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The Shankill Butchers…

By age ten I’d heard shots ring out and seen the injuries caused by bullets and beatings. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the scene outside Glencairn’s community centre on Forthriver Road on an overcast morning in October 1976. Before heading to school I polished off my cornflakes and, kicking and protesting as ever, had my face wiped by Granny, who spat on a handkerchief and assaulted my grubby mush with it. ‘Come here, ye dirty wee hallion!’ she shouted as she grabbed me for the unwanted daily routine. Struggle over, I let myself out of the front door and walked the few doors to Uncle Sam’s to call for Wee Sam.

               He too had succumbed to the humiliating last-minute face scrub from Aunt Gerry and as we trudged down his garden path and on to the main road through the estate we muttered darkly about our so-called elders and betters.

               We’d only walked a few yards when up ahead we noticed a gathering of green and grey Land Rovers and Saracen armoured cars, which we nicknamed ‘Pigs’. That meant only one thing that the RUC and the army were out in force. To the side stood a small knot of onlookers, mostly women on their way to school, the wee ones holding their hands. This group had turned away from the scene and were speaking together. As we approached, we heard murmurs from the women and the occasional shaking of a scarfed head.

               ‘Fuckin’ hell,’ said Wee Sam, wide-eyed, ‘somebody musta gotten kilt up there. Look at all the peelers around.’

               A knot of fear tightened in my stomach as we approached the scene. Despite being on supposedly ‘safe’ Loyalist territory, grim-faced soldiers gripped their SLRs tightly while uniformed police from the RUC spoke into radios and plain-clothes detectives huddled in a group. Judging by the mood hanging over the community centre on this cold, grey morning, we were about to see something unprecedented.

               Maybe we should’ve walked on by. But we were just wee boys. Filled with childish curiosity we rubbernecked all the time. ‘C’mon,’ said Sam, grabbing me by the sleeve of my snorkel jacket, ‘let’s see what’s going on!’

               We ducked past the group of clucking housewives and right up to a tall soldier in full battledress. ‘Hey mister, what’s happenin’?’ I asked. ‘Is somebody dead?’

               The soldier looked down on us, not unkindly. We weren’t his enemy. Maybe he viewed similar aged boys from the Catholic areas of Ardoyne and Andersonstown in a different way, but up here we were the good guys. Supposedly.

               ‘If I were you two I’d bugger off to school pronto,’ he said, in a northern English voice. ‘There’s nowt to look at here.’

               He was wrong. There was something to look at, lying just a couple of yards from where he stood. Behind the soldier’s back, down the grassy bank at the back of the community centre – UDA controlled, of course, and a social gathering point for those in the estate – we saw a pair of shoe-clad feet sticking out at angles from beneath a brown woollen blanket. This covered the undisputable shape of a body, and surrounding it was thick, red, jellified blood. Pints of the stuff that had spread across the grass on which the body lay, creating a semi-frozen scene of complete horror.

               ‘Jesus!’ I said, stepping back a couple of paces from the soldier. ‘What the fuck happened here?’

               ‘Never you mind,’ he said. ‘Kids your age shouldn’t be seeing things like this. And watch your language, lad.’

               I ignored him and looked again. By now, a typical Belfast morning drizzle had begun to fall, covering the blanket in a fine mist. I craned my neck, and could just about see a tuft of dark, bloodstained hair sticking out of the top. Even at this age I knew that a single bullet, or even a couple of them, couldn’t have created such a mess. Rooted to the spot, I hadn’t noticed that Wee Sam was no longer by my side. I turned to see him talking animatedly to a boy of about our age standing beside his mum and went over. Wee Sam grabbed my sleeve, pulling me into the conversation.

               ‘Jimmy’s ma says it’s the Butchers who’s done him,’ he whispered, pointing to the body. ‘They carved him up wi’ knives and a’ that. Just cos he’s a Catholic.’

               I couldn’t believe it. I knew Provies killed Loyalists, and we killed them. That’s how it was. In my mind that was all fair. We were under siege, and at war. But to have murdered this man just because he was a Catholic? And to have used knives on him, literally carving him up like a piece of meat? I knew something about this was terribly, terribly wrong and I wondered why God in all his wisdom would let such things happen. Was this the point when I started to lose faith in a Saviour who seemed to ignore the suffering of mortal men?

               For weeks previously we’d heard whispers across Glencairn about a gang called the ‘Butchers’, or the ‘Shankill Butchers’. We knew they were Loyalist UVF paramilitaries, but seemingly nothing like the uncles, cousins and friends who aligned themselves to the UDA or UVF, collecting for prisoners and running shebeens, illegal drinking clubs that brought in funds. Those we knew to be UDA members, hardened as they were to whatever was going on across Belfast, seemed to be talking about this particular set of murders with a mixture of awe and horror.

               As time went on, it became clear that the ‘Butchers’ killings had little connection with everyday Loyalism and more to do with the psychopathic condition of the gang’s members. It appeared they were using a black taxi to pick up their victims – innocent people on their way home – before kidnapping and murdering them. But they were also killing Protestants too; people who’d fallen foul of their notorious leader, Lenny Murphy. In short, they enjoyed killing for killing’s sake, and in mid-1970s Northern Ireland the opportunity to destroy lives at random, for any scrap of a reason, was unprecedented and easy. Life was cheap and victims would be forgotten about by the next day as another victim took their place.

               The politics of Loyalist feuding was way over my head back then, but like everyone else I came to regard the Butchers as nothing short of bogeymen. They invaded my dreams and seemed to be pursuing me during my waking hours. On late summer nights and into the dark nights of autumn 1976, a group of us would gather at the bottom of the estate, playing around the woods and streams that gave this area a kind of weird beauty in the midst of all the mayhem. When darkness fell and it was time to go home, I would walk alone back up the estate, listening out in mortal fear for the distinctive sound of a wailing diesel engine climbing the hill behind me that could only be a Belfast black taxi. I was only just ten by then , but I had no reason to believe the Butchers wouldn’t grab me and rip me apart with their specially sharpened knives, just for the fun of it.

               These guys meant business. The body Wee Sam and I saw was the first of four that were dumped on Glencairn by the Butchers, along with others murdered in Loyalist feuds. Some months after we came upon the scene in Forthriver Road, we were playing in and around a building site in ‘the Link’, a new part of Glencairn still under construction. Several houses were being created and while we shouldn’t have been there, nobody was stopping us from running wild around the estate and doing what we liked. We’d poked about one particular half-built house and were about to leave when I spotted what appeared to be words written on an unplastered wall.

               ‘Gi’e us a match, Sam,’ I said, ‘I wanna see what’s written up there.’

               Sam produced a box of matches from his jeans pocket and I struck one, holding it close to the wall. The colour drained from my face as I read the words ‘Help me’. They had been written in blood. Dropping the match we legged it out of there and ran all the way home.

               I told Dad, but if I expected him to be shocked I was just as surprised when his reaction was indifference. ‘Just leave well, alone, John,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘You’re better off out of it.’

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Battle of Aleppo – Hell on Earth

Battle of Aleppo (2012–present)

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The Battle of Aleppo (Arabic: معركة حلب‎‎) is an ongoing military confrontation in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, between the Syrian opposition (including Free Syrian Army, Islamic Front and other Sunni militants) in partial cooperation with the Army of Conquest against the forces of the Syrian Government (supported by Hezbollah and Shiite militants ) and against the Kurdish People’s Defence Units. The battle began on 19 July 2012 as a part of the Syrian Civil War.

Image result for barrel bombs in syria

The battle’s scale and importance led combatants to name it the “mother of battles”  or “Syria’s Stalingrad“. The battle has been marked by the Syrian army’s indiscriminate use of barrel bombs dropped from helicopters, killing thousands of people.

Hundreds of thousands have been forced to evacuate.

The battle has caused catastrophic destruction to the Old City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Onset

In 2011, Aleppo was Syria‘s largest city with a population of 2.5 million people. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has been described by Time as Syria’s commercial capital.  Author Diana Darke has written that

“The city has long been multi-cultural, a complex mix of Kurds, Iranians, Turkmen, Armenians and Circassians overlaid on an Arab base in which multi-denominational churches and mosques still share the space.”

 Bashar al Assad.jpg

Nationwide protests against the government led by President Bashar al-Assad had occurred since 15 March 2011, as part of the Arab Spring. In Aleppo itself large protests started more than a year later in May 2012.  During this period, government-organized rallies in support of itself also occurred.

Aleppo had remained undisturbed by the 16 month long conflict till 22 July, when rebel fighters from the neighbouring villages converged and penetrated into it.

Combatants

 

At the beginning of the Battle of Aleppo, rebels reportedly had between 6,000 and 7,000  fighters in 18 battalions.

The largest rebel group was the al-Tawhid Brigade and the most prominent was the Free Syrian Army, largely composed of army defectors. Most of the rebels came from the Aleppo countryside and from towns including Al-Bab, Marea, Azaz, Tel Rifaat and Manbij. A resident of Aleppo reportedly accused the rebels of using civilian homes for shelter. On 19 November 2012, the rebel fighters—particularly the al-Tawhid Brigade and the al-Nusra Front—initially rejected the newly formed Syrian National Coalition. However, the next day the rebels withdrew their rejection.

By December, rebel fighters were commonly looting for supplies; they switched their loyalties to groups that had more to share. This new approach led to the killing of at least one rebel commander following a dispute; fighters retreating with their loot caused the loss of a frontline position and the failure of an attack on a Kurdish neighborhood. The looting cost the rebel fighters much popular support.

Islamic extremists and foreign fighters, many of whom were experienced and came from the ongoing insurgency in neighboring Iraq, joined the battle. Jihadists reportedly came from across the Muslim world. Jacques Bérès, a French surgeon who treated wounded fighters, reported a significant number of foreign fighters, most of whom had Islamist goals and were not directly interested in Bashar al-Assad. They included Libyans, Chechens, and Frenchmen. Bérès contrasted the situation in Aleppo with that in Idlib and Homs, where foreign forces were not common.

Some FSA brigades cooperated with Mujahideen fighters.

The government retained support in Aleppo. A rebel commander said, “around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime”. During the course of the battle, Assad lost support from Aleppo’s wealthy class.  CBS News reported that 48 elite businessmen who were the primary financiers for the government switched sides.

For the first time, the Syrian Army engaged in urban warfare. They divided their forces into groups of 40 soldiers each. These were armed mostly with automatic rifles and anti-tank rockets and artillery, tanks and helicopters were only used for support. In August 2012, the army deployed its elite units. and eventually, after the rebels executed Shabiha and Zeino al-Berri, tribal leader of the al-Berri tribe, the tribe joined the fight against the rebels. The Christians supported the Army and formed militias aligned with the government following the capture of their quarters by the Syrian Army. The Christian Armenians also supported the Syrian Army. Aleppo’s Armenians say Turkey supported the FSA to attack Armenians and Arab Christians. The Armenians had a militia with around 150 fighters.

At the beginning of the battle, Aleppo’s Kurds formed armed groups, most notably the Kurdish Salahaddin Brigade, which worked with the opposition. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) had poor relations with both sides. The PYD’s Popular Protection Committees stayed out of Arab areas and insisted the FSA stay out of the Kurdish area. They did not initially fight the Syrian Army unless attacked but later joined the opposition against pro-Assad forces. The Kurdish areas in Aleppo were mainly under PYD control. Four hundred Turkmen joined the battle under Sultan Abdulhamid Han.

Course of the battle

2012: Initial rebel attack and capture of Eastern Aleppo

 

Gunfire between rebels and security forces broke out in and around Salaheddine, a district in the city’s southwest, on the night of 19 July 2012. After one week of war, The Guardian wrote, “The US says it fears that the Assad regime is ‘lining up’ to commit a massacre in Aleppo, but it has repeated its reluctance to intervene in the conflict”.

 

Bombed out vehicles Aleppo

 

In late July and early August 2012, the FSA continued its offensive in Aleppo, with both sides suffering a high level of casualties. Rebel commanders said their main aim was to capture the city center. The rebels seized a strategic checkpoint in Anadan, a town north of Aleppo, gaining a direct route between the city and the Turkish border—an important rebel supply base. They also captured Al-Bab, an army base northeast of the city. Later, rebels attacked the air base at Minakh, 30 km (19 mi) northwest of Aleppo, with arms and tanks captured at the Anadan checkpoint. Opposition forces continued to gain territory in the city, controlling most of eastern and southwestern Aleppo, including Salaheddine and parts of Hamdaniyeh.

They continued to target security centers and police stations as clashes erupted near the Air Force intelligence headquarters in Aleppo’s northwestern district Zahraa. Rebels over-ran several police stations and posts in the central and southern districts of Bab al-Nerab, Al-Miersa and Salhain, seizing a significant quantity of arms and ammunition.

2013: Advances and counter-advances

 Flag of the Al-Nusra Front.svg

In December 2012, the al-Nusra Front unilaterally declared a no-fly zone and threatened to shoot down commercial aircraft, alleging that the government was using them to transport loyalist troops and military supplies. After multiple attacks on Aleppo International Airport, all flights were suspended on 1 January 2013. The following month, the rebels seized Umayyad Mosque; and during the battle, the mosque’s museum caught fire and its ceiling collapsed.

On 9 June, the Syrian Army announced the start of “Operation Northern Storm”, an attempt to recapture territory in and around the city. Between 7 and 14 June, army troops, government militiamen and Hezbollah fighters launched the operation. Over a one-week period, government forces advanced in the city and the countryside, pushing back the rebels. However, according to an opposition activist, on 14 June the situation started reversing after rebels halted an armored reinforcement column from Aleppo that was heading for two Shiite villages northwest of the city.

On 8 November, the Syrian Army started an offensive against the rebel-held Base 80, launching “the heaviest barrage in more than a year”.

Al Jazeera wrote that a government victory would cut the rebels’ route between the city and al-Bab. Two days later, Reuters reported that the rebels had regrouped to fight the Syrian army. Fifteen rebels were killed and the army recaptured the base. The following month, the army besieged the city in Operation Canopus Star. The army helicopters attacked with barrel bombs, killing more than a thousand people, according to the Free Syrian Army’s Abu Firas Al-Halabi.

2014: Syrian government encirclement of the rebels

Government forces, having lifted the siege of Aleppo in October 2013, continued their offensive in 2014. This culminated in the capture of the Sheikh Najjar industrial district north of Aleppo and the lifting of the siege of Aleppo Central Prison on 22 May 2014, which contained a garrison of government soldiers that had resisted rebel forces since 2012.

A ceasefire proposal was presented by a UN envoy in November; under the proposal the Syrian Arab Army would allow the rebels to leave Aleppo without violence and would help with their transportation. In return the militants would surrender their arms. President Assad reportedly agreed to consider taking this ceasefire plan, though no official confirmation was made.

The FSA rejected the plan; its military commander Zaher al-Saket said they had “learned not to trust the [Bashar al-] Assad regime because they are cunning and only want to buy time”.

2015: War of attrition

In early January, the rebels recaptured the Majbal (sawmills) area of al-Brej and captured the southern entrance of the stone quarries known as al-Misat, forcing government troops to retreat to the north. Rebels also seized the Manasher al-Brej area. They tried to advance and take control of al-Brej Hill, with which they could seize the military supply road running between Aleppo Central Prison and the Handarat and al-Mallah areas.

At the end of January, the rebels took control over some positions in al-Brej Hill

In mid-February, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies launched a major offensive in the northern Aleppo countryside, with the aim of cutting the last rebel supply routes into the city, and relieving the rebel siege of the Shi’a-majority towns Zahra’a and Nubl to the northwest of Aleppo. They quickly captured several villages,  but bad weather conditions and an inability to call up reinforcements stalled the government offensive.

A few days later, the rebels launched a counter-offensive, retaking two of four positions they had lost to Syrian government forces.

On 9 March, opposition forces launched an assault on Handarat, north of Aleppo, after reportedly noticing confusion in the ranks of Syrian government troops after the February fighting. Opposition sources said the rebels had captured 40–50% of the village, or possibly even 75%, while the Army remained in control of the northern portion of Handarat. In contrast, a Syrian Army source stated they still controlled 80% of Handarat.

On 18 March, after almost 10 days of fighting, the Syrian Army had fully expelled the rebels from Handarat, and re-established control of the village.

In preparation for a new offensive, the rebels heavily shelled government-held parts of Aleppo, leaving 43 civilians dead and 190 wounded on 15 June. On 17 June, rebel forces captured the western neighborhood of Rashideen from Syrian government forces. Throughout 19 and 20 June, a new round of rebel shelling killed 19 more civilians.

In early July, two rebel coalitions launched an offensive against the government-held western half of the city.  During five days of fighting, the rebels seized the Scientific Research Center on Aleppo’s western outskirts, which was being used as a military barracks. Two rebel attacks on the Jamiyat al-Zahra area were repelled. Government forces launched an unsuccessful counter-attack against the Scientific Research Center.

In mid-October, ISIL captured four rebel-held villages northeast of Aleppo, while the Army seized the Syria-Turkey Free Trade Zone, the al-Ahdath juvenile prison and cement plant.

Meanwhile, the SAA and Hezbollah launched an offensive south of Aleppo, capturing 408 square kilometres (158 square miles) of territory in one month. By late December, they were in control of 3/4 of the southern Aleppo countryside.

2016: Supply lines cut and encirclements

By 2016, it was estimated that the population of rebel-held Eastern Aleppo had been reduced to 300,000. while 1.5 million were living in government-held Western Aleppo.

In early February 2016, Syrian government forces and its allies broke a three-year rebel siege of two Shi’ite towns of Nubl and Zahraa, cutting off a main insurgent route to nearby Turkey. On 4 February, the towns of Mayer and Kafr Naya were recaptured by government forces  On 5 February, the government captured the village of Ratyan, to the northwest of Aleppo.

On 25 June, the Syrian army and allied forces began their long-awaited North-west Aleppo offensive. The ultimate goal of the offensive was to cut the Castello highway, which is the last supply route for rebels inside the city, thus fully encircling remaining opposition forces.

By late July, the military had managed to sever the last rebel supply line coming from the north and completely surround Aleppo.  However, within days, the rebels launched a large-scale counter-attack south of Aleppo in an attempt to both open a new supply line into rebel-held parts of the city and cut-off the government-held side. The whole campaign, including both the Army’s offensive and subsequent rebel counter-offensive, was seen by both sides as possibly deciding the fate of the entire war.

After a week of heavy fighting, rebels both inside and outside Aleppo advanced into the Ramouseh neighborhood, linked up and captured it. They also seized the Al-Assad Military Academy. With these advances, the rebels managed to cut the government’s supply line into the government-held part of west Aleppo and announced the Army’s siege of rebel-held east Aleppo had been broken. However, the new rebel supply line was still under Army artillery fire and being hit by air-strikes, making both sides essentially under siege. Since the rebel offensive started, at least 130 civilians had been killed, most by rebel shelling of government-held districts. 500 fighters on both sides also died, mostly rebels

Strategic analysis

Rebel forces expanded into the countryside south of Aleppo to control sections of the M4 and M5 highways, effectively blocking ground reinforcements for the Syrian Army. Before the end of 2012, the Syrian Army in Aleppo was receiving sporadic supplies and ammunition replenishment by air or via backroads.

The fall of Base 46, a large complex that reinforced and supplied government troops, was seen by experts as “a tactical turning point that may lead to a strategic shift” in the battle for Aleppo. In a November 2012 intelligence report, American publisher Strategic Forecasting, Inc. described the strategic position of government forces in Aleppo as “dire”, and said the Free Syrian Army had them “essentially surrounded”.

On 26 November 2012, rebels captured Tishrin Dam, further isolating government forces in Aleppo and leaving only one route into Aleppo.  By late January 2013 Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said all supply routes to Aleppo had been cut off by opposition forces, comparing the situation to the Siege of Leningrad.

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By late February 2013, Aleppo International Airport was almost surrounded by rebel forces. Later, the Syrian Army regained control of the strategic town Tel Sheigeb, allowing them to approach the airport. In November 2013, the Syrian Army retook the town of al-Safira. This opened a road for the government to support the besieged Kuweires Military Airbase and Aleppo Power Plant.

In February 2014, it was reported that the army planned to encircle Aleppo and impose blockades and truces. It would also try to recapture Sheikh Najjar Industrial City to rebuild the economy and provide jobs. By October 2014, the army had seized Sheikh Najjar, reinforced Aleppo Central Prison and captured Handaraat, almost besieging rebel-held Aleppo. Tensions peaked in early April 2014, when a Syrian Republican Guard officer allegedly killed a Hezbollah commander during an argument over the opposition advance in al-Rashadin,  and other pro-government militant groups sent as reinforcements, such as the National Defence Force, proved to be unreliable in combat.

Effectively cutting off access was more difficult in Aleppo because rebels controlled more terrain there than in other cities. Rebels also have a strong presence in the countryside and around the border crossings with Turkey. In April 2014 government commanders inside the city were saying that contrary to implementing such a strategy, “the best [they] can do in Aleppo is just secure … positions”.

The attempted encirclement involved the SAA’s attacks on Bustan Al-Pasha, Khalidiyyeh, the farms of Mazra’a Halabi, Al-Amariyya and Bustan Al-Qaseer .  The rebels’ strategic victory at the Siege of Wadi Deif resulted in threats to several main government supply lines. This cast doubt on government forces’ ambitions to control the road from Hama to Aleppo and the Damascus-Aleppo international road, and has been seen as a personal defeat for Syrian Arab Army Col. Suheil Al Hassan.

Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria, proposed a pause in fighting, but opinions about implementation were divided. The European Union warned that “cases of forced surrender imposed by the Assad regime through starvation sieges were labelled fallaciously as local cease-fires in the past. The Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army, which was gaining ground in Deraa province south of Damascus, warned that a freeze in fighting in Aleppo could hamper their advance, as pro-Assad forces could be redirected from Aleppo.

The Syrian government’s defeat at the Second Battle of Idlib in late March 2015, which helped expand the influence of the al-Nusra Front, forced the Islamic State (IS) to expand its attacks in central Syria after it failed to block the Raqqa highway that branches out to the Syrian army’s main supply route to Aleppo along the Khanasir-Athriya road. IS’s aim would potentially be to establish the necessary conditions to attack Idlib and al-Nusra. The March–April IS offensive in central Syria led some volunteers defending the Homs-Aleppo highway to consider deserting to defend their hometowns.

According to Jane’s Information Group, a possible offensive on Homs by both al-Nusra Front and IS working independently might force the government to move critical forces away from Aleppo to defend key supply routes.

After additional opposition gains during the 2015 Jisr al-Shughur offensive, Jane’s said it was no longer possible for the SAA to properly reinforce Aleppo, leaving their forces vulnerable to any opposition or IS offensive on the city. If opposition forces decided to capitalize on their gains and launch an assault towards Latakia, the prospect of soldiers deserting was raised because if they were not redeployed back to defend it, they could defend their own homes against any potential rebel advance.

Syrian government minister Faisal Mekdad stated in June 2015,

“All our strategic planning now is to keep the way open to Aleppo to allow our forces to defend it”.

Barrel bombs

Image result for barrel bombs in syria

In 2014, the United Nations adopted Resolution 2139 which ordered the end of using barrel bombs in the battle. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights stated that the Syrian army dropped 7,000 barrel bombs in the first five months of 2015 claiming the lives of 3,000 people. Amnesty International claims that barrel bombs killed 3,000 people in 2014  Channel4 claims that videos have emerged online showing the Syrian army using barrel bombs.

The Syrian government has been alleged of using the barrel bombs several times. Some of them are:

  • According to Middle East Monitor reported the death of 14 people allegedly caused by the bombs in the Kallasa and Qasila neighbourhood of the city in June 2015.
  • CNN-IBN wrote about the government of dropping barrel bombs in July in the neighbourhood of al-Bab causing the death of 35 and injuring 50 others.
  • The BBC alleged the government of dropping the same in May, leading to the death of 72 civilians.
  • The Anadolu Agency of Turkey wrote that the bombs launched by the government forces in July killed 15 people.

However, the government has denied using barrel bombs. In an interview to BBC, President Bashar al-Assad denied using “indiscriminate weapons” like barrel bombs in the rebel held territories.

Assad said:

“I know about the army. They use bullets, missiles and bombs. I haven’t heard of the army using barrels, or maybe cooking pots.”

Destruction of heritage

Time magazine wrote,

..the ongoing devastation inflicted on the country’s stunning archaeological sites—bullet holes lodged in walls of its ancient Roman cities, the debris of Byzantine churches, early mosques and crusader fortresses—rob Syria of its best chance for a post-conflict economic boom based on tourism, which, until the conflict started 18 months ago, contributed 12% to the national income.

 

The Al-Madina Souq, a major souq (market) in Aleppo, was affected by a fire in September 2012. The Irish Times reported that around 700 to 1000 shops were destroyed by the fire, which had been caused by firing and shelling.  The following month, there were reports of the Great Mosque of Aleppo being damaged by rocket-propelled grenades. Fighting with mortars and machine guns caused damage to the main gate and the prayer hall

The attack continued in the mosque till it was repelled by the army.

The Citadel of Aleppo was damaged during Syrian army shelling.

On 2 October, Irena Bokova the Director-General of UNESCO, expressed her “grave concern about possible damage to precious sites” and requested the combatants to “ensure the protection of the outstanding cultural legacy that Syria hosts on its soil”.

She cited the Hague Convention for protecting the heritage sites.

A 2014 report by UNITAR found, using satellite images, that 22 out of the 210 examined key structures had been completely destroyed. 48 others had sustained severe damage, 33 moderate damage and 32 possible damage. The destroyed sites included the Carlton Citadel Hotel, destroyed to its foundations in a bombing in 2014, the madrasas of al-Sharafiyya and Khusruwiyah. The damage to the Great Mosque, whose minaret had been destroyed, was confirmed. According to official estimates, 1500 out of the 1600 shops in the souqs had been damaged or destroyed.

Reactions

Domestic reaction

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, said on the occasion of the 67th Anniversary of the Syrian Arab Army in August 2012,

“the army is engaged in a crucial and heroic battle … on which the destiny of the nation and its people rests …”

Foreign reactions

  • Armenia began sending humanitarian aid to Aleppo in mid-October 2012.  The aid was distributed by Red Crescent, the Armenian National Prelacy in Aleppo, the Aleppo Emergency unit, and the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to Syria. The Governor of the Aleppo Governorate, Hilal Hial, said, “the Syrian people highly appreciate this humanitarian gesture of the Armenian people, underlining the strong Syrian-Armenian cooperation”.

 

  • The French Foreign Ministry said, “With the build-up of heavy weapons around Aleppo, Assad is preparing to carry out a fresh slaughter of his own people”. Italy and the UN peacekeeping chief also accused the government of preparing to massacre civilians.

 

  • As the battle of Aleppo started, Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, met with Assad in Damascus. Jalili said Iran would help Assad to confront “attempts at blatant foreign interference” in Syria’s internal affairs, saying, “Iran will not allow the axis of resistance, of which it considers Syria to be an essential part, to be broken in any way”.

 

  • The Russian Foreign Ministry issued an official statement condemning the bombing that occurred on 9 September 2012, in which more than 30 people were killed. The ministry stated, “We firmly condemn the terrorist acts which claim the lives of innocent people”, on 11 September. The Foreign Ministry also called on foreign powers to pressure the armed opposition to stop launching “terrorist attacks”.

 

  • The Russian Consulate General in Aleppo suspended operations on 16 January 2013.

 

  • Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged international action, saying it was not possible “to remain a spectator” to the government offensive on Aleppo Reuters reported that Turkey had set up a base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct military and communications aid to the Free Syrian Army from the city of Adana. Reuters also quoted a Doha-based source, which stated that Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were providing rebel fighters with weapons and training.

 

 

  • The United States stated it feared a new massacre in Aleppo by the Syrian government; “This is the concern: that we will see a massacre in Aleppo and that’s what the regime appears to be lining up for”. The United States condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the government SCUD missile strikes on Aleppo in late February 2013, saying they were “the latest of the Syrian regime’s ruthlessness and its lack of compassion for the Syrian people it claims to represent”.[

 

2nd August – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

2nd August

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

 

Monday 2 August 1976

Cornelius Neeson (49), a Catholic civilian, was killed with an axe as he walked home along the Cliftonville Road, Belfast. Members of he Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang known as the ‘Shankill Butchers’ were responsible for the killing.

See Shankilll Butchers Documentary

2 August 1978

Roy Mason, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that a sports car factory would be built in West Belfast and would mean 2,000 new jobs. The new factory was seen as a breakthrough in securing American investment in Northern Ireland.

 

However the DeLorean factory required a British investment of £56 million out of a total of £65 million. At the time a number of commentators expressed reservations about the potential success of the venture and indeed the business did fail with the loss of substantial public funds.

Thursday 2 August 1979

Two British soldiers were killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in a landmine attack at Cathedral Road, Armagh.

These deaths brought the total number of British Army soldiers killed in Northern Ireland since 1969 to 301.

A Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer was shot dead by the IRA in Belfast.

Sunday 2 August 1981

Eighth Hunger Striker Died

Kieran Doherty (25) died after 73 days on hunger strike. Doherty was a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and had been elected as a Teachta Dáil (TD) during the general election in the Republic of Ireland on 11 June 1981.

   

John Smyth & Andrew Wood

Two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were killed in a landmine attack carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Loughmacrory, near Omagh, County Tyrone.

Sunday 2 August 1992

Two bombs, each estimated at 200 pounds, exploded in Bedford Street, Belfast. Extensive damage was done to buildings in the area.

Hugh Annesley, Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), issued a statement on the Channel 4 programme entitled ‘The Committee’ broadcast on 2 October 1991. Annesley stated that there was no truth to the allegations.

Tuesday 2 August 1994

According to a report in the Irish Press (a Dublin based newspaper) on 8 August 1994 a meeting took place on 2 August between representatives of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and those of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a cover name (pseudonym) used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

At that meeting it was decided that Loyalist paramilitaries would continue with their campaigns of attacking Catholics irrespective of any future Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire.

Friday 2 August 1996

U.V.F Logo

In a statement the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) announced that the Portadown unit of the Mid-Ulster Brigade was to disband. The statement also said that activities of the Portadown unit would be investigated.

Sinn Féin (SF) denied organising boycotts of Protestant businesses in rural areas of Northern Ireland.

Since the stand-off at Drumcree some nationalists had been boycotting Protestant businesses in Armagh, Castlederg, Lisnaskea, Omagh and Pomery.

Nationalists claimed that the business people had taken part in Orange roadblocks during the stand-off.

Thursday 2 August 2001

Amateur footage of the explosion

Bomb Explosion in London

Republican paramilitaries carried out a car bomb attack in the Ealing area of London. The explosion occurred just before midnight and caused six injuries and some damage to property. A telephone warning was received at 11.33pm (2333BST) but the area was still being cleared when the explosion happened.

The bomb (estimated at 40 kilograms of home-made explosives) was thought to have been planted by the “real” Irish Republican Army (rIRA).

Police in London criticised the warning as being imprecise as to the location; the warning referred to ‘Ealing Broadway Road’ instead of ‘The Broadway, Ealing’ .

 

Edward_Daly_Bloody_Sunday

Former soldiers who were involved in the shootings in Derry on ‘Bloody Sunday’, 30 January 1972, announced that they would seek a judical review of a ruling by the Inquiry that they must give their evidence in Derry rather than in Britain.

The soldiers had won an earlier ruling allowing them to retain anonymity when giving evidence.

See Bloody Sunday

—————————-

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.

11 People lost their lives on the 2nd August  between 1975 – 1988

——————————-

02 August 1975

George McCall, (22)

Protestant

Status: ex-Ulster Defence Regiment (xUDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Shot while walking near his home, Moy, County Tyrone.

————————————————————–

02 August 1976

Cornelius Neeson,  (49)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

Died a short time after being found badly beaten, at the junction of Manor Street and Cliftonville Road, Belfast.

————————————————————–

02 August 1978

John Lamont, (21)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Shot from passing car, while on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) foot patrol, George Street, Ballymena, County Antrim.

————————————————————–

02 August 1979

Paul Reece, Paul (18) nfNI

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) mobile patrol, Cathedral Road, Armagh.

————————————————————–

02 August 1979

Richard Furminger , (19) nfNI

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) mobile patrol, Cathedral Road, Armagh.

————————————————————–

02 August 1979

Derek Davidson, (26)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Shot by sniper when Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) patrol lured to scene of bogus robbery, Clondara Street, Falls, Belfast.

————————————————————–

02 August 1981

Kieran Dohert (25)

Catholic

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: not known (nk)

Also Teachta Dala. Died on the 73rd day of hunger strike, Long Kesh / Maze Prison, County Down.

————————————————————–

02 August 1981

John Smyth , (34)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed in land mine attack on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) mobile patrol, Loughmacrory, near Omagh, County Tyrone.

————————————————————–

02 August 1981

Andrew Wood, (50)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed in land mine attack on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) mobile patrol, Loughmacrory, near Omagh, County Tyrone

————————————————————–

02 August 1988

John Warnock, (45)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed by booby trap bomb attached to his car outside Lisburn Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) base, County Antrim.

————————————————————–

02 August 1988

  Roy  Butler (29)

Protestant

Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Off duty. Shot while in Park Shopping Centre, Donegall Road, Belfast.

11th June – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

11th June

————————————

Sunday 11 June 1972

There was a gun battle between Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries in the Oldpark area of Belfast.

There were shooting incidents in other areas of Belfast and Northern Ireland.

In all, two Catholics, a Protestant, and a British soldier were shot and killed.

Colonel Gaddafi announced that he had supplied arms to “revolutionaries” in Ireland.

Wednesday 11 June 1980

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) issued a statement that threatened to renew attacks on prison officers.

Thursday 11 June 1981

A general election was held in the Republic of Ireland.

[When counting was completed a minority government was formed between a coalition of Fine Gael (FG) and Labour. On 30 June 1981 Garret FitzGerald replaced Charles Haughey as Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister).

Two H-Block prisoners were elected to the Dáil.]

Saturday 11 June 1983

In the new British cabinet announced by Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, James Prior, was reappointed as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Wednesday 11 June 1986

Five people, one of whom was Patrick Magee, were found guilty at the ‘Old Bailey’ court in London of conspiring to cause explosions in Britain including the Brighton bomb on 12 October 1984.

[Magee later received eight life sentences.]

Thursday 11 June 1987

General Election

A general election was held across the United Kingdom (UK).

The Conservative Party was returned to power. In Northern Ireland the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) increased their vote and their share of the poll.

The overall Unionist vote fell as did the vote of Sinn Féin (SF).

Enoch Powell, formally an Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Member of Parliament (MP), lost his South Down seat to Eddie McGrady of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

Friday 11 June 1993

Queen Elizabeth paid a visit to Northern Ireland.

John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), held another meeting with Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF). Amnesty International criticised certain aspects of emergence powers in Northern Ireland.

Tuesday 11 June 1996

The second day of the Stormont talks were again spent in argument over the appointment of George Mitchell as chair and the extent of his “over-arching” role.

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) agreed to a compromise which reduced the role of George Mitchell but which let talks proceed.

Wednesday 11 June 1997

Robert (‘Basher’) Bates (48)

Robert Basher Bates

a former leading member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) ‘Shankill Butchers’ gang, was shot dead while opening the Ex-Prisoners Information Centre on Woodvale Road, Belfast.

Initially Republican paramilitaries were blamed for the killing but all the groups denied any involvement, and it later became clear that Loyalist paramilitaries were responsible.

Bates had pleaded guilty in January 1979 to 10 murders.

Most of the victims were Catholics who were abducted, tortured, and killed with butcher knives, hatchets and sometimes guns.

One of Bates’ victims was James Moorehead (30) who at the time was a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). It was believed that Bates was killed in retaliation for his part in the murder of Moorehead.

See Robert “Basher” Bates

See Shankill Butchers

See Lenny Murphy

The Queen paid a visit to Northern Ireland and travelled to Dungannon, Belfast, and Hillsborough Castle where a garden reception for 2,000 people was held.

The police and customs officials carried out a series of raids in Britain and Ireland and broke up a drugs gang which had links to the UDA. Police seized £6 million pounds of property, £2 million pounds of illicit alcohol, and £500,000 in cash.

Thursday 11 June 1998

Three shots were fired at a Sinn Féin (SF) election worker in the Markets area of south Belfast.

[Republicans claimed that the attack was carried out by “Group B” a remnant of the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA). Residents reported increased friction in west and south Belfast between supporters of the Provisionals and Officials in recent weeks.]

Friday 11 June 1999

Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, intensified discussions to try to resolve the issues preventing the establishment of an Executive in Northern Ireland.

The Police Authority of Northern Ireland warned that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) did not have sufficient funds to meet the additional costs in policing the violence surrounding the Drumcree dispute.

 

——————————————

Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

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

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

– Thomas Campbell

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

– To the Paramilitaries –

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

9 People lost their lives on the 11th   June between 1972 – 1997

——————————————

11 June 1972
John Madden  (43)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot outside his shop, Oldpark Road, Belfast.

——————————————

11 June 1972


Joseph Campbell  (16)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army Youth Section (IRAF),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot during gun battle, Eskdale Gardens, Ardoyne, Belfast.

——————————————

11 June 1972


Norman McGrath  (18)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot from passing British Army (BA) Armoured Personnel Carrier as he walked along Alloa Street, Lower Oldpark, Belfast.

——————————————

11 June 1972
Peter Raistric  (18)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while in Brooke Park British Army (BA) base, Derry.

——————————————

11 June 1975
Kenneth Conway   (20)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk)
Died one day after being shot at the junction of Woodvale Road and Glenvale Street, Shankill, Belfast.

——————————————

11 June 1976
William Palmer   (50)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Republican group (REP)
Died three days after being shot at his home, Milltown Avenue, Derriaghy, near Belfast

——————————————

11 June 1976
Edward Walker  (20)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
Shot while travelling in stolen car along Doagh Road, Newtownabbey, County Antrim

——————————————

11 June 1982


David Reeves  (24)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb while searching garage, Carranbane Walk, Shantallow, Derry.

——————————————

11 June 1997

Robert Bates  (48)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Shot, at his workplace, Ex-prisoners Interpretative Centre, Woodvale Road, Shankill, Belfast. Ulster Defence Association / Ulster Volunteer Force feud.

See Shankill Butchers

See Lenny Murphy

——————————————

Robert “Basher” Bates 12th Dec 1948 – 11th June 1997. Shankill Butcher

Robert William Bates

” Basher “

Robert William Bates (nicknamed “Basher”) (12 December 1948 – 11 June 1997) was an Ulster loyalist from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force and the infamous Shankill Butchers gang, led by Lenny Murphy.

Shankill Butchers

Shankill Butchers.

See Shankill Butchers

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

 

Bates was born into an Ulster Protestant family and grew up in the Shankill Road area of Belfast. He had a criminal record dating back to 1966,  and later became a member of the Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Bates, employed as a barman at the Long Bar, was recruited into the Shankill Butchers gang in 1975 by its notorious ringleader, Lenny Murphy.

The gang used The Brown Bear pub, a Shankill Road drinking haunt frequented by the UVF, as its headquarters. Bates, a “sergeant” in the gang’s hierarchy, was an avid participant in the brutal torture and savage killings perpetrated against innocent Catholics after they were abducted from nationalist streets and driven away in a black taxi owned by fellow Shankill Butcher, William Moore.

William moore.jpg
William Moore

 

 

The killings typically involved grisly-throat slashings preceded by lengthy beatings and torture. Bates was said to have been personally responsible for beating James Moorhead, a member of the Ulster Defence Association, to death on 30 January 1977 and to have played a central role in the kidnapping and murder of Catholic Joseph Morrisey three days later. He also killed Thomas Quinn, a derelict, on 8 February 1976 and the following day was involved in shooting dead Archibald Hanna and Raymond Carlisle, two Protestant workmen that Bates and Murphy mistook for Catholics.

Martin Dillon revealed that Bates was also one of the four UVF gunmen who carried out a mass shooting in the Chlorane Bar attack in Belfast city centre on 5 June 1976. Five people (three Catholics and two Protestants) were shot dead. The UVF unit had burst into the pub in Gresham Street and ordered the Catholics and Protestants to line up on opposite ends of the bar before they opened fire. He later recounted his role in the attack to police; however, he had claimed that he never fired any shots due to his revolver having malfunctioned.

Forensics evidence contradicted him as it proved that his revolver had been fired inside the Chlorane Bar that night. Lenny Murphy was in police custody at the time the shooting attack against the Chlorane Bar took place.

Bates was arrested in 1977, along with Moore and other “Shankill Butcher” accomplices.

Gerard McLaverty and Joseph Morrissey

His arrest followed a sustained attack by Moore and Sam McAllister on Catholic Gerard McLaverty, after which they dumped his body, presuming him dead. However McLaverty survived and identified Moore and McAllister to the Royal Ulster Constabulary who drove him up and down the Shankill Road during a loyalist parade until he saw his attackers. During questioning both men implicated Bates, and other gang members, leading to their arrests.

Following a long period spent on remand, he was convicted in February 1979 of murder related to the Shankill Butcher killings and given ten life sentences, with a recommendation by the trial judge, Mr Justice O’Donnell, that he should never be released.

In prison

At the start of his sentence, Bates was involved in a series of violent incidents involving other inmates. Bates later claimed that he had perpetrated these acts in order to live up to his “Basher” nickname.

He served as company commander of the UVF inmates and became noted as stern disciplinarian.

However while in the Maze Prison, he was said to have “found God”, and as a result became a born-again Christian. He produced a prison testimony, which was later reprinted in The Burning Bush, and, after publicly advocating an end to violence, was transferred to HMP Maghaberry.

Brendan hughes.jpg
Brendan Hughes

 

 

In prison, Bates formed a friendship with Provisional IRA member and fellow detainee Brendan Hughes. Bates foiled a UVF assassination plot on Hughes.

Early release and death

 

Ex-Prisoners Interpretative Centre, Woodvale Road, where Bates worked after his release and where he was shot

In October 1996, 18 months prior to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Bates was cleared for early release by the Life Sentence Review Board. He was given the opportunity of participating in a rehabilitation scheme, spending the day on a work placement and returning to prison at night.

As he arrived for work in his native Shankill area of Belfast early on the morning of 11 June 1997,  Bates was shot dead by the son of a UDA man he had killed in 1977.

The killer identified himself to Bates as the son of his victim before opening fire. Bates had been working at the Ex-Prisoners Interpretative Centre (EPIC), a drop-in centre for former loyalist prisoners.

Bates’ killing had not been sanctioned by the UDA leadership but nevertheless they refused to agree to UVF demands that the killer should be handed over to them, instead exiling him from the Shankill. He was rehoused in the Taughmonagh area where he quickly became an important figure in the local UDA as a part of Jackie McDonald‘s South Belfast Brigade.

Bates’ name was subsequently included on the banner of a prominent Orange Lodge on the Shankill Road, called Old Boyne Island Heroes.

Relatives of Shankill butchers victims Cornelius Neeson condemned the banner, stating that:

“it hurts the memory of those the butchers killed”.

A fellow Lodge member and former friend of Bates defended the inclusion of his name to journalist Peter Taylor:

“I knew him very well and he’d been a personal friend for twenty or thirty years and to me he was a gentleman”.

He went on to describe him as having been:

“an easy-going, decent fellow, and as far as the Lodge is concerned, a man of good-standing”.

He was a buried in a Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster ceremony by Reverend Alan Smylie.

Bates’ funeral was attended by a large representation from local Orange Lodges.

Mairead Maguire, July 2009

Mairead Maguire was also amongst the mourners, arguing that Bates had “repented, asked for forgiveness and showed great remorse for what he had done”, whilst a memorial service held at the spot of his killing two days after the funeral was attended by Father Gerry Reynolds of Clonard Monastery

See Shankill Butchers

Shankill Butchers.

See Shankill Butchers

lennie murphy

See Lenny Murphy

——————————————–

Wednesday 11 June 1997

 

From killer to victim: Basher’s death sums up the futility of the Troubles

Robert “Basher” Bates, who was gunned down in Belfast yesterday, was an icon. To some he represented the very worst that the troubles has produced: to others he was testimony that even the most brutal terrorist might not be beyond redemption.

Two decades ago the 10 murders he was involved in were among the most barbaric ever seen. He shot some of his victims but others he killed in the most cruel fashion, he and his associates wielded butcher’s knives, axes and cleavers on random Catholic victims. The Shankill Butchers slaughtered human beings as one would animals.

The horror of those killings took Belfast to a new low. Yesterday his death conjured up the most appalling vista of all: that the IRA was intent on regenerating the troubles. The relief was palpable when it emerged that he had been killed not by the IRA but by a loyalist, in what is thought to have been personal revenge for the murder by Bates of a close relative, 20 years ago in a bar room brawl.

Basher Bates was one of hundreds of convicted killers released after serving an average of 15 years behind bars. There are hundreds of unsettled personal grudges in Northern Ireland: quite a few people know, or think they know, who killed their fathers or other loved ones. Yet this seems to have been the first personal revenge killing of a released prisoner.

While loyalist groups have accounted for close on 1,000 of the 3,500 victims of the Troubles, the ferocity and awfulness of the Shankill Butchers’ killings have remained in the public memory for two full decades.

A book dwelling on the graphic details has been a local bestseller for 20 years, and can still be picked up in many of the garage shops of Belfast. It was, for example, the favourite reading of Thomas Begley, the young IRA man who four years ago carried a bomb into a Shankill Road fish shop, killing himself and nine Protestants.

Bates was not the prime mover in the Shankill Butchers gang: that was UVF man Lennie Murphy, who was shot dead by the IRA in 1982. But he was one of the leading lights during their two-year reign of terror, and one photograph of him, looking like an unshaven, unkempt dullard, has remained lodged in the communal memory as a vision of a psychopathic killer.

The judge who gave him 16 life sentences for his killings told him, correctly, that his actions “will remain forever a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry.” When he told him he should remain behind bars for the rest of his natural life, society shuddered and hoped it had heard the last of Basher Bates.

But Northern Ireland has a scheme, not found in the rest of the UK, for the release of even the most notorious killers, and more than 300 loyalists and republicans have been quietly freed over the last decade. Many of these former lifers engross themselves, as Bates seemed to be doing, in community or welfare work.

As the years passed in jail, Bates was at first a difficult prisoner, then a troubled soul and finally a remorseful born-again Christian, praying fervently for forgiveness. One who knew him in prison said of him: “He’s now a shell of a man, very quiet and inoffensive in a bland kind of way. The hair has gone, he’s prematurely bald. He has found the Lord and he’s no threat to anyone.”

Basher Bates made a long and painful journey from merciless assassin to man of God. His personal odyssey seemed to be over: neither he nor anyone else could have foreseen the fateful circularity which in the end transformed him from killer to victim.

 

 

 

 

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30th March – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

30th March

—————————————————–

Sunday 30 March 1969 Loyalist Bombs

There were a number of explosions at an electricity substation at Castlereagh, east Belfast. The explosions resulted in a blackout in a large area of Belfast and did damage estimated at £500,000.

[It was later established that the bombs were planted by Loyalists who were members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV). This incident was initially blamed on the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and was part of a campaign by Loyalist groups to destabilise Terence O’Neill, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, and bring an end to reforms. Other bombs were planted by Loyalists on 4 April 1969, 20 Arpil 1969, 24 April 1969, 26 April 1969, and 19 October 1969.]

Thursday 30 March 1972

Direct Rule Introduced

William Faulkner announces his resignation, heralding the beginning of direct rule

The legislation which introduced direct rule, the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, was passed at the House of Commons at Westminster.

[With the exception of a brief period in 1974, Northern Ireland was to be ruled from Westminster until 1999.]

Friday 30 March 1973

William Craig, and some other former members of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), formed a new political party the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party (VUPP). The VUPP was formed with the support of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

[In addition to having close links with Loyalist paramilitary groups the VUPP also was prepared to accept an independent Northern Ireland because of the inevitable Unionist domination of any new government. Indeed the VUPP had one Loyalist paramilitary grouping, the Vanguard Service Corps (VSC) directly linked with the party.]

Saturday 30 March 1974

Two Protestant civilians were killed in a bomb attack on the Crescent Bar, Sandy Row, Belfast. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Tuesday 30 March 1976

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) called off its ‘rent and rates strike’ which had originally started as a campaign of civil disobedience against the introduction of Internment. [Many of those who had taken part in the protest were left with arrears and in many cases money was deducted from welfare benefit payments to recoup the amounts owing.]

Wednesday 30 March 1977

Shankill Butchers.

Francis Cassidy (43), a Catholic civilian, was found shot with his throat cut in the Highfield area of Belfast.

Members of he Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang known as the ‘Shankill Butchers’ were responsible for the killing.

See Shankill Butchers

Friday 30 March 1979

Airey Neave Killed

Airey-Neave 2 resized

Airey Neave, then Conservative Party spokesperson on Northern Ireland, was killed by a booby-trap bomb attached to his car as he left the car park at the House of Commons. The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) claimed responsibility for the killing.

[If he had lived Neave would have been highly likely to have become the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the new Conservative government. Neave had been an advocate of a strong security response to counter Republican paramilitaries. Neave had also advocated the setting up of one or more regional councils to take responsibility for local services.]

See Airey Neave

Monday 30 March 1981

Noel Maguire decided to withdraw his nomination in the forthcoming by-election in Fermanagh / South Tyrone.

[This decision meant that voters were faced with a straight choice between Bobby Sands and Harry West, the Unionist candidate.] [ 1981 Hunger Strike.]

Friday 30 March 1990

It was announced that the report of the Stevens Inquiry would not be published.

Tuesday 30 March 1993

Radio Telefis Éireann (RTE) lost its appeal against a High Court decision that its blanket ban on broadcasting interviews with members of Sinn Féin (SF) was wrong and that Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act was being misinterpreted by the station. The five-judge Supreme Court unanimously upheld the High Court decision.

[In the High Court in July 1992, Mr. Justice O’Hanlon found that RTE, in deciding that no SF member should be permitted by reason of that membership to broadcast on any matter or topic, had misinterpreted the provisions of the ministerial order. In its appeal, RTE argued that the purpose of the order was to prevent its broadcasting system being used for the purpose of subverting or undermining the authority of the state.]

Wednesday 30 March 1994

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced that there would be a three day ceasefire from 6 April to 8 April 1994.

During a visit to Northern Ireland John Major, then British Prime Minister, said that what people wanted was a “permanent end to violence”.

lee glegg

The appeal by Lee Clegg, a private in the Parachute Regiment, against his murder conviction was dismissed by Brian Hutton (Sir), then Lord Chief Justice.

[However, Clegg was released from prison on 3 July 1995 having served two years of a life sentence for the murder of Karen Reilly (16) on 30 September 1990.]

See Lee Clegg

Thursday 30 March 1995

The annual report of the Fair Employment Commission (FEC) noted that 62.7 per cent of the workforce was Protestant and 37.3 per cent Catholic. [Based on the 1991 Census, the estimated Catholic population was 41.5 per cent.]

Saturday 30 March 1996

Jim McDonnell (36), then a prisoner at Maghaberry Prison, was found dead of a ‘heart attack’.

[It was later revealed that he had a series of injuries, including 11 broken ribs, which the Prison Service said was a result of a fall or the attempts at resuscitation.]

Sunday 30 March 1997

A Loyalist paramilitary group planted a car bomb outside the offices of Sinn Féin (SF) in the New Lodge area of north Belfast. The bomb was defused.

easter rising

Various Republican groups held commemorations of the Easter Rising, which took place in Dublin in 1916, at locations across Northern Ireland. The groups involved were: SF, Republican SF, the Workers’ Party, and the Official Republican Movement.

See Easter Rising

Tuesday 30 March 1999

Talks between Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, and Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), continued at Hillsborough Castle in County Down. Efforts were being made to incorporate guarantees from Seamus Mallon, then Deputy First Minister Designate, that the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) would co-operate in excluding Sinn Féin (SF) from government if decommissioning failed to take place by a specific date.

Seven hours of talks adjourned at midnight without agreement. There were protests by Republicans and anti-Agreement Loyalists at Stormont, Belfast.

Rosemary-Nelson--001

The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) together with the Independent Commission on Police Complaints (ICPC) issued a ‘review’ of a report based on an inquiry into the killing of Rosemary Nelson on 15 March 1999 and the allegations of death threats against Nelson made by members of the RUC.

The report had been prepared by Niall Mulvihill, then Commander of the Metropolitan Police in London, and had been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Nationalists criticised the ‘review’ and claimed it was an “exercise in damage limitation

See Rosemary Nelson

 ———————————————

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.

8  People lost their lives on the 30th March between 1972– 1987

—————————————————————————

30 March 1972
Martha Crawford,   (39)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot during gun battle between British Army (BA) and Irish Republican Army (IRA), Rossnareen Avenue, Andersonstown, Belfast.

—————————————————————————

30 March 1974


William Thompson,  (43)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Republican group (REP)
Killed in bomb attack on Crescent Bar, Sandy Row, Belfast.

—————————————————————————

30 March 1974


Howard Mercer,  (39)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Republican group (REP)
Killed in bomb attack on Crescent Bar, Sandy Row, Belfast.

—————————————————————————

30 March 1976
Donald Traynor,   (28)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb at Orange Hall, Ballygargan, near Portadown, County Armagh.

—————————————————————————

30 March 1977
Francis Cassidy,   (43)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Abducted while walking along New Lodge Road, Belfast. Found stabbed and shot a short time later, on grass verge, off Highfern Gardens, Highfield, Belfast.

—————————————————————————

30 March 1979


Airey Neave,  (63)

 nfNIB
Status: Civilian Political Activist (CivPA),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Member of Parliament and Conservative Party Spokesman on Northern Ireland. Killed by booby trap bomb attached to his car at House of Commons, Westminster, London.

—————————————————————————

30 March 1979


Martin McConville,  (25)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Beaten to death somewhere in Portadown, County Armagh. Body found in River Bann, beside Seagoe Industrial Estate, Portadown, County Armagh, on 22 April 1979.

—————————————————————————

30 March 1987
Ian O’Connor,  (23)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by grenade dropped on to stationary British Army (BA) vehicle from the balcony above, Divis Flats, Belfast.

—————————————————————————

If you would like more information on any of these events or deaths please visit the contact me page  and  me an email.

 

Hillcrest Bar /Saint Patrick’s Day Bombing

The Hillcrest Bar bombing

17th March 1976

The Hillcrest Bar bombing, also known as the “Saint Patrick’s Day bombing”, took place on 17 March 1976 in Dungannon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group, detonated a car bomb outside a pub crowded with people celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.

Four Catholic civilians were killed by the blast—including two 13-year-old boys standing outside—and almost 50 people were injured, some severely.

—————————-

The Innocent Victims

—————————-

————————————————–

17 March 1976


Patrick Barnard,   (13)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Killed in car bomb explosion, outside Hillcrest Bar, Donaghmore Road, Dungannon, County Tyrone.

————————————————–

17 March 1976


Joseph Kelly,  (57)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Killed in car bomb explosion, outside Hillcrest Bar, Donaghmore Road, Dungannon, County Tyrone

————————————————–

17 March 1976


James McCaughey,   (13)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Killed in car bomb explosion, outside Hillcrest Bar, Donaghmore Road, Dungannon, County Tyrone.

————————————————–

17 March 1976


Andrew Small,  (62)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Killed in car bomb explosion, outside Hillcrest Bar, Donaghmore Road, Dungannon, County Tyrone.

————————————————–


 

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

In December 1980, UVF member Garnet James Busby confessed to having been one of the bombers and was sentenced to life in prison. The UVF unit responsible was the Mid-Ulster Brigade, which at the time was led by the notorious Robin Jackson.

The attack is one of many linked to the Glenanne gang, a loose association of loyalist militants and rogue members of the Northern Ireland security forces, who carried out a series of attacks against the Catholic/Irish nationalist community in the area during the 1970s.

Situation in Northern Ireland

By the mid-1970s, the conflict in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles, showed no signs of abating. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) intensified its bombing campaign to drive British forces out, and began targeting English cities. The main loyalist paramilitary groups—the UVF and Ulster Defence Association (UDA)—responded with random attacks on the local Catholic population, which in turn led to IRA reprisals against Protestants.

During 1975 the IRA was officially on ceasefire. Loyalists believed the ceasefire was part of a secret deal between the British Government and IRA which would mean a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland. According to journalist Peter Taylor, the vicious tit-for-tat violence between the IRA and loyalists made 1975 one of the

 

“bloodiest years of the conflict”

 

Victims of Shankill Butchers

 See Shankill Butchers

In Belfast, the loyalist Shankill Butchers gang, led by Lenny Murphy, began an 18-month killing spree designed to strike terror into the Catholic community, whom they believed were giving succour to the IRA. The gang would drive around Catholic areas in a black taxi and kidnap random Catholic passersby, then torture and hack them to death. However, most tit-for-tat attacks were bombings and shootings targeting pubs, or roadside ambushes, as in the case of the Miami Showband massacre.

This saw three members of the popular Irish cabaret band shot dead at a fake military checkpoint by UVF gunmen in British Army uniforms. Two of those convicted were Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers. Investigations established that UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade commander Robin Jackson was the organizer and main gunman in the July 1975 ambush. Described as “the most notorious Loyalist paramilitary in Northern Ireland”, it was also revealed that he was a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch agent.

A further 50 paramilitary attacks have been linked to Jackson, including the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which killed 33 people.

In January 1976, the UVF killed six members of two Catholic families in a co-ordinated attack. The following evening, IRA members (using the covername “Republican Action Force”) retaliated by shooting eleven Protestant men after ordering them out of a minibus. Only one survived.

Loyalists sought revenge, and members of the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade planned to attack a nearby Catholic primary school. The operation was aborted by the UVF leadership on the grounds that it was “morally unacceptable”, would provoke a terrible response from the IRA and could spark civil war.

Harold Wilson announced on 16 March 1976 that he was resigning as British Prime Minister. That same day, the British Army defused a 200-pound IRA bomb left outside a garage in Dungannon.

The bombing

The Hillcrest Bar (now McAleer’s) on Dungannon’s Donaghmore Road, was a pub frequented by Catholics and was jointly owned by a Catholic and a Protestant. An incendiary device had been planted inside the premises the year before. On the evening of 17 March 1976, the pub was packed with revelers celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day. There was also a disco for young people being held in a school across the road.

According to writer and former British soldier Ken Wharton, a loyalist attack had been anticipated in Northern Ireland as ‘Catholic pubs’ would be packed with people enjoying the Irish holiday. Earlier that day in East Belfast, Catholic teacher John Donnelly had been drinking in the Cregagh Inn on Woodstock Road.

When one of his former students identified him as a Catholic, UDA members who happened to be in the pub forced him outside (in full view of the customers) and stabbed him to death behind the building.

 

 

That evening, UVF members parked a green Austin-Healey 1100 car outside the Hillcrest Bar. It had been stolen in Armagh nine days earlier. At 8.20 pm, the time bomb hidden in the car exploded. The blast killed three people outright and fatally wounded another.Almost 50 people were injured, nine of them severely.

The force of the blast blew out all the pub’s windows and rained debris on the footpath outside. The pub manager, who had been upstairs when the bomb detonated, said :

“everything just simply erupted around us. There was no warning”

 

One of those killed was Joseph Kelly (57), who had been inside the pub. Two 13-year-old boys, James McCaughey and Patrick Barnard, were in the street near the car bomb when it went off; James was mutilated beyond recognition and Patrick would die of his horrific injuries in hospital the following day.

The boys were on their way to a disco at a school across the road. Andrew Small (62) was walking past with his wife and was also killed in the blast. All of the victims were Catholic civilians with no links to republican paramilitary groups.

The getaway car used by the bombers had been stolen in Portadown. It was found burnt out a mile from the bomb site.

Responsibility

—————————————

Glenanne Gang

—————————————

The 17 March bombing is one of the attacks that the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) has attributed to the Glenanne gang. This was a loose alliance of loyalist militants (in particular the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade) and rogue members of the Northern Ireland security forces: the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). The group carried out a series of attacks against Catholics/Irish nationalists in the area during the 1970s.

The PFC requested that Professor Douglass Cassel (formerly of Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago) convene an international inquiry to investigate allegations of collusion between loyalists and the security forces in sectarian killings. This international team concluded in their 2006 report that the Hillcrest Bar bombing was one of the attacks perpetrated by the Glenanne gang.

In December 1980, Dungannon UVF member Garnet James Busby confessed to having been part of the bombing unit. He also confessed to other attacks, including another Dungannon pub bombing, and the double murder of married couple Peter and Jenny McKearney in 1975. Although Busby named three other men involved in the Hillcrest Bar bombing he was the only one convicted. At his trial, an RUC inspector told the court that the same UVF group had carried out the Miami Showband killings.

In 1981 Garnet Busby received six life sentences for the murders of the McKearneys, Joseph Kelly, Andrew Small, James McCaughey and Patrick Barnard. He was sent to the Maze Prison.

See:  The Glenanne Gang – History & Background

See: Miami Showband Killings – The Day The Music Died

See McGurk’s Bar Bombing

See Shankill Bombing

See Greysteel Massacre

23rd February – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

23rd February

Saturday 23 February 1974

In the Shankill Road area of Belfast taxi drivers hijacked buses and sealed off roads in a protest against alleged army harassment.

Monday 23 February 1976

Francis Rice

 

 

Francis Rice (24), a Catholic civilian, was abducted, beaten and had his throat and his body was found near Mayo Street, Shankill, Belfast.

Members of he Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang known as the ‘Shankill Butchers’ were responsible for the killing. [See: 20 February 1979]

See Shankill Butchers

Tuesday 23 Februay 1982

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) sunk a British coal boat, the St Bedan, in Lough Foyle.

Wednesday 23 February 1983

The Political Committee of the European Parliament took the decision to commission a report on Northern Ireland to see if the (then) European Economic Community (EEC) could help find a solution to the conflict. The Rapporteur was Mr N.J. Haagerup.

The British government opposed what it saw as external interference in its internal affairs.

Saturday 23 February 1985

David Devine                        Michael Devine,                           Charles Breslin,

 

Three members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were shot dead by undercover British soldiers in the outskirts of Strabane, County Tyrone.

David Devine

 

The IRA men were believed to be returning weapons to an arms dump when they were killed. A man alleged to be an informer was shot dead by the IRA in Derry.

[John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), walked out of a meeting with representatives of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) when it was suggested by the IRA that part of the proceedings be recorded on video. Information on what had occurred only became available some time afer the meeting.]

Monday 23 February 1987

Belfast City Council became the latest in a line of Northern Ireland councils to be fined for failing to conduct normal business. Many Unionist controlled councils had been refusing to conduct council business as part of a protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). The Department of the Environment appointed a commissioner to set a rate in those councils which have refused to do so.

Tuesday 23 February 1988

Ian Thain, a Private in the British Army and the first solder to be convicted of murder (14 December 1984) while on duty in Northern Ireland, was released from a life sentence. He had served 26 months and was allowed to rejoin his regiment.

Thursday 23 February 1989

Hugh Annesley, then Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, was appointed by the Northern Ireland Police Authority (NIPA) as the next Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

[Hugh Annesley took over the post on 31 May 1989.]

Monday 23 February 1998

A Republican paramilitary group exploded a large car bomb, estimated at 300 pounds, in the centre of Portadown, County Armagh. Many business premises in the centre of the town were severely damaged by the explosion and two buildings were completely demolished by the blast. There were no injuries in the explosion.

[It was thought that the bomb had been planted by the ‘Continuity’ Irish Republican Army (CIRA).]

Tuesday 23 February 1999

Stephen Melrose

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), was confronted by the family of a victim of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as he continued his eight-day visit to Australia. Roy Melrose, the father of Stephen Melrose, a Brisbane lawyer who was mistaken by gunmen for an off-duty British soldier in the Netherlands on 27 May 1990, criticised the way Adams was being feted at a civic champagne reception.

 

Friday 23 February 2001

An advertising campaign was launched to try to attract a large number of recruits to the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The target was to attract equal numbers of Protestants and Catholics. Nationalists and Republicans argued that they had not yet endorsed the new force which is due to replace the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Sinn Féin (SF) had attempted in court to stop the adverts.

Saturday 23 February 2002

Police arrested three people in north Belfast following sporadic rioting around the Limestone road. The three are being held charged with riotous behaviour.

A police spokesperson said one officer had to draw his firearm as a crowd wielding iron bars and sticks tried to prevent an arrest of a man in the Newington Street area.

Gerard Brophy, then a Sinn Féin (SF) councillor, said the trouble started when a crowd of up to 60 loyalists armed with bricks, bottles and baseball bats, attacked Nationalist homes. He said the attack was clearly orchestrated and the crowd included members of the neo-Nazi group Combat 18.

These claims were disputed by Loyalist residents.

Twenty children from the Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School in Ardoyne, north Belfast, met Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), during a short visit to Dublin. Ahern said the trip would show support for the children from the people of the Republic.

——————————————————————

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.

7 People   lost their lives on the 23rd February between 1976– 1985

  —————————————————————————

23 February 1976


Francis Rice,  (24)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Abducted while walking along Donegall Street, Belfast. Found stabbed to death several hours later, in entry, off Mayo Street, Shankill, Belfast.

  —————————————————————————

23 February 1977


Peter Hill,  (43)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR)

 Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Shot outside his home, Daphne Gardens, off Limavady Road, Waterside, Derry.

  —————————————————————————

23 February 1981

James Burns   (33)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot at his home, Rodney Drive, Falls, Belfast.

  —————————————————————————

23 February 1985


Michael Devine,  (22)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) members, while returning arms to dump, in field, off Plumbridge Road, Strabane, County Tyrone.

  —————————————————————————

23 February 1985


David Devine  (17)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) members, while returning arms to dump, in field, off Plumbridge Road, Strabane, County Tyrone.

  —————————————————————————

23 February 1985


Charles Breslin,   (20)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) members, while returning arms to dump, in field, off Plumbridge Road, Strabane, County Tyrone.

  —————————————————————————

23 February 1985


Kevin Coyle,  (24)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Found shot Corporation Street, Bogside, Derry. Alleged informer.

  —————————————————————————

7th February – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

7th February

Wednesday 7 February 1973

United Loyalist Council Strike

The United Loyalist Council (ULC), led by William Craig, the then leader of Ulster Vanguard, organised a one-day general strike. The ULC was an umbrella group which co-ordinated the activities of the Loyalist Association of Workers (LAW), the Ulster Defence Association (UDA; the largest of the Loyalist paramilitary groups), and a number of other Loyalist paramilitary groups.

The aim of the strike was to “re-establish some kind of Protestant or loyalist control over the affairs in the province, especially over security policy” (Anderson, 1994, p4). Many areas of Northern Ireland were affected by power cuts and public transport was also badly affected. These in turn had the affect of closing many businesses, shops and schools. Loyalists paramilitary groups used ‘persuasion’ or intimidation to force many people from going to work and also to close any premises which had opened.

A number of Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) stations were attacked by crowds of Loyalists. There were also many violent incidents throughout the day with the worst of them centred around Belfast. Four people were killed in separate shooting incidents in Belfast. Three of these were members of Loyalist paramilitary groups of whom two were killed by members of the British Army.

There had been eight explosions and 35 cases of arson. The strike was not very well supported by the Protestant population of Northern Ireland. Many Unionists were upset by the level of violence that accompanied the strike.

Thursday 7 February 1974

Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, calls a general election for 28 February 1974. Francis Pym, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, tried to argue for a later election date because of his worry that the Executive would not survive the outcome.

Saturday 7 February 1976

Four civilians died in three separate attacks.

Thomas Quinn (55), a Catholic civilian, was beaten and had his throat cut. His body was found at Forthriver Way, Glencairn, Belfast. Members of he Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang known as the ‘Shankill Butchers’ were responsible for the killing.

Lenny Murphy – Leader of the Shankill Butchers

See Shankill Butchers

 Two Protestant civilians, Rachel McLernon (21) and Robert McLernon (16), were killed by an Irish Republican Army (IRA) booby-trap bomb in Cookstown, County Tyrone. Thomas Rafferty (14), a Catholic civilian, was killed by a booby-trap bomb planted by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in Portadown, County Armagh.

Tuesday 7 February 1978

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) was reported in the Irish Times as stating that it is “the British dimension which is the obstacle keeping us away from a lasting solution”.

Sunday 7 February 1982

Martin Kyles (19), a Catholic civilian, died two days after being shot by British Soldiers as he travelled (‘joy riding’) in a stolen car in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Falls Road, Belfast.

Friday 7 February 1986

The High Court in Belfast ordered that Belfast City Council should end the on-going adjournment of council business in protest to the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). The court also instructed the council to remove the large ‘Belfast Says No’ banner from the front of the City Hall. The court action had been brought by the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI).

Saturday 7 February 1987

Incendiary devices planted in County Donegal and in Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland, were believed to be the responsibility of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF).

Thursday 7 February 1991

Mortar Attack on Downing Street

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) launched an attack on 10 Downing Street, London, while the British Cabinet was holding a meeting. There were no injuries. The attack took the form of three home-made mortars fired from a parked van in nearby Whitehall and represented a serious breach of security in the area. One of the mortars fell in a garden at the back of Downing street and caused some damage.

[It was reported later that ministers dived under the cabinet table during the attack.]

See IRA Mortar Attack on Downing Street

The Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) announced that scientific evidence against the ‘Birmingham Six’ had been dropped. The announcement came during proceedings at their renewed appeal. In a ruling by the House of Lords the broadcasting ban on ‘proscribed’ organisations was upheld.

Monday 7 February 1994

Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of Sate, paid a visit to Derry and stated that inter-party talks were on target.

Tuesday 7 February 1995

A bomb comprised of commercial explosives was defused in Newry, County Down.

[The Irish Republican Army (IRA) later denied that it was responsible for planting the bomb.]

Garda Síochána (the Irish police) uncovered 8,000 rounds of ammunition at Oldcastle, County Meath.

[Two mortar tubes and additional ammunition were discovered on 8 February 1995.]

There was a further meeting between representatives from Sinn Féin (SF) and Northern Ireland Office (NIO) officials. The British officials indicated that if progress continued to be made in the talks then ministers would also take part.

John Bruton, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), proposed to the Daíl in Dublin that the state of emergency (declared in the Republic in 1939 and renewed in 1976) should be lifted. The proposal was accepted. Dick Spring, then Tánaiste (deputy Irish Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs), called on the British government to limit or repeal its emergency legislation.

Wednesday 7 February 1996

Dick Spring, then Tánaiste (deputy Irish Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs), and Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, held a meeting in Dublin. Dick Spring proposed the establishment of ‘proximity’ style talks similar to those adopted at the Dayton, Ohio Negotiations in the United States of America (USA) between warring groups from Bosnia. The idea was rejected by unionist politicians.

Wednesday 7 February 2001

There was a pipe-bomb attack on the home of a Catholic family in the mainly Protestant Fountain estate in Derry. A couple and their children escaped injury when a device was left at their home in the early hours of the morning. The device partially exploded causing minor damage to an outer wall about 1.00am. The couple raised the alarm after discovering the six-inch device under a car.

The attack was carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries.

There were pipe-bomb attacks on Catholic homes in Limavady. One device exploded in the front garden of a house at Eventide Gardens, the other at a house on Edenmore Park. Patrick Vincent, whose home was targeted, said he did not know why his family had been singled out. The pipe-bomb exploded outside a bedroom of the house where he lives with his pregnant girlfriend.

The attacks were carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries.

A Loyalist, whose family escaped injury in a pipe-bomb attack on their home in Lurgan, County Armagh, claims the police knew it was going to happen. The family were at home when the bomb exploded at 12.40am. It caused scorch damage to the front door and also damaged the front of a neighbour’s house.

The man blamed the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) for the attack and for two previous attempts on his life

Thursday 7 February 2002

The full Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB) met for the second time in three days to continue discussions on the investigation of the Omagh bomb (15 August 1998). The NIPB had met with Nuala O’Loan, then Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI), and Ronnie Flanagan, then Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), on Tuesday 5 February 2002.

The NIPB decided to appoint a senior police officer from England to oversee the investigation. It was planned that this new officer would have equal status to the current senior investigating officer.

[This was seen as a compromise between the recommendation of O’Loan and the position adopted by Flanaghan.]

The Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday granted permission to police officer to give their evidence from behind screens.

[Many of the 20 former and serving officers had applied to be screened from the public gallery. It was also believed that 2 officers would ask to given their evidence in Britain.]

See Bloody Sunday

The Prince of Wales travelled to Northern Ireland for a series of engagements during a two day visit.

 

————————————————————————

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.

11  People   lost their lives on the 7th February  between  1971 – 1987

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1971


Albert Bell,  (25)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk)
Found shot by the side of the Belfast to Crumlin Road, Ballyhill, near Belfast, County Antrim.

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1973


Brian Douglas,  (26)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Fireman, shot fighting blaze during street disturbances, Bradbury Place, Belfast.

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1973
Andrew Petherbridge, (18)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot during street disturbances, at the junction of Newtownards Road and Newcastle Street, Belfast.

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1973
Robert Bennett,  (31)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot during street disturbances, Albertbridge Road, Belfast.

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1973
Clarke Clarke,  (18)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Found shot in entry, off Hallidays Road, New Lodge, Belfast.

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1976


Robert McLernon,  (16)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb hidden in abandoned crashed car, Tyresson Road, Cookstown, County Tyrone.

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1976


Rachel McLernon,  (21)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb hidden in abandoned crashed car, Tyresson Road, Cookstown, County Tyrone.

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1976


Thomas Rafferty, (14)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Killed by booby trap bomb concealed behind row of derelict cottages, Derryall Road, Portadown, County Armagh.

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1978


John Eaglesham,   (58)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Shot while delivering mail, The Rock, near Pomeroy, County Tyrone.

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1982
Martin Kyles,  (19)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Died two days after being shot while travelling in stolen car, in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Falls Road, Belfast

  —————————————————————————

07 February 1987


Iris Farley,  (72)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Died five weeks after being shot during gun attack on her off duty Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) member son, at their home, Markethill, County Armagh.

—————————————————————————

20th January – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

20th January

————————————

Wednesday 20 January 1971

It was announced that an independent commissioner would decide on the boundaries of the new district council areas.

Saturday 20 January 1973

A car bomb exploded in Sackville Place, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, and killed one person and injured 17 others. The person killed was Thomas Douglas (25). The car used in the bombing had been hijacked at Agnes Street, Belfast.

[No organisation claimed responsibility but the bomb was believed to have been planted by one of the Loyalist paramilitary organisations.]

Monday 20 January 1975

[Public Records 1975 – Released 1 January 2006:

Telegram containing a note of a meeting between Galsworth, then of the British Embassy in Dublin, and Liam Cosgrave, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister). The telegram mentions the concerns of Cosgrave about the likely impact on public opinion if it became known that the British government was negotiating with the Irish Republican Army (IRA).]

[Public Records 1975 – Released 1 January 2006: Letter from Joel Barnett, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to Merlyn Rees, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, about the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast.]

Tuesday 20 February 1979

lennie murphy
Leader of the Shankill Butchers Lenny Murphy

 

‘Shankill Butchers’ Sentenced A group of 11 Loyalists known as the ‘Shankill butchers’ were sentenced to life imprisonment for 112 offences including 19 murders. The 11 men were given 42 life sentences and received 2,000 years imprisonment, in total, in the form of concurrent sentences.

[The Shankill Butchers had begun killing Catholics in July 1972 and were not arrested until May 1977. The Loyalist gang operated out of a number of Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) drinking dens in the Shankill Road area of Belfast. The gang was initially led by Lenny Murphy but it continued to operate following his imprisonment in 1976. The Shankill Butchers got their name because not only did they kill Catholics but they first abducted many of their victims, tortured them, mutilated them with butcher knives and axes, and then finally killed them.]

See Shankill Butchers

See Lenny Murphy

Tuesday 20 January 1981

Maurice Gilvarry (24), a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), was found shot dead near Jonesborough, County Armagh. He had been killed by other members of the IRA who alleged that he had acted as an informer.

A British soldier was shot dead by the IRA in Derry.

Sunday 20 January 1985

Douglas Hurd, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was interviewed on Radio Telefis Éireann (RTE) during which he said that political arrangements could be created to improve Anglo-Irish relationships.

Tuesday 20 January 1987

Thomas Power

 

John O’Reilly

 

When two Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) members were shot dead by members of the Irish People’s Liberation Organisation (IPLO) in Drogheda, County Louth, Republic of Ireland, a feud began between the two organisations.

[The feud continued until 26 March 1987 with a final death toll of 11.]

The coalition government in the Republic of Ireland, led by Garret FitzGerald, ended after the Labour Party withdrew its support. John Taylor, then Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Northern Ireland, left the European Democratic Group to join the European Right Group.

The case of the ‘Birmingham Six’ was referred to the Court of Appeal by Douglas Hurd, then British Home Secretary.

Wednesday 20 January 1988

The British government opposed the classification of Northern Ireland as one of Europe’s poorest regions thus reducing the amount of regional structural funds that it received.

Saturday 20 January 1990

Brian_Nelson_Loyalist

Brian Nelson appeared in court on charges relating to the Stevens Inquiry.

See Brian Nelson

[On 28 January 1990 the ‘Sunday Tribune’ (a newspaper published in the Republic of Ireland) alleged that Nelson had worked for British Army intelligence for a number of years.]

Monday 20 January 1992

John Major, then British Prime Minister, travelled to Northern Ireland and held meetings with senior members of the security services

Thursday 20 January 1994

The private secretary to John Major, then British Prime Minister, replied to a letter from Gerry Adams, then President of SF, to state that there “can be no question of renegotiation” of the Downing Street Declaration (DSD).

Monday 20 January 1997

A Catholic family escaped injury when a bomb exploded under their van in Larne.

[No group claimed responsibility but the incident was believed to be the work of the Loyalist Volunteer Force; LVF. ]

There was an attack on the Mountpottinger Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station in Short Strand, Belfast. Two ‘coffee jar bombs’ were thrown at the station but there were no injuries. [The attack was believed to have been carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) (?).]

Tuesday 20 January 1998

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), accused the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) / Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) of “actively” collaborating with the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in some of the recent killings of Catholics. However, Adams said that the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), the political representatives of the UDA / UFF, should not be expelled from the multi-party Stormont talks.

Wednesday 20 January 1999

Kenny McClinton, then acting as Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) representative to the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), said that the LVF was considering a second round of decommissioning.

[To date this second act of decommissioning had not taken place.]

Patrick Harty, a farmer from Toomevara, County Tipperary, refused to give evidence as a prosecution witness in the trial of the four men accused of the killing of Jerry McCabe, who was a Detective in the Garda Síochána (the Irish police). Harty said he could not give a reason for his refusal to give evidence and was jailed for 18 months.

Sunday 20 January 2002

There were disturbances in the Serpentine Gardens and White City areas of north Belfast. Catholic homes in the Serpentine Gardens area were petrol-bombed between midnight and approximately 1.30am (0130GMT). The devices were thrown from the Loyalist White City area.

In follow-up searches in White City the police found a crate of petrol-bombs – some with fireworks inside. At approximately 4.30am (0430GMT) the home of a Protestant family in White City was attacked with petrol-bombs. There was scorch damage to the house but no injuries. The petrol-bombs were thrown from the Nationalist Serpentine Gardens. The family of six said they would leave the area.

Shore Road Riots

There was also rioting in the nearby Shore Road and the Whitewell Road areas of north Belfast. Nationalists threw a petrol-bomb into a Protestant house on the Whitewell Road. The house was empty at the time and there were no injuries. There were then further disturbances involving Loyalists and Nationalists. Nationalists crowds throwing petrol-bombs, stones, and blast-bombs attacked police and fire officers who were dealing with burning barricades.

 

Nigel Dodds (DUP), then Member of Parliament (MP) for north Belfast, held a meeting with Alan McQuillan, then Assistant Chief Constable, to ask for 24-hour police patrols.

Independent Television (ITV) in the United Kingdom (UK) broadcast a film entitled ‘Bloody Sunday‘ that portrayed the events in Derry on 30 January 1972.

[Prior to broadcast the film had been criticised by some Unionists in Northern Ireland and by some members of the Conservative party in Britain. The film was also given a limited cinema release.]

 

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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 20th January  between  1973 – 1987

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20 January 1973
Thomas Douglas  (21)

nfNIRI
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Orginally from Scotland. Killed when car bomb exploded, Sackville Place, off O’Connell Street, Dublin.

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20 January 1974
Desmond Mullan,   (33)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot while walking along Maple Gardens, Carrickfergus, County Antrim.

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20 January 1974


Cormac McCabe,   (42)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Found shot in field, Altadaven, near Clogher, County Tyrone.

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20 January 1975


Kevin Coen,   (28)

nfNI
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
From County Sligo. Shot during attempted hijacking of bus, Kinawley, County Fermanagh.

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20 January 1981
 Christopher Shenton,   (21)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while in British Army (BA) observation post overlooking Bogside, City Walls, Derry

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20 January 1981


Maurice Gilvarry,  (24)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

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

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20 January 1983


Frank McColgan,  (31)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
Shot during car chase, shortly after being involved in robbery, Black’s Road, Dunmurry, near Belfast, County Antrim.

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20 January 1984
Colin Houston,  (30)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Off duty. Shot at his home, Sunnymede Avenue, Dunmurry, near Belfast, County Antrim

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20 January 1987


Thomas Power,  (34)

Catholic
Status: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA),

Killed by: Irish People’s Liberation Organisation (IPLO)
Shot while in Rossnaree Hotel, Drogheda, County Louth. Irish National Liberation Army / Irish People’s Liberation Organisation feud.

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20 January 1987


John O’Reilly,   (26)

Catholic
Status: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA),

Killed by: Irish People’s Liberation Organisation (IPLO)
Shot while in Rossnaree Hotel, Drogheda, County Louth. Irish National Liberation Army / Irish People’s Liberation Organisation feud.

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