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 .
Belfast: Us and Them (2009) – Kilometres of graffiti-daubed concrete walls snake through Belfast. They divide Catholic neighbourhoods from Protestant. But do these Peace Walls keep the hatred and suspicion locked outside or inside?
The consensus among the locals is clear if the walls came down there would be a return to intractable sectarian violence. If you pull that wall down therell be murder, mayhem, therell be blood spilt, says a loyalist resident. The recent killings of two soldiers, a policeman and a Catholic community worker, indicate that trouble is still very close to the surface. Theres walls of prejudice; walls that were built here 300 years ago and they’re still here in legislation, in prejudice and bigotry’, tells Republican Sean McVeigh. ‘So those are the walls that are going to have to come down first. Are the Peace Walls monuments to the past or vital and necessary peacekeepers in the present?
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 .
During the Troubles, over 6,000 men, women and children were victims of so-called paramilitary ‘punishment’ attacks. Despite these brutal punishments, there was widespread support within communities for the paramilitaries’ own form of justice.
In the documentary Above The Law, victims speak, some for the first time, about their experiences.
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Disclaimer – The views and opinions expressed in this 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 an inaccuracies or factual errors .
The Omagh bombing was a deliberate massacre of civilians carried out by the Irish Republican Army on Saturday 15 August 1998, in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Twenty-nine people were murdered in the attack and approximately 220 people were injured. The attack was described by the BBC as “Northern Ireland’s worst single terrorist atrocity” and by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as an “appalling act of savagery and evil”.
The victims included people from many different backgrounds: Protestants, Catholics, a Mormon teenager, five other teenagers, six children, a woman pregnant with twins, two Spanish tourists, and other tourists on a day trip from the Republic of Ireland. The nature of the bombing created a strong international and local outcry against the IRA, and spurred on the Northern Ireland peace process.
Builder and publican Colm Murphy was tried, convicted, and then released after it was revealed that the Gardaí forged interview notes used in the case. Murphy’s nephew Sean Hoey was also tried and found not guilty. Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said that he expects no further prosecutions. In June 2009, the families of all the killed victims won a £1.6 million civil action against four defendants..
The Omagh bombing is only one in a long list of savage massacres of civilians in Northern Ireland by catholic fundamentalists from the IRA. Others include the La Mon napalm bombing where elderly pensioners were burnt alive while eating in a hotel restaurant, the Kingsmill massacre which involved the cold-blooded murder of a bus full of protestant factory workers, the Enniskillen bombing which involved a bomb planted at a war memorial on Remembrance Sunday and the Darkley church shooting in which a small, rural protestant church was attacked with automatic rifles during a Sunday church service.
.Bloody Friday is the name given to the bombings by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Belfast on 21 July 1972. Twenty-six bombs exploded in the space of eighty minutes, killing nine people (including two British soldiers) and injuring 130. The majority of these were car bombs, driven to their detonation sites that same day.
Bloody Friday is the name given to the bombings by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Belfast on 21 July 1972. Twenty-six bombs exploded in the space of eighty minutes, killing nine people (including two British soldiers) and injuring 130. The majority of these were car bombs, driven to their detonation sites that same day.
The bombings were partly a response to the breakdown of talks between the IRA and the British government. Since the beginning of its campaign in 1969, the IRA had carried out a concerted bombing campaign against economic, military and political targets in Northern Ireland.
in this documentary/ies /post/s 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 an inaccuracies or factual errors .
I am a pacifist and abhor all violence , but I am also proud of my Protestant heritage and culture and our right to remain part of the United Kingdom. Don’t mean I hate Catholics or wish any harm on them , it simply means I’m a peace loving loyalist that is happy with the statue quo.
In late June and early July 1972, a British government delegation led by William Whitelaw held secret talks with the Provisional IRA leadership. As part of the talks, the IRA agreed to a temporary ceasefire beginning on 26 June. The IRA leaders sought a peace settlement that included a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland by 1975 and the release of republican prisoners. However, the British refused and the talks broke down.
The ceasefire came to an end on 9 July. It is also speculated the the bombings were in response to the shooting deaths of innocent Catholic Civil rights marchers on 30 January 1972 known as Bloody Sunday.
“Bloody Friday” was the IRA’s response to the breakdown of the talks. According to the IRA’s Chief of Staff, Seán Mac Stíofáin, the main goal of the bombing operation was to wreak financial harm. It was a
“message to the British government that the IRA could and would make a commercial desert of the city unless its demands were met”.
Some also saw it as a reprisal for Bloody Sunday in Derry six months earlier. The attack was carried out by the IRA’s Belfast Brigade and the main organiser was Brendan Hughes, the brigade’s Officer Commanding. A total of 26 bombs were planted and, in the resulting explosions, eleven people were killed and a further 130 civilians injured, many horrifically mutilated.
At the height of the bombing, the middle of Belfast
“resembled a city under artillery fire; clouds of suffocating smoke enveloped buildings as one explosion followed another, almost drowning out the hysterical screams of panicked shoppers”.
Of those injured, 77 were women and children.
The Belfast Brigade claimed responsibility for the bombings and said that it had given warnings to the security forces (through the local media) before the bombs exploded. It said that the press, the Samaritans and the Public Protection Agency “were informed of bomb positions at least 30 minutes to one hour before each explosion”.
Mac Stíofáin said that
“It required only one man with a loud hailer to clear each target area in no time” and alleged that the warnings for the two bombs that claimed lives were deliberately ignored by the British for “strategic policy reasons”.
The security forces also received hoax warnings, which “added to the chaos in the streets”. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and British Army only effectively cleared a small number of areas before the bombs went off. Furthermore, because of the large number of bombs in the confined area of Belfast city centre, people evacuated from the site of one bomb were mistakenly moved into the vicinity of other bombs.
Thirty years after the attack the IRA formally apologised for harming civilians.
Bloody Friday Documentary
This excellent production from BBC NI was shown to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Bloody Friday. Bloody Friday is the name given to the bombings by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Belfast on 21 July 1972. Twenty-two bombs exploded in the space of eighty minutes, killing nine people (including two British soldiers) and injuring 130.
The accounts of the events that appeared in the first editions of local and national newspapers were, naturally enough, somewhat confused about the details of the events of the day. The timetable below is approximate and given in BST (GMT+1). The details are based on a number of accounts.
~2:10 pm (Smithfield Bus Station)
A car bomb exploded in an enclosed yard at Smithfield Bus Station, causing extensive damage to the surrounding area.
~2:16 pm (Brookvale Hotel)
A bomb (estimated at 50 pounds (23 kg) of explosive) exploded at the Brookvale Hotel on Brookvale Avenue. The bomb was left in a suitcase by three men armed with sub-machine guns. The area had been cleared and there were no injuries.
Some sources give the time of this bombing as 2:36 pm.
A suitcase bomb (estimated at 30 pounds (14 kg) of explosive) exploded on the platform, wrecking the inside of the station and blowing the roof off. Some sources give the time of this bombing as 3:03 pm.
A car bomb exploded at the Star Taxis depot on Crumlin Road. Nearby were the houses of the Crumlin Road Prison warders and the prison itself.
Some sources say that there were two bombs and that they exploded at 3:25 pm.
Aftermath of the Oxford Street bomb showing the body of one of the victims being shovelled into a bag
~2:48 pm (Bus depot, Oxford Street)
A carbomb exploded outside the Ulsterbus depot on Oxford Street, the busiest bus station in Northern Ireland. An Austin 1100 saloon car loaded with explosives had been driven to the rear of the depot. The blast resulted in the greatest loss of life and the greatest number of casualties. Some of the victims’ bodies were torn to pieces by the blast, which led authorities to give an initial estimate of 11 deaths.
The area was being cleared but was still crowded when the bomb exploded. Two British Army soldiers, Stephen Cooper (19) and Philip Price (27), were near the bomb when it detonated and were killed outright. Three Protestant civilians who worked for Ulsterbus were killed: William Crothers (15), Thomas Killops (39) and Jackie Gibson (45). One other Protestant Ulsterbus employee, who was a member of the Ulster Defence Association, was also killed in the blast: William Irvine (18).
Crothers, Killops and Irvine had been in the vicinity of the car bomb helping to search for the device at the moment it exploded, killing the three men instantly. Bus driver Jackie Gibson was killed after having completed his bus route just minutes before the blast. Almost 40 people suffered injuries. Some sources give the time of this bombing as 3:10 pm.
A van bomb exploded in the station’s bus yard. Four buses were wrecked and 44 others damaged. The nearby Murray’s Tobacco Factory in Sandy Row was also damaged.
~2:50 pm (Ulster Bank, Limestone Road)
A car bomb (estimated at 50 pounds (23 kg) of explosive) exploded outside the Ulster Bank on Limestone Road. The area had not been cleared and there were several injuries. Some sources give the time of this bombing as 2:40 pm.
A car bomb (estimated at 50 pounds (23 kg) of explosive) exploded at the Belfast–Liverpool ferry terminus at Donegall Quay. The nearby Liverpool Bar was badly damaged.
~2:57 pm (Gas Department offices, Ormeau Avenue)
A car bomb (estimated at 50 pounds (23 kg) of explosive) exploded outside the offices of the Gas Department, causing extensive damage.
~2:59 pm (Garmoyle Street)
A parcel bomb, which had been planted by armed men, exploded at the premises of John Irwin seed merchants. The building was wrecked.
~3:02 pm (Agnes Street)
A car bomb (estimated at 30 pounds (14 kg) of explosive) exploded outside a group of houses on Agnes Street, a loyalist area off the Shankill Road. Those in the area did not receive a warning but there were no serious injuries.
~3:04 pm (M2 motorway bridge, Bellevue)
A car bomb (estimated at 30 pounds (14 kg) of explosive) partially exploded on the bridge over the M2 motorway at Bellevue in north Belfast. As the bomb only partially detonated, nearby buildings were not damaged.
~3:05 pm (Filling station, Upper Lisburn Road)
A car bomb exploded at Creighton’s filling station, setting the petrol pumps ablaze.
A bomb (estimated at 30 pounds (14 kg) of explosive) exploded on a footbridge over the railway at Windsor Park football grounds. Concrete sleepers were blown on to the line, blocking it. Some sources give the time of this bombing as 2:09 pm.
~3:12 pm (Eastwood’s Garage, Donegall Street)
A car bomb (estimated at 150 pounds (68 kg) of explosive) destroyed Eastwood’s Garage on Donegall Street. There were several injuries.
~3:15 pm (Stewartstown Road)
A bomb, thought to have been abandoned on the Stewartstown Road, exploded but caused no serious injuries.
~3:15 pm (Cavehill Road)
A car bomb (estimated at 50 pounds (23 kg) of explosive) exploded outside a row of single storey shops near the top of Cavehill Road, north Belfast. The shops were in a religiously-mixed residential area. Those in the area had not received the bomb warning. Two women and a man died in this blast. Margaret O’Hare (37), a Catholic mother of seven children, died in her car.
Her 11-year-old daughter was with her in her car and was badly injured. Catholic Brigid Murray (65) and Protestant teenager Stephen Parker (14) were also killed. Many others were seriously injured. Stephen Parker’s father, the Rev. Joseph Parker, was only able to identify his son’s body at the mortuary by the box of trick matches in his pocket, and the shirt and scout belt he had been wearing. Some sources give the time of this bombing as 3:20 pm.
~3:25 pm (Railway line near Lisburn Road)
A bomb exploded on the railway line near the Lisburn Road.
~3:30 pm (Grosvenor Road)
A bomb (estimated at 50 pounds (23 kg) of explosive) exploded at the Northern Ireland Carriers depot on Grosvenor Road. There were no serious injuries.
Reactions and consequences
According to former RUC officer Jack Dale a large group of people in the republican Markets area had
“jeered and shouted and yelled” as if each explosion was “a good thing”.
He also drew attention to the Catholic victims, and mentioned the revulsion in the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere. Leader of the Opposition Harold Wilson described the events as “a shocking crime against an already innocent population”.
“The chief injury is not to the British Army, to the Establishment or to big business but to the plain people of Belfast and Ireland. Anyone who supports violence from any side after yesterday’s events is sick with the same affliction as those who did the deed.”
Television images of fire-fighters shovelling body parts into plastic bags at the Oxford Street bus station were the most shocking of the day.
Twenty-five years later, a police officer who had been at Oxford Street bus station described to journalist Peter Taylor the scene he came upon in the wake of the bombing:
“The first thing that caught my eye was a torso of a human being lying in the middle of the street. It was recognisable as a torso because the clothes had been blown off and you could actually see parts of the human anatomy. One of the victims was a soldier I knew personally.
He’d had his arms and legs blown off and some of his body had been blown through the railings. One of the most horrendous memories for me was seeing a head stuck to the wall. A couple of days later, we found vertebrae and a rib cage on the roof of a nearby building. The reason we found it was because the seagulls were diving onto it. I’ve tried to put it at the back of my mind for twenty-five years.”
In 1972, 479 people died in the Troubles, more than in any other year of the conflict. Ten days after the bombings the British Army launched Operation Motorman, to retake IRA-controlled areas in Belfast and Derry. There were also several revenge attacks by loyalists.
The City of Belfast Youth Orchestra set up a Stephen Parker Memorial Trust in memory of teenager Stephen Parker, who had been a music student and played the French Horn in the orchestra at the time he was killed. Stephen had also been posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for bravery as he had died while trying to warn others about the car bomb left outside the row of shops on Cavehill Road.
Irish republican reaction
For the IRA, and the Belfast Brigade in particular, it was “an operation gone awry”. Brendan Hughes, Officer Commanding of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade, viewed the attack as a disaster. He described his reaction in an interview organised by Boston College:
“I was the operational commander of the ‘Bloody Friday’ operation. I remember when the bombs started to go off, I was in Leeson Street, and I thought, ‘There’s too much here’. I sort of knew that there were going to be casualties, either [because] the Brits could not handle so many bombs or they would allow some to go off because it suited them to have casualties. I feel a bit guilty about it because, as I say, there was no intention to kill anyone that day. I have a fair deal of regret that ‘Bloody Friday’ took place … a great deal of regret … If I could do it over again I wouldn’t do it.”
On 16 July 2002, the Provisional IRA issued a statement of apology to An Phoblacht, which read:
In memory of Sergeant Michael Willetts , GC & all other members of HM Armed Forces murdered by Irish Terrorists.
See below for the full story of this brave Hero’s death
A short video, set to music, in memory Sergeant Michael G. Willets and all those members of HM Armed Forces murdered by Irish Terrorists.
A True British hero
We salute you all – Your memory will live on forever!
My son loves this song ( he’s 9 ) and it always brings a lump to my throat when I hear it and I feel myself welling up. Its a funny thing being a patriot sometimes , it can fill me with pride and love for my country and culture and other times melancholy flows through my being when I listen too and remember the sacrifice our glorious troops have paid to ensure our freedom and liberty.
Born in 1943 in the Nottinghamshire town of Sutton-in-Ashfield, Michael Willetts entered a local colliery after leaving school but found that he did not suit the job and soon afterwards joined the British Army, serving in the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. He married his wife, Sandra and had two children, Dean and Trudy during his time in the army.
After several tours abroad and a promotion to sergeant, Willetts was dispatched with the rest of his regiment to Northern Ireland at the outbreak of violence there between Irish nationalists and the unionistRoyal Ulster Constabulary in 1971. Placed with his squad at Springfield Road police station in Belfast, Willetts engaged in local operations until 25 May 1971, when he was killed in a Provisional IRA bomb attack on the barracks.
Willetts was killed in Springfield Road RUC station by the Provisional IRA. A man in his mid-twenties emerged from a car and threw a suitcase containing a blast bomb into the lobby of the station. Willetts thrust two children and two adults into a corner and stood above them as the 30 lbs of explosives detonated, seriously injuring him.
Seven RUC officers, two British soldiers and eighteen civilians were injured in the attack. Willetts was fatally injured by a chunk of metal from a locker which had struck him in the back of the head. As he was being removed by ambulance, he and the injured officers were jeered by local youths who screamed obscenities at them. Willetts died after two hours on the operating table at Royal Victoria Hospital.
The sacrifice of Sergeant Michael G. Willets, 27, 3 Para.
Some just stared in hatred, and others turned in pain
And the lonely British soldier wished he was back home again
Come join the British Army! Said the posters in his town
See the world and have your fun come serve before the Crown
The jobs were hard to come by and he could not face the dole
So he took his country’s shilling and enlisted on the roll
For there was no fear of fighting, the Empire long was lost
Just ten years in the army getting paid for being bossed
Then leave a man experienced a man who’s made the grade
A medal and a pension some mem’ries and a trade
Then came the call to Ireland as the call had come before
Another bloody chapter in an endless civil war
The priests they stood on both sides the priests they stood behind
Another fight in Jesus name the blind against the blind
The soldier stood between them between the whistling stones
And then the broken bottles that led to broken bones
The petrol bombs that burnt his hands the nails that pierced his skin
And wished that he had stayed at home surrounded by his kin
The station filled with people the soldier soon was bored
But better in the station than where the people warred
The room filled up with mothers with daughters and with sons
Who stared with itchy fingers at the soldier and his gun
A yell of fear a screech of brakes the shattering of glass
The window of the station broke to let the package pass
A scream came from the mothers as they ran towards the door
Dragging children crying from the bomb upon the floor
The soldier stood and could not move his gun he could not use
He knew the bomb had seconds and not minutes on the fuse
He could not run to pick it up and throw it in the street
There were far too many people there too many running feet
Take cover! Yelled the soldier, Take cover for your lives
And the Irishmen threw down their young and stood before their wives
They turned towards the soldier their eyes alive with fear
For God’s sake save our children or they’ll end their short lives here
The soldier moved towards the bomb his stomach like a stone
Why was this his battle God why was he alone
He lay down on the package and he murmured one farewell
To those at home in England to those he loved so well
He saw the sights of summer felt the wind upon his brow
The young girls in the city parks how precious were they now
The soaring of the swallow the beauty of the swan
The music of the turning world so soon would it be gone
A muffled soft explosion and the room began to quake
The soldier blown across the floor his blood a crimson lake
They never heard him cry or shout they never heard him moan
And they turned their children’s faces from the blood and from the bones
The crowd outside soon gathered and the ambulances came
To carry off the body of a pawn lost in the game
And the crowd they clapped and cheered and they sang their rebel songs
One soldier less to interfere where he did not belong
But will the children growing up learn at their mothers’ knees
The story of the soldier who bought their liberty
Who used his youthful body as a means towards an end
Who gave his life to those who called him murderer not friend
Sergeant Michael Willetts, GC– 25 May 1971
At 8.24 pm on the evening of 25 May 1971 a terrorist entered the Springfield Road Police Station in Belfast. He carried a suitcase from which a smoking fuse protruded, dumped it quickly on the floor and fled outside. Inside the room were two adults, two children and several police officers.
The police officers raised the alarm and began to organize the evacuation of the hall past the reception desk, through the reception office and out of the door into the rear passage.
Sergeant Michael Willetts, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, was on duty in the inner hall. Hearing the alarm, he sent an NCO up to the first floor to warn those above and hastened to the door towards which a police officer was thrusting those in the reception hall and office. He held the door open while all passed safely through and then stood in the doorway, shielding those taking cover.
In the next moment, the bomb exploded with terrible force. Sergeant Willets was mortally wounded.
His duty did not require him to enter the threatened area, his post was elsewhere. He knew well, after four month’s service in Belfast, the peril of going towards a terrorist bomb but he did not hesitate to do so. All those approaching the door from the far side agreed that if they had had to check to open the door they would have perished. Even when those in the room had reached the rear passage, Sergeant Willets waited, placing his body as a screen to shelter them.
By this considered act of bravery, he risked and lost his life for those of the adults and children. His selflessness and courage are beyond praise.
Sergeant Willetts is now buried at St Mary’s Church, Blidworth in Nottinghamshire.
by Paradata Editor
The George Cross was awarded to Sergeant Willett’s widow in June and the citation appeared in the London Gazette at the same time.
The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the George Cross to:
2391067 Sergeant Michael WILLETTS, The Parachute Regiment.
At 8.24 p.m. on the evening of 25th May 1971, a terrorist entered the reception hall of the Springfield Road Police Station in Belfast. He carried a suitcase from which a smoking fuse protruded, dumped it quickly on the floor and fled outside. Inside the room were a man and a woman, two children and several police officers. One of the latter saw at once the smoking case and raised the alarm. The Police Officers began to organise the evacuation of the hall past the reception desk, through the reception office and out by a door into the rear passage.
Sergeant Michael Willetts was on duty in the inner hall. Hearing the alarm, he sent an N.C.O. up to the first floor to warn those above and hastened himself to the door towards which a Police Officer was thrusting those in the reception hall and office. He held the door open while all passed safely through and then stood in the doorway, shielding those taking cover. In the next moment, the bomb exploded with terrible force.
Sergeant Willetts was mortally wounded. His duty did not require him to enter the threatened area, his post was elsewhere. He knew well, after 4 months service in Belfast, the peril of going towards a terrorist bomb but he did not hesitate to do so. All those approaching the door from the far side agree that if they had had to check to open the door they would have perished. Even when they had reached the rear passage, Sergeant Willetts waited, placing his body as a screen to shelter them. By this considered act of bravery, he risked – and lost – his life for those of the adults and children. His selflessness, his courage are beyond praise. 22nd June 1971
London Gazette, 21 June 1971
If you would like to read extracts from my autobiography please follow link above.
On the evening of the 25th May 1971 an IRA terrorist entered the reception hall of Springfield Road Police station in Belfast. He carried a suitcase from which a smoking fuse protruded, dumping the case on the floor he fled out-side, inside the room were a man a woman and two children and several police officers. One of the police officers raised the alarm then began organising an evacuation of the hall through the reception office.
Sgt Willetts was on duty in the inner hall, on hearing the alarm he sent an NCO to the first floor to warn those above and hastened himself to the door towards which the police officer was thrusting those in the reception hall and office.
He held the door open while all passed safely through and then stood in the doorway shielding those taking cover.
In the next moment the bomb exploded with terrible force. Sgt Willetts was mortally wounded. His duty did not require him to enter the threatened area. All those people who were approaching the door from the far side agreed that if they had had to check to open the door, They would have perished.
Sgt Willetts waited, placing his body as a screen to shelter them.
By this act of bravery, he risked and lost his life for those of the adults and children.
Sgt Michael Willetts was awarded the George Cross (Posthumous).
Republicans jeered when the ambulance arrived, but Willets had saved Catholic civilians and children. The IRA had no such respect for life.
Don’t forget to read extracts from my Autobiography Belfast Child , which tells the amazing story of my life growing up on the Loyalist Shankill Road and my secret 25 year search for my ” Dead” catholic mother.
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.
Hunting the IRA
This 1992 documentary focuses on the escalating number of anti-IRA, counter-terrorist operations being carried out by the Loyalist paramilitary group UDA (Ulster Defence Association).
For over twenty years the catholic fundamentalist terrorist gang (the Irish Republican Army) had been murdering protestant civilians in Northern Ireland on a daily basis. The British government had refused to crack down on this far-right extremist group, so protestants took it upon themselves to form vigilante groups to try to halt the IRA religious murders.
The three main protestant counter-terrorist groups were the Ulster Defence Association (who also used the name ‘Ulster Freedom Fighters’ on occasion), the Ulster Volunteer Force and a smaller, more elite group called the Red Hand Commando.
Originally these groups were formed to stop IRA drive-by shootings in protestant areas but, as the IRA attacks became more deadly and targeted against civilians, these groups armed themselves and began hunting down and executing IRA terrorists in their own homes. By 1992, the Loyalist groups had the IRA on the run with a UDA group based in the Shankill Road are of west Belfast being particularly successful. This group contained Loyalists such as Stevie ‘Top Gun’ McKeag, Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair, Sam ‘Skelly’ McCrory and Gary ‘Smickers’ Smyth.
By 1994 the IRA had surrendered and within a few years had given over all of their illegal arms to be destroyed by the British government.
The Loyalists’ counter-terrorism campaign had been successful.
During the 1970s a group of Protestant paramilitaries embarked on a spree of indiscriminate murder which left thirty Northern Irish Catholics dead. Their leader was Lenny Murphy, a fanatical Unionist whose Catholic-sounding surname led to his persecution as a child for which he took revenge on all Catholics.
Not for the squeamish, The Shankill Butchers is a horrifying detailed account of one of the most brutal series of murders in British legal history – a phenomenon whose real nature has been obscured by the troubled and violent context from which it sprang.
These guys were active when I was a teenager and dumped some of their poor victim’s brutalised bodies at the back of the community centre and waste ground facing were I lived on Forthriver Road , Glencairn. I use to have to pass this area on the way home and on dark winter nights I was terrified if I heard the sound of a Black Taxi climbing the hill towards me. I should have felt safe in the heartlands of Loyalist West Belfast , but although they were protestant, the Butchers struck feared into everyone and their victims included protestants and other loyalists who made the mistake of upsetting Murphy.
Also I lived around the corner from where Murphy was killed and on the night he died I heard the shots that killed him and was one of the first at the scene……
Visit the autobiography section of this blog to read more…
See Below for full details on the Shankill Butchers
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
With 19 murders between them, the Shankill Butchers were the most prolific gang of serial killers in UK history. With unique access to thousands of pages of evidence and exclusive interviews, Stephen Nolan goes back to the patch where he was brought up to ask how the Shankill Butchers got away with murder for so long. The programme also helps to build a psychological profile of the “ruthless and sadistic” gang leader, Lenny Murphy who, even though jailed for six years for an unrelated offence, would continue to direct the murders from his prison cell.
The Shankill Butchers
IRA execute Shankill Butcher leader Lenny Murphy | Belfast | 17th November 1982
The Shankill Butchers was an Ulster loyalist gang—many of whom were members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)—that was active between 1975 and 1982 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was based in the Shankill area and was responsible for the deaths of at least 23 people, most of whom were killed in sectarian attacks. The gang was notorious for kidnapping and murdering random Irish Catholic civilians; each was beaten ferociously and had his throat hacked with a butcher’s knife. Some were also tortured and attacked with a hatchet. The gang also killed six Ulster Protestants over personal disputes, and two other Protestants mistaken for Catholics.
Most of the gang were eventually caught and, in February 1979, received the longest combined prison sentences in United Kingdom legal history. However, gang leader Lenny Murphy and his two chief “lieutenants” escaped prosecution. Murphy was killed in November 1982 by the Provisional IRA, likely acting with loyalist paramilitaries who perceived him as a threat.
The Butchers brought a new level of paramilitary violence to a country already hardened by death and destruction. The judge who oversaw the 1979 trial described their crimes as “a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry”.
Much of what is known about the Butchers came first from Martin Dillon‘s The Shankill Butchers: A Case Study of Mass Murder (1989 and 1998). In compiling this detailed work, Dillon was given unlimited access to the case files of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (now the Police Service of Northern Ireland), which eventually caught the gang. Eventually Dillon had to leave Northern Ireland for his safety.
The commander of the Shankill Butchers gang was Lenny Murphy. At school he was known as a bully and would threaten other boys with a knife or with retribution from his two older brothers. Soon after leaving school at 16, he joined the UVF. Murphy often attended the trials of people accused of paramilitary crimes, to become well acquainted with the laws of evidence and police procedure.
On 28 September 1972 Murphy (aged 20) shot and killed William Edward “Ted” Pavis (32) at the latter’s home in East Belfast. Pavis was a Protestant whom the UVF believed was selling weapons to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Murphy and an accomplice, Mervyn Connor, were arrested shortly afterwards and held on remand in Belfast’s Crumlin Road prison. After a visit by police to Connor, fellow inmates suspected that he might cut a deal with the authorities with regard to the Pavis killing. On 22 April 1973, Connor died by ingesting a large dose of cyanide. Before he died he wrote a confession to the Pavis murder under Murphy’s duress.
Murphy was brought to trial for the Pavis murder in June 1973. The court heard evidence from two witnesses who had seen Murphy pull the trigger and had later picked him out of an identification parade. The jury, however, acquitted him due in part to Murphy’s disruption of the line-up. Murphy’s freedom was short-lived: he was re-arrested immediately for a number of escape attempts and imprisoned, then interned, for three years.
A UVF mural on the Shankill Road, where the gang was based
In May 1975, Murphy was released from prison, where he had been married to Margaret Gillespie and during which period a daughter had been born to the couple. He spent much of his time frequenting pubs on the Shankill Road and assembling a paramilitary team that would enable him to act with some freedom at a remove from the UVF leadership (Brigade Staff). Murphy’s inner circle consisted of two people whom Dillon was unable to name for legal reasons but whom he called Murphy’s “personal friends”. These were a “Mr A” and John Murphy, one of Lenny’s brothers (referred to as “Mr B”). Further down the chain of command were Lenny Murphy’s “sergeants” William Moore and Bobby “Basher” Bates, a UVF man and former prisoner. Moore, formerly a worker in a meat-processing factory, had stolen several large knives and meat-cleavers from his old workplace, tools that would later be used in more murders. Another prominent figure was Sam McAllister, who used his physical presence to intimidate others.
On 2 October 1975, the gang raided a drinks premises in nearby Millfield. On finding that its four employees (two females and two males) were Catholics, Murphy shot three of them dead and ordered an accomplice to kill the fourth. By now Murphy was using the upper floor of the Brown Bear pub, at the corner of Mountjoy Street and the Shankill Road near his home, as an occasional meeting-place for his unit.
On 24–25 November 1975, Murphy adopted the method that gained the Butchers infamy far beyond Belfast. Using the city’s sectarian geography (which remains to this day) to identify likely targets, Murphy roamed the areas nearest the Catholic New Lodge in the hope of finding someone (likely to be Catholic) to abduct. Francis Crossen (34), a Catholic man and father of two, was walking towards the city centre at approximately 12.40 a.m. when four of the Butchers, in Moore’s taxi, spotted him. As the taxi pulled alongside Crossen, Murphy jumped out and hit the man with a wheel brace to disorientate him. He was dragged into the taxi by Benjamin Edwards and Archie Waller, two of Murphy’s gang. As the taxi returned to the safety of the nearby Shankill area, Crossen suffered a ferocious beating. It is clear that he was subjected to a high level of violence, including a beer glass being shoved into his head. Murphy repeatedly told Crossen: “I’m going to kill you, you bastard”, before the taxi stopped at an entry off Wimbledon Street. Crossen was dragged into an alleyway and Murphy, brandishing a butcher’s knife, cut his throat almost through to the spine. The gang dispersed. Crossen, whose body was found the next morning (Tuesday) by an elderly woman, was the first of three Catholics to be killed by Murphy in this “horrific and brutal manner”. “Slaughter in back alley” was the headline in the city’s major afternoon newspaper that day. A relative of Crossen said that his family was unable to have an open coffin at his wake because the body was so badly mutilated.
The Lawnbrook Social Club (1979)
A few days later, on 30 November 1975, an internal feud led to the deaths of two members of a rival UVF company on the Shankill and to that of Archibald Waller, who had been involved in the Crossen murder. On 14 October of that year, Waller had killed Stewart Robinson in a punishment shooting that went wrong. With the sanction of the UVF Brigade Staff, he in turn was gunned down by one of Robinson’s comrades in the UVF team based in the “Windsor Bar”, a quarter of a mile from the Brown Bear pub. Enraged, Murphy had the gunman, former loyalist prisoner Noel “Nogi” Shaw, brought before a kangaroo court in the Lawnbrook Club, one of his Shankill drinking-dens. After pistol whipping Shaw, Murphy shot him in front of his whole unit of about twenty men and returned to finish his drink at the bar. John Murphy and William Moore put Shaw’s body in a laundry basket, and Moore dumped it half a mile away from the murder scene.
Murphy’s other cut-throat victims were Joseph Quinn (55) and Francis Rice (24). Both were abducted late at night, at the weekend, in the same area as Crossen. Quinn was murdered in the Glencairn district of the Upper Shankill in the early hours of 7 February 1976 and Rice a few streets from Murphy’s home at about 1.30 a.m. on 22 February 1976, after a butcher’s knife had been collected from a loyalist club. Quinn’s body was not found until mid-evening, after a phone call to a Belfast newspaper, while Rice’s was found about six hours after his murder. Murphy’s main accomplices on both occasions were Moore and Bates, while Edwards was party to the killing of Quinn. Another man and two women, whom Dillon did not name, were accessories to Murphy in the murder of Rice.
By this time the expression “the Butchers” had appeared in media coverage of these killings, and many Catholics lived in fear of the gang. Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Nesbitt, head of the CID Murder Squad in Tennent Street RUC base and the man charged with tracking down the Butchers, was in no doubt that the murders of Crossen, Quinn and Rice were the work of the same people. Other than that he had little information, although a lead was provided by the woman who found Rice’s body. The previous night she had heard voices in the entry where the body was later found and what she thought might have been a local taxi (those in Belfast being ex-London type black cabs). This had led to William Moore’s taxi being examined for evidence, as were all other Shankill taxis; however, the Butchers had cleaned the vehicle thoroughly and nothing incriminating was found. Under Murphy’s orders, Moore destroyed the taxi and bought a yellow Ford Cortina, which was to be used in subsequent murders.
Early on 11 March 1976, Murphy tried to kill a Catholic woman in a drive-by shooting; arrested later that day, he was put on remand on an attempted murder charge. Shortly after Murphy’s arrest, he began to receive visits from “Mr A” and “Mr B”. He told “Mr A” that the cut-throat murders should continue in due course, partly to divert suspicion from himself. In a subsequent plea-bargain, Murphy pleaded guilty to a firearms charge and was sentenced on 11 October 1977 to twelve years’ imprisonment.
Another Catholic man killed by the gang was Cornelius Neeson (49), attacked with a hatchet by Moore and McAllister on the Cliftonville Road late on 1 August 1976. He died a few hours later. A brother of Mr Neeson’s, speaking in 1994, declared: “I saw the state of my brother’s body after he was butchered on the street. I said, ‘That is not my brother’. Even our mother would not have recognised him”.
Later that year “Mr A” informed Moore, now the Butchers’ de facto commander, of Murphy’s orders to resume the throat-slashings. Three more Catholic men from North Belfast were subsequently kidnapped, tortured and hacked to death in the same way as before. The victims were: Stephen McCann (21), a Queen’s University student murdered on 30 October 1976; Joseph Morrissey (52), killed on 3 February 1977; and Francis Cassidy (43), a dock-worker who was killed on 30 March 1977. Moore proved himself an able deputy to Murphy, committing the throat-cuttings himself and encouraging the gang to use extreme violence on the victims beforehand. In particular, Arthur McClay attacked Morrissey with a hatchet; Moore had promoted McClay after Murphy had been jailed. The three victims were dumped in various parts of the greater Shankill area. The other gang members involved in one or more of these cut-throat murders were Sam McAllister, John Townsley, David Bell and Norman Waugh. “Mr A” played a prominent part in the planning of Moore’s activities.
Capture and imprisonment
Late on Tuesday, 10 May 1977, Gerard McLaverty, a young Belfast man whose family had recently left the city, was walking down the Cliftonville Road. Two members of the Butchers approached him and, posing as policemen, forced him into a car where two of their comrades were seated. The gang, who had spent the day drinking, drove McLaverty to a disused doctor’s surgery on the corner of Emerson Street and the Shankill Road where he was beaten with sticks. He was stabbed, had his wrists slashed a number of times by Moore and McAllister, using a smallish knife, and was dumped in a back entry. Uncharacteristically, he had been left for dead by the gang but survived until early morning, when a woman heard his cries for help and called the police. In compliance with previous orders, news of the assault was given to Inspector Nesbitt. At first he did not attribute particular significance to this message, as the Butchers had left no one alive before; but on discovering the nature of the assault and the use of a knife, he came up with an idea that was to permanently change the course of his inquiries.
Taking advantage of the aftermath of a loyalist paramilitary strike and local elections, Nesbitt had the recovered McLaverty disguised and driven by police around the Shankill area on Wednesday 18 May to see if he could spot the men who had abducted or attacked him. Within a short time he identified McAllister and Edwards, and Nesbitt had a breakthrough that enabled him to widen his net. The next morning he initiated a large arrest operation and many of McAllister’s associates, including Moore, were taken into custody. At first under intense interrogation, the suspects admitted only to their involvement in the McLaverty abduction but Nesbitt, seizing on McAllister’s references to the size of a knife used on McLaverty, had his team of detectives press the case, and eventually most of the gang admitted their part in the activities of the Butchers. Further arrests followed and the overall picture became clearer.
The salient point emerging was that Lenny Murphy, the commander of the unit, was the driving force behind the cut-throat murders and other criminal activities. A number of the Butchers implicated him and his close associates “Mr A” and “Mr B” (John Murphy) in numerous paramilitary activities but later retracted these claims for fear of retribution from the UVF Brigade Staff. Lenny Murphy, in prison, and Messrs “A” and “B” were interviewed several times in connection with the Butchers’ inquiry but revealed nothing during interviews. Without corroborative or forensic evidence, the state prosecution service decided that they would not face charges.
The rest of the Butchers came to trial during 1978 and early 1979. On 20 February 1979, eleven men were convicted of a total of 19 murders, and the 42 life sentences handed out were the most ever in a single trial in British criminal history. Moore pleaded guilty to 11 counts of murder and Bates to 10. The trial judge, Lord Justice O’Donnell, said that he did not wish to be cast as “public avenger” but felt obliged to sentence the pair of them to life imprisonment with no chance of release. However, Bates was freed two years after the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994 and Moore released under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Martin Dillon’s own investigations suggest that a number of other individuals (whom he was unable to name for legal reasons) escaped prosecution for participation in the crimes of the Butchers and that the gang were responsible for a total of at least 30 murders. In summing-up, Lord O’Donnell stated that their crimes, “a catalogue of horror”, were “a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry”. After the trial, Jimmy Nesbitt’s comment was: “The big fish got away”, a reference to Murphy (referred to in court as “Mr X” or the “Master Butcher”) and to Messrs “A” and “B”. At this time Gerry McLaverty lived under Northern and Republican police protection in Dublin, where he had been given a cover name.
Murphy’s release and death
His sentence for the firearms conviction complete, Lenny Murphy was released from prison on 16 July 1982. One day later, his killing spree resumed when he beat to death a local Protestant man with a learning disability in the Loyalist Club in Rumford Street. His body was dumped in a back alley over a mile away. Murphy began to assemble a new gang.
On 29 August 1982, Murphy killed Jim Galway (33), a part-time Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier from the Lower Shankill area who had been passing information to the UVF and was involved with its Ballymena units. When suspicions of being an informer fell upon Galway, Murphy decided to kill him. Galway was shot in the head at a building site in the village of Broughshane near Ballymena and buried on the spot. His decayed body was not found until November 1983; he had not been seen since leaving for a short holiday at the end of August 1982. The location of the body was pointed-out in 1983 by someone in custody for other charges.
On 5 September, Murphy killed a former UVF prisoner, Brian Smyth (30), in a dispute over money owed for a car. Murphy poisoned the man in a Shankill club before shooting him from the rear of a passing motorcycle as he sat in a car driven by Murphy’s friend and leading Red Hand Commando member Sam “Mambo” Carroll.
The Shankill Butchers’ last victim was killed off Brookmount Street (pictured), where Lenny Murphy owned a house
Early on Friday 22 October, UDR soldier Thomas Cochrane was kidnapped by the IRA. The next evening, although he had been warned by the UVF Brigade Staff against abducting anyone, Murphy kidnapped a Catholic, ostensibly to demand Cochrane’s release in exchange for the Catholic hostage. He hijacked a black taxi, which one of his men drove to the Falls Road. Joseph Donegan, a middle-aged Catholic man on his way home, hailed the vehicle and got in. Murphy immediately attacked the man as the taxi was driven back to the safety of the Shankill. At a house owned by Murphy in Brookmount Street, Donegan was tortured sadistically by Murphy, who according to Dillon, pulled out all but three of his teeth with pliers. Murphy’s associate, Tommy Stewart, battered Donegan to death with a shovel. “Mr A” was party to these events. Murphy telephoned a prominent Catholic politician, Cormac Boomer, to demand that Cochrane be set free. Murphy ordered that Donegan’s body be removed from his house, but the plan was disturbed by passers-by and the victim had to be dumped in an entry behind the house. After discovery of the body on the morning of Monday 25 October, Murphy and two others were arrested; but without evidence that Murphy had been party to this crime, it was not possible to charge him. Cochrane’s body was found a week later.
Murphy was assassinated by a Provisional IRA hit squad early in the evening of Tuesday 16 November 1982 outside the back of his girlfriend’s house in the Glencairn estate (where four of the Butchers’ cut-throat victims had been dumped). No sooner had he parked his car than two gunmen emerged from a van that had been following him and fired a hail of more than twenty bullets, killing him instantly. After several days’ speculation as to those responsible for the shooting, the IRA issued a statement claiming responsibility for what it termed Murphy’s “execution”:
“Lenny Murphy (master butcher) has been responsible for the horrific murders of over 20 innocent Nationalists in the Belfast area and a number of Protestants. The IRA has been aware for some time that since his release recently from prison, Murphy was attempting to re-establish a similar murder gang to that which he led in the mid-1970s and, in fact, he was responsible for a number of the recent sectarian murders in the Belfast area. The IRA takes this opportunity to restate its policy of non-sectarian attacks, while retaining its right to take unequivocal action against those who direct or motivate sectarian slaughter against the Nationalist population”.
The location of the murder, in a loyalist stronghold, and the timing of the shooting to coincide with Murphy’s movements suggest that the IRA received help from UVF members who deemed Murphy “out of control” or, equally plausibly, that information had been given by an enemy of Murphy’s. Dillon suggests that Jim Craig, a leading Ulster Defence Association (UDA) godfather whose protection rackets had made him rich and feared in equal measure, fitted the bill. He was known to have clashed with Murphy on the latter’s release from prison earlier that year and may have wanted him out of the picture. In support of this theory, Craig was later executed by his UDA colleagues for “treason”, an inquiry having found some evidence of his part in the murder of other top loyalists by the IRA.
Murphy’s family denied that he had a violent nature or was involved with the Butchers: “My Lenny could not have killed a fly”, said his mother Joyce. She also accused the police of continual harassment of her son since his recent release from prison and said that he was planning to leave the country as soon as his divorce came through. The UVF gave Murphy a paramilitary funeral attended by thousands of loyalists and several unionist politicians, at which Mr A and John Murphy played prominent roles. On his gravestone in Carnmoney cemetery were inscribed the words: “Here lies a soldier”. Murphy’s headstone was smashed in 1989 and had to be replaced.
Moore, Bates and McAllister shot and wounded a member of the Windsor Bar UVF unit a few hours after the murder of Noel Shaw in November 1975. Murphy and Moore shot dead Edward McQuaid, a Catholic man, on the Cliftonville Road on 10 January 1976. On 9 February 1976, Murphy and three of his gang shot and killed two Protestant men, Archibald Hanna and Raymond Carlisle, wrongly believing that they were Catholics on their way to work across the Shankill. Bates was involved in a gun attack on a bar in Smithfield, not far from the Shankill, that killed several people, both Catholics and Protestants, on 5 June 1976. Other Protestants who met their deaths at the hands of the gang included two UDA men. The first was Thomas Easton, who made the mistake of becoming involved in an argument with McAllister, and died after being hit by falling beer-barrels on 21 December 1976. McAllister’s guilty plea to a manslaughter charge was accepted by the Crown. The second was James Moorehead, a former police reservist, beaten to death by McAllister, Bates and Moore in the toilets of the Windsor Bar on 29 January 1977. McAllister received a minor punishment shooting for the murder of Easton. Members of the gang also carried out a bombing mission on the Falls Road that killed a 10-year-old Catholic boy on 10 April 1977. Murphy’s brother John was heavily involved in the latter incident, along with “Mr A”. The gang used the services of the UVF’s leading bomb expert James “Tonto” Watt to plant the device, although Watt was not a member of the Brown Bear platoon. Several of the Butchers, including John Murphy, were questioned about a serious assault in April 1977 in Union Street, near Belfast city centre, on a man they believed wrongly was a Catholic. John Murphy received three years’ imprisonment for his part in this incident.
Several sources indicate that Mid-Ulster UVF’s brigadier, Robin “The Jackal” Jackson from Donaghcloney (now deceased) contacted members of the gang in the Shankill, “Mr A” in particular, and had them make an attempt on the life of journalist Jim Campbell, northern editor of the Sunday World newspaper, in May 1984. Campbell, whose investigations put the spotlight on Jackson’s activities, was very seriously wounded but survived.
All members of the Butchers gang were released a number of years ago. The first to be freed was John Townsley, who had been only 14 when he became involved with the gang and 16 when arrested. In October 1996, Bates was released; he had reportedly “found religion” behind bars. Bates was shot and killed in the upper Shankill area on 11 June 1997 by the son of the UDA man he had killed in the Windsor Bar. “Mr B”, John Murphy, died in a car accident in Belfast in August 1998. In July 2000, Sam McAllister was injured in an attack during a loyalist feud. William Moore was the final member of the gang to be released from prison in August 1998, after over twenty-one years behind bars. He died on 17 May 2009, from a suspected heart attack at his home and was given a paramilitary funeral by the UVF. With Moore now deceased, the only senior figure still alive is “Mr A”.
In November 2004, the Serious Crime Review Team in Belfast said they were looking into the unsolved death of Rosaleen O’Kane, aged 33 at the time of her death, who was found dead in her home in September 1976. Her family and authorities believe the Shankill Butchers may have been involved in her death.