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UDA – UVF – Loyalists in Northern Ireland – Full Documentary

Loyalists in Northern Ireland – Full Documentary

UDA (Ulster Defence Association)

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

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Belfast Shankill Loyalist Bands

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The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) is the largest[5][6] Ulster loyalist paramilitary and vigilante[7] group in Northern Ireland. It was formed in September 1971 and undertook a campaign of almost twenty-four years during The Troubles. Within the UDA was a group tasked with launching paramilitary attacks; it used the covername Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) so that the UDA would not be outlawed. The United Kingdom outlawed the “UFF” in November 1973, but the UDA itself was not classified as a terrorist group until 10 August 1992.[8] The UDA/UFF is also classified as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department.[9]

The UDA’s/UFF’s declared goal was to defend Ulster Protestant loyalist areas[10] and to combat Irish republicanism, particularly the Provisional IRA. However, most of its victims were unarmed civilians.[11] The majority of them were Irish Catholics,[12][13] killed in what the group called retaliation for IRA actions or attacks on Protestants.[14][15] High-profile attacks carried out by the group include the Milltown massacre, the Sean Graham bookmakers’ shooting, the Castlerock killings and the Greysteel massacre. The vast majority of its attacks were in Northern Ireland, but from 1972 onward it also carried out bombings in the Republic of Ireland. The UDA/UFF declared a ceasefire in 1994, although sporadic attacks continued until it officially ended its armed campaign in November 2007.[16]

The UDA were often referred to by their Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) rivals as the “Wombles”,[17] derived from the furry fictional creatures, The Wombles, or “Japs”,[18] owing to their mass rallies and marches in combat clothing. Its motto is Quis Separabit, Latin for “Who will separate [us]?”.

History

Beginning

The Ulster Defence Association emerged from a series of meetings during the summer of 1971 of loyalistvigilante” groups called “defence associations”.[19] The largest of these were the Shankill and Woodvale Defence Associations,[20] with other groups based in East Belfast, the Hammer and Roden Street.[21] The first meeting was chaired by Billy Hull, with Alan Moon as its vice-chair. Moon was quickly replaced by Jim Anderson and had left the organisation by the time of its formal launch in September.[22]

By this point, Charles Harding Smith had become the group’s leader, with former British soldier Davy Fogel as his second-in-command, who trained the new recruits in military tactics, the use of guns, and unarmed combat. Its most prominent early spokesperson was Tommy Herron,[19] however Andy Tyrie would emerge as leader soon after.[23] Its original motto was Cedenta Arma Togae (“Law before violence”) and it was a legal organisation until it was banned by the British Government on 10 August 1992.[19]

UDA members marching through Belfast city centre in a massive show of strength, summer 1972

At its peak of strength it held around forty thousand members, mostly part-time.[24][25] During this period of legality, the UDA committed a large number of attacks using the name Ulster Freedom Fighters,[26][27] including the assassination of Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) politician Paddy Wilson in 1973.[28] The UDA was involved in the successful Ulster Workers Council Strike in 1974, which brought down the Sunningdale Agreement—an agreement which some unionists thought conceded too much to nationalist demands. The UDA enforced this general strike through widespread intimidation across Northern Ireland. The strike was led by VUPP Assemblyman and UDA member, Glenn Barr.[29]

The UDA were often referred to as “Wombles” by their rivals, mainly the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). The name is derived from the furry fictional creatures The Wombles, and was given to the UDA because many of its members wore fur-trimmed parkas.[17] Its headquarters is in Gawn Street, off the Newtownards Road in east Belfast,[30] and its current motto is Quis Separabit, which is Latin for “Who will separate us?”

Women’s units

The UDA had several women’s units, which acted independent of each other.[31][32] Although they occasionally helped man roadblocks, the women’s units were typically involved in local community work and responsible for the assembly and delivery of food parcels to UDA prisoners. This was a source of pride for the UDA.[33] The first women’s unit was founded on the Shankill Road by Wendy “Bucket” Millar (b. 1944), whose sons Herbie and James “Sham” Millar would later become prominent UDA members.[34] The UDA women’s department was headed by Jean Moore, who also came from the Shankill Road. She had also served as the president of the women’s auxiliary Loyalist Association of Workers. Her brother Ingram “Jock” Beckett, one of the UDA’s founding members, had been killed in March 1972 by a rival UDA faction in an internal dispute.[35] Moore was succeeded by Hester Dunn of east Belfast, who also ran the Public Relations and administration section at the UDA headquarters.[36] Wendy Millar’s Shankill Road group was a particularly active women’s unit, and another was based in Sandy Row, south Belfast – a traditional UDA stronghold. The latter was commanded by Elizabeth “Lily” Douglas.[37] Her teenaged daughter, Elizabeth was one of the members.[38]

The Sandy Row women’s UDA unit was disbanded after it carried out a vicious “romper room” punishment beating on 24 July 1974 which left 32-year-old Ann Ogilby dead. The body of Ogilby, a Protestant single mother who had an affair with the husband of one of the unit’s members, was found in a ditch five days later.[39] The day of the fatal beating Ogilby was abducted and forced upstairs to the first floor of a disused bakery in Sandy Row that had been converted into a UDA club. Two teenage girls, Henrietta Cowan and Christine Smith,[40] acting under Elizabeth Douglas’ orders to give Ogilby a “good rompering”,[41] punched, kicked, then battered her to death with bricks and sticks; the autopsy later revealed that Ogilby had suffered 24 blows to the head and body. The killing, which was carried out within earshot of Ogilby’s six-year-old daughter, caused widespread revulsion throughout Northern Ireland and was condemned by the UDA prisoners serving inside the Maze Prison. None of the other UDA women’s units had consented to or been aware of the fatal punishment beating until it was reported in the news.[32] Douglas, Cowan, and Smith were convicted of the murder and sentenced to imprisonment at Armagh Women’s Jail. Seven other members of the women’s unit and a UDA man were also convicted for their part in the murder.[41][38] At the time of the murder the Sandy Row commander was Sammy Murphy, who also ran the South Belfast UDA. He had engaged in successful talks with the British Army to defuse a potential confrontation during the UWC strike over the erection of street barricades in the Sandy Row area.[42][43] The UDA “romper rooms”, named after the children’s television programme, were places where victims were beaten and tortured prior to being killed. This was known as a “rompering”. The “romper rooms” were normally located in disused buildings, lock-up garages, warehouses, and rooms above pubs and drinking clubs.[44] The use of the “romper rooms” was a more common practise among male members of the UDA than their female counterparts.[32]

Paramilitary campaign

Masked and armed UDA/UFF members at a show of strength in Belfast

The flag of the “Ulster Freedom Fighters” with a clenched fist representing the Red Hand of Ulster and the Latin motto Feriens tego, meaning “striking I defend”

Throughout the majority of its period of legality, the UDA’s attacks were carried out under the name “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (UFF). The UDA’s campaign of violence began in 1972. In May of that year, the UDA’s pressured leader Tommy Herron decided that responsibility for acts of violence committed by the UDA would be claimed by the “UFF”. Its first public statements came one month later.[45]

The UDA’s official position during the Troubles was that if the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provisional IRA) called off its campaign of violence, then it would do the same. However, if the British government announced that it was withdrawing from Northern Ireland, then the UDA would act as “the IRA in reverse.”[46]

Active throughout the Troubles, its armed campaign gained prominence in the early 1990s through Johnny Adair‘s ruthless leadership of the Lower Shankill 2nd Battalion, C. Company, which resulted in a greater degree of tactical independence for the UFF.[47] C. Company’s hit squad, led by Stephen McKeag, became notorious for a campaign of random murders of Catholic civilians in the first half of the 1990s.[48]

They benefited, along with the Ulster Volunteer Force, and a group called Ulster Resistance (set up by the Democratic Unionist Party), from a shipment of arms imported from Lebanon in 1988.[49] The weapons landed included rocket launchers, 200 rifles, 90 pistols and over 400 grenades.[50] Although almost two–thirds of these weapons were later recovered by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), they enabled the UDA to launch an assassination campaign against their perceived enemies.

A UFF mural in the Kilcooley estate near Bangor

A UFF mural in the Sandy Row area of South Belfast

North Belfast UDA brigadier Davy Payne was arrested after his “scout” car had been stopped at a RUC checkpoint and large caches of the weaponry were discovered in the boots of his associates’ cars. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison.

In 1992 Brian Nelson, a prominent UDA member convicted of sectarian killings, revealed that he was also a British Army agent. This led to allegations that the British Army and RUC were helping the UDA to target Irish republican activists. UDA members have since confirmed that they received intelligence files on republicans from British Army and RUC intelligence sources.[51]

One of the most high profile UDA attacks came in October 1993, when three masked men attacked a restaurant called the Rising Sun in the predominantly Catholic village of Greysteel, County Londonderry, where two hundred people were celebrating Halloween. The two men entered and opened fire. Eight people, including six Catholics and two Protestants were killed and nineteen wounded in what became known as the Greysteel massacre. The UFF claimed the attack was in retaliation to the IRA’s Shankill Road bombing which killed nine, seven days earlier.

According to the Sutton database of deaths at the University of Ulster‘s CAIN project,[52] the UDA/UFF was responsible for 259 killings during the Troubles. 208 of its victims were civilians (predominantly Catholics), 12 were civilian political activists (mainly members of Sinn Fein), 37 were other loyalist paramilitaries (including 30 of its own members), three were members of the security forces and 11 were republican paramilitaries. A number of these attacks were carried out with the assistance or complicity of the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, or both, according to the Stevens Enquiry, although the exact number of people killed as a result of collusion has not been revealed. The preferred modus operandi of the UDA was individual killings of select civilian targets in nationalist areas, rather than large-scale bomb or mortar attacks.

The UDA employed various codewords whenever they claimed their attacks. These included: “The Crucible”, “Titanic”, and “Ulster Troubles”. The UFF used the codename of “Captain Black”.

Post-ceasefire activities

Its ceasefire was welcomed by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Paul Murphy and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Hugh Orde.

A UDA/UFF mural in Belfast

A UFF flag in Finvoy,a rural area of County Antrim

Since the ceasefire, the UDA has been accused of taking vigilante action against alleged drug dealers, including tarring and feathering a man on the Taughmonagh estate in south Belfast.[53][54] It has also been involved in several feuds with the UVF, which led to many killings. The UDA has also been riddled by its own internecine warfare, with self-styled “brigadiers” and former figures of power and influence, such as Johnny Adair and Jim Gray (themselves bitter rivals), falling rapidly in and out of favour with the rest of the leadership. Gray and John Gregg are amongst those to have been killed during the internal strife. On 22 February 2003, the UDA announced a “12-month period of military inactivity”.[55] It said it would review its ceasefire every three months. The UPRG’s Frankie Gallagher has since taken a leading role in ending the association between the UDA and drug dealing.[56]

Following an August 2005 Sunday World article that poked fun at the gambling losses of one of its leaders, the UDA banned the sale of the newspaper from shops in areas it controls. Shops that defy the ban have suffered arson attacks, and at least one newsagent was threatened with death.[57] The Police Service of Northern Ireland began accompanying the paper’s delivery vans.[58][59] The UDA was also considered to have played an instrumental role in loyalist riots in Belfast in September 2005.[60]

On 13 November 2005 the UDA announced that it would “consider its future”, in the wake of the standing down of the Provisional IRA and Loyalist Volunteer Force.[61]

In February 2006, the Independent Monitoring Commission reported UDA involvement in organised crime, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, extortion, money laundering and robbery.[62]

A UDA/UFF mural in Bangor

On 20 June 2006, the UDA expelled Andre Shoukri and his brother Ihab, two of its senior members who were heavily involved in crime. Some see this as a sign that the UDA is slowly coming away from crime.[63] The move did see the southeast Antrim brigade of the UDA, which had been at loggerheads with the leadership for some time, support Shoukri and break away under former UPRG spokesman Tommy Kirkham.[64] Other senior members met with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for talks on 13 July in the same year.[65]

On 11 November 2007 the UDA announced that the Ulster Freedom Fighters would be stood down from midnight of the same day,[66] with its weapons “being put beyond use” although it stressed that these would not be decommissioned.[67]

Although the group expressed a willingness to move from criminal activity to “community development,” the IMC said it saw little evidence of this move because of the views of its members and the lack of coherence in the group’s leadership as a result of a loose structure. While the report indicated the leadership intends to follow on its stated goals, factionalism hindered this change. Factionalism was, in fact, said to be the strongest hindrance to progress. The report also said the main non-splintered faction remained active, though it was considerably smaller than the resulting party. Individuals within the group, however, took their own initiative to criminal activity. Although loyalist actions were curtailed, most of the loyalist activity did come from the UDA.

The IMC report concluded that the leadership’s willingness to change has resulted in community tension and the group would continue to be monitored, although “the mainstream UDA still has some way to go.” Furthermore, the IMC warned the group to “recognise that the organisation’s time as a paramilitary group has passed and that decommissioning is inevitable.” Decommissioning was said to be the “biggest outstanding issue for loyalist leaders, although not the only one.”[68]

A UDA/UFF South-East Antrim Brigade mural in Newtownabbey

On 6 January 2010, the UDA announced that it had put its weapons “verifiably beyond use”.[69] The decommissioning was completed five weeks before a government amnesty deadline beyond which any weapons found could have been used as evidence for a prosecution.[69] The decommissioning was confirmed by Canadian General John de Chastelain, chairman of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, as well as Lord Eames, former Archbishop of Armagh and Sir George Quigley, former top civil servant.[70]

Chastelain stated that the decommissioning included arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices and the UDA stated that the arms “constitute the totality of those under their control”.[69] Following the decommissioning the Ulster Political Research Group, the UDA’s political representatives, stated that the “Ulster Defence Association was formed to defend our communities; we state quite clearly and categorically that this responsibility now rests with the Government and its institutions where legitimacy resides”.[70] UDA representative Frankie Gallagher also stated that the group now regretted being responsible for the killing of more than 400 people.[71]

Shaun Woodward, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stated that this “is a major act of leadership by the UDA and further comprehensive evidence of the success of politics over violence in Northern Ireland” and the act was also welcomed by Sinn Féin and DUP politicians.[72] The President of the Republic of Ireland, Mary McAleese, described the decommissioning as “a very positive milestone on the journey of peace”.[73] US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also welcomed the move as a step towards lasting peace in Northern Ireland.[74]

South East Antrim breakaway group

The breakaway faction continues to use the “UDA” title in its name, although it too expressed willingness to move towards “community development.” Though serious crime is not prevalent among the members, some who were arrested for drug peddling and extortion were exiled by the Brigade. Although a clear distinction between the factions was not available in the 20th IMC report, as this was the first report to differentiate between the two, future reports would tackle the differences.[68]

Politics

Some UDA leaders supported an independent Northern Ireland in the mid–late 1970s

In the 1970s the group favoured Northern Ireland independence, but they have retreated from this position.[75]

The New Ulster Political Research Group (NUPRG) was initially the political wing of the UDA, founded in 1978, which then evolved into the Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party in 1981 under the leadership of John McMichael, a prominent UDA member killed by the IRA in 1987, amid suspicion that he was set up to be killed by some of his UDA colleagues.

In 1987, the UDA’s deputy commander John McMichael (who was then the leader of the UFF) promoted a document titled “Common Sense”, which promoted a consensual end to the conflict in Northern Ireland, while maintaining the Union. The document advocated a power sharing assembly, involving both Nationalists and Unionists, an agreed constitution and new Bill of Rights. It is not clear however, whether this programme was adopted by the UDA as their official policy.[50] However the killing of McMichael that same year and the subsequent removal of Tyrie from the leadership and his replacement with an Inner Council saw the UDA concentrate on stockpiling weapons rather than political ideas.[76]

In 1989, the ULDP changed its name to the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) and finally dissolved itself in 2001 following very limited electoral success. Gary McMichael, son of John McMichael, was the last leader of the UDP, which supported the signing of the Good Friday Agreement but had poor electoral success and internal difficulties. The Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) was subsequently formed to give political analysis to the UDA and act as community workers in loyalist areas. It is currently represented on the Belfast City Council.

In early January 1994, the UDA released a document calling for ethnic cleansing and repartition, with the goal of making Northern Ireland wholly Protestant.[77] The plan was to be implemented should the British Army withdraw from Northern Ireland. The vastly Catholic and nationalist areas would be handed over to the Republic, and those left stranded in the “Protestant state” would be “expelled, nullified, or interned”.[77] The story was printed in The Sunday Independent newspaper on 16 January.[78] The “doomsday plan” was based on the work of Dr Liam Kennedy, a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast.[77] In 1986 he had published a book called Two Ulsters: A Case for Repartition; though it did not call for ethnic cleansing. The UDP’s Raymond Smallwoods said “I wasn’t consulted but the scenario set out is a perfectly plausible one”.[77] The DUP’s Sammy Wilson stated that the plan “shows that some loyalist paramilitaries are looking ahead and contemplating what needs to be done to maintain our separate Ulster identity”.[77]

Links with other groups

In his book Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke claimed that the UDA had links with Neo-Nazi groups in Britain—specifically Combat 18[79] (formed in 1991) and the British National Socialist Movement[80] (formed in 1985). He claims that members of these groups helped to smuggle weapons for the UDA/UFF. Ian S Wood‘s book Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA claims that the UDA has received backing from Combat 18, the British National Front and the British National Party.[81] In 2006, the BBC also reported that the group has links with Combat 18.[82] It is unknown whether these links still exist. The links may not have been politically motivated, but mutually beneficial arms deals. On one occasion the UDA sent Louis Scott, one of a few black members of the UDA, to make the transaction.[83]

The Red Hand Defenders is a cover name used by breakaway factions of the UDA/UFF and the LVF.[1] The term was originally coined in 1997 when members of the LVF carried out attacks on behalf of Johnny Adair‘s “UFF 2nd Battalion, ‘C’ Company (Shankill Road)” and vice versa.[1] The relationship between the UDA/UFF (specifically Adair’s unit, not the wider leadership of the UDA) was initially formed after the death of Billy Wright, the previous leader of the LVF, and Adair’s personal friendship with Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton, the organisations new chief.

The necessity for a cover name resulted from the need to avoid tensions between the UDA and the UVF, the organisation from which the LVF had broken away. It was perceived that any open co-operation between the UDA and the LVF would anger the UVF, something which proved to be the case in following years and resulted in the infamous ‘Loyalist Feud’.[1] There has been debate as to whether or not the Red Hand Defenders have become an entity in their own right[84] made up of dissident factions from both the UDA and the LVF (both of which have now declared ceasefires whilst the RHD has not), though much intelligence has been based on the claims of responsibility which, as has been suggested,[1] are frequently misleading.

Structure and leadership

The UDA is made up of:

  • the Inner Council
  • the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)—whose role was to carry out attacks on republican and nationalist targets. However, many regard the UFF as merely a covername used when the UDA wished to claim responsibility for attacks.[85]
  • the Ulster Defence Force (UDF)—whose role was to give “specialist military training” to a select group of UDA members. The UDF was initiated by John McMichael[86] (the then UDA/UFF commander) in 1985 as a response to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The UDF operated training camps in rural parts of Northern Ireland that young loyalists such as Johnny Adair claim to have attended.[86] One reported ‘survival’ training technique was to leave trainees stranded in Dublin with only £1.[86] Some of the training was given by former British Army soldiers and officers. It was described by the UDA as “the nucleus of a new loyalist army at the ready”.[87]
  • the Ulster Young Militants (UYM)—the “youth wing” of the group. Formed in 1973.[88]
  • the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG)—the UDA’s “political advisory body”. Formed in 1978.[89]

The UDA operated a devolved structure of leadership, each with a brigadier representing one of its six “brigade areas”.[86] Currently, it is not entirely clear whether or not this structure has been maintained in the UDA’s post cease-fire state. The UDA’s six “brigade areas” were:

  • North Belfast
  • East Belfast
  • South Belfast, the UDA’s largest brigade area, covering all of South Belfast down to Lisburn and operating as far away as South County Down, Lurgan and Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh.[90]
  • West Belfast
  • Southeast [County] Antrim
  • North County Antrim & County Londonderry

A wall sign in Dervock showing support for the North Antrim and Londonderry brigade.

In addition to these six core brigades two others may have existed. A seventh Mid-Ulster Brigade is mentioned by Steve Bruce as having existed for part of the UDA’s history[91] although Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack characterise this as a “battalion” rather than a brigade and suggest that its rural location prevented it from fully developing.[92] In the late 1970s a Scottish Brigade was established under the command of Roddy McDonald but this proved short-lived. The security forces infiltrated this brigade almost immediately and in 1979 arrested almost its entire membership, ninety people in all. Six members received particularly lengthy prison sentences for their involvement in UDA activities in Perth and the Scottish Brigade quietly disappeared.[93]

Some of the notable past brigadiers include:

Jackie McDonald—South Belfast (~1980s-present)[94] Resident of the Taughmonagh estate in South Belfast.[94] McDonald was a cautious supporter of the UDA’s ceasefire and a harsh critic of Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair during his final years of membership of the organisation.[94] McDonald remains the only brigadier who did not have a commonly used nickname.

Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair—West Belfast (1990–2002)[86] An active figure in the UDA/UFF, Adair rose to notoriety in the early 1990s when he led the 2nd Battalion, C Company unit in West Belfast which was responsible for one of the bloodiest killing sprees of the Troubles.[86]

Jim ‘Doris Day’ Gray—East Belfast (1992–2005)[86][95] An unlikely figure in Northern Ireland loyalism, the openly bi-sexual[86] Gray was a controversial figure in the organisation until his death on 4 October 2005. Always flamboyantly dressed, Gray was a key figure in the UDA’s negotiations with Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid. It is widely believed that Gray received his nickname from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch.[86]

Jimbo ‘Bacardi Brigadier’ Simpson—North Belfast (Unknown–2002)[86] Simpson is believed to have been an alcoholic, hence his nickname. He was leader of the UDA in the volatile North Belfast area, an interface between Catholics and Protestants in the New Lodge and Tiger’s Bay neighbourhoods.[86]

Billy ‘The Mexican’ McFarland—North Antrim and Londonderry (Unknown–2013)[86] He Earned his nickname because of his moustache and swarthy appearance, and had overall command of the UDA’s North Antrim and Derry brigade at the time of the Good Friday Agreement. He supported the leadership against Johnny Adair and has been associated with the magazine ‘Warrior’, which makes the case for Ulster Independence

Andre ‘The Egyptian’ Shoukri[86]—North Belfast (2002–2005)[86] Initially a close ally of Johnny Adair, Shoukri and his brother Ihab became involved with the UDA in his native North Belfast. The son of an Egyptian father and a Northern Irish mother, he was expelled from the UDA in 2005 following allegations of criminality.

John ‘Grug’ Gregg—South East Antrim (c.1993[96]–2003) John ‘Grug’ Gregg was a man with a fearsome reputation within the loyalist movement, known as a “Hawk” in loyalist circles, and controlled the streets of south east Antrim. On 14 March 1984, he severely wounded Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in an assassination attempt for which he was jailed. When asked by the BBC in prison if he regretted anything about the shooting, his reply was “only that I didn’t succeed.” He was killed on Belfast’s Nelson Street, along with another UDA member (Rab Carson), while travelling in a taxi from the docks in 2003, and the murder was blamed on supporters of Johnny Adair, who had recently been expelled from the UDA in 2002.

Deaths as a result of activity

UDA South Belfast Brigade memorial plaque in Sandy Row

According to Malcolm Sutton’s Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland (part of the CAIN database), the UDA/UFF was responsible for at least 260 killings during the Troubles, between 1969 and 2001. There are a further 250 loyalist killings where it is not yet certain which group was responsible.[97]

Of those killed by the UDA/UFF:[11]

  • 209 (~80%) were civilians, 12 of whom were civilian political activists
  • 11 (~4%) were members or former members of republican paramilitary groups
  • 37 (~14%) were members or former members of loyalist paramilitary groups
  • 3 (~1%) were members of the British security forces

There were also 91 UDA members and four former members killed in the conflict.[98]

UVF ( Ulster Volunteer Force )

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is an Ulster loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland. It emerged in 1966 and is named after the original UVF of the early 20th century. Its first leader was Gusty Spence, a former British soldier. The group undertook an armed campaign of almost thirty years during the Troubles. It declared a ceasefire in 1994 and officially ended its campaign in 2007, although some of its members have continued to engage in violence. The group is classified as a terrorist organization by the United Kingdom,[1] Republic of Ireland and United States.[2]

Until recent years,[3] it was noted for secrecy and a policy of limited, selective membership.[4][5][6][7][8] The UVF’s declared goals were to combat Irish republicanism – particularly the Irish Republican Army – and to maintain Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom. It was responsible for at least 500 deaths, the vast majority (more than two-thirds)[9][10] of whom were Irish Catholic civilians. During the conflict, its deadliest attack in Northern Ireland was the 1971 McGurk’s Bar bombing, which killed fifteen civilians. The group also carried out attacks in the Republic of Ireland from 1969 onward. The biggest of these was the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which killed 33 civilians, making it the deadliest terrorist attack of the conflict. The no-warning car bombings had been carried out by units from the Belfast and Mid-Ulster brigades. The Mid-Ulster Brigade was also responsible for the 1975 Miami Showband killings, in which three members of the popular Irish cabaret band were shot dead at a bogus military checkpoint by gunmen in British Army uniforms. Two UVF men were accidentally blown up in this attack. The UVF’s last major attack was the 1994 Loughinisland massacre, in which its members shot dead six Catholic civilians in a rural pub.

Since the ceasefire, the UVF has been involved in rioting, organized crime, vigilantism and feuds with other loyalist groups.[11] Some members have also been orchestrating a series of racist attacks.[12]

Aim and strategy

A UVF publicity photo showing masked and armed UVF members

The UVF’s stated goal was to combat Irish republicanism – particularly the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) – and maintain Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom.[13] The vast majority of its victims were Irish Catholic civilians, who were often killed at random.[14] Whenever it claimed responsibility for its attacks, the UVF usually claimed that those targeted were IRA members or were giving help to the IRA.[15] Other times, attacks on Catholic civilians were claimed as “retaliation” for IRA actions, since the IRA drew most of its support from the Catholic community. Such retaliation was seen as both collective punishment and an attempt to weaken the IRA’s support; it was thought that terrorizing the Catholic community and inflicting such a death toll on it would force the IRA to end its campaign.[16] Many retaliatory attacks on Catholics were claimed using the covername “Protestant Action Force” (PAF), which first appeared in Autumn 1974.[17] They always signed their statements with the fictitious name “Captain William Johnston”.[18]

Like the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the UVF’s modus operandi involved assassinations, mass shootings, bombings and kidnappings. It used sub machine-guns, assault rifles, pistols, grenades (including homemade grenades), incendiary bombs, booby trap bombs and car bombs. Referring to its activity in the early and mid-1970s, journalist Ed Moloney described no-warning pub bombings as the UVF’s “forte”.[19] Members were trained in bomb-making and it developed home-made explosives.[20] In the late summer and autumn of 1973 the UVF detonated more bombs than the UDA and IRA combined,[21] and by the time of the group’s temporary ceasefire in late November it had been responsible for over 200 explosions that year.[22] However, from 1977 bombs largely disappeared from the UVF’s arsenal owing to a lack of explosives and bomb-makers, plus a conscious decision to abandon their use in favour of more contained methods.[23][24] The UVF did not return to regular bombings until the early 1990s when it obtained a quantity of the mining explosive Powergel.[25][26]

History

The 1960s

Since 1964, there had been a growing civil rights campaign in Northern Ireland. The civil rights movement sought to end discrimination against Catholics by the Protestant and Unionist-dominated government of Northern Ireland.[27] In March and April 1966, Irish republicans held parades throughout Ireland to mark the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. On 8 March, a group of ex-Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers planted a bomb that destroyed Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin. At the time, the IRA was weak and not engaged in armed action, but some unionists and loyalists warned that it was about to be revived and launch another campaign against Northern Ireland.[27] In April, loyalists led by Ian Paisley, a Protestant fundamentalist preacher, founded the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC). It set up a paramilitary-style wing called the Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV).[27] The ‘Paisleyites’ set out to stymie the civil rights movement and oust Terence O’Neill, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Although O’Neill was a unionist, they saw him as being too ‘soft’ on the civil rights movement and too friendly with the Republic of Ireland. There was much overlap in membership between the UCDC/UPV and the UVF.[28]

A UVF mural on the Shankill Road

An old UVF mural on Shankill Road, where the group was formed

A UVF flag in Glenarm, County Antrim

On 7 May, loyalists petrol bombed a Catholic-owned pub in the loyalist Shankill area of Belfast. Fire engulfed the house next door, badly burning the elderly Protestant widow who lived there. She died of her injuries on 27 June.[27] The group called itself the “Ulster Volunteer Force” (UVF), after the original UVF of the early 20th century. It was led by Gusty Spence, a former British soldier. Spence claimed that he was approached in 1965 by two men, one of whom was an Ulster Unionist Party MP, who told him that the UVF was to be re-established and that he was to have responsibility for the Shankill.[29] On 21 May, the group issued a statement:

From this day, we declare war against the Irish Republican Army and its splinter groups. Known IRA men will be executed mercilessly and without hesitation. Less extreme measures will be taken against anyone sheltering or helping them, but if they persist in giving them aid, then more extreme methods will be adopted… we solemnly warn the authorities to make no more speeches of appeasement. We are heavily armed Protestants dedicated to this cause.[30]

On 27 May, Spence sent four UVF members to kill IRA volunteer Leo Martin, who lived in Belfast. Unable to find their target, the men drove around the Falls district in search of a Catholic. They shot John Scullion, a Catholic civilian, as he walked home.[31] He died of his wounds on 11 June.[27] Spence later wrote “At the time, the attitude was that if you couldn’t get an IRA man you should shoot a Taig, he’s your last resort”.[31]

On 26 June, the group shot dead a Catholic civilian and wounded two others as they left a pub on Malvern Street, Belfast.[27] Two days later, the Government of Northern Ireland declared the UVF illegal.[27] The shootings led to Spence being arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum sentence of twenty years.[32] Spence appointed Samuel McClelland as UVF Chief of Staff in his stead.[33]

By 1969, the Catholic civil rights movement had escalted its protest campaign, and O’Neill had promised them some concessions. In March and April that year, UVF and UPV members bombed water and electricity installations in Northern Ireland, blaming them on the dormant IRA and elements of the civil rights movement. Some of them left much of Belfast without power and water.[34] The loyalists “intended to force a crisis which would so undermine confidence in O’Neill’s ability to maintain law and order that he would be obliged to resign”.[35] There were bombings on 30 March, 4 April, 20 April, 24 April and 26 April. All were widely blamed on the IRA, and British soldiers were sent to guard installations.[34] Unionist support for O’Neill waned, and on 28 April he resigned as Prime Minister.[34]

On 12 August 1969, the “Battle of the Bogside” began in Derry. This was a large, three-day riot between Irish nationalists and the police (RUC). In response to events in Derry, nationalists held protests throughout Northern Ireland, some of which became violent. In Belfast, loyalists responded by attacking nationalist districts. Eight people were shot dead and hundreds were injured. Scores of houses and businesses were burnt-out, most of them owned by Catholics. The British Army were deployed on the streets of Northern Ireland. The Irish Army also set up field hospitals near the border. Thousands of families, mostly Catholics, were forced to flee their homes and refugee camps were set up in the Republic of Ireland.[34]

On 12 October, a loyalist protest in the Shankill became violent. During the riot, UVF members shot dead RUC officer Victor Arbuckle. He was the first RUC officer to be killed during the Troubles.[36]

The UVF had launched its first attack in the Republic of Ireland on 5 August 1969, when it bombed the RTÉ Television Centre in Dublin.[37][38] There were further attacks in the Republic between October and December 1969. In October, UVF and UPV member Thomas McDowell was killed by the bomb he was planting at Ballyshannon power station. The UVF stated that the attempted attack was a protest against the Irish Army units “still massed on the border in County Donegal“.[39] In December the UVF detonated a car bomb near the Garda central detective bureau and telephone exchange headquarters in Dublin.[40]

The early to mid-1970s

A UVF mural on Shankill Road, Belfast

In January 1970, the UVF began bombing Catholic-owned businesses in Protestant areas of Belfast. It issued a statement vowing to “remove republican elements from loyalist areas” and stop them “reaping financial benefit therefrom”. During 1970, 42 Catholic-owned licensed premises in Protestant areas were bombed.[41] Catholic churches were also attacked. In February it began to target critics of militant loyalism – the homes of MPs Austin Currie, Sheelagh Murnaghan, Richard Ferguson and Anne Dickson were attacked with improvised bombs.[41] It also continued its attacks in the Republic of Ireland, bombing the Dublin-Belfast railway line, an electricity substation, a radio mast, and Irish nationalist monuments.[42]

In December 1969 the IRA had split into the Provisional IRA and Official IRA. In early 1971 they began a concerted campaign against the British Army and RUC. The first British soldier to die in the conflict was killed by the Provisional IRA in February 1971. That year, a string of tit-for-tat pub bombings began in Belfast.[43] This came to a climax on 4 December, when the UVF bombed McGurk’s Bar, a Catholic-owned pub in Belfast. Fifteen Catholic civilians were killed and seventeen wounded. It was the UVF’s deadliest attack in Northern Ireland, and the deadliest attack in Belfast during the Troubles.[44]

The following year, 1972, was the most violent of the Troubles. Along with the newly formed Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the UVF began carrying out gun attacks on random Catholic civilians and using car bombs to attack Catholic-owned pubs. It would continue these tactics for the rest of its campaign. On 23 October 1972, the UVF carried out an armed raid against King’s Park camp, a UDR/Territorial Army depot in Lurgan. They managed to procure a large cache of weapons and ammunition including self-loading rifles, Browning pistols, and Sterling submachine guns. Twenty tons of ammonium nitrate was also stolen from the Belfast docks.[45]

The UVF launched further attacks in the Republic of Ireland during December 1972 and January 1973, when it detonated three car bombs in Dublin and one in Belturbet, killing five civilians. It would attack the Republic again in May 1974, during the two-week Ulster Workers’ Council strike. This was a general strike in protest against the Sunningdale Agreement, which meant sharing political power with Irish nationalists and the Republic having more involvement in Northern Ireland. Along with the UDA, it helped to enforce the strike by blocking roads, intimidating workers, and shutting any businesses that opened.[46] On 17 May, two UVF units from the Belfast and Mid-Ulster brigades detonated four car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan. Thirty-three people were killed and almost 300 injured. It was the deadliest attack of the Troubles. There are various credible allegations that elements of the British security forces colluded with the UVF in the bombings. The Irish parliament‘s Joint Committee on Justice called the bombings an act of “international terrorism” involving the British security forces.[47] Both the UVF and the British Government have denied the claims.

The UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade was founded in 1972 in Lurgan by Billy Hanna, a sergeant in the UDR and a member of the Brigade Staff, who served as the brigade’s commander until his shooting death in July 1975. From that time until the early 1990s, the Mid-Ulster Brigade was led by Robin “the Jackal” Jackson, who then passed the leadership to Billy Wright. Hanna and Jackson have both been implicated by journalist Joe Tiernan, and RUC Special Patrol Group (SPG) officer John Weir as having led one of the units that bombed Dublin.[48] Jackson was allegedly the hitman who shot Hanna dead outside his home in Lurgan, and subsequently took over his command.[49]

The brigade formed part of the Glenanne gang, a loose alliance of loyalist assassins which the Pat Finucane Centre has linked to 87 killings in the 1970s. The gang comprised, in addition to the UVF, rogue elements of the UDR, RUC, SPG, and the regular Army, all acting allegedly under the direction of British Military Intelligence and/or RUC Special Branch.[50]

Mid to late-1970s

UVF mural in the Shankill Road, where the Brigade Staff is based

In 1974, hardliners staged a coup and took over the Brigade Staff.[51] This resulted in a lethal upsweep of sectarian killings and internecine feuding with both the UDA and within the UVF itself.[51] Some of the new Brigade Staff members bore nicknames such as “Big Dog” and “Smudger”.[52] Beginning in 1975, recruitment to the UVF, which until then had been solely by invitation, was now left to the discretion of local units.[53]

The UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade carried out further attacks during this same period. These included the Miami Showband killings of 31 July 1975 – when three members of the popular showband from the Republic of Ireland were killed having been stopped at a fake British Army checkpoint outside of Newry in County Down. Two members of the group survived the attack and later testified against those responsible. Two UVF members, Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville, were accidentally killed by their own bomb while carrying out this attack. Two of those later convicted (James McDowell and Thomas Crozier) were also serving members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), a part-time, locally recruited regiment of the British Army.

From late 1975 to mid-1977, a unit of the UVF dubbed the Shankill Butchers (a group of UVF men based on Belfast’s Shankill Road) carried out a series of sectarian murders of Catholic civilians. Six of the victims were abducted at random, then beaten and tortured before having their throats slashed. This gang was led by Lenny Murphy. He was shot dead by the IRA in November 1982, four months after his release from the Maze Prison.

The group had been proscribed in July 1966, but this ban was lifted on 4 April 1974 by Merlyn Rees, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in an effort to bring the UVF into the democratic process.[54] A political wing was formed in June 1974, the Volunteer Political Party led by UVF Chief of Staff Ken Gibson, which contested West Belfast in the October 1974 General Election, polling 2,690 votes (6%). The UVF spurned the government efforts however and continued killing. Colin Wallace, part of the intelligence apparatus of the British Army, asserted in an internal memo in 1975 that MI6 and RUC Special Branch formed a pseudo-gang within the UVF, designed to engage in violence and to subvert moves of the UVF towards the political process. Captain Robert Nairac of 14 Intelligence Company was alleged to have been involved in many acts of UVF violence.[55] The UVF was banned again on 3 October 1975 and two days later twenty-six suspected UVF members were arrested in a series of raids. The men were tried and in March 1977 were sentenced to an average of twenty-five years each.[56][57]

In October 1975, after staging a counter-coup, the Brigade Staff acquired a new leadership of moderates with Tommy West serving as the Chief of Staff.[58] These men had overthrown the “hawkish” officers, who had called for a “big push”, which meant an increase in violent attacks, earlier in the same month.[59] In fact, the UVF was behind the deaths of seven civilians in a series of attacks on 2 October.[60] The hawks had been ousted by those in the UVF who were unhappy with their political and military strategy. The new Brigade Staff’s aim was to carry out attacks against known republicans rather than Catholic civilians.[59] This had been thoroughly endorsed by Gusty Spence who issued a statement asking all UVF volunteers to support the new regime.[61] The UVF’s activities in the last years of the decade were increasingly being curtailed by the number of UVF members who were sent to prison.[59] Indeed, the number of killings in Northern Ireland had decreased from 300 per year during the period between 1973 and 1976 to just under 100 in the years 1977–1981.[62] In 1976, Tommy West was replaced with “Mr. F” who is alleged to be John “Bunter” Graham and remains the incumbent Chief of Staff to date.[63][64] West died in 1980.

On 17 February 1979, the UVF carried out its only major attack in Scotland, when its members bombed two pubs in Glasgow frequented by Catholics. Both pubs were wrecked and a number of people were wounded. It claimed the pubs were used for republican fundraising. In June, nine UVF members were convicted of the attacks.[65]

The early to mid-1980s

In the 1980s, the UVF was greatly reduced by a series of police informers. The damage from security service informers started in 1983 with “supergrass” Joseph Bennett’s information which led to the arrest of fourteen senior figures. In 1984, they attempted to kill the northern editor of the Sunday World, Jim Campbell after he had exposed the paramilitary activities of Mid-Ulster brigadier Robin Jackson. By the mid-1980s, a Loyalist paramilitary-style organisation called Ulster Resistance was formed on 10 November 1986. The initial aim of Ulster Resistance was to bring an end to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Loyalists were successful in importing arms into Northern Ireland. The weapons were Palestine Liberation Organisation arms captured by the Israelis, sold to Armscor, the South African state-owned company which, in defiance of the 1977 United Nations arms embargo, set about making South Africa self-sufficient in military hardware.[citation needed] The arms were divided between the UVF, the UDA (the largest loyalist group) and Ulster Resistance.[66]

The UVF received large numbers of Sa vz. 58 assault rifles in the 1980s

The arms are thought to have consisted of:

  • 200 Czechoslovak Sa vz. 58 assault rifles,
  • 90 Browning pistols,
  • 500 RGD-5 fragmentation grenades,
  • 30,000 rounds of ammunition and
  • 12 RPG-7 rocket launchers and 150 warheads.

The UVF used this new infusion of arms to escalate their campaign of sectarian assassinations. This era also saw a more widespread targeting on the UVF’s part of IRA and Sinn Féin members, beginning with the killing of senior IRA member Larry Marley[67] and a failed attempt on the life of a leading republican which left three Catholic civilians dead.[68]

The late 1980s and early 1990s

The UVF also attacked republican paramilitaries and their political activists. These attacks were stepped up in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The largest death toll was on 3 March 1991 when the UVF killed IRA members John Quinn, Dwayne O’Donnell and Malcolm Nugent, and civilian Thomas Armstrong in the car park next to Boyle’s Bar, Cappagh.[69] Republicans had responded to the attacks by assassinating UVF leaders, including John Bingham, William “Frenchie” Marchant, Trevor King[70] and, allegedly, Leslie Dallas.[71] The UVF also killed republicans James Burns, Liam Ryan and Larry Marley.[72] According to Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN), the UVF killed 17 active and four former republican paramilitaries. CAIN also states that Republicans killed 13 UVF members.[73]

According to journalist and author Ed Moloney the UVF campaign in Mid Ulster in this period “indisputably shattered Republican morale”, and put the leadership of the republican movement under intense pressure to “do something”.[74]

1994 ceasefire

A UVF mural referencing the ceasefire

In 1990 the UVF joined the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) and indicated its acceptance of moves towards peace. However, the year leading up to the loyalist ceasefire, which took place shortly after the Provisional IRA ceasefire, saw some of the worst sectarian killings carried out by loyalists during the Troubles. On 18 June 1994, UVF members machine-gunned a pub in Loughinisland, County Down on the basis that its customers were watching the Republic of Ireland national football team playing in the World Cup on television and were therefore assumed to be Catholics. The gunmen shot dead six people and injured five.

The UVF agreed to a ceasefire in October 1994.

Post-ceasefire activities

More militant members of the UVF, led by Billy Wright who disagreed with the ceasefire, broke away to form the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). This development came soon after the UVF’s Brigade Staff in Belfast had stood down Wright and the Portadown unit of the Mid-Ulster Brigade, on 2 August 1996, for the killing of a Catholic taxi driver near Lurgan during Drumcree disturbances.[75]

A UVF mural in Carrickfergus

There followed years of violence between the two organisations. In January 2000 UVF Mid-Ulster brigadier Richard Jameson was shot dead by a LVF gunman which led to an escalation of the UVF/LVF feud. The UVF was also clashing with the UDA in the summer of 2000. The feud with the UDA ended in December following seven deaths. Veteran anti-UVF campaigner Raymond McCord, whose son, Raymond Jr., a Protestant, was beaten to death by UVF men in 1997, estimates the UVF has killed more than thirty people since its 1994 ceasefire, most of them Protestants.[citation needed] The feud between the UVF and the LVF erupted again in the summer of 2005. The UVF killed four men in Belfast and trouble ended only when the LVF announced that it was disbanding in October of that year.[76]

On 14 September 2005, following serious loyalist rioting during which dozens of shots were fired at riot police, the Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain announced that the British government no longer recognised the UVF ceasefire.[77]

On 12 February 2006, The Observer reported that the UVF was to disband by the end of 2006. The newspaper also reported that the group refused to decommission its weapons.[78]

On 2 September 2006, BBC News reported the UVF may be intending to re-enter dialogue with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, with a view to decommissioning of their weapons. This move comes as the organisation holds high level discussions about their future.[79]

On 3 May 2007, following recent negotiations between the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and with Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, the UVF made a statement that they would transform to a “non-military, civilianised” organisation.[80] This was to take effect from midnight. They also stated that they would retain their weaponry but put them beyond reach of normal volunteers. Their weapons stock-piles are to be retained under the watch of the UVF leadership.[81][82][83]

In January 2008, the UVF was accused of involvement in vigilante action against alleged criminals in Belfast.[84]

In 2008, a loyalist splinter group calling itself the “Real UVF” emerged briefly to make threats against Sinn Féin in Co. Fermanagh.[85]

In the twentieth IMC report, the group was said to be continuing to put its weapons “beyond reach”, (in the group’s own words) to downsize, and reduce the criminality of the group. The report added that individuals, some current and some former members, in the group have, without the orders from above, continued to “localised recruitment”, and although some continued to try and acquire weapons, including a senior member, most forms of crime had fallen, including shootings and assaults. The group concluded a general acceptance of the need to decommission, though there was no conclusive proof of moves towards this end.[86]

In June 2009 the UVF formally decommissioned their weapons in front of independent witnesses as a formal statement of decommissioning was read by Dawn Purvis and Billy Hutchinson.[87] The IICD confirmed that “substantial quantities of firearms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices” had been decommissioned and that for the UVF and RHC, decommissioning had been completed.[88] On 30 May 2010, however, the UVF was believed to have carried out the shotgun killing of expelled RHC member Bobby Moffett on the Shankill Road in broad daylight. The shooting raised questions over the future of the PUP.

On 25–26 October 2010, the UVF was involved in rioting and disturbances in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey with UVF gunmen seen on the streets at the time.[89][90]

On 28 May 2010, the UVF was severely criticised over the murder of Moffett. The Independent Monitoring Commission was highly critical of the leadership for having condoned and even sanctioned the attack, in contrast to praise bestowed on the Brigade Staff for a moderating influence during the marching season. The Progressive Unionist Party‘s condemnation, and Dawn Purvis and other leaders’ resignations as a response to the Moffett shooting, were also noted. Eleven months later, a 40-year-old man was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of the UVF’s alleged second-in-command Harry Stockman, described by the media as a “senior Loyalist figure”. Fifty-year-old Stockman was stabbed more than 15 times in a supermarket in the Greater Shankill area; the attack was believed to have been linked to the Moffett killing. However, public opinion suggests that the stabbing was a personal vendetta and any connection being made to the Moffett case was simply a fictitious tale of revenge.[91]

On the night of 20 June 2011, riots involving 500 people erupted in the Short Strand area of East Belfast. They were blamed by the PSNI on members of the UVF, who also said UVF guns had been used to try to kill police officers.[92] The UVF leader in East Belfast, who is popularly known as the “Beast of the East” and “Ugly Doris” also known as by real name Stephen Matthews, ordered the attack on Catholic homes and a church in the Catholic enclave of the Short Strand. This was in retaliation for attacks on Loyalist homes the previous weekend and after a young girl was hit in the face with a brick by Republicans.[92][93] A dissident Republican was arrested for “the attempted murder of police officers in east Belfast” after shots were fired upon the police.[94]

In July 2011 a UVF flag flying in Limavady was deemed legal by the PSNI after the police had received complaints about the flag from nationalist politicians.[95]

During the Belfast City Hall flag protests of 2012 – 2013, senior UVF members were confirmed to have actively been involved in orchestrating violence and rioting against the PSNI and the Alliance Party throughout Northern Ireland during the weeks of disorder.[96] Much of the UVF’s orchestration was carried out by its senior members in East Belfast, where many attacks on the PSNI and on residents of the Short Strand enclave took place.[97] There were also reports that UVF members fired shots at police lines during a protest.[98] The high levels of orchestration by the leadership of the East Belfast UVF, and the alleged ignored orders from the main leaders of the UVF to stop the violence has led to fears that the East Belfast UVF has now become a separate loyalist paramilitary grouping which doesn’t abide by the UVF ceasefire or the Northern Ireland Peace Process.[99][100]

In October 2013, the policing board announced that the UVF was still heavily involved in gangsterism despite its ceasefire. Assistant chief constable Drew Harris in a statement said “The UVF are subject to an organized crime investigation as an organized crime group. The UVF very clearly have involvement in drug dealing, all forms of gangsterism, serious assaults, intimidation of the community.” [11]

In November 2013, after a series of shootings and acts of intimidation by the UVF. Police Federation Chairman, Terry Spence declared that the UVF ceasefire was no longer active. Spence told Radio Ulster that the UVF had been “engaged in murder, attempted murder of civilians, attempted murder of police officers. They have been engaged in orchestrating violence on our streets, and it’s very clear to me that they are engaged in an array of mafia-style activities.”They are holding local communities to ransom. On the basis of that, we as a federation have called for the respecification of the UVF [stating that its ceasefire is over].”[101]

Leadership

Brigade Staff

Masked UVF Brigade Staff members at a press conference in October 1974. They are wearing part of the UVF uniform which earned them their nickname “Blacknecks”

The UVF’s leadership is based in Belfast and known as the Brigade Staff. It comprises high-ranking officers under a Chief of Staff or Brigadier-General. With a few exceptions, such as Mid-Ulster brigadier Billy Hanna (a native of Lurgan), the Brigade Staff members have been from the Shankill Road or the neighbouring Woodvale area to the west.[102] The Brigade Staff’s former headquarters were situated in rooms above “The Eagle” chip shop located on the Shankill Road at its junction with Spier’s Place. The chip shop has since been closed down.

In 1972, the UVF’s imprisoned leader Gusty Spence was at liberty for four months following a staged kidnapping by UVF volunteers. During this time he restructured the organisation into brigades, battalions, companies, platoons and sections.[45] These were all subordinate to the Brigade Staff. The incumbent Chief of Staff, is alleged to be John “Bunter” Graham, referred to by Martin Dillon as “Mr. F”.[63][64][103] Graham has held the position since he assumed office in 1976.[63]

The UVF’s nickname is “Blacknecks”, derived from their uniform of black polo neck jumper, black trousers, black leather jacket, black forage cap, along with the UVF badge and belt.[104][105] This uniform, based on those of the original UVF, was introduced in the early 1970s.[106]

Chiefs of Staff

  • Gusty Spence (1966–1966). Whilst remaining de jure UVF leader after he was jailed for murder, he no longer acted as the Chief of Staff
  • Sam “Bo” McClelland (1966–1973)[33] Described as a “tough disciplinarian”, he was personally appointed by Spence to succeed him as Chief of Staff, due to his having served in the Korean War with Spence’s former regiment, the Royal Ulster Rifles. He was interned in late 1973, although by that stage the de facto Chief of Staff was his successor, Jim Hanna.[33][107]
  • Jim Hanna (1973 – April 1974)[107] Hanna was allegedly shot dead by the UVF as a suspected informer.[107]
  • Ken Gibson (1974)[108] Gibson was the Chief of Staff during the Ulster Workers’ Council Strike in May 1974.[108]
  • Unnamed Chief of Staff (1974 – October 1975). Leader of the Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV), the youth wing of the UVF. Assumed command after a coup by hardliners in 1974. He, along with the other hawkish Brigade Staff members were overthrown by Tommy West and a new Brigade Staff of “moderates” in a counter-coup supported by Gusty Spence. He left Northern Ireland after his removal from power.[61][109]
  • Tommy West (October 1975 – 1976)[58] A former British Army soldier, West was already the Chief of Staff at the time UVF volunteer Noel “Nogi” Shaw was killed by Lenny Murphy in November 1975 as part of an internal feud.[58]
  • John “Bunter” Graham, also referred to as “Mr. F” (1976–present)[63][64][103]

Strength, finance and support

The strength of the UVF is uncertain. The first Independent Monitoring Commission report in April 2004 described the UVF/RHC as “relatively small” with “a few hundred” active members “based mainly in the Belfast and immediately adjacent areas”.[110] Historically, the number of active UVF members in July 1971 was stated by one source to be no more than 20.[111] Later, in September 1972, Gusty Spence said in an interview that the organisation had a strength of 1,500.[112] A British Army report released in 2006 estimated a peak membership of 1,000.[113] Information regarding the role of women in the UVF is limited. One study focusing in part on female members of the UVF and Red Hand Commando noted that it “seem[ed] to have been reasonably unusual” for women to be officially asked to join the UVF.[114] Another estimates that over a 30-year period women accounted for just 2% of UVF membership at most.[115]

Prior to and after the onset of the Troubles the UVF carried out armed robberies.[116][117] This activity has been described as its preferred source of funds in the early 1970s,[118] and it continued into the 2000s with the UVF in Co Londonderry being active.[110] Members were disciplined after they carried out an unsanctioned theft of £8 million of paintings from an estate in Co Wicklow in April 1974.[119] Like the IRA, the UVF also operated black taxi services,[120][121][122] a scheme believed to have generated £100,000 annually for the organisation.[116] The UVF has also been involved in the extortion of legitimate businesses, although to a lesser extent than the UDA,[123] and was described in the fifth IMC report as being involved in organised crime.[124] In 2002 the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee estimated the UVF’s annual running costs at £1–2 million per year, against an annual fundraising capability of £1.5 million.[125]

In contrast to the IRA, overseas support for loyalist paramilitaries including the UVF has been limited.[126] Its main benefactors have been in central Scotland,[127] Liverpool,[128] Preston[128] and the Toronto area of Canada.[129] Supporters in Scotland have helped supply explosives and guns.[130][131] Although Scottish support for loyalist paramilitaries has been hindered by the strong disapproval of the mainstream Orange Order in that country,[132][133] it is estimated that the UVF nevertheless received hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations to its Loyalist Prisoners Welfare Association.[134]

Drug dealing

The UVF have been implicated in drug dealing in areas from where they draw their support. Recently it has emerged from the Police Ombudsman that senior North Belfast UVF member and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch informant Mark Haddock has been involved in drug dealing. According to the Belfast Telegraph, “…70 separate police intelligence reports implicating the north Belfast UVF man in dealing cannabis, Ecstasy, amphetamines and cocaine.”[135]

According to Alan McQuillan, the assistant director of the Assets Recovery Agency in 2005, “In the loyalist community, drug dealing is run by the paramilitaries and it is generally run for personal gain by a large number of people.” When the Assets Recovery Agency won a High Court order to seize luxury homes belonging to ex-policeman Colin Robert Armstrong and his partner Geraldine Mallon in 2005, Alan McQuillan said “We have further alleged Armstrong has had links with the UVF and then the LVF following the split between those organisations.” It was alleged that Colin Armstrong had links to both drugs and loyalist terrorists.[136]

Billy Wright, the commander of the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade, is believed to have started dealing drugs in 1991 [137] as a lucrative sideline to paramilitary murder. Wright is believed to have dealt mainly in Ecstasy tablets in the early 90s.[138] It was around this time that Sunday World journalists Martin O’Hagan and Jim Campbell coined the term “rat pack” for the UVF’s murderous mid-Ulster unit and, unable to identify Wright by name for legal reasons, they christened him “King Rat.” An article published by the newspaper fingered Wright as a drug lord and sectarian murderer. Wright was apparently enraged by the nickname and made numerous threats to O’Hagan and Campbell. The Sunday World’s offices were also firebombed. Mark Davenport from the BBC has stated that he spoke to a drug dealer who told him that he paid Billy Wright protection money.[139] Loyalists in Portadown such as Bobby Jameson have stated that the LVF (the Mid-Ulster Brigade that broke away from the main UVF – and led by Billy Wright) was not a ‘loyalist organisation but a drugs organisation causing misery in Portadown.’[140]

The UVF’s satellite organisation, the Red Hand Commando, was described by the IMC in 2004 as “heavily involved” in drug dealing.[110]

Affiliated groups

  • The Red Hand Commando (RHC) is an organisation that was established in 1972 and is closely linked with the UVF.
  • The Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV) is the youth section of the UVF. It was initially a youth group akin to the Scouts, but became the youth wing of the UVF during the Home Rule crisis.

Deaths as a result of activity

The UVF has killed more people than any other loyalist paramilitary group. According to the University of Ulster‘s Sutton database, the UVF and RHC was responsible for at least 485 killings during the Troubles, between 1969 and 2001. This includes killings claimed by the “Protestant Action Force” and “Protestant Action Group”. There are a further 250 loyalist killings where it is not yet certain which group was responsible.[9]

Of those killed by the UVF and RHC:[143]

  • 414 (~85%) were civilians, 11 of whom were civilian political activists
  • 21 (~4%) were members or former members of republican paramilitary groups
  • 44 (~9%) were members or former members of loyalist paramilitary groups
  • 6 (~1%) were members of the British security forces

There were also 66 UVF/RHC members and four former members killed in the conflict.[144]

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Operation Flavius – SAS execute three IRA Terrorists in Gibraltar

 Operation Flavius

Operation Flavius (also referred to as the “Gibraltar killings“) was a controversial military operation in which three members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) were shot dead by the British Special Air Service (SAS) in Gibraltar on 6 March 1988. The three—Seán Savage, Daniel McCann, and Mairéad Farrell—were believed to be mounting a bombing attack on British military personnel in Gibraltar. SAS soldiers challenged them in the forecourt of a petrol station, then opened fire, killing them.

All three were found to be unarmed, and no bomb was discovered in Savage’s car, leading to accusations that the British government had conspired to murder them. An inquest in Gibraltar ruled that the SAS had acted lawfully, while the European Court of Human Rights held that, although there had been no conspiracy, the planning and control of the operation was so flawed as to make the use of lethal force almost inevitable. The deaths were the first in a chain of violent events in a fourteen-day period; they were followed by the Milltown Cemetery attack and the corporals killings in Belfast.

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From late 1987, the British authorities were aware that the IRA was planning to detonate a bomb at the changing of the guard ceremony outside the governor’s residence in the British Dependent Territory of Gibraltar. When Savage, McCann and Farrell—known IRA members—travelled to Spain in preparation for the attack, they were tracked at the request of the British government. On the day of the shootings, Savage was seen parking a white Renault in the car park used as the assembly area for the parade; McCann and Farrell were seen crossing the border shortly afterwards.

After a military bomb-disposal officer reported that Savage’s car should be treated as a suspected bomb, the police handed over control of the operation to the SAS. As soldiers were moving into position to intercept the trio, Savage split from McCann and Farrell and began running south. Two soldiers pursued Savage while two approached McCann and Farrell; as they did so, the pair were said to make threatening movements, as a result of which the soldiers opened fire, shooting them multiple times.

As soldiers caught up with Savage, he was alleged to have turned around to face them while reaching into his jacket; he was also shot multiple times. All three were subsequently found to be unarmed, and Savage’s car was found to contain no explosives; enquiries resulting from keys found on Farrell led authorities to a second car, containing a large quantity of explosives, in a car park in Spain. Almost two months after the shootings, the documentary Death on the Rock was broadcast on British television. Using reconstructions and eyewitness accounts, it presented the possibility that the three IRA members had been unlawfully killed. The documentary proved extremely controversial; several British newspapers described it as “trial by television”.

The inquest into the deaths began in September 1988. It heard from British and Gibraltar authorities that the IRA team had been tracked to Málaga Airport, where they were lost by the Spanish police, and that the three did not re-emerge until Savage was sighted parking his car in Gibraltar. The soldiers each testified that they had opened fire in the belief that the suspected bombers were reaching for weapons or a remote detonator. Among the civilians who gave evidence were the eyewitnesses discovered by “Death on the Rock”, who gave accounts of seeing the three shot without warning, with their hands up, or while they were on the ground.

Kenneth Asquez, who told the documentary that he had seen a soldier fire at Savage repeatedly while the latter was on the ground, retracted his statement at the inquest, claiming that he had been pressured into giving it. On 30 September, the inquest jury returned a verdict of “lawful killing“.

Dissatisfied, the families took the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Delivering its judgement in 1995, the court found that the operation had been in violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights as the authorities’ failure to arrest the suspects at the border, combined with the information given to the soldiers, rendered the use of lethal force almost inevitable. The decision is cited as a landmark case in the use of force by the state.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), now inactive, is a paramilitary organisation which aimed to establish a united Ireland and end the British administration of Northern Ireland through the use of force. The organisation was the result of a 1969 split within the previous Irish Republican Army, also known as “the IRA”[(the other resulting group, known as the Official IRA, ceased military activity during the 1970s). During its campaign, the IRA killed members of the armed forces, police, judiciary and prison service, including off-duty and retired members, and bombed businesses and military targets in both Northern Ireland and England, with the aim of making Northern Ireland ungovernable.

Daniel McCann, Seán Savage, and Mairéad Farrell were, according to journalist Brendan O’Brien, “three of the IRA’s most senior activists”. Savage was an explosives expert and McCann was “a high-ranking intelligence operative”; both McCann and Farrell had previously served prison sentences for offences relating to explosives.

Background

The Special Air Service (formally 22 Special Air Service Regiment, or 22 SAS) is a regiment of the British Army and part of the United Kingdom’s special forces. The SAS was sporadically assigned to operations in Northern Ireland in the early stages of the British Army’s deployment in the province, during which they were confined to South Armagh. The first large-scale deployment of SAS soldiers in the Troubles was in 1976, when the regiment’s D Squadron was committed.The SAS soon began to specialise in covert, intelligence-based operations against the IRA, using more aggressive tactics than regular army and police units operating in Northern Ireland.

Build-up

Area in front of The Convent where the changing of the guard ceremony takes place

From late 1987, the British authorities were aware that the IRA was planning an attack in Gibraltar and launched Operation Flavius.

The intelligence appeared to be confirmed in November 1987, when several known IRA members were detected travelling from Belfast to Spain under false identities. MI5—the British Security Service—and the Spanish authorities became aware that an IRA active service unit was operating from the Costa del Sol and the members of the unit were placed under surveillance.

After a known IRA member was sighted at the changing of the guard ceremony at “the Convent” (the governor’s residence) in Gibraltar, the British and Gibraltarian authorities began to suspect that the IRA was planning to attack the British soldiers with a car bomb as they assembled for the ceremony in a nearby car park. In an attempt to confirm the IRA’s intended target, the government of Gibraltar suspended the ceremony in December 1987, citing a need to repaint the guardhouse.

They believed their suspicions were confirmed when the IRA member re-appeared at the ceremony when it resumed in February 1988, and the Gibraltar authorities requested special assistance from the British government.

In the weeks after the resumption of the changing of the guard ceremony, the three IRA members who were to carry out the attack—Seán Savage, Daniel McCann, and Mairéad Farrell—travelled to Malaga (90 miles [140 kilometres] along the coast from Gibraltar), where they each rented a car.Their activities were monitored and by early March, the British authorities were convinced that an IRA attack was imminent; a special projects team from the SAS was despatched to the territory, apparently with the personal approval of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.Before the operation, the SAS practised arrest techniques, while the Gibraltar authorities searched for a suitable place to hold the would-be bombers after their arrest.

The plan was that the SAS would assist the Gibraltar Police in arresting the IRA members—identified by MI5 officers who had been in Gibraltar for several weeks—if they were seen parking a car in Gibraltar and then attempting to leave the territory.

Events of 6 March

 

Proposed site of IRA car bomb by Southport Gates

 

According to the official account of the operation, Savage entered Gibraltar undetected in a white Renault 5 at 12:45 (CET; UTC+1) on 6 March 1988. An MI5 officer recognised him and he was followed, but he was not positively identified for almost an hour and a half, during which time he parked the vehicle in the car park used as the assembly area for the changing of the guard. At 14:30, McCann and Farrell were observed crossing the frontier from Spain and were also followed.

They met Savage in the car park at around 14:50 and a few minutes later the three began walking through the town. After the three left the car park, “Soldier G”,[note 1] a bomb-disposal officer, was ordered to examine Savage’s car; he returned after a few minutes and reported that the vehicle should be treated as a suspect car bomb. This soldier’s suspicion was conveyed as certainty to Soldiers “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D”, who were ordered into positions to intercept Savage, McCann, and Farrell as they walked north towards the Spanish border. “Soldier G”‘s information convinced Gibraltar Police Commissioner Joseph Canepa, who was controlling the operation, to order the arrest of the three suspects. To that end, he signed over control of the operation to “Soldier F”, the senior SAS officer, at 15:40.

Two minutes after receiving control, “Soldier F” ordered Soldiers “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” to apprehend the IRA operatives, by which time they were walking north on Winston Churchill Avenue towards the airport and the border. As the soldiers approached, the suspects appeared to realise that they were being followed. Savage split from the group and began heading south, brushing against “Soldier A” as he did so; “A” and “B” decided to continue approaching McCann and Farrell, leaving Savage to Soldiers “C” and “D”.

 

Location between Corral Road and Landport in Gibraltar where Savage was shot

At the same time as the police handed control over to the SAS, they began making arrangements for the IRA operatives once they were in custody, including finding a police vehicle in which to transport the prisoners. A patrol car containing Inspector Luis Revagliatte and three other uniformed officers, apparently on routine patrol and with no knowledge of Operation Flavius, was ordered to return to police headquarters as a matter of urgency.

The police car was stuck in heavy traffic travelling north on Smith Dorrien Avenue, close to the roundabout where it meets Winston Churchill Avenue.  The official account states that at this point, Revagliatte’s driver activated the siren on the police car in order to expedite the journey back to headquarters, intending to approach the roundabout from the wrong side of the road and turn the vehicle around.

The siren apparently startled McCann and Farrell, just as Soldiers “A” and “B” were about to challenge them, outside the Shell petrol station on Winston Churchill Avenue. “Soldier A” stated at the inquest that Farrell looked back at him and appeared to realise who “A” was; “A” testified that he was drawing his pistol and intended to shout a challenge to her, but “events overtook the warning”:  that McCann’s right arm “moved aggressively across the front of his body”, leading “A” to believe that McCann was reaching for a remote detonator. “A” shot McCann once in the back; “A” went on to tell the inquest that he believed Farrell then reached for her handbag, and that he believed Farrell may also have been reaching for a remote detonator. “A”

also shot Farrell once in the back, before returning to McCann—he shot McCann a further three times (once in the body and twice in the head). “Soldier B” testified that he reached similar conclusions to “A”, and shot Farrell twice, then McCann once or twice, then returned to Farrell, shooting her a further three times. Soldiers “C” and “D” testified at the inquest that they were moving to apprehend Savage, who was by now 300 feet (91 metres) south of the petrol station, as gunfire began behind them. “Soldier C” testified that Savage turned around while simultaneously reaching towards his jacket pocket at the same time as “C” shouted “Stop!”; “C” stated that he believed Savage was reaching for a remote detonator, at which point he opened fire. “Soldier C” shot Savage six times, while “Soldier D” fired nine times.

All three IRA members died. One of the soldiers’ bullets, believed to have passed through Farrell, grazed a passer-by.

Immediately after the shootings, the soldiers donned berets to identify themselves. Gibraltar Police officers, including Inspector Revagliatte and his men, began to arrive at the scene almost immediately. At 16:05, only 25 minutes after assuming control, the SAS commander handed control of the operation back to the Gibraltar Police in a document stating:

A military assault force completed the military option in respect of the terrorist ASU in Gibraltar and returns control to the civil power.

Shortly after the shootings, soldiers and police officers evacuated buildings in the vicinity of the Convent, while bomb-disposal experts got to work; four hours later, the authorities announced that a car bomb had been defused, after which Savage’s white Renault was towed from the car park by an army truck. The SAS personnel, meanwhile, left Gibraltar on a Royal Air Force aircraft.[27]

When the bodies were searched, a set of car keys was found on Farrell. Spanish and British authorities conducted enquiries to trace the vehicle, which—two days after the shootings—led them to a red Ford Fiesta in a car park in Marbella (50 miles [80 kilometres] from Gibraltar). The car contained a large quantity of Semtex surrounded by 200 rounds of ammunition, along with four detonators and two timers

Reaction

Within minutes of the military operation ending, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued a press release, stating that “a suspected car bomb has been found in Gibraltar, and three suspects have been shot dead by the civilian police”. That evening, both the BBC and the ITN (Independent Television News) reported that the IRA team had been involved in a “shootout” with the authorities. The following morning, BBC Radio 4 reported that the alleged bomb was “packed with bits of metal and shrapnel”, and later carried a statement from Ian Stewart, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, that “military personnel were involved. A car bomb was found, which has been defused”.

Each of the eleven British daily newspapers reported the alleged finding of the car bomb, of which eight quoted its size as 500 pounds (230 kilograms). The IRA issued a statement later on 7 March to the effect that McCann, Savage, and Farrell were “on active service” in Gibraltar and had “access to and control over 140 pounds (64 kg)” of Semtex.

According to one case study of the killings, the events “provide an opportunity to examine the ideological functioning of the news media within [the Troubles]”.

The British broadsheet newspapers all exhibited what the authors called “ideological closure” by marginalising the IRA and extolling the SAS. Each of the broadsheets focused, for example, on the alleged bomb and the potential devastation it could have caused without questioning the government’s version of events.

At 15:30 (GMT) on 7 March, the foreign secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, made a statement to the House of Commons:

Shortly before 1:00pm yesterday, afternoon [Savage] brought a white Renault car into Gibraltar and was seen to park it in the area where the guard mounting ceremony assembles. Before leaving the car, he was seen to spend some time making adjustments in the vehicle

An hour and a half later, [McCann and Farrell] were seen to enter Gibraltar on foot and shortly before 3:00pm, joined [Savage] in the town. Their presence and actions near the parked Renault car gave rise to strong suspicions that it contained a bomb, which appeared to be corroborated by a rapid technical examination of the car.

About 3:30pm, all three left the scene and started to walk back towards the border. On their way to the border, they were challenged by the security forces. When challenged, they made movements which led the military personnel, operating in support of the Gibraltar Police, to conclude that their own lives and the lives of others were under threat. In light of this response, they [the IRA members] were shot.

Those killed were subsequently found not to have been carrying arms.

The parked Renault car was subsequently dealt with by a military bomb-disposal team. It has now been established that it did not contain an explosive device.

Press coverage in the following days, after Howe’s statement that no bomb had been found, continued to focus on the act planned by the IRA; several newspapers reported a search for a fourth member of the team. Reports of the discovery of the bomb in Marbella appeared to vindicate the government’s version of events and justify the killings. Several MPs made statements critical of the operation, while a group of Labour MPs tabled a condemnatory motion in the House of Commons.

Aftermath

The IRA notified the McCann, Savage, and Farrell families of the deaths on the evening of 6 March. In Belfast, Joe Austin, a senior local member of Sinn Féin, was assigned the task of recovering the bodies for burial. On 9 March, he and Terence Farrell (one of Mairéad Farrell’s brothers) travelled to Gibraltar to identify the bodies. Austin negotiated a charter aircraft to collect the corpses from Gibraltar and fly them to Ireland on 14 March. Two thousand people waited to meet the coffins in Dublin, which were then driven north to Belfast.

Northern Irish authorities flooded the neighbourhoods where McCann, Farrell and Savage had lived with soldiers and police to try to prevent public displays of sympathy for the dead. Later that evening, a local IRA member, Kevin McCracken, was shot and allegedly then beaten to death by a group of soldiers he had been attempting to shoot at.

At the border, the authorities met the procession with a large number of police and military vehicles, and insisted on intervals between the hearses, causing tensions between the police and the members of the procession and leading to accusations that the police rammed Savage’s hearse.

The animosity between the mourners and the police continued until the procession split to allow the hearses to travel to the respective family homes, and then on to Milltown cemetery. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) agreed to maintain a minimal presence at the funeral in exchange for guarantees from the families that there would be no salute by masked gunmen.

This agreement was leaked to Michael StoneDuring the funeral, Stone, who described himself as a “freelance Loyalist paramilitary”, threw several hand grenades into the congregation, before firing an automatic pistol at the gathered mourners, injuring 60 people. After initial confusion, several of the mourners began to pursue Stone, throwing rocks and shouting abuse. Stone fired on his pursuers, hitting and killing three. He was eventually captured by members of the crowd, who had chased him onto a road, and beaten him with rocks and makeshift weapons until the RUC arrived to extract him and arrest him.

The funeral of Caoimhín Mac Brádaigh (née Kevin Brady), the third and last of the Milltown attack victims to be buried, was scheduled for 19 March. 

As his cortège proceeded along Andersontown Road, a car being driven by two British Army corporals, David Howes and Derek Wood, entered the street and sped past two teams of stewards, who were attempting to direct traffic out of the procession’s path. As the corporals continued along Andersontown Road, they came across the cortège, and mounted the footpath to avoid colliding with it.

They continued until blocked by parked cars, at which point they attempted to reverse, but were blocked by vehicles from the cortège and a hostile crowd surrounded their vehicle.

As members of the crowd began to break into the vehicle, some using makeshift weapons, one of the corporals drew and fired a pistol, which momentarily subdued the crowd, before both men were dragged from the car, beaten and disarmed. Shortly afterwards, the corporals were dragged across the road to Casement Park, where they were beaten further. A local priest intervened to stop the beating, but was pulled away when a military identity card was discovered, raising speculation that the corporals were members of the SAS.

The two were bundled semi-conscious over a wall by IRA operatives, who jumped over the wall and forced the corporals into the back of a black taxi and sped away. The taxi took the corporals and the IRA men to an area of waste ground in West Belfast, the IRA men continuing to beat the soldiers en route. Six men were seen leaving the vehicle.

The two corporals, apparently dazed from their injuries, staggered from the taxi, but were quickly restrained. Another IRA man arrived with a pistol taken from one of the soldiers, with which he repeatedly shot each of the corporals before handing the weapon to another man, who shot the corporals’ bodies multiple times. Margaret Thatcher described the corporals’ killings as the “single most horrifying event in Northern Ireland” during her premiership.

The shootings sparked the largest criminal investigation in Northern Ireland’s history, which created fresh tension in Belfast as republicans saw what they believed was a disparity in the efforts the RUC expended in investigating the corporals’ murders compared with those of republican civilians. Over four years, more than 200 people were arrested in connection with the killings, of whom 41 were charged with a variety of offences.

The first of the so-named “Casement Trials” concluded quickly; two men were found guilty of murder and given life sentences in the face of overwhelming evidence. Of the trials that followed, many were based on weaker evidence and proved much more controversial.

“Death on the Rock”

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Death On The Rock, SAS execute IRA cell in Gibraltar, Thames Television (1988)

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On 28 April 1988, almost two months after the Gibraltar shootings, ITV broadcast an episode of its current affairs series This Week, produced by Thames Television, entitled “Death on the Rock”. This Week sent three journalists to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shootings from both Spain and Gibraltar.

Using eyewitness accounts, and with the cooperation of the Spanish authorities, the documentary reconstructed the events leading up to the shootings; the Spanish police assisted in the reconstruction of the surveillance operation mounted against the IRA members as they travelled around Spain in the weeks before 6 March, and the journalists hired a helicopter to film the route.

In Gibraltar, they located several new eyewitnesses to the shootings, who each said they had seen McCann, Savage, and Farrell shot without warning or shot after they had fallen to the ground; most agreed to be filmed and provided signed statements. One witness, Kenneth Asquez, provided two near-identical statements through intermediaries, but refused to meet with the journalists or sign either statement. After failing to persuade Asquez to sign his statement, the journalists eventually incorporated his account of seeing Savage shot while on the ground into the programme.

For technical advice, the journalists engaged Lieutenant Colonel George Styles GC, a retired British Army officer who was regarded as an expert in explosives and ballistics. Styles believed that it would have been obvious to the authorities that Savage’s car was unlikely to contain a bomb as the weight would have been obvious on the vehicle’s springs; he also expressed his opinion that a remote detonator could not have reached the car park from the scenes of the shootings given the number of buildings and other obstacles between the locations

As the government refused to comment on the shootings until the inquest, the documentary concluded by putting its evidence to a leading human rights lawyer, who expressed his belief that a judicial inquiry was necessary to establish the facts surrounding the shootings.

The documentary attracted considerable controversy. On 26 April, two days before the programme was scheduled for broadcast, Sir Geoffrey Howe telephoned the chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) to request that the authority delay the broadcast until after the inquest on the grounds that it risked prejudicing the proceedings. After viewing the programme and taking legal advice, the IBA decided on the morning of 28 April that “Death on the Rock” should be broadcast as scheduled, and Howe was informed of the decision. Howe made further representation to the IBA that the documentary would be in contempt of the inquest; after taking further legal advice, the IBA upheld its decision to allow the broadcast.

The programme was broadcast at 21:00 (GMT) on 28 April. The following morning, the British tabloid newspapers lambasted the programme, describing it as a “slur” on the SAS and “trial by television”,  while several criticised the IBA for allowing the documentary to be broadcast.

Over the following weeks, newspapers repeatedly printed stories about the documentary’s witnesses, in particular Carmen Proetta, who gave an account of seeing McCann and Farrell shot without warning by soldiers who arrived in a Gibraltar Police car. Proetta subsequently sued several newspapers for libel and won substantial damages.

The Sunday Times conducted its own investigation and reported that “Death on the Rock” had misrepresented the views of its witnesses; the witnesses involved later complained to other newspapers that “The Sunday Times” had distorted their comments.

Inquest

Unusually for Gibraltar, there was a long delay between the shootings and the setting of a date for the inquest (the usual method for investigating sudden or controversial deaths in the United Kingdom and its territories); eight weeks after the shootings, the coroner, Felix Pizzarello, announced that the inquest would begin on 27 June. Two weeks later (unknown to Pizzarello), Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary announced that the inquest had been indefinitely postponed.

The inquest began on 6 September.  Pizzarello presided over the proceedings, while eleven jurors evaluated the evidence; representing the Gibraltar government was Eric Thislewaite, the Gibraltar attorney general. The interested parties were represented by John LawsQC (for the British government), Michael Hucker (for the SAS personnel), and Patrick McGrory (for the families of McCann, Farrell, and Savage). Inquests are non-adversarial proceedings aimed at investigating the circumstances of a death; the investigation is conducted by the coroner, while the representatives of interested parties can cross-examine witnesses.

Where the death occurred through the deliberate action of another person, the jury can return a verdict of “lawful killing”, “unlawful killing”, or an “open verdict“; though inquests cannot apportion blame, in the case of a verdict of unlawful killing the authorities will consider whether any prosecutions should be brought. There was initially doubt as to whether the SAS personnel involved in the shootings would appear at the inquest. Inquests have no powers to compel witnesses to appear if the witness is outside the court’s jurisdiction, although the soldiers apparently volunteered after Pizzarello declared that the inquest would be “meaningless” without their evidence.

The soldiers and MI5 officers gave their evidence anonymously and from behind a screen. As the inquest began, observers including Amnesty International expressed concern that McGrory was at a disadvantage, as all of the other lawyers were privy to the evidence of the SAS and MI5 personnel before it was given. The cost of the transcript for each day’s proceedings was increased ten-fold the day before the inquest began.

In total, the inquest heard evidence from 79 witnesses, including the Gibraltar Police officers, MI5 personnel, and SAS soldiers involved in the operation, along with technical experts and civilian eyewitnesses.

Police, military, and MI5 witnesses

 

The first witnesses to testify were the Gibraltar Police officers involved in the operation and its aftermath. Following them, on 7 September, was “Mr O”, the senior MI5 officer in charge of Operation Flavius. “O” told the inquest that, in January 1988, Belgian authorities found a car being used by IRA operatives in Brussels. In the car were found a quantity of Semtex, detonators, and equipment for a radio detonation device, which, “O” told the coroner, led MI5 to the conclusion that the IRA might use a similar device for the planned attack in Gibraltar.

MI5 further believed that the IRA had been unlikely to use a “blocking car” (an empty vehicle used to hold a parking space until the bombers bring in the vehicle containing the explosives) as this entailed the added risk of multiple border crossings.

Finally, “O” told the coroner that McCann, Savage, and Farrell had been observed by Spanish authorities arriving at Malaga Airport, after which he claimed the trio had been lost, and that the British and Gibraltarian authorities did not detect them crossing the border.

Joseph Canepa, commissioner of the Gibraltar Police, was the next senior figure to testify. He told the inquest that (contrary to McGrory’s assertions) there had been no conspiracy to kill McCann, Savage, and Farrell. Canepa told the coroner that, upon learning of the IRA plot from MI5, he set up an advisory committee, which consisted of MI5 officials, senior military officers, and the commissioner himself; as events developed, the committee decided that the Gibraltar Police was not adequately equipped to counter the IRA threat, and Canepa requested assistance from London. The commissioner gave assurances that he had been in command of the operation against the IRA at all times, except for the 25 minutes during which he signed over control to the military.[note 2] In his cross-examination,

McGrory queried the level of control the commissioner had over the operation; he extracted from Canepa that the commissioner had not requested assistance from the SAS specifically. Canepa agreed with “O” that the Spanish police had lost track of the IRA team, and that Savage’s arrival in Gibraltar took the authorities by surprise. Although a police officer was stationed in an observation post at the border with instructions for alerting other officers to the arrival of the IRA team, Canepa told the inquest that the officer had been looking for the three IRA members arriving at once. When pressed, he told McGrory he was “unsure” whether or not the officer had the details of the false passports the trio were travelling under.

Two days after Canepa’s testimony concluded, Detective Constable Charles Huart, the Gibraltar Police officer in the observation post at the border on 6 March, appeared. When cross-examined, Huart denied knowing the pseudonyms under which the IRA team were travelling. On cross-examination, Huart acknowledged having been provided with the pseudonyms at a briefing the night before the shootings. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Joseph Ullger, head of the Gibraltar Police Special Branch, offered a different account when he gave evidence the following day.

He told the coroner that the Spanish border guards had let Savage through out of carelessness, while the regular border officials on the Gibraltar side had not been told to look for the IRA team.

“Soldier F”, a British Army colonel who was in command of the SAS detachment involved in Operation Flavius, took the stand on 12 September.

“F” was followed the next day by “Soldier E”, a junior SAS officer who was directly responsible for the soldiers who carried out the shootings.[70] After the officers, the inquest heard from Soldiers “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D”, the SAS soldiers who shot McCann, Savage, and Farrell. The SAS personnel all told the coroner that they had been briefed to expect the would-be bombers to be in possession of a remote detonator, and that they had been told that Savage’s car definitely contained a bomb.

Each soldier testified that the IRA team made movements which the soldiers believed to be threatening, and this prompted the soldiers to open fire. McGrory asked about the SAS’s policy on lethal force during cross-examination; he asked “D” about allegations that Savage was shot while on the ground, something “D” strenuously denied. McGrory asked “D” if he had intended to continue shooting Savage until he was dead, to which “D” replied in the affirmative.

Several Gibraltar Police officers, including Special Branch officers, gave evidence about the aftermath of the shootings and the subsequent police investigation. Immediately after the shootings, the soldiers’ shell casings were removed from the scene (making it difficult to assess where the soldiers were standing when they fired); two Gibraltar Police officers testified to collecting the casings, one for fear that they might be stolen and the other on the orders of a superior.

 

Statements from other police and military witnesses revealed that the Gibraltar Police had lost evidence and that the soldiers did not give statements to the police until over a week after the shootings.

Civilian witnesses

 

A white Renault 5, similar to that driven into Gibraltar by Sean Savage and later suspected to contain a bomb.

 

One of the first witnesses with no involvement in Operation Flavius to give evidence to the inquest was Allen Feraday, Principal Scientific Officer at the Royal Armaments Research and Development Establishment. He posited that a remote detonator could reach from the scenes of the shootings to the car park in which Savage had left the white Renault and beyond. On cross-examination, he stated that the aerial on the Renault was not the type he would expect to be used for receiving a detonation signal, adding that the IRA had not been known to use a remote-detonated bomb without a direct line of sight to their target.

The following day, “Soldier G” (who had made the determination that the white Renault contained a bomb) told the coroner that he was not an explosives expert, and that his assessment was based on his belief that the vehicle’s aerial looked “too new”. Dissatisfied, McGrory called his own expert witness—Dr Michael Scott, an expert in radio-controlled detonation—who disagreed with government witnesses that a bomb at the assembly area could have been detonated from the petrol station where McCann and Farrell were shot, having conducted tests prior to testifying.

The government responded by commissioning its own tests, conducted by British Army signallers, which showed that radio communication between the petrol station and the car park was possible, but not guaranteed.

Professor Alan Watson, a British forensic pathologist, carried out a post-mortem examination of the bodies. Watson arrived in Gibraltar the day after the shootings, by which time the bodies had been taken to the Royal Navy Hospital; he found that the bodies had been stripped of their clothing (causing difficulties in distinguishing entry and exit wounds), that the mortuary had no X-ray machine (which would have allowed Watson to track the paths of the bullets through the bodies), and that he was refused access to any other X-ray machine. After the professor returned to his home in Scotland, he was refused access to the results of blood tests and other evidence which had been sent for analysis and was dissatisfied with the photographs taken by the Gibraltar Police photographer who had assisted him.

At the inquest, McGrory noted and questioned the lack of assistance given to the pathologist, which Watson told him was “a puzzle”.

Watson concluded that McCann had been shot four times—once in the jaw (possibly a ricochet), once in the head, and twice in the back; Farrell was shot five times (twice in the face and three times in the back). Watson was unable to determine exactly how many times Savage was shot—he estimated that it was possibly as many as eighteen times. McGrory asked Watson whether the pathologist would agree that Savage’s body was “riddled with bullets”; Watson’s answer made headlines the following morning:

“I concur with your word. Like a frenzied attack”.

Watson agreed that the evidence suggested the deceased were shot while on the ground; a second pathologist called by McGrory offered similar findings. Two weeks later, the court heard from David Pryor—a forensic scientist working for London’s Metropolitan Police—who had analysed the clothes of the dead; he told the inquest his analysis had been hampered by the condition of the clothing when it arrived. Pryor offered evidence contradictory to that given by Soldiers “A” and “B” about their proximity to McCann and Farrell when they opened fire—the soldiers claimed they were at least six feet (1.8 metres) away, but Pryor’s analysis was that McCann and Farrell were shot from a distance of no more than two or three feet (0.6 or 0.9 metres).

Aside from experts and security personnel, several eyewitnesses gave evidence to the inquest. Three witnessed parts of the shootings, and gave accounts which supported the official version of events—in particular, they did not witness the SAS shooting any of the suspects while they were on the floor.[83] Witnesses uncovered by the journalists making “Death on the Rock” also appeared: Stephen Bullock repeated his account of seeing McCann and Savage raise their hands before the SAS shot them; Josie Celecia repeated her account of seeing a soldier shooting at McCann and Farrell while the pair were on the ground.

Hucker pointed out that parts of Celecia’s testimony had changed since she spoke to “Death on the Rock”, and suggested that the gunfire she heard was from the shooting of Savage rather than sustained shooting of McCann and Farrell while they were on the ground, a suggestion Celecia rejected; the SAS’s lawyer further observed that she was unable to identify the military personnel in photographs her husband had taken.

Maxie Proetta told the coroner that he had witnessed four men (three in plain clothes and one uniformed Gibraltar Police officer) arriving opposite the petrol station on Winston Churchill Avenue; the men jumped over the central reservation barrier and Farrell put her hands up, after which he heard a series of shots. In contrast to his wife’s testimony, he believed that Farrell’s gesture was one of self-defence rather than surrender, and he believed that the shots he heard did not come from the men from the police car.

The government lawyers suggested that the police car the Proettas saw was the one being driven by Inspector Revagliatte, carrying four uniformed police officers rather than plain-clothed soldiers, but Proetta was adamant that the lawyers’ version did not make sense. His wife gave evidence the following day.[note 3] Contrary to her statement to “Death on the Rock”, Carmen Proetta was no longer certain that she had seen McCann and Savage shot while on the ground. The government lawyers questioned the reliability of Proetta’s evidence based on her changes, and implied that she behaved suspiciously by giving evidence to “Death on the Rock” before the police. She responded that the police had not spoken to her about the shootings until after “Death on the Rock” had been shown.

Asquez, who provided an unsworn statement to the “Death on the Rock” team through an intermediary, which the journalists included in the programme, reluctantly appeared. He retracted the statements he made to “Death on the Rock”, which he claimed he had made up after “pestering” from Major Bob Randall (another “Death on the Rock” witness, who had sold the programme a video recording of the aftermath of the shootings).[note 4]

The British media covered Asquez’s retraction extensively, while several members of parliament accused Asquez of lying for the television (and “Death on the Rock” of encouraging him) in an attempt to discredit the SAS and the British government. Nonetheless, Pizzarello asked Asquez if he could explain why his original statement mentioned the Soldiers “C” and “D” donning berets, showing identity cards, and telling members of the public “it’s okay, it’s the police” after shooting Savage (details which were not public before the inquest); Asquez replied that he could not, because he was “a bit confused”.

Verdict

The inquest concluded on 30 September, and Laws and McGrory made their submissions to the coroner regarding the instructions he should give to the jury (Hucker allowed Laws to speak on his behalf). Laws asked the coroner to instruct the jury not to return a verdict of “unlawful killing” on the grounds that there had been a conspiracy to murder the IRA operatives within the British government, as he believed that no evidence had been presented at the inquest to support such a conclusion. He did also allow for the possibility that the SAS personnel had individually acted unlawfully.

McGrory, on the other hand, asked the coroner to allow for the possibility that the British government had conspired to murder McCann, Savage, and Farrell, which he believed was evidenced by the decision to use the SAS for Operation Flavius. The decision, according to McGrory was

wholly unreasonable and led to a lot of what happened afterwards…it started a whole chain of unreasonable decisions which led to the three killings, which I submit were unlawful and criminal killings.

When the coroner asked McGrory to clarify whether he believed there had been a conspiracy to murder the IRA operatives, he responded

that the choice of the SAS is of great significance…If the killing of the ASU was, in fact, contemplated by those who chose the SAS, as an act of counter-terror or vengeance, that steps outside the rule of law and it was murder…and that is a matter for the jury to consider.

After listening to both arguments, Pizzarello summarised the evidence for the jury and instructed them that they could return a verdict of “unlawful killing” under any of five circumstances, including if they were satisfied that there had been a conspiracy within the British government to murder the three suspected terrorists. He also urged the jury to return a conclusive verdict, rather than the “ambiguity” of an “open verdict”, and instructed them not to make recommendations or add a rider to their verdict.

The jury retired at 11:30 to start their deliberations. Pizzarello summoned them back after six hours with the warning that they were “at the edge” of the time in which they were allowed to come to a verdict. Just over two hours later, the jury returned. By a majority of nine to two, they returned a verdict of lawful killing.

Following the inquest, evidence came to light to contradict the version of events presented by the British government at the inquest. Six weeks after the conclusion of the inquest, a Gibraltar Police operations order leaked; the document listed Inspector Revagliatte, who had claimed to be on routine patrol, unaware of Operation Flavius, and whose siren apparently triggered the shootings, as the commander of two police firearms teams assigned to the operation.

In February 1989, British journalists discovered that the IRA team operating in Spain must have contained more members than the three killed in Gibraltar. The staff at the agencies from which the team rented their vehicles gave the Spanish police descriptions which did not match McCann, Savage, or Farrell; Savage’s white Renault, meanwhile, was rented several hours before Savage himself arrived in Spain.

It emerged that the Spanish authorities knew where McCann and Savage were staying; a senior Spanish police officer repeatedly told journalists that the IRA cell had been under surveillance throughout their time in Spain, and that the Spanish told the British authorities that they did not believe that the three were in possession of a bomb on 6 March. Although the Spanish government remained silent about the claims and counter-claims, it honoured 22 police officers at a secret awards ceremony for Spanish participants in Operation Flavius in December 1988, and a government minister told a press conference in March 1989 that “we followed the terrorists. They were completely under our control”.

The same month, a journalist discovered that the Spanish side of the operation was conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Brigade rather than the local police as the British government had suggested.

The Independent and Private Eye conjectured as to the reason for the Spanish government’s silence—in 1988, Spain was attempting to join the Western European Union, but was opposed by Britain (which was already a member); the papers’ theory was that Margaret Thatcher’s government placed political pressure on the Spanish, and that Britain later dropped its opposition in exchange for the Spanish government’s silence on Operation Flavius.

Legal proceedings

In March 1990, almost two years after the shootings, the McCann, Savage, and Farrell families began proceedings against the British government at the High Court in London. The case was dismissed on the grounds that Gibraltar was not part of the United Kingdom, and was thus outside the court’s jurisdiction.

The families launched an appeal, but withdrew it in the belief that it had no prospect of success.[62] The families proceeded to apply to the European Commission of Human Rights for an opinion on whether the authorities’ actions in Gibraltar violated Article 2 (the “right to life”) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Issuing its report in April 1993, the commission criticised the conduct of the operation, but found that there had been no violation of Article 2. Nevertheless, the commission referred the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for a final decision.[103][104]

The British government submitted that the killings were “absolutely necessary”, within the meaning of Article 2, paragraph 2, to protect the people of Gibraltar from unlawful violence, because the soldiers who carried out the shootings genuinely believed that McCann, Savage, and Farrell were capable of detonating a car bomb, and of doing so by remote control. The families contested the government’s claim, alleging that the government had conspired to kill the three; that the planning and control of the operation was flawed; that the inquest was not adequately equipped to investigate the killings; and that the applicable laws of Gibraltar were not compliant with Article 2 of the ECHR.

The court found that the soldiers’ “reflex action” in resorting to lethal force was excessive, but that the soldiers’ actions did not—in their own right—give rise to a violation of Article 2. The court held that the soldiers’ use of force based on an honestly held belief (that the suspects were armed or in possession of a remote detonator) could be justified, even if that belief was later found to be mistaken. To hold otherwise would, in the court’s opinion, place too great a burden on law-enforcement personnel.

It also dismissed all other allegations, except that regarding the planning and control of the operation. In that respect, the court found that the authorities’ failure to arrest the suspects as they crossed the border or earlier, combined with the information that was passed to the soldiers, rendered the use of lethal force almost inevitable. Thus, the court decided there had been a violation of Article 2 in the control of the operation.

As the three suspects had been killed while preparing an act of terrorism, the court rejected the families’ claims for damages, as well as their claim for expenses incurred at the inquest. The court did order the British government to pay the applicants’ costs incurred during the proceedings in Strasbourg. The government initially suggested it would not pay, and there was discussion in parliament of the UK withdrawing from the ECHR. It paid the costs on 24 December 1995, within days of the three-month deadline which had been set by the court.

Long-term impact

A history of the Gibraltar Police described Operation Flavius as “the most controversial and violent event” in the history of the force, while journalist Nicholas Eckert described the incident as “one of the great controversies of the Troubles” and academic Richard English posited that the “awful sequence of interwoven deaths” was one of the conflict’s “most strikingly memorable and shocking periods”.

The explosives the IRA intended to use in Gibraltar were believed to have come from Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi who was known to be supplying arms to the IRA in the 1980s; some sources speculated that Gibraltar was chosen for its relative proximity to Libya, and the targeting of the territory was intended as a gesture of gratitude to Gaddafi.[7][110][111][112][113]

Maurice Punch, an academic specialising in policing issues, described the ECtHR verdict as “a landmark case with important implications” for the control of police operations involving firearms.[15] According to Punch, the significance of the ECtHR judgement was that it placed accountability for the failures in the operation with its commanders, rather than with the soldiers who carried out the shooting itself. Punch believed that the ruling demonstrated that operations intended to arrest suspects should be conducted by civilian police officers, rather than soldiers.

The case is considered a landmark in cases concerning Article 2, particularly in upholding the principle that Article 2, paragraph 2, defines circumstances in which it is permissible to use force which may result in a person’s death as an unintended consequence, rather than circumstances in which it is permissible to intentionally deprive a person of their life. It has been cited in later ECtHR cases concerning the use of lethal force by police.

After the inquest verdict, the Governor of Gibraltar, Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Terry declared “Even in this remote place, there is no place for terrorists.” In apparent revenge for his role in Operation Flavius, Terry and his wife, Lady Betty Terry, were shot and seriously injured in front of their daughter when IRA paramilitaries opened fire on the Terry home in Staffordshire two years later, in September 1990.

Following Kenneth Asquez’s retraction of the statement he gave to “Death on the Rock” and his allegation that he was pressured into giving a false account of the events he witnessed, the IBA contacted Thames Television to express its concern and to raise the possibility of an investigation into the making of the documentary. Thames eventually agreed to commission an independent inquiry into the programme (the first such inquiry into an individual programme), to be conducted by two people with no connection to either Thames or the IBA; Thames engaged Lord Windlesham and Richard Rampton, QC to conduct the investigation.

In their report, published in January 1989, Windlesham and Rampton levelled several criticisms at “Death on the Rock”, but found it to be a “trenchant” piece of work made in “good faith and without ulterior motives”. In conclusion, the authors believed that “Death on the Rock” proved “freedom of expression can prevail in the most extensive, and the most immediate, of all the means of mass communication”

 

See Corporal Killings

See Michael Stone

The Greysteel shootings – 30 October 1993

The Greysteel Massacre

The Greysteel massacre was a mass shooting that happened on the evening of 30 October 1993 in Greysteel, County Derry, Northern Ireland. Three members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group, opened fire in a crowded pub during a Halloween party, killing eight civilians and wounding thirteen.

The pub was in an Irish Catholic and Irish nationalist area. The group claimed responsibility using their cover name “Ulster Freedom Fighters” and said that the attack was revenge for the Shankill Road bombing a week earlier.

See Shankill Road Bombing

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Disclaimer

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

The Innocent Victims

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30 October 1993


Steven Mullan,   (20)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


Karen Thompson,  (19)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


James Moore,  (81)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


Joseph McDermott,   (60)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


Moira Duddy,  (59)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993
John Moyne,  (50)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993

John Burns,   (54)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993
Victor Montgomery,  (76)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry. He died 14 April 1994

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Background

On 23 October 1993, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb prematurely exploded in a fish shop on Shankill Road, west Belfast. Eight Protestant civilians, one UDA member and one of the IRA bombers were killed.

The IRA’s intended target was a meeting of UDA leaders, including brigadier Johnny Adair, which was to take place above the shop. Unknown to the IRA, the meeting had been rescheduled. Shortly after two IRA members, Thomas Begley and Sean Kelly, entered the shop dressed as deliverymen and carrying the time bomb under a tray, it exploded accidentally, killing Begley along with the nine others inside the shop at the time. This became known as the Shankill Road bombing.

The UDA launched a number of “revenge attacks” for the bombing. Later that day, it shot a Catholic delivery driver after luring him to a bogus call at Vernon Court, Belfast. He died on 25 October.

On 26 October, the UDA shot dead another two Catholic civilians and wounded five in an attack on the Council Depot at Kennedy Way, Belfast.

Planning

UDA/UFF flags flying in Derry, where the massacre was planned

 

The Londonderry Sentinel newspaper revealed that the massacre had been carefully planned. Those involved in planning and organising the attack were Billy McFarland (‘Brigadier’ of the UDA’s North Antrim & Londonderry Brigade), a UDA commander with the initials ‘RS’, and Brian McNeill.

Stephen Irwin, Geoffrey Deeney and Torrens Knight, all members of the UDA’s North Antrim & Londonderry Brigade, were to carry out the shooting. According to court documents, the gunmen were first briefed on the plans for the massacre on 27 October in a house-office owned by the Ulster Democratic Party at Bond’s Place, Derry.

Before the massacre, the gunmen went to the pub to familiarise themselves with the layout and choose the best positions from which to shoot. Knight turned the office at Bond’s Place into a mock-up of the pub and made Irwin and Deeney rehearse the shooting. It was agreed that Irwin would enter the Rising Sun armed with an AK-47 and keep shooting until the magazine emptied.

Whilst Irwin reloaded, Deeney would fire from his 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. Both would then keep shooting until Irwin’s second magazine was empty. Knight, armed with a shotgun, would ‘cover’ the front door.

Two cars would be used for the attack. The gunmen would drive to the pub in an Opel Kadett with McNeill driving in front as a ‘scout car’. After the shooting, the gunmen would drive the Kadett to a pick-up point near Eglinton, where they would meet McNeill and the Kadett would be burnt.

The massacre

On the evening of 30 October, the three UDA members, two of whom were wearing blue boiler suits and balaclavas, entered the “Rising Sun Bar” in Greysteel. There were about 70 people inside attending a Halloween party,and so the masked men were not noticed until they produced an AK-47 and a 9 mm pistol, and started shooting into the packed crowd in the lounge area.

The leading gunman, Stephen Irwin (who was carrying the AK-47), yelled “trick or treat” as he opened fire.

The scene was chaotic as people inside the lounge began to scream in panic, with women pleading for mercy from the gunmen. Six of those killed were Catholic civilians and two were Protestant civilians. None had any known links to political parties or paramilitaries. The killers, laughing, then made their escape in their getaway car—an Opel Kadett driven by Torrens Knight. Afterwards they were said to have boasted about the killings.

The following day, the UDA claimed responsibility for the attack using the cover name “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (UFF). Its statement said that the “Greysteel raid” was “the continuation of our threats against the nationalist electorate that they would pay a heavy price for last Saturday’s slaughter of nine Protestants”.

A West Belfast UDA member said that his organisation:

“had information that senior IRA men drank in the Rising Sun … Unfortunately they were not there on Halloween but our boys acted on the briefing they had been given”.

The pub is still open in Greysteel. There is a memorial to the victims outside the building that says: May their sacrifice be our path to peace.

Convictions

In 1995, Irwin, Deeney and Knight were convicted along with two others for involvement in the attack.  Knight was also convicted for the Castlerock killings. In 2000, they were released early—along with other paramilitary prisoners—under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

After his release, Irwin joined the Neo-Nazi militant group Combat 18. Knight was also alleged to have had links to Combat 18.

In 2005, Irwin received a four-year prison sentence for slashing a man with a knife. This meant that he also now had to serve the eight life sentences he received for the Greysteel massacre.

In 2006, he abandoned an appeal against the sentences.

In September 2013, Irwin was released from prison a second time after submitting an application to the Sentence Review Commissioners for early release. The commissioners ruled his application should be granted and he was released immediately.

There have been claims in the media that Knight was a paid Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and/or MI5 informer. Knight denied the claims.

In October 2007, a Police Ombudsman investigation concluded that police did not have any prior knowledge that could have helped them prevent the Greysteel attack. The investigators did not find any evidence that Knight was protected from the law.[