were provided by MI5. McGartland additionally has a contract which was signed by MI5 after he was shot in England in which the representatives of the PSNI and Northumbria Police acknowledged his service in general terms. Because he is unable to claim State benefits due to security reasons MI5 had previously helped him financially; however this assistance was withdrawn after he gave an interview to the Belfast Telegraph. He commented, “Refusing to confirm or deny my role is simply a trick to avoid the State’s responsibilities toward someone who has risked his life for it.”[45]

In the same month, May made an application using the controversial “Closed Material Procedures” (CMPs) which are secret courts under the recent Justice and Security Act. If these were to be used in McGartland’s lawsuit against the government for negligence and breach of contract, they would ensure that the public, media, as well as McGartland and his lawyers, would be denied access to the hearings. Instead his case would be heard by a “Special Advocate”. By not being present with his lawyers at the closed court, he would not be privy to anything pertaining to his case that the court submitted. McGartland pointed out that the case had nothing to do with national security or his undercover work 24 years earlier. This move by May was described by some lawyers and Human Rights’ groups as “Kafkaesque”. May argued that were the government to confirm in one case that a person was an agent then refused to comment in another, that would give rise to the suspicion that the person worked as an agent thereby putting his life in danger, McGartland replied that May’s argument would be reasonable if “those particular horses had not bolted long ago

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Other high profile Republican informers

Denis Donaldson

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Denis Donaldson Sinn Fein Stormontgate press conference

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Denis Martin Donaldson (Short Strand, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1950 – 4 April 2006 in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland) was a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and a member of Sinn Féin who was murdered following his exposure in December 2005 as an informer in the employ of MI5 and the Special Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (formerly the Royal Ulster Constabulary). It was initially believed that the Provisional IRA were responsible for his killing although the Real IRA claimed responsibility for his murder almost three years later.

His friendship with the French writer and journalist Sorj Chalandon inspired two novels: My Traitor, published in 2008, and Return to Killybegs, published in 2011

Paramilitary and political career

Donaldson had a long history of involvement in Irish republicanism. He joined the Irish Republican Army in the mid-1960s while still in his teens, well before the start of the Troubles.[1] According to his former friend, Jim Gibney, writing in the Irish News, he was a local hero in Short Strand in 1970 because he took part in the gun battle between Ulster loyalists and Irish nationalists at St. Matthew’s Chapel (see Battle of Saint Matthew’s). He was a friend of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, and the two men served time together in Long Kesh for paramilitary offences in the 1970s. Donaldson has been accused, by an unnamed republican source, of being part of the IRA team that carried out the La Mon restaurant bombing in 1978, one of the most notorious bomb attacks of the Troubles.[2]

In 1981 he was arrested by French authorities at Orly airport, along with fellow IRA volunteer, William “Blue” Kelly. The duo were using false passports and Donaldson said that they were returning from a guerrilla training camp in Lebanon. At the 1983 general election, Donaldson was the Sinn Féin candidate in Belfast East.

In the late 1980s, he travelled to Lebanon again and held talks with both Lebanese Shia militias, Hezbollah and Amal, in an effort to secure the freedom of the Irish hostage Brian Keenan.

As the Sinn Féin leadership under Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness turned toward a “peace process” strategy, Donaldson was dispatched to New York City, where he helped establish Friends of Sinn Féin, an organisation that solicited mainstream political and financial support for the new strategy while attempting to isolate hard-line activists in Irish Northern Aid and other support organisations in the US. Martin Galvin, a Bronx-based Irish-American attorney and future “dissident republican“, later claimed that he had warned the republican movement’s leadership that he suspected Donaldson of being a British government informer.[3]

In the early 2000s, Donaldson was appointed Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland Assembly group administrator in Parliament Buildings. In October 2002, he was arrested in a raid on the Sinn Féin offices as part of a high-profile Police Service of Northern Ireland investigation into an alleged republican spy ring – the so-called Stormontgate affair. In December 2005, the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland dropped the espionage charges against Donaldson and two other men on the grounds that it would not be in the “public interest” to proceed with the case.

British agent

On 16 December 2005, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams announced to a press conference in Dublin that Donaldson had been a spy in the pay of British intelligence. This was confirmed by Donaldson in a statement which he read out on RTÉ, the Irish state broadcaster, shortly afterwards.[4]

He stated that he was recruited after compromising himself during a vulnerable time in his life, but did not specify why he was vulnerable or why he would risk his life as a mole for British intelligence in an area such as West Belfast.[5]

Donaldson’s daughter Jane is married to Ciaran Kearney, who was arrested along with Donaldson in the Stormontgate affair. The couple had two young daughters at the time of the arrest. Kearney is a son of the civil rights and MacBride Principles campaigner, Oliver Kearney.[6]

On 19 March 2006, Hugh Jordan, a journalist for the Sunday World tracked him down to an isolated pre-Famine cottage near Glenties, County Donegal. The dwelling had not been modernised and so there was no running water or electricity.[7]

Death

Last picture at cottage in Donegal

 

On 4 April 2006, Donaldson was found shot dead inside his cottage, where he had been living for several months. The extended Donaldson family had used it as a holiday retreat for several years. Gardaí (ROI police) said they had been aware of his presence since January and they had warned him of a threat to his life. They had offered him protection, but he refused it, and exchanged phone numbers with him. The cottage was located in the townland of Classey, 8 km from the village of Glenties on the road to Doochary.

The last person he is believed to have spoken to is Tim Cranley, a census taker, who spoke to him in the cottage around 8:30pm on the previous day. His body was found by Gardaí about 5pm after a passer-by reported seeing a broken window and a smashed-in door. Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn, the local Garda commander, said that the cottage belonged to Donaldson’s “son-in-law Ciaran Kearney” and that members of his family had been visiting him in the days before his death.

A statement by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain referred to his death as a “barbaric act”, while ROI Prime Minister Bertie Ahern condemned “the brutal murder” of Donaldson. Two shotgun cartridges were found at the threshold of the cottage and a post mortem revealed that he had died from a shotgun blast to the chest. ROI Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell initially said that Donaldson had been shot in the head.[8] His right hand was also badly damaged by gunshot.

The Provisional IRA issued a one-line statement saying that it had “no involvement whatsoever” with the murder. The murder was also condemned by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. The Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley blamed republicans for the killing, saying that “eyes will be turned towards IRA/Sinn Féin on this issue”. In May 2005, Minister McDowell advised a US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland that he believed the outing of Donaldson as an informant was a clear message from the British Government that it had another, more valuable, source of information within the republican leadership.[9] On 8 April 2006 Donaldson was buried in Belfast City Cemetery, rather than at Milltown Cemetery, the more common burial place for republicans.

In February 2009, Gardaí announced they had a new lead in the inquiry into his death.[10] On 12 April 2009, the Real IRA claimed responsibility for his death.[11]

In April 2011, two arrests were made in County Donegal by the Garda Special Detective Unit in connection with the murder – a 69-year-old man and a 31-year-old man. They were subsequently released without charge. The Garda and PSNI murder investigation is ongoing.

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Raymond Gilmour

Raymond Gilmour (born 1959) is a former Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer who worked clandestinely from 1977 until 1982 for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) within those paramilitary organisations. His testimony was one of the main elements of the supergrass policy, which hoped to convict large numbers of paramilitaries.

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MI5 – Raymond Gilmour full interview and news story

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Early life

He was born in 1959 into a working class Catholic, nationalist family in Creggan, Derry to Patrick and Brigid Gilmour. He was the youngest of eleven siblings and grew up as The Troubles began in Derry City in the early 1970s. A cousin, Hugh Gilmour, was shot dead by the British Army on Bloody Sunday, a seminal event in the development of the “Troubles” and a traumatic event witnessed by the 12-year-old Gilmour himself.[1] His parents were reportedly split over the issue of political violence. He described his father as an “armchair supporter” of the IRA, while his mother was reportedly fiercely opposed to their actions.[citation needed]

Two of Gilmour’s brothers were kneecapped by the IRA for alleged anti-social behaviour.[2] He was also given a beating by British soldiers at age 13 for petty crime and they attempted to recruit him as an informer.[3] Gilmour left school without sitting for his O Level exams and drifted into crime. When he was 16, he was again in trouble with the authorities, this time for armed robbery. On remand in Crumlin Road Prison, he was severely beaten by IRA prisoners.[4] It was at this point that he apparently agreed to become an undercover agent for British security forces.

INLA member

Several months later, he joined the INLA. He chose the INLA over the IRA as a number of his friends were already in the organisation.[5] Gilmour participated in, among other activities, a botched car hijacking in which a friend, Colm McNutt, also an INLA member, was shot dead by an undercover soldier.[6] In 1978, after two years with the INLA as an RUC agent, he left on police instructions. He got married the same year and fathered the first of two children.

IRA career

After an interlude of several months, Gilmour was instructed by his RUC handler to join the IRA. He was offered £200 a week with bonuses for arrests and weapons finds.[7] The IRA vetted him for several weeks before accepting his application in late 1980. They attached him to an active service unit in the Brandywell area of Derry. Over the following two years, he was involved in many IRA operations, mostly as a getaway driver. Most of these operations were “shoots” or sniping attacks, but on only one occasion, in January 1981, did his activities result in the death of a British soldier, who was shot and killed at Castle Gate, near Derry’s city walls.[8] Gilmour claims that he helped to foil many other IRA attacks, saving the lives of numerous police and soldiers. In November 1981, he was arrested by the RUC, along with two other IRA members, on their way to carry out a shooting attack on riot police, who were combating disturbances arising out of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. Gilmour was sent on remand to Crumlin Road Prison. After a riot that destroyed much of the republican wing there, he was transferred to the Maze Prison. His RUC handler then applied pressure on the authorities for his release, he was freed on 1 April 1982.[9]

Supergrass

He left the IRA and went into protective custody in August of that year, as he believed that his position in the IRA was about to be discovered after his information led to the capture of an M60 machine gun.[10] Around 100 IRA and INLA members were then arrested in Derry on his evidence, of whom 35 were charged with terrorist offences.[11]

In November, Gilmour’s father was abducted by the IRA. He was held in secret in an unknown location for almost a year.[12] Gilmour was then sent to Cyprus and then Newcastle by the RUC. The following year, Gilmour gave evidence in a special Diplock Court, jury-less trial against the 35 people he had incriminated. Under the “supergrass” scheme, his was the only evidence available against them.[13] On December 18, 1984, the presiding judge, Lord Lowry, ruled that Gilmour was not a credible witness. He said he was, “entirely unworthy of belief … a selfish and self-regarding man, to whose lips a lie comes more naturally than the truth”.[14]

Exile and plea to return home

Since then, Gilmour has been in hiding outside Northern Ireland. He states that of the IRA and INLA members he knew, almost half were dead or missing by the end of the conflict.[15] In 1998, he published a book, Dead Ground (ISBN 0-7515-2621-5), telling of his experiences.

In 2007, Gilmour publicly voiced his desire to return home to Derry, asking Martin McGuinness for assurances of his safety. He also revealed that he had a heart complaint and was an alcoholic. McGuinness said Gilmour must decide for himself whether or not it was safe to return to Derry and that he was not under threat from Sinn Féin, nor – he believes – from the IRA.[16] McGuinness stated that if de facto exiles such as Gilmour wanted to return home, it was a matter for their own judgment and their ability to make peace with the community.[16]

Gilmour’s former RUC handler advised him not to return, citing the 2006 murder in Glenties, County Donegal, of Denis Donaldson, a high-ranking Sinn Féin politician and activist who was revealed to have been a long-term informer.[17]

In April 2014, Gilmour’s second book What Price Truth was published; in the book Gilmour goes into greater detail about his life within the IRA and INLA.

 

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Sean O’Callaghan

Sean O’Callaghan (born 26 January 1954) is a former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Between 1979 and 1988, he was also an informant for the Garda Síochána‘s Special Branch. In 1988, he resigned from the IRA and voluntarily surrendered to British prosecution. Following his release from jail, O’Callaghan published his memoirs, The Informer: The True Life Story of One Man’s War on Terrorism.

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IRA Informer Sean O’Callaghan

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Early life

O’Callaghan was born on 26 January 1954 into a republican family in Tralee, County Kerry. His paternal grandfather had taken the Anti-Treaty side during the Irish Civil War. O’Callaghan’s father, who had served in the IRA, had been interned during World War II at the Curragh Camp in County Kildare.[1]

By the late 1960s, the teenaged O’Callaghan had ceased practising the Catholic religion, regarding himself as an atheist and a Marxist. He sympathised with the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. In 1969, violent attacks were perpetrated against civil rights organizers and many other Catholics by unionists. Believing that he would be helping to combat British imperialism, O’Callaghan volunteered for the newly founded Provisional IRA at the age of 16.

Soon afterwards, O’Callaghan was arrested by local Gardaí after he accidentally detonated a small amount of explosives, which caused damage to his parents’ house and those of his neighbours.[2] After demanding, and receiving, treatment as a political prisoner, O’Callaghan quietly served his sentence.

After becoming a full-time volunteer, O’Callaghan was involved in various IRA operations, including a May 1974 mortar attack on a British army base at Clogher, County Tyrone in which a female “Greenfinch” Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier, Private Eva Martin, was killed. In his memoirs, O’Callaghan wrote that, although some individual UDR soldiers had had links to loyalist paramilitary gangs, he subsequently learned that Private Martin was not one of them. A secondary school teacher, she and her husband had both volunteered for the UDR. It was Martin’s husband who found her body on a shattered staircase inside the base.[3]

In August 1974, O’Callagan walked into a bar in Omagh, County Tyrone and fatally shot Detective Inspector Peter Flanagan of the RUC Special Branch. D.I. Flanagan, a Catholic, was regarded as a traitor by both the IRA and many local residents. Flanagan was also rumoured, falsely, to have used excessive force while interrogating IRA suspects.[4]

Becoming an informant

In 1976, aged 21, O’Callaghan resigned from the Provisional IRA, and moved to London. In May 1978, he married a Scottish woman of Protestant unionist descent.[5] For several years afterward, he ran a moderately successful mobile cleaning business.[6]

O’Callaghan later recalled, “In truth there seemed to be no escaping from Ireland. At the strangest of times I would find myself reliving the events of my years in the IRA. As the years went on, I came to believe that the Provisional IRA was the greatest enemy of democracy and decency in Ireland.”[7]

In 1979, O’Callaghan was the target of an overture by his former IRA colleagues, who wished him to rejoin the organisation.[8] In response, O’Callaghan decided to become an informer. In his memoirs, O’Callaghan described his reasons as follows, “I had been brought up to believe that you had to take responsibility for your own actions. If you did something wrong then you made amends. I came to believe that individuals taking responsibility for their own actions is the basis for civilization, Without that safety net we have nothing.”[9]

“The final straw,” was O’Callaghan’s disgust over the IRA’s fatal bombing attack on the yacht of Lord Mountbatten, which also killed Mountbatten’s 14-year-old grandchild and a 15-year-old “boat employee”.[10][11] After rejoining the IRA, O’Callaghan claims he heard allegations that the bombing was planned to obtain money from the Soviet military intelligence service (the GRU) and the East German Stasi.[12]

In 1979, O’Callaghan and his wife moved to Tralee, where he arranged a clandestine meeting with a local officer of the Garda Special Branch. In Tralee’s Roman Catholic cemetery, O’Callaghan expressed his intention to subvert the IRA from within. He insisted that he would only speak directly to his contact and would not be blackmailed into providing information, but would freely give whatever information was asked for. At this point O’Callaghan was still opposed to helping the British in a similar manner.[13]

Infiltration

A few weeks later, O’Callaghan made contact with Kerry IRA leader Martin Ferris and attended his first IRA meeting since 1975. Immediately afterwards, he telephoned his Garda contact and said, “We’re in.”[14]

According to O’Callaghan, “Over the next few months plans to carry out various armed robberies were put together by the local IRA. It was relatively easy for me to foil these attempts; an occasional Garda car or roadblock at the ‘wrong time’; the routine arrest of Ferris or myself; or simple ‘bad planning’, such as a car arriving late — a whole series of random stratagems.”[15]

Then, during the 1981 hunger strike in the Maze Prison, O’Callaghan attempted to start his own hunger strike in support of the Maze prisoners but was told to desist by the IRA for fear it would detract focus from the prisoners. O’Callaghan successfully sabotaged the efforts of republicans in Kerry from staging hunger strikes of their own.[16]

In 1984, O’Callaghan informed his Garda handler of an attempt to smuggle seven tons of AK-47 assault rifles from the United States. The shipment had been purchased from the Winter Hill Gang, an Irish-American crime family based in South Boston, Massachusetts. The actual planning of the shipment was carried out by Patrick Nee, a South Boston gangster and staunch IRA supporter. The security on the American end of the shipment was handled by Kevin Weeks and Whitey Bulger, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant.

Overseen by Bulger and Nee, the guns were loaded aboard the Valhalla, a fishing trawler from Gloucester, Massachusetts. However, O’Callaghan had already briefed his handlers on the shipment. As a result, the cargo was intercepted by a combined force of the Irish Navy and the Garda Síochána. The Valhalla’s crew was arrested by US Customs agents immediately after returning to Gloucester. One of the crewmembers, John MacIntyre, agreed to wear a wire on meeting Bulger, Weeks, and Nee. After learning of MacIntyre’s deal from FBI agent John Connolly, Bulger murdered him and buried him in a South Boston basement. Nee subsequently served a long sentence in the US Federal Prison system for his role in the shipment. In his 2006 memoir A Criminal and an Irishman, Nee compares O’Callaghan to Judas Iscariot.

O’Callaghan claimed to have been tasked in 1984 with placing 25lb of Frangex in the toilet of a theatre in London.[17] At the time Prince Charles and Princess Diana were due to attend a benefit concert featuring Duran Duran and Dire Straits among other performers.[18] A warning was phoned in and royal correspondent, James Whitaker noted later that the early departure of the Royal couple had seemed rude at the time. The theatre had been searched before the concert and a second search following the warning revealed no device.[17]

O’Callaghan escaped to Ireland despite being hunted by British police and in 1985 he was elected as a Sinn Féin councillor for Tralee Urban District Council, and unsuccessfully contested a seat on Kerry County Council.[citation needed] He claimed to have been in regular contact with its leaders, Gerry Adams (now TD for Louth) and Martin McGuinness (now deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland).

Imprisonment and release

On 29 November 1988, after having again resigned from the Provisional IRA, O’Callaghan walked into a police station in Tunbridge Wells, England. He confessed to the murders of Private Eva Martin and D.I. Peter Flanagan and voluntarily surrendered to British prosecution.[19] Although the RUC repeatedly offered him witness protection as part of the supergrass policy, O’Callaghan refused to accept. In his memoirs, he states that he intended to continue combating Sinn Féin and the IRA through the press after his release.

O’Callaghan served his sentence in prisons in Northern Ireland and England and foiled several planned escapes by imprisoned IRA members. While in jail he told his story to The Sunday Times. O’Callaghan was released as part of a Prerogative of Mercy by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997. In 1999, he published an autobiography entitled The Informer: The True Life Story of One Man’s War On Terrorism.

Robbery victim

O’Callaghan appeared as a Crown Prosecution witness in August 2006 during the trial of Yousef Samhan, 26, of Northolt, London, after an incident in which O’Callaghan was bound to a chair by two young men whom he met in a gay bar in West London. The court heard that O’Callaghan was held at knifepoint while the two men ransacked the property that O’Callaghan had been staying in at Pope’s Lane, Ealing, London.

During the trial O’Callaghan stated that he had been looking after the property for a friend, the author Ruth Dudley Edwards, and he invited the two men back to the house for a drink after socialising with them in a nearby gay pub, West Five. O’Callaghan informed the court that had frequented the pub “only because it was the nearest” public house. He further outlined that when they arrived back at Dudley Edwards’ home, he was then knocked to the floor, tied with an electrical flex to a chair and then held at knifepoint while Samhan and another man proceeded to burgle the property.[20][20][21][22]

In his defence, Samhan claimed that O’Callaghan was a willing participant and had requested that he be tied up during a gay bondage session with the two men. Samhan was nevertheless found guilty of robbery on 6 September 2006.[22][23]

Present occupation

He now lives relatively openly in England, having refused to adopt a new identity, and works as a security consultant, occasional advisor to the Ulster Unionist Party,[24] and media pundit, usually whenever the IRA has made a major announcement.

In 1998, O’Callaghan declared, “I know that the organization led by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness would like to murder me. I know that that organization will go on murdering other people until they are finally defeated. It is my belief that in spite of IRA/Sinn Féin’s strategic cunning, and no matter how many people they kill, the people of the Irish Republic expect, because they have been told so by John Hume, that there will be peace. There may come a time when their patience runs out. If that were to happen there would be no place for IRA/Sinn Féin to hide. We must work tirelessly to bring that day forward.”[25]

Controversy

Many Irish republicans have strongly denied the allegations made by O’Callaghan in his book The Informer and subsequent newspaper articles. O’Callaghan stated that he had risen to leader of Southern Command and a substitute delegate on the IRA Army Council both in print and before a Dublin jury under oath. However, these claims have been disputed by Sinn Féin. A 1997 article in An Phoblacht alleges that O’Callaghan “…has been forced to overstate his former importance in the IRA and to make increasingly outlandish accusations against individual republicans.”[26]

O’Callaghan’s claimed to have attended an IRA finance meeting alongside Pat Finucane and Gerry Adams in Letterkenny in 1980.[27][28] However, both Finucane and Adams repeatedly denied being IRA members.[29] In Finucane’s case, both the RUC and the Stevens Report have said that he was not a member

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Kevin Fulton

Kevin Fulton is a British agent from Newry, Northern 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.

Background

Fulton’s real name is purportedly Peter Keeley, a Catholic from Newry, who joined the Royal Irish Rangers at the age of 18. He was selected and trained by the Intelligence Corps and returned to civilian life to infiltrate the IRA. He reportedly gave evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal, in which he reasserted his claim that Garda Owen Corrigan was a double agent for the IRA.[1]

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 South Down Brigade, as well as concentrating on the heavy IRA activity in South Armagh.[2] “Fulton” and four members of his IRA unit in Newry reportedly pioneered the use of “flash guns” to detonate bombs.[3]

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, Newry, County Down, on 27 March 1992. Colleen McMurray, a constable (aged 34) died and another constable was seriously injured.[4] “Fulton” claims he tipped off his MI5 handler that an attack was likely.[3]

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 have 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.[5][6]

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.[7]

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 Provisional IRA (PIRA).[8] The order was issued based upon his failure to appear in court. The scale of the pay-out for which he is liable is to be assessed at a later stage

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 Freddie Scappaticci

See Is time running out for Freddie Scappaticci

Freddie Scappaticci (born c. 1946)[1] is a purported former high-level double agent in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), known by the codename Stakeknife.

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Freddie Scapatticci British Agent License to Kill

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Early life

Scappaticci was born around 1946 and grew up in the Markets area of Belfast, the son of Daniel Scappaticci, an Italian immigrant to the city in the 1920s. In 1962 at the age of 16 he was encouraged to sign for the football club Nottingham Forest although his father is said to have resisted the idea. He took up work as a bricklayer.[2]

He was fined for riotous assembly in 1970 after being caught up in “the Troubles” and, one year later, was interned without trial at the age of 25 as part of Operation Demetrius.[2] Among those interned with him were figures later to become prominent in the republican movement, such as Ivor Bell, Gerry Adams, and Alex Maskey. He was released from detention in 1974 and was by this time a member of the Provisional IRA.[3]

IRA career

By 1980, Scappaticci was a lead member in the Internal Security Unit (ISU) for the IRA Northern Command.[4] The ISU was a unit tasked with counter-intelligence and the investigation of leaks within the IRA along with the exposure of moles/informers (also known as “touts“). Via the ISU, Scappaticci played a key role in investigating suspected informers, conducting inquiries into operations suspected of being compromised, debriefing of IRA volunteers released from Royal Ulster Constabulary and British Army questioning, and vetting of potential IRA recruits. The ISU has also been referred to as the “Nutting Squad”. Various killings as a result of ISU activities have been attributed to Scappaticci.[5]

After the original allegations broke in 2003, Scappaticci, by now living in the Riverdale area of West Belfast, claimed his involvement with the IRA ended in 1990 due to his wife’s illness. He denied that he had ever been linked to any facet of the British intelligence services, including the Force Research Unit.[6]

Involvement with British Intelligence

Scappaticci’s first involvement with British Intelligence is alleged to have been in 1978, two years before the Force Research Unit (FRU) was formed in 1980. He is said to have worked as an agent for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch. The role of the FRU was to centralise Army Intelligence under the Intelligence Corps.

The former FRU agent turned whistleblower using the pseudonym “Martin Ingram” has said in his 2004 book Stakeknife that Scappaticci eventually developed into an agent handled by British Army Intelligence via the FRU. Ingram says that Scapaticci’s activities as a high grade intelligence source came to his attention in 1982 after Scappaticci was detained for a drunk driving offence. In 2003, Scappaticci was alleged to have volunteered as an informer in 1978 after being assaulted in an argument with a fellow IRA member.[7] Ingram paints Scappaticci at this time as “the crown jewels”, (the best) agent handled by the FRU. He cites a number of allegations against Scappaticci. His accusations centre on various individuals who died as a result of the activities of the ISU between 1980 and 1990. Ingram also alleges that Scappaticci disclosed information to British intelligence on IRA operations during the time period, involving:

  • IRA members involved in the kidnapping of wealthy Irish supermarket magnate Ben Dunne in 1981. Ingram alleges that Scappaticci was influential in identifying his kidnappers to the authorities.
  • the attempted kidnapping of Galen Weston, a Canadian born business tycoon in 1983. Weston kept a manor outside Dublin where the kidnapping was to take place.
  • the kidnapping of supermarket boss Don Tidey from his home in Rathfarnham in Dublin. Ingram alleges that Scappaticci tipped off the FRU on the details of the kidnapping which eventually resulted in the killings of a trainee Garda Síochána (Gary Sheehan) and an Irish Army soldier (Private Patrick Kelly).

Aside from providing intelligence to the FRU, Scappaticci is alleged to have worked closely with his FRU handlers throughout the 1980s and 1990s to protect and promote his position within the IRA. The controversy that has arisen centres on the allegation by Ingram that Scappaticci’s role as an informer was protected by the FRU through the deaths of those who might have been in a position to expose him as a British agent.[8]

Involvement with the Cook Report

In 1993 Scappaticci approached the ITV programme The Cook Report and agreed to an interview on his activities in the IRA and the alleged role of Martin McGuinness in the organisation. The first interview took place on 26 August 1993 in the car park of the Culloden Hotel in Cultra, County Down. This interview was, unknown to Scappaticci, recorded and eventually found its way into an edition of the programme. The interview was posted on the World Wide Web as the 2003 allegations against Scappaticci surfaced.

Scappaticci appears to give intimate details of the modus operandi of the IRA’s Northern Command, indicated some of his previous involvement in the organisation and alleges, amongst other things, that Martin McGuinness was involved in the death of Frank Hegarty – an IRA volunteer who had been killed as an informer by the IRA in 1986. It has since been alleged that Scappaticci knew the intimate details of Hegarty’s killing because, as part of his duties in the ISU, he had reportedly been involved in the interrogation and execution of Hegarty regarding a large Libyan arms cache, which the Gardaí found. Ingram stated that Hegarty was a FRU agent whom other FRU members had encouraged to rise through the organisation and gain the confidence of key IRA members. His allegations indicate that, to the handlers of the FRU, it was more important to keep Stakeknife in place rather than save the life of Hegarty.[9]

Involvement with the Stevens Report

Things deteriorated for Scappaticci when Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan police commissioner who has been probing RUC and British Army collusion with loyalist paramilitaries in the killing of Protestant student, Brian Adam Lambert in 1987 and the killing of solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989, revealed that he knew of his existence. In April 2004, Stevens signalled that he intended to question Scappaticci as part of the third Stevens inquiry.

A report in a February 2007 edition of the Belfast News Letter reported that a cassette recording allegedly of Scappaticci talking about the number of murders he was involved in via the “Nutting Squad”, as well as his work as an Army agent, had been lodged with the PSNI in 2004 and subsequently passed to the Stevens Inquiry in 2005.[10] It is unclear whether this audio is a recording made via the Cook Report investigation. There were several inconsistencies with the various media reports alleging that Scappaticci was Stakeknife. The Provisional IRA reportedly assured Scappaticci of their belief in his denials, and has issued public statements suggesting that the announcement of the former as a “tout” was a stunt by the British government to undermine Sinn Féin and the Republican movement.[11]

Personal Life

He enjoys occasional games of backgammon and eating tiramisu

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Come back  soon for  a feature on loyalist Supergrasses

See Is time running out for Freddie Scappaticci

See Brian Nelson

Brian_Nelson_Loyalist

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Operation Banner – August 1969 – July 2007

Remembering all our murdered Hero’s

1441 British armed force personnel died in Operation Banner

During the 38 year operation, 1,441 members of the British armed forces died in Operation Banner. This includes those who were killed in paramilitary attacks as well as those who died as a result of assault, accidents, suicide and natural causes

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Operation Banner – The Forgotten War Tribute

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Operation Banner was the operational name for the British Armed Forces‘ operation in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007. It was initially deployed at the request of the unionist government of Northern Ireland to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). After the 1998 Belfast Agreement, the operation was gradually scaled down. Its role was to assert the authority of the government of the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland.

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The main opposition to the British military’s deployment came from the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). It waged a guerrilla campaign against the British military from 1970-97. An internal British Army document released in 2007 stated that, whilst it had failed to defeat the IRA, it had made it impossible for the IRA to win through violence, and reduced substantially the death toll in the last years of conflict

Number of troops deployed

At the peak of the operation in the 1970s, the British Army was deploying around 21,000 soldiers. By 1980, the figure had dropped to 11,000, with a lower presence of 9,000 in 1985. The total climbed again to 10,500 after the intensification of the IRA use of barrack busters toward the end of the 1980s. In 1992, there were 17,750 members of all British military forces taking part in the operation.

 

 

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The British Army build-up comprised three brigades under the command of a lieutenant-general. There were six resident battalions deployed for a period of two and a half years and four roulement battalions serving six-months tours.

In July 1997, during the course of fierce riots in nationalist areas triggered by the Drumcree conflict, the total number of security forces in Northern Ireland increased to more than 30,000 (including the RUC).

 

A British Army Ammunition Technical Officer approaches a suspect device in Belfast.

See: The Long Walk – Iconic Pictures & Story behind them

 

Equipment

Armoured vehicles:

Aircraft

Ships

Controversies

The British military was responsible for about 10% of all deaths in the conflict. According to one study, the British military killed 306 people during Operation Banner, 156 (~51%) of whom were unarmed civilians.

Another study says the British military killed 301 people, 160 (~53%) of whom were unarmed civilians.  Of the civilians killed, 61 were children.

Only four soldiers were convicted of murder while on duty in Northern Ireland. All were released after serving two or three years of life sentences and allowed to rejoin the Army. Senior Army officers privately lobbied successive Attorney Generals not to prosecute soldiers, and the Committee on the Administration of Justice says there is evidence soldiers were given some level of immunity from prosecution.

Image result for loyalist paramilitary

 

Elements of the British Army also colluded with illegal loyalist paramilitaries responsible for numerous attacks on civilians (see below). Journalist Fintan O’Toole argues that “both militarily and ideologically, the Army was a player, not a referee”.

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Northern Ireland in the 1960s/1970s Documentary

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Relationship with the Catholic community

 

Image result for Many Catholics initially welcomed the British Army's deployment

Many Catholics initially welcomed the British Army’s deployment, as Catholic neighbourhoods had been attacked by Protestant loyalists and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

However, relations soured between the British Army and Catholics. The British Army’s actions in support of the RUC and the unionist government “gradually earned it a reputation of bias” in favour of Protestants and unionists.

In the British Army’s campaign against the IRA, Catholic areas were frequently subjected to house raids, checkpoints, patrols and curfews that Protestant areas avoided. There were frequent claims of soldiers physically and verbally abusing Catholics during these searches.

In some neighbourhoods, clashes between Catholic residents and British troops became a regular occurrence. In April 1970, Ian Freeland — the British Army’s overall commander in Northern Ireland — announced that anyone throwing petrol bombs would be shot dead if they did not heed a warning from soldiers.

 

 

A memorial to those killed by British soldiers during the “Ballymurphy Massacre”

The Falls Curfew in July 1970, was a major blow to relations between the British Army and Catholics. A weapons search in the mainly Catholic Falls area of Belfast developed into a riot and then gun battles with the IRA. The British Army then imposed a 36-hour curfew and arrested all journalists inside the curfew zone.

It is claimed that, because the media were unable to watch them, the soldiers behaved “with reckless abandon”. A large amount of CS gas was fired into the area while hundreds of homes and businesses were forcibly searched for weapons.

The searches caused much destruction and there were scores of complaints of soldiers hitting, threatening, insulting and humiliating residents. The Army also admitted there had been looting by some soldiers. Four civilians were killed by the British Army during the operation and another 60 suffered gunshot wounds.

On 9 August 1971, internment (imprisonment without trial) was introduced in Northern Ireland. Soldiers launched dawn raids and interned almost 350 people suspected of IRA involvement. This sparked four days of violence in which 20 civilians were killed and thousands were forced to flee their homes. Seventeen civilians were killed by British soldiers, 11 of them in the Ballymurphy Massacre.

No loyalists were included in the sweep and many of those arrested were Catholics with no provable paramilitary links. Many internees reported being beaten, verbally abused, threatened, denied sleep and starved. Some internees were taken to a secret interrogation centre for a program of “deep interrogation”.

The interrogation techniques were described by the European Court of Human Rights as “inhuman and degrading”, and by the European Commission of Human Rights as “torture“.

The operation led to mass protests and a sharp increase in violence over the following months. Internment lasted until December 1975 and during that time 1,981 people were interned.

 

Banner and crosses carried by the families of the Bloody Sunday victims on the yearly commemoration march

 

The incident that most damaged the relationship between the British Army and the Catholic community was “Bloody Sunday“, 30 January 1972. During an anti-internment march in Derry, 26 unarmed Catholic protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment; fourteen died. Some were shot from behind or while trying to help the wounded. The Widgery Tribunal largely cleared the soldiers of blame, but it was regarded as a “whitewash” by the Catholic community.

A second inquiry, the Saville Inquiry, concluded in 2010 that the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

On 9 July 1972, British troops in Portadown used CS gas and rubber bullets to clear Catholics who were blocking an Orange Order march through their neighbourhood. The British Army then let the Orangemen march into the Catholic area escorted by at least 50 masked and uniformed Ulster Defence Association (UDA) militants.

At the time, the UDA was a legal organization. That same day in Belfast, British snipers shot dead five Catholic civilians, including three children, in the Springhill Massacre. On the night of 3–4 February 1973, British Army snipers shot dead four unarmed men (one of whom was an IRA member) in the Catholic New Lodge area of Belfast.

In the early hours of 31 July 1972, the British Army launched Operation Motorman to re-take Northern Ireland’s “no-go areas“. These were mostly Catholic neighbourhoods that had been barricaded by the residents to keep out the security forces and loyalists. During the operation, the British Army shot four people in Derry, killing a 15-year-old Catholic civilian and an unarmed IRA member.

 

From 1971–73, a secret British Army unit, the Military Reaction Force (MRF), carried out undercover operations in Belfast. It killed and wounded a number of unarmed Catholic civilians in drive-by shootings. The British Army initially claimed the civilians had been armed, but no evidence was found to support this. Former MRF members later admitted that the unit shot unarmed people without warning, both IRA members and civilians. One member said :

“We were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group”.

 

At first, many of the drive-by shootings were blamed on Protestant loyalists. Republicans claim the MRF sought to draw the IRA into a sectarian conflict and divert it from its campaign against the state. The MRF was succeeded by the SRU, and later by the FRU.

See:  Military Reaction Force – Counter Insurgency Unit

Over time, the British Army modified its tactics and curbed the worst excesses of its troops in crowd control situations, leading to a gradual reduction in civilian fatalities. By the 1990s, these were a rare occurrence.

In May 1992, there were clashes between paratroopers and Catholic civilians in the town of Coalisland, triggered by a bomb attack which severed the legs of a paratrooper. The soldiers ransacked two pubs, damaged civilian cars and opened fire on a crowd.

 Three civilians were hospitalized with gunshot wounds. As a result, the Parachute Regiment was redeployed outside urban areas and the brigadier at 3 Infantry Brigade, Tom Longland, was relieved of his command.

Collusion with loyalist paramilitaries

A republican mural in Belfast with the slogan “Collusion Is Not An Illusion”

 

In their efforts to defeat the IRA, there were incidents of collusion between the British Army and loyalist paramilitaries throughout the conflict. This included soldiers taking part in loyalist attacks while off-duty, giving weapons or intelligence to loyalists, not taking action against them, and hindering police investigations. The Army also had double agents and informers within loyalist groups who organized attacks on the orders of, or with the knowledge of, their Army handlers.

The De Silva report found that, during the 1980s, 85% of the intelligence that loyalists used to target people came from the security forces. A 2006 Irish Government report alleged that British soldiers also helped loyalists with attacks in the Republic of Ireland.

The Army’s locally-recruited Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) was almost wholly Protestant.  Despite the vetting process, loyalist militants managed to enlist; mainly to obtain weapons, training and intelligence.

A 1973 British Government document (uncovered in 2004), “Subversion in the UDR”, suggested that 5–15% of UDR soldiers then were members of loyalist paramilitaries.

The report said the UDR was the main source of weapons for those groups,although by 1973 weapons losses had dropped significantly, partly due to stricter controls.

By 1990, at least 197 UDR soldiers had been convicted of loyalist terrorist offences and other serious crimes including bombings, kidnappings and assaults. Nineteen were convicted of murder and 11 for manslaughter.

This was only a small fraction of those who served in it, but the proportion was higher than in the regular British Army, the RUC and the civilian population.

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Operation ‘Banner’ 1969 – 2007

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Initially, the Army allowed soldiers to be members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). Despite its involvement in terrorism, the UDA was not outlawed by the British Government until 1992. In July 1972, Harry Tuzo (the Army’s GOC in Northern Ireland) devised a strategy to defeat the IRA, which was backed by Michael Carver, head of the British Army.

It proposed that the growth of the UDA:

“should be discreetly encouraged in Protestant areas, to reduce the load on the Security Forces”,

and suggested they “turn a blind eye to UDA arms when confined to their own areas”.

 

That summer, the Army mounted some joint patrols with the UDA in Protestant areas, following talks between General Robert Ford and UDA leader Tommy Herron.

In November 1972 the Army ordered that a soldier should be discharged if his sympathy for a paramilitary group affects his performance, loyalty or impartiality. Within three years, 171 soldiers with UDA links had been discharged.

In 1977, the Army investigated a UDR battalion based at Girdwood Barracks, Belfast. The investigation found that 70 soldiers had links to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), that thirty soldiers had fraudulently diverted up to £47,000 to the UVF, and that UVF members socialized with soldiers in their mess. Following this, two soldiers were dismissed on security grounds.

The investigation was halted after a senior officer claimed it was harming morale. Details of it were uncovered in 2011.

 

See: The Gleanne Gang

During the 1970s, the Glenanne gang—a secret alliance of loyalist militants, British soldiers and RUC officers—carried out a string of attacks against Catholics in an area of Northern Ireland known as the “murder triangle”.

It also carried out some attacks in the Republic. Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland claims the group killed about 120 people, almost all of whom were reportedly uninvolved Catholic civilians.

The Cassel Report investigated 76 murders attributed to the group and found evidence that soldiers and policemen were involved in 74 of those. One member, RUC officer John Weir, claimed his superiors knew of the collusion but allowed it to continue.

The Cassel Report also said some senior officers knew of the crimes but did nothing to prevent, investigate or punish. Attacks attributed to the group include the Dublin and Monaghan bombings (1974), the Miami Showband killings (1975) and the Reavey and O’Dowd killings (1976).

The Stevens Inquiries found that elements of the British Army had used loyalists as “proxies”.

Through their double-agents and informers, they helped loyalist groups to kill people, including civilians. It concluded that this had intensified and prolonged the conflict.

The Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) was the main agency involved. Brian Nelson, the UDA’s chief ‘intelligence officer’, was a FRU agent. Through Nelson, FRU helped loyalists target people for assassination. FRU commanders say they helped loyalists target only republican activists and prevented the killing of civilians

The Inquiries found evidence only two lives were saved and that Nelson/FRU was responsible for at least 30 murders and many other attacks – many of them on civilians.One victim was solicitor Pat Finucane. Nelson also supervised the shipping of weapons to loyalists from South Africa in 1988. From 1992–94, loyalists were responsible for more deaths than republicans, partly due to FRU.

Members of the security forces tried to obstruct the Stevens investigation.

Casualties

During the 38 year operation, 1,441 members of the British armed forces died in Operation Banner. This includes those who were killed in paramilitary attacks as well as those who died as a result of assault, accidents, suicide and natural causes.

  • 692 soldiers in the regular British Army were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 689 died from other causes.
  • 197 soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 284 died from other causes.
  • 7 soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 60 died from other causes.
  • 9 soldiers from the Territorial Army were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 8 died from other causes.
  • 2 members from other branches of the Army were killed as a result of paramilitary violence.
  • 21 Royal Marines were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 5 died from other causes.
  • 8 Royal Navy servicemen were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 3 died from other causes.
  • 4 Royal Air Force servicemen were killed as a result of paramilitary violence while another 22 died from other causes.

It was announced in July 2009 that their next of kin will be eligible to receive the Elizabeth Cross.

According to the “Sutton Index of Deaths”, at the Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN), the British military killed 305 people during Operation Banner.

Another detailed study, Lost Lives, states that the British military killed 301 people during Operation Banner.

  • 160 (~53%) were civilians
  • 121 (~40%) were members of republican paramilitaries
  • 10 (~3%) were members of loyalist paramilitaries
  • 8 (~2%) were fellow British military personnel
  • 2 were RUC officers[10]

Last years

Crossmaglen RUC/Army base, showing a watchtower built during the operation that was later demolished as part of the demilitarisation process. The barracks were handed over to the PSNI in 2007

The operation was gradually scaled down since 1998, after the Good Friday Agreement, when patrols were suspended and several military barracks closed or dismantled, even before the beginning of IRA’s decommissioning.

The process of demilitarisation started in 1994, after the first IRA ceasefire. From the second IRA ceasefire in 1997 until the first act of decommission of weapons in 2001, almost 50% of the army bases had been vacated or demolished along with surveillance sites and holding centers, while more than 100 cross-border roads were reopened.

Eventually in August 2005, it was announced that in response to the Provisional IRA declaration that its campaign was over, and in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement provisions, Operation Banner would end by 1 August 2007.

This involved troops based in Northern Ireland reduced to 5,000, and only for training purposes. Security was entirely transferred to the police. The Northern Ireland Resident battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment — which grew out of the Ulster Defence Regiment — were stood down on 1 September 2006. The operation officially ended at midnight on 31 July 2007, making it the longest continuous deployment in the British Army’s history, lasting over 38 years. 

While the withdrawal of troops was welcomed by the nationalist parties Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn Féin, the unionist Democratic Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist Party opposed to the decision, which they regarded as ‘premature’. The main reasons behind their resistance were the continuing activity of republican dissident groups, the loss of security-related jobs for the protestant community and the perception of the British Army presence as an affirmation of the political union with Great Britain.

Adam Ingram, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, has stated that assuming the maintenance of an enabling environment, British Army support to the PSNI after 31 July 2007 was reduced to a residual level, known as Operation Helvetic, providing specialised ordnance disposal and support to the PSNI in circumstances of extreme public disorder as described in Patten recommendations 59 and 66, should this be needed, thus ending the British Army’s emergency operation in Northern Ireland.

Analysis of the operation

In July 2007, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 the Ministry of Defence published Operation Banner: An analysis of military operations in Northern Ireland, which reflected on the Army’s role in the conflict and the strategic and operational lessons drawn from their involvement.

The paper divides the IRA activity and tactics in two main periods: The “insurgency” phase (1971–1972), and the “terrorist” phase (1972–1997). The British Army claims to have curbed the IRA insurgency by 1972, after Operation Motorman. The IRA then reemerged as a cell-structured organisation.

The report also asserts that the government efforts by the 1980s were aimed to destroy the IRA, rather than negotiate a political solution. One of the findings of the document is the failure of the British Army to tackle the IRA at strategic level and the lack of a single campaign authority and plan.

The paper stops short of claiming that :

“Northern Ireland has achieved a state of lasting peace” and acknowledges that as late as 2006, there were still “areas of Northern Ireland out of bounds to soldiers.”

 

The report analyses Israeli military theorist Martin van Creveld‘s comments on the outcome of the operation:

Martin van Creveld has said that the British Army is unique in Northern Ireland in its success against an irregular force. It should be recognised that the Army did not ‘win’ in any recognisable way; rather it achieved its desired end-state, which allowed a political process to be established without unacceptable levels of intimidation. Security force operations suppressed the level of violence to a level which the population could live with, and with which the RUC and later the PSNI could cope. The violence was reduced to an extent which made it clear to the PIRA that they would not win through violence. This is a major achievement, and one with which the security forces from all three Services, with the Army in the lead, should be entirely satisfied. It took a long time but, as van Crefeld [sic] said, that success is unique.

The US military have sought to incorporate lessons from Operation Banner in their field manual

Soldiers’ Stories Northern Ireland

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Soldiers’ Stories Northern Ireland

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Armed Forces Day Northern Ireland 2015

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A Bomb Squad Documentary. Bomb Squad Men; The Long Walk. 321 EOD Squadron

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John McCaig, Dougald McCaughey, and Joseph McCaig, the three killed Scottish soldiers

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Northern Ireland – 1988 – British Army, Ira and Irish Nationalists.

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Loyalist Feuds – Past & Present

Loyalist Feuds

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The views and opinions expressed in this page and  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.

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A loyalist feud refers to any of the sporadic feuds which have erupted almost routinely between Northern Ireland‘s various loyalist paramilitary groups during and after the ethno-political conflict known as the Troubles broke out in the late 1960s. The feuds have frequently involved problems between and within the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) as well as, later, the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF).

UDA-UVF feuds

See UDA Page

See UVF Page

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UDA-UVF Feud,

Johnny Adair rearrested

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U.V.F Logo
U.V.F Logo

Although the UDA and UVF have frequently co-operated and generally co-existed, the two groups have clashed. Two particular feuds stood out for their bloody nature.

1974-1975

UDA Logo
UDA Logo

A feud in the winter of 1974-75 broke out between the UDA and the UVF, the two main loyalist paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland.[1] The bad blood originated from an incident in the Ulster Workers’ Council strike of May 1974 when the two groups were co-operating in support of the Ulster Workers’ Council. That support the UDA & UVF members were giving involved shutting down their own social clubs & pubs due to complaints from loyalist wives of the striking men, the reason for this was with the men not working & funds being tight the wives saw what little money they did have being spent at the pubs & social clubs controlled by UDA/UVF, therefore the wives put pressure on the leaders of both groups to shut them down for the duration of the strike & after consultation they agreed.

All shut down except for a lone UVF affiliated pub on the shankill road. On a November night in 1974, a UVF man named Joe Shaw visited the pub for a drink. While there, he was “ribbed by the regulars about having allowed his local to be closed”.[2] A few pints later Shaw and some friends returned to their local, on North Queen St., and open it up. UDA men patrolling the area had seen the pubs lights on and ordered Shaw and his friends to close the place down & go home. Shaw refused, and the UDA men left, but they returned a short while later with a shotgun, determined to close the pub down.

Stephen Goatley

In the brawl that developed Shaw was fatally shot. A joint statement described it as a tragic accident although a subsequent UVF inquiry put the blame on Stephen Goatley and John Fulton, both UDA men.[3] With antagonism grown another man was killed in a drunken brawl on 21 February 1975, this time the UDA’s Robert Thompson. This was followed by another pub fight in North Belfast in March and this time the UVF members returned armed and shot and killed both Goatley and Fulton, who had been involved in the earlier fight.[4] The following month UDA Colonel Hugh McVeigh and his aide David Douglas were the next to die, kidnapped by the UVF on the Shankill Road and taken to Carrickfergus where they were beaten before being killed near Islandmagee.[5]

The UDA retaliated in East Belfast by attempting to kill UVF leader Ken Gibson who in turn ordered the UDA’s headquarters in the east of the city to be blown up, although this attack also failed.[6] The feud rumbled on for several months in 1976 with a number of people, mostly UDA members, being killed before eventually the two groups came to an uneasy truce.[7]

2000

Although the two organisations had worked together under the umbrella of the Combined Loyalist Military Command, the body crumbled in 1997 and tensions simmered between West Belfast UDA Brigadier Johnny Adair, who had grown weary of the Northern Ireland peace process and the Good Friday Agreement, and the UVF leadership. Adair by this time had forged close links with the dissident LVF, a group which the UVF had been on poor terms with since its foundation.[8] Amidst an atmosphere of increasing tension in the area, Adair decided to host a “Loyalist Day of Culture” on the Shankill on Saturday 19 August 2000, which saw thousands of UDA members from across Northern Ireland descend on his Lower Shankill stronghold, where a series of newly commissioned murals were officially unveiled on a day which also featured a huge UDA/UFF parade and armed UDA/UFF show of strength.

Unknown to the UVF leadership, who had sought and been given assurances that no LVF regalia would be displayed on the Shankill on the day of the procession, as well as the rest of the UDA outside of Adair’s “C Company”, Adair had an LVF flag delivered to the Lower Shankill on the morning of the celebrations, which he planned to have unfurled as the procession passed the Rex Bar, a UVF haunt, in order to antagonise the UVF and try and drag it into conflict with as much of the UDA as possible.

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The Rex Bar – Shankill

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Adair waited until the bulk of the parade of UDA men had made its way up into the heart of the Shankill before initiating the provocative gesture. When it happened skirmishes broke out between UVF men who had been standing outside the Rex watching the procession and the group involved in unfurling the contentious flag, which had been discreetly concealed near the tail end of the parade. Prior to this the atmosphere at the Rex had been jovial, with the UVF spectators even joining in to sing UDA songs along to the tunes of the UDA-aligned flute bands which accompanied the approximately ten thousand UDA men on their parade up the Shankill Road. But vicious fighting ensued, with a roughly three hundred-strong C Company (the name given to the Lower Shankill unit of the UDA’s West Belfast Brigade, which contained Adair’s most loyal men) mob attacking the patrons of the Rex, initially with hand weapons such as bats and iron bars, before they shot up the bar as its patrons barricaded themselves inside.

Also shot up was the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) headquarters which faced the pub. C Company then went on the rampage in the Lower Shankill, attacking the houses of known UVF members and their families, including the home of veteran UVF leader Gusty Spence, and evicting the inhabitants at gunpoint as they wrecked and stole property and set fire to homes. By the end of the day nearly all those with UVF associations had been driven from the Lower Shankill.[9] Later that night C Company gunmen shot up the Rex again, this time from a passing car. While most of the UDA guests at Adair’s carnival had duly left for home when it became apparent that he was using it to engineer violent conflict with the UVF, festivities nonetheless continued late into the night on the Lower Shankill, where Adair hosted an open air rave party and fireworks display.

The UVF struck back on Monday morning, shooting dead two Adair associates, Jackie Coulter and Bobby Mahood, as they sat in a Range Rover on the Crumlin Road. The UVF also shot up the Ulster Democratic Party headquarters on the Middle Shankill. An hour later Adair’s unit burned down the PUP’s offices close to Agnes Street, the de facto border between the UVF-dominated Middle and Upper Shankill and the UDA-dominated Lower Shankill. The UVF responded by blowing up the UDP headquarters on the Middle Shankill. Adair was returned to prison by the Secretary of State on 14 September, although the feud continued with four more killed before the end of the year.[10]

Violence also spread to North Belfast, where members of the UVF’s Mount Vernon unit shot and killed a UDA member, David Greer, in the Tiger’s Bay area, sparking a series of killings in that part of the city. In another incident the County Londonderry town of Coleraine saw tumult in the form of an attempted expulsion of UVF members by UDA members, which was successfully resisted by the UVF.[11] But aside from these exceptions Adair’s attempt to ignite a full-scale war between the two organisations failed, as both the UVF and UDA leaderships moved decisively to contain the trouble within the Shankill area, where hundreds of families had been displaced, and focused on dealing with its source as well as its containment. To Adair’s indignation even the “A” and “B” Companies of his West Belfast Brigade of the UDA declined to get involved in C Company’s war with the UVF.

Eventually a ceasefire was reluctantly agreed upon by the majority of those involved in the feuding after new procedures were established with the aim of preventing the escalation of any future problems between the two organisations, and after consideration was paid to the advice of Gary McMichael and David Ervine, the then leaders of the two political wings of loyalism.[12]

UVF-LVF feuds

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Loyalist Feud in Portadown, March 2000

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The nature of the LVF, which was founded by Billy Wright when he, along with the Portadown unit of the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade, was stood down by the UVF leadership on 2 August 1996 for breaking the ceasefire[13] has led to frequent battles between the two movements. This had come about when Wright’s unit killed a Catholic taxi-driver during the Drumcree standoff. Although Wright had been expelled from the UVF, threatened with execution and an order to leave Northern Ireland, which he defied, the feud was largely contained during his life and the two major eruptions came after his death.

1999-2001

Simmering tensions boiled over in a December 1999 incident involving LVF members and UVF Mid-Ulster brigadier Richard Jameson and his men at the Portadown F.C. social club in which the LVF supporters were severely beaten. The LVF members swore revenge and on 10 January 2000 they took it by shooting Jameson dead on the outskirts of Portadown.[14] The UVF retaliated by killing two Protestant teenagers suspected of LVF membership and involvement in Jameson’s death. As it turned out, the victims, Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine, were not part of any loyalist paramilitary organisation. The UDA’s Johnny Adair supported the LVF and used the feud to stoke up the troubles that eventually flared in his feud with the UVF later that year.[15] Meanwhile the UVF attempted to kill the hitman responsible for Jameson, unsuccessfully, before the LVF struck again on 26 May, killing PUP man Martin Taylor in Ballysillan.[16] The LVF then linked up with Johnny Adair’s C Company for a time as their feud with the UVF took centre stage.

However the UVF saw fit to continue the battle in 2001, using its satellite group the Red Hand Commando to kill two of the LVF’s leading figures, Adrian Porter and Stephen Warnock. Adair however convinced the LVF that the latter killing was the work of one of his rivals in the UDA, Jim Gray, who the LVF then unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate.[17]

2005

In July 2005 the feud came to a conclusion as the UVF made a final move against its rival organisation. The resulting activity led to the deaths of at least four people, all associated with the LVF. As a result of these attacks on 30 October 2005 the LVF announced that its units had been ordered to cease their activity and that it was disbanding.[18] In February 2006, the Independent Monitoring Commission reported that this feud had come to an end.

UDA internal feuds

The UDA, the largest of the loyalist paramilitary groups, has seen a number of internal struggles within its history.

1972-1974

From its beginnings the UDA was wracked by internal problems and in 1972, the movement’s first full year of existence, three members, Ingram Beckett, John Brown and Ernest Elliott were killed by other UDA members.[19] The main problems were between East Belfast chief Tommy Herron and Charles Harding Smith, his rival in the west of the city, over who controlled the movement. Although they had agreed to make compromise candidate Andy Tyrie the leader, each man considered himself the true leader. Herron was killed in September 1973 in an attack that remains unsolved.[20]

However with confirmed in overall control of the UDA Harding Smith initially remained silent until in 1974 he declared that the West Belfast brigade of the movement was splitting from the mainstream UDA on the pretext of a visit to Libya organised by Tyrie in a failed attempt to procure arms from Colonel Qadaffi. The trip had been roundly criticised by the Unionist establishment and raised cries that the UDA was adopting socialism, and so Harding Smith used it re-ignite his attempts to take charge.[21] Harding Smith survived two separate shootings but crucially lost the support of other leading Shankill Road UDA figures and eventually left Belfast after being visited by North Belfast Brigadier Davy Payne, who warned him that he would not survive a third attack.[22]

1987-1989

South Belfast Brigadier John McMichael was killed by the Provisional IRA in December 1987 but it was later admitted that UDA member James Pratt Craig, a rival of McMichael’s within the movement, had played a role in planning the murder.[23][24] A new generation of leaders emerged at this time and decided that the woes facing the UDA, including a lack of arms and perceived poor leadership by ageing brigadiers, were being caused by the continuing leadership of Andy Tyrie.[25]

Tyrie was forced to resign in March 1988 and the new men, most of whom had been trained up by McMichael, turned on some of the veterans whom Tyrie had protected. Craig was killed, Tommy Lyttle was declared persona non grata and various brigadiers were removed from office, with the likes of Jackie McDonald, Joe English and Jim Gray taking their places.[26]

2002-2003

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JOHN GREGG UDA- LEADERS FUNERAL

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A second internal feud arose in 2002 when Johnny Adair and former politician John White were expelled from the UDA. Many members of the 2nd Battalion Shankill Road West Belfast Brigade, commonly known as ‘C’ Company, stood by Adair and White, while the rest of the organisation were involved with attacks on these groups and vice versa. There were four murders; the first victim being a nephew of a leading loyalist opposed to Adair, Jonathon Stewart, killed at a party on 26 December 2002. Roy Green was killed in retaliation. The last victims were John ‘Grug’ Gregg (noted for a failed attempt on the life of Gerry Adams) and Robert Carson, another Loyalist. Adair’s time as leader came to an end on 6 February 2003 when south Belfast brigadier Jackie McDonald led a force of around 100 men onto the Shankill to oust Adair, who promptly fled to England. Adair’s former ally Mo Courtney, who had returned to the mainstream UDA immediately before the attack, was appointed the new West Belfast brigadier, ending the feud.[27]

UVF internal feuds

The feud between the UVF and the LVF began as an internal feud but quickly changed when Billy Wright established the LVF as a separate organisation. Beyond this the UVF has largely avoided violent internal strife, with only two killings that can be described as being part of an internal feud taking place on Belfast’s Shankill Road in late November 1975, with Archibald Waller and Noel Shaw being the two men killed.[28] Several months prior to these killings, Mid-Ulster Brigadier Billy Hanna was shot dead outside his Lurgan home on 27 July 1975, allegedly by his successor, Robin Jackson.[29] This killing, however, was not part of a feud but instead carried out as a form of internal discipline from within the Mid-Ulster Brigade.

See also

29 Innocent People Slaughtered – Omagh Bombing – 15th August 1998 . Never Forgotten

15 August 2015

NEVER FORGOTTON

Today is the 17th university of the Omagh Bombing when 29  INNOCENT people , including women, children and  visitors from other countries were slaughtered by Republican Terrorists on the streets of Omagh.

This was among the  worse attacks on Civilians throughout the Troubles and the images of that day are embedded ( along with the Shankill Bomb ) in my soul.

I grew up on the Shankill Road and surrendering areas during the worst years of the troubles and I can assure you I have seen my fair share of  misery and bloodbaths ,  as the Republicans dragged Northern  Ireland to hell and back in their quest for a United Ireland. I’ve  lost count of how many friends and family I have seen destroyed as a direct result of the conflict , either killed, imprisoned or emotionally crippled by the things they have seen and done.

But for some reason  The Omagh Bombing struck me hard and has a permanent place in my heart and soul.

Things have moved on and Northern Ireland is painfully, slowly crawling towards a better future.These things take time , but one day in the distant future, when we are all dust and wind , our children’s grandchildren  will wonder what-it-was–all-about and the names of dead and their brutal slaughter will fade into the dark  corridors of time .

But we will never forget

The Victims

Some of the Victims

Never Forgotten

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


 James Barker,   (12) nfNI
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
From County Donegal. Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998

Fernando Blasco  Bacelga,  (12) nfNI
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Spanish visitor. Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998

Geraldine Breslin,   (43)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998

Debra Ann Cartwright,  (20)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998

Gareth Conway,  (18)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998

Breda Devine,   (1)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998

Oran Doherty,   (8) nfNI
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
From County Donegal. Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Adrian Gallagher,  (21)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Esther Gibson,  (36)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Mary Grimes,  (65)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Olive Hawkes,  (60)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Julia Hughes,  (21)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given

————————————————————————

15 August 1998

Brenda Logue,  (17)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Anne McCombe,  (48)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Brian McCrory,  (54)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Samantha McFarland, (17)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Sean McGrath,  (61)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Injured in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given. He died 5 September 1998.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Sean McLaughlin,  (12) nfNI
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
From County Donegal. Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Jolene Marlow,  (17)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Avril Monaghan, (30)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Maura Monaghan, (1)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Alan Radford,  (16)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Rocia Abad Ramos,  (23) nfNI
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Spanish visitor. Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Elizabeth Rush,   (57)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Veda Short,  (56)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Philomena Skelton,  (39)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Fred White,  (60)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Bryan White,  (26)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given.

————————————————————————

15 August 1998


Lorraine Wilson , (15)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: real Irish Republican Army (rIRA)
Killed in car bomb explosion, Market Street, Omagh, County Tyrone. Inadequate warning given

————————————————————————

—————————————————————————————————————————–

Omagh Bombing – The IRA’s Deadliest Massacre of Civilians

—————————————————————————————————————————–

Omagh Bombing

Omagh bombing
Part of the Troubles
Omagh imminent.jpg

The red Vauxhall Cavalier containing the bomb. This photograph was taken shortly before the explosion; the camera was found afterwards in the rubble. The Spanish man and child seen in the photo both survived.[1]
Location Omagh, Northern Ireland
Coordinates 54°36′1.0116″N 7°17′55.9674″W / 54.600281000°N 7.298879833°W / 54.600281000; -7.298879833Coordinates: 54°36′1.0116″N 7°17′55.9674″W / 54.600281000°N 7.298879833°W / 54.600281000; -7.298879833
Date 15 August 1998
3.10 pm (BST)
Target Courthouse[2]
Attack type
Car bomb
Deaths 29 including 2 unborn[3][4][5]
Non-fatal injuries
About 220 initially reported,[6] later stories say over 300.[4][7][8]
Perpetrators Real IRA (RIRA)[4][5]

The Omagh Bombing 15 August 1998

The Omagh bombing (Irish: Buamáil an Ómaigh) was a car bombing that took place on 15 August 1998 in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.[6] It was carried out by the ‘Real IRA‘, an IRA splinter group who opposed the IRA’s ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement. The bombing killed 29 people and injured about 220 others.[3][4][5][9] This was the highest death toll from a single incident during the Troubles. Telephoned warnings had been sent about 40 minutes beforehand, but they were inaccurate and police had inadvertently moved people toward the bomb.

The bombing caused outrage both locally and internationally,[8][10] spurred on the Northern Ireland peace process,[3][4][11] and dealt a severe blow to the ‘dissident’ republican campaign. The Real IRA apologized and called a ceasefire shortly after.[11] The victims included people from many backgrounds: Protestants, Catholics, a Mormon teenager, five other teenagers, six children, a woman pregnant with twins, two Spanish tourists,[12][13] and other tourists on a day trip from the Republic of Ireland.[7]

It has been alleged that the British, Irish and American intelligence agencies had information which could have prevented the bombing; most of which came from double agents inside the Real IRA.[14] This information was not given to the local police; the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).[14] In 2008 it was revealed that British intelligence agency GCHQ was monitoring conversations between the bombers as the bomb was being driven into Omagh.[15]

A 2001 report by the Police Ombudsman said that the RUC’s Special Branch failed to act on prior warnings and slammed the RUC’s investigation of the bombing.[16] The RUC has obtained circumstantial and coincidental evidence against some suspects, but it has not come up with anything to convict anyone of the bombing.[17] Colm Murphy was tried, convicted, and then released after it was revealed that the Gardaí forged interview notes used in the case.[18] Murphy’s nephew Sean Hoey was also tried and found not guilty.[19] In June 2009, the victims’ families won a £1.6 million civil action against four defendants.[20] In April 2014, Seamus Daly was charged with the murders of those

Background

Negotiations to end the Troubles had failed in 1996 and there was a resumption of political violence. The peace process later resumed, and it reached a point of renewed tension in 1998, especially following the deaths of three Catholic children in Orange Order-related riots in mid-July.[22] Sinn Féin had accepted the Mitchell Principles, which involved commitment to non-violence, in September 1997 as part of the peace process negotiations.[23] Dissident members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), who saw this as a betrayal of the republican struggle for a united Ireland, left to form the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) in October 1997.[23][24]

The RIRA began its paramilitary campaign against the Agreement with an attempted car bombing in Banbridge, County Down on 7 January 1998, which involved a 300 pounds (140 kg) explosive that was defused by security forces.[24] Later that year, it mounted attacks in Moira, Portadown, Belleek, Newtownhamilton and Newry, as well as bombing Banbridge again on 1 August, which caused thirty-five injuries and no deaths.[24] The attack at Omagh took place 13 weeks after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, which had been intended to be a comprehensive solution to the Troubles and had broad support both in Ireland and internationally.[25][26]

Omagh had been targeted in 1973 twice:

  • 17 May 1973 – Arthur Place (29), Derek Reed (28), Sheridan Young (26), Barry Cox (28) and Frederick Drake (25), all off duty members of the British Army, were killed by a Provisional Irish Republican Army booby trap bomb while getting into a car, outside the Knock-na-Moe Castle Hotel, Omagh. Drake died on 3 June 1973.
  • 25 June 1973 – Sean Loughran (37), Patrick Carty (26) and Dermot Crowley (18), all Catholics and members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, were killed in a premature bomb explosion while travelling in a car, Gortin Road, near Omagh.

The attack

Preparation and warnings

Lower Market Street, site of the bombing, 2001. The courthouse is in the background

On 13 August, a maroon Vauxhall Cavalier was stolen from outside a block of flats in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, in the Republic of Ireland.[27] At that time it bore the County Donegal registration number of 91 DL 2554. The perpetrators replaced its Republic of Ireland number plates with false Northern Ireland plates and the car was loaded with a bomb.[13][27] On the day of the bombing, they drove the car across the Irish border and at about 14:19 parked the vehicle filled with 230 kilograms (510 lb) of fertiliser-based explosives outside S.D. Kells’ clothes shop in Omagh’s Lower Market Street, on the southern side near the crossroads with Dublin Road.[13] They could not find a parking space near the intended target, the Omagh courthouse.[28] The car (with its false registration number MDZ 5211) had arrived from an easterly direction. The two male occupants then armed the bomb and upon exiting the car, walked east down Market Street towards Campsie Road. Some Spanish tourists stopped beside the car, and were photographed. The photographer died in the bombing.

Three phone calls were made warning of a bomb in Omagh, using the same codeword that had been used in the Real IRA’s bomb attack in Banbridge two weeks earlier.[29] At 14:32, a warning was telephoned to Ulster Television saying, “There’s a bomb, courthouse, Omagh, main street, 500lb, explosion 30 minutes.”[29] One minute later, the office received a second warning saying, “Martha Pope (which was the RIRA’s code word), bomb, Omagh town, 15 minutes”. The caller claimed the warning on behalf of “Óglaigh na hÉireann”.[29] The next minute, the Coleraine office of the Samaritans received a call stating that a bomb would go off on “main street” about 200 yards (180 m) from the courthouse.[29] The recipients passed on the information to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).[29]

The BBC News stated that police “were clearing an area near the local courthouse, 40 minutes after receiving a telephone warning, when the bomb detonated. But the warning was unclear and the wrong area was evacuated”.[9] The warnings mentioned “main street” when no street by that name existed in Omagh, although Market Street was the main shopping street in the town.[27] The nature of the warnings led the police to place a cordon across the junction of High Street and Market Street at Scarffes Entry. They then began to evacuate the buildings and move people down the hill from the top of High Street and the area around the courthouse to the bottom of Market Street where the bomb was placed.[4][9][27][29][30] The courthouse is roughly 400 metres (1,300 ft) from the spot where the car bomb was parked.[30][31]

Explosion

The scene in Market Street minutes after the bomb went off. Survivors are shown helping the injured

The car bomb detonated at about 15:10 BST in the crowded shopping area,[9] killing outright 21 people who had been in the vicinity of the vehicle. Eight more people would die on the way to or in hospital. The deceased victims included a pregnant woman, six children, and six teenagers, most of whom had died on the spot.[12] Those who were killed were James Barker (12), Seán McLaughlin (12) and Oran Doherty (8), from County Donegal, Fernando Blasco Baselga (12) and Rocío Abad Ramos (23) from Spain, Geraldine Breslin (43), Gareth Conway (18), Breda Devine (1), Aidan (or Aiden) Gallagher (21), Mary Grimes (65), Brenda Logue (17), Brian McCrory (54), Seán McGrath (61), Jolene Marlow (17), Avril Monaghan (30; pregnant with twins), Maura Monaghan (1), Elizabeth Rush (57), Philomena Skelton (39), all Catholics,; Deborah-Anne Cartwright (20), Esther Gibson (36), Olive Hawkes (60), Julia Hughes (21), Ann McCombe (48), Samantha McFarland (17), Alan Radford (16), Veda Short (56), Fred White (60), Bryan White (26), Lorraine Wilson (15), all Protestants, were killed. (Seán McGrath died from his injuries on 5 September 1998.) [12][32]

Injured survivor Marion Radford described hearing an “unearthly bang”, followed by “an eeriness, a darkness that had just come over the place”, then the screams as she saw “bits of bodies, limbs or something” on the ground while she searched for her 16-year-old son, Alan. She later discovered he had been killed only yards away from her, the two having become separated minutes before the blast.[27][33]

In a statement on the same day as the bombing, RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan accused the RIRA of deliberately trying to direct civilians to the bombing site.[31] British government prosecutor Gordon Kerr QC called the warnings “not only wrong but… meaningless” and stated that the nature of the warnings made it inevitable that the evacuations would lead to the bomb site.[34] The RIRA strongly denied that it intended to target civilians.[29][35] It also stated that the warnings were not intended to lead people to the bombing site.[29] During the 2003 Special Criminal Court trial of RIRA director Michael McKevitt, witnesses for the prosecution stated that the inaccurate warnings were accidental.[28]

Aftermath

Tyrone County Hospital, where many of the bomb victims were taken.

The BBC News stated that those “who survived the car bomb blast in a busy shopping area of the town described scenes of utter carnage with the dead and dying strewn across the street and other victims screaming for help”.[9] The injured were initially taken to two local hospitals, the Tyrone County Hospital and the Erne Hospital.[30] A local leisure centre was set up as a casualty field centre, and Lisanelly Barracks, an army base served as an impromptu morgue.[30][31] The Conflict Archive on the Internet project has stated that rescue workers described the scene as “battlefield conditions”.[30] Tyrone County Hospital became overwhelmed, and appealed for local doctors to come in to help.[9][31]

Because of the stretched emergency services, people used buses, cars and helicopters to take the victims to other hospitals in Northern Ireland,[9][31] including the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.[30] A Tyrone County Hospital spokesman stated that they treated 108 casualties, 44 of whom had to be transferred to other hospitals.[31] Paul McCormick of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said that, “The injuries are horrific, from amputees, to severe head injuries to serious burns, and among them are women and children.”[9]

The day after the bombing, the relatives and friends of the dead and injured used Omagh Leisure Centre to post news.[30] The Spanish Ambassador to Ireland personally visited some of the injured[30] and churches across Northern Ireland called for a national day of mourning.[36] Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh Robin Eames stated on BBC Radio that, “From the Church’s point of view, all I am concerned about are not political arguments, not political niceties. I am concerned about the torment of ordinary people who don’t deserve this.”[36]

Reactions

British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Omagh days after the bombing. This photograph shows Blair addressing a crowd in Armagh several weeks later.

The nature of the bombing created a strong international and local outcry against the RIRA and in favour of the Northern Ireland peace process.[3][4] British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the bombing an “appalling act of savagery and evil.”[8][9] Queen Elizabeth II expressed her sympathies to the victim’s families, while the Prince of Wales paid a visit to the town and spoke with the families of some of the victims.[9][37] The Pope and US President Bill Clinton, who shortly afterwards visited Omagh with his wife Hillary, also expressed their sympathies.[30] Social Democratic and Labour Party leader John Hume called the perpetrators of the bombing “undiluted fascists”.[38]

Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness said that, “This appalling act was carried out by those opposed to the peace process”.[9] Party president Gerry Adams said that, “I am totally horrified by this action. I condemn it without any equivocation whatsoever.”[10] McGuinness mentioned the fact that both Catholics and Protestants alike were injured and killed, saying, “All of them were suffering together. I think all them were asking the question ‘Why?’, because so many of them had great expectations, great hopes for the future.”[10] Sinn Féin as an organization initially refused to co-operate with the investigation into the attack, citing the involvement of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.[39] On 17 May 2007, Martin McGuinness stated that Irish Republicans would co-operate with an independent, international investigation if one is created.[40]

On 22 August 1998, the Irish National Liberation Army called a ceasefire in its operations against the British government.[30][41][42] The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism has accused the republican paramilitary organisation of providing supplies for the bombing.[42] The INLA continued to observe the ceasefire although it remains opposed to the Good Friday Agreement. It recently began decommissioning its arms.[42] The RIRA also suspended operations for a short time after the Omagh bombing before returning to violence.[30] The RIRA came under pressure from the Provisional Irish Republican Army after the bombing; PIRA members visited the homes of 60 people connected with the RIRA and ordered them to disband and stop interfering with PIRA arms dumps.[24] The BBC News stated that, “Like the other bombings in the early part of 1998 in places like Lisburn and Banbridge, Omagh was a conscious attempt by republicans who disagreed with the political strategy of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, to destabilise Northern Ireland in that vulnerable moment of hope. It failed—but there is a terrible irony to the way in which the campaign was halted only by the wave of revulsion triggered by the carnage at Omagh.”[3]

Responsibility

Allegations

No group claimed responsibility on the day of the attack, but the RUC suspected the RIRA.[9][31] The RIRA had carried out a car bombing in Banbridge, County Down, two weeks before the Omagh bombing.[31] Three days after the attack, the RIRA claimed responsibility and apologised for the attack.[11][35] On 7 February 2008, a RIRA spokesman stated that, “The IRA had minimal involvement in Omagh. Our code word was used; nothing more. To have stated this at the time would have been lost in an understandable wave of emotion” and “Omagh was an absolute tragedy. Any loss of civilian life is regrettable.”[43]

On 9 October 2000, the BBC’s Panorama programme aired the special Who Bombed Omagh? hosted by journalist John Ware.[27] The programme quoted RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan as saying, “sadly up to this point we haven’t been able to charge anyone with this terrible atrocity”.[27] The programme alleged that the police on both sides of the Irish border knew the identity of the bombers.[27] It stated that, “As the bomb car and the scout car headed for the border, the police believe they communicated by mobile phone. This is based on an analysis of calls made in the hours before, during and after the bombing. This analysis may prove to be the key to the Omagh bomb investigation.”[27] Using the phone records, the programme gave the names of the four prime suspects as Oliver Traynor, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy, and Seamus Daly.[27] The police had leaked the information to the BBC since it was too circumstantial and coincidental to be used in court.[17]

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson praised the Panorama programme, calling it “a very powerful and very professional piece of work”.[44] Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern criticised it, saying that “bandying around names on television” could hinder attempts to secure convictions.[44] First Minister David Trimble stated that he had “very grave doubts” about it.[44] Lawrence Rush, whose wife Elizabeth died in the bombing, tried legally to block the programme from being broadcast, saying, “This is media justice, we can’t allow this to happen”.[45] Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Oliver Gibson, whose niece Esther died in the bombing, stated that the government did not have the will to pursue those responsible and welcomed the programme.[45]

The police believe that the bombing of BBC Television Centre in London on 4 March 2001 was a revenge attack for the broadcast.[46] On 9 April 2003, the five RIRA members behind the BBC office’s bombing were convicted and sentenced for between 16 and 22 years.[47]

Prosecutions and court cases

On 22 September 1998, the RUC and Gardaí arrested twelve men in connection with the bombing.[40] They subsequently released all of them without charge.[40] On 25 February 1999, they questioned and arrested at least seven suspects.[40] Builder and publican Colm Murphy, from Ravensdale, County Louth, was charged three days later for conspiracy and was convicted on 23 January 2002 by the Republic’s Special Criminal Court.[40] He was sentenced to fourteen years.[18] In January 2005, Murphy’s conviction was quashed and a retrial ordered by the Court of Criminal Appeal, on the grounds that two Gardaí had falsified interview notes, and that Murphy’s previous convictions were improperly taken into account by the trial judges.[18]

On 28 October 2000, the families of four children killed in the bombing – James Barker, 12, Samantha McFarland, 17, Lorraine Wilson, 15, and 20-month-old Breda Devine – launched a civil action against the suspects named by the Panorama programme.[40] On 15 March 2001, the families of all twenty-nine people killed in the bombing launched a £2-million civil action against RIRA suspects Seamus McKenna, Michael McKevitt, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy, and Seamus Daly.[40] Former Northern Ireland secretaries Peter Mandelson, Tom King, Peter Brooke, Lord Hurd, Lord Prior, and Lord Merlyn-Rees signed up in support of the plaintiffs’ legal fund.[40] The civil action began in Northern Ireland on 7 April 2008.[48]

On 6 September 2006, Murphy’s nephew Sean Hoey, an electrician from Jonesborough, County Armagh, went on trial accused of 29 counts of murder, and terrorism and explosives charges.[49] Upon its completion, Hoey’s trial found on 20 December 2007 that he was not guilty of all 56 charges against him.[50]

On 24 January 2008, former Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan apologised to the victims’ families for the lack of convictions in relation to the Omagh bombing.[51] This apology was rejected by some of the victims’ families.[51] After the Hoey verdict, BBC News reporter Kevin Connolly stated that, “The Omagh families were dignified in defeat, as they have been dignified at every stage of their fight for justice. Their campaigning will go on, but the prospect is surely receding now that anyone will ever be convicted of murdering their husbands and brothers and sisters and wives and children.”[3] Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde stated that he believed there would be no further prosecutions.[19]

On 8 June 2009, the civil case taken by victims’ relatives concluded, with Michael McKevitt, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly being found to have been responsible for the bombing.[20] Seamus McKenna was cleared of involvement.[20] The others were held liable for £1.6 million of damages. It was described as a “landmark” damages award internationally.[52] Murphy and Daly appealed and were granted a retrial, but this second trial also found them responsible for the bombing, with the judge describing the evidence as overwhelming.[53]

On 10 April 2014 Daly was charged with murdering the 29 victims of the Omagh bombing and with other offences.[54] Daly lived in Cullaville, County Monaghan, in the Republic of Ireland and was arrested in Newry by police after he crossed the Border into Northern Ireland.[55]

Independent bombing investigation

On 7 February 2008, the Northern Ireland Policing Board decided to appoint a panel of independent experts to review the police’s investigation of the bombing. Some of the relatives of the bombing victims criticised the decision, saying that an international public inquiry covering both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland should be established instead. The review is to determine whether enough evidence exists for further prosecutions. It is also to investigate the possible perjury of two police witnesses made during Sean Hoey’s trial.[56] Sinn Féin Policing Board member Alex Maskey stated that, “Sinn Féin fully supports the families’ right to call for a full cross-border independent inquiry while the Policing Board has its clear and legal obligation to scrutinise the police handling of the investigations.” He also stated that, “We recognise that the board has a major responsibility in carrying out our duty in holding the PSNI to account in the interests of justice for the Omagh families”.[57]

Allegations against the security forces

It has been alleged that the British, Irish and American intelligence agencies had information which could have prevented the bombing. This information was not given to the local police; the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The RUC’s investigation into the bombing has also been widely criticized.

Police Ombudsman report

Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan published a report on 12 December 2001 that strongly criticised the RUC over its handling of the bombing investigation.[16][58][59] Her report stated that RUC officers had ignored the previous warnings about a bomb and had failed to act on crucial intelligence.[31][58][59] She went on to say that officers had been uncooperative and defensive during her inquiry.[59] The report concluded that, “The victims, their families, the people of Omagh and officers of the RUC were let down by defective leadership, poor judgement and a lack of urgency.”[16] It recommended the setting up of a new investigation team independent of the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which had since replaced the RUC, led by a senior officer from an outside police force.[16]

Initially, the Police Association, which represents both senior officers and rank and file members of the Northern Ireland police, went to court to try to block the release of the O’Loan report.[31][59] The Association stated that, “The ombudsman’s report and associated decisions constitute a misuse of her statutory powers, responsibilities and functions.”[59] The group later dropped its efforts.[31][60] RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan called the report “grossly unfair” and “an erroneous conclusion reached in advance and then a desperate attempt to find anything that might happen to fit in with that.”[16] Other senior police officers also disputed the report’s findings.[58][59] Flanagan issued a 190 page counter-report in response, and has also stated that he has considered taking legal action.[16][61] He argued that the multiple warnings were given by the RIRA to cause confusion and lead to a greater loss of life.[31][62] Assistant Chief Constables Alan McQuillan and Sam Kincaid sent affidavits giving information that supported the report.[59]

The families of the victims expressed varying reactions to the report.[63] Kevin Skelton, whose wife died in the attack, said that, “After the bomb at Omagh, we were told by Tony Blair and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, that no stone would be left unturned … It seems to me that a lot of stones have been left unturned,” but then expressed doubt that the bombing could have been prevented.[63] Lawrence Rush, whose wife also died in the attack, said that, “There’s no reason why Omagh should have happened – the police have been in dereliction of their duty.”[63] Other Omagh residents said that the police did all that they could.[63] The Belfast Telegraph called the report a “watershed in police accountability” and stated that it “broke the taboo around official criticism of police in Northern Ireland”.[58] Upon leaving office on 5 November 2007, Nuala O’Loan stated that the report was not a personal battle between herself and Sir Ronnie, and did not lead to one.[58] She also stated that the “recommendations which we made were complied with”.[58]

Advance warning allegations

Throughout the conflict in Northern Ireland, the security forces used double agents to infiltrate the paramilitary groups. In 1998 the British, Irish and American intelligence agencies had agents connected to the Real IRA.

In 2001, a double agent known as Kevin Fulton claimed he told his MI5 handlers three days before the bombing that the RIRA was about to bring a “huge bomb” across the border.[64] Fulton claims he also told them who he believed was making it and where it was being made.[64] He said that MI5 did not pass his information over to the police.[64][65][66] RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan called the allegations “preposterous” and said the information Fulton gave his handlers was full of “distortions and inaccuracies”.[64] However, Flanagan admitted that some of Fulton’s information was not passed to RUC Special Branch, due to “an administrative error”.[64] In September 2001, British security forces informer Willie Carlin said the Ombudsman had obtained evidence confirming Fulton’s allegations.[65] A spokesman for the Ombudsman neither confirmed nor denied Carlin’s assertion when asked.[65]

David Rupert, an American citizen, was jointly run as an agent by MI5 and the FBI. He worked as a fundraiser for the RIRA. On 11 August 1998, four days before the bombing, Rupert informed his MI5 handlers that the RIRA was planning a car bomb attack in Omagh or Derry. It is not known whether this information was passed to the RUC Special Branch.[67]

The Republic of Ireland’s police force, the Gardaí, also had an agent close to the RIRA at the time. The agent, Paddy Dixon, stole cars for the RIRA, who used them to transport bombs.[64] Days before the bombing, the RIRA had Dixon steal the maroon Vauxhall Cavalier it would use in the attack.[64] Dixon immediately told his handler; Detective Sergeant John White. On 12 August, White passed this on to his superior; Detective Chief Superintendent Dermot Jennings.[64] According to White, Jennings told him that they would let the bomb go through, mainly so that the RIRA would not become suspicious of Dixon.[64] Dixon fled the Republic of Ireland in January 2002. The following year, a transcript of a conversation between Dixon and White was released. In it, Dixon confirms that Gardaí let the bomb go through and says that “Omagh is going to blow up in their faces”.[68] In February 2004, PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde called for the Republic of Ireland to hand over Dixon.[31] In March 2006, Chief Constable Orde stated that “security services did not withhold intelligence that was relevant or would have progressed the Omagh inquiry”.[69] He also stated that the dissident republican militants investigated by MI5 were members of a different cell than the perpetrators of the Omagh bombing.[69]

A 2013 independent report concluded that the British, Irish and American intelligence agencies “starved” police in Omagh of intelligence that could have prevented the bombing. The report was commissioned by the victims’ families and produced by Rights Watch (UK).[70]

GCHQ monitoring

A BBC Panorama documentary, named “Omagh: What the police were never told”, was aired in September 2008. It revealed that the British intelligence agency GCHQ was monitoring mobile phone calls between the bombers as the bomb was being driven into Omagh.[71] Ray White, former Assistant Chief of RUC Special Branch, said GCHQ had been monitoring mobile phones at their request. He said he believed GCHQ were listening to the phonecalls ‘live’, rather than merely recording them for later.[71] Panorama’s John Ware also claimed that a listening device had been hidden in the car and that GCHQ had recordings of what was said.[71] None of this information was given to the RUC in Omagh at the time.[71] Transcripts of the phone calls were later handed over to RUC Special Branch.[9]

Victims’ support group

The families of the victims of the bomb created the Omagh Support and Self Help Group after the bombing.[72] The organisation is led by Michael Gallagher, who lost his 21-year-old son Aidan in the attack.[73] Its web site provides over 5000 newspaper articles, video recordings, audio recordings, and other information sources relating to the events leading up to and following the bombing as well as information about other terrorist attacks.[74] The group’s five core objectives are “relief of poverty, sickness, disability of victims”, “advancement of education and protection”, “raising awareness of needs and experiences of victims, and the effects of terrorism”, “welfare rights advice and information”, and “improving conditions of life for victims”.[72] The group also provides support to victims of other bombings in Ireland, as well other terrorist bombings, such as the 2004 Madrid train bombings.[72] The group has protested outside meetings of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, an Irish republican political activist group opposed to the Good Friday Agreement that the families believe is part of the RIRA.[75]

In April 2000, the group argued that the attack breached Article 57 of the Geneva Convention and stated that they will pursue the alleged bombers using international law.[76] Michael Gallagher told BBC Radio Ulster that, “The republican movement refused to co-operate and those people hold the key to solving this mystery. Because they have difficulty in working with the RUC and Gardaí, we can’t get justice.”[76] In January 2002, Gallagher told BBC News that, “There is such a deeply-held sense of frustration and depression” and called the anti-terrorist legislation passed in the wake of the Omagh bombing “ineffective”.[77] He expressed support for the controversial Panorama programme, stating that it reminded “people that what happened in Omagh is still capable of happening in other towns”.[45] In February 2002, Prime Minister Tony Blair declined a written request by the group to meet with him at Downing Street.[78] Group members accused the Prime Minister of ignoring concerns about the police’s handling of the bombing investigation.[78] A Downing Street spokesman stated that, “The Prime Minister of course understands the relatives’ concerns, but [he] believes that a meeting with the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office is the right place to air their concerns at this stage.”[78]

The death of Michael Gallagher’s son along with his and other families’ experiences in the Omagh Support and Self Help Group formed the story of the television film Omagh, a Channel 4RTÉ co-production.[73] Film-maker Paul Greengrass stated that “the families of the Omagh Support and Self Help Group have been in the public eye throughout the last five years, pursuing a legal campaign, shortly to come before the courts, with far reaching implications for all of us and it feels the right moment for them to be heard, to bring their story to a wider audience so we can all understand the journey they have made.”[73] In promotion for the film, Channel 4 stated that the group had pursued “a patient, determined, indomitable campaign to bring those responsible for the bomb to justice, and to hold to account politicians and police on both sides of the border who promised so much in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity but who in the families’ eyes have delivered all too little.”[73]

Memorials

Media memorials

The bombing inspired the song “Paper Sun” by British hard rock band Def Leppard.[79]

Another song inspired by the bombings was “Peace on Earth” by rock group U2.[80] It includes the line, “They’re reading names out over the radio. All the folks the rest of us won’t get to know. Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann, and Breda.”[80] The five names mentioned are five of the victims from this attack.[80] Another line, “She never got to say goodbye, To see the colour in his eyes, now he’s in the dirt,” was about how James Barker, a victim, was remembered by his mother Donna Maria Barker in an article in the Irish Times after the bombing in Omagh.[80] The Edge has described the song as “the most bitter song U2 has ever written”.[81] The names of all 29 people killed during the bombing were recited at the conclusion of the group’s anti-violence anthem “Sunday Bloody Sunday” during the Elevation Tour; one performance is captured on the concert video U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle, Ireland.[82]

Omagh memorial

Omagh Memorial at the bomb site

In late 1999, Omagh District Council established the Omagh Memorial Working Group to devise a permanent memorial to the bombing victims.[7] Its members come from both public and private sectors alongside representatives from the Omagh Churches Forum and members of the victims’ families.[7] The chief executive of the Omagh Council, John McKinney, stated in March 2000 that, “we are working towards a memorial. It is a very sensitive issue.”[83] In April 2007, the Council announced the launch of a public art design competition by the Omagh Memorial Working Group.[7] The group’s goal was to create a permanent memorial in time for the tenth anniversary of the bombing on 15 August 2008.[7][84] It has a total budget of £240,000.[7]

Since space for a monument on Market Street itself is limited, the final memorial was to be split between the actual bombing site and the temporary Memorial Garden about 300 metres away.[85] Artist Sean Hillen and architect Desmond Fitzgerald won the contest with a design that, in the words of the Irish Times, “centres on that most primal yet mobile of elements: light.”[85] A heliostatic mirror was to be placed in the memorial park tracking the sun in order to project a constant beam of sunlight onto 31 small mirrors, each etched with the name of a victim.[84][85] All the mirrors were then to bounce the light on to a heart-shaped crystal within an obelisk pillar that stands at the bomb site.[84][85]

In September 2007, the Omagh Council’s proposed wording on a memorial plaque — “dissident republican car bomb” — brought it into conflict with several of the victims’ families.[84] Michael Gallagher has stated that “there can be no ambiguity over what happened on 15 August 1998, and no dancing around words can distract from the truth.”[84] The Council appointed an independent mediator in an attempt to reach an agreement with those families.[84] Construction started on the memorial on 27 July 2008.[86]

On 15 August 2008, a memorial service was held in Omagh.[87] Senior government representatives from the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Stormont Assembly were present, along with relatives of many of the victims.[87] A number of bereaved families, however, boycotted the service and held their own service the following Sunday.[87] They argued that the Sinn Féin-dominated Omagh council would not acknowledge that republicans were responsible for the bombing.[87]

See also

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