Tag Archives: Robert Nairac

Robin `The Jackal’ Jackson – Life & Death

Robert John Jackson

  Robert John Jackson (27 September 1948  – 30 May 1998) ] also known as The Jackal, was a Northern Irish loyalistparamilitary who held the rank of brigadier in the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) during the period of violent ethno-nationalist  conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles.

He was the commander of the UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade from 1975 to the early 1990s, when Billy Wright took over as leader.

From his home in the small village of DonaghcloneyCounty Down, five miles southeast of Lurgan, Jackson is alleged to have organised and committed a series of killings, mainly against Catholic civilians, although he was never convicted in connection with any killing and never served any lengthy prison terms.

At least 50 killings in Northern Ireland have been attributed to him, according to Stephen Howe (New Statesman) and David McKittrick (Lost Lives).

 David McKittrick (Lost Lives).

An article by Paul Foot in Private Eye suggested that Jackson led one of the teams that bombed Dublin on 17 May 1974, killing 26 people, including two infants.

Journalist Kevin Dowling in the Irish Independent alleged that Jackson had headed the gang that perpetrated the Miami Showband killings, which left three members of the cabaret band dead and two wounded. Journalist Joe Tiernan and the Pat Finucane Centre alleged this as well as Jackson’s involvement in the Dublin bombings.

When questioned about the latter, Jackson denied involvement. Findings noted in a report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) (released in December 2011) confirmed that Jackson was linked to the Miami Showband attack through his fingerprints, which had been found on the silencer specifically made for the Luger pistol used in the shootings.

See : Miami Showband Killings – The Day The Music Died

Jackson was a former member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), but had been discharged from the regiment for undisclosed reasons. It was stated by Weir, as well as by others including former British Army psychological warfare operative Major Colin Wallace, that Jackson was an RUC Special Branch agent.

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Colin Wallace – Colin Wallace (left) with Field Marshal Lord Alexander of Tunis

Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Patrol Group (SPG) officer John Weir (who was also involved in loyalist killings), also maintained this in an affidavit. The information from Weir’s affidavit was published in 2003 in the Barron Report, the findings of an official investigation into the Dublin bombings commissioned by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron.

See: the Barron report

— Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries  are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

Early life and UDR career

Jackson was born into a Church of Ireland family in the small hamlet of the mainly Protestant Donaghmore, County Down, Northern Ireland on 27 September 1948, the son of John Jackson and Eileen Muriel.

Some time later, he went to live in the Mourneview Estate in Lurgan,  County Armagh before making his permanent home in the village of DonaghcloneyCounty Down, five miles southeast of Lurgan. Jackson married and made a living by working in a shoe factory and delivering chickens for the Moy Park food processing company throughout most of the 1970s.

The conflict known as “the Troubles” erupted in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, and people from both sides of the religious/political divide were soon caught up in the maelstrom of violence that ensued. In 1972, Jackson joined the locally recruited Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), an infantry regiment of the British Army, in Lurgan.

He was attached to 11th Battalion UDR. On 23 October 1972, a large cache of guns and ammunition was stolen during an armed raid by the illegal Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), on King’s Park camp, a UDR/Territorial Army depot.

It is alleged by the Pat Finucane Centre, a Derry-based civil rights group, that Jackson took part in the raid while a serving member of the UDR. Journalist Scott Jamison also echoed this allegation in an article in the North Belfast News,  as did David McKittrick in his book Lost Lives.

UVF history

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Around the same time Jackson was expelled from the regiment for undisclosed reasons, he joined the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade‘s Lurgan unit. The UVF drew its greatest strength as well as the organisation’s most ruthless members from its Mid-Ulster Brigade, according to journalist Brendan O’Brien.

The Pat Finucane Centre‘s allegation that he had taken part in the UVF’s 23 October 1972 raid on the UDR/TA depot indicates that he was most likely already an active UVF member prior to being dismissed from the UDR.

Anne Cadwallader states in her 2013 book Lethal Allies that Jackson was expelled from the UDR on 4 March 1974; by then he was discernibly involved in UVF activity.

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As the Provisional IRA continued to wage its militant campaign across Northern Ireland throughout 1972, many loyalists felt their community was under attack and their status was being threatened and sought to retaliate against Irish nationalists and republicans by joining one of the two main loyalist paramilitary organisations, the illegal UVF or the legal Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

The proscription against the UVF was lifted by Merlyn ReesSecretary of State for Northern Ireland, on 4 April 1974. It remained a legal organisation until 3 October 1975, when it was once again banned by the British government.

Many members of loyalist paramilitary groups such as the UVF and UDA managed to join the UDR despite the vetting process. Their purpose in doing so was to obtain weapons, training and intelligence.

 Vetting procedures were carried out jointly by the Intelligence Corps and the RUC Special Branch and if no intelligence was found to suggest unsuitability, individuals were passed for recruitment and would remain as soldiers until the commanding officer was provided with intelligence enabling him to remove soldiers with paramilitary links or sympathies.

Operating mainly around the Lurgan and Portadown areas, the Mid-Ulster Brigade had been set up in 1972 in Lurgan by Billy Hanna, who appointed himself commander. His leadership was endorsed by the UVF’s supreme commander Gusty Spence.

Hanna was a decorated war hero, having won the Military Medal for gallantry in the Korean War when he served with the Royal Ulster Rifles. He later joined the UDR, serving as a permanent staff instructor (PSI) and holding the rank of sergeant. According to David McKittrick, he was dismissed from the regiment two years later “for UVF activity”;

The regimental history of the UDR confirms this although journalist/author Martin Dillon states in his book, The Dirty War, that at the time of his death Hanna was still a member of the UDR.

Hanna’s unit formed part of the “Glenanne gang“, a loose alliance of loyalist extremists which allegedly functioned under the direction of the Intelligence Corps and/or RUC Special Branch.

See: The Glenanne Gang

It comprised rogue elements of the RUC and its Special Patrol Group (SPG), the UDR, the UDA, as well as the UVF.

The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), in collaboration with an international panel of inquiry (headed by Professor Douglass Cassel, formerly of Northwestern University School of Law) has implicated this gang in 87 killings which were carried out in the 1970s against Catholics and nationalists.

The name, first used in 2003, is derived from a farm in Glenanne, County Armagh, which the UVF regularly used as an arms dump and bomb-making site. It was owned by James Mitchell, an RUC reservist.  According to John Weir, the gang usually did not use the name UVF whenever it claimed its attacks; instead it employed the cover names of “Red Hand Commando“, “Protestant Action Force“, or “Red Hand Brigade”. Weir named Jackson as a key player in the Glenanne gang.

He had close ties to loyalist extremists from Dungannon such as brothers Wesley and John James Somerville, with whom he was often spotted drinking in the Morning Star pub in the town. 

Alleged shooting and bombing attacks

Patrick Campbell shooting

He was first arrested on 8 November 1973 for the killing on 28 October of Patrick Campbell, a Catholic trade unionist from Banbridge who was gunned down on his doorstep. Jackson’s words after he was charged with the killing were:

“Nothing. I just can’t believe it”.

Campbell’s wife, Margaret had opened the door to the gunman and his accomplice when they had come looking for her husband. She had got a good look at the two men, who drove off in a Ford Cortina after the shooting, and although she identified Jackson as the killer at an identity parade, murder charges against him were dropped on 4 January 1974 at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.

The charges were allegedly withdrawn because the RUC thought Mrs. Campbell knew him beforehand. Jackson confirmed this, saying that they had met previously on account that he worked in the same Banbridge shoe factory (Down Shoes Ltd.) as Patrick Campbell.

 It was suggested in David McKittrick’s Lost Lives that some time before the shooting there may have been a “minor political disagreement” between Jackson and Campbell while the two men were on a night out.

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Raymond Murray, in his book The SAS in Ireland, suggested that his accomplice in the shooting was Wesley Somerville. Irish writer and journalist Hugh Jordan also maintains this allegation.

When the RUC had searched Jackson’s house after his arrest they discovered 49 additional bullets to those allotted a serving member of the UDR. A notebook was also found which contained personal details of over two dozen individuals including their car registration numbers.

Dublin car bombings

RUC Special Patrol Group officer John Weir claimed to have first met Jackson in 1974 at Norman’s Bar, in Moira, County Down.

Weir stated in an affidavit that Jackson was one of those who had planned and carried out the Dublin car bombings. According to Weir, Jackson, along with the main organiser Billy Hanna and Davy Payne (UDA, Belfast), led one of the two UVF units that bombed Dublin on 17 May 1974 in three separate explosions, resulting in the deaths of 26 people, including two infant girls. Close to 300 others were injured in the blasts; many of them maimed and scarred for life.

Journalist Peter Taylor affirmed that the Dublin car bombings were carried out by two UVF units, one from Mid-Ulster, the other from Belfast.

The bombings took place on the third day of the Ulster Workers Council Strike, which was a general strike in Northern Ireland called by hardline unionists in protest against the Sunningdale Agreement and the Northern Ireland Assembly which had proposed their sharing political power with nationalists in an Executive that also planned a greater role for the Republic of Ireland in the governance of Northern Ireland.

In 2003, Weir’s information was published in the Barron Report, which was the findings of an official investigation into the bombings by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron.

 Justice Barron concluded Weir’s “evidence overall is credible”.  An article by Paul Foot in Private Eye also implicated Jackson in the bombings.

The producers of the 1993 Yorkshire Television documentary, The Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre, referred to Jackson indirectly as one of the bombers. However, three of his alleged accomplices, Billy Hanna, Harris Boyle, and Robert McConnell were directly named.

Although the incriminating evidence against Jackson had comprised eight hours of recorded testimony which came from one of his purported chief accomplices in the bombings, the programme did not name him directly during the transmission as the station did not want to risk an accusation of libel.

The programme’s narrator instead referred to him as “the Jackal”. Hanna, Boyle, and McConnell were deceased at the time of the programme’s airing.

According to submissions received by Mr. Justice Barron, on the morning of 17 May 1974, the day of the bombings, Jackson collected the three bombs and placed them onto his poultry lorry at James Mitchell‘s farm in Glenanne, County Armagh, which had been used for the construction and storage of the devices.

He then drove across the border to Dublin, crossing the Boyne River at Oldbridge. The route had been well-rehearsed over the previous months. Billy Hanna, then the Mid-Ulster UVF’s commander and the principal organiser of the attacks, accompanied him.

At the Coachman’s Inn pub carpark on the Swords Road near Dublin Airport, the two men met up with the other members of the UVF bombing team.  Jackson and Hanna subsequently transferred the bombs from his lorry into the boots of three allocated cars, which had been hijacked and stolen that morning in Belfast. The Hidden Hand producers named William “Frenchie” Marchant of the UVF’s A Coy, 1st Battalion Belfast Brigade, as having been on a Garda list of suspects as the organiser of the hijackings in Belfast on the morning of the bombings.

The cars, after being obtained by the gang of hijackers, known as “Freddie and the Dreamers”, were driven from Belfast across the border to the carpark, retaining their original registration numbers.

Journalist Joe Tiernan suggested that the bombs were activated by Billy Hanna.  Sometime before 4.00 p.m., Jackson and Hanna headed back to Northern Ireland in the poultry lorry after the latter had given the final instructions to the drivers of the car bombs.

 Upon their return, Jackson and Hanna went back to the soup kitchen they were running at a Mourneville, Lurgan bingo hall. With the UWC strike in its third day, it was extremely difficult for people throughout Northern Ireland to obtain necessities such as food. Neither man’s absence had been noticed by the other helpers.

Following Hanna’s orders, the three car bombs (two of them escorted by a “scout” [lead] car, to be used for the bombers’ escape back across the Northern Ireland border) were driven into the city centre of Dublin where they detonated in Parnell StreetTalbot Street, and South Leinster Street, almost simultaneously at approximately 5.30 pm.

No warnings were given. From the available forensic evidence derived from material traces at the scene, the bombs are believed to have contained, as their main tertiary explosive a gelignite containing ammonium nitrate, packed into the usual metallic beer barrel container used by loyalists in prior car bombings.

Twenty-three people were killed outright in the blasts, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child; three more people would later die of their injuries. The bodies of the dead were mostly unrecognisable. One girl who had been near the epicentre of the Talbot Street explosion was decapitated; only her platform boots provided a clue as to her sex.

The bombers immediately fled from the destruction they had wrought in central Dublin in the two scout cars and made their way north using the “smuggler’s route” of minor and back roads, crossing the border near Hackballs CrossCounty Louth at about 7.30 pm. 

Thirty minutes earlier in Monaghan, an additional seven people were killed instantly or fatally injured by a fourth car bomb which had been delivered by a team from the Mid-Ulster UVF’s Portadown unit. According to Joe Tiernan, this attack was carried out to draw the Gardaí away from the border, enabling the Dublin bombers to cross back into Northern Ireland undetected.

Jackson was questioned following the Yorkshire Television programme, and he denied any involvement in the Dublin attacks.[ His name had appeared on a Garda list of suspects for the bombings.  Hanna’s name was on both the Garda and the RUC’s list of suspects; however, neither of the two men were ever arrested or interrogated in connection with the bombings. The submissions made to the Barron Inquiry also stated that one week before the Dublin attacks, Jackson and others had been stopped at a Garda checkpoint at Hackballs Cross.

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As it turned out, nobody was ever convicted of the car bombings. Years later, British journalist Peter Taylor in an interview with Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) politician and former senior Belfast UVF member David Ervine questioned him about UVF motives for the 1974 Dublin attacks. Ervine replied they [UVF] were:

“returning the serve”.

Ervine, although he had not participated in the bombings, explained that the UVF had wanted the Catholics across the border in the Republic of Ireland to suffer as Protestants in Northern Ireland had suffered on account of the intensive bombing campaign waged by the Provisional IRA.

On 28 May 1974, 11 days after the bombings, the UWC strike ended with the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the power-sharing Executive.

See: Dublin and Monaghan Bombings

John Francis Green killing

Statements made by John Weir affirmed Jackson’s active participation in the killing of senior IRA member John Francis Green in Mullyash, near CastleblayneyCounty Monaghan.

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John Francis Green

On the evening of 10 January 1975, gunmen kicked down the front door of the “safe” house Green was staying in and, finding him alone in the living room, immediately opened fire, shooting him six times in the head at close range. The bullets all entered from the front, which indicated that Green had been facing his killers.

The UVF claimed responsibility for the killing in the June 1975 edition of its publication, Combat. Green’s killing occurred during an IRA ceasefire, which had been declared the previous month.

Assassination of Billy Hanna and leadership of UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade†

Ulster Volunteer Force mural. Robin Jackson led the UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade from 1975 to the early 1990s.

Subsequent to his alleged killing of leader Billy Hanna outside his home in Lurgan in the early hours of 27 July 1975, Jackson assumed command of the Mid-Ulster Brigade.

Hanna and his wife Ann had just returned from a function at the local British Legion Club. When he stepped out of the car, Jackson and another man approached him. After asking them “What are you playing at?” Jackson produced a pistol, walked over and shot him twice in the head; once in the temple and afterwards in the back of the head, execution style as he lay on the ground. His wife witnessed the killing.

Joe Tiernan suggested that Jackson killed Hanna on account of the latter’s refusal to participate in the Miami Showband killings. Hanna apparently suffered remorse following the 1974 Dublin bombings, as he is believed by Tiernan to have instructed one of the bombers, David Alexander Mulholland to drive the car which exploded in Parnell Street, where two infant girls were among those killed.

 According to Tiernan and the Barron Report, David Alexander Mulholland was identified by three eyewitnesses. Tiernan also suggested that Hanna and Mulholland became informers for the Gardaí regarding the car bombings in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He added that although the British Army was aware of this, Jackson was never told, as it was feared he would decide to become an informer himself

Investigative journalist Paul Larkin, in his book A Very British Jihad: collusion, conspiracy, and cover-up in Northern Ireland maintained that Jackson, accompanied by Harris Boyle, had shot Hanna after learning that he had passed on information regarding the Dublin bombings.

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Martin Dillon also claims this in The Trigger Men. Dillon also stated in The Dirty War that because a number of UDR/UVF men were to be used for the planned Miami Showband attack, the UVF considered Hanna to have been a “security risk”, and therefore it had been necessary to kill him.

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David McKittrick in Lost Lives, however, suggested that Jackson had actually killed Hanna in order to obtain a cache of weapons the latter held.

The UVF drew its greatest strength as well as the organisation’s most ruthless members from its Mid-Ulster Brigade according to Irish journalist Brendan O’Brien.

Miami Showband massacre

See: Miami Showband massacre

Links to Captain Robert Nairac

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It was stated by The Hidden Hand programme that Jackson had links to British Military Intelligence and Liaison officer Captain Robert Nairac.

The Hidden Hand alleged that Jackson and his UVF comrades were controlled by Nairac who was attached to 14th Intelligence Company (The Det). Former MI6 operative, Captain Fred Holroyd claimed that Nairac admitted to having been involved in John Francis Green’s death and had shown Holroyd a colour polaroid photograph of Green’s corpse to back up his claim. Holroyd believed that for some months leading up to his shooting, Green had been kept under surveillance by 4 Field Survey Troop, Royal Engineers, one of the three sub-units of 14th Intelligence.

This unit was based in Castledillon, County Armagh, and according to Holroyd, was the cover name of an SAS troop commanded by Nairac and Captain Julian Antony “Tony” Ball. Nairac was himself abducted and killed by the IRA in 1977, and Ball was killed in an accident in Oman in 1981.

Justice Barron himself questioned Holroyd’s evidence as a result of two later Garda investigations, where Detective Inspector Culhane discounted Holroyd’s allegations regarding Nairac and the polaroid photograph. Culhane concluded that the latter had been one of a series of official photographs taken of Green’s body the morning following his killing by Detective Sergeant William Stratford, who worked in the Garda Technical Bureau‘s Photography Section.

Weir made the following statements in relation to Jackson and Nairac’s alleged mutual involvement in the Green assassination:

The men who did that shooting were Robert McConnell, Robin Jackson, and I would be almost certain, Harris Boyle who was killed in the Miami attack. What I am absolutely certain of is that Robert McConnell, Robert McConnell knew that area really, really well. Robin Jackson was with him. I was later told that Nairac was with them. I was told by … a UVF man, he was very close to Jackson and operated with him. Jackson told [him] that Nairac was with them.

In his 1989 book War Without Honour, Holyroyd claimed that Nairac had organised the Miami Showband ambush in collaboration with Jackson, and had also been present at Buskhill when the attack was carried out.

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Bassist Stephen Travers and saxophonist Des McAlea, the two bandmembers who survived the shootings, both testified in court that a British Army officer “with a crisp, clipped English accent” had overseen the operation. However, when shown a photograph of Nairac, Travers could not positively identify him as the soldier who had been at the scene.

Martin Dillon in The Dirty War adamantly stated that Nairac had not been involved in the Green killing nor in the Miami Showband massacre.

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The Barron Report noted that although Weir maintained that Jackson and Billy Hanna had links to Nairac and British Military Intelligence, his claim did not imply that the British Army or Military Intelligence had aided the two men in the planning and perpetration of the 1974 Dublin bombings. While in prison, Weir wrote a letter to a friend claiming that Nairac had ties to both Jackson and James Mitchell, owner of the Glenanne farm.

The 2006 Interim Report of Mr. Justice Barron’s inquiry into the Dundalk bombing of 1975 (see below) concluded that Jackson was one of the suspected bombers:

“reliably said to have had relationships with British Intelligence and or RUC Special Branch officers”.

In 2015, a biography of Nairac entitled “Betrayal: the Murder of Robert Nairac” was published. Written by former diplomat Alistair Kerr, the book provides documentary evidence that shows Nairac as having been elsewhere at the time the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, John Francis Green killing and Miami Showband ambush took place.

On 17 May 1974 he was on a months-long training course in England; 10 January 1975 there were three witnesses who placed him on temporary duty in Derry for a secret mission; and on 31 July 1975 at 4am he had started on a road journey from London to Scotland for a fishing holiday.

Other killings

1975

The 2006 Interim Report named Jackson as having possibly been one of the two gunmen in the shooting death of the McKearney couple on 23 October 1975. Peter McKearney was shot between 14 and 18 times, and his wife, Jenny 11 times. The shooting took place at their home in Moy, County Tyrone; Jackson was linked to the 9mm Sterling submachine gun used in the killings. “Glenanne gang” member Garnet Busby pleaded guilty to the killings and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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John Weir

John Weir claimed that Jackson led the group who bombed Kay’s Tavern pub in Dundalk on 19 December 1975, which killed two men.  Barron implicated the “Glenanne gang” in the bombing, however, Jackson was not identified by any eyewitnesses at or in the vicinity of Kay’s Tavern.[

Gardaí received information from a reliable source that Jackson and his car – a Vauxhall Viva with the registration number CIA 2771 – were involved in the bombing; yet there were no witnesses who reported having seen the car. The RUC stated that Jackson had been observed celebrating at a Banbridge bar at 9.00 pm on the evening of the attack in the company of other loyalist extremists. The implication was that they were celebrating the Kay’s Tavern bombing.

1976

The following month, on 4 January 1976, Jackson supposedly organised the “Glenanne gang”‘s two co-ordinated sectarian attacks against the O’Dowd and Reavey families in County Armagh, leaving a total of five men dead and one injured.

 Weir maintained that it was Jackson who shot 61-year-old Joseph O’Dowd and his two nephews, Barry and Declan, to death at a family celebration in Ballydougan, near Gilford; although Jackson had not been at the scene where the Reavey brothers had been killed twenty minutes earlier.

The day after the double killing, ten Protestant workmen were gunned down by the South Armagh Republican Action Force, who ambushed their minibus near the village of Kingsmill. The shootings were in retaliation for the O’Dowd and Reavey killings. The Glenanne gang made plans to avenge the Kingsmill victims with an attack on St Lawrence O’Toole Primary School, Belleeks. This plan, which involved the killing of at least 30 schoolchildren and their teacher, was called off at the last minute by the UVF’s Brigade Staff (Belfast leadership), who considered it “morally unacceptable” and feared it would have led to a civil war.

Based on the description given by Barney O’Dowd, a survivor of the shooting attack at Ballydougan, one of the weapons used in the O’Dowd killings was a Luger with an attached silencer.  The findings noted in the HET Report on the Miami Showband killings revealed that on 19 May 1976, two fingerprints belonging to Jackson were discovered on the metal barrel of a home-made silencer constructed for a Luger pistol.

Both the silencer and Luger, as well as more firearms, ammunition, a magazine, explosives, and bomb-making material, were found by the security forces at the farm of a man by the name of Edward Sinclair, a former member of the “B Specials“. The exhibit, however, was mistakenly labelled indicating that his prints had been found on the black insulating tape wrapped around the silencer rather than the silencer itself.

After several unsuccessful attempts to apprehend Jackson between 20 and 30 May, Jackson was arrested at his home on 31 May under Section 10 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973; he was taken to Armagh Police Station. This was when the amended information regarding his fingerprints was delivered to Detective Superintendent Ernest Drew at Armagh. Drew and Detective Constable William Elder both questioned him; Jackson denied ever having been at Sinclair’s farm whilst admitting knowing him through the Portadown Loyalist Club which they both frequented.

When shown the Luger, silencer and magazine (but not the insulating tape), Jackson denied having handled them. When asked by Detective Superintendent Drew to provide an explanation should his fingerprints be discovered on either pistol or silencer, Jackson told him that one night at the Portadown Loyalist Club, Sinclair had asked him for some adhesive tape and Jackson claimed

“I gave him part of the roll I was using in the bar”.

Jackson had allegedly been using the tape whilst lapping hoses for beer kegs at the bar. In his statement to Detective Superintendent Drew, Jackson claimed that one week prior to his arrest, two high-ranking RUC officers had tipped him off about his fingerprints having been found on the insulating tape wrapped around the silencer used with the Luger. Jackson went on to say that he was forewarned, using the words:

“I should clear as there was a wee job up the country that I would be done for and there was no way out of it for me”.

On 2 June, Jackson was charged with possession of a firearm, a magazine, four rounds of ammunition and a silencer with intent to endanger life. He was detained in custody and went to trial on 11 November 1976 at a Diplock Court held at Belfast City Commission, charged only with possession of the silencer. Although the judge initially rejected his defence that his fingerprints were on the insulating tape and had “been innocently transferred to the silencer”, he managed to avoid conviction when he was acquitted of the charge.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Murray, had said: “At the end of the day I find that the accused somehow touched the silencer, but the Crown evidence has left me completely in the dark as to whether he did that wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly”.

As a result of the judicious examination of forensic ballistics procured from original RUC reports and presented to Justice Barron, the 9 mm Luger pistol, serial no. U 4 for which the silencer was specifically made, was established as having been the same one used in the Miami Showband and John Francis Green killings.

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According to journalist Tom McGurk, Miami Showband trumpeter Brian McCoy was shot nine times in the back with a Luger pistol.  The Miami inquiry team was never informed of these developments and Jackson was never questioned about the Miami Showband killings following the discovery of his fingerprints on the silencer. The Luger pistol serial no.U 4 was later destroyed by the RUC on 28 August 1978.

Barney O’Dowd claimed RUC detectives in the 1980s admitted to him that Jackson had been the man who shot the three O’Dowd men, but the evidence had not been sufficient to charge him with the killings.

In 2006, Barney O’Dowd spoke at the public hearings of the Houses of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on the Barron Report Debate. He maintained that in June 1976 an RUC detective came to see him at his home and told him the gunman could not be charged with the killings as he was the “head of the UVF” and a “hard man” who could not be broken during police interrogation. Additionally the UVF had threatened to start shooting policeman like the IRA were doing if the gunman was ever charged with murder.

Weir stated in his affidavit that on one occasion some months after he was transferred to Newry RUC station in October 1976, Jackson himself, and another RUC officer and “Glenanne gang” member, Gary Armstrong, went on a reconnaissance in south Armagh seeking out the homes of known IRA members, with the aim of assassinating them. Jackson, according to Weir, carried a knife and hammer, and boasted to Weir that if they happened to:

“find a suitable person to kill”, he [Jackson] “knew how to do it with those weapons”.

They approached the houses of two IRA men; however, the plan to attack them was aborted and they drove back to Lurgan. They were stopped at an RUC roadblock near the Republic of Ireland border, but the three men were waved through, after an exchange of courtesies, despite the presence of Jackson in the car with two RUC officers.

1977 and the William Strathearn killing

The village of AhoghillCounty Antrim, where the William Strathearn killing took place

He was implicated by Weir in the killing of Catholic chemist, William Strathearn,  who was shot at his home in AhoghillCounty Antrim after two men knocked on his door at 2.00 am on 19 April 1977 claiming to need medicine for a sick child.

Strathearn lived above his chemist’s shop. Weir was one of the RUC men later convicted of the killing, along with his SPG colleague, Billy McCaughey, and he named Jackson as having been the gunman, alleging that Jackson had told him after the shooting that he had shot Strathearn twice when the latter opened the door.

Weir and McCaughey had waited in Weir’s car while the shooting was carried out. The gun that Jackson used had been given to him by McCaughey, with the instructions that he was only to fire through an upstairs window to frighten the occupants and make sure they “got the message”, and not to kill anyone. As in the Dublin bombings, Jackson’s poultry lorry was also employed on this occasion, specifically to transport himself and Robert John “R.J.” Kerr, another alleged accomplice, to and from the scene of the crime. After the killing, Jackson and Kerr went on to deliver a load of chickens. Kerr was allegedly Jackson’s lorry helper, assisting in loading and unloading chickens which Jackson sold for a living.

Jackson was never questioned about the killing. According to an RUC detective, he was not interrogated for “reasons of operational strategy”. Weir suggested that “Jackson was untouchable because he was an RUC Special Branch agent.”

The Barron Report stated that Weir had made an offer to testify against Jackson and Robert John “R.J”. Kerr, but only on the condition that the murder charge against him was withdrawn. This offer was refused by the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions who said

Kerr and Jackson have not been interviewed by the police because the police state they are virtually immune to interrogation and the common police consensus is that to arrest and interview either man is a waste of time. Both men are known to police to be very active and notorious UVF murderers. Nevertheless the police do not recommend consideration of withdrawal of charges against Weir. I agree with this view. Weir and McCaughey must be proceeded against. When proceedings against them are terminated the position may be reviewed in respect of Jackson and Kerr.

It is noted in the Barron Report that Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Robert Lowry was aware of Jackson and Kerr’s involvement in the Strathearn killing, and that they were not prosecuted for “operational reasons”. Mr. Justice Barron was highly critical of the RUC’s failure to properly investigate Jackson.

Weir declared:

“I think it is important to make it clear that this collusion between loyalist paramilitaries such as Robin Jackson and my RUC colleagues and me was taking place with the full knowledge of my superiors”.

1978–1991

The interior of Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast. Following his arrest in 1979 for possession of guns, ammunition, and hoods, Jackson was remanded in custody to the prison to await trial

Journalist Liam Clarke alleged that in early 1978, Weir and Jackson traveled to Castleblaney with the intention of kidnapping an IRA volunteer named Dessie O’Hare from a pub called The Spinning Wheel. However, when Jackson and Weir arrived, they discovered the publican had been warned of the kidnap plot and they were ordered to leave the premises.

Jackson’s sole conviction came after he was arrested on 16 October 1979 when a .22 pistol, a .38 revolver, a magazine, 13 rounds of ammunition, and hoods were found in his possession.He was remanded in custody to Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast to await trial. On 20 January 1981, Jackson was brought before the Belfast Crown Court on charges of possession of guns and ammunition, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

 He was released on 12 May 1983.

A man whose description matched Jackson’s was seen behaving suspiciously in the vicinity of Lurgan RUC barracks close to where three prominent republicans were later ambushed and shot by masked UVF gunmen after they left the police station on 7 March 1990. The republicans had been signing in at the station as part of their bail conditions for charges of possession of ammunition. Sam Marshall was killed in the attack; Colin Duffy and Tony McCaughey were both wounded. Although the shooting was claimed by the UVF, the gunmen were never caught. Two UVF members were later convicted of having supplied the car used in the ambush.

He reportedly perpetrated his last killings in March 1991, with the fatal shootings of three Catholics, Eileen Duffy, Catriona Rennie, and Brian Frizzell, at a mobile shop in Craigavon. Duffy and Rennie were teenage girls.

 Weir’s affidavit contradicted this as it pointed out that although Jackson was aware that the killings were to take place, he had not been at the scene of the crime; a solicitor informed Weir he had been with Jackson at his home at the time the shootings occurred to provide him with an alibi. Investigative journalist Paul Larkin suggested that the shooting attack against the shop was organised by Jackson upon receiving complaints from UDR soldiers after they had been refused service and insulted by the mobile shop employees.

Larkin identified one of the hitmen as Mark “Swinger” Fulton. Although the RUC initially arrested UVF members associated with Jackson, they then focused their attention on the men belonging to the Mid-Ulster Brigade’s Portadown unit led by Billy Wright. Fulton was a prominent member of this unit and served as Wright’s right-hand man.

Reputation and further allegations

Designated by Weir the “most notorious paramilitary in Northern Ireland”, at least 50 killings were directly attributed to Jackson, according to journalists Stephen Howe in the New Statesman,  and David McKittrick in his book Lost Lives.

Kevin Dowling in the Irish Independent, dubbed Jackson the “Lord High Executioner of the North’s notorious murder triangle”, adding that he was infamous from Belfast to the Irish border for “the intensity and fury of his instinct to kill”.

A former UDR soldier who had served with Jackson described him as a sectarian killer who had a visceral hatred of Catholics but that :

“you were always glad to have him with you when you were out on patrol”.

Unnamed Intelligence officers personally acquainted with Jackson stated that he was a psychopath who would often dress up and attend the funerals of his victims because he felt a need “to make sure they were dead.”

 Described as a sardonic man who was extremely dedicated; physically he was dark-haired, blue-eyed, “small, but firmly-built”. Suspicious by nature, he repeatedly advised his associates that they should never reveal secret information to anyone. His paranoia and fear of recognition by his potential victims was such that he attempted to destroy all photographs of himself including school and family pictures.

Psychological warfare operative Major Colin Wallace corroborated the allegations, stating that

[E]verything people had whispered about Robin Jackson for years was perfectly true. He was a hired gun. A professional assassin. He was responsible for more deaths in the North [Northern Ireland] than any other person I knew. The Jackal killed people for a living. The State not only knew that he was doing it. Its servants encouraged him to kill its political opponents and protected him.

Wallace also named Jackson as having been “centrally-involved” in the Dublin bombings, but like Weir, suggested that the principal organiser had been Billy Hanna.  Wallace’s psychological operations unit typically targeted loyalist extremists; however, during the period of 1973 and 1974 he was refused clearance to target principal members of the Mid-Ulster UVF despite an increase in paramilitary activity from the organisation.

In June 1974, a month after the bombings, Wallace was denied permission to target key loyalists including Jackson and Hanna, as their names were on a list which excluded them from being targeted for psychological operations. This appeared to indicate that in practice, those members of paramilitaries whose names were listed were also excluded from being targeted for prosecution.

Liam Clarke of the Sunday Times made the following statements regarding Jackson and his reported special relationship with the security forces and military intelligence:

Jackson had many allies still serving in the UDR and close links to special forces soldiers. These included Bunny Dearsley of military intelligence and Robert Nairac, Tony Ball and other soldiers attached to the undercover 14th Intelligence Unit. These officers met him at a bar in Moira and many suspect that he was involved in murders set up by military contacts at that time. In the late 1970s, he [Jackson] was a binge drinker and sometimes boasted to UVF associates of “someone looking after me”. Some took this as a reference to God, or even the Devil, but the most likely explanation is that it referred to members of the Army’s intelligence corps.

Originally nicknamed “Jacko”,  Jackson was given the more sinister sobriquet, “the Jackal” by Sunday World newspaper’s Northern Ireland editor Jim Campbell when he investigated and exposed Jackson’s alleged paramilitary activities – including his involvement in the Miami Showband killings – and links to British Military Intelligence.

 In retaliation, Jackson reportedly approached members of the violent loyalist Shankill Butchers gang in Belfast, who (at Jackson’s request) shot and seriously wounded Campbell on 18 May 1984.  According to journalist Joe Gorrod of The Mirror, it was reported in the Irish Times that the SAS took Jackson abroad where he received specialist training. In the late 1980s, he was also sent by MI5 to South Africa and Australia to buy weapons that were shipped back to loyalist paramilitaries and Ulster Resistance in Northern Ireland.[130]Gorrod wrote that Jackson kept hidden files that incriminated the politicians and businessmen who were involved with Jackson in the loyalist arms shipments.

In his book Loyalists, British journalist Peter Taylor devotes pages 187–195 to the loyalists’ South African arms deals which had taken place in the late 1980s. Jackson’s name does not appear in the account nor is Australia referred to. Joe Gorrod is the only journalist to make these allegations although Henry McDonald (of The Guardian) affirmed that Jackson lived for a period of time in South Africa during the 1980s.

Image result for Loyalists Peter Taylor

The purported files, which were kept with a friend, would have ensured Jackson that he would never be sentenced to a lengthy imprisonment.

Weapons used in the 1994 UVF shooting attack on patrons in the Heights Bar at Loughinisland were later found to have come from the South African arms shipment that had ended up in the hands of Robin Jackson.

Succeeded by Billy Wright

In the early 1990s, he handed over command of the Mid-Ulster UVF to Portadown unit leader Billy Wright, also known as “King Rat”. Wright formed the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in 1996. This was after he and his Portadown unit had been stood down by the UVF’s Brigade Staff in Belfast on 2 August 1996, following the unauthorised killing of a Catholic taxi driver by members of Wright’s group outside Lurgan during the Drumcree disturbances when the UVF were on ceasefire.

Although Wright took the officially-disbanded Portadown unit with him to form the LVF, Jackson, despite being on friendly terms with Wright, remained loyal to the UVF leadership as did most of the other Mid-Ulster Brigade units. Wright was shot dead inside the Maze Prison on 27 December 1997 by Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) inmates while waiting in a prison van which was transporting him to a visit with his girlfriend. Wright had been sentenced to eight years imprisonment for having threatened a woman’s life.

Jackson was confronted in 1998 by the son of RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell, a Catholic constable gunned down outside the Cushendall, County Antrim RUC station in February 1977, as he was locking up. It was rumoured that Jackson had been the hitman sent to shoot Campbell on behalf of an RUC Special Branch officer.

Weir, in his affidavit, claimed Jackson, prior to Campbell’s shooting, had informed him of the RUC officer’s request. Jackson, by then dying of cancer, told Campbell’s son that he had not been involved in the killing. The UVF, at a secret meeting with journalists, declared that Jackson had no part in Campbell’s killing. The case was later placed under investigation by the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

See: Billy Wright

Death

Jackson died of lung cancer at his Donaghcloney home on Saturday, 30 May 1998 and was buried the following Monday, 1 June in a private ceremony in the St. Bartholomew Church of Ireland churchyard in his native Donaghmore, County Down. His grave, close to that of his parents, is unmarked apart from a steel poppy cross. 

He was 49 years old. His father had died in 1985 and his mother outlived him for five years.

After his death, a friend of Jackson told Gorrod that Jackson had no regrets about his UVF activities; however, due to his religious upbringing he was tormented by feelings of remorse on his deathbed believing that he had been “drawn into a world of evil that wasn’t of his making”. One of his last wishes was that the secret documents incriminating the politicians and businessmen with whom he associated be released to the public. Liam Clarke suggested the killing of Billy Hanna was the only killing Jackson ever regretted, admitting it had been “unfair” to kill him.

Journalist Martin O’Hagan had been in the process of writing a book about Jackson but his assassination by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in 2001 prevented its completion. Along with Billy Hanna and other senior loyalists, Jackson was commemorated in the UVF song Battalion of the Dead. In May 2010, angry relatives of UVF victims unsuccessfully sought the removal of the song from YouTube.

See : Miami Showband Killings – The Day The Music Died

See: The Glenanne Gang

See: Dublin and Monaghan Bombings

14th May – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

14th May

————————————-

Sunday 14 May 1972

Martha Campbell

A 13 year old Catholic girl was shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries in Ballymurphy, Belfast.

Monday 14 May 1973

Martin McGuinness was released from prison in the Republic of Ireland having served a six months sentence.

Tuesday 14 May 1974

Beginning of the Ulster Workers Council Strike

There was a debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly on a motion condemning power-sharing and the Council of Ireland. The motion was defeated by 44 votes to 28. At 6.00pm, following the conclusion of the Assembly debate, Harry Murray announced to a group of journalists that a general strike was to start the following day.

The organisation named as being responsible for calling the strike was the Ulster Workers’ Council (UWC). The action was to become known as the UWC Strike. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Sinn Féin (SF) were declared legal following the passing of legislation at Westminster.

Saturday 14 May 1977

Robert Nairac.jpg

Robert Nairac (29), a member of the British Army, was abducted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) outside the Three Step Inn, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

His body was never recovered and he was presumed dead. He is listed as one of the ‘disappeared’.

[The IRA later stated that they had interrogated and killed a Special Air Service (SAS) officer. Nairac was posthumously awarded the George Cross.]

See Robert Nairac

Thursday 14 May 1981

Brendan McLaughlin, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner in the Maze Prison, joined the hunger strike to replace Francis Hughes who had died on 12 May 1981.

See Hungry Strike

[McLaughlin was taken off the strike on 26 May 1981 when he suffered a perforated ulcer and internal bleeding.]

Wednesday 14 May 1986

The pressure group ‘Campaign for Equal Citizenship‘ was established at a meeting in Belfast. The CEC argued that British political parties, such as the Labour and Conservative, should organise and stand for election in Northern Ireland. The CEC was also in favour of the full administrative integration of Northern Ireland into the United Kingdom

Saturday 14 May 1994

David Wilson (27), a British Army (BA) soldier, was killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during a bomb attack on a permanent Vehicle Checkpoint, Castleblaney Road, Keady, County Armagh.

Sunday 14 May 1995

The Sunday Business Post (a Dublin based newspaper) published a report of an interview with Peter Temple-Morris, then co-chairman of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body. He expressed the view that Republican frustration with the lack of progress on all-party talks might lead to an end of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire.

Wednesday 14 May 1997

Gunmen tried to kill a taxi driver in Milford village, County Armagh.

The attempt failed when the gun jammed. The Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) was believed to be responsible for the attack.

Betty Boothroyd, then Speaker of the House of Commons, ruled that the two Sinn Féin (SF) MPs would not be given office facilities at Westminster because they had refused to take their seats in the House.

In the Queen’s speech setting out the Labour governments legislative plans it was announced that the North Report on parades and marches would be implemented in 1998. In addition the European Convention on Human Rights would be incorporated into forthcoming legislation on Northern Ireland.

Thursday 14 May 1998

Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, paid another visit to Northern Ireland to continue campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum. During his visit he delivered a key note speech.

Friday 14 May 1999

There were further political talks in London involving the two Prime Ministers and the leaders of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Sinn Féin (SF). Before the meeting Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF) expressed concern about the state of the ceasefires of the main Loyalist paramilitary groups.

He claimed that the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) had co-operated with other Loyalist groups in carrying out attacks on Catholic homes.

At the meeting Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, announced an “absolute” deadline of 30 June 1999 for the formation of an Executive and the devolution of power to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Proposals put before the parties were thought to have been agreed by, David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Irish Government, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Sinn Féin (SF).

[However the UUP Assembly party failed to endorse the proposals. The proposals would have seen the d’Hondt procedure for the appointment of ministers in a power-sharing executive triggered in the coming week, with full devolution achieved by the end of June, following a report on “progress” on decommissioning by Gen. John de Chastelain.]

Sunday 14 May 2000

Cyril Ramaphosa, former secretary-general of the African National Congress (ANC), and Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, both of whom were appointed as arms inspectors arrived in Northern Ireland. The arms inspectors report to the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).

 

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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.

10 People lost their lives on the 14th between 1972 – 1994

———————————————–

14 May 1972


Marta Campbell   (13)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot while walking along Springhill Avenue, Ballymurphy, Belfast.

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14 May 1972


John Pedlow   (17)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died one day after being shot during gun battle between Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Loyalists, Springmartin Road, Belfast.

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14 May 1972
Gerard McCusker   (24)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Found shot on waste ground, Hopeton Street, Shankill, Belfast.

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14 May 1973


John McCormac   (34)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Died three days after being shot while walking along Raglan Street, Lower Falls, Belfast.

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14 May 1973


Roy Rutherford  (33)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb in derelict cottage, Moy Road, Portadown, County Armagh

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14 May 1977


Robert Nairac   (29)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Undercover British Army (BA) member. Abducted outside Three Step Inn, near Forkhill, County Armagh. Presumed killed. Body never recovered.

See Robert Nairac

———————————————–

14 May 1980
Roy Hamilton   (22)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Republican group (REP)
Shot at his workplace, a building site, Ballymagroarty, Derry.

———————————————–

14 May 1981


Samuel Vallely   (23)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in rocket attack on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) mobile patrol, Springfield Road, Belfast.

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14 May 1984
Seamus Fitzsimmons   (21)

Cathc
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
Shot by undercover Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) members during attempted robbery at Post Office, Ballygalley, near Larne, County Antrim.

———————————————–

14 May 1994
David Wilson   (27)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed during bomb attack on British Army (BA) permanent Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Castleblaney Road, Keady, County Armagh.

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Forkhill Armagh – IRA “Bandit Country”

 

 

Forkhill or Forkill (from Irish: Foirceal) is a small village and civil parish  in south County Armagh, Northern Ireland, in the ancient barony of Upper Orior. It is within the Ring of Gullion and in the 2011 Census it had a recorded population of 498.

It was also one of the most dangerous and unforgiving places on earth for British soldiers and other security force personnel during the 30 year “conflict” and the South  Armagh IRA seemed  able to slaughtered at will and the areas  nickname “Bandit Country” was written in the blood of the innocent.

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BBC Panorama – Bandit Country, South Armagh

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See Below for more details on the South Armagh IRA

————————————————

Never forget

They died serving their country

I salute you all!

———————

They shall not grow old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them

———————

Below is a list of British army & other security personnel whom lost their lives in or around the Forkhill area during the troubles  , hero’s one and all. The most famous name on the list is Captain Robert Nairac , whose body has never been recovered and is named as one the Disappeared.

I have included civilians and republican deaths at the end of the list.

See Robert Nairac

See The Disappeared

—————————————-

Hero’s Killed in Forkhill

—————————————-

08 March 1973
 Joseph Leahy,   (31)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died two days after being injured when detonated booby trap bomb in derelict house, Mullaghbawn, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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14 December 1974
Michael Gibson,  (20)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by snipers while on joint British Army (BA) / Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) foot patrol, Killeavy, near Forkhill, County Armagh. He died 30 December 1974.

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14 December 1974


David McNeice,   (19)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by snipers while on joint British Army (BA) / Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) foot patrol, Killeavy, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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17 July 1975


Edward Garside,  (34)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by remote controlled bomb, hidden in milk churn, detonated when British Army (BA) foot patrol passed, Tullydonnell, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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17 July 1975


Robert McCarter,   (33)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by remote controlled bomb, hidden in milk churn, detonated when British Army (BA) foot patrol passed, Tullydonnell, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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17 July 1975


Calvert Brown,   (25)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by remote controlled bomb, hidden in milk churn, detonated when British Army (BA) foot patrol passed, Tullydonnell, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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17 July 1975
Peter Willis,   (37)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by remote controlled bomb, hidden in milk churn, detonated when British Army (BA) foot patrol passed, Tullydonnell, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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21 November 1975

Simon  Francis,  (29)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb hidden in abandoned rifle close to crashed car, Carrive, near Forkhill, County Armagh

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14 May 1977


Robert Nairac,   (29)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Undercover British Army (BA) member. Abducted outside Three Step Inn, near Forkhill, County Armagh. Presumed killed. Body never recovered.

See Robert Nairac

See The Disappeared

 

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17 August 1978
Robert Miller,  (22)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by remote controlled bomb hidden in parked car, detonated when British Army (BA) foot patrol passed, Forkhill, County Armagh.

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16 December 1979


Peter Grundy,  (21)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb hidden in derelict house, while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Forkhill, County Armagh.

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01 January 1980


Gerard Hardy,   (18)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Undercover British Army (BA) member. Shot in error, by other British Army (BA) members while setting ambush position, Tullydonnell, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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01 January 1980
Simon Bates,  (23)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Undercover British Army (BA) member. Shot in error, by other British Army (BA) members while setting ambush position, Tullydonnell, near Forkhill, County Armagh

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09 August 1980


Brian Brown,   (29)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by remote controlled bomb while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Forkhill, County Armagh

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31 January 1984


William Savage,   (27)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) armoured patrol car, Drumintee Road, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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31 January 1984


Thomas Bingham,  (29)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) armoured patrol car, Drumintee Road, near Forkhill, County Armagh

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17 March 1993


Lawrence Dickson,   (26)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Bog Road, Forkhill, County Armagh.

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Innocent Civilians Killed in Forkhill

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10 March 1974
Michael Gallagher,  (18)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Injured by booby trap bomb hidden in abandoned car, Dromintee, near Forkhill, County Armagh. Intended for British Army (BA) foot patrol. He died 14 March 1974.

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10 March 1974


Michael McCreesh,  (15)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb hidden in abandoned car, Dromintee, near Forkhill, County Armagh. Intended for British Army (BA) foot patrol.

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19 January 1975


Patrick Toner,   (7)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb in field near his home, Forkhill, County Armagh.

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12 June 1976


Liam Prince,   (26)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot while travelling in his car at British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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02 April 1977
Hugh Clarke,   (30)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Found shot, Tullymacreeve, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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25 June 1978
Patrick McEntee,   (54)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Found shot, Ballsmill, near Forkhill, County Armagh. Alleged informer.

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12 December 2001
Derek Lenehan,  (27)

nfNI
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
From Dublin. Died several hours after being found shot in the legs, by the side of New Road, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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Republicans Terrorists Killed in Forkhill

—————————————–

15 April 1976


Peter Cleary,  (25)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) member, shortly after being detained at a friend’s home, Tievecrom, near Forkhill, County Armagh.

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05 March 1982


Seamus Morgan,  (24)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Found shot near Forkhill, County Armagh. Alleged informer.

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14 March 1987
Fergus Conlon,  (31)

Catholic
Status: Civilian Political Activist (CivPA),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Irish Republican Socialist Party member. Found shot, Clontigora, near Forkhill, County Armagh. Irish National Liberation Army / Irish People’s Liberation Organisation feud

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Provisional IRA South Armagh Brigade

The South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) operated during the Troubles in south County Armagh. It was organised into two battalions, one around Jonesborough and another around Crossmaglen. By the 1990s, the South Armagh Brigade was thought to consist of about 40 members,[1] roughly half of them living south of the border.[2] It has allegedly been commanded since the 1970s by Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy who is also alleged to be a member of the IRA’s Army Council.[3] Compared to other brigades, the South Armagh IRA was seen as an ‘independent republic’ within the republican movement, retaining a battalion organizational structure and not adopting the cell structure the rest of the IRA was forced to adopt after repeated intelligence failures.[4]

As well as paramilitary activity, the South Armagh Brigade has also been widely accused of smuggling across the Irish border.[5] Between 1970 and 1997 the brigade was responsible for the deaths of 165 members of British security forces (123 British soldiers and 42 Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers). A further 75 civilians were killed in the area during the conflict,[6] as well as ten South Armagh Brigade members.[7] The RUC recorded 1,255 bombings and 1,158 shootings around a radius of ten miles from the geographic center of South Armagh in the same period.[6]

 

1970s

South Armagh has a long Irish republican tradition. Many men in the area served in the Fourth Northern Division of the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence (1919–21) and, unlike most of the rest of the Northern Ireland IRA, on the republican side in the Irish Civil War (1922–23). Men from the area also took part in IRA campaigns in the 1940 and 1950s.[8]

At the beginning of the Northern Ireland Troubles in August 1969, rioters, led by IRA men, attacked the RUC barracks in Crossmaglen, in retaliation for the attacks on Catholic/nationalist areas in Belfast in the Northern Ireland riots of August 1969.[citation needed] After the split in the IRA in that year, the South Armagh unit sided with the Provisional IRA rather than the Official IRA. The following August, two RUC constables were killed by a bomb in Crossmaglen. A week later, a British soldier was killed in a firefight along the border.[9]

However, the IRA campaign in the area did not begin in earnest until 1971. In August of that year, two South Armagh men were shot and one killed by the British Army in Belfast, having been mistaken for gunmen.[citation needed] This caused outrage in the South Armagh area, provided the IRA with many new recruits and created a climate where local people were prepared to tolerate the killing of security force members.[10]

During the early 1970s, the brigade was mostly engaged in ambushes of British Army patrols. In one such ambush in August 1972, a Ferret armoured car was destroyed by a 600 lb landmine, killing one soldier. There were also frequent gun attacks on foot patrols. Travelling overland in South Armagh eventually became so dangerous that the British Army began using helicopters to transport troops and supply its bases – a practice that had to be continued until the late 1990s. According to author Toby Harnden, the decision was taken shortly after a Saracen armoured vehicle was destroyed by a culvert bomb near Crossmaglen, on 9 October 1975. Subsequently, the British Army gave up the use of roads to the IRA in South Armagh.[11] IRA volunteer Éamon McGuire, a former Aer Lingus senior engineer, and his team claim that they were responsible for getting the British Army “off the ground and into the air” in South Armagh. He was identified as the IRA’s chief technical officer by the Central Intelligence Agency.[12] Another noted IRA commander at that time was the commanding officer of the first battalion, Captain Michael McVerry. He was eventually killed during an attack on the RUC barracks in Keady in November 1973. Around this time IRA engineers in South Armagh pioneered the use of home-made mortars which were relatively inaccurate but highly destructive.[13]

In 1975 and 1976, as sectarian violence increased in Northern Ireland, the South Armagh Republican Action Force, allegedly a cover-name for the South Armagh Brigade, carried out two attacks against Protestants. In September 1975 they attacked an Orange lodge in Newtownhamilton, killing five members of the lodge. Then, in January 1976, after a series of loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) attacks on Catholic civilians in the border areas (including the Reavey and O’Dowd killings the previous day), the group shot and killed ten Protestant workmen in the “Kingsmill massacre” near Bessbrook. The workers’ bus was stopped and the one Catholic worker taken aside before the others were killed.[14] In response, the British government stated that it was dispatching the Special Air Service (SAS) to South Armagh, although the SAS had been present in the area for many years.[15] While loyalist attacks on Catholics declined afterwards and many Protestants became more reluctant to help the UVF, the massacre caused considerable controversy in the republican movement.

By the end of the 1970s, the IRA in most of Northern Ireland had been restructured into a cell system. South Armagh, however, where the close rural community and family connections of IRA men diminished the risk of infiltration, retained its larger “battalion” structure. On 17 February 1978 the commander of the 2nd Battalion Royal Green Jackets, Lieutenant Colonel Ian Corden-Lloyd, was killed and two other soldiers injured when the Gazelle helicopter he was travelling in was attacked by an IRA unit near Jonesborough. At that moment, a gun battle was taking place on the ground between British soldiers and members of the South Armagh Brigade. The helicopter crashed while taking evasive manoeuvres after being fired at from the east side of Edenappa road.[16] Corden-Lloyd’s subordinates had been accused of brutality against Catholic civilians in Belfast in 1971.[17] In August 1979, a South Armagh unit killed 18 soldiers in the Warrenpoint ambush.[18] This was the biggest single loss of life inflicted on the British Army in its deployment in Northern Ireland (Operation Banner).

A number of South Armagh IRA members were imprisoned by the end of the 1970s and took part in the blanket protest and dirty protest in pursuit of political status for IRA prisoners. Raymond McCreesh, a South Armagh man, was among the ten republican hunger strikers who died for this goal in the 1981 hunger strike. The South Armagh Brigade retaliated for the deaths of the hunger strikers by killing five British soldiers with a mine that destroyed their armoured vehicle near Bessbrook.[19]

1980s

During the mid-1980s, the brigade focused its attacks on the RUC, killing 20 of its members between 1984 and 1986. Nine of these were killed in the February 1985 Newry mortar attack.[20]

In 1986, the British Army erected ten hilltop observation posts in South Armagh. These bases acted as information-gathering centres and also allowed the British Army to patrol South Armagh more securely. Between 1971 and the erection of the hilltop sites in the mid-1980s (the first in 1986), 84 members of the security forces were killed in the Crossmaglen and Forkhill areas by the IRA. After this, 24 security force personnel and Lord Justice Gibson and his wife were killed in the same areas, roughly a third of the previous yearly rate.

In March 1989, two senior RUC officers were killed in an ambush near Jonesborough. Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were returning from a meeting with the Garda Síochána in the Republic of Ireland, where they had been discussing a range of issues including ways of combating IRA attacks on the cross-border rail link, when they were ambushed.[21] This incident was investigated by the Smithwick Tribunal into alleged collusion between the IRA and the Gardaí.[22] As the divisional commander for South Armagh, Breen was the most senior policeman to have been killed during the Troubles.[23]

South Armagh became the most heavily militarized area in Northern Ireland. In an area with a population of 23,000, the British Army stationed around 3,000 troops in support of the RUC to contain an unknown number of paramilitaries.[24]

1990s

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the IRA elsewhere in Northern Ireland found that nine out of ten planned operations failed to materialize.[25] However, the South Armagh Brigade continued to carry out varied and high-profile attacks in the same period.[26] By 1991, the RUC acknowledged that no mobile patrols had operated in South Armagh without Army support since 1975.[27]

On 30 December 1990, Sinn Féin member and IRA volunteer,[28] Fergal Caraher, was killed by Royal Marines near a checkpoint in Cullyhanna. His brother Michael Caraher, who was severely wounded in the shooting, later became the commander of one of the South Armagh sniper squads.

These squads were responsible for killing seven soldiers and two RUC members until the Caraher team was finally caught by the Special Air Service in April 1997.[29] The South Armagh Brigade also built the bombs that were used to wreck economic targets in London during the 1990s, specially hitting the financial district. The truck bombs were sent to England by ferry.[30] On 22 April 1993, the South Armagh IRA unit took control of the village of Cullaville near the border with the Republic, for two hours, making good use of dead ground. The fact that the IRA executed the action despite the presence of a British Army watchtower nearby, caused outrage among British and Irish parliamentary circles.[31][32]

The South Armagh Brigade was by far the most effective IRA brigade in shooting down British helicopters during the conflict. They carried out 23 attacks on British Army helicopters during the Troubles, bringing four down on separate occasions: the Gazelle shot down in February 1978 near Jonesborough,[16] a Lynx in June 1988, while in 1994 another Lynx and an RAF Puma were shot down in March and July respectively.[33] The shooting down of the Lynx in 1994 during a mortar attack on Crossmaglen barracks is regarded by Toby Harnden as the most successful IRA operation against a helicopter in the course of the Troubles.[34] A sustained machine gun attack against a helicopter was filmed by a Dublin television crew in March 1991 outside Crossmaglen Health Center. There was no reaction from British security although the RUC/Army base was just 50 yards away.[35][36] The only successful IRA attack against an Army helicopter outside South Armagh was carried out by the East Tyrone Brigade near Clogher, County Tyrone, on 11 February 1990.[37] By 1994, the safest way for the British army to travel across South Armagh and some areas of Tyrone and Fermanagh was on board troop-carrying Chinook helicopters.[38]

Ceasefires and the peace process

Borucki sangar, a British army outpost in Crossmaglen with a republican flag on top during an Ógra Shinn Féin protest some time before its removal in 2000

The IRA ceasefire of 1994 was a blow to the South Armagh Brigade, in that it allowed the security forces to operate openly in the area without fear of attack and to build intelligence on IRA members.[39] When the IRA resumed its campaign in 1996-97, the South Armagh IRA was less active than previously,[40] although one of the sniper teams killed one soldier and seriously wounded an RUC constable. But the snipers also lost a number of their most skilled members, such as Mícheál Caraher, who were arrested and imprisoned just weeks before the second ceasefire. The capture of the sniper team was the single major success for the security forces in South Armagh in more than a decade,[41] and was arguably among the most important of the Troubles,[42] but by then, the IRA and Sinn Féin had achieved huge political gains towards their long-term goals.[43] The last major action of the brigade before the last IRA ceasefire was a mortar attack on Newtownhamilton RUC/Army barracks, on 12 July 1997. The single Mk-15 mortar bomb landed 40 yards short of the perimeter fence.[42]

In 1997, several members of the South Armagh Brigade, based in Jonesborough and Dromintee, following Michael McKevitt, left the Provisional IRA because of its acceptance of the Mitchell Principles of non-violence at a General Army Convention in October of that year and formed a dissident grouping, the Real IRA, which rejected the peace process. Their discontent was deepened by Sinn Féin’s signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Most of the South Armagh IRA stayed within the Provisional movement, but there were reports of them aiding the dissidents throughout 1998.[44] The Omagh bombing of August 1998, a botched Real IRA operation which killed 29 civilians, was prepared by dissident republicans in South Armagh.[45] Thomas Murphy and the leadership of the IRA in the area have allegedly since re-asserted their control, expelling dissidents from the district under threat of death. Michael McKevitt and his wife Bernadette were evicted from their home near Dundalk.[46] IRA members in South Armagh ceased cooperating with the RIRA after the Omagh bombing.[47]

After the Provisional IRA announced its intention to disarm and accept peaceful methods in July 2005, the British government announced a full demilitarisation plan which included the closing of all British Army bases in South Armagh by 2007. The normalisation process, negotiated under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement in exchange for the complete decommissioning of IRA weaponry, was one of the main goals of the republican political strategy in the region.[48][49]

Since the army wind-down in 2007, security in the area is the sole responsibility of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.[50]

Smuggling activities

Senior IRA figures in South Armagh, notably Thomas Murphy, are alleged to have been involved in large-scale smuggling across the Irish border and money-laundering. Other alleged illegal activities involve fraud through embezzlement of agricultural subsidies and false claims of property loss. In 2006, the British and Irish authorities mounted joint operations to clamp down on smuggling in the area and to seize Thomas Murphy’s assets.[51][52] On 22 June 1998 a deadly incident involving fuel smuggling took place near Crossmaglen, when former Thomas Murphy employee Patrick Belton ran over and killed a British soldier attempting to stop him while driving his oil tanker through a military checkpoint. Belton was shot and injured by other members of the patrol, but managed to flee to the Republic. He was later acquitted of any charges, but he eventually agreed in 2006 to pay €500,000 for cross-border smuggling.[53][54] Some sources claim that the smuggling activities not only made the South Armagh brigade self-sustained, but also provided financial support to most of the IRA operations around Northern Ireland.[55][56] The IRA control over the roads across the border in South Armagh enabled them to impose ‘taxes’ on every cross-border illegal enterprise.[56]

South Armagh Memorial Garden

A memorial garden was unveiled on 3 October 2010 in the village of Mullaghbawn, near Slieve Gullion mountain, with the names of 24 members of the South Armagh Brigade who died from different causes over the years inscripted upon a marble monument, along a bronze statue of Irish mythological hero Cú Chulainn. Martin McGuinness, then deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, gave the main oration, while Conor Murphy, then Minister for Regional Development, introduced the families of the dead IRA members. The unveiling involved a large republican parade which failed to comply with the procedures of the Parades Commission. A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman confirmed that an investigation was underway, but also stated that both Sinn Féin Ministers and everyone attending the parade were unaware that “the proper paperwork hadn’t been submitted”.[57

South Armagh Sniper

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IRA Sniper Team captured in Cullyhanna

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The South Armagh Sniper is the generic name[5] given to the members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army‘s (IRA) South Armagh Brigade who conducted a sniping campaign against British security forces from 1990 to 1997. The campaign is notable for the snipers’ use of .50 BMG calibre Barrett M82 and M90 long-range rifles in some of the shootings.

Origins

One of the first leaders of the Provisional IRA, Seán Mac Stíofáin, supported the use of snipers in his book Memories of a Revolutionary, attracted by the motto “one shot, one kill”.[6] The majority of soldiers shot dead in 1972 (the bloodiest year of the conflict in Northern Ireland) fell victim to IRA snipers.[7]

About 180 British soldiers, Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers and Her Majesty’s Prison Service prison staff members were killed in this way from 1971 to 1991.[8]

The AR-18 Armalite rifle became the weapon of choice for IRA members at this time.[9]

The British Army assessment of the conflict asserted that the IRA sniping skills often did not match those expected from a well-trained sniper.[10] The report identifies four different patterns of small arms attacks during the IRA campaign, the last being that developed by the South Armagh sniper units.[11]

Sniper teams in South Armagh

The rifles

During the 1980s, the IRA relied mostly on weaponry smuggled from Libya.[12][13][14] The regular shipments from the United States, once the main source of arms for the republicans through the gunrunning operations of George Harrison, were disrupted after he was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1981.[15] The smuggling scheme suffered a further blow when the Fenit-based trawler Marita Ann, with a huge arms cache from Boston, was captured by the Irish Naval Service in 1985.[16]

However, between the mid-1980s and the 1990s there was some small-scale activity,[17] leading to the purchase of US-made Barrett M82 and M90 rifles,[18] which became common weapons for the South Armagh snipers. According to letters seized by US federal authorities from a Dundalk IRA member, Martin Quigley, who had travelled to USA to study computing at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania,[19] the organisation managed to smuggle an M82 to the Republic of Ireland just before his arrest in 1989. He was part of a bigger plot to import electronic devices to defeat British Army counter-measures against IRA remote-controlled bombs.[20]

In August 1986, another M82 had been sent in pieces from Chicago to Dublin, where the rifle was re-assembled.[21] At least two of the M90 rifles were bought as recently as six months after the first IRA ceasefire.[22] It was part of a batch of two sold to Michael Suárez, a Cuban resident of Cleveland, on 27 January 1995 by a firearms dealer; Suárez later passed the weapons to an Irishman, who finally shipped the rifles, their ammunition and two telescopic sights to the Republic of Ireland.[23] An unidentified leading figure inside the IRA sniper campaign, quoted by Toby Harnden, said that:

What’s special about the Barrett is the huge kinetic energy… The bullet can just walk through a flak jacket. South Armagh was the prime place to use such weapon because of the availability of Brits. They came to dread it and that was part of its effectiveness.[24]

Three of the security forces members killed in this campaign were instead the victims of 7.62×51mm rounds. Five missed shots belonged to the same kind of weapon.[25] Harnden recalls a Belgian FN FAL rifle recovered by the Gardaí near Inniskeen in 1998 as the possible source of these bullets.[26]

Shootings

Contrary to the first British Army assessment and the speculation of the press,[27] there was not just a single sniper involved.[5] According to Harnden, there were two different teams,[28] one responsible for the east part of South Armagh, around Dromintee, the other for the west, in the area surrounding Cullyhanna.[29] The volunteer in charge of the Cullyhanna unit was Frank “One Shot” McCabe, a senior IRA member from Crossmaglen.[2] Each team comprised at least four members, not counting those in charge of support activities, such as scouting for targets and driving vehicles. Military officials claim that the Dromintee-based squad deployed up to 20 volunteers in some of the sniping missions.[30] The teams made good use of dead ground to conceal themselves from British observation posts.[31]

Between 1990 and 1997, 24 shots were fired at British forces. The first eight operations (1990–1992), ended in misses. On 16 March 1990, the Barret M82 was used for first time by the IRA. The target was a checkpoint manned by soldiers of the Light Infantry regiment on Сastleblaney Road. A single .50 round pierced the helmet and skimmed the skull of Lance Corporal Hartsthorne, who survived with minor head injuries.[32][33] In August 1992, one team mortally wounded a Light Infantry soldier. By April 1997 seven soldiers and two policemen had been killed. An RUC constable almost lost one of his legs in what became the last sniper attack during the Troubles.

Another six rounds achieved nothing, albeit two of them near-missed the patrol boat HMS Cygnet, in Carlingford Lough[26] and another holed Borucki sangar, a British Army outpost in Crossmaglen square.[33] On 31 July 1993 at 10:00 pm a British Army patrol which had set a mobile checkpoint on Newry Road, near Newtownhamilton, was fired at by an IRA sniper team. The British soldiers returned fire, but there were no injuries on either side.[34] The marksman usually fired from a distance of less than 300 metres, despite the 1 km effective range of the rifles. Sixteen operations were carried out from the rear of a vehicle, with the sniper protected by an armour plate in case the patrols returned fire.[35] At least in one incident, after the killing of a soldier in Forkhill on 17 March 1993, the British Army fired back at the sniper’s vehicle without effect.[36] The IRA vehicles were escorted by scout cars, to alert about the presence of security checkpoints ahead.[35]

Two different sources include in the campaign two incidents which happened outside South Armagh; one in Belcoo, County Fermanagh, where a constable was killed,[37] the other in West Belfast, in June 1993.[33] An RUC investigation following the latter shooting led to the discovery of one Barrett M82, hidden in a derelict house. It was later determined that this rifle was the weapon responsible for the first killing in South Armagh in 1992.[38] Another Barrett is reported to have been in possession of the IRA team in the Occupation of Cullaville in South Armagh in April 1993.[39]

A third unrelated sniper attack, which resulted in the death of a British soldier, was carried out by the IRA at New Lodge, North Belfast, on 3 August 1992.[40] Two other soldiers were wounded by snipers at New Lodge in November 1993[41] and January 1994. Two people were arrested and a loaded rifle recovered in the aftermath of the latter incident.[42] On 30 December 1993 Guardsman Daniel Blinco became the last soldier killed by snipers in South Armagh before the first IRA ceasefire in 1994.[43] His killing, along with the reaction of the MP of his constituency, was covered by the BBC´s Inside Ulster,[44] which also showed Blinco’s abandoned helmet and the hole made by the sniper’s bullet on the wall of a pub.[45] The tabloid press of that time started calling the sniper ‘Goldfinger’ or ‘Terminator’, the nicknames current in Crossmaglen’s bars.[26] The last serviceman killed by snipers at South Armagh, Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, was also the last British soldier to die by hostile fire during the Troubles, on 12 February 1997. Restorick’s killing resulted in a public outcry; Gerry Adams called his death “tragic” and wrote a letter of condolence to his mother.[46][47]

British personnel killed

Name and rank[48] Date Place Rifle’s calibre
Private Paul Turner 28 August 1992 Crossmaglen .50
Constable Jonathan Reid 25 February 1993 Crossmaglen 7.62 mm
Lance Corporal Lawrence Dickson 17 March 1993 Forkhill 7.62 mm
Private John Randall 26 June 1993 Newtownhamilton 7.62 mm
Lance Corporal Kevin Pullin 17 July 1993 Crossmaglen .50
Reserve Constable Brian Woods 2 November 1993 Newry .50
Lance Bombardier Paul Garret 2 December 1993 Keady .50
Guardsman Daniel Blinco 30 December 1993 Crossmaglen .50
Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick 12 February 1997 Bessbrook .50

Caraher team captured

The IRA ceasefire from 31 August 1994 gave an opportunity to the British to collect intelligence to be used against the snipers.[49] The truce was strongly resented by South Armagh IRA members.[50] During the ceasefire, an alleged member of the Drumintee squad, Kevin Donegan, was arrested by an RUC patrol in relation to the 1994 murder of a postal worker in the course of an armed robbery.[51][52] When the IRA ended the ceasefire with the bombing of the London Docklands in February 1996, some volunteers had already abandoned the organisation, while others had turned to criminal activities.[53][54] The period after the ceasefire saw little IRA activity in South Armagh.[55]

Following two successful attacks in 1997, on 10 April a Special Air Service unit captured four men from the sniper team based in the west of the region, responsible for several deaths. After a brief fist fight, James McArdle, Michael Caraher, Bernard McGinn and Martin Mines were seized at a farm near Freeduff and handed over to the RUC. The British troops were under strict orders to avoid IRA casualties.[22] A Barrett M90 rifle was seized,[56] which forensic and intelligence reports linked only to the 1997 shootings.[57] It was hinted that there was an informer, a suggestion dismissed by the Ombudsman report.[58]

McGinn provided the RUC with a lot of information about IRA activities, and even betrayed Frank McCabe, the IRA commander behind the sniper campaign,[2][59] but he eventually withdrew his statement.[60] One of the key players in the British campaign against the South Armagh sniper was Welsh Guards‘ Captain Rupert Thorneloe, according to journalist Toby Harnden. Thorneloe worked as an intelligence liaison officer between the 3rd Infantry Brigade and the RUC Special Branch. Thorneloe, who reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, was killed in July 2009 by an improvised explosive device during the war in Afghanistan.[3] Another senior figure involved in the British efforts against the sniper squads was SAS Staff Sergeant Gaz Hunter,[4] whose experience in South Armagh dated back to 1975.[61] Despite the sense of relief among British forces after the arrests,[62] there was concern over the other two Barrett rifles still in possession of the South Armagh Brigade.[60]

One of the IRA volunteers captured, Michael Caraher, was the brother of Fergal Caraher, a Sinn Féin member and IRA volunteer[63] killed by Royal Marines at a checkpoint on 30 December 1990 near Cullyhanna.[8] Michael, also shot and wounded in the same attack, had lost a lung in the aftermath.[64] Despite some witnesses claiming that the shooting was unprovoked, the Marines involved were acquitted by Lord Chief Justice Hutton.[65] The shooting of Guardsman Daniel Blinco in Crossmaglen took place on the second anniversary of the killing of Fergal Caraher.[43] Michael Caraher was thought to be the shooter in several attacks,[66] but he was only indicted for the case of the maimed constable. He was defended by solicitor Rosemary Nelson, later killed by the loyalist organisation Red Hand Defenders.[67] The other three men of the sniper team were convicted in 1999 for six killings, two of them unrelated to the sniping operations (the deaths of two men when one of the team’s members, James McArdle, planted the bomb at Canary Wharf in 1996).[62]

The capture of the sniper unit was the greatest success for the security forces in South Armagh in more than a decade.[68][69] The men were set free 18 months later under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.[62] The Dromintee sniper party was never caught.

Conclusions

Barrett M-82 rifle, the main weapon used by the sniper squads

The IRA sniping activities further restricted the freedom of movement of the British Army in South Armagh by hindering their patrols. The MoD issued a new type of body armour, which was both expensive (£4,000) and too heavy (32 lbs) for use on patrol.[70] The morale of the troops was so low that some servicemen had to be disciplined for remaining in shelter while under orders to check vehicles.[71] A British major said that:

That meant that to some extent the IRA had succeeded in forcing troops off the ground and it made helicopters more vulnerable so we had to guard against using them too much.[6]

The IRA strategy also diverted a large amount of British security resources from routine operations to tackle the threat.[72] Until the 1994 ceasefire, even the SAS was unable to prevent the attacks. The IRA ceasefire between 1994 and 1996 made surveillance easier for the RUC and the British Army,[73] leading to the success against the Caraher team.[74] The security forces set the ground for an SAS ambush by deploying a decoy patrol, but this counter-sniper operation failed twice. At the end, the sniper squad was tracked to a farm complex and arrested there.[75]

By the second IRA ceasefire, another team was still operational, and two Barrett rifles remained unaccounted for.[76] The campaign is viewed as the most efficient overall IRA operation in Northern Ireland for this period.[77]

A Highway Code-style sign saying “SNIPER AT WORK” was mounted by the IRA near Crossmaglen and became an icon of the republican cause

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IRA’s top sniper Bernard McGinn is found dead in his Monaghan home

Bernard McGinn

The sniper who killed the last British Army victim of the Troubles shot by the IRA has died at his home, reportedly of natural causes.

Bernard McGinn was the infamous IRA sniper who shot Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick dead in Bessbrook in February 1997.

The South armagh sniper was one of the most feared figures of The Troubles, shooting down soldiers from as far away as half a mile. He became a folk hero in Republican circles while derided by others.

McGinn was 56 when he was found dead at his home in Monaghan town on Saturday.

Police say it is thought he died of natural causes with a post mortem due to be held on Monday.

An IRA volunteer at the age of 15, McGinn was the son of a local Sinn Fein councillor and the brother-in-law of current Sinn Fein deputy and Health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

See Irish Central for full story

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The Disappeared – Northern Ireland’s Secret Victims

Update: 17th  May 2017

Disappeared victim’s funeral has taken place

Seamus Ruddy's coffin carried into the Chapel
The requiem mass took place at St Catherine’s Dominican Chapel

The funeral of Seamus Ruddy, one of the Disappeared victims, has taken place in Newry.

Mr Ruddy, 32, was murdered and secretly buried in France in 1985 by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

The remains of Seamus Ruddy were uncovered at a site in a forest at Pont-de-l’Arche outside Rouen in northern France last month.

Mourners gathered at St Catherine’s Dominican Chapel for requiem mass to pay their respects.

Seamus Ruddy will be buried in Monkshill cemetery.

See BBC New for full story

Update: 6th May 2017

Seamus Ruddy

Image result for Seamus Ruddy

Finally  some good News in what has no doubt been a long and never ending nightmare for the families of the “Missing”  those secretly killed and buried in unmarked graves , mainly  due to Republican & Loyalist paranoia.

To lose a family member in an act of terrorism is an open wound that never  heals and never ends – but to be killed due to paranoia and  accused of being a tout or spy or  worse –  a pawn in political and paramilitary espionage , is a stain that  engulfs your entire family and mentally abuses and mocks  you daily. The grief of separation is suppressed and the stigma of guilt hangs over you like a dark cloud and the local community whisper and point behind your back.

Image result for seamus ruddy

Such was the life of the families of the Disappeared in the sectarian Badlands of West Belfast & throughout Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Now at least an end for one families misery – who will be given the spiritual healing of closure , a  Christian burial and the beginning of a life that can only get better , although grief never leaves us completely .

Sometimes it seems to me  The Gods love to ignore the suffering of mortal man and yet we follow them blindly in the hope of a protection that seldom comes.

Image result for Lisa Dorrian
Lisa Dorrian

 

 

There are STILL four more ( including Lisa Dorrian ) that remain missing. They are Columba McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and Army Capt Robert Nairac.

          Image result for Columba McVeigh      Image result for Joe Lynskey

Columba McVeigh                                        Joe Lynskey

Image result for Capt Robert Nairac

Capt Robert Nairac

Lets hope that soon they can all be returned to their families and laid to rest in eternal peace.

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Human remains found in France in search for ‘disappeared’ Seamus Ruddy

Human remains have been found at the site in northern France where a search has been taking place for the body of Seamus Ruddy, one of the Disappeared.

News that human remains had been uncovered came early on Saturday morning.

Investigators from the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains have been digging at the site in a forest near Rouen since Monday.

Mr Ruddy was working as a teacher in Paris in 1985.

He was murdered by republican paramilitaries, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), and secretly buried.

The Disappeared are those who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans during Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

See:  BBC News for full story

See:  Below for more details on Seamus Ruddy & The Disappeared – Northern Ireland’s Secret Victims

Below is a Tweet from Jeremy Corbyn –

25/09/2015

Jeremy Corbyn MP

@jeremycorbyn 52m52 minutes ago

1yr anniversary of disappearance of 43 Mexican students. I’ve written to the Ambassador with investigation concerns

Whilst for once I agree with him in that something should be done about these poor  Mexican students , what about The Disappeared from Northern Ireland ? – which is a bit closer to home and should be receiving his attention above these unfortunate students.

I’m sure it wouldn’t tax him too much to pick up the phone and ask his best buddies Adam & McGuiness to have a word with their “mates” about the whereabouts of the remains of these innocent  victims of Republican paranoia.

But wait , I had almost forgotten that Adam’s & McGuiness are now states men and working for the good of the peace process. In fact they are in such denial that I’m sure they honestly believe that they have nothing to feel guilty about and have no regrets about their dodgy past.

Well in my book these  two vile humans being represent the worst of the Troubles and the fact that they are now living comfortable lives and have a say in the running of Northern Ireland disgust me and I’m sure many others in mainland Britain. and Northern Ireland would agree. They are both drenched in the blood of the innocent and no matter what they say or do will never change my attitude towards these two IRA thugs.

But I digress – apologies for that  – but my revulsion of these two is all consuming and sometimes I get carried away and go off track. The point I was trying to make is that Corbyn needs to look closer to home and use his influence with SinnFein/IRA to bring some closure to the issue of The Disappeared of Northern Ireland and perhaps in doing so he can give the families a little comfort and a chance to give their loved one’s a Christian Burial.

It is the very least they deserve!

Please see below  for an article on The Disappeared –

 

Corbyn’s Letter

The Disappeared

The Disappeared are those who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans during Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams denies he was involved in Jean McConville’s disappearance

Gerry Adams sparks outrage as he says abduction and murder of Jean McConville is ‘what happens in wars’

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The Disappeared

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Despite extensive and painstaking searches, the bodies have never been found of four out of 16 people listed by the commission set up to locate victims’ remains.

Searches have been carried out by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, established in 1999 by treaty between the British and Irish governments to obtain information in strictest confidence that may lead to where the bodies are buried.

The Disappeared is a term which refers to people believed to have been abducted, murdered and secretly buried during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.  The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains is in charge of locating the remaining bodies,  and was led by forensic archaeologist John McIlwaine

16 people, all Catholics, including one British Army officer, all males, except for Mrs. Jean McConville, are believed to have been kidnapped and killed by republicans during the Troubles.  The Provisional IRA admitted to being involved in the forced disappearance of nine of the sixteen – Eamon Molloy, Seamus Wright, Kevin McKee, Jean McConville, Columba McVeigh, Brendan Megraw, John McClory, Brian McKinney, and Danny McIlhone. British Army officer, Robert Nairac, who disappeared from South Armagh, was a Mauritius-born Roman Catholic.

The organisation said they could only accurately locate the body of one of their victims, but gave rough ideas for the remaining eight.  As of November 2013 only seven bodies have been found.

Another Catholic victim, Gareth O’Connor, is believed to have been killed by the IRA after the Good Friday Agreement. Lisa Dorrian, a young Catholic woman, is believed to have been killed by Loyalists, taking the total number of ‘Disappeared’ up to eighteen.

Who are they?

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Found

Brendan Megraw

 

Brendan McGraw
The IRA claimed that the 24-year-old from Belfast confessed to being a British provocateur and Military Reaction Force undercover agent in 1978

Disappeared from his home in Twinbrook, Belfast on 8th April 1978.

Found: His body was recovered on 1st October 2014

Brendan, by his family…

When Brendan disappeared on Saturday 8th April 1978, he was 23 years old. He was 5ft 8in tall and had very dark brown hair, which he wore long as that was the style at the time. He also had sideburns, a thin brown moustache and blue eyes.

Brendan was very much his own man. He didn’t like being told what to do. He was very particular about his appear-ance; always had a shine on his shoes. He had attended St Finians and La Salle schools and he had served on the altar at Clonard. He worked at a number of different jobs—hotel work, in a carpet factory and a sign making com-pany, which he enjoyed but for a variety of reasons were not long-term.

Brendan was happily married for almost a year and he was living for the day of the birth of his daughter and being a dad. Within his own band of friends Brendan would have been talkative with a mischievous sense of humour. At lar-ger gatherings or more formal social occasions, Brendan would have been quieter. He was a friendly person who en-joyed life and just wanted to have a good time.

As his mum always said, “he was motorbike mad”. He enjoyed taking them apart, fixing them, cleaning them and racing them. He went for day trips on the bike with his friends or to the races at Kirkstown/Dundrod. Brendan was al-ways engrossed in cars and kept his MG Midget spotlessly clean. His two pet hates were football and politics.

His friends described him as a good friend who could be relied upon and he was good company.

The remains were discovered in a drainage ditch on Oristown bog, near Kells
Human remains found in County Meath in October were those of IRA murder victim Brendan Megraw, it has been confirmed

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Found

Eamon Molloy

Abducted from his home in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast in July 1975, after being accused by the IRA of being an informer. It was claimed he was quartermaster in one of the IRA’s three Belfast brigades and that his activities forced the IRA into calling a ceasefire that year

Eamon disappeared 1st July 1975.

Found: His body located on the 28th May 1999 at Old Faughart Cemetery, four miles outside Dundalk

Eamon, by his family…

“Eamon was of average size. He was 21 years old when he disappeared. He had dark brown hair and brown eyes. Eamon was very thoughtful to others less fortunate than himself. He was a shy young man and was easily embarrassed when he was younger but he grew out of that as he got older”.


“He loved playing snooker and he was learning to play the mandolin at the time of his disappearance”.


“He had so many friends. Some of them still call to see me and they talk about things that happened when they were young and the things that happened in school. They still talk about how they miss him and the fun they all used to have together”.

Eamon Molloy’s remains were found in a coffin left above ground in a cemetery 25 years after his death

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Found

Brian McKinney

Twenty-two when he was abducted with his friend John McClory in 1978, he had first gone missing a few days beforehand, but returned 48 hours later, beaten and distraught. He had allegedly admitted to stealing IRA weapons for use in robberies.

Brian disappeared 25th May 1978.

Found: His body was located on 29th June 1999 at Colgagh, Iniskeen, Co. Monaghan along with John McClory’s body. John McClory had been kidnapped an hour earlier

Brian, by his family…

“Brian was small and his nickname was “Bru” because of Brian Bru was a giant and he was so small. He had dark brown hair, which he loved, and he kept it well groomed. He was 22 years old when he was taken away from us”.


“Brian was never a well boy. He was in and out of hospital and had bad asthma and eczema. When he was 14 years old he was diagnosed as having the mind of a six year old. It was genetic thing. We were all very protective of Brian. He was very popular in the area with the neighbours and he was always singing and he played a mouth organ and the guitar. In fact, sometimes you had to tell him to be quiet. He was very musical. Brian was funny without even meaning to be, he hadn’t an ounce of sense”.


“He went out to work on Thursday 25th May 1978 and he never came home. I still can’t get him out of my mind especially what he must have felt like in his last moments. I know he would have cried”.


“His friends would tell you how good natured he was. He would have given away his last penny. He would have been very easily led but he wouldn’t have harmed a fly. He is still so much missed by us all”.

His body was located on 29th June 1999 at Colgagh, Iniskeen, Co. Monaghan

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Found

John McClory

John McClory
The 17-year-old was a friend of Brian McKinney and went missing at the same time. His body was also recovered at the same site. He had allegedly admitted to stealing IRA weapons for use in robberies

John disappeared on the 25th of May 1978.

Found:  His body was located on 29th June 1999 at Colgagh, Iniskeen, Co. Monaghan

John, by his family…

“John was very tall with long black hair. He was very tall for his age. He was almost 19 years old when he disappeared. He was a friendly boy and always tried to help the elderly neighbours who lived beside us. He would help them carry their shopping to the house. He was very outgoing, funny and very talkative”.

“John took great pride in his appearance especially his long hair. His hair was his pride and joy!”


“He loved sports but was an armchair fan, rather than actively playing any sports. He was just like any other 18 year old, living life to the full and enjoying himself”.


“His friends and his family miss him very much. I know his friends would have viewed him differently than me. I only had seen him as my brother, although when I talk to some of his friends we have a laugh about what he used to get up to”.

His body was located on 29th June 1999 at Colgagh, Iniskeen, Co. Monaghan

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Found

Jean McConville

Jean McConville
The IRA Accused her of being an informer. She was widow and mother of 10 children.

Jean disappeared on the 7th December 1972.

Found:  Her body was recovered on 27th August, 2003 at Shillington Beach, Co. Louth.

Jean, by her family…

“Mum was 37 years old and she had dark brown hair and lovely blue eyes. She was small in height and she was a very quiet woman who was gentle and caring”.

“I remember Mum and Dad always together and can remember Mum always wearing an apron like the one in the picture and she always folded her arms like the way she is in the picture Mum and Dad were close and we were a close family. She always came round at night and gave us a good night kiss. After my Daddy died she was just trying to raise her own children by herself and that couldn’t have been easy but she did her best”.

“Mum was always busy and she was rarely out of the house. She was at home all the time in the house clearing and making sure we were all clean and that there was food on the table for us. She had a good sense of humour too and always had time for her family. The one hobby she enjoyed was bingo and other than that she was always with her children”.

“It has been terrible since she was taken. From day one we were put in a home and we had to learn how to survive on our own. You had to learn to survive if you wanted to get on with your life because the home wasn’t easy. It was very strict but being split up from your brothers and sisters was the hardest thing of all”.

Jean McConville. her body was found at Shillington Beach, Co. Louth.

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Found

Danny McIlhone

Danny McIlhone
The IRA said Mr McIlhone was not suspected of being an informer but was being questioned about stealing weapons – it was claimed he was killed in a struggle with the person who was guarding him.

Danny disappeared on 1st July 1981.

Found: His body was discovered in 2008 in bogland near the Blessington Lakes in Co. Wicklow.

Disappeared IRA victim Danny McIlhone was shot a number of times before being buried in a secret grave on a remote mountainside, an inquest has heard.

The IRA had admitted taking Mr McIlhone to a “premises” in Ballynultagh for questioning about “certain matters” and that a Provo had shot him a number of times when a struggle broke out between them.

His body was discovered in 2008 in bogland near the Blessington Lakes in Co. Wicklow

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Found

Charles Armstrong

Charlie Armstrong
The 57-year-old father-of-five from Crossmaglen in south Armagh, went missing on his way to Mass in 1981. His car was later found near a cinema in Dundalk. The IRA denied any involvement in his disappearance at the time

Charlie disappeared on 15th August 1981.

Found: His body was found in County Monaghan in July 2010

Charlie, by his family…

“Charlie was medium in height and roughly 5 ft 4”. He was 54 years old when he disappeared and he had receding brown hair. Charlie was a very pleasant, outgoing man. He was a very talkative person who loved a bit of craic with other people and he could be very funny. His hobbies were mainly around animals. He loved horse racing and backing horses, he also loved dogs and caged birds. He was a football fan and enjoyed gardening, decorating and fishing”.


“Charlie’s friends would describe him as being very obliging, always willing to help neighbours. Nothing was too much for him to do for other people”.


“Charlie was a very good husband and father. He was a very caring person”.

On the day he disappeared, his wife walked with their daughters to Mass, where they had planned to meet him after he drove a friend to it. He did not appear and it was only when they got home that they discovered that he had not met their friend. Initially, it was thought that he had had an accident, so his family and friends searched the area, but there was no sign of him. The next day, a friend phoned the family to tell them that his car had been found outside the Adelphi cinema in Dundalk.

His name did not appear on a list of nine people whose disappearances the Provisional IRA admitted responsibility for in 1999. Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin, denied that the IRA was responsible, but journalist Suzanne Breen said that she had been contacted by a member of the IRA who said that it was.

A team looking for Mr Armstrong found human remains in County Monaghan in July 2010. Two months later, the remains were confirmed as being those of Mr Armstrong.

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Found

Peter Wilson

Peter Wilson (21 yrs), was last seen in Falls Park in August 1973. Peter did not return to his home at St James’s Road, Belfast

 Peter disappeared August 1973.

Found : November  2010

Reports suggest he may have been abducted and murdered by the IRA. His name was added to the list of the Disappeared in 2009 after new information became available.

For four days before he disappeared he lived with an Army unit at their headquarters near his Falls Road home. At the time the Army was accused of using a vulnerable person to gather information on the IRA, but the Army said they wanted him to experience military life.

His remains were found at Waterfoot beach in County Antrim in November 2010

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 Found

Gerard Evans

Gerry Evans
Gerry Evans went missing aged 24 in County Monaghan in 1979

Gerard Anthony disappeared on his way home to Crossmaglen March 1979. . He was last seen on the roadside out of Castleblaney trying to hitch a lift back home.

Found: His body was found in October 2010.

Gerard, by his family…

“Gerry was 24 years old and 5ft 10”. He had dark brown hair. Gerry was the eldest of five boys and he was a very loving, kind son who was matured for his age. He loved his home and family. He had a lovely personality, quiet and but funny at times. He enjoyed being with his younger brothers, especially Sean who has Down Syndrome. Sean still misses Gerry very much. Gerry’s hobbies were darts and snooker, any kind of sport and a night out with his mates”.


“I think Gerry’s friends would describe him as a good friend and fun to be with. They still miss him and he had no enemies that we know about. Gerry would never have hurt anyone”.


“I couldn’t have asked for a better son”.

Last seen hitch-hiking in County Monaghan in March 1979, no-one has ever admitted responsibility for the 24-year-old’s death. In March 2008, his aunt was given a map claiming to identify the location of his body. Mr Evans’ remains were found at a site in County Louth in October 2010.

His remains were found at a site in County Louth in October 2010.

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Found

Eugene Simons

The 26-year-old went missing from his home near Castlewellan, County Down, on 1 January 1981.

 His body was discovered by chance in May 1984 in a bog near Dundalk, County Louth.

Eugene, by his family…

“Eugene was fairly tall, about 5ft 11”. He was 26 years old and he had brown hair. He was abducted on New Years Day in 1981”.


“Eugene was a plumber by trade and he was never out of work. He was a very good tradesman. He loved angling, darts and a social night out”.


“He got on well with all he came in to contact with but sadly it was some of his so called friends that set him up for abduction”.

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Found

Kevin McKee

Kevin McKee
An IRA member, the Belfast man was alleged to have been a British army agent and member of its Military Reaction Force, an undercover unit

Kevin disappeared on 2nd October 1972.

Found: His body was recovered on June 2015

The 17-year-old was killed in 1972 along with Seamus Wright, 25, by the Provisional IRA in Belfast. The pair were accused of working for a secret undercover British army unit at the time.

Kevin, by his family…

“Kevin was 17 years old and he was very tall. He had dark curly hair. He had beautiful white curly hair as a baby, but as he grew older he didn’t like his curls. Kevin was a very caring young boy. He was the first-born and was always very protective of his younger siblings. He was very much family orientated and fiercely loyal. He was shy but very helpful to elders; he was quiet and spent most of his time at home with his family. He was very close to his mother and would do odd jobs to help support the family. He was very athletic and loved football and sports. He could possibly have been very successful at school. He loved playing football and he loved drawing. He was a very good artist. He would sketch and draw in his spare time. Kevin was outgoing but he was shy too”.


“He has lots of mates both in school and outside of school. He was a typical mischievous youth. His friends described him as a tall likeable gentleman. He had a good sense of humour and he was loved by all who knew him. His disappearance was a tragedy. He had been engaged to a very pretty young girl just before he disappeared”.

The coffin of Kevin McKee is carried to St Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast by members of his family
His body was discovered in Coghalstown, Co Meath, in June 2015.

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Found

Seamus Wright

Wright is believed to have been abducted, interrogated, shot dead and buried in secret by the IRA in 1972

The Belfast man was an IRA member, but in 1972 he was interrogated and murdered by his former colleagues who accused him of being a British army agent and a member of its Military Reaction Force. His body was discovered in Coghalstown, Co Meath, in June 2015.

He vanished in 1972 alongside Kevin McKee after the IRA suspected the pair of working as undercover agents for a secret army unity known as the Military Reconnaissance Force, which was carrying out a covert war against the IRA in Belfast during the Troubles’ bloodiest year.

They are believed to have been abducted from their homes in west Belfast, driven across the border, interrogated, shot dead and buried in secret

Friends and family carry the remains of one Seamus Wright.
Friends and family carry the remains of one Séamus Wright.

Found

Gareth O’Connor

O’Connor was a member of the Real IRA who disappeared after driving through Newtownhamilton in 2003

Gareth disappeared 11th May 2003.

Found: His body was found June 12th 2005 at Victoria Lock, just outside of Newry.

Gareth, by his family…

“Gareth was very tall and well built with short dark brown hair. He was 24 years old when he disappeared”.


“Gareth was a very good-natured person and he was friendly and easy to get on with. He would have been the first person to help you when needed. Gareth was a very outgoing person and was also a practical joker. He was always playing some sort of jokes on people”.


“Gareth’s hobbies were around fixing up old cars and bodybuilding. He would have trained 7 nights a week at a local gym”.


“I think Gareth’s friends would have described him as a very loyal friend and fun to be with. His friends miss him badly. His close friends find it hard to talk about what has happened”.

Gareth O’Connor was not included in the remit and legislation of 1999 for The Independant Commission for The Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR)

O’Connor was a member of the Real IRA who disappeared after driving through Newtownhamilton in 2003. On 11 June 2005, his badly decomposed body was discovered in his car in Newry Canal, County Down. His father, Mark, believes that the Provisional IRA were responsible for the murder, as they had threatened father and son. Mark O’Connor said: “I gave those names [of the killers] to Gerry Kelly (Sinn Féin assembly member). But nothing has been done. Gerry Adams ignores us and ignores all the families of the Disappeared.”

Armagh - Gareth O'Connor funeral
Armagh – Gareth O’Connor funeral

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Still Missing

Seamus Ruddy

Seamus Ruddy
The 32-year-old from Newry, County Down, was working as a teacher in Paris when he went missing in 1985. It is believed he was killed by members of the INLA.

Seamus disappeared in Paris on 9th May 1985.

Still Missing: His body has never been recovered.

 It is believed he was killed by members of the INLA. Fresh searches were carried out in 2008 after his family were told his remains were in a forest in Normandy, but they found nothing.

Seamus, by his family…


“Seamus was of average build, about 5ft 6” with dark brown hair. He had a beard, although in springtime he sometimes shaved it off to leave just a moustache. Under his glasses he had the most beautiful blue eyes. He was 33 years old when he disappeared. He was the youngest boy of a family of 9. He had 5 sisters and 3 brothers. He lived in Newry and educated at Newry CBS”.


“You couldn’t say Seamus was one type of person. He was a different person to everyone who knew him; I only discovered that after his disappearance”.

“Seamus was a kind hearted, thoughtful and humorous person. He was wise, caring, a walking encyclopaedia, meticulous and a hard worker at whatever he chose to do. He was always concerned about the welfare and well being of his 34 nephews and nieces. On Christmas morning he visited as many of Santa’s houses as he could to play with the children’s toys!”

“He was a very good listener and he was able to enjoy the craic wherever he went. He enjoyed a good laugh and always looked for the positive side of the situation. His laugh was an infectious one, so when he laughed you laughed too”.


“Seamus really enjoyed all types of music especially The Chieftains, Christy Moore and Planxty. The Flead Cheoils were a part of his life. Otis Reading and Aretha Franklin were also appreciated by him. Rory Gallagher and Thin Lizzy were rated highly too”.

“He was an avid reader especially politics and world affairs and he could discuss the current affairs of any country in the world”.


“Seamus was always there for his friends, no matter who needed help he would come to their aid. He even played hurley once for Newry Shamrocks because they were a man short and he was co-opted on to the team”.

“He definitely was not athletic but still played to help the team out. Seamus always fulfilled his promises. It was not in his vocabulary to let anyone down. I think friends would describe him as dependable, kind and trustworthy”.

Read  more :

Family of INLA murder man misled

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Still Missing

Captain Robert Nairac

Captain Robert Nairac
The SAS-trained officer was abducted by the IRA in Jonesborough County Armagh, in May 1977.

Robert disappeared in 1977.

Still Missing: His body has never been recovered.

See Robert Nairac Page

The 29-year-old was abducted when he visited a pub at Dromintee, south Armagh. He had been in the pub singing rebel songs. He was seized during a struggle in the pub’s car park and taken across the border to a field at Ravensdale, County Louth, and later shot dead.

Read More

McGuinness in Nairac body appeal

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Still Missing

Joe Lynskey

In February 2010 Joe Lynskey was added to the official list of The Disappeared. He went missing from his West Belfast home in 1972.

Joe went missing in !972

Still Missing: He’s body has never been found

A former Cistercian monk from the Beechmount area of west Belfast, he later joined the IRA. Mr Lynskey went missing in 1972, and republicans have claimed Mr Lynskey was “executed and buried” by the IRA.

Read more:  Commission to probe Lynskey death

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Still Missing

Columba McVeigh

Columba McVeigh
Columba disappeared on 1st November 1975, his body has never been recovered.

Columba disappeared on 1st November 1975,

Still Missing:  his body has never been recovered.

The 19-year-old from Donaghmore, County Tyrone was abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1975 after allegedly confessing to being a British army agent with instructions to infiltrate the IRA.

Extensive searches for his body were carried out in 2003 at a bog in Emyvale, County Monaghan, but nothing was found. His mother, Vera, was a tireless campaigner for the return of his remains – she died in 2007. Mother of Disappeared victim dies

A specialist forensic team spent five months in 2013 digging in a bog in County Monaghan for Mr McVeigh’s remains, but found nothing.

Columba, by his family…

“Columba was the third of four precious children born to Paddy and Vera McVeigh.He grew up in the rural setting of Castlecaulfield in Co Tyrone where life was sometimes hard making the security of a loving family very special. Columba grew up to be a fine big tall and handsome fella with curly golden hair”.

“He enjoyed being outdoors, riding his bike, playing football, often returning home covered in muck from head to toe. He had a great sense of humour and enjoyed playing a trick on family and friends. He worked hard and went to Dublin to take up a job. It was from there that Columba disappeared 29 years ago at the age of 17”.

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Still Missing

Lisa Dorrian

Lisa went missing in the early hours of February 28, 2005 after attending a party at a caravan site in the sea side town of Ballyhalbert.

Lisa went missing on 28th February 2005

Still Missing: Her body has never been found

It is widely believed she was abducted and murdered by member of the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Lisa Dorrian was not included in the remit and legislation of 1999 for The Independent Commission for The Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR)

Read More

Lisa, by her family…


“It is 4 years since we last saw our beautiful daughter Lisa. They have been two long and hard years, which have taken their toll on all our family. We were never given the chance to say goodbye to Lisa. “Lisa’s youngest sister Ciara, who was only eight years old when Lisa disappeared, has panic attacks at night, screaming and crying for her Lisa. We, as parents, should be able to alleviate her fears, but we can’t because we don’t have the answers.

“We are appealing to anyone who knows anything to please tell the police, no matter how trivial it may seem. It may help us as a family to grieve and try to accept that Lisa is never coming back. They say time is a great healer, but for us it just gets worse.”

Read: Lisa Dorrians family call on last man to see her alive to break his silence

Timeline: The disappearance of Lisa Dorrian

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The Disappeared of Northern Ireland

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Robert Nairac – Undercover Soldier & Hero His Capture & Death

Robert Nairac

Robert Nairac.jpg
Robert Nairac

Robert Nairac in his Grenadier Guards uniform
Born (1948-08-31)31 August 1948
Mauritius
Died 15 May 1977(1977-05-15) (aged 28)
Republic of Ireland
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svgBritish Army
Years of service 1972 – 1977
Rank Captain
Unit Grenadier Guards
Battles/wars Operation Banner
Awards George Cross

The views and opinions expressed in this page and  documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors

BBC Panorama – Bandit Country, South Armagh

Captain Robert Laurence Nairac

31 August 1948 –15 May 1977

Captain Robert Laurence Nairac GC (31 August 1948 –15 May 1977) was a British Army officer who was abducted from a pub in Dromintee, south County Armagh, during an undercover operation and killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on his fourth tour of duty in Northern Ireland as a Military Intelligence Liaison Officer. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1979.

A number of claims have been made about both Nairac’s involvement in the killing of an IRA member and his collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, although he was never charged.[1]

Whilst several men have been imprisoned for his death, the whereabouts of his body remains unknown.

Background

Nairac was born in Mauritius to English parents. His family – long settled in Gloucestershire – had ancestors from the south of Ireland.[2] His family name originates from the Gironde area of France. His father was an eye surgeon who worked first in the north of England and then in Gloucester. He was the youngest of four children, with two sisters and a brother.[3]

Nairac, aged 10, attended prep school at Gilling Castle, a feeder school for the Roman Catholic public school Ampleforth College which he attended a year later. He gained nine O levels and three A levels, was head of his house and played rugby for the school. He became friends with the sons of Lord Killanin and went to stay with the family in Dublin and Spiddal in County Galway.[4]

He read medieval and military history at Lincoln College, Oxford, and excelled in sport; he played for the Oxford rugby 2nd XV and revived the Oxford boxing club where he won four blues in bouts with Cambridge. He was also a falconer, keeping a bird in his room which was used in the film Kes.[5

]

He left Oxford in 1971 to enter Royal Military Academy Sandhurst under the sponsorship of the Grenadier Guards and was commissioned with them upon graduation.[6][7][8] After Sandhurst he undertook post-graduate studies at the University of Dublin, before joining his regiment.[9]

Nairac has been described by former army colleagues as “a committed Roman Catholic”[10] and as having “a strong Catholic belief”.[11]

Military career in Northern Ireland

Nairac’s first tour of duty in Northern Ireland was with No.1 Company, the Second Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. The Battalion was stationed in Belfast from 5 July 1973 to 31 October 1973. The Grenadiers were given responsibility first for the Protestant Shankill Road area and then the predominantly Catholic Ardoyne area. This was a time of high tension and regular contacts with paramilitaries. Ostensibly, the battalion’s two main objectives were to search for weapons and to find paramilitaries. Nairac was frequently involved in such activity on the streets of Belfast. He was also a volunteer in community relations activities in the Ardoyne sports club. The battalion’s tour was adjudged a success with 58 weapons, 9,000 rounds of ammunition and 693 lbs of explosive taken and 104 men jailed.

The battalion took no casualties and had no occasion to shoot anyone. After his tour had ended he stayed on as liaison officer for the replacement battalion, the 1st Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The new battalion suffered a baptism of fire with Nairac narrowly avoiding death on their first patrol when a car bomb exploded on the Crumlin Road.[12]

Rather than returning to his battalion, which was due for rotation to Hong Kong, Nairac volunteered for military intelligence duties in Northern Ireland. Following completion of several training courses, he returned to Northern Ireland in 1974 attached to 4 Field Survey Troop, Royal Engineers, one of the three sub-units of a Special Duties unit known as 14 Intelligence Company (14 Int). Posted to South County Armagh, 4 Field Survey Troop was given the task of performing surveillance duties. Nairac was the liaison officer among the unit, the local British Army brigade, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.[13]

He also took on duties which were outside his official jurisdiction as a liaison officer – working undercover, for example. He apparently claimed to have visited pubs in republican strongholds and sung Irish rebel songs and acquired the nickname “Danny Boy”. He was often driven to pubs by former Conservative[14] MP Patrick Mercer, who was then an Army officer.[15] Former SAS Warrant Officer Ken Connor, who was involved in the creation of 14 Int, wrote of him in his book, Ghost Force, p. 263:

Had he been an SAS member, he would not have been allowed to operate in the way he did. Before his death we had been very concerned at the lack of checks on his activities. No one seemed to know who his boss was, and he appeared to have been allowed to get out of control, deciding himself what tasks he would do.

Nairac finished his tour with 14th Int in mid-1975 and returned to his regiment in London. Nairac was promoted to captain on 4 September 1975.[16] Following a rise in violence culminating in the Kingsmill massacre, British Army troop levels were increased and Nairac accepted a post again as a liaison officer back in Northern Ireland.

Nairac on his fourth tour was a liaison officer to the units based at Bessbrook Mill. It was during this time that he was abducted and killed.

Shot by the Provisional IRA

On the evening of 14 May 1977, Nairac arrived at The Three Steps pub in Dromintee, South Armagh, by car, alone. He is said to have told regulars of the pub that his name was Danny McErlaine, a motor mechanic and member of the Official IRA from the republican Ardoyne area in north Belfast. The real McErlaine, on the run since 1974, was killed by the Provisional IRA in June 1978 after stealing arms from the organisation.[17]

Witnesses say that Nairac got up and sang a republican folk songThe Broad Black Brimmer” with the band who were playing that night. At around 11.45 p.m., he was abducted following a struggle in the pub’s car park and taken across the border into the Republic of Ireland to a field in the Ravensdale Woods in County Louth. Following a violent interrogation during which Nairac was allegedly punched, kicked, pistol-whipped and hit with a wooden post, he was shot dead.[18]

He did not admit to his true identity. Terry McCormick, one of Nairac’s abductors, posed as a priest in order to try to elicit information by way of Nairac’s confession. Nairac’s last words according to McCormick were: ‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned’.[19]

His disappearance sparked a huge search effort throughout Ireland. The hunt in Northern Ireland was led by Major H. Jones, who as a colonel in the Parachute Regiment was to be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross in the Falklands War. Jones was Brigade Major at HQ 3rd Infantry Brigade. Nairac and Jones had become friends and would sometimes go to the Jones household for supper. After a four-day search, the Garda Síochána confirmed to the Royal Ulster Constabulary that they had reliable evidence of Nairac’s killing.[20]

An edition of Spotlight broadcast on 19 June 2007, claimed that his body was not destroyed in a meat grinder, as alleged by an unnamed IRA source.[21] McCormick, who has been on the run in the United States for thirty years because of his involvement in the killing (including being the first to attack Nairac in the car park), was told by a senior IRA commander that it was buried on farmland, unearthed by animals, and reburied elsewhere. The location of the body’s resting place remains a mystery.[22] Nairac is one of nine IRA victims, whose graves have never been revealed and who are collectively known as ‘The Disappeared’. The cases are under review by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains.

In May 2000 allegations were made claiming that Nairac had married, and fathered a child with a woman named Nel Lister, also known as Oonagh Flynn or Oonagh Lister. In 2001, her son sought DNA testing himself and revealed the allegations to be a hoax.[23][24]

Criminal prosecutions

In November 1977, Liam Townson, a 24-year-old IRA member from the village of Meigh outside Newry, was convicted of Nairac’s murder. Townson was the son of an Englishman who had married a County Meath woman. He confessed to killing Nairac and implicated other members of the unit involved. Townson made two admissible confessions to Garda officers. The first was made around the time of his arrest, it started with

“I shot the British captain. He never told us anything. He was a great soldier.”

The second statement was made at Dundalk police station after Townson had consulted a solicitor. He had become hysterical and distressed and screamed a confession to the officer in charge of the investigation.[25]

Townson was convicted in Dublin’s Special Criminal Court of Nairac’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He served 13 years in prison and was released in 1990. He was part of Conor Murphy‘s 1998 election campaign team and as of 2000 he was living in St. Moninna Park, in Meigh.[26]

In 1978, the RUC arrested five men from the South Armagh area. Three of them – Gerard Fearon, 21, Thomas Morgan, 18, and Daniel O’Rourke, 33 -were charged with Nairac’s murder. Michael McCoy, 20, was charged with kidnapping, and Owen Rocks, 22, was accused of withholding information. Fearon and Morgan were convicted of Nairac’s murder. O’Rourke was acquitted but found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for ten years. McCoy was jailed for five years and Rocks for two. Morgan died in a road accident in 1987, a year after his release. O’Rourke became a prominent Sinn Féin member in Drumintee.

Two other men, Terry McCormick and Pat Maguire, wanted in connection with this incident remain on the run.[27] Maguire has been reported as living in New Jersey in the US.[28]

————————

Man charged with murder of undercover British Army officer in 1977

A man has been charged with the murder of Robert Nairac, an undercover British Army officer, in Northern Ireland more than 30 years ago

Kevin Crilly: Man charged with murder of undercover British Army officer in 1977

Crilly was interviewed by detectives in the weeks after the incident but left for the United States before officers could arrest him on suspicion of murder Photo: PA

Kevin Crilly, 59, from Lower Foughill Road, Jonesborough, Co Armagh, is already facing charges of kidnapping and falsely imprisoning the 29-year-old Grenadier Guardsman near the Irish border in 1977.

The captain, originally from Gloucestershire, was interrogated, tortured and then shot dead by the IRA after being snatched from a pub car park near Jonesborough and driven to a field at Ravensdale, Co Louth. His body has never been found.

Prosecutors laid the murder charge before Crilly as he appeared at Newry Magistrates’ Court for a routine bail hearing on the two lesser counts, with which he was charged last year.

District Judge Austin Kennedy granted Crilly bail; however, he ordered him to remain in custody after Crown lawyers indicated that they may seek to appeal against the decision in the High Court in Belfast.

In the years after Capt Nairac’s disappearance, three men were convicted of his murder, but police have always said they were looking for more suspects.

Crilly was interviewed by detectives in the weeks after the incident but left for the United States before officers could arrest him on suspicion of murder.

Judge Kennedy was told today that the suspect had remained in the US for almost 30 years.

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Barry Graham said that, when he returned, he took another name, explaining that Crilly was adopted as a child and had assumed his birth name of Declan Parr.

“The only reason he returned to Northern Ireland was because he was in a long-term relationship in America and that relationship had broken down,” he said.

The officer told the judge that he could connect Crilly with the murder charge and the two other counts of kidnapping and false imprisonment.

Crilly, dressed in a black leather jacket, white check shirt and blue jeans, spoke only to acknowledge that he understood the charges that he was facing.

His defence team objected that the prosecution had given them no prior warning that the murder charge would be put to their client or that they would be objecting to his bail.

Noting that Crilly had complied with all bail requirements since his original arrest 18 months ago and pointing out that, at that point, the defendant was aware that the Public Prosecution Service was examining whether there were grounds for charging him with murder, Judge Kennedy rejected the prosecution objection to bail.

The magistrate said any appeal against his decision would have to be lodged within two hours. He ordered that Crilly was held in the cells until the PPS signalled its intentions.

————————

On 20 May 2008, 57-year-old IRA veteran Kevin Crilly of Jonesborough, County Armagh, was arrested at his home by officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). He had been on the run in the United States but had returned to Northern Ireland under an alias after the 1998 Belfast Agreement. He was charged the following day with the kidnapping and false imprisonment of Nairac.[29] In November 2009, Crilly was also charged with the murder of Robert Nairac at Newry magistrates’ court during a bail hearing on the two counts on which he had been charged in 2008.[30] Crilly was cleared on all counts in April 2011 as the Judge considered that the prosecution failed to prove intention or prior knowledge on the part of Crilly.[31]

Nairac’s killing is one of those under investigation by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET).[32]

George Cross award

On 13 February 1979 Nairac was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

Captain Nairac’s posthumous George Cross citation reads, in part:[33]

[…]On his fourth tour Captain Nairac was a Liaison Officer at Headquarters 3 Infantry Brigade. His task was connected with surveillance operations.

On the night of 14/15 May 1977 Captain Nairac was abducted from a village in South Armagh by at least seven men. Despite his fierce resistance he was overpowered and taken across the border into the nearby Republic of Ireland where he was subjected to a succession of exceptionally savage assaults in an attempt to extract information which would have put other lives and future operations at serious risk. These efforts to break Captain Nairac’s will failed entirely. Weakened as he was in strength – though not in spirit – by the brutality, he yet made repeated and spirited attempts to escape, but on each occasion was eventually overpowered by the weight of the numbers against him. After several hours in the hands of his captors Captain Nairac was callously murdered by a gunman of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who had been summoned to the scene. His assassin subsequently said ‘He never told us anything’.

Captain Nairac’s exceptional courage and acts of the greatest heroism in circumstances of extreme peril showed devotion to duty and personal courage second to none.

Collusion allegations

Claims have been made abouts Nairac’s involvement in the killing of an IRA member in the Republic of Ireland and his relationship with Ulster loyalist paramilitaries.

Hidden Hand documentary

Dublin Monaghan Bombings 1974 – First Tuesday -1993

Allegations were made concerning Nairac in a 1993 Yorkshire Television documentary about the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings of 1974 entitled Hidden Hand. The narrator of Hidden Hand states:

We have evidence from police, military and loyalist sources which confirms the links between Nairac and the Portadown loyalist paramilitaries. And also that in May 1974, he was meeting with these paramilitaries, supplying them with arms and helping them plan acts of terrorism against republican targets. In particular, the three prime Dublin suspects, Robert McConnell, Harris Boyle and the man called ‘The Jackal’ (Robin Jackson, Ulster Volunteer Force [UVF] member from Lurgan), were run before and after the Dublin bombings by Captain Nairac.

According to the documentary, support for this allegation was said to have come from various sources:

They include officers from RUC Special Branch, CID and Special Patrol Group; officers from the Gardaí Special Branch; and key senior loyalists who were in charge of the County Armagh paramilitaries of the day….

Holroyd

It was alleged by a former Secret Intelligence Service operative, Captain Fred Holroyd, that Nairac admitted involvement in the assassination of IRA member John Francis Green on 10 January 1975 to him. Holroyd claimed in a New Statesman article written by Duncan Campbell that Nairac had boasted about Green’s death and showed him a colour Polaroid photograph of Green’s corpse taken directly after his assassination.[34]

These claims were given prominence when, in 1987, Ken Livingstone MP told the House of Commons that Nairac was quite likely to have been the person who organised the killing of three Miami Showband musicians.[35]

The Barron Report stated that:

The evidence before the Inquiry that the polaroid photograph allegedly taken by the killers after the murder was actually taken by a Garda officer on the following morning seriously undermines the evidence that Nairac himself had been involved in the shooting.

Holroyd’s evidence was also questioned by Barron in the following terms:

The picture derived from this is of a man increasingly frustrated with the failure of the British Authorities to take his claims seriously; who saw the threat to reveal a crossborder SAS assassination as perhaps his only remaining weapon in the fight to secure a proper review of his own case. His allegations concerning Nairac must be read with that in mind.[36]

Barron report

Nairac was mentioned in Justice Henry’ Barron’s inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings when it examined the claims made by the Hidden Hand documentary, Holroyd and Colin Wallace

Former RUC Special Patrol Group member John Weir, who was also a UVF member, claimed he had received information from an informant that Nairac was involved in the killing of Green:[37]

The men who did that shooting were Robert McConnell, Robin Jackson and I would be almost certain, Harris Boyle who was killed in the Miami attack. What I am absolutely certain of is that Robert McConnell, Robert McConnell knew that area really, really well. Robin Jackson was with him. I was later told that Nairac was with them. I was told by… a UVF man, he was very close to Jackson and operated with him. Jackson told [him] that Nairac was with them.

In addition, “Surviving Miami Showband members Steve Travers and Des McAlee testified in court that an Army officer with a crisp English accent oversaw the Miami attack” (see Miami Showband killings), the implication being that this was Nairac.[38] Fred Holroyd and John Weir also linked Nairac to the Green and Miami Showband killings. Martin Dillon, however, in his book The Dirty War maintained that Nairac was not involved in either attack.[39]

Colin Wallace, in describing Nairac as a Military Intelligence Liaison Officer (MILO) said “his duties did not involve agent handling”. Nevertheless, Nairac “seems to have had close links with the Mid-Ulster UVF, including Robin Jackson and Harris Boyle”. According to Wallace, “he could not have carried out this open association without official approval, because otherwise he would have been transferred immediately from Northern Ireland” [40] Wallace wrote in 1975; Nairac was on his fourth tour of duty in 1977.

Robin Jackson was implicated in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974, and Harris Boyle was blown up by his own bomb during the Miami Showband massacre.

The Barron Inquiry found a chain of ballistic history linking weapons and killings under the control of a group of UVF and security force members, including RUC Special Patrol Group members John Weir and Billy McCaughey, that is connected to those alleged to have carried out the bombings. This group was known as the “Glenanne gang“. Incidents they were responsible for “included, in 1975, three murders at Donnelly’s bar in Silverbridge, the murders of two men at a fake Ulster Defence Regiment checkpoint, the murder of IRA man John Francis Green in the Republic, the murders of members of the Miami showband and the murder of Dorothy Trainor in Portadown in 1976, they included the murders of three members of the Reavey family, and the attack on the Rock Bar in Tassagh.”[41] According to Weir, members of the gang began to suspect that Nairac was playing republican and loyalist paramilitaries off against each other, by feeding them information about murders carried out by the “other side” with the intention of “provoking revenge attacks”.[42]

The Pat Finucane Centre stated when investigating allegations of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, that although Nairac has been linked to many attacks, “caution has to be taken when dealing with Nairac as attacks are sometimes attributed to him purely because of his reputation”.[43]

See Forkhil – Bandit Country

See The Disappeared

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Miami Showband Killings – The Day The Music Died

Miami Showband Killing

The Miami Showband killings (also called the Miami Showband Massacre) was an attack by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group, on 31 July 1975. It took place on the A1 road at Buskhill in County Down, Northern Ireland. Five people were killed, including three members of The Miami Showband, who were then one of Ireland’s most popular cabaret bands.

The Day The Music Died

The band was travelling home to Dublin late at night after a performance in Banbridge. Seven miles (11 km) north of Newry, their minibus was stopped at what appeared to be a military checkpoint, where gunmen in British Army uniforms ordered them to line up by the roadside. At least four of the gunmen were serving soldiers from the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) but, unbeknownst to the band, all were members of the UVF. While two of the gunmen (both soldiers) were hiding a time bomb on the minibus, it exploded prematurely and killed them.

It has been suggested that the plan had been for it to explode en route and kill the band, who would be branded IRA bomb smugglers. The other gunmen then opened fire on the dazed band members, killing three and wounding two.

Two serving British soldiers and one former British soldier were found guilty of the murders and received life sentences; they were released in 1998. Allegations of collusion between British military intelligence and the loyalist militants persist. According to former Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) agent Captain Fred Holroyd, the killings were organised by British Army Captain Robert Nairac (a member of 14th Intelligence Company), in collaboration with the UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade and its commander Robin “The Jackal” Jackson.

Robin Jackson.jpg

Robin ( The Jackal)  Jackson

The Historical Enquiries Team, which investigated the killings, released their report to the victims’ families in December 2011. It confirmed that Jackson was linked to the attack by fingerprints. There are claims that those involved in the Miami Showband killings belonged to the Glenanne gang; a secret alliance of loyalist militants, rogue police officers and British soldiers.

In a report published in the Sunday Mirror in 1999, Colin Wills called the Miami Showband attack “one of the worst atrocities in the 30-year history of the Troubles”. Irish Times diarist Frank McNally summed up the massacre as “an incident that encapsulated all the madness of the time”

Disclaimer

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

Background

Political situation in Northern Ireland

UVF-logo123.png

The conflict in Northern Ireland, known as “The Troubles“, began in the late 1960s. The year 1975 was marked by an escalation in sectarian attacks and a vicious feud between the two main loyalist paramilitary groups, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). On 4 April 1974 the proscription against the UVF had been lifted by Merlyn Rees, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. This meant that both it and the UDA were legal organisations.

The UVF would be once more banned by the British government on 3 October 1975.

In May 1974 unionists called a general strike to protest against the Sunningdale Agreement – an attempt at power-sharing, setting up a Northern Ireland Executive and a cross-border Council of Ireland, which would have given the Government of Ireland a voice in running Northern Ireland. During that strike on 17 May, the UVF carried out the Dublin and Monaghan car bombings, which killed 33 civilians. The Provisional IRA were suspected by British police of bombing two pubs in the English city of Birmingham the following November, resulting in 21 deaths.

UK Home Secretary Roy Jenkins introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which gave the government unprecedented powers against the liberty of individuals in the United Kingdom in peacetime. At Christmas 1974 the IRA declared a ceasefire, which theoretically lasted throughout most of 1975. This move made loyalists apprehensive and suspicious that a secret accord was being conducted between the British government and the IRA, and that Northern Ireland’s Protestants would be “sold out”.

Their fears were slightly grounded in fact, as the MI6 officer Michael Oatley was involved in negotiations with a member of the IRA Army Council, during which “structures of disengagement” from Ireland were discussed. This had meant the possible withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland. The existence of these talks led unionists to believe that they were about to be abandoned by the British government and forced into a united Ireland; as a result, the loyalist paramilitary groups reacted with a violence that, combined with the tit-for-tat retaliations from the IRA (despite their ceasefire), made 1975 one of the “bloodiest years of the conflict”.

In early 1975 Merlyn Rees set up elections for the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention at which all of Northern Ireland’s politicians would plan their way forward. These were held on 1 May 1975 and the United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC), which had won 11 out of 12 Northern Irish seats in the February 1974 general election, won a majority again. As the UUUC would not abide any form of power-sharing with the Dublin government, no agreement could be reached and the convention failed, again marginalising Northern Ireland’s politicians and the communities they represented

Robin Jackson and the Mid-Ulster UVF

 

refer to caption

Ulster Volunteer Force mural.

The UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade, led by Robin Jackson, was one of the most ruthless paramilitary groups that operated in the 1970s.

The UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade operated mainly around the Portadown and Lurgan areas. It had been set up in Lurgan in 1972 by part-time Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) sergeant and permanent staff instructor Billy Hanna, who made himself commander of the brigade. His leadership was endorsed by the UVF’s leader Gusty Spence.

The brigade was described by author Don Mullan as one of the most ruthless units operating in the 1970s. At the time of the attack the Mid-Ulster Brigade was commanded by Robin Jackson, also known as “The Jackal”. Jackson had assumed command of the Mid-Ulster UVF just a few days before the Miami Showband attack, after allegedly shooting Hanna dead outside his home in Lurgan on 27 July 1975.

According to authors Paul Larkin and Martin Dillon, Jackson was accompanied by Harris Boyle when he killed Hanna. Hanna was named by former British Intelligence Corps operative Colin Wallace as having organised and led the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, along with Jackson.  Journalist Joe Tiernan suggested that Hanna was shot for refusing to participate in the Miami Showband attack and that he had become an informer for the Gardaí in exchange for immunity from prosecution for the Dublin bombings.  Dillon suggested that because a large number of joint UDR/UVF members were to be used for the planned Miami Showband ambush, Hanna was considered to have been a “security risk”, and the UVF decided he had to be killed before he could alert the authorities.

Jackson was an alleged RUC Special Branch agent who was said by Yorkshire Television‘s The Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre programme to have had links to both the Intelligence Corps and Captain Robert Nairac.  A report in the Irish Times implicated Jackson in the Dublin bombings. More than 100 killings have been attributed to him by the Pat Finucane Centre, the Derry-based civil rights group.

The Miami Showband

 

refer to caption

The Miami Showband in 1975; one of the last photos of the band before the attack
L–R: Tony Geraghty, Fran O’Toole, Ray Millar, Des McAlea (“Des Lee”), Brian McCoy, Stephen Travers

The Miami Showband was a popular Dublin-based cabaret band, enjoying fame and, according to journalist Peter Taylor, “Beatle-like devotion” from fans on both sides of the Irish border. A typical Irish showband was based on the popular six- or seven-member dance band. Its basic repertoire included cover versions of pop songs that were currently in the charts and standard dance numbers. The music ranged from rock and country and western to Dixieland jazz. Sometimes the showbands played traditional Irish music at their performances.

Originally called the Downbeats Quartet, the Miami Showband was reformed in 1962 by rock promoter Tom Doherty, who gave them their new name. With Dublin-born singer Dickie Rock as frontman, the Miami Showband underwent many personnel changes over the years. In December 1972, Rock left the band to be briefly replaced by two brothers, Frankie and Johnny Simon. That same year keyboardist Francis “Fran” O’Toole (from Bray, County Wicklow) had won the Gold Star Award on RTÉ‘s Reach For the Stars television programme.

 

In early 1973, Billy MacDonald (aka “Billy Mac”) took over as the group’s frontman when the Simon brothers quit the band. The following year, Fran O’Toole became the band’s lead vocalist after Mick Roche (Billy Mac’s replacement) was sacked. O’Toole was noted for his good looks and popularity with female fans.  was described by the Miami Showband’s former bass guitarist, Paul Ashford, as having been the “greatest soul singer” in Ireland. Ashford had been asked to leave the band in 1973, for complaining that performing in Northern Ireland put their lives at risk.

He was replaced by Johnny Brown, who in turn was replaced by Dave Monks until Stephen Travers eventually became the band’s permanent bass player. In late 1974, the Miami Showband’s song Clap Your Hands and Stomp Your Feet (featuring O’Toole on lead vocals) reached number eight in the Irish charts.

The 1975 line-up comprised four Catholics and two Protestants. They were: lead vocalist and keyboard player Fran O’Toole (28, Catholic), guitarist Anthony “Tony” Geraghty (24, Catholic) from Dublin, trumpeter Brian McCoy (32, Protestant) from Caledon, County Tyrone, saxophonist Des McAlea (aka “Des Lee”), 24, a Catholic from Belfast, bassist Stephen Travers (24, Catholic) from Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary and drummer Ray Millar (Protestant) from Antrim. O’Toole and McCoy were both married; each had two children. Geraghty was engaged to be married.

Their music was described as “contemporary and trans-Atlantic”, with no reference to the Northern Ireland conflict. By 1975 they had gained a large following, playing to crowds of people in dance halls and ballrooms across the island.The band had no overt interest in politics nor in the religious beliefs of the people who made up their audience. They were prepared to travel anywhere in Ireland to perform for their fans.

According to the Irish Times, at the height of the Irish showband’s popularity (from the 1950s to the 1970s), up to as many as 700 bands travelled to venues all over Ireland on a nightly basis.

Ambush

Bogus checkpoint

refer to caption

Volkswagen Type 2 (T2)
similar to the minibus used by the band

 

Five members of the Dublin-based band were travelling home after a performance at the Castle Ballroom in Banbridge, County Down on Thursday 31 July 1975. Ray Millar, the band’s drummer, was not with them as he had chosen to go to his home town of Antrim to spend the night with his parents. The band’s road manager, Brian Maguire, had already gone ahead a few minutes earlier in the equipment van. At about 2.30 a.m., when the band was seven miles (11 km) north of Newry on the main A1 road, their Volkswagen minibus (driven by trumpeter Brian McCoy with Stephen Travers in the front seat beside him) reached the townland of Buskhill.

Near the junction with Buskhill Road they were flagged down by armed men dressed in British Army uniforms waving a red torch in a circular motion. During “The Troubles” it was normal for the British Army to set up checkpoints daily, at any time.

Assuming it was a legitimate checkpoint, McCoy informed the others inside the minibus of a military checkpoint up ahead and pulled in at the lay-by as directed by the armed men.

As McCoy rolled down the window and produced his driving licence, gunmen came up to the minibus and one of them said in a Northern Irish accent,

“Goodnight, fellas. How are things? Can you step out of the van for a few minutes and we’ll just do a check”.

The unsuspecting band members got out and were politely told to line up facing the ditch at the rear of the minibus with their hands on their heads.  More uniformed men appeared from out of the darkness, their guns pointed at the minibus. About 10 gunmen were at the checkpoint, according to author and journalist Martin Dillon.

After McCoy told them they were the Miami Showband, one gunman, Thomas Crozier (who had a notebook) asked the band members for their names and addresses, while the others bantered with them about the success of their performance that night.

As Crozier took down the information, a car pulled up and another uniformed man appeared on the scene. He wore a uniform and beret noticeably different from the others. He spoke with an educated English accent and immediately took charge, ordering a man who appeared to have been the leader of the patrol, to tell Crozier to obtain their names and dates of birth instead of addresses.

The jocular mood of the gunmen abruptly ceased. At no time did this new soldier speak to any of the band members nor did he directly address Crozier. He relayed all his instructions to the gunman in command.  Travers, the band’s new bass player, assumed he was a British Army officer; an opinion shared by McCoy. Just after the arrival of this mysterious soldier, McCoy nudged Travers, who was standing beside him, and reassured him by saying “Don’t worry Stephen, this is British Army”.  Travers thought that McCoy, a Protestant from Northern Ireland, was familiar with security checkpoints and had reckoned the regular British Army would be more efficient than the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), who had a reputation for unprofessional and unpredictable behaviour especially towards people from the Irish Republic.

McCoy, son of the Orange Order‘s Grand Master for County Tyrone,  had close relatives in the security forces; his brother-in-law was a former member of the B Specials which had been disbanded in 1970. Travers described McCoy as a “sophisticated, father-type figure. Everybody was respectful to Brian”. McCoy’s words, therefore, were taken seriously by the other band members, and anything he said was considered to be accurate.

Explosion

 

At least four of the gunmen were soldiers from the UDR; a locally recruited infantry regiment of the British Army in Northern Ireland. Martin Dillon suggested, in The Dirty War, that at least five serving UDR soldiers were present at the checkpoint.

All the gunmen were members of the UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade, and had been lying in wait to ambush the band having set up the checkpoint just minutes before.

Out of sight of the band members, two of the gunmen placed a ten-pound (4.5 kg) time bomb in the rear of the minibus.  The UVF’s plan was that the bomb would explode once the minibus had reached Newry, killing all on board. However, Martin Dillon alleged that the bomb was meant to go off in the Irish Republic.

He suggested that had all gone according to plan, the loyalist extremists would have been able to clandestinely bomb the Republic of Ireland, yet claim that the band were republican bomb-smugglers carrying explosives on behalf of the IRA. They had hoped to embarrass the Government of Ireland, as well as to draw attention to its under-patrolled border. This would have resulted in the Irish authorities enforcing tighter controls over people crossing the border, thus greatly restricting IRA operations.

Dillon opined that another reason the UVF decided to target the Miami Showband was because the nationalist community held them in high regard; to attack the band was to strike the nationalists indirectly.

Stephen Travers heard the gunmen rummaging in the back of the minibus, where he kept his guitar. Concerned it may be damaged, he approached the two gunmen and told them to be careful. Asked whether he had anything valuable inside the case, Travers replied no. The gunman turned him round, punched him in the back and pushed him on the shoulder back into the line-up.

When the two gunmen closed the rear door, clumsy soldering on the clock used as a timer caused the device to explode prematurely, blowing the minibus apart and killing the gunmen Harris Boyle (aged 22, a telephone wireman from Portadown) and Wesley Somerville (aged 34, a textile worker from Moygashel) instantly. Hurled in opposite directions, they were both decapitated and their bodies dismembered. What little that remained intact of their bodies was burnt beyond recognition; one of the limbless torsos was completely charred.

Shootings

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Luger P08 pistol
similar to the one used to kill Brian McCoy

Following the explosion, the remaining gunmen opened fire on the dazed band members, who had all been knocked down into the field below the level of the road from the force of the blast. The order to shoot was given by the patrol’s apparent leader, James McDowell, to eliminate witnesses to the bogus checkpoint and subsequent bombing. Three of the musicians were killed: lead singer Fran O’Toole, trumpeter Brian McCoy, and guitarist Tony Geraghty.

Brian McCoy was the first to die, having been hit in the back by nine rounds from a 9mm Luger pistol in the initial volley of gunfire.  Fran O’Toole attempted to run away, but was quickly chased down by the gunmen who had immediately jumped down into the field in pursuit. He was then machine-gunned 22 times, mostly in the face, as he lay supine on the ground. Tony Geraghty also attempted to escape; but he was caught by the gunmen and shot at least four times in the back of the head and back. Both men had pleaded for their lives before they were shot; one had cried out,

“Please don’t shoot me, don’t kill me”.

 

Bassist Stephen Travers was seriously wounded by a dum-dum bullet which had struck him when the gunmen had first begun shooting.

He survived by pretending he was dead, as he lay beside the body of McCoy.Saxophone player Des McAlea was hit by the minibus’s door when it was blown off in the explosion, but was not badly wounded. He lay hidden in thick undergrowth, undetected by the gunmen. He also survived. However, the flames from the burning hedge (which had been set on fire by the explosion) soon came dangerously close to where he lay; he was forced to leave his hiding spot. By this time the gunmen had left the scene, assuming everyone else had been killed. Travers later recalled hearing one of the departing gunmen tell his comrade who had kicked McCoy’s body to make sure he was not alive: “Come on, those bastards are dead. I got them with dum-dums”.

McAlea made his way up the embankment to the main road where he hitched a lift to alert the RUC at their barracks in Newry.

Forensic and ballistic evidence

 

When the RUC arrived at the site they found five dead bodies, a seriously injured Stephen Travers, body parts, the smouldering remains of the destroyed minibus, debris from the bomb blast, bullets, spent cartridges, and the band members’ personal possessions, including clothing, shoes, and a photograph of the group, strewn across the area. They also discovered a stolen white Ford Escort registration number 4933 LZ, which had been left behind by the gunmen, along with two guns, ammunition, green UDR berets and a pair of glasses later traced to James McDowell, the gunman who had ordered the shootings.

One of the first RUC men who arrived at Buskhill in the wake of the killings was scenes of crime officer James O’Neill. He described the scene as having “just the smell of utterly death about the place … burning blood, burning tyres”. He also added that “that bomb was definitely placed there with a view to killing all in that band”.

The only identifiable body part from the bombers to survive the blast (which had been heard up to four miles away) was a severed arm belonging to Wesley Somerville. It was found 100 yards from the site with a “UVF Portadown” tattoo on it.

refer to caption

Sterling submachine gun
similar to the those used in the attack

 

The RUC’s investigative unit, the Assassination or “A” Squad of detectives, was set up to investigate the crime and to discover the identities of the UVF gunmen who perpetrated the killings.  Afterwards, as Travers recovered in hospital, the second survivor Des McAlea gave the police a description of McDowell as the gunman with a moustache and wearing dark glasses who appeared to have been the leader of the patrol. Some time after the attack, RUC officers questioned Stephen Travers at Dublin Castle. He subsequently stated they refused to accept his description of the different-coloured beret worn by the soldier with the English accent.

The UVF gunmen had worn green UDR berets, whereas the other man’s had been lighter in colour.

The dead bombers were named by the UVF, in a statement issued within 12 hours of the attack.  Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville were UDR soldiers as well as holding the rank of major and lieutenant, respectively, in the UVF.

In 1993 Boyle was named by The Hidden Hand programme as one of the Dublin car bombers.

The stolen Ford Escort belonged to a man from Portadown, who according to Captain Fred Holroyd, had links with one of the UVF bombers and the driver of the bomb car which had been left to explode in Parnell Street, Dublin on 17 May 1974. He was also one of the prime suspects in the sectarian killing of Dorothy Traynor on 1 April 1975 in Portadown.

Ballistic evidence indicates that the 10-member gang took at least six guns with them on the attack.  An independent panel of inquiry commissioned by the Pat Finucane Centre has established that among the weapons actually used in the killings were two Sterling 9mm submachine guns and a 9mm Luger pistol serial no. U 4. The submachine guns, which had been stolen years earlier from a former member of the B Specials, were linked to prior and later sectarian killings, whereas the Luger had been used to kill leading IRA member, John Francis Green, the previous January.

 

In a letter to the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay’s Tavern dated 22 February 2004, the Northern Ireland Office stated that: “The PSNI [The Police Service of Northern Ireland] have confirmed that a 9mm Luger pistol was ballistically traced both to the murder of John Francis Green and to the Miami Showband murders.”

In May 1976, Robin Jackson’s fingerprints were discovered on the metal barrel of a home-made silencer constructed for a Luger.[53] Both the silencer and pistol – which was later established to have been the same one used in the Miami Showband killings – were found by the security forces at the home of Edward Sinclair. Jackson was charged with possession of the silencer but not convicted, the trial judge having reportedly said: “At the end of the day I find that the accused somehow touched the silencer, but the Crown evidence has left me completely in the dark as to whether he did that wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly”. The Luger was destroyed by the RUC on 28 August 1978.[54]

Aftermath

Reactions

Within 12 hours of the attack the UVF’s Brigade Staff (Belfast leadership) issued a statement. It was released under the heading Ulster Central Intelligence Agency – Miami Showband Incident Report:

A UVF patrol led by Major Boyle was suspicious of two vehicles, a minibus and a car parked near the border. Major Boyle ordered his patrol to apprehend the occupants for questioning. As they were being questioned, Major Boyle and Lieutenant Somerville began to search the minibus. As they began to enter the vehicle, a bomb was detonated and both men were killed outright.

At the precise moment of the explosion, the patrol came under intense automatic fire from the occupants of the other vehicle. The patrol sergeant immediately ordered fire to be returned. Using self-loading rifles and sub-machine guns, the patrol returned fire, killing three of their attackers and wounding another. The patrol later recovered two Armalite rifles and a pistol.

The UVF maintains regular border patrols due to the continued activity of the Provisional IRA. The Mid-Ulster Battalion has been assisting the South Down-South Armagh units since the IRA Forkhill boobytrap which killed four British soldiers. Three UVF members are being treated for gunshot wounds after last night but not in hospital.

It would appear that the UVF patrol surprised members of a terrorist organisation transferring weapons to the Miami Showband minibus and that an explosive device of some description was being carried by the Showband for an unlawful purpose. It is obvious, therefore, that the UVF patrol was justified in taking the action it did and that the killing of the three Showband members should be regarded as justifiable homicide. The Officers and Agents of the Ulster Central Intelligence Agency commend the UVF on their actions and tender their deepest sympathy to the relatives of the two Officers who died while attempting to remove the bomb from the minibus.

Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville were given UVF paramilitary funerals conducted by Free Presbyterian minister William McCrea, a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politician.[

The killings shocked both Northern Ireland and Ireland and put a serious strain on Anglo-Irish relations.

The Irish Times reported that on the night following the attack, the British ambassador Sir Arthur Galsworthy was summoned to hear the Government of Ireland’s strong feelings regarding the murder of the three band members. The government held the view that the British Government had not done enough to stop sectarian assassinations in Northern Ireland.

Following the post-mortems, funerals were held for the three slain musicians; they received televised news coverage by RTÉ, Ireland’s public service broadcaster. According to RTÉ,

“Their families were in deep mourning and Ireland mourned with them”.

According to Peter Taylor, the Provisional IRA’s gun and bomb attack on the loyalist Bayardo Bar in Belfast’s Shankill Road on 13 August was in retaliation for the Miami Showband ambush. Four Protestant civilians (two men and two women) and UVF member Hugh Harris were killed in the attack.

Two days later, Portadown disc jockey Norman “Mooch” Kerr, aged 28, was shot dead by the IRA as he packed up his equipment after a show at the Camrick Bar in Armagh. Although not a member of any loyalist paramilitary group, he was a close friend of Harris Boyle and the two were often seen together.

 

Robert Nairac

See Robert Nairac

The IRA said it killed him because of an alleged association with British Army officer and member of 14th Intelligence Company, Captain Robert Nairac, and claimed it was in possession of his diary, which had been stolen in Portadown.

Altnamachin attack

Less than one month after the Miami Showband massacre, another UVF unit, operating as part of the Glenanne gang, used the same modus operandi on 24 August 1975, at Altnamachin, outside Tullyvallen, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland. Two Gaelic football supporters, Colm McCartney and Sean Farmer, were stopped in their car by a UVF patrol wearing full military combat uniforms at a bogus vehicle checkpoint. The two men were ordered out of the car and then both were shot dead a short distance away. Three RUC men had earlier been stopped in their unmarked car by the same “soldiers”, who let them through upon ascertaining their identity.

The RUC, however, had suspected that the checkpoint had been fake. After receiving radio confirmation that there were no authorised regular army or UDR checkpoints in the area that night, they reported the incident and requested help from the British Army to investigate it, but no action was taken.  UDR corporal Robert McConnell was implicated by RUC Special Patrol Group officer John Weir in this attack.

Convictions

A number of suspects were arrested by the RUC in early August 1975. One of these men, Lance-Corporal Thomas Raymond Crozier (aged 25, a painting contractor from Lurgan) of C Company, 11th Battalion UDR was charged with the Miami killings. It was believed he had been betrayed to the RUC by a member of the gang.

Thomas Crozier recounted that on the night of the killings, he had driven to the grounds of a school in Lurgan where he had picked up two men. He then drove to a lay-by on the Newry-Banbridge dual carriageway and met up with another five men, who were all wearing British Army uniforms. They subsequently set up a roadblock with “all the trappings of a regular military checkpoint”. Crozier told police, and later a court, that he had not played a large part in the attack. He refused to name his accomplices, as he felt that to do so would put the lives of his family in danger.

On 22 January 1976, a second UDR soldier, Sergeant James Roderick Shane McDowell (aged 29, an optical worker, also from Lurgan) was arrested and charged with the Miami killings. He served in C Company, 11th Battalion UDR. The RUC were led to him through his glasses which had been found at the murder scene. Tests done on the glasses, which were eventually traced back to McDowell, revealed that the lenses were of a prescription worn by just 1 in 500,000 of the population.

McDowell’s statement of admission was published in David McKittrick‘s book Lost Lives:

“There was very little planning. I only came into it because of my UDR connection and the fact that I had a uniform. I was given a sub-machine gun but I had never fired it. I passed out when the explosion happened and that was when I lost the gun, the glasses, and a UDR beret”.

On 15 October 1976, Crozier and McDowell both received life sentences for the Miami Showband murders. McDowell had pleaded guilty. Crozier had pleaded not guilty. The judge, by sentencing McDowell and Crozier to 35 years imprisonment each, had handed down the longest life sentences in the history of Northern Ireland; he commented that “killings like the Miami Showband must be stopped”. He added that had the death penalty not been abolished, it would have been imposed in this case.

A third person, former UDR soldier John James Somerville (aged 37, a lorry-helper and the brother of Wesley), was arrested following an RUC raid in Dungannon on 26 September 1980. He was charged with the Miami Showband murders, the attempted murder of Stephen Travers, and the murder of Patrick Falls in 1974. He was given a total of four life sentences (three for the murders of the Miami Showband members and one for the Falls murder) on 9 November 1981;  he had pleaded not guilty.

The three convicted UVF men, although admitting to having been at the scene, denied having shot anyone. None of the men ever named their accomplices, and the other UVF gunmen were never caught. The three men were sent to serve their sentence in the Maze Prison, on the outskirts of Lisburn. Fortnight Magazine reported that on 1 June 1982, John James Somerville began a hunger strike at the Maze to obtain special category status. Crozier, McDowell, and Somerville were released after 1998 under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

Allegations

A continued allegation in the case has been the presence of Captain Robert Nairac at the scene. Former serving Secret Intelligence Service agent Captain Fred Holroyd, and others, suggested that Nairac had organised the attack in co-operation with Robin Jackson and the Mid-Ulster UVF.  In his maiden parliamentary speech on 7 July 1987, Ken Livingstone MP told the House of Commons,  “it was likely” that Nairac had organised the attack.

Surviving band members Stephen Travers and Des McAlea told police and later testified in court that a British Army officer with a “crisp, clipped English accent” oversaw the Buskhill attack, the implication being that this was Nairac.

 

In his book The Dirty War, Martin Dillon adamantly dismissed the allegation that Nairac had been present. He believed it was based on the erroneous linkage of Nairac to the earlier murder of IRA man John Francis Green in County Monaghan – the same pistol was used in both attacks. Regarding the soldier with the English accent, Dillon wrote:

it is to say the least highly dubious, if not absurd to conclude from such superficial factors that Nairac was present at the Miami murders. I was told by a source close to “Mr. A” and another loyalist hitman that Nairac was not present at either murder [Miami Showband and John Francis Green].

Travers had described the English-accented man as having been of normal height and thought he had fair hair, but was not certain. Travers was not able to positively identify Nairac, from his photograph, as having been the man at Buskhill . The RTÉ programme Today Tonight aired a documentary in 1987 in which it claimed that former UVF associates of Harris Boyle revealed to the programme’s researchers that Nairac had deliberately detonated the bomb to eliminate Boyle, with whom he had carried out the Green killing.

Emily O’Reilly Senate of Poland.JPG

Journalist Emily O’Reilly noted in the Sunday Tribune that none of the three men convicted of the massacre ever implicated Nairac in the attack or accused him of causing Boyle’s death.

The band’s road manager, Brian Maguire stated that when he drove away from Banbridge in the lead, a few minutes ahead of the band’s minibus, he passed through security barriers manned by the RUC. As Maguire continued ahead, up the by-pass towards Newry, he noticed a blue Triumph 2000 pulling-out from where it had been parked in a lay-by. Maguire recalled that the car first slowed down, then it accelerated, flashing its lights. Two men had been observed acting suspiciously inside the Castle Ballroom during the band’s performance that night, suggesting that the Miami Showband’s movements were being carefully monitored.

Another persistent allegation is the direct involvement of Mid-Ulster UVF leader Robin Jackson. He was one of the men taken in by the RUC in August 1975 and questioned as a suspect in the killings, but was released without charge. The independent panel of inquiry commissioned by the Pat Finucane Centre concluded that there was “credible evidence that the principal perpetrator [of the Miami Showband attack] was a man who was not prosecuted – alleged RUC Special Branch agent Robin Jackson”.

The same panel revealed that about six weeks before the attack, Thomas Crozier, Jackson, and the latter’s brother-in-law Samuel Fulton Neill, were arrested for the possession of four shotguns.  Neill’s car was one of those allegedly used in the Buskhill attack. He was later shot dead in Portadown on 25 January 1976, allegedly by Jackson for having informed the RUC about Thomas Crozier’s participation in the attack.

The panel stated that it was unclear why Crozier, Jackson, and Neill were not in police custody at the time the Miami Showband killings took place. Martin Dillon maintained in The Dirty War that the Miami Showband attack was planned weeks before at a house in Portadown, and the person in charge of the overall operation was a former UDR man, whom Dillon referred to for legal reasons as “Mr. A”. Dillon also opined in God and the Gun: the Church and Irish Terrorism that the dead bombers, Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville, had actually led the UVF gang at Buskhill.

Journalists Kevin Dowling and Liam Collins in the Irish Independent however, suggested in their respective articles that Jackson had been the leader of the unit.

Former British soldier and writer Ken Wharton published in his book Wasted Years, Wasted Lives, Volume 1, an alternative theory that was suggested to him by loyalist paramilitarism researcher Jeanne Griffin; this was that the ambush was planned by Robin Jackson as an elaborate means of eliminating trumpet player Brian McCoy.

Griffin suggests that McCoy, who originally came from Caledon, County Tyrone and had strong UDR and Orange Order family connections, was possibly approached at some stage by Jackson with a view of securing his help in carrying out UVF attacks in the Irish Republic. When McCoy refused, Jackson then hatched his plan to murder McCoy and his band mates in retaliation, even macabrely choosing Buskhill as the ambush site due to its similarity to Bus-kill. Griffin goes on to add that the bogus checkpoint was set up not only to plant the bomb on board the van but to ensure the presence of McCoy which would have been confirmed when he handed over his driver’s license to the gunmen.

She also thinks that had everything gone to plan once the bomb was planted in the van McCoy would have been instructed to drive through Newry where the bomb would have gone off and the UVF could then afterwards portray the Miami Showband as IRA members on a mission to blow up the local RUC barracks. Griffin based her theory on the nine bullets that were fired from a Luger into McCoy’s body and that Jackson’s fingerprints were found on the silencer used for a Luger.

She furthermore opined that Jackson was the man Travers saw kicking McCoy’s body to make sure he was dead.

The Pat Finucane Centre has named the Miami Showband killings as one of the 87 violent attacks perpetrated by the Glenanne gang against the Irish nationalist community in the 1970s. The Glenanne gang was a loose alliance of loyalist extremists allegedly operating under the command of British Military Intelligence and/or RUC Special Branch. It comprised rogue elements of the British security forces who, together with the UVF, carried out sectarian killings in the Mid-Ulster/County Armagh area. Their name comes from a farm in Glenanne, County Armagh, which was owned by RUC reservist James Mitchell; according to RUC Special Patrol Group officer John Weir, it was used as a UVF arms dump and bomb-making site.

Weir alleged the bomb used in the Miami Showband attack came from Mitchell’s farm. Weir’s affidavit implicating Robin Jackson in a number of attacks including the 1974 Dublin bombings was published in the 2003 Barron Report; the findings of an official investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings commissioned by Irish Supreme Court Judge Henry Barron.

Later years

During the six years from the onset of “The Troubles” until the July 1975 attack, there had never been an incident involving any of the showbands. The incident had an adverse effect on the Irish showband scene, with many of the bands afraid to play in Northern Ireland. The emergence of discos later in the decade meant that ballrooms were converted into nightclubs, leaving the showbands with few venues available in which to perform. By the mid-1980s, the showbands had lost their appeal for the Irish public; although The Miami Showband, albeit with a series of different line-ups, did not disband until 1986.

The Miami Showband reformed in 2008, with Travers, Des McAlea, Ray Millar and other new members. It is fronted by McAlea, who returned to Northern Ireland the same year after living in South Africa since about 1982.

In 1994, Eric Smyth, a former UDR member and the husband of Brian McCoy’s sister, Sheila, was killed by the IRA.

Travers travelled to Belfast in 2006 for a secret meeting with the second-in-command of the UVF’s Brigade Staff, in an attempt to come to terms with the killing of his former colleagues and friends. The meeting was arranged by Rev. Chris Hudson, a former intermediary between the government of Ireland and the UVF, whose role was crucial to the Northern Ireland peace process. Hudson, a Unitarian minister, had been a close friend of Fran O’Toole.

The encounter took place inside Hudson’s church, All Souls Belfast. The UVF man, who identified himself only as “the Craftsman”, apologised to Travers for the attack, and explained that the UVF gunmen had opened fire on the band because they “had panicked” that night.  It was revealed in Peter Taylor’s book Loyalists that “the Craftsman” had been instrumental inbringing about the 1994 Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) ceasefire.

Travers also visited the home of Thomas Crozier, hoping to meet with him, but the latter did not come to the door. He presently resides near Craigavon. James McDowell lives in Lurgan, and John James Somerville became an evangelical minister in Belfast.  The UVF had cut all ties with Somerville after he had opposed the 1994 ceasefire. In January 2015 he was found dead in his Shankill Road flat. Aged 70, he died of cancer of the kidney.

Memorials

refer to caption

Memorial to the three dead band members at Parnell Square, Dublin

 

A monument dedicated to the dead Miami Showband members was unveiled at a ceremony at Parnell Square North, Dublin, on 10 December 2007. Survivors Stephen Travers and Des McAlea were both present at the unveiling, as was the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who made a tribute. The monument, made of limestone, bronze and granite, by County Donegal sculptor Redmond Herrity, is at the site of the old National Ballroom, where the band often played.

A mural and memorial plaque to Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville is in the Killycomain Estate in Portadown, where Boyle had lived. The plaque describes them as having been “killed in action”.

In a report on Nairac’s alleged involvement in the massacre, published in the Sunday Mirror newspaper on 16 May 1999, Colin Wills called the ambush “one of the worst atrocities in the 30-year history of the Troubles”.

Irish Times diarist, Frank McNally, summed up the massacre as “an incident that encapsulated all the madness of the time”.  In 2011, Journalist Kevin Myers denounced the attack with the following statement: “in its diabolical inventiveness against such a group of harmless and naïve young men, it is easily one of the most depraved [of the Troubles]”.

A stamp was issued in Ireland on 22 September 2010 commemorating the Miami Showband. The 55-cent stamp, designed with a 1967 publicity photograph of the band, included two of the slain members Fran O’Toole and Brian McCoy as part of the line-up when Dickie Rock was the frontman. It was one of a series of four stamps issued by An Post, celebrating the “golden age of the Irish showband era from the 1950s to the 1970s”.

The HET Report

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET), which was set up to investigate the more controversial Troubles-related deaths, released its report on the Miami Showband killings to the victims’ families in December 2011. The findings noted in the report confirmed Mid-Ulster UVF leader Robin Jackson’s involvement and identified him as an RUC Special Branch agent.

According to the report, Jackson had claimed during police interrogations that after the shootings, a senior RUC officer had advised him to “lie low”. Although this information was passed on to RUC headquarters, nothing was done about it. In a police statement made following his arrest for possession of the silencer and Luger on 31 May 1976, Jackson maintained that a week before he was taken into custody, two RUC officers had tipped him off about the discovery of his fingerprints on the silencer; he also claimed they had forewarned him: “I should clear as there was a wee job up the country that I would be done for and there was no way out of it for me”.

Although ballistic testing had linked the Luger (for which the silencer had been specifically made) to the Miami Showband attack, Jackson was never questioned about the killings after his fingerprints had been discovered on the silencer, and the Miami inquiry team were never informed about these developments.

Robin Jackson died of cancer on 30 May 1998, aged 49.

The families held a press conference in Dublin after the report was released. When asked to comment about the report, Des McAlea replied, “It’s been a long time but we’ve got justice at last”. He did, however, express his concern over the fact that nobody was ever charged with his attempted murder.

Stephen Travers

Stephen Travers offered, “We believe the only conclusion possible arising from the HET report is that one of the most prolific loyalist murderers of the conflict was an RUC Special Branch agent and was involved in the Miami Showband attack”.

The HET said the killings raised “disturbing questions about collusive and corrupt behaviour”.