Tag Archives: Anne Owens

4th March – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

4th March


Thursday 4 March 1971

The first meeting of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive was held at Stormont.

[The headquarters and regional offices of the NIHE were to be the target of paramilitary attacks on many occasions during ‘the Troubles’.]

Saturday 4 March 1972

The Abercorn Restaurant in Belfast was bombed without warning. Two Catholic civilians were killed and over 130 people injured. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) did not claim responsibility for the bomb but were universally considered to have been involved.

See Abercorn Bomb

The Stormont government refused to hand over control of law and order to Westminster control.

Monday 4 March 1974

Those Unionists who were in favour of the Assembly and the Executive decided that the Sunnindale Agreement  should not be ratified unless Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish  Constitution   were repealed.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) continued to argue that there could be no “watering down” of the Agreement

. [Public Records 1974 – Released 1 January 2005: Note of a meeting that took place in Northern Ireland on Monday 4 March 1974. Those attending were Brian Faulkner, then Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Executive, Kenneth Bloomfield, Northern Ireland Civil Servant, and Frank Cooper, then Permanet Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO). The meeting discussed the implications of the result of the Westminster General Election (NI) held on Thursday  28th February 1972

Thursday 4 March 1982

By-Election in South Belfast Following the killing of Robert Bradford on 14 November 1981 there was a  by – election in the constituency of South Belfast to fill the vacant Westminster seat.

Martin Smyth, then head of the Orange Order, won the election as a Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) candidate.

[The election campaign was marked by antagonism between the UUP and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who both fielded candidates.]

Gerard Tuite, formerly a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), was arrested in the Republic of Ireland following a period ‘on the run’.

[Tuite became the first person to be charged in the Republic for offences committed in Britain. He had escaped from Brixton Prison in London on 16 December 1980 where he had been serving a sentence for bombing offences in London in 1978. He was sentenced in July 1982 to 10 years imprisonment.]

Tuesday 4 March 1986

James Molyneaux, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), issued a joint statement which condemned the violence and the intimidation during the ‘Day of Action’ (3 March 1986).

Tom King, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, speaking in the House of Commons said that Unionist Members of Parliament (MPs) had made common cause with men in paramilitary uniforms.

Monday 4 March 1991

Councillors in Belfast City Council voted by 21 to 19 to end the ban on visits by government ministers.

[The first visit by a government minister since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) took place on 25 March 1991.]

Friday 4 March 1994

Hugh Annesley, then Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), was subpoenaed to produce the Stalker report in order to assist the ‘shoot to kill’ inquest.

Monday 4 March 1996

Proximity Talks Launch of a period of intensive consultations between the Northern Ireland political parties at Stormont. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refused to join these ‘proximity’ talks. Sinn Féin (SF) were refused entry to the talks.

Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Dick Spring, then Tánaiste (deputy Irish Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs), met a number of the other parties.

Tuesday 4 March 1997

The Radio Telefis Éireann (RTE) programme Prime Time claimed that Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), had indicated that SF was “behind” some of the residents groups that were opposing Orange Order parades.

[Adams was alleged to have made the comments at a Republican conference in Athboy, County Meath on 23 November 1996. SF denied the claims.]

Wednesday 4 March 1998

The impact of the double killing in the village of Poyntzpass, County Armagh, on 3 March 1998 continued to be felt across Northern Ireland. In a rare show of unity David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and Seamus Mallon, then Deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and the Member of Parliament (MP) for the area, walked through the village together to pay their respect to the families of those killed and to condemn the killings

. Leaders of the main Churches in Ireland issued a strong condemnation of the violence that had escalated since 27 December 1997.

The British government issued a discussion paper on the future of policing in Northern Ireland. John McDonnell, then a Labour Member of Parliament (MP), said that the Irish in Britain should be treated as a separate ethnic category in the census in 2001.

Thursday 4 March 1999

Final details of four new British-Irish treaties were agreed between the Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), and David Trimble, then First Minister Designate. The treaties provide for the establishment, in principle, of North-South bodies and other institutions in the Good Friday Agreement. The principal treaty would establish the six North-South implementation bodies that had been agreed before Christmas.

The other one-page treaties allowed for the setting up of the North-South ministerial council, the British-Irish council and the new British-Irish inter-governmental conference.

[The treaties were signed by the two governments on 8 March 1999.]

Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, called on the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to begin handing over its weapons before Sinn Féin (SF) joined an Executive Committee. An opinion poll commissioned by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Price Waterhouse Coopers indicated that, of those asked, only 41 per cent of Unionists now supported the Good Friday Agreement.

Sunday 4 March 2001

Bomb Explosion in London A car-bomb exploded outside British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Television Centre in west London at 12.30am (00.30GMT). A warning had been received at 11.20pm (23.20GMT) on Saturday evening. The bomb (thought to have contained 20 kilograms of home-made explosives) exploded as bomb squad officers tried to carry out a controlled explosion on a taxi left near Television Centre.

One man was injured in the explosion and there was some damage to surrounding buildings.

[The bomb was thought to have been planted by the “real” Irish Republican Army (rIRA). There was speculation that the bomb was in retaliation for last year’s Panorama programme which named four men allegedly responsible for the Omagh bombing.]

Monday 4 March 2002

There was a sectarian attack on a young Catholic man (19) in north Belfast. Four youths stabbed him in the back as he was leaving the Yorkgate Centre. He suffered a collapsed lung and needed 15 stitches to the stab wound.

[The Yorkgate complex is on the interface between the Nationalist New Lodge area and the Loyalist Tigers Bay area. The four attackers ran towards Tigers Bay following the incident. Sinn Féin (SF) described the attack as attempted murder.]

A total of 28 windows were broken in a Catholic church in Newcastle, County Down.

The Belfast Telegraph (a Belfast based newsaper) reported on a paper entitled Post Mortem by Michael McKeown. The paper (which was circulated privately) was a study of the motives behind the killings that occurred during the conflict. McKeown used eight general categories, ranging from “counter insurgency” to “economic sabotage”, and applied one to each of the more than 3,600 deaths that occurred after 1969. His figures showed that 31.19 per cent of the deaths were attributable to attacks on security forces and most of these were carried out by Republican paramilitaries. 26.91 per cent were the result of sectarian attacks with the majority carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries. 18.52 per cent of killings were “punitive” attacks – killings carried out by paramilitaries to intimidate their own communities or protect rackets. ” Counter insurgency” killings accounted for 7.15 per cent of the deaths.

Unionist Members of Parliament (MPs) criticised the government in the House of Commons for not allowing more time to debate the Bill which is intended to review the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.

[The issue of the use of Royal Crests in courtrooms and the flying of the Union Flag outside the buildings has proved controversial.]

Jeffrey Donaldson and David Burnside, then both Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MPs, had a meeting with Ronnie Flanagan, then Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), to discuss their concerns about the phasing out of the Police Reserve. Following the meeting Donaldson said that he believed that Flanagan would recommend the retention of the reserve force.


Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

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

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

– Thomas Campbell

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

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

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

9 People   lost their lives on the  4th March between 1972– 1992



04 March 1972

Albert Kavanagh,  (18)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
Shot during attempted bomb attack on factory, Boucher Road, Belfast


04 March 1972

Janet Bereen,  (21)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in bomb attack on Abercorn Restaurant, Castle Lane,


04 March 1972
Anne Owens, (22)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in bomb attack on Abercorn Restaurant, Castle Lane, Belfast.


04 March 1972

 Marcus McCausland,   (39)

Status: ex-Ulster Defence Regiment (xUDR),

Killed by: Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA)
Found shot, by the side of Braehead Road, Derry.


04 March 1973
Gary Barlow,   (19)

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot while part of British Army (BA) patrol searching house, Albert Street, Lower Falls, Belfast.


04 March 1977
Rory O’Kelly,   (59)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Senior Department of Public Prosecutions official. Shot while in Little’s Bar, Coalisland, County Tyrone.


04 March 1978
Nicholas Smith,   (20)

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb while attempting to remove Irish flag from telegraph pole, Crossmaglen, County Armagh.


04 March 1991
Michael Lenaghan,   (46)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Taxi driver. Found shot inside his car, Heather Street, Shankill,


04 March 1992
James Gray,   (39)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot by sniper, while driving his lorry, Cornascriebe, near Portadown, County Armagh



Abercorn Restaurant bombing – 4 March 1972

Abercorn Restaurant Bombing

Image result for Abercorn Restaurant bombing - 4 March 1972

4 March 1972


The Abercorn Restaurant bombing was a paramilitary attack that took place in a crowded city centre restaurant and bar in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 4 March 1972. The bomb explosion claimed the lives of two young women and injured over 130 people. Many of the injuries were severe and included the loss of limbs and eyes.

The Provisional IRA was blamed, although no organisation ever claimed responsibility and nobody was ever charged in connection with the bombing. According to Ed Moloney, an Irish journalist who has written extensively about the IRA, republican sources have unofficially confirmed the group’s involvement.

Abercorn Restaurant bombing
Abercorn bomb.jpg

A victim’s body being removed from the scene by members of the security forces following the bomb explosion
Location Abercorn Restaurant and Bar, 7–11 Castle Lane, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Date 4 March 1972
16:30 (UTC)
Attack type
Deaths 2 civilians
Non-fatal injuries
Suspected perpetrator
Provisional IRA (Belfast Brigade)



The views and opinions expressed in this post and page are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland.

They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors

The bombing


Abercorn Restaurant Bombing 1972


Telephone warning

The Abercorn was on 7-11 Castle Lane in central Belfast and housed a ground-floor restaurant and upstairs bar. It was owned by 45-year-old Bill O’Hara, a Catholic businessman.[1] On Saturday 4 March 1972 it was packed with late afternoon shoppers when an anonymous caller issued a bomb warning to 999 at 4.28 pm.

The caller did not give a precise location, but advised that a bomb would go off in Castle Lane in five minutes’ time. The street, located in the busy Cornmarket area, milled with crowds of people shopping and browsing as was typical on a Saturday in Belfast.[2]



Castle Lane as it appeared in 2007. The Abercorn Restaurant and Bar was close by the spot from which the photograph was taken.

Two minutes later, at 4.30 PM, a handbag containing a five-pound gelignite bomb exploded under a table inside the ground-floor restaurant.

Two young Catholic friends were killed outright: Anne Owens (22), who was employed at the Electricity Board, and Janet Bereen (21), a hospital radiographer.

The young women had been out shopping together and had stopped at the Abercorn to have coffee; they were seated at the table nearest the bomb and took the full force of the blast.

 Owens had survived a previous bombing at her workplace. More than 130 were injured in the explosion, which overturned tables and chairs, and had brought the ceiling crashing down onto the ground floor restaurant. Many people were severely maimed. Some had their limbs blown off; others suffered terrible head and facial injuries, burns, deep cuts and perforated eardrums. Three had eyes destroyed by shards of flying glass.

Two sisters, Jennifer and Rosaleen McNern (one of whom was due to be married), were both horrifically mutilated; Jennifer lost both legs, and Rosaleen (the bride-to-be) lost her legs, her right arm and one of her eyes.

Witnesses described a scene of panic and chaos as the bloodied survivors stumbled through the smoke, broken glass, blood, and rubble, crawling over one another to get away, whilst firemen attempted to bring out the injured, many of whom lay with their bodies mangled, unable to move. An RUC officer was one of the first people to arrive on the scene. He described the carnage that greeted him as something he would never forget.

“All you could hear was the moaning and squealing and the people with limbs torn from their bodies”.


One reporter who arrived in the wake of the bombing was Northern Irish presenter Gloria Hunniford. Although the bodies of the dead and injured had been removed, she saw their belongings lying in the street amongst the Abercorn’s debris. The gaping leather handbags with their contents spilling out and charred cuddly toys revealed that most of the victims had been young women and children.

A woman who had been inside the restaurant before the blast later told an inquest that she had seen two young teenage girls walk out of the Abercorn leaving a handbag behind shortly before the explosion. This same woman had been waiting at a bus stop when the bomb went off. A detective-sergeant established that the explosion’s epicentre was to the right of the table where the two girls had been sitting. The bomb had reportedly been left behind inside a handbag.



Nobody was ever charged in connection with the bombing and no paramilitary organisation ever claimed responsibility for it. Both wings of the IRA denied involvement and condemned the bombing. However, the RUC and British Military Intelligence blamed the Provisional IRA First Battalion Belfast Brigade  and it is now widely accepted that it was responsible.

There was a public backlash against the organisation in Irish nationalist and Catholic areas such as West Belfast. The two dead women had both been Catholic, along with many of the injured including the McNern sisters, and the Abercorn Bar was a popular venue with many young Catholics and nationalists.

Image result for Seán Mac Stíofáin

Provisional IRA Chief of Staff Seán Mac Stíofáin claimed the bombing was the work of loyalist paramilitaries. According to Mac Stíofáin, the Woodvale Defence Association (WDA) had made threats against the Abercorn in its weekly newsletter after the Abercorn management refused to play the British national anthem.

The WDA denied the allegations, adding that one of its members had a friend who been badly injured in the blast. The day after the bombing, a leaflet allegedly circulated by the loyalist Ulster Vanguard declared:

“We make no apologies for Abercorn. No apologies were made for Aldershot . These premises were being used extensively by Southern Irish shoppers for the transmission of information vital to the terrorist campaign…”.

According to Ed Moloney in his book Voices from the Grave, IRA sources have since confirmed, albeit unofficially, that the Provisional IRA was responsible.

Moloney suggested that, based on eyewitness accounts, two teenaged IRA girls were probably the bombers.[3] Unnamed republican sources suggested that the Abercorn was targeted because the upstairs bar was frequented by off-duty British Army soldiers.





04 March 1972
Janet Bereen,   (21)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in bomb attack on Abercorn Restaurant, Castle Lane, Belfast.


04 March 1972

Anne Owens,   (22)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in bomb attack on Abercorn Restaurant, Castle Lane, Belfast


The detonation of a bomb in a city centre restaurant on a Saturday afternoon packed with shoppers, and the severity of the injuries—inflicted on mostly women and children—ensured that the attack caused much revulsion and left a lasting impression on the people of Belfast. It was condemned by both unionist and Irish nationalist politicians and also by church leaders.

Ian Paisley called on the government

“to mobilise and arm every able-bodied volunteer to meet the enemy”.

The extent of the injuries the blast had inflicted resulted in the Royal Victoria Hospital implementing a ‘disaster plan’ for the first time.

Belfast city centre was again targeted by the IRA just over two weeks later when it exploded its first car bomb in Donegall Street after issuing a misleading warning, killing seven people and wounding 148. As was the case in the Abercorn bombing, the injuries included the loss of limbs and eyes.

Unrelated to the bombing, the Abercorn featured in a sectarian attack in July 1972, when Michael McGuigan, a Catholic working in the bar, was abducted by loyalist paramilitaries, shot and left for dead, but survived. He had been dating a Protestant waitress who also worked in the Abercorn, and this had provoked the loyalist group to carry out the attack.

The Abercorn was demolished in 2007.

See:  4th March – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles