I’m creating a new page for my website/blog , Books about the Troubles ( see: 60 Films about the Troubles ) which will be a comprehensive list of the “best” /most popular books covering all sides of the Northern Ireland conflict.
The list is very long and I dont have the time or to be completely honest the patience to read them all and then write countless reviews. Therefore as many of my Twitter friends/followers are interested/lived through the Troubles I was hoping some of you guys would be interested in writing reviews for any book of your choice and I will give you full credit when I publish the blog post/add the new page.
If your interested DM me or leave a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll be in touch.
Alan Ross McWhirter (12 August 1925 – 27 November 1975) was, with his twin brother, Norris, the co-founder in 1955 of Guinness Book of Records (known since 2000 as Guinness World Records) and a contributor to the television programme Record Breakers.
William McWhirter, father; Margaret Williamson, mother
McWhirter was the youngest son of William McWhirter, editor of the Sunday Pictorial, and Margaret “Bunty” Williamson. He was born at “Giffnock” (after Giffnock Church in Glasgow, where the McWhirters were married), 10 Branscombe Gardens, Winchmore Hill, London, N21.
Ross and Norris both became sports journalists in 1950. In 1951, they published Get to Your Marks, and earlier that year they had founded an agency to provide facts and figures to Fleet Street, setting out, in Norris McWhirter’s words:
“to supply facts and figures to newspapers, yearbooks, encyclopaedias and advertisers”.
While building up their business, they both worked as sports journalists. One of the athletes they knew and covered was runner Christopher Chataway, an employee at Guinness who recommended them to Hugh Beaver. After an interview in 1954 in which the Guinness directors enjoyed testing the twins’ knowledge of records and unusual facts, the brothers agreed to start work on the book that would become The Guinness Book of Records.
In August 1955, the first slim green volume – 198 pages long – was at the bookstalls, and in four more months it was the UK’s number one non-fiction best-seller. Both brothers were regulars on the BBC show Record Breakers. They were noted for their encyclopedic memories, enabling them to provide detailed answers to questions from the audience about entries in The Guinness Book of Records. Norris continued to appear on the programme after Ross’s death.
In the early 1960s, he was a Conservative Party activist and sought, unsuccessfully, the seat of Edmonton in the 1964 general election. Following his killing, his brother and others founded the National Association for Freedom (later The Freedom Association).
Norris McWhirter interview 1979
Views on Ireland
McWhirter advocated various restrictions on the freedom of the Irish community in Britain, such as making it compulsory for all of them to register with the local police and to provide signed photographs of themselves when renting flats or booking into hotels and hostels.
In addition, McWhirter offered a £50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for several recent high-profile bombings in England that were publicly claimed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). In doing so, McWhirter recognised that he could then be a target himself.
This was described as a bounty by McWhirter, and considered a bounty by the IRA Army Council, a view that led directly to the events that followed, although the idea was not originally his, but that of John Gouriet.
On 27 November 1975 at 6.45 p.m., McWhirter was shot and killed by two IRA volunteers, Harry Duggan and Hugh Doherty, both of whom were members of what became known as the Balcombe Street Gang,[ the group for whose capture McWhirter had offered the reward. McWhirter was shot at close range in the head and chest with a .357 Magnum revolver outside his home in Village Road, Bush Hill Park.
He was taken to Chase Farm Hospital, but died soon after being admitted. Duggan and Doherty were apprehended following the Balcombe Street siege and charged with murdering McWhirter, in addition to nine other victims. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, but released in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
For British unionists (those who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom), this was seen as foreign interference in the internal affairs of the UK. For Irish nationalists, those provisions were seen as a start at fixing the democratic problem of lack of political representation of the large minority of Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement along with many other high profile events during the Troubles , including Bloody Friday and the Shankill Bomb was a pivotal moment in Loyalist/Protestant history and at the time many including myself saw this as a complete sell out and another step on the road to a United Ireland. Living in Glencairn ( 19 at the time ) we went buck mad with rage and as so often happened during the Troubles this led to riots and chaos throughout Belfast and Northern Ireland . I remember vividly some of the riots that took place and I took part in around this time. Don’t judge me to harshly , I was a product of the time and place I lived through.
Once I was walking a girl home from the Woodvale to the Shankill and I walked straight into/through a riot taking place by Ardoyne. No bothers me thinks waving at people I knew in the crowds and then someone threw a petrol bomb and before I knew what was happening it landed on my right arm and within seconds flames were crawling up my arm. As I fought frantically to put it out I heard one of my friends call out from the mob :
“ Quick , get more Petrol, Chambers is going out! “
Needless to say I was not impressed , the Belfast humour back then could be very black indeed and even in the maelstrom of a riot we could find something to laugh about. My sister Mags was living in Ottawa Street (Woodvale) at the time and when the police/army use to charge us we would all run down the local streets, full of Terrace houses and all the neighbours , including my sister would open their front doors so we could escape the long arm of the law and hide in the back yard until the coast was clear . Crazy days, but back then the community acted and thought as one and we all looked out for each other no matter what.
I remember going to the rally by the City Hall and me and my mates climbed up above H Samuels jewellers and had a birds eye view of Big Ian and the other speakers on the platform.
Then someone broke into the sports shop and next thing we know thousands of golf and tennis balls are flying everywhere and this memory is imprinted on my soul forever!
I cover this and many other major events of the Troubles in
my forthcoming autobiography.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement was a 1985 treaty between the United Kingdom and Ireland which aimed to help bring an end to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The treaty gave the Irish government an advisory role in Northern Ireland’s government while confirming that there would be no change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland unless a majority of its people agreed to join the Republic. It also set out conditions for the establishment of a devolved consensus government in the region.
During her first term as Prime Minister, Thatcher had unsuccessful talks with both Jack Lynch and Charles Haughey on solving the conflict in Northern Ireland. In December 1980 Thatcher and Haughey met in Dublin, with the subsequent communiqué calling for joint studies of “possible new institutional links” between Britain, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. Although this resulted in the founding of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council in 1981, Anglo-Irish relations had by this time deteriorated due to the Irish hunger strike and so this body was neglected.
Haughey resumed power shortly afterwards and took Argentina’s side during the Falklands War, leading to the meeting scheduled for July 1982 to be cancelled. However, the British Northern Irish Secretary, Jim Prior, proposed “rolling devolution”: a step by step approach whereby local government was devolved to an assembly elected by proportional representation. This was boycotted by the nationalist community and the plan was dead by June 1983.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement’s origins lay in the behind-the-scenes negotiations between the British and Irish foreign offices, co-ordinated by the Cabinet Secretary, Robert Armstrong, and the secretary to the Irish government, Dermot Nally.
The New Ireland Forum had been founded (with the backing of then-Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald) in May 1983 by John Hume in an attempt to undercut support for the IRA by bringing together constitutional nationalist parties from both sides of the border. In June 1983 Thatcher and Fitzgerald met again and revived the Anglo-Irish Council, which met sixteen times between November 1983 and March 1985.
The report of the New Ireland Forum was published in May and suggested three possible solutions: a federal united Ireland, a confederal united Ireland or joint sovereignty. Fitzgerald hoped that Thatcher might be persuaded of the third option but at the press conference after their meeting Thatcher publicly proclaimed that all three options were “out”.
Thatcher’s intransigence persuaded the American President, Ronald Reagan, to intervene.
The most powerful pressure for the Agreement came from the United States, where the Irish-American lobby was second only to the Israel lobby in influence. Led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O’Neill, and Senators Edward Kennedy and Daniel Moynihan, the Irish lobby regularly denounced what they considered British colonialism and human rights violations in Northern Ireland. Reagan, who was also Irish-American and visited Ireland in June 1984, increasingly encouraged Thatcher to make progress on Anglo-Irish talks.
45 Senators and Congressmen (including O’Neill, Kennedy and Moynihan) wrote to Reagan criticising Thatcher’s rejection of the Forum’s report. They also pushed him to pressure Thatcher into reconsidering her stance at the upcoming meeting at Camp David in December 1984. Reagan duly discussed Northern Ireland with Thatcher at their meeting, telling her that “making progress is important” and that “there is great Congressional interest in the matter”, adding that O’Neill wanted her to be “reasonable and forthcoming”.
Afterwards, Reagan assured O’Neill that he had emphasised the need for progress.
Sean Donlon, the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs, later claimed that “the intervention by Reagan was vital, and it was made possible by Tip”. Michael Lillis, the Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs from 1983-1985, similarly claimed that “O’Neill was very active and effective in mobilizing the President. And there is no doubt whatsoever that Reagan’s regular references to this in his interaction with Thatcher helped us in a major way”.
By January 1985, Thatcher was persuaded that progress must be made on the issue. Her primary aim was security but realised that in order for help in this area she would need to concede in other areas, such as grievances over policing and the courts. She also hoped that this would help reconcile the Catholic population to the United Kingdom. She invited John Hume to Chequers on 16 January to discuss Northern Ireland. She now accepted that an “Irish dimension” was necessary in return for the Irish government’s acceptance that Northern Ireland would remain a member of the United Kingdom so long as it had majority support. In April a four-member Cabinet committee had been informed of the negotiations; in October the entire Cabinet was informed. Thatcher and Fitzgerald met again in May at a European summit in which they discussed what became the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Craig allegedly colluded at times with the enemies of the UDA, Irish Republican groups such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), providing them with information on key loyalists which led to their subsequent murders. Aside from controlling rackets and extorting protection money from a variety of businesses, it was claimed that Craig also participated in paramilitary murders.
— Disclaimer –
The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.
James Pratt Craig, known as Jim, was born in Belfast in 1941 and grew up in an Ulster Protestant family on the Shankill Road. In the early 1970s, Craig, a former boxer, was sent to the Maze Prison for a criminal offence unrelated to paramilitary activities. While serving his sentence at the Maze he joined the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), and he was asked by the organisation’s commander at the time, Charles Harding Smith to take control of the UDA prisoners inside, on account of his reputation as a “hard man”.
After his release in 1976, he set up a large protection racket and became the UDA’s chief fundraiser; by 1985 he had managed to blackmail and extort money from a number of construction firms, building sites, as well as pubs, clubs, and shops in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland, whose intimidated owners paid protection money out of fear of Craig and his associates.
It was alleged that the UDA received hundreds of thousands of pounds some of which also found their way inside Craig’s pockets as part of his “commission”. He was acquitted on a firearm charge and Ulster Freedom Fighters (a cover name for the UDA) membership on 18 March 1982. In 1985, Craig was brought to court after a number of businessmen decided to testify against him, with the condition that their identities remained hidden. The case fell apart when Craig’s defence argued that his client’s rights were violated by the concealment of the witnesses’ identities.
Craig was alleged to have been involved in the double killing of a Catholic man and a Protestant man on the Shankill Road in 1977. The men, both work colleagues, had entered a loyalist club and were later stabbed, shot and put into a car which was set on fire. By this time the West Belfast UDA no longer wanted him in their ranks, as they claimed they could no longer “afford him”.
Craig, who was ordered to leave the Shankill Road, went on to join forces with John McMichael‘s South Belfast Brigade. In addition to being the principal fundraiser, Craig also sat on the UDA’s Inner Council. Craig usually travelled in the company of his bodyguard Artie Fee, a UDA member from the Shankill Road.
The rival Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) carried out an investigation after it was rumoured Craig had been involved in the death of UVF major William Marchant, who was gunned down by Provisional IRA gunmen from a passing car on the Shankill Road on 28 April 1987. Marchant was the third high-ranking UVF man to be killed by the IRA during the 1980s. Although their inquiries revealed that Craig had quarrelled with Marchant as well as Lenny Murphy and John Bingham prior to their killings, the UVF felt that there was not enough evidence to warrant an attack on such a powerful UDA figure as Craig.
In December 1987, when South Belfast UDA brigadier John McMichael was blown up by an IRA booby-trap car bomb outside his home in Lisburn‘s Hilden estate, it was believed that Craig had organised his death with the IRA.
Allegedly Craig had feared McMichael was about to expose his racketeering business, thus putting an end to his lucrative operation. McMichael had reportedly set up an inquiry and discovered that Craig was spending money on a lavish scale, going on holidays at least twice a year and indulging in a:
At the same time it was suggested that Craig had made certain deals with Irish republican paramilitary groups, dividing up the rackets in west Belfast, and he would have been doing the IRA a favour by helping them to eliminate a high-profile loyalist such as McMichael. Craig had established links with republicans during his time in prison, and the profitable deals and exchanges of information between them ensured he would most likely not be a target for IRA assassination.
Craig was named as an extortionist in Central Television’s 1987 programme The Cook Report. Craig planned to sue the programme’s producers for libel; in January 1988, Jack Kielty (father of future television presenter Patrick Kielty), a building contractor from County Down who had promised to testify as a key witness against Craig, was murdered by the UDA. This killing was attributed to Craig, although it was never proven.
“Bunch of Grapes” pub in Beersbridge Road, east Belfast where Craig was shot dead. At the time it was called “The Castle Inn”
Craig was shot dead by two gunmen from the UDA in “The Castle Inn” (later called “The Bunch of Grapes”), a pub in Beersbridge Road, east Belfast on 15 October 1988, to where he had been lured in the belief that there was to have been a UDA meeting.
He was playing pool in the pub at the time of his fatal shooting by the two men, both of whom were wearing boiler suits and ski masks and carrying automatic weapons. Upon spotting Craig they opened fire, spraying the room with gunfire. Craig died instantly; a bystander pensioner was also murdered in the attack, and four other bystanders were wounded by stray bullets. The UDA claimed the killing was carried out due to Craig’s “treason” and involvement in John McMichael’s murder as they knew he had provided the IRA with information to successfully carry out the assassination.
They apologised for the unintentional death of the pensioner. Craig was not given a paramilitary funeral, and none of the UDA’s command attended it.
Andy Tyrie, the UDA’s former supreme commander, was not convinced of Craig’s complicity in McMichael’s killing. In an interview with Peter Taylor, he stated that after McMichael’s death, the UDA set up an inquiry, but couldn’t find any solid proof which linked Craig to McMichael’s assassination. Tyrie maintained that the two men had been good friends, and that Craig had given McMichael £20,000 to keep the latter’s pub (The Admiral Benbow) from failing. Tyrie suggested that Craig was a suspect because his wife was Catholic.
Tyrie insisted that John Hanna, a prison officer in the Maze, had supplied the IRA with information about McMichael through Rosena Brown, a Belfast actress and IRA intelligence operative, with whom Hanna had been infatuated.
McMichael’s son, Gary, however, firmly believed Craig to have been the person behind his father’s killing. Less than three months after McMichael’s death, Tyrie himself narrowly escaped an attempt on his life by car bomb; he subsequently tendered his resignation as commander.
According to McKittrick, Craig’s:
“notoriety and range of enemies meant he could have been killed by almost any paramilitary group, loyalist or republican”.
Described as stocky of build, he wore expensive clothing and jewellery, and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle from the proceeds of his racketeering. Author and journalist Martin Dillon wrote that Craig was not intelligent but was “cunning, boastful and ruthless”.
There was also much antipathy between him and UDA brigadier Tommy “Tucker” Lyttle due to Craig having allegedly made Lyttle’s daughter pregnant. Lyttle died of natural causes in October 1995. It was later revealed that Lyttle had worked as an informer for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)’s Special Branch.
Craig reportedly invited RUC officers to an extravagant wedding reception held for his daughter. Author Sally Belfrage who encountered Craig at an “Eleventh night” party held at the UDA’s east Belfast headquarters, summed him up as “the most personally powerful man I had ever met, with an air of animal force that inspired awe at the idea of its ever being let loose. He was also as drunk as I had ever seen anyone in my life who could still more or less negotiate a sentence and a sequence of steps.” She claimed Craig had propositioned her; when she rebuffed his advances he took it in his stride, and grabbing a microphone, went on to lead the other revellers in a rendition of “The Sash My Father Wore“.
Dillon, in his book about the violent loyalist gang, the Shankill Butchers, recounted how Craig casually killed a man in a UDA club after a fellow UDA member handed him a jammed pistol. Craig, testing the weapon, allegedly pointed it at a man who was playing pool, and shot him in the head, killing him instantly. Craig then gave orders for the man’s body to be dumped in an adjacent alley. Dillon believes Craig had killed UDA commander William “Bucky” McCullough in October 1981 after the latter discovered Craig had been stealing funds from the UDA for his own personal use. The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) had claimed responsibility for the killing.
Jackie McDonald, who was part of Craig’s protection racket, was arrested in 1989. He had taken over McMichael’s command of the South Belfast UDA, having been promoted to the rank of brigadier by Andy Tyrie in 1988. In January 1990, he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment inside the Maze for extortion, blackmail, and intimidation. McDonald was released in 1994. In an interview with Peter Taylor, he made the following statement regarding his former association with Craig:
I would say without a shadow of doubt the worst thing that ever happened to South Belfast, John McMichael and myself especially, was that Jim Craig ever had anything to do with our organisation.
One builder who later assisted the RUC when they set up an anti-racketeering unit, admitted that he had paid out protection money throughout the 1980s to Craig and his henchmen. The amount of money he handed over increased each year.
Dillon suggested that prior to Craig’s killing, younger elements within the UDA, who were loyal supporters of McMichael, discovered (by means which Dillon did not divulge) that the RUC’s anti-racketeering squad CI3 had videotaped a clandestine meeting between Craig and a member of the IRA’s Northern Command, which is what reportedly sealed Craig’s fate.
Disclaimer – The views and opinions expressed in these documentary are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They … Read more
The force was the brainchild of Winston Churchill, then British Secretary of State for War. Recruitment began in Great Britain in late 1919. Thousands, many of them British Army veterans of World War I, answered the British government’s call for recruits. Most of the recruits came from Britain, although it also had some members from Ireland.
Their role was to help the RIC maintain control and fight the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the army of the Irish Republic. The nickname “Black and Tans” arose from the colours of the improvised uniforms they initially wore, composed of mixed khaki British Army and black RIC uniform parts. The Black and Tans became known for their attacks on civilians and civilian property.
The Black and Tans were sometimes confused with the Auxiliary Division, a counter-insurgency unit of the RIC made up of former British officers. However, sometimes the term “Black and Tans” is used to cover both of these groups.
— Disclaimer –-
The views and opinions expressed in these documentary are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.
On 21 January 1919, Sinn Féin established themselves as the First Dáil, which then declared an independent Irish Republic. They also declared the Irish Republican Army (IRA) the official army of the state, which in the same month began the Irish War of Independence. The main targets of the IRA offensive were the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the British Army in Ireland.
In September 1919 David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, outlawed the Dáil and augmented the British Army presence in Ireland, starting work on the next Home Rule Act.
A Black and Tan in Dublin, smoking and carrying a Lewis gun, February 1921
In January 1920, the British government started advertising in British cities for men willing to “face a rough and dangerous task”, helping to boost the ranks of the RIC in policing an increasingly anti-British Ireland. There was no shortage of recruits, many of them unemployed First World War army veterans, and by November 1921 about 9,500 men had joined. This sudden influx of men led to a shortage of RIC uniforms, and the new recruits were issued with khaki army uniforms (usually only trousers) and dark green RIC or blue British police surplus tunics, caps and belts.
These uniforms differentiated them from the British Army and the regular RIC, and gave rise to the force’s nickname: Christopher O’Sullivan wrote in the Limerick Echo on 25 March 1920 that, meeting a group of recruits on a train at Limerick Junction, the attire of one reminded him of the ScarteenHunt, whose “Black and Tans” nickname derived from the colouration of its Kerry Beagles.
Ennis comedian Mike Nono elaborated the joke in Limerick’s Theatre Royal, and the nickname soon took hold, persisting even after the men received full RIC uniforms. The popular Irish claim made at the time that most of the men serving in the Black and Tans had criminal records and had been recruited straight from British prisons is incorrect, as a criminal record would disqualify one from working as a policeman.
The vast majority of the men serving in the Black and Tans were unemployed veterans of the First World War who were having trouble finding jobs, and for most of them it was economic reasons that drove them to join the Temporary Constables.
The new recruits received three months’ hurried training, and were rapidly posted to RIC barracks, mostly in rural County Dublin, Munster and eastern Connacht. The first men arrived on 25 March 1920. The British government also raised another unit, the Auxiliary Division of the constabulary, known as the Auxiliaries or Auxies, consisting of ex-army officers. The Black and Tans aided the Auxiliaries in the British government’s attempts to break both the IRA and the Dáil.
The Blacks and Tans were meant to back up the RIC in the struggle against the IRA, playing a defensive-reactive role whereas the role of the “Auxies” were those of heavily armed, mobile units meant for offensive operations in the Irish countryside intended to hunt down and destroy IRA units. At least part of the infamy of the Blacks and Tans is undeserved as many of the war crimes attributed to the Blacks and Tans were actually the work of the “Auxies”
A group of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries outside the London and North Western Hotel in Dublin following an attack by the IRA, April 1921
Temporary Constables were paid the relatively good wage of 10 shillings (half a pound) a day, plus full board and lodging. With minimal police training, their main role was to increase the strength of police posts, where they functioned as sentries, guards, escorts for government agents, reinforcement to the regular police, and crowd control.
British In Ireland (1916-1920)
They mounted a determined counter-insurgency campaign. They and the Auxies became known as Tudor’s Toughs after the police commander, Major-General Sir Henry Hugh Tudor. They were viewed by republicans as akin to an army of occupation because of these duties. They soon gained a reputation for brutality, as the RIC campaign against the IRA and Sinn Féin members was stepped up and police reprisals for IRA attacks were condoned by the government.
Alexander Will, from Forfar in Scotland, was the first Temporary Constable to die in the conflict. He was killed during an IRA attack on the RIC barracks in Rathmore, County Kerry, on 11 July 1920.
The Black and Tans were not subject to strict discipline in their first months and, as a result, their deaths at the hands of the IRA in 1920 were often repaid with arbitrary reprisals against the civilian population. In the summer of 1920, the Black and Tans burned and sacked many small towns and villages in Ireland, beginning with Tuam in County Galway in July 1920 and also including Trim, Balbriggan, Knockcroghery, Thurles and Templemore amongst many others. In November 1920, the Tans “besieged” Tralee in revenge for the IRA abduction and killing of two local RIC men. They closed all the businesses in the town, let no food in for a week and shot dead three local civilians. On 14 November, the Tans were suspected of abducting and murdering a Roman Catholic priest, Father Michael Griffin, in Galway. His body was found in a bog in Barna a week later.
From October 1920 to July 1921, the Galway region was “remarkable in many ways”, most notably the level of police brutality towards suspected IRA members, which was far above the norm in the rest of Ireland. On the night of 11 December 1920, they sacked Cork, destroying a large part of the city centre.
In January 1921, the British Labour Commission produced a report on the situation in Ireland which was highly critical of the government’s security policy. It said the government, in forming the Black and Tans, had:
The R.I.C. The Forgotten Force
“liberated forces which it is not at present able to dominate”.
However, since 29 December 1920, the British government had sanctioned “official reprisals” in Ireland – usually meaning burning property of IRA men and their suspected sympathisers. Taken together with an increased emphasis on discipline in the RIC, this helped to curb the random atrocities the Black and Tans committed since March 1920 for the remainder of the war, if only because reprisals were now directed from above rather than being the result of a spontaneous desire for revenge.
Many of the activities popularly attributed to the Black and Tans may have been committed by the Auxiliary Division. For instance, Tomás Mac Curtain, the Mayor of Cork, was assassinated in March 1920 by local RIC men under the command of an Inspector General who had been a ‘plague on the local Catholic population’ and the shooting dead of 13 civilians at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday was supposedly carried out by the regular RIC, although a small detachment of Auxiliaries were also present. Most Republicans did not make a distinction, and “Black and Tans” was often used as a catch-all term for all police groups.
Government policy and reaction
The actions of the Black and Tans alienated public opinion in both Ireland and Great Britain. Their violent tactics encouraged the Irish public to increase their covert support of the IRA, while the British public pressed for a move towards a peaceful resolution. Edward Wood MP, better known as the future Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, rejected force and urged the British government to make an offer to the Irish “conceived on the most generous lines”.
“It is not fear of losing more lives that has compelled a reluctant offer from England but it is the shame of any further imposition of agony upon a people that loves liberty above everything else”.
About 7,000 Black and Tans served in Ireland in 1920–22. More than one-third left the service before they were disbanded along with the rest of the RIC in 1922, an extremely high wastage rate, and well over half received government pensions. A total of 404 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary died in the conflict and more than 600 were wounded but it is not clear how many of these were regular RIC men and how many were Black and Tans or Auxiliaries.
Those who returned to civilian life sometimes had problems re-integrating. At least two former Black and Tans were hanged for murder in Britain and another (Scott Cullen) wanted for murder committed suicide before the police could arrest him.
Due to the ferocity of the Tans’ behaviour in Ireland and the numerous war crimes they committed, feelings continue to run high regarding their actions. The term can still stir bad reactions because of their remembered brutality.
The Irish War of Independence is sometimes referred to as the “Tan War” or “Black-and-Tan War.” This term was preferred by those who fought on the anti-Treaty side in the Irish Civil Warand is still used by Republicans today. The “Cogadh na Saoirse” (“War of Independence”) medal, awarded since 1941 by the Irish government to IRA veterans of the War of Independence, bears a ribbon with two vertical stripes in black and tan
UVF snipers then opened fire on the survivors from an abandoned high-rise flat. This began the worst fighting in Northern Ireland since the suspension of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the imposition of direct rule from London. For the rest of the night and throughout the next day, local IRA units fought gun battles with both the UVF and British Army. Most of the fighting took place along the interface between the Catholic Ballymurphy and Ulster ProtestantSpringmartin housing estates, and the British Army base that sat between them.
Seven people were killed in the violence: five civilians (four Catholics, one Protestant), a British soldier and a member of the IRA Youth Section. Four of the dead were teenagers.
Northern Ireland in the 1960s/1970s Documentary
— Disclaimer –
The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual error
Bombing of Kelly’s Bar
Shortly after 5:00 PM on Saturday 13 May 1972, a car bomb exploded without warning outside Kelly’s Bar, at the junction of the Springfield Road and Whiterock Road. The pub was in a mainly Irish Catholic and nationalist area and most of its customers were from the area. At the time of the blast, the pub was crowded with men watching an association football match between England and West Germany on colour television. Sixty-three people were injured, eight of them seriously. John Moran (19), who had been working at Kelly’s as a part-time barman, died of his injuries on 23 May.
However, locals suspected that the loyalistUlster Defence Association (UDA) had planted the bomb. Republican sources said that IRA volunteers would not have risked storing such a large amount of explosives in such a crowded pub. It later emerged that the bomb had indeed been planted by loyalists.
A memorial plaque on the site of the former pub names three members of staff who lost their lives as a result of the bomb and the gun battles that followed. It reads: “.
” ..here on 13th May 1972 a no warning Loyalist car bomb exploded. As a result, 66 people were injured and three innocent members of staff of Kelly’s Bar lost their lives. They were: Tommy McIlroy (died 13th May 1972), John Moran (died from his injuries 23rd May 1972), Gerard Clarke (died from his injuries 6th September 1989) “
The Gun Battles
Saturday 13 May
The night before the bombing, gunmen from the UVF West Belfast Brigade had taken up position along the second floor of an abandoned row of maisonettes (or flats) at the edge of the Protestant Springmartin estate. The flats overlooked the Catholic Ballymurphy estate. Rifles, mostly Second World War stock, were ferried to the area from dumps in the Shankill.
Not long after the explosion, the UVF unit opened fire on those gathered outside the wrecked pub, including those who had been caught in the blast.
A British Army spokesman said that the shooting began at about 5:35 PM, when 30 high-velocity shots were heard. Social Democratic and Labour Party Member of Parliament Gerry Fitt said that shots had been fired from the Springmartin estate only minutes after the bombing. William Whitelaw, however, claimed that the shooting did not begin until 40 minutes after the blast.
Ambulances braved the gunfire to reach the wounded, which included a number of children. Tommy McIlroy (50), a Catholic civilian who worked at Kelly’s Bar, was shot in the chest and killed outright. He was the first to be killed in the violence.
When British troops arrived on the scene, they too were fired upon by IRA units. Corporal Alan Buckley (22) of the 1st Battalion The Kings Regiment was fatally shot by the Provisionals on Whiterock Road.
A platoon of soldiers then gave covering fire while a medical officer tried to help him. Another soldier was also wounded in the gunfight. Following this, 300 members of the Parachute Regiment were sent to back up the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
Over the next few hours there were 35 separate shooting incidents reported, making it the most violent night since the suspension of the Northern Ireland government and imposition of Direct Rule from London earlier that year.
The IRA exchanged fire with both the British Army and with the UVF snipers on the Springmartin flats. Most of the IRA’s fire was aimed at the Henry Taggart Army base—near the Springmartin flats—which was hit by over 400 rounds in the first 14 hours of the battle.
Although most of the republican gunfire came from the Ballymurphy estate, British soldiers also reported shots being fired from the nearby mountain slopes. According to journalist Malachi O’Doherty, a source claimed that the British Army had also fired into Belfast City Cemetery between the Whiterock and Springfield roads.
If you hate the british army clap your hands! – Irish children’s music (Ballymurphy)
Two more people were killed that night. The first was 15-year-old Michael Magee, a member of Fianna Éireann (the IRA youth wing), who was found shot in the chest at New Barnsley Crescent, near his home. He died shortly after he was brought to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Two men who took him there claimed they were beaten by British soldiers who had just heard of Corporal Buckley’s death. A death notice said that Magee was killed by the British Army but the republican publication Belfast Graves claimed he had been accidentally shot.
The other was a Catholic civilian, Robert McMullan (32), who was shot at New Barnsley Park, also near his home. Witnesses said there was heavy gunfire in the area at 8PM and then:
“a single shot rang out and Robert McMullan fell to the ground”.
It is thought that he was shot by soldiers firing from Henry Taggart base.
On the first night of the battle, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) arrested two young UVF members, Trevor King and William Graham. They were found at a house in Blackmountain Pass trying to fix a rifle that had jammed. During a search of the house, the RUC found three Steyr rifles, ammunition and illuminating flares.
The fighting between the IRA, UVF and British Army resumed the following day. According to the book UVF (1997), British soldiers were moved into the ground floor of the abandoned flats while the UVF snipers continued firing from the flats above them. The soldiers and UVF were both firing into Ballymurphy, and according to the book both were “initially unaware of each other”.
However, according to a UVF gunman involved in the battle, there was collusion between the UVF and British soldiers. He alleged that a British foot patrol caught a UVF unit hiding guns in a bin but ignored their cache with a wink when the UVF member said the guns were “rubbish”.
According to Jim Cusack and Henry McDonald, Jim Hanna — who later became UVF Chief of Staff — was one of the snipers operating from Springmartin during the battle. Jim Hanna told journalist Kevin Myers that, during the clashes, a British Army patrol helped Hanna and two other UVF members get into Corry’s Timber Yard, which overlooked the Catholic Ballymurphy estate. When a British Army Major heard of the incident he ordered his men to withdraw, but they did not arrest the UVF members, who were allowed to hold their position. The IRA’s Ballymurphy unit was returning fire at an equal rate and some 400 strike marks were later counted on the flats.
Squaddies on the Frontline – BBC Documentary 2018 – British Army in Northern Ireland
In the Springmartin estate, gunfire killed Protestant teenager John Pedlow (17) and wounded his friend. According to the book Lost Lives, they had been shot by soldiers. His friend said that they had been walking home from a shop when there was a burst of gunfire, which “came from near the Taggart Memorial Army post and seemed to be directed towards Black Mountain Parade”.
However, Malcolm Sutton’s Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland states that he was killed by the IRA. An inquest into Pedlow’s death found that he had been hit by a .303 bullet, which was likely a ricochet. Pedlow was given a loyalist funeral, but police said there was nothing to link him with any “illegal organisation or acts”.
UVF snipers continued to fire from the high-rise flats on the hill at Springmartin Road. About three hours after the shooting of Pedlow, a bullet fatally struck a 13-year-old Catholic girl, Martha Campbell, as she walked along Springhill Avenue.
She was among a group of young girls and a witness said the firing must have been directed at himself and the girls, as nobody else was in the area at the time. Reliable loyalist sources say that the schoolgirl was shot by the UVF.
Shortly afterwards, the loyalist UDA used roadblocks and barricades to seal-off the Woodvale area into a “no-go” zone, controlled by the UDA’s B Company, which was then commanded by former British soldier Davy Fogel.
Belfast 1969 : The Dawn of the Troubles ( Shankill / Falls Rd
From his home in the small village of Donaghcloney, County Down, five miles southeast of Lurgan, Jackson is alleged to have organised and committed a series of killings, mainly against Catholic civilians, although he was never convicted in connection with any killing and never served any lengthy prison terms.
At least 50 killings in Northern Ireland have been attributed to him, according to Stephen Howe (New Statesman) and David McKittrick (Lost Lives).
Journalist Kevin Dowling in the Irish Independent alleged that Jackson had headed the gang that perpetrated the Miami Showband killings, which left three members of the cabaret band dead and two wounded. Journalist Joe Tiernan and the Pat Finucane Centre alleged this as well as Jackson’s involvement in the Dublin bombings.
When questioned about the latter, Jackson denied involvement. Findings noted in a report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) (released in December 2011) confirmed that Jackson was linked to the Miami Showband attack through his fingerprints, which had been found on the silencer specifically made for the Luger pistol used in the shootings.
The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.
Some time later, he went to live in the Mourneview Estate in Lurgan, County Armagh before making his permanent home in the village of Donaghcloney, County Down, five miles southeast of Lurgan. Jackson married and made a living by working in a shoe factory and delivering chickens for the Moy Park food processing company throughout most of the 1970s.
Around the same time Jackson was expelled from the regiment for undisclosed reasons, he joined the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade‘s Lurgan unit. The UVF drew its greatest strength as well as the organisation’s most ruthless members from its Mid-Ulster Brigade, according to journalist Brendan O’Brien.
The Pat Finucane Centre‘s allegation that he had taken part in the UVF’s 23 October 1972 raid on the UDR/TA depot indicates that he was most likely already an active UVF member prior to being dismissed from the UDR.
Anne Cadwallader states in her 2013 book Lethal Allies that Jackson was expelled from the UDR on 4 March 1974; by then he was discernibly involved in UVF activity.
As the Provisional IRA continued to wage its militant campaign across Northern Ireland throughout 1972, many loyalists felt their community was under attack and their status was being threatened and sought to retaliate against Irish nationalists and republicans by joining one of the two main loyalist paramilitary organisations, the illegal UVF or the legal Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Many members of loyalist paramilitary groups such as the UVF and UDA managed to join the UDR despite the vetting process. Their purpose in doing so was to obtain weapons, training and intelligence.
Vetting procedures were carried out jointly by the Intelligence Corps and the RUC Special Branch and if no intelligence was found to suggest unsuitability, individuals were passed for recruitment and would remain as soldiers until the commanding officer was provided with intelligence enabling him to remove soldiers with paramilitary links or sympathies.
Operating mainly around the Lurgan and Portadown areas, the Mid-Ulster Brigade had been set up in 1972 in Lurgan by Billy Hanna, who appointed himself commander. His leadership was endorsed by the UVF’s supreme commander Gusty Spence.
Hanna was a decorated war hero, having won the Military Medal for gallantry in the Korean War when he served with the Royal Ulster Rifles. He later joined the UDR, serving as a permanent staff instructor (PSI) and holding the rank of sergeant. According to David McKittrick, he was dismissed from the regiment two years later “for UVF activity”;
The regimental history of the UDR confirms this although journalist/author Martin Dillon states in his book, The Dirty War, that at the time of his death Hanna was still a member of the UDR.
Hanna’s unit formed part of the “Glenanne gang“, a loose alliance of loyalist extremists which allegedly functioned under the direction of the Intelligence Corps and/or RUC Special Branch.
It comprised rogue elements of the RUC and its Special Patrol Group (SPG), the UDR, the UDA, as well as the UVF.
The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), in collaboration with an international panel of inquiry (headed by Professor Douglass Cassel, formerly of Northwestern University School of Law) has implicated this gang in 87 killings which were carried out in the 1970s against Catholics and nationalists.
The name, first used in 2003, is derived from a farm in Glenanne, County Armagh, which the UVF regularly used as an arms dump and bomb-making site. It was owned by James Mitchell, an RUC reservist. According to John Weir, the gang usually did not use the name UVF whenever it claimed its attacks; instead it employed the cover names of “Red Hand Commando“, “Protestant Action Force“, or “Red Hand Brigade”. Weir named Jackson as a key player in the Glenanne gang.
He was first arrested on 8 November 1973 for the killing on 28 October of Patrick Campbell, a Catholic trade unionist from Banbridge who was gunned down on his doorstep. Jackson’s words after he was charged with the killing were:
“Nothing. I just can’t believe it”.
Campbell’s wife, Margaret had opened the door to the gunman and his accomplice when they had come looking for her husband. She had got a good look at the two men, who drove off in a Ford Cortina after the shooting, and although she identified Jackson as the killer at an identity parade, murder charges against him were dropped on 4 January 1974 at BelfastMagistrates’ Court.
The charges were allegedly withdrawn because the RUC thought Mrs. Campbell knew him beforehand. Jackson confirmed this, saying that they had met previously on account that he worked in the same Banbridge shoe factory (Down Shoes Ltd.) as Patrick Campbell.
It was suggested in David McKittrick’s Lost Lives that some time before the shooting there may have been a “minor political disagreement” between Jackson and Campbell while the two men were on a night out.
Raymond Murray, in his book The SAS in Ireland, suggested that his accomplice in the shooting was Wesley Somerville. Irish writer and journalist Hugh Jordan also maintains this allegation.
When the RUC had searched Jackson’s house after his arrest they discovered 49 additional bullets to those allotted a serving member of the UDR. A notebook was also found which contained personal details of over two dozen individuals including their car registration numbers.
Weir stated in an affidavit that Jackson was one of those who had planned and carried out the Dublin car bombings. According to Weir, Jackson, along with the main organiser Billy Hanna and Davy Payne (UDA, Belfast), led one of the two UVF units that bombed Dublin on 17 May 1974 in three separate explosions, resulting in the deaths of 26 people, including two infant girls. Close to 300 others were injured in the blasts; many of them maimed and scarred for life.
Journalist Peter Taylor affirmed that the Dublin car bombings were carried out by two UVF units, one from Mid-Ulster, the other from Belfast.
In 2003, Weir’s information was published in the Barron Report, which was the findings of an official investigation into the bombings by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron.
Justice Barron concluded Weir’s “evidence overall is credible”. An article by Paul Foot in Private Eye also implicated Jackson in the bombings.
The producers of the 1993 Yorkshire Television documentary, The Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre, referred to Jackson indirectly as one of the bombers. However, three of his alleged accomplices, Billy Hanna, Harris Boyle, and Robert McConnell were directly named.
Although the incriminating evidence against Jackson had comprised eight hours of recorded testimony which came from one of his purported chief accomplices in the bombings, the programme did not name him directly during the transmission as the station did not want to risk an accusation of libel.
The programme’s narrator instead referred to him as “the Jackal”. Hanna, Boyle, and McConnell were deceased at the time of the programme’s airing.
According to submissions received by Mr. Justice Barron, on the morning of 17 May 1974, the day of the bombings, Jackson collected the three bombs and placed them onto his poultry lorry at James Mitchell‘s farm in Glenanne, County Armagh, which had been used for the construction and storage of the devices.
He then drove across the border to Dublin, crossing the Boyne River at Oldbridge. The route had been well-rehearsed over the previous months. Billy Hanna, then the Mid-Ulster UVF’s commander and the principal organiser of the attacks, accompanied him.
At the Coachman’s Inn pub carpark on the Swords Road near Dublin Airport, the two men met up with the other members of the UVF bombing team. Jackson and Hanna subsequently transferred the bombs from his lorry into the boots of three allocated cars, which had been hijacked and stolen that morning in Belfast. The Hidden Hand producers named William “Frenchie” Marchant of the UVF’s A Coy, 1st Battalion Belfast Brigade, as having been on a Garda list of suspects as the organiser of the hijackings in Belfast on the morning of the bombings.
The cars, after being obtained by the gang of hijackers, known as “Freddie and the Dreamers”, were driven from Belfast across the border to the carpark, retaining their original registration numbers.
Journalist Joe Tiernan suggested that the bombs were activated by Billy Hanna. Sometime before 4.00 p.m., Jackson and Hanna headed back to Northern Ireland in the poultry lorry after the latter had given the final instructions to the drivers of the car bombs.
Upon their return, Jackson and Hanna went back to the soup kitchen they were running at a Mourneville, Lurgan bingo hall. With the UWC strike in its third day, it was extremely difficult for people throughout Northern Ireland to obtain necessities such as food. Neither man’s absence had been noticed by the other helpers.
Following Hanna’s orders, the three car bombs (two of them escorted by a “scout” [lead] car, to be used for the bombers’ escape back across the Northern Ireland border) were driven into the city centre of Dublin where they detonated in Parnell Street, Talbot Street, and South Leinster Street, almost simultaneously at approximately 5.30 pm.
No warnings were given. From the available forensic evidence derived from material traces at the scene, the bombs are believed to have contained, as their main tertiary explosive a gelignite containing ammonium nitrate, packed into the usual metallic beer barrel container used by loyalists in prior car bombings.
Twenty-three people were killed outright in the blasts, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child; three more people would later die of their injuries. The bodies of the dead were mostly unrecognisable. One girl who had been near the epicentre of the Talbot Street explosion was decapitated; only her platform boots provided a clue as to her sex.
The bombers immediately fled from the destruction they had wrought in central Dublin in the two scout cars and made their way north using the “smuggler’s route” of minor and back roads, crossing the border near Hackballs Cross, County Louth at about 7.30 pm.
Thirty minutes earlier in Monaghan, an additional seven people were killed instantly or fatally injured by a fourth car bomb which had been delivered by a team from the Mid-Ulster UVF’s Portadown unit. According to Joe Tiernan, this attack was carried out to draw the Gardaí away from the border, enabling the Dublin bombers to cross back into Northern Ireland undetected.
Jackson was questioned following the Yorkshire Television programme, and he denied any involvement in the Dublin attacks.[ His name had appeared on a Garda list of suspects for the bombings. Hanna’s name was on both the Garda and the RUC’s list of suspects; however, neither of the two men were ever arrested or interrogated in connection with the bombings. The submissions made to the Barron Inquiry also stated that one week before the Dublin attacks, Jackson and others had been stopped at a Garda checkpoint at Hackballs Cross.
As it turned out, nobody was ever convicted of the car bombings. Years later, British journalist Peter Taylor in an interview with Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) politician and former senior Belfast UVF member David Ervine questioned him about UVF motives for the 1974 Dublin attacks. Ervine replied they [UVF] were:
“returning the serve”.
Ervine, although he had not participated in the bombings, explained that the UVF had wanted the Catholics across the border in the Republic of Ireland to suffer as Protestants in Northern Ireland had suffered on account of the intensive bombing campaign waged by the Provisional IRA.
On 28 May 1974, 11 days after the bombings, the UWC strike ended with the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the power-sharing Executive.
On the evening of 10 January 1975, gunmen kicked down the front door of the “safe” house Green was staying in and, finding him alone in the living room, immediately opened fire, shooting him six times in the head at close range. The bullets all entered from the front, which indicated that Green had been facing his killers.
The UVF claimed responsibility for the killing in the June 1975 edition of its publication, Combat. Green’s killing occurred during an IRA ceasefire, which had been declared the previous month.
Assassination of Billy Hanna and leadership of UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade
Subsequent to his alleged killing of leader Billy Hanna outside his home in Lurgan in the early hours of 27 July 1975, Jackson assumed command of the Mid-Ulster Brigade.
Hanna and his wife Ann had just returned from a function at the local British Legion Club. When he stepped out of the car, Jackson and another man approached him. After asking them “What are you playing at?” Jackson produced a pistol, walked over and shot him twice in the head; once in the temple and afterwards in the back of the head, execution style as he lay on the ground. His wife witnessed the killing.
Joe Tiernan suggested that Jackson killed Hanna on account of the latter’s refusal to participate in the Miami Showband killings. Hanna apparently suffered remorse following the 1974 Dublin bombings, as he is believed by Tiernan to have instructed one of the bombers, David Alexander Mulholland to drive the car which exploded in Parnell Street, where two infant girls were among those killed.
According to Tiernan and the Barron Report, David Alexander Mulholland was identified by three eyewitnesses. Tiernan also suggested that Hanna and Mulholland became informers for the Gardaí regarding the car bombings in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He added that although the British Army was aware of this, Jackson was never told, as it was feared he would decide to become an informer himself
Investigative journalist Paul Larkin, in his book A Very British Jihad: collusion, conspiracy, and cover-up in Northern Ireland maintained that Jackson, accompanied by Harris Boyle, had shot Hanna after learning that he had passed on information regarding the Dublin bombings.
Martin Dillon also claims this in The Trigger Men. Dillon also stated in The Dirty War that because a number of UDR/UVF men were to be used for the planned Miami Showband attack, the UVF considered Hanna to have been a “security risk”, and therefore it had been necessary to kill him.
David McKittrick in Lost Lives, however, suggested that Jackson had actually killed Hanna in order to obtain a cache of weapons the latter held.
The UVF drew its greatest strength as well as the organisation’s most ruthless members from its Mid-Ulster Brigade according to Irish journalist Brendan O’Brien.
It was stated by The Hidden Hand programme that Jackson had links to British Military Intelligence and Liaison officer Captain Robert Nairac.
The Hidden Hand alleged that Jackson and his UVF comrades were controlled by Nairac who was attached to 14th Intelligence Company (The Det). Former MI6 operative, Captain Fred Holroyd claimed that Nairac admitted to having been involved in John Francis Green’s death and had shown Holroyd a colour polaroid photograph of Green’s corpse to back up his claim. Holroyd believed that for some months leading up to his shooting, Green had been kept under surveillance by 4 Field Survey Troop, Royal Engineers, one of the three sub-units of 14th Intelligence.
This unit was based in Castledillon, County Armagh, and according to Holroyd, was the cover name of an SAS troop commanded by Nairac and Captain Julian Antony “Tony” Ball. Nairac was himself abducted and killed by the IRA in 1977, and Ball was killed in an accident in Oman in 1981.
Justice Barron himself questioned Holroyd’s evidence as a result of two later Garda investigations, where Detective Inspector Culhane discounted Holroyd’s allegations regarding Nairac and the polaroid photograph. Culhane concluded that the latter had been one of a series of official photographs taken of Green’s body the morning following his killing by Detective Sergeant William Stratford, who worked in the Garda Technical Bureau‘s Photography Section.
Weir made the following statements in relation to Jackson and Nairac’s alleged mutual involvement in the Green assassination:
The men who did that shooting were Robert McConnell, Robin Jackson, and I would be almost certain, Harris Boyle who was killed in the Miami attack. What I am absolutely certain of is that Robert McConnell, Robert McConnell knew that area really, really well. Robin Jackson was with him. I was later told that Nairac was with them. I was told by … a UVF man, he was very close to Jackson and operated with him. Jackson told [him] that Nairac was with them.
In his 1989 book War Without Honour, Holyroyd claimed that Nairac had organised the Miami Showband ambush in collaboration with Jackson, and had also been present at Buskhill when the attack was carried out.
Bassist Stephen Travers and saxophonist Des McAlea, the two bandmembers who survived the shootings, both testified in court that a British Army officer “with a crisp, clipped English accent” had overseen the operation. However, when shown a photograph of Nairac, Travers could not positively identify him as the soldier who had been at the scene.
Martin Dillon in The Dirty War adamantly stated that Nairac had not been involved in the Green killing nor in the Miami Showband massacre.
The Barron Report noted that although Weir maintained that Jackson and Billy Hanna had links to Nairac and British Military Intelligence, his claim did not imply that the British Army or Military Intelligence had aided the two men in the planning and perpetration of the 1974 Dublin bombings. While in prison, Weir wrote a letter to a friend claiming that Nairac had ties to both Jackson and James Mitchell, owner of the Glenanne farm.
The 2006 Interim Report of Mr. Justice Barron’s inquiry into the Dundalk bombing of 1975 (see below) concluded that Jackson was one of the suspected bombers:
“reliably said to have had relationships with British Intelligence and or RUC Special Branch officers”.
In 2015, a biography of Nairac entitled “Betrayal: the Murder of Robert Nairac” was published. Written by former diplomat Alistair Kerr, the book provides documentary evidence that shows Nairac as having been elsewhere at the time the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, John Francis Green killing and Miami Showband ambush took place.
On 17 May 1974 he was on a months-long training course in England; 10 January 1975 there were three witnesses who placed him on temporary duty in Derry for a secret mission; and on 31 July 1975 at 4am he had started on a road journey from London to Scotland for a fishing holiday.
The 2006 Interim Report named Jackson as having possibly been one of the two gunmen in the shooting death of the McKearney couple on 23 October 1975. Peter McKearney was shot between 14 and 18 times, and his wife, Jenny 11 times. The shooting took place at their home in Moy, County Tyrone; Jackson was linked to the 9mm Sterling submachine gun used in the killings. “Glenanne gang” member Garnet Busby pleaded guilty to the killings and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
John Weir claimed that Jackson led the group who bombed Kay’s Tavern pub in Dundalk on 19 December 1975, which killed two men. Barron implicated the “Glenanne gang” in the bombing, however, Jackson was not identified by any eyewitnesses at or in the vicinity of Kay’s Tavern.[
Gardaí received information from a reliable source that Jackson and his car – a Vauxhall Viva with the registration number CIA 2771 – were involved in the bombing; yet there were no witnesses who reported having seen the car. The RUC stated that Jackson had been observed celebrating at a Banbridge bar at 9.00 pm on the evening of the attack in the company of other loyalist extremists. The implication was that they were celebrating the Kay’s Tavern bombing.
The following month, on 4 January 1976, Jackson supposedly organised the “Glenanne gang”‘s two co-ordinated sectarian attacks against the O’Dowd and Reavey families in County Armagh, leaving a total of five men dead and one injured.
Weir maintained that it was Jackson who shot 61-year-old Joseph O’Dowd and his two nephews, Barry and Declan, to death at a family celebration in Ballydougan, near Gilford; although Jackson had not been at the scene where the Reavey brothers had been killed twenty minutes earlier.
The day after the double killing, ten Protestant workmen were gunned down by the South Armagh Republican Action Force, who ambushed their minibus near the village of Kingsmill. The shootings were in retaliation for the O’Dowd and Reavey killings. The Glenanne gang made plans to avenge the Kingsmill victims with an attack on St Lawrence O’Toole Primary School, Belleeks. This plan, which involved the killing of at least 30 schoolchildren and their teacher, was called off at the last minute by the UVF’s Brigade Staff (Belfast leadership), who considered it “morally unacceptable” and feared it would have led to a civil war.
Based on the description given by Barney O’Dowd, a survivor of the shooting attack at Ballydougan, one of the weapons used in the O’Dowd killings was a Luger with an attached silencer. The findings noted in the HET Report on the Miami Showband killings revealed that on 19 May 1976, two fingerprints belonging to Jackson were discovered on the metal barrel of a home-made silencer constructed for a Luger pistol.
Both the silencer and Luger, as well as more firearms, ammunition, a magazine, explosives, and bomb-making material, were found by the security forces at the farm of a man by the name of Edward Sinclair, a former member of the “B Specials“. The exhibit, however, was mistakenly labelled indicating that his prints had been found on the black insulating tape wrapped around the silencer rather than the silencer itself.
After several unsuccessful attempts to apprehend Jackson between 20 and 30 May, Jackson was arrested at his home on 31 May under Section 10 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973; he was taken to Armagh Police Station. This was when the amended information regarding his fingerprints was delivered to Detective Superintendent Ernest Drew at Armagh. Drew and Detective Constable William Elder both questioned him; Jackson denied ever having been at Sinclair’s farm whilst admitting knowing him through the Portadown Loyalist Club which they both frequented.
When shown the Luger, silencer and magazine (but not the insulating tape), Jackson denied having handled them. When asked by Detective Superintendent Drew to provide an explanation should his fingerprints be discovered on either pistol or silencer, Jackson told him that one night at the Portadown Loyalist Club, Sinclair had asked him for some adhesive tape and Jackson claimed
“I gave him part of the roll I was using in the bar”.
Jackson had allegedly been using the tape whilst lapping hoses for beer kegs at the bar. In his statement to Detective Superintendent Drew, Jackson claimed that one week prior to his arrest, two high-ranking RUC officers had tipped him off about his fingerprints having been found on the insulating tape wrapped around the silencer used with the Luger. Jackson went on to say that he was forewarned, using the words:
“I should clear as there was a wee job up the country that I would be done for and there was no way out of it for me”.
On 2 June, Jackson was charged with possession of a firearm, a magazine, four rounds of ammunition and a silencer with intent to endanger life. He was detained in custody and went to trial on 11 November 1976 at a Diplock Court held at Belfast City Commission, charged only with possession of the silencer. Although the judge initially rejected his defence that his fingerprints were on the insulating tape and had “been innocently transferred to the silencer”, he managed to avoid conviction when he was acquitted of the charge.
The trial judge, Mr Justice Murray, had said: “At the end of the day I find that the accused somehow touched the silencer, but the Crown evidence has left me completely in the dark as to whether he did that wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly”.
As a result of the judicious examination of forensic ballistics procured from original RUC reports and presented to Justice Barron, the 9 mm Luger pistol, serial no. U 4 for which the silencer was specifically made, was established as having been the same one used in the Miami Showband and John Francis Green killings.
According to journalist Tom McGurk, Miami Showband trumpeter Brian McCoy was shot nine times in the back with a Luger pistol. The Miami inquiry team was never informed of these developments and Jackson was never questioned about the Miami Showband killings following the discovery of his fingerprints on the silencer. The Luger pistol serial no.U 4 was later destroyed by the RUC on 28 August 1978.
Barney O’Dowd claimed RUC detectives in the 1980s admitted to him that Jackson had been the man who shot the three O’Dowd men, but the evidence had not been sufficient to charge him with the killings.
In 2006, Barney O’Dowd spoke at the public hearings of the Houses of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on the Barron Report Debate. He maintained that in June 1976 an RUC detective came to see him at his home and told him the gunman could not be charged with the killings as he was the “head of the UVF” and a “hard man” who could not be broken during police interrogation. Additionally the UVF had threatened to start shooting policeman like the IRA were doing if the gunman was ever charged with murder.
Weir stated in his affidavit that on one occasion some months after he was transferred to Newry RUC station in October 1976, Jackson himself, and another RUC officer and “Glenanne gang” member, Gary Armstrong, went on a reconnaissance in south Armagh seeking out the homes of known IRA members, with the aim of assassinating them. Jackson, according to Weir, carried a knife and hammer, and boasted to Weir that if they happened to:
“find a suitable person to kill”, he [Jackson] “knew how to do it with those weapons”.
They approached the houses of two IRA men; however, the plan to attack them was aborted and they drove back to Lurgan. They were stopped at an RUC roadblock near the Republic of Ireland border, but the three men were waved through, after an exchange of courtesies, despite the presence of Jackson in the car with two RUC officers.
He was implicated by Weir in the killing of Catholic chemist, William Strathearn, who was shot at his home in Ahoghill, County Antrim after two men knocked on his door at 2.00 am on 19 April 1977 claiming to need medicine for a sick child.
Strathearn lived above his chemist’s shop. Weir was one of the RUC men later convicted of the killing, along with his SPG colleague, Billy McCaughey, and he named Jackson as having been the gunman, alleging that Jackson had told him after the shooting that he had shot Strathearn twice when the latter opened the door.
Weir and McCaughey had waited in Weir’s car while the shooting was carried out. The gun that Jackson used had been given to him by McCaughey, with the instructions that he was only to fire through an upstairs window to frighten the occupants and make sure they “got the message”, and not to kill anyone. As in the Dublin bombings, Jackson’s poultry lorry was also employed on this occasion, specifically to transport himself and Robert John “R.J.” Kerr, another alleged accomplice, to and from the scene of the crime. After the killing, Jackson and Kerr went on to deliver a load of chickens. Kerr was allegedly Jackson’s lorry helper, assisting in loading and unloading chickens which Jackson sold for a living.
Jackson was never questioned about the killing. According to an RUC detective, he was not interrogated for “reasons of operational strategy”. Weir suggested that “Jackson was untouchable because he was an RUC Special Branch agent.”
The Barron Report stated that Weir had made an offer to testify against Jackson and Robert John “R.J”. Kerr, but only on the condition that the murder charge against him was withdrawn. This offer was refused by the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions who said
Kerr and Jackson have not been interviewed by the police because the police state they are virtually immune to interrogation and the common police consensus is that to arrest and interview either man is a waste of time. Both men are known to police to be very active and notorious UVF murderers. Nevertheless the police do not recommend consideration of withdrawal of charges against Weir. I agree with this view. Weir and McCaughey must be proceeded against. When proceedings against them are terminated the position may be reviewed in respect of Jackson and Kerr.
It is noted in the Barron Report that Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief JusticeRobert Lowry was aware of Jackson and Kerr’s involvement in the Strathearn killing, and that they were not prosecuted for “operational reasons”. Mr. Justice Barron was highly critical of the RUC’s failure to properly investigate Jackson.
“I think it is important to make it clear that this collusion between loyalist paramilitaries such as Robin Jackson and my RUC colleagues and me was taking place with the full knowledge of my superiors”.
The interior of Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast. Following his arrest in 1979 for possession of guns, ammunition, and hoods, Jackson was remanded in custody to the prison to await trial
Journalist Liam Clarke alleged that in early 1978, Weir and Jackson traveled to Castleblaney with the intention of kidnapping an IRA volunteer named Dessie O’Hare from a pub called The Spinning Wheel. However, when Jackson and Weir arrived, they discovered the publican had been warned of the kidnap plot and they were ordered to leave the premises.
Jackson’s sole conviction came after he was arrested on 16 October 1979 when a .22 pistol, a .38 revolver, a magazine, 13 rounds of ammunition, and hoods were found in his possession.He was remanded in custody to Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast to await trial. On 20 January 1981, Jackson was brought before the Belfast Crown Court on charges of possession of guns and ammunition, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
He was released on 12 May 1983.
A man whose description matched Jackson’s was seen behaving suspiciously in the vicinity of Lurgan RUC barracks close to where three prominent republicans were later ambushed and shot by masked UVF gunmen after they left the police station on 7 March 1990. The republicans had been signing in at the station as part of their bail conditions for charges of possession of ammunition. Sam Marshall was killed in the attack; Colin Duffy and Tony McCaughey were both wounded. Although the shooting was claimed by the UVF, the gunmen were never caught. Two UVF members were later convicted of having supplied the car used in the ambush.
Weir’s affidavit contradicted this as it pointed out that although Jackson was aware that the killings were to take place, he had not been at the scene of the crime; a solicitor informed Weir he had been with Jackson at his home at the time the shootings occurred to provide him with an alibi. Investigative journalist Paul Larkin suggested that the shooting attack against the shop was organised by Jackson upon receiving complaints from UDR soldiers after they had been refused service and insulted by the mobile shop employees.
Larkin identified one of the hitmen as Mark “Swinger” Fulton. Although the RUC initially arrested UVF members associated with Jackson, they then focused their attention on the men belonging to the Mid-Ulster Brigade’s Portadown unit led by Billy Wright. Fulton was a prominent member of this unit and served as Wright’s right-hand man.
Reputation and further allegations
Designated by Weir the “most notorious paramilitary in Northern Ireland”, at least 50 killings were directly attributed to Jackson, according to journalists Stephen Howe in the New Statesman, and David McKittrick in his book Lost Lives.
Kevin Dowling in the Irish Independent, dubbed Jackson the “Lord High Executioner of the North’s notorious murder triangle”, adding that he was infamous from Belfast to the Irish border for “the intensity and fury of his instinct to kill”.
A former UDR soldier who had served with Jackson described him as a sectarian killer who had a visceral hatred of Catholics but that :
“you were always glad to have him with you when you were out on patrol”.
Unnamed Intelligence officers personally acquainted with Jackson stated that he was a psychopath who would often dress up and attend the funerals of his victims because he felt a need “to make sure they were dead.”
Described as a sardonic man who was extremely dedicated; physically he was dark-haired, blue-eyed, “small, but firmly-built”. Suspicious by nature, he repeatedly advised his associates that they should never reveal secret information to anyone. His paranoia and fear of recognition by his potential victims was such that he attempted to destroy all photographs of himself including school and family pictures.
Psychological warfare operative Major Colin Wallace corroborated the allegations, stating that
[E]verything people had whispered about Robin Jackson for years was perfectly true. He was a hired gun. A professional assassin. He was responsible for more deaths in the North [Northern Ireland] than any other person I knew. The Jackal killed people for a living. The State not only knew that he was doing it. Its servants encouraged him to kill its political opponents and protected him.
Wallace also named Jackson as having been “centrally-involved” in the Dublin bombings, but like Weir, suggested that the principal organiser had been Billy Hanna. Wallace’s psychological operations unit typically targeted loyalist extremists; however, during the period of 1973 and 1974 he was refused clearance to target principal members of the Mid-Ulster UVF despite an increase in paramilitary activity from the organisation.
In June 1974, a month after the bombings, Wallace was denied permission to target key loyalists including Jackson and Hanna, as their names were on a list which excluded them from being targeted for psychological operations. This appeared to indicate that in practice, those members of paramilitaries whose names were listed were also excluded from being targeted for prosecution.
Liam Clarke of the Sunday Times made the following statements regarding Jackson and his reported special relationship with the security forces and military intelligence:
Jackson had many allies still serving in the UDR and close links to special forces soldiers. These included Bunny Dearsley of military intelligence and Robert Nairac, Tony Ball and other soldiers attached to the undercover 14th Intelligence Unit. These officers met him at a bar in Moira and many suspect that he was involved in murders set up by military contacts at that time. In the late 1970s, he [Jackson] was a binge drinker and sometimes boasted to UVF associates of “someone looking after me”. Some took this as a reference to God, or even the Devil, but the most likely explanation is that it referred to members of the Army’s intelligence corps.
Originally nicknamed “Jacko”, Jackson was given the more sinister sobriquet, “the Jackal” by Sunday World newspaper’s Northern Ireland editor Jim Campbell when he investigated and exposed Jackson’s alleged paramilitary activities – including his involvement in the Miami Showband killings – and links to British Military Intelligence.
In retaliation, Jackson reportedly approached members of the violent loyalist Shankill Butchers gang in Belfast, who (at Jackson’s request) shot and seriously wounded Campbell on 18 May 1984. According to journalist Joe Gorrod of The Mirror, it was reported in the Irish Times that the SAS took Jackson abroad where he received specialist training. In the late 1980s, he was also sent by MI5 to South Africa and Australia to buy weapons that were shipped back to loyalist paramilitaries and Ulster Resistance in Northern Ireland.Gorrod wrote that Jackson kept hidden files that incriminated the politicians and businessmen who were involved with Jackson in the loyalist arms shipments.
In his book Loyalists, British journalist Peter Taylor devotes pages 187–195 to the loyalists’ South African arms deals which had taken place in the late 1980s. Jackson’s name does not appear in the account nor is Australia referred to. Joe Gorrod is the only journalist to make these allegations although Henry McDonald (of The Guardian) affirmed that Jackson lived for a period of time in South Africa during the 1980s.
The purported files, which were kept with a friend, would have ensured Jackson that he would never be sentenced to a lengthy imprisonment.
In the early 1990s, he handed over command of the Mid-Ulster UVF to Portadown unit leader Billy Wright, also known as “King Rat”. Wright formed the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in 1996. This was after he and his Portadown unit had been stood down by the UVF’s Brigade Staff in Belfast on 2 August 1996, following the unauthorised killing of a Catholic taxi driver by members of Wright’s group outside Lurgan during the Drumcree disturbances when the UVF were on ceasefire.
Although Wright took the officially-disbanded Portadown unit with him to form the LVF, Jackson, despite being on friendly terms with Wright, remained loyal to the UVF leadership as did most of the other Mid-Ulster Brigade units. Wright was shot dead inside the Maze Prison on 27 December 1997 by Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) inmates while waiting in a prison van which was transporting him to a visit with his girlfriend. Wright had been sentenced to eight years imprisonment for having threatened a woman’s life.
Jackson was confronted in 1998 by the son of RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell, a Catholic constable gunned down outside the Cushendall, County Antrim RUC station in February 1977, as he was locking up. It was rumoured that Jackson had been the hitman sent to shoot Campbell on behalf of an RUC Special Branch officer.
Weir, in his affidavit, claimed Jackson, prior to Campbell’s shooting, had informed him of the RUC officer’s request. Jackson, by then dying of cancer, told Campbell’s son that he had not been involved in the killing. The UVF, at a secret meeting with journalists, declared that Jackson had no part in Campbell’s killing. The case was later placed under investigation by the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
Jackson died of lung cancer at his Donaghcloney home on Saturday, 30 May 1998 and was buried the following Monday, 1 June in a private ceremony in the St. Bartholomew Church of Ireland churchyard in his native Donaghmore, County Down. His grave, close to that of his parents, is unmarked apart from a steel poppy cross.
He was 49 years old.His father had died in 1985 and his mother outlived him for five years.
After his death, a friend of Jackson told Gorrod that Jackson had no regrets about his UVF activities; however, due to his religious upbringing he was tormented by feelings of remorse on his deathbed believing that he had been “drawn into a world of evil that wasn’t of his making”. One of his last wishes was that the secret documents incriminating the politicians and businessmen with whom he associated be released to the public. Liam Clarke suggested the killing of Billy Hanna was the only killing Jackson ever regretted, admitting it had been “unfair” to kill him.
Journalist Martin O’Hagan had been in the process of writing a book about Jackson but his assassination by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in 2001 prevented its completion. Along with Billy Hanna and other senior loyalists, Jackson was commemorated in the UVF song Battalion of the Dead. In May 2010, angry relatives of UVF victims unsuccessfully sought the removal of the song from YouTube.
The Balmoral Furniture Company bombing was a paramilitary attack that took place on 11 December 1971 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A bomb exploded without warning outside a furniture showroom on the Shankill Road in a predominantly unionist area, killing four civilians, two of them babies.
retaliation for the bombing of McGurk’s
The bombing is one of the catalysts that spark a series of tit-for-tat bombings and shootings by loyalists and republicans that made the 1970s the bloodiest decade in the 30-year history of The Troubles .
It is widely believed that the bombing was carried out by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in retaliation for the bombing of McGurk’s pub a week earlier, which killed 15 Catholic civilians. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) had carried out that bombing.
The bombing happened on a Saturday when the Shankill was crowded with shoppers, creating bedlam in the area. Hundreds of people rushed to help British Army troops and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) rescue survivors trapped under the rubble of the devastated building.
According to journalist Peter Taylor, the bomb site was
“reminiscent of the London Blitz”
during World War II. The attack provoked much anger in the tight-knit Ulster Protestant community and many men later cited the bombing as their reason for joining one of the two main Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisations: the illegal UVF or the then-legal Ulster Defence Association(UDA).
Four such men were Tommy Lyttle, Michael Stone, Sammy Duddy, and Billy McQuiston.
The bombing was one of the catalysts that sparked the series of tit-for-tat bombings and shootings by loyalists, republicans and the security forces that made the 1970s the bloodiest decade in the 30-year history of the Troubles.
– Disclaimer –
The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.
The bombing took place in the heart of the loyalist Shankill Road
At 12.25 pm on 11 December 1971, when the Shankill Road was packed with Saturday shoppers, a green car pulled up outside the Balmoral Furniture Company at the corner of Carlow Street and Shankill Road.
The shop was locally known as “Moffat’s” although Balmoral Furniture Company was its official name. One of the occupants got out, leaving a box containing a bomb on the step outside the front door. The person got back into the car and it sped away. The bomb exploded moments later, bringing down most of the building on top of those inside the shop and on passersby outside.
Four people were killed as a result of the massive blast, including two babies—Tracey Munn (2) and Colin Nichol (17 months) who both died instantly when part of the wall crashed down upon the pram they were sharing.
Two employees working inside the shop were also killed: Hugh Bruce (70) and Harold King (29). Unlike the other three victims, who were Protestant, King was a Catholic. Bruce, a former soldier and a Corps of Commissionaires member, was the shop’s doorman and was nearest to the bomb when it exploded.
Nineteen people were injured in the bombing, including Tracey’s mother. The building, which was built in Victorian times, had load-bearing walls supporting upper floors on joists. It was thus unable to withstand the blast and so collapsed, adding to the devastation and injury count.
The bombing caused bedlam in the crowded street. Hundreds of people rushed to the scene where they formed human chains to help the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) free those trapped beneath the rubble by digging with their bare hands. Peter Taylor described the scene as “reminiscent of the London Blitz” in World War II.
One witness was Billy McQuiston, who had been walking down the Shankill with a friend when they heard the blast. Rushing to the scene, McQuiston later recounted what he saw and felt upon reaching the wrecked building:
Women were crying. Men were trying to dig out the rubble. Other men were hitting the walls. One person was crying beside you and the next person was shouting ‘Bastards’ and things like that. I didn’t actually see the babies’ bodies as they had them wrapped in sheets, but the blood was just coming right through them. They were just like lumps of meat, you know, small lumps of meat.
All these emotions were going through you and you wanted to help. There were people shouting at the back, “Let’s get something done about this”. To be perfectly honest with you, I just stood there and cried, just totally and utterly numb. It wasn’t until I got back home that I realised, this isn’t a game. There’s a war going on here. These people are trying to do us all in. They’re trying to kill us all and they don’t care who we are or what age we are. Because we’re Protestants, they are going to kill us so we’re going to have to do something here.
The angry crowd at the scene shared McQuiston’s dismay and anger against the Provisional IRA, whom they automatically held responsible for the bombing. They also sought to retaliate against any Catholic they happened upon. A Protestant man nearby made a remark about the bombing, and someone who overheard it mistook the speaker for a Catholic and shouted out:
A mob of about one hundred men and women ran towards him and began kicking and punching him until he was left unconscious. It took the RUC and British troops half an hour to rescue him from his attackers.
A mural showing the Balmoral bombing and other IRA attacks carried out on the Shankill Road
Although nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, the Provisional IRA was immediately and widely blamed.
In his book Loyalists, Peter Taylor explained that the Provisional IRA bombed Balmoral in retaliation for the McGurk’s Bar bombing one week earlier, which had killed 15 Catholic civilians.
This theory is supported by Susan McKay. Billy McQuiston, along with many other Protestant men who had been on the Shankill at the time of the explosion, immediately joined the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Others included Sammy Duddy, Michael Stone, and Tommy Lyttle. Lyttle, who became brigadier of the UDA West Belfast Brigade, was not there but his wife and two daughters were near the bomb when it went off. They received no injuries, but his daughter Linda said that Lyttle:
“took it personally”.
Jackie McDonald, the incumbent South Belfast UDA brigadier, worked as dispatches manager for the Balmoral Furniture Company. The leader of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF, the name the UDA used to claim attacks), John White, who was convicted of the double murder of Senator Paddy Wilson and Irene Andrews in 1973, used the Balmoral bombing as justification for these killings and others.
Within a month of the bombing, the UDA had restructured, adopting a more military structure and establishing a thirteen-member Security Council under Charles Harding Smith to co-ordinate activity.
Michael Stone would go on to perpetrate the Milltown Cemetery attack in 1988, which was caught on camera. Another Protestant man, Eddie Kinner, had been at the scene following the explosion. He lived around the corner from Balmoral. He sought revenge against the IRA and later joined the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
He later spoke about his reactions to the Balmoral bombing in an interview with Peter Taylor:
“On that occasion, if somebody had handed me a bomb to plant it anywhere you want in the Falls, I would have done it”,
adding that he had no qualms about taking somebody else’s life.
Within a week of the attack, the UVF retaliated by planting a bomb at Murtagh’s Bar on the Irish nationalist Springfield Road in west Belfast. A 16-year-old Catholic barman, James McCallum, was killed.
The building which housed Balmoral’s Furniture Company was formerly “Wee Joe’s Picture House”, dating from the 1930s. Taking its name from “Wee” Joe McKibben, one of three owners of the cinema (which was nicknamed the “Wee Shank”), it was said locally that it cost a jam jar to get in on account of the fact that patrons could go to McKibben’s other place of business, a grocery shop, and swap an empty jam jar for a ticket to the cinema.
The edifice was demolished after the bombing.
Although a youth on the Shankill had seen the green car and person who planted the device, the bombers were never apprehended nor was anyone ever charged in connection with the attack.
The McGurk’s Bar bombing was the catalyst that sparked a series of tit-for-tat bombings and shootings by loyalist and republican paramilitaries that would help make the 1970s the bloodiest decade in the 30-year history of the Troubles.
The Balmoral bombing was not the first paramilitary attack in the Shankill Road area. On 29 September 1971, the Four Steps Inn pub had been bombed by the Provisional IRA, resulting in the deaths of two men.
It would not be the last either. In August 1975, the Provisional IRA carried out a shooting and bombing attack against the Bayardo Bar on Aberdeen Street, which killed three men and two women – one aged
A deadlier attack took place on 23 October 1993 when a two-man IRA unit from Ardoyne carried a bomb into Frizzell’s Fish Shop on the Shankill. The device detonated prematurely, killing one of the bombers and ten of the customers.
Balmoral as a company was also established as a target by this attack and in October 1976 its premises in Dunmurry were blown up in another bomb attack. Three IRA volunteers were arrested not far from the scene of this attack with one, Bobby Sands, imprisoned for possessing a gun as a result.
Sands’ fellow hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, was also arrested following this incident. Sands and McDonnell had jointly planned the bomb attack.
The IRA began a bombing campaign on Britain on 8 March 1973 when they exploded a car bomb outside the Old Bailey which injured 180 people and one man died from a heart attack. The IRA unit responsible for the Old Bailey bombing were arrested trying to leave the country.
Thereafter to try to help avoid their active service units (ASUs) from being captured and to have a better chance of carrying out a sustained bombing assault , the IRA decided to send to England sleeper cells who would arrive within weeks before actually carrying out any military activity and blend in with the public as not to draw attention to themselves. According to the leader of the Balcombe Street unit, the first bombing they carried out was the Guildford pub bombings on 5 October 1974, which killed five people and injured over 60 for which four innocent people known as the Guildford Four were arrested and received large jail sentences.
Their last attack was an assassination attempt on former Prime MinisterEdward Heath but he was not home when the attackers threw a bomb into his bedroom window on 22 December 1974.
The Provisional IRA bomb Waltons London restaurant – 18 November 1975
After the 1975 PIRA–British Army truce began to break, the IRA’s Balcombe Street ASU stepped up its bombing and shooting campaign on mainland Britain. On the night of 18 November 1975 the unit picked Walton’s Restaurant to bomb. Two civilians, Audrey Edgson (aged 45) and Theodore Williams (aged 49), were killed when a bomb was thrown by one of the IRA Volunteers through the window of Walton’s Restaurant in Walton Street, Chelsea.
The device injured 23 other people, the oldest of them 71 years of age. In the bomb the IRA used miniature ball bearings to maximise injuries. Two persons, a man and woman, died at St. Stephen’s Hospital shortly after being taken there. According to Dr. Laurence Martin the consultant in charge of the casualty department in St. Stephen’s Hospital said that four of those injured required emergency operations.
“We have been involved with nine bomb incidents in the past two years but this is the worst,”
Dr. Martin said.
Senior Scotland Yard official, James Nevin, deputy head of the bomb squad, said that the bomb used in the attack had been a “shrapnel‐like device.” containing three pounds of explosives.
“This was obviously designed to kill and injure people rather than damage property,”
This was a calculated bombing campaign aimed at destroying businesses and scaring customers in London’s West End.
Other previous attacks by the unit in 1975 included Scott’s Oyster Bar bombing on 12 November, the London Hilton bombing on 5 September and the Caterham Arms Pub Bombingon 27 August. In total the unit carried out around 40 bomb and gun attacks on mainland Britain between October 1974 – December 1975.
This was the Balcombe Street gang’s last major attack during their fourteen-month bombing campaign of the British mainland. The IRA units bombing campaign would come to an end in December 1975 when they were caught at the Balcombe Street Siege which is where the unit got its name from.
The unit would eventually end up exploding close to 50 bombs in England and carried out several shootings which cost millions of pounds in damages, claimed the lives of 18 people, which included 10 civilians, 7 British soldiers and one London police officer, and injured almost 400 people, but they were only sentenced for the deaths of seven people.
The IRA would continue to attack targets in England during the rest of the 1970s and throughout the 1980s but would not launch such a sustained campaign on the British mainland again until the early 1990s.
In custody the ASU also admitted to carrying out the Guildford pub bombings and the Kings Arms, Woolwich bombing for which the Guildford Four had been arrested, and received lengthy jail terms
The Rise & Fall of UDA Brigadier of Bling James Gray
AKA ” Doris Day”
James Gray (1958 – 4 October 2005), known as Jim Gray, was a Northern Irish loyalist and the East Belfast brigadier of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the largest Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation in Northern Ireland.
He was often nicknamed “Doris Day” for his flamboyant clothing, jewellery, and dyed blond hair. Another media nickname for Gray was the “Brigadier of Bling”. He was the owner of several bars in East Belfast.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
4 October 2005 (aged 46–47)
East Belfast, Northern Ireland
The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.
Gray, the son of James and Elizabeth Gray, was born in 1958 and raised a Protestant in East Belfast. He had one sister, Elizabeth. He left school at age 15 and had ambitions of becoming a professional golfer, playing off a handicap of three.
He briefly worked at the Short Brothers‘ factory but did not hold the job long as he was heavily involved in petty crime with the Tartan gangs prevalent in loyalist areas at the time.
Ulster Defence Association
According to an interview in the Sunday World with his ex-wife Anne Tedford, to whom a youthful Gray was married for four years (a marriage that produced one son, Jonathan), Gray joined the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association (UDA) when she was in maternity hospital. She claimed that Gray was offered a lift home by a near-neighbour, Gary Matthews, who was already a UDA member, and that Matthews had Gray sworn in as a member soon afterwards.
He eventually rose to become brigadier of the East Belfast Brigade, taking over after Ned McCreery was killed by the UDA in 1992.
Who killed UDA Boss?
Nicknamed “Doris Day” and the “Brigadier of Bling”, Gray, who was 6’3″ in height, became known as the most flamboyant leader in the UDA with his dyed blond bouffant hair, permanent suntan, gold earring, ostentatious jewellery, and expensive pastel clothing.
In their book UDA – Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror, journalists Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack described him as “looking more like an ageing New Romantic” than the leader of a paramilitary organisation.
A heavy cocaine user, Gray made large amounts of money from selling drugs, protection racketeering, and extortion.
Gray’s criminal empire was reported to have made him one of the richest brigadiers in UDA history. He also acquired several bars in his native east Belfast. One of these, the “Avenue One” in Templemore Avenue, he used as the headquarters for his substantial criminal empire. He lived in an expensive luxury flat in an exclusive private residence and was protected by a devoted gang dubbed “the Spice Boys”.
Rangers 3 Celtic 2…Amazing Penny Arcade & Blue Sea Of Ibrox
A supporter of Rangers, Gray was reported as knowing a number of players personally and meeting them during his regular visits to Ibrox Park
Renowned for his violent temper, he once allegedly brutally beat then stomped on a man’s head during an outdoor Rod Stewart concert at Stormont in full view of the audience. On another occasion, he violently attacked a man with a golf club after the latter had beaten him in a game of golf. For that assault, Gray was barred from the Ormeau Golf Club.
He had allegedly ordered the killing of his predecessor McCreery, whom he accused of being a police informer. Gray then took over his brigade and one of his pubs. In January 2001, the gunman, Geordie Legge met a grisly end, allegedly at the hands of Gray and his henchmen. Legge had reportedly denounced Gray’s organised criminal racket and tried to interfere with Gray’s lucrative drug-dealing, and he was repeatedly tortured and stabbed to death inside “The Bunch of Grapes”, another of Gray’s east Belfast pubs.
After the killing, Legge’s body was placed in a carpet and dumped outside Belfast. Legge’s knife wounds were so severe that his head was almost severed from the body. The pub was set on fire to eliminate the signs of the torture that had been carried out inside. Gray was one of the mourners who attended Legge’s funeral.
Gray and his right-hand man Gary Matthews, who co-owned the Bunch of Grapes, sought to claim on their insurance for the pub fire and sued AXA when they refused to pay out. Gray and Matthews were eventually forced to drop the case as the judge did not accept their version of events surrounding the fire and AXA successfully argued that they had not disclosed their UDA membership when they took out the policy.
The following year on 13 September 2002, Gray was shot in the face by UDA rivals; the plastic surgery to repair the considerable facial injuries cost £11,000. The shooting, which was blamed on West Belfast Brigadier Johnny Adair, had been described by the police as “loosely related” to the death of Stephen Warnock, a Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader, in one of the loyalist feuds.
Adair had previously started a whispering campaign against both Gray and John Gregg of the UDA South East Antrim Brigade, claiming both men were to be stood down as part of his attempts to take full control of the UDA.
As part of this Adair, who was close to the LVF, had visited the Warnock family and suggested that Gray had been involved in their relative’s death (which had actually been carried out by a hired Red Hand Commando gunman after Warnock refused to pay a drug debt to a North Down businessman).
As a result, Gray was shot by a lone gunman after he left the Warnock home, where he had been paying his respects to the deceased. On 25 September, Gray discharged himself from the Ulster Hospital to attend a meeting of all the brigadiers bar Adair at which he, John Gregg, Jackie McDonald, Billy McFarland and Andre Shoukri found Adair guilty of treason for his role in Gray’s shooting and released a press statement to the effect that Adair was expelled from the UDA.
Two weeks after the attack, Gray flew to Tenerife for a holiday. He allegedly owned property in Spain.
Gray was expelled by the UDA leadership in March 2005, for “treason” and “building a criminal empire outside the UDA”, according to the South Belfast brigadier, Jackie McDonald. It was suggested that Gray was a Special Branch informer who passed on information to the police about his friends and associates.
In April that year, he was arrested whilst driving; several thousand pounds were found in the car, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) believed he was intending to travel to the Republic of Ireland with what they suspected to be the proceeds of drug dealing and extortion. Gray was charged with money laundering, and held in custody until September when he was released on bail.
During this time, police raids on a number of locations brought in thousands of documents related to this investigation. At the same time the prominent Belfast estate agent Philip Johnston was also arrested under suspicion of money laundering.
Gray was replaced as head of the UDA East Belfast Brigade by Jimmy Birch.
Gray was shot five times in the back and killed outside his father’s house in the east Belfast Clarawood estate on 4 October 2005, by two unknown gunmen. The shooting took place at 8 p.m. while he was unloading weight-lifting equipment from the boot of his silver Mini Cooper.
As his body lay on the front lawn, local people took photos and passed the news to others via their mobile phones.
According to Gray’s father, his son had left the house after Gary Matthews arrived to give him a set of weights and cigarettes that he had bought for Gray in Spain. Shots rang out and when Gray’s father went out to see what had happened he found his son had been shot and Matthews was ringing for an ambulance.
The involvement of other loyalist factions was suspected, fueling speculation that he was murdered to prevent him making an agreement with the police to expose his former associates in the UDA. Six people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder,
Ultimately however no charges were brought with the investigating officer, Detective Inspector Deborah McMaster, admitting at Gray’s inquest in 2007 that the police had largely given up on securing any convictions due to a lack of evidence.
Fellow UDA member and former friend, Michael Stone claimed that Gray had told him he was a businessman rather than a loyalist, as loyalism did not pay the bills.
Unlike most brigadiers, he was not given a paramilitary funeral, complete with volleys of gunfire fired over the coffin. It was a private affair, attended by only 14 mourners. As a further sign of his unpopularity among loyalists, a street disco was held in east Belfast to celebrate his death.
Gray’s effigy, with a curtain ring representing his trademark single gold earring, was thrown upon a bonfire. In lieu of murals dedicated to his memory, there was only graffiti scrawled on an east Belfast wall which read:
Lister, David & Jordan, Hugh (2004). Mad Dog – The Rise and Fall of Johnny Adair and C Company, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing.
McDonald, Henry & Cusack, Jim (2004). UDA – Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror. Dublin: Penguin Ireland.
– Disclaimer –
The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.