Tag Archives: Martin McGuinness

The Claudy Bombing – IRA Priest Murders 9 Innocent People With Bomb In Claudy

The Claudy Bombing

The Claudy bombing occurred on 31 July 1972, when three car bombs exploded mid-morning on the Main Street of Claudy in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The attack killed nine civilians, and became known as “Bloody Monday”.[1] Those who planted the bombs had attempted to send a warning before the explosions took place. The warning was delayed, however, because the telephones were out of order due to an earlier bomb attack.[2] The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) issued an immediate denial of responsibility,[2][3] and later claimed that “an internal court of inquiry” had found that its local unit did not carry out the attack.[4]

claudy news paper headline

Claudy Bomb IRA Victims

On 24 August 2010, following an eight-year investigation, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland published a report into the bombing, which stated that the Royal Ulster Constabulary believed in the early 1970s that Father James Chesney, a local Roman Catholic priest, was the IRA’s quartermaster and Director of Operations of the South Derry Brigade.[5] The report found that the possibility of his involvement in activities including the Claudy bombing was covered up by senior police officers, government ministers and the Roman Catholic hierarchy.[6]

On the 40th anniversary of the bombing, former Provisional IRA leader Martin McGuinness described the events of that day as “appalling and indefensible” and “inflicted on totally innocent people”[7]

On 31 July 1972 at about 4:00 am,[8] the British Army had begun Operation Motorman. This was an operation to regain control of the “no-go areas” (areas controlled by Irish republican paramilitaries) that had been established in Belfast[9] and Derry. The bombing of Claudy may have been a response to this operation.[2]

Shortly before 10:00 am, three car bombs were placed in the centre of the village, which was busy with shoppers at the time. Initial police investigations found that a car was seen travelling from Claudy at 10:00. It had stopped at the nearby village of Feeny, where a passenger tried to use the public telephone box, which was out-of-order. The car then travelled to Dungiven where it stopped on the Main Street. Two men got out and went into separate shops to use the telephones, which were also out of order following a bomb attack at the local telephone exchange. The men then asked the shop assistants to tell the police at Dungiven that there were three bombs in Claudy, but by this time the first bomb had already detonated.[10]

The first bomb, hidden inside a stolen Ford Cortina, exploded at 10:15 outside McElhinney’s bar and store on Main Street.[10] Six people were killed by this bomb; among the dead were an eight-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy.[11] A second bomb, hidden inside a stolen Morris Mini Van parked outside the post office on Main Street,[10] was spotted by a police officer, who then began directing people away from the area towards Church Street. At 10:30, a bomb hidden inside a stolen Mini Van detonated outside the Beaufort Hotel on Church Street.[10] The bomb outside the post office exploded almost simultaneously, killing three people, including a 16-year-old boy injured in the first blast.[11]

Victims

Elizabeth McElhinney

Elizabeth was serving petrol at a pump outside McElhinney’s pub on Main Street when the first car bomb exploded nearby.

The 59-year-old nurse was killed instantly.

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Joseph McCloskey

Joseph McCluskey

Joseph, 39, was also killed instantly in the first explosion.

A father of seven, he had taken his four-year-old son into the village to buy a newspaper.

His son survived the explosion

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Kathryn Eakin

Kathryn Eakin

Eight-year-old Kathryn was cleaning the windows of her family’s shop when the first bomb went off. She died instantly.

Her mother, Merle, saw a bomber leave what would be the second bomb beside their shop, not knowing what horror it would bring to her family.

“When he stepped out of that car, he saw Kathryn standing at that window,” she said.

“He should have shouted at her. But he didn’t, he just walked away.”

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Rose McLaughlin

Rose McLaughlin

Rose was injured in the first explosion. The 52-year-old mother of eight died three days later on 3 August.

She owned a shop on Main Street and was hit by shrapnel while talking to a customer.

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Joseph  ( Patrick ) Connolly

Fifteen-year-old Patrick, who was in Rose McLaughlin’s shop, was injured by flying metal from the first explosion.

He was flown to Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry, but died eight days later on 8 August.

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Arthur Hone

Arthur Hone

Arthur was the final person to die as a result of the first bomb. The 38-year-old father of two died from his injuries on 13 August.

A keen musician who worked in Londonderry, he had stayed at home that day.

He was hit by shrapnel as he stood in Elizabeth McElhinney’s shop.

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David Miller

David Miller

David died when the third bomb outside the Beaufort Hotel exploded. He was 60-years-old.

He had helped the injured after the first explosion, but when the second device was discovered by police he, along with many others, was directed into the path of the third explosion.

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James McClelland

Sixty-five-year-old James was also instantly killed as the third bomb exploded. He too had been helping the injured aftert he first explosion

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William Temple

William Temple

William, 16, had travelled to Claudy from Donemana in County Tyrone. He was a milkman’s helper and his round included the village.

He had been injured by the first explosion, but was killed instantly in the third.

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Investigations

RUC investigation

The Derry Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army denied involvement at the time of the attack.[2] Derry politician Ivan Cooper (of the Social Democratic and Labour Party), however, claimed in 2002 that the IRA and Father James Chesney (a Catholic priest from the nearby parish of Desertmartin) were involved in the attack. Cooper stated:

Within a couple of days, a man lurked like a scared rabbit outside one of my constituency offices. He told me the IRA was behind the bomb and I had every reason to believe him. He gave no names and I asked no names. That is the way it was then. It was dangerous to know too much. But several months later, I became aware of the identities and I have absolutely no doubt that Father Jim Chesney was involved.[2]

The type and colour of car used by those who gave the bomb warning were rare in Northern Ireland at that time. In the first week of August 1972, the RUC arrested a suspect (called “Man A”) who owned a similar car. He provided an alibi, however, that he had been at Chesney’s home in Bellaghy at the time. Chesney and another person corroborated the man’s alibi and he was released after being questioned. According to the Ombudsman’s report, when Chesney was stopped at a police checkpoint in September 1972, a sniffer dog found traces of explosives in his car. The police officers involved in the original police investigation suspected the following:

  • that the alibi had been prepared beforehand;
  • that “Man A” was an IRA member and had played a key role in the bombing; and
  • that Chesney was the quartermaster and “director of operations” for the South Derry IRA and had also been involved in the bombing.

In October 1972, police intelligence alleged that Chesney had formed an “independent group of the IRA”.

Some time after the bombing, Chesney was questioned by the then Bishop of Derry Neil Farren, and later again by Farren’s successor Bishop Edward Daly. At both times, Chesney denied any involvement. Chesney served in the parish of Cullion from July 1972 until November 1972. He was then hospitalised and spent a period of recovery in County Donegal. In December 1973, he was transferred to the parish of Convoy in County Donegal. Although he often crossed the border into Northern Ireland, he was never arrested and never faced a police interview.

A 2004 loyalist mural on Lower Newtownards Road in Belfast making reference to the bombing. It shows a priest wearing a balaclava and holding a bomb.

[12]

PSNI investigation

No person was arrested for the bombings at the time, but following calls for a new inquiry, a fresh investigation was started by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in 2002. As part of the investigation, the police uncovered documents showing that the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Willie Whitelaw discussed Chesney’s involvement with Cardinal William Conway. The actions of two other Catholic priests, Patrick Fell and John Burns, were also examined.[13]

On 30 November 2005, the PSNI detained four people in connection with the bombing.[14] They were, however, released without charge the next day and denied involvement.[15] Among those arrested was the then Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly,[16] who subsequently secured an out-of-court settlement in a legal action against the police.

Police Ombudsman report

On 24 August 2010, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland published a report into the bombing which concluded that the British government and the Roman Catholic Church had conspired to cover up Chesney’s alleged involvement.[17] The report stated:

The arrest of a priest in connection with such an emotive atrocity at a time when sectarian killings in Northern Ireland were out of control and the province stood on the brink of civil war was feared, by senior politicians, as likely to destabilise the security situation even further. A deal was therefore arranged behind closed doors to remove Fr Chesney from the province without provoking sectarian fury.[17]

According to the report by Al Hutchinson, the Police Ombudsman,

The RUC’s decision to ask the government to resolve the matter with the Church and then accept the outcome, was wrong. The decision failed those who were murdered, injured and bereaved in the bombing. The police officers who were working on the investigation were also undermined. I accept that 1972 was one of the worst years of the Troubles and that the arrest of a priest might well have aggravated the security situation. Equally, I consider that the police failure to investigate someone they suspected of involvement in acts of terrorism could, in itself, have had serious consequences.[18]

The report found the following:

  • Detectives believed Father Chesney was the IRA’s director of operations in southern County Londonderry and was a prime suspect in the Claudy attack and other paramilitary incidents.[18]
  • A detective’s request to arrest Chesney was refused by an Assistant Chief Constable of RUC Special Branch who instead said that “matters are in hand”.[18]
  • The same senior officer wrote to the government about what action could be taken to “render harmless a dangerous priest” and asked if the matter could be raised with the Church’s hierarchy.[18]
  • In December 1972, William Whitelaw met the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal William Conway, to discuss the issue. According to a Northern Ireland Office official, “the Cardinal said he knew the priest was ‘a very bad man’ and would see what could be done”. The church leader mentioned “the possibility of transferring him to Donegal”. In response to this memo, RUC Chief Constable Sir Graham Shillington noted: “I would prefer transfer to Tipperary.”[18]
  • An entry in Cardinal Conway’s diary on 4 December 1972 confirmed that a meeting with Whitelaw had taken place and stated that there had been “a rather disturbing tete-a-tete at the end about C”.[18]
  • In another diary entry two months later, the Cardinal noted that he had discussed the issue with Father Chesney’s superior and that the superior “had given him orders to stay where he was, on sick leave, until further notice”.[18]

Whitelaw died in 1999, Cardinal Conway in 1977, Sir Graham in 2001 and Father Chesney (aged 46) in 1980.[18]

Memorial

Claudy bombing memorial statue by Elizabeth McLaughlin

A memorial to those killed and injured by the bombing was erected on Claudy’s Main Street in 2000, consisting of a bronze figure of a kneeling girl, created by sculptor Elizabeth McLaughlin, mounted on a stone plinth. A number of plaques commemorating the victims are affixed to the wall enclosing the statue.[19] The statue was damaged on 20 October 2006 when vandals knocked it from the plinth.[20

Major Events in the Troubles

14th October – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

 

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

14th October

Saturday 14 October 1972

Three people were killed in two incidents in Belfast. Loyalist paramilitaries carried out a raid on the Headquarters of the 10 Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) at Lislea Drive in Belfast and stole 14 British Army issue self-loading rifles (SLRs) and a quantity of ammunition. The camp guard claimed that they were ‘overpowered’ by the Loyalists. [There was another raid on a UDR base on 23 October 1972.]

Friday 14 October 1977

Tomás Ó Fiaich was appointed as the new Catholic Primate of Ireland.

Saturday 14 October 1978

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) organised another march in Derry to protest against the march in the city on the previous Sunday, 8 October 1978. There were clashes between Loyalists and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers which resulted in 32 policemen being injured and there was also damage to property in the city.

Monday 14 October 1985

the troubles new logo

The Irish Information Partnership published some results from its database of deaths from the conflict. The information showed that more than 50 per cent of the 2,400 dead had been killed by Republican paramilitaries. In addition the data also showed that over 25 per cent of those killed by Republicans were Catholic civilians.

 

Friday 14 October 1988

Duisburg Meetings Members from four Northern Ireland political parties met for talks in Duisburg, West Germany. The parties involved were; Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI), Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Little progress was reported from the meetings.

Friday 14 October 1994

John Major, then British Prime Minister, address the Conservative Party conference and told delegates that he would pursue the peace process in his own time.

Saturday 14 October 1995

There were scuffles between Sinn Féin (SF) supporters and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers when SF attempted to hold a demonstration in the centre of Lurgan, County Armagh. The last ‘peace train’ travelled between Dublin and Belfast.

Monday 14 October 1996

Marjorie (Mo) Mowlam, then the British Labour Party spokesperson on Northern Ireland, met with Loyalist prisoners in the Maze Prison in an effort to “keep the talks process alive”. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) agreed on a draft agenda for the Stormont talks.

Thursday 14 October 1999

The funeral of Patrick Campbell, who was an Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) member, took place in Belfast.

Campbell had been injured on 6 October 1999 in Dublin and died on 10 October. Approximately 1,000 people attended the funeral among them Patrick’s father Robert Campbell who had been ‘on the run’ in the Republic of Ireland since 1981.

A joint statement was issued by anti-Agreement Unionists including the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the United Kingdom Unionist Party (UKUP), the Northern Ireland Unionist Party, and some members of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). The statement set out a common strategy for opposing any political deal leading the establishment of a power-sharing Executive which included Sinn Féin (SF).

Saturday 14 October 2000

A Catholic father-of-six and his two teenage sons all escaped uninjured when a bomb exploded in their car. The explosion happened shortly before 9.00pm at Blackstaff Way, off the Grosvenor Road, in west Belfast. The man said he was with his two sons, aged 17 and 18, for a driving lesson in the Kennedy Road Industrial Estate. He tried to adjust the driver’s seat, with one of his sons sitting in it, when he found a jar containing liquid and a pipe. He said it started to “fizz” and the three of them immediately fled from the vehicle just seconds before the device exploded. The attack was carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries.

Sunday 14 October 2001

Martin McGuinness, the Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), said that he was working “flat out” to convince the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to put its weapons beyond use.

[McGuinness made the comments on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ‘Radio Ulster’ programme. There was continuing media speculation that the IRA was close to making a move on decommissioning.]

Aidan Troy (Fr), then Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School, called on Loyalist protesters to immediately end the daily protest at the school. Troy was speaking at Sunday mass and said that a member of the congregation had made the point that the only other country where girls are prevented from having an education was Afghanistan.

It was revealed in the media that David Burnside, then Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MP, had held a meeting with the ‘inner council’ of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) sometime during the summer of 2001.

[Burnside later defended his decision to hold private talks with the Loyalist paramilitary group and said he would meet the group again if asked. Burnside said that he would not meet with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Burside was an opponent of the Good Friday Agreement.]

The Irish government held a state funeral for 10 Irish Republican Army (IRA) men who had been executed by British authorities during Ireland’s War of Independence 80 years ago. The men had originally been buried in Mountjoy Prison but were reburied in Glasnevin cemetery following a mass at the Pro-Cathedral. The most famous of the 10 men was Kevin Barry an 18-year-old medical student who took part in the rebellion and was hanged in 1920. He is remembered today in a still-popular song that bears his name.

 

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Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

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

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
Thomas Campbell

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

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

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

  6 People lost their lives on the 14th October  between 1972 – 1991

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14 October 1972
Terence Maguire,  (23)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Found shot in entry, off Clandeboye Street, Belfast.

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14 October 1972
Leo John Duffy, (45)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot at his workplace, Northern Wine Company, Tate’s Avenue, off Lisburn Road, Belfast.

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14 October 1972
Thomas Marron,  (59)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot at his workplace, Northern Wine Company, Tate’s Avenue, off Lisburn Road, Belfast.

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14 October 1975


Andrew Baird,  (37)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died three weeks after being injured by booby trap bomb attached to security barrier, Church Street, Portadown, County Armagh.

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14 October 1975
Stewart Robinson,  (23)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Found shot in entry off Aberdeen Street, Shankill, Belfast. Internal Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) dispute.

 

See: Shankill Butchers 

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14 October 1991


Henry Conlon,   (54)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Taxi driver. Shot when lured to bogus call, Finnis Drive, Taughmonagh, Belfast.

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18th September – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

18th September

Tuesday 18 September 1973

Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, gave a media interview where he said that if the Northern Ireland Assembly failed to establish a power-sharing Executive by March 1974 then the best option would be to integrate Northern Ireland fully into the United Kingdom (UK).

Saturday 18 September 1976

Two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were shot by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during a gun attack in Portadown, County Armagh. Albert Craig (33), then a Sergeant, was pronounced dead on arrival at Craigavon Hospital.

Thursday 18 September 1986

International Fund for Ireland

The International Fund for Ireland was established by the British and Irish governments.

[The fund was designed to support economic developments in Northern Ireland and the border counties in the Republic of Ireland. The initial £36 million for the fund was donated by the United States of America (which gave the bulk of the money), Canada, New Zealand and, since 1988, the European Community Commission.]

Saturday 18 September 1993

An interview with Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), was published in the Guardian (a British newspaper). McGuinness stated that any political settlement should be decided by the people of Ireland and spoke of the “right to self-determination of the Irish people”.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) issued a statement in reply to Sinn Féin (SF) claims that members of the party had been refused licences to carry firearms for personal protection. The RUC denied that was any such policy and stated that five SF councillors had been issued with firearm certificates.

Sunday 18 September 1994

The Observer (a London based newspaper) carried a report of an interview with Albert Reynolds, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister). Reynolds was reported as saying that the unification of Ireland would not come about “in this generation”.

Monday 18 September 1995

Mitchel McLaughlin, then Sinn Féin (SF) chairman, and Gary McMichael, then leader of the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), took part in a debate during the Liberal Democrats’ conference in Glasgow, Scotland. This was the first time representatives of the two parties shared a platform.

Thursday 18 September 1997

The Irish News carried a story that on Friday 12 September 1997 four unarmed members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) stopped a member of the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) and took a gun off him. The incident happened in the Ardoyne area of Belfast. [The story was later confirmed as true by Ruairí O Brádaigh, then President of Republican Sinn Féin (RSF).] During a referendum in Wales the electorate voted by a narrow majority for a Welsh Assembly. [This followed the vote for a Scottish Parliament held on 11 September 1997.]

Saturday 18 September 1999

A rally in Belfast against the reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) proposed by the Patten report was addressed by a former chief constable of the force, Sir John Hermon. He warned against pushing the report’s recommendations through the British parliament before the Northern Ireland Assembly was properly in place. The dissident Republican group, the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, opened a branch in Derry saying it plans to build “the strongest Republican opposition ever to British rule”.

Tuesday 18 September 2001

There was a gun attack on a man sitting in a car in the Loyalist Killycomaine estate, Portadown, County Armagh, shortly before 8.00am (08.00BST). The man was uninjured. A group of men in a second car fired several shots before driving off.

[The attack is believed to have been carried out by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers are considering the possibility that the incident is related to an on-going feud between the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and the UVF in the Portadown area..]

The Loyalist protest at the Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School continued. The protest was silent as Catholic children and parents entered the school but protesters jeered, shouted abuse, waved flags, held up banners, and whistled as the parents returned from the school. Catholic parents were scheduled to have a meeting with John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at Hillsborough, County Down, about the situation at Holy Cross school.

Seamus Mallon, then deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), announced that he would not be standing for leader of the party in the forthcoming leadership contest in November. He also announced that he wished to stand down as deputy leader of the party. Following the announcement Alban Maginness declared that he would stand as a candidate for the deputy leadership post. British and Irish officials are expected to meet in London this afternoon at the beginning of a new round of political talks to try and resolve remaining issues in the peace process. The current deadline for agreement between the political parties is 22 September 2001.


Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

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

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

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

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

  7 People lost their lives on the 18th September  between 1971 – 1976

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18 September 1971


Robert Leslie,  (20)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot while on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) foot patrol, Abercorn Square, Strabane County Tyrone.

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18 September 1972
Edmund Woolsey,  (32)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk)
Killed by booby trap bomb attached to a friend’s stolen car, which exploded when he attempted to open the door, Glassdrumman, near Crossmaglen, County Armagh.

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18 September 1972
John Van Beck,   (26) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died one day after being shot while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Lecky Road, Derry

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18 September 1973


Richard Miller,   (21) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Undercover British Army (BA) member. Died three weeks after being shot outside Royal Victoria Hospital, Falls Road, Belfast. He was wounded on 25 August 1973.

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18 September 1974


Patrick McGreevy,  (15)

Catholic
Status: Official Irish Republican Army Youth Section (OIRAF),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot from passing car while standing outside Pacific Cafe, Clifton Street, Belfast.

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18 September 1975


Brendan Doran,  (29)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot at his workplace, newsagent’s, Greenway, Cregagh, Belfast.

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18 September 1976


Albert Craig,  (33)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot while directing traffic, Brownstone Road, Portadown, County Armagh.

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