Tag Archives: Wesley Somerville

The Glenanne Gang – History & Background

The Glenanne Gang

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British government officials ‘knew about loyalist Glenanne Gang’

A member of the notorious loyalist killer group, the Glennan Gang, has told how he believes its leader personally killed more than 100 people and dismissed suggestions that a public inquiry would exposed the truth. In a rare interview from his home in South Africa, John Weir insists that a truth commission is the only way that victims will get closure. Connla Young reports.

Former RUC officer and Glenanne Gang member John Weir. Picture by New Red TV

A FORMER RUC officer and member of the notorious Glenanne gang has claimed the British government was aware of the group’s activities at the very highest level.

John Weir, who held the rank of sergeant, was speaking just weeks after a High Court judge ruled that the PSNI unlawfully frustrated any chance of an effective investigation into suspected state collusion with the sectarian killer gang.

Made up of members of the RUC, UDR and UVF, it operated across the Mid-Ulster area in the mid 1970s.

Based out of a farm owned by former RUC officer, James Mitchell in Glenanne in south Armagh, the gang is believed to have carried out around 120 murders, the majority of which were innocent Catholics.

Now one of its most prominent members, former sergeant John Weir, has said that the establishment of a truth commission and amnesty may be the only way some of the darkest secrets of the Troubles will ever be revealed.

Originally from Co Monaghan, he was a member of the RUC’s Special Patrol Group in Armagh when he became involved in the activities of the Glenanne Gang.

The former policeman gave evidence to the 2003 Barron Report – which examined the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings that claimed the lives of 33 people and an unborn child.

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He and another former colleague William ‘Billy’ McCaughey were convicted of taking part in the murder of father-of-seven William Strathearn (39) at his home in Ahoghill, Co Antrim, in April 1977.

The former Derry GAA player and shopkeeper had opened his front door at 2am after the gunmen said they needed aspirin for a sick child.

Convicted in 1980 he was released from prison in 1993 and later went to live in Nigeria.

Now living in South Africa, the former policeman last said that senior officials in Downing Street would have been aware of the group’s activities.

“Of course they would,” he said in an interview with the Irish News.

“How would they not be?

“Right, for example, the army commanders……do you mean to say that those men were not actually feeding information.

“Even they were feeding information direct to government.

“Obviously some of it was going through their senior officers but not all.

“Some of those men, they themselves were connected to parliament.

“And I know that and I also know that they know that even the very bottom of army intelligence, which I don’t think in a way were that capable a lot of them, but they knew all about Glenanne.”

After last month’s court ruling relatives of people killed by the gang demanded an independent inquiry be set up.

See Irish News for full story

— Disclaimer –

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

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The Glenanne gang or Glenanne group 

History and Background

The Glenanne gang or Glenanne group was a secret informal alliance of Ulster loyalists, mostly from Northern Ireland, who carried out shooting and bombing attacks against Catholics and nationalists during the Troubles, beginning in the 1970s.

Most of its attacks took place in the “murder triangle” area counties Armagh and Tyrone. It also launched some attacks elsewhere in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland.

UDR Insignia

The gang included British soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), police officers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), and members of the Mid-Ulster Brigade of the Ulster Volunteer Force(UVF).

Twenty-five British soldiers and police officers were named as purported members of the gang. Details about the group have come from many sources, including the affidavit of former member and RUC officer John Weir; statements by other former members; police, army and court documents; and ballistics evidence linking the same weapons to various attacks. Since 2003, the group’s activities have also been investigated by the 2006 Cassel Report, and three reports commissioned by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron, known as the Barron Reports.

A book focusing on the group’s activities, Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland, was published in 2013. It drew on all the aforementioned sources, as well as Historical Enquiries Team investigations.

Lethal Allies claims that permutations of the group killed about 120 people – almost all of whom were “upwardly mobile” Catholic civilians with no links to Irish republican paramilitaries. The Cassel Report investigated 76 killings attributed to the group and found evidence that British soldiers and RUC officers were involved in 74 of those. John Weir claimed his superiors knew he was working with loyalist militants but allowed it to continue.

The Cassel Report also said that some senior officers knew of the crimes but did nothing to prevent, investigate or punish. It has been alleged that some key members were double agentsworking for British military intelligence and RUC Special Branch.

Attacks attributed to the group include the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the Miami Showband killings, and the Reavey and O’Dowd killings.

Many of the victims were killed at their homes or in indiscriminate attacks on Catholic-owned pubs with guns and/or bombs. Some were shot after being stopped at fake British Army checkpoints, and a number of the attacks were co-ordinated.

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When it wished to “claim” its attacks, the group usually used the name “Protestant Action Force“. The name “Glenanne gang” has been used since 2003 and is derived from the farm at Glenanne (near Markethill, County Armagh) that was used as the gang’s main ‘base of operations’.[12][13] It also made use of a farm near Dungannon.

Glenanne Gang
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Fields near the farm where the gang was based (Ballylane townland, near Glenanne, County Armagh)
Active 1972–1980
Ideology Ulster loyalism
Leaders John Weir
Billy McCaughey
Billy Hanna
Robin Jackson
Harris Boyle
Headquarters Glenanne,
County Armagh,
Northern Ireland
Area of operations Mainly County Armagh and east County Tyrone
Size Over 40 known members
Part of Ulster Volunteer Force
Opponents Irish nationalists

Political situation in Northern Ireland

 

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By the mid-1970s the violent ethno-political conflict known as the Troubles had radically transformed the daily lives of people in Northern Ireland; after five years of turbulent civil unrest, the bombings and shootings showed no signs of abating. The armed campaign waged by the Provisional IRA had escalated, with bombings in England and increased attacks on the security forces in Northern Ireland.

The British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) bore the brunt of IRA violence and many Protestants felt their people to be under attack. Rogue members of the RUC Special Patrol Group (SPG) believed that the situation was rapidly deteriorating and that the IRA were actually ‘winning the war’. As early as the end of 1973, it was suggested that drastic measures had to be taken to defeat the organisation. The SPG was a specialised police unit tasked with providing back-up to the regular RUC and to police sensitive areas.

 

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On 10 February 1975, the Provisional IRA and British government entered into a truce and restarted negotiations. The IRA agreed to halt attacks on the British security forces, and the security forces mostly ended its raids and searches.

However, there were dissenters on both sides. Some Provisionals wanted no part of the truce, while British commanders resented being told to stop their operations against the IRA just when—they claimed—they had the Provisionals on the run.

 There was a rise in sectarian killings during the truce, which ‘officially’ lasted until February 1976. Ulster loyalist paramilitaries, fearing they were about to be forsaken by the British government and forced into a united Ireland,

increased their attacks on Roman Catholics and nationalists. Loyalist fears were partially grounded in fact as Secret Intelligence Service officer Michael Oatley had engaged in negotiations with a member of the IRA Army Council during which “structures of disengagement” from Ireland were discussed. This had meant a possible withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland.

Loyalists killed 120 Catholics in 1975, the vast majority civilians.They hoped to force the IRA to retaliate in kind and thus hasten an end to the truce.

Formation of the Glenanne Gang

 

The Glenanne gang shared many members with the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade, led by Robin “the Jackal” Jackson 
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It was during this exceptionally violent period that a group of loyalist extremists formed a loose alliance that was belatedly in 2003 given the name “Glenanne gang”.The gang, which contained over 40 known members, included soldiers of the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), rogue elements of the RUC, the Mid-Ulster Brigade of the illegal paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and some Ulster Defence Association (UDA) members.

 

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This group began to carry out shooting and bombing attacks directed against Catholics and nationalists to retaliate for the IRA’s intensified military campaign. Most of these attacks took place in the area of County Armagh and Mid-Ulster referred to as the “murder triangle” by journalist Joe Tiernan. It also launched attacks elsewhere in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland.

The name “Glenanne gang” is derived from the farm at Glenanne (near Markethill, County Armagh) that was used as the gang’s arm dump and bomb-making site.

In his 2013 memoirs, Joseph Pearce, a British former white supremacist and senior member of the National Front who later converted to Catholicism and is a writer and academician at Aquinas College (Nashville, Tennessee, USA), revealed what he knew about collusion between the NF, the British Army, and loyalist death squads. According to Pearce,

“In spite of my own unwillingness to become too directly involved in the terrorist operations in Northern Ireland, I was very aware, as were the leaders of the UVF and UDA, that National Front members serving with the Army in Northern Ireland were smuggling intelligence information on suspected IRA members to the Loyalist paramilitaries. This information included photographs of suspected IRA members, the type of car they drove and its registration number, and other useful facts. I have little doubt that this information was used by the UVF and UDA to target and assassinate their enemies.”

Alleged members

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The following people, among others, have been implicated by Justice Barron and Professor Douglass Cassel in their respective reports as having been members of the Glenanne gang:

Key figures[

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  • John Oliver Weir (born 1950, County Monaghan, Republic of Ireland) — an officer in the RUC Special Patrol Group (an “anti-terrorist” unit) and UVF volunteer. Weir was the son of a gamekeeper and was brought up on an estate near Castleblaney. He attended a Protestant boarding school in Dublin.

After joining the RUC in 1970, he worked at Strandtown RUC station in Belfast. In 1972, he was transferred to Armagh where he was recruited by the SPG on 1 August 1973. Following the IRA killing of two members of the security forces in 1974 and 1975, he was sent for his own safety to the SPG unit in Castlereagh, Belfast. On an unspecified date between January 1975 and September 1976, he joined the Glenanne gang. Weir then spent six weeks at the Lisanelly Army base in Omagh; in 1976 he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and transferred to Newry RUC barracks.

He claimed to have been directly involved in the bomb attack at Tully’s Bar in Belleek, the attempted bombing of Renaghan’s Bar, Clontibret, County Monaghan, and to have visited the Glenanne farm regularly during the autumn of 1976. In November 1977, he was sent to Newtownhamilton RUC barracks. In 1980, he left the RUC upon his conviction for the 1977 killing of William Strathearn, a Catholic chemist. He was released from prison in 1992. During and after his imprisonment he made a number of allegations incriminating his former associates in the Glenanne gang. His 1999 affidavit was published in the 2003 Barron Report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Weir also implicated Chief Inspector Harry Breen in having direct knowledge of the gang’s activities in his Affidavit of 3 January 1999.

Among other claims, he stated “In summary, Down Orange Welfare was using RUC officers in Newry RUC station – McBride, Breen, myself – and another RUC officer, Sergeant Monty Alexander from Forkhill RUC station – to supply weapons to the UVF in Portadown. I later learned that these weapons were being manufactured by Samuel McCoubrey in Spa, Co. Down.”

 

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William “Billy” McCaughey (died 2006) — Armagh RUC SPG officer who had acted as a close protection guard for Ulster Unionist Party politician John Taylor and a UVF volunteer. He was a former member of the Ulster Special Constabulary. McCaughey was implicated by his colleague Weir in many Glenanne gang attacks such as the O’Dowd shootings, the assault on the Rock Bar, and he admitted to having kidnapped a Roman Catholic priest.

McCaughey was convicted along with Weir for the killing of William Strathearn and sentenced to 16 years imprisonment. McCaughey received a seven-year sentence for wounding Michael McGrath during the attack on the Rock Bar, was sentenced on explosives and possession charges and was also sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for the kidnapping of Fr Hugh Murphy.

 

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Journalist Joe Tiernan alleged that Hanna was an Intelligence Corps agent. He was the person who had approached James Mitchell for permission to use the property as an arms dump and bomb-making site. Hanna was shot dead outside his home in Lurgan in July 1975.

 

Robin Jackson.jpg

Robin “The Jackal” Jackson (27 September 1948, Donaghmore, County Tyrone – 30 May 1998, Donaghcloney, County Down) — commander of the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade from July 1975 to the early 1990s, Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) member and an alleged RUC Special Branch agent with ties to military intelligence.

He assumed leadership of the brigade upon the shooting death of Hanna, for which he was said by Tiernan to have been responsible. Weir implicated Robin Jackson in a number of the gang’s killings and has named him as having been a “key figure” in the gang.

 Following the 1993 Yorkshire Television programme The Hidden Hand which implicated Jackson in the Dublin bombings but did not mention him by name, he was questioned. He denied involvement in the three car bombings which left 26 people dead.[33] and Miami Showband killings.

He was only convicted once (in 1981), for possession of a .22 pistol, a .38 revolver, a magazine, 13 rounds of ammunition, and hoodshowever, he was released after having served two years of a seven-year sentence. Jackson’s fingerprints were found on a home-made silencer attached to a Luger pistol (serial number U 4) retrieved at Ted Sinclair’s farm in 1976.

Jackson’s name appeared on the Garda Síochána suspects list for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.[34] Jackson was named in court as one of the killers of William Strathern by Weir and McCaughey. The court was told by an RUC officer that Jackson and Kerr were not before the court as part of “operational strategy”.

Jackson died of lung cancer in 1998.

 

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Robert McConnell — a UVF volunteer and 2nd Battalion UDR corporal. The Barron Report lists him as one of the suspects in the Dublin bombings. He allegedly had links to both RUC Special Branch and the Intelligence Corps, and it was claimed he was controlled before and after the bombings by Robert Nairac.

McConnell was named by both Lily Shields and Laurence McClure as being involved in the Donnelly’s Bar killings. Weir states he took part in the John Francis Green shooting along with Robin Jackson and Harris Boyle. He was named by Weir as the leading gunman in the Reavey family shootings.

McConnell was killed by the IRA on 5 April 1976.

Laurence McClure — a UVF volunteer and RUC SPG officer, having joined the Armagh SPG in May 1975. He was a close neighbour of James Mitchell and owned a repair garage adjacent to the farm. McClure was named by Weir as having taken part in several sectarian attacks including those at Donnelly’s Bar and the Rock Bar, the latter for which he was convicted and received a two-year sentence, suspended for three years. Weir alleges that McClure had helped assemble the bombs used in Dublin.

McClure admitted being a getaway driver for those involved in the Donnelly’s Bar bombing and to have waited in the car with Lily Shields; the two acting as a “courting couple”.

 McClure was charged with withholding information in relation to the attack on Donnelly’s Bar. The barrister for the UDR and the police … said he had obtained a nolle prosequi sentence, a Latin legal phrase meaning “to be unwilling to pursue” (amounting to “do not prosecute”) against the charge. The only person who can authorise a nolle prosequi is the Attorney General.

James Mitchell (c. 1920 – May 2008) — an RUC Reserve officer and the owner of the Glenanne farm. He joined the RUC Reserve in September 1974 and was stationed at Markethill. He left the force on 1 July 1977 for “personal reasons”.

Weir named him as a UVF member who regularly participated in paramilitary activities.Weir claimed that Mitchell admitted being involved in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and went on to claim that he had seen Mitchell mixing home-made ammonium-nitrate-and-fuel-oil explosive in the farmyard on one occasion.

He was convicted for possession of weapons found on his land after an RUC raid in December 1978. In an RUC interview on 9 August 2000, he staunchly denied Weir’s allegations and referred to him as

“a damned liar and convicted murderer”.

Mitchell died, aged 88, in May 2008 at Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry. Willie Frazer attended his funeral and told media

“I’m not saying he was lily–white but he was a decent man”.

Robert John “R.J”. Kerr (c. 1943 – 7 November 1997) — UDA commander. He was charged with having weapons and ammunition in suspicious circumstances in 1972; later found guilty of armed robbery on 10 March 1973. Kerr was sentenced in 1974 in relation to the intimidation and assaulting of two men in 1973 and received 18 months in jail. Kerr was named as one of the killers of William Strathearn by Weir and McCaughey. The court was told by an RUC officer that Jackson and Kerr were not before the court as part of “police strategy”.

He died in a mysterious explosion, his body having been found in the vicinity of a burnt-out boat that was being towed on a trailer on the main Newry to Warrenpoint Road.

Harris Boyle (1953, Portadown – 31 July 1975, Buskhill, County Down) — UDR soldier and UVF volunteer. Boyle was unmarried and worked as a telephone wireman. He was charged with having weapons and ammunition in suspicious circumstances in 1972. Boyle was killed when a bomb he had placed on the Miami Showband bus exploded prematurely.

He was implicated in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and the killing of IRA volunteer John Francis Green in County Monaghan. According to submissions received by Mr Justice Barron, the Monaghan bomb was assembled at his home on Festival Road in Portadown’s Killycomain estate.

 

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Wesley Somerville (born County Tyrone – died 31 July 1975, Buskhill, County Down) — UDR soldier and a UVF lieutenant. He was a textile worker by trade. He was killed when a bomb he had placed on the Miami Showband bus exploded prematurely.

Wesley Somerville was also charged along with two others for kidnapping two bread deliverymen. The kidnapping charge was connected to a bomb attack at Mourne Crescent, Dungannon.

Weir named Somerville as having been involved in the 1974 bombing in Monaghan.

  • Gary Armstrong — RUC sergeant, given a two-year suspended sentence in relation to the kidnapping of a Catholic priest, Father Hugh Murphy, in retaliation for the murder of a policeman. Armstrong was named by Judge Barron as one of the group of RUC members who carried out the gun and bomb attack on the Rock Bar.

 

  • Joseph Stewart Young — UVF volunteer from Portadown. His name appears on the Garda suspects list for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. John Weir claims that Young had been part of the unit that carried out the Monaghan bombing. When questioned, Young denied the allegation. He was also suspected of involvement in the attack on Donnelly’s bar.

Other members

  • Captain John Irwin — UDR intelligence officer. Weir declares in his affidavit that Irwin provided the explosives for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and delivered them to Mitchell’s farm, where they were then assembled.

 

  • Lance corporal Thomas Raymond Crozier (born 1951, Lurgan, County Armagh) — C Company, 11th Battalion UDR, and UVF volunteer, he worked as a painting contractor. He was convicted in October 1976 in relation to the Miami Showband killings. He was also arrested in 1975 along with Samuel Fulton Neil and Robin Jackson in possession of four shotguns.

 

  • Sergeant James Roderick McDowell (from Lurgan, County Armagh) — also C Company, 11th Battalion UDR, and UVF volunteer, he was an optical worker; convicted in October 1976 in relation to Miami Showband killings.

 

  • John James Somerville (died January 2015) — former UDR soldier from Moygashel, County Tyrone; brother of Wesley (see above); worked as a lorry-helper; convicted on 9 November 1981 in relation to the Miami Showband killings. Somerville was also charged along with two others with kidnapping two bread deliverymen. The kidnapping charge was also connected to a bomb attack at Mourne Crescent in Dungannon. He was also convicted of an armed robbery on a CIÉ bus in Aughnacloy and causing approximately £12,000 worth of damage to the bus. He was named by Weir as having been involved in the Monaghan bombing.

 

  • Sarah Elizabeth “Lily” Shields — Mitchell’s housekeeper. She was named by Weir as having provided the getaway car for those who attacked McArdle’s Bar and Donnelly’s Bar. Charges were later brought against her for withholding information regarding the latter attack. However, the trial judge and DPP brought a nolle prosequi against the charge in April 1981.

 

  • Norman Greenlee — UDR soldier and UVF volunteer. The Star pistol (serial number 344164) used in a number of Glenanne gang attacks was found at Greenlee’s farm in Richhill, County Armagh in 1979. A large number of other weapons and ammunition was also found. He subsequently received a seven-year sentence for possessing the weapons and a concurrent four-year sentence for UVF membership.

 

  • George Moore was found guilty of the attempted killing of Patrick Turley, assault, and possession of a gun and ammunition.

 

  • Gordon Liggett — Ulster Defence Association (UDA) commander. He was found guilty of causing grievous and actual bodily harm to Patrick Turley; as well as armed robbery and possession of a gun and ammunition.

 

  • William Ashton Wright — UDR soldier. He was charged with having weapons and ammunition in suspicious circumstances in 1972. He was later found guilty of armed robbery, which had taken place on 10 March 1973. Wright was sentenced in 1974 in relation to the intimidation and assaulting of two men in 1973 and received a six-month suspended sentence.

 

  • George Hyde — charged in connection with the attempted murder of Patrick Turley; he was later found beaten to death in prison.

 

  • Edward “Ted” Sinclair (from Dungannon) was convicted of possession of a Luger pistol (serial number U 4), a .38 ACP pistol, homemade machine guns, gelignite and ammunition in 1976. He was released in 1979. Sinclair was arrested again in 1980 and charged with possession of a .45 revolver and ammunition. However, charges were withdrawn by the DPP. Sinclair was also charged with the 1976 killings of Peter and Jane McKearney (a married couple mistakenly believed to be the parents of an IRA volunteer with the same surname, Margaret McKearney, although there was no relation).

In 1982 (the following year), these charges were also dropped by the DPP.

  • Garnet James Busby was convicted of the killings of Peter and Jane McKearney in October 1975 (see above). He was also convicted of the killings of Andrew Small, James McCaughey, Joseph Kelly and Patrick Barnard at the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon. He planted the bomb at O’Neill’s Bar in Dungannon. During his trial an RUC inspector told the court that the same UVF gang was responsible for the attack on the Miami Showband.

 

  • William Parr was convicted of Denis Mullen’s killing.

 

  • Billy Corrigan was named as taking part in Denis Mullen’s killing during the trial of William Parr. Corrigan was killed by the IRA in 1976.

 

  • Henry Garfield Liggett was convicted of the killing of Patrick McNeice.

 

  • Dorothy Mullan was convicted of driving the car to the site of Patrick McNeice’s killing.

 

  • Garfield Gerard Beattie was convicted of the killings of Denis Mullan, Jim McLoughlin and Patrick McNeice at the Eagle Bar in Charlemont; also convicted of the attempted killings of other patrons in the Eagle Bar.

 

  • David Henry Kane was convicted of the killing of Jim McLoughlin and the attempted killings of the other patrons in the Eagle Bar.

 

  • Joey Lutton — UDR soldier convicted of the attacks on the Eagle Bar and Clancy’s Bar in Charlemont.

 

  • Samuel Fulton Neill (died 25 January 1976) — brother-in-law of Robin Jackson, arrested in 1975 alongside Jackson and Thomas Crozier in possession of four shotguns. He was fatally shot five times in the head after leaving a Portadown pub, allegedly by Jackson, for having passed on information to the police about the people involved in the Miami Showband attack.

 

  • Trevor Barnard was charged along with two others with the kidnapping of two bread deliverymen. The kidnapping charge was also linked to a bomb attack at Mourne Crescent in Dungannon.

 

  • Laurence Tate — UDR soldier. He was convicted along with two others of the bombing of an empty bungalow near Dungannon. He was also convicted of the bombing of Killen’s Bar in Dungannon. He was arrested as part of the Miami Showband investigation.

 

  • Harold Henry McKay was convicted along with two others of the bombing of an empty bungalow near Dungannon. Also convicted of the bombing of Killen’s Bar in Dungannon. He was arrested as part of the Miami Showband investigation.

 

  • John Nimmons was convicted along with two others of the bombing of an empty bungalow near Dungannon. Also convicted of the bombing of Killen’s Bar in Dungannon. He was arrested as part of the Miami Showband investigation.

 

  • William Thomas Leonard — UDR soldier convicted of the killings of James and Gertrude Devlin, a married couple. He was also convicted of the bombing of Killen’s Bar in Dungannon, and of the armed robbery of the CIÉ bus in Aughnacloy which caused approximately £12,000 worth of damage to the bus.

 

  • Sammy McCoo was named by McClure and Shields as being involved in the attack on Donnelly’s bar. McCoo’s name later appeared on the Garda suspects list for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

 

  • Ian Mitchell — RUC officer, received a two-year sentence, suspended for three years in relation to the attack on the Rock Bar. Ian Mitchell was one of the investigating officers into the killings of Betty McDonald and Gerald McGleenan at the Step Inn, Keady, County Armagh.

 

  • David Wilson — RUC officer, received a one-year sentence, suspended for two years in relation to the attack on the Rock Bar.

 

  • Alexander McCaughey — father of Billy McCaughey, given a one-year suspended sentence in relation to the kidnapping of Fr. Murphy.

 

The gang has also been linked to military intelligence liaison officer Captain Robert Nairac who worked for 14th Intelligence Company (The Det).

 On The Hidden Hand programme made by Yorkshire Television in 1993, it was claimed that Robin Jackson was controlled by Nairac and 14th Intelligence.

In May 1977, Nairac was kidnapped by the IRA in Dromintee and taken across the border into the Republic where he was interrogated for more than an hour and pistol-whipped in Ravensdale Woods, County Louth. Nairac was then shot dead by Liam Townson.

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Pte Ian Leonard Price, 2nd battalion, The Queens Reg Merlyn ReesSecretary of State for Northern Ireland, lifted the proscription against the UVF on 4 April 1974, but it was made illegal once again on 3 October 1975; therefore, during the period between April 1974 and October 1975, membership of the UVF was not a crime. The largest loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was also not proscribed at the time.

Attacks attributed to the Glenanne gang

In 2004, the Pat Finucane Centre asked Professor Douglas Cassel (formerly of Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago) to convene an international inquiry to investigate collusion by members of the British security forces in sectarian killings in Northern Ireland committed during the mid-1970s. The gang’s involvement in the killings was to be investigated in particular.

The panel interviewed victims and their relatives, as well as four members of the security forces. The four members of the security forces were: RUC SPG officers John Weir and Billy McCaughey; psychological warfare operative Colin Wallace and MI6 operative Captain Fred Holroyd. They all implicated the Glenanne gang in the attacks. In seven out of eight cases, ballistic tests corroborated Weir’s claims linking the killings to weapons carried by the security forces. The interviews revealed many similarities in the way the attacks were carried out, while various documents (including the Barron Report) established a chain of ballistic history linking weapons and killings to the gang. Justice Barron commented in reference to the gang:

“This joining of RUC and UDR members with members of Loyalist paramilitary organisations is emphasised by the use of the same or connected guns by intermingled groups of these organisations.”

The Glenanne gang has been linked to the following attacks and/or incidents:

1972 and 1973

  • 4 October 1972: killing of Catholic civilian Patrick Connolly. He was killed and his mother and brother were injured when a grenade was thrown through the window of their house in Portadown, County Armagh. The family were Catholics living in a mixed area of the town. The grenade was of a type manufactured in the United Kingdom “for use by the British Armed Forces”. According to reliable loyalist sources, UVF members were responsible.

 

  • 20 February 1973: an armed robbery on a CIÉ bus in Aughnacloy, which caused approximately £12,000 worth of damage to the bus.

 

  • 10 March 1973: attempted murder of Patrick Turley in Portadown.

 

  • 10 March 1973: armed robbery, for which Glenanne gang members were later jailed.

 

  • 24 May 1973: bombing of Killen’s Bar in Dungannon, County Tyrone. UDR soldiers Laurence Tate and William Thomas Leonard were convicted, along with two others.
  • 4 August 1973: attempted killings of Bernadette Devlin McAliskey and her husband at their home in Coalisland, County Tyrone.

 

  • 5 August 1973: killing of Catholic civilians Francis and Bernadette Mullen. They were shot dead by two gunmen at their farmhouse in Broughadoey, near Moy, County Tyrone. Their two-year-old son was also wounded by gunfire. The “Ulster Freedom Fighters” claimed responsibility but it is believed UVF members were responsible.

 

  • 28 October 1973: killing of Catholic civilian Francis McCaughey. He was wounded by a booby-trap bomb at a farm in Carnteel, near Aughnacloy, County Tyrone. He died on 8 November. The “Ulster Freedom Fighters” claimed responsibility but it is believed UVF members were responsible.His brother-in-law, Owen Boyle, was later shot dead by the Glenanne gang.

 

  • 29 October 1973: killing of Catholic civilian Patrick Campbell. He was shot dead by a gunman who arrived at the door of his house in Banbridge, County Down. The “Ulster Freedom Fighters” claimed responsibility but it later emerged that UVF members had been responsible. Although Robin Jackson was arrested and Campbell’s widow picked him out as the killer at an identity parade, murder charges against him were soon dropped.

1974

  • 17 January 1974: gun attack on Boyle’s Bar in Cappagh, County Tyrone. Two gunmen entered the pub and opened fire indiscriminately on the customers. Catholic civilian Daniel Hughes was killed and three others wounded.

 

  • 19 February 1974: bomb attack on Traynor’s Bar at Aghinlig, between Blackwatertown and Charlemont, County Armagh. Catholic civilian Patrick Molloy and Protestant civilian John Wylie were killed. Two other civilians were wounded. In 1981 a serving UDR soldier, a former UDR soldier and a former UVF member were convicted of the murders.

 

  • 7 May 1974: killing of Catholic civilians James and Gertrude Devlin, who were shot dead near their home at Congo Road, near Dungannon, County Tyrone. They were driving home with their 17-year-old daughter. As they neared their house, a man in a military uniform stopped the car and opened fire on them. James and Gertrude were killed outright and their daughter, Patricia, in the back seat, was wounded. UDR soldier William Thomas Leonard was convicted for the killings. His membership in the UDR was withheld from the courts by the police.

 

 

  • 3 September 1974: shooting of T.J. Chambers in Mountnorris, County Armagh.

 

  • 3 September 1974: shooting incident. The 9 mm Luger pistol used in the incident was the same often used in other Glenanne gang attacks, including the murders of the Reavey brothers.

 

  • 27 October 1974: killing of Catholic civilian Anthony Duffy. His body was found at the back of a farmhouse at Mullantine, near Portadown, County Armagh. He had been beaten, strangled and then shot by UVF members after taking a lift from Lurgan to Portadown, together with a friend who managed to escape.

 

  • 20 November 1974: gun attack on Falls Bar at Aughamullen, near Clonoe, County Tyrone. Catholic civilian Patrick Falls was killed and another wounded. UDR soldier James Somerville was convicted for the attack.

 

  • 29 November 1974: attacks in Newry and Crossmaglen, County Armagh. A bomb exploded in a hallway of Hughes’ Bar in Newry, injuring many people. Catholic civilian John Mallon died of his injuries on 15 December. At the inquest an RUC witness said the pub was used by all sections of the community and had no links with any organization. Another bomb exploded in the hallway of McArdle’s Bar, Crossmaglen, injuring six. Catholic civilian Thomas McNamee died from his injuries almost a year later, on 14 November 1975.

 According to reliable loyalist sources, UVF members were responsible for both attacks.

1975

January–April

  • 10 January 1975: killing of IRA volunteer John Francis Green, who was found shot dead at a farmhouse in Tullynageer near Castleblayney, County Monaghan. In his statement, Weir claims that the gunmen were Robin Jackson, Robert McConnell, and Harris Boyle.

 

  • 10 February 1975: gun attack on Hayden’s Bar in Gortavale, near Rock, County Tyrone. A gunman entered the pub and opened fire indiscriminately on the customers. Catholic civilians Arthur Mulholland and Eugene Doyle were killed while four others were wounded.

 

  • 1 April 1975: killing of Catholic civilian Dorothy Trainor. She and her husband were shot by at least two gunmen as they walked through a park near Garvaghy Road, Portadown. Two of her sons were later killed by loyalists.The “Protestant Action Force” claimed responsibility.

 

  • 3 April 1975: killing of Catholic civilian Martin McVeigh. He was shot dead near his home at Ballyoran Park, off the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, as he cycled home from work. Robin Jackson was later arrested in possession of the murder weapon, but the RUC did not question or charge him with the murder. The “Protestant Action Force” claimed responsibility.

 

  • 11 April 1975: killing of Catholic civilian Owen Boyle. Gunmen shot him through the window of his house in Glencull, near Aughnacloy, County Tyrone. He died on 22 April 1975.  The “Protestant Action Force” claimed responsibility.
  • 21 April 1975: killing of Catholic civilians Marion Bowen (who was eight months pregnant), and her brothers, Seamus and Michael McKenna, by a booby-trap bomb left in Bowen’s house at Killyliss, near Granville, County Tyrone. Seamus and Michael were renovating the house, which had been unoccupied for almost a year. The “Protestant Action Force” claimed responsibility.

 

  • 27 April 1975: gun attack on a social club in Bleary, County Down. Gunmen burst into the Catholic-frequented darts club and opened fire indiscriminately. Catholic civilians Joseph Toman, John Feeney and Brendan O’Hara were killed while others were wounded.

The “Protestant Action Force” claimed responsibility.

May–August

  • 24 May 1975: bomb attack on the home of the Grew family in Moy, County Tyrone. Much of the house was destroyed and six children were injured. In 1981 a serving UDR soldier, a former UDR soldier and a former UVF member were convicted of partaking in the attack.

 

 

  • 1 August 1975: gun attack on a minibus near Gilford, County Down. The minibus had been travelling from Banbridge to Bleary with nine people on board; all were Catholics and most had been returning from a regular bingo session. Like the Miami Showband attack, gunmen in British Army uniforms stopped the minibus at a fake military checkpoint.

They then opened fire, wounding seven people.Catholic civilian Joseph Toland was killed outright and another Catholic civilian, James Marks, died of his wounds in January 1976. According to reliable loyalist sources,UVF members were responsible.

  • 2 August 1975: shooting at Fane Valley Park, Altnamachin, County Armagh.

 

  • 22 August 1975: gun and bomb attack on McGleenan’s Bar in Armagh. A masked gunman burst into the crowded pub and opened fire while another planted a bomb. It exploded as they ran to a getaway car, causing the building to collapse. Catholic civilians John McGleenan, Patrick Hughes and Thomas Morris were killed while many others were injured. According to reliable loyalist sources, UVF members were responsible.

 

  • 24 August 1975: killing of Catholic civilians Colm McCartney and Sean Farmer, who were found shot dead at Altnamachin, near Newtownhamilton, County Armagh. They were driving home from a Gaelic football match in Dublin when they were apparently stopped at a fake military checkpoint by men in British Army uniform.

They were found shot dead a short distance away. Earlier that night, three RUC officers in an unmarked car had been stopped at the same checkpoint but had been allowed through. However, the officers suspected that the checkpoint had been fake. After receiving radio confirmation that there were no authorized checkpoints in the area that night, they reported the incident and requested help from the British Army to investigate it, but no action was taken. The HET said the original police investigation “barely existed”, describing the police’s failure to interview eyewitnesses as “inexplicable”.

Weir claims that an RUC officer confessed to partaking in the attack, alongside a UDR soldier and UVF members. The “Protestant Action Force” claimed responsibility.

September–December

  • 1 September 1975: killing of SDLP member Denis Mullen, who was shot dead by two gunmen who called at the door of his home in Collegeland, County Armagh.

 

  • 4 September 1975: gun and bomb attack on McCann’s Bar in Ballyhegan, County Armagh. Catholic civilian Margaret Hale died of her wounds on 22 September.

 

  • 23 October 1975: killing of Catholic civilians Peter and Jane McKearney. They were shot dead by gunmen who arrived at the door of their house in Listamlat, near Moy, County Tyrone. The gunmen may have mistaken the couple for the parents of an IRA member with the same surname — Margaret McKearney — but they were not related. Margaret McKearney was wanted by Scotland Yard and the UVF had threatened to “eliminate” her.

A contemporary newspaper article reported that “Army issue ammunition” was used. Among the first on the scene were neighbours Charles and Teresa Fox, who were both later killed by the UVF in 1992.

19 December 1975: attacks in Dundalk and Silverbridge. At 6:20pm, a car bomb exploded outside Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk, Co Louth on the southern side of the border. Catholic civilians Hugh Watters and Jack Rooney were killed and more than twenty others were injured. Three hours later, gunmen attacked Donnelly’s Bar and filling station in Silverbridge, less than ten miles away on the northern side of the border. They fired at people outside the building, then fired on the customers and threw a bomb inside.

Two Catholic civilians (Patrick and Michael Donnelly) and an English civilian (Trevor Brecknell, married to a local woman) were killed. The “Red Hand Commando” claimed both attacks and it is believed they were co-ordinated. It is believed the Siverbridge attack was carried out by the Glenanne gang while the Dundalk bombing was carried out by other members of the Mid Ulster UVF, probably with some help from Belfast UVF members. RUC officer Laurence McClure admitted involvement in the Silverbridge attack. UDR Corporal Robert McConnell was also involved, according to John Weir and Lily Shields. Credible evidence from the RUC officer who led the investigation indicates that police believed they knew who the killers were and that the killers included RUC and UDR officers.The RUC refused the Garda Síochána access to a key witness in the Dundalk bombing.

 

Vallely’s pub in Ardress

  • 26 December 1975: bomb attack on Vallelly’s Bar, Ardress, County Armagh. Catholic civilian Seamus Mallon was killed.

1976

  • 4 January 1976: Reavey and O’Dowd killings. At about 6pm, gunmen broke into the Reavey family home in Whitecross, County Armagh. They shot brothers John, Brian and Anthony Reavey. John and Brian were killed outright while Anthony died of a brain hemorrhage less than a month later. Twenty minutes after the shooting, gunmen broke into the O’Dowd family home in Ballydougan, about twenty miles away. They shot dead Joseph O’Dowd and his nephews Barry and Declan O’Dowd. All three were members of the SDLP. Barney O’Dowd was wounded by gunfire. RUC officer Billy McConnell admitted taking part in the Reavey killings and accused RUC Reserve officer James Mitchell of being involved too. According to Weir, UDR Corporal Robert McConnell was the lead gunman in the Reavey killings and Robin Jackson was the lead gunman in the O’Dowd killings. The “Protestant Action Force” claimed responsibility for the two co-ordinated attacks.

 

  • 7 March 1976: car bomb attack on the Three Star Inn, Castleblayney, County Monaghan. Civilian Patrick Mone was killed. The bomb was placed in a car next to that of Mr Mone’s and was not intended for him. According to Weir, the attack was carried out by RUC officer Laurence McClure and UDR soldier Robert McConnell, using explosives provided by UDR Captain John Irwin and stored beforehand at James Mitchell’s farmhouse. A memorial to Patrick Mone is near the site of the bombing in Castleblayney.

 

  • 8 March 1976: bomb and gun attack on Tully’s Bar in Belleeks, County Armagh. RUC officer John Weir admitted helping to plan the attack and accused RUC Reserve officer James Mitchell of being the mastermind.

 

  • 17 March 1976: car bomb attack on Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon on Saint Patrick’s Day. Four Catholic civilians – Joseph Kelly, Andrew Small and 13-year-olds Patrick Bernard and James McCaughey – were killed. Twelve others were injured.

 

  • 15 May 1976: attacks in Charlemont, County Armagh. Gunmen detonated a bomb in the hallway of Clancy’s Bar, killing three Catholic civilians (Felix Clancy, Sean O’Hagan and Robert McCullough) and injuring many others. They then shot into the nearby Eagle Bar, killing a Catholic civilian, Frederick McLaughlin, and wounding several others. Locals claimed that the UDR had been patrolling the village for a number of nights beforehand, but were absent the night of the attacks. UDR soldier Joey Lutton was later convicted of partaking in both attacks.His s tatus as a member of the security forces was withheld from the courts by the police.

 

  • 5 June 1976: attack on the Rock Bar near Keady, County Armagh. Gunmen arrived at the pub and shot Catholic civilian Michael McGrath in the street outside. They then fired at customers through the windows and threw a nail bomb inside, but it only partially exploded. The HET said the RUC investigation is “cursory, ineffective and even fails to interview the only witness, who survived being shot down”.

 RUC officers William McCaughey, Laurence McClure and Ian Mitchell confessed and were convicted for the attack, while RUC officer David Wilson was convicted for withholding knowledge that the attack was to take place. However, only McCaughey served time in prison. According to the book Lethal Allies, the officers were wearing their police uniforms underneath boiler suits.

  • 25 July 1976: killing of Catholic civilian Patrick McNeice, shot dead at his home in Ardress, County Armagh.
  • 16 August 1976: car bomb attack on the Step Inn, Keady, County Armagh. Catholic civilians Elizabeth McDonald and Gerard McGleenon were killed and others were injured. Ten days before the bombing, the RUC asked the Army to put Mitchell’s farmhouse under surveillance because they had intelligence that a bomb was being stored there. According to Weir, the bomb was to be detonated at Renaghan’s Bar across the border in Clontibret, County Monaghan. On 15 August, Weir scouted the route to the pub but was stopped by Gardaí, who told him they were mounting extra security due to a warning from the RUC. Weir told the rest of the gang and they decided to attack Keady instead. The Army surveillance operation was ended and the bomb attack went ahead. Weir, Mitchell and the others involved were not arrested by the RUC and were allowed to remain in the force.

1977 onward

  • 25 February 1977: killing of Catholic RUC officer Joseph Campbell, who was shot dead outside the RUC base in Cushendall, County Antrim. Weir claims that the killers were alleged RUC Special Branch agent Robin Jackson, RUC officer William McCaughey, and R.J. Kerr.

 

  • 19 April 1977: killing of Catholic civilian William Strathearn, a chemist, who was shot dead at his shop in Ahoghill, County Antrim. RUC SPG officers John Weir and Billy McCaughey were convicted for the killing.

 

  • 18 June 1978: kidnapping of Father Hugh Murphy. This was in retaliation for the IRA’s kidnapping and killing of an RUC officer the day before. Murphy was eventually released unharmed after appeals from a number of Protestant ministers, including Ian Paisley. Sergeant Gary Armstrong and Constable Billy McCaughey, both of the RUC (along with the latter’s father, Alexander McCaughey), were convicted for the kidnapping.

 

  • 29 February 1980: killing of Catholic civilian Brendan McLaughlin, who was killed in a drive-by-shooting on Clonard Street, Belfast. He was killed with the same Sterling submachine gun used in the Miami Showband, O’Dowd family and Devlin family killings.

The Glenanne farm and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings

 

James Mitchell, RUC reserve officer and owner of the Glenanne farm

It is claimed in the Barron Report that Billy Hanna had asked James Mitchell for permission to use his farm as a UVF arms dump and bomb-making site.Information that loyalist paramilitaries were regularly meeting at the farm appeared on British Intelligence Corps documents from late 1972.

According to submissions received by Mr Justice Barron, the Glenanne farm was used to build and store the bombs that exploded in Dublin and Monaghan. The report claims they were placed onto Robin Jackson’s poultry lorry, driven across the border to a carpark, then activated by Hanna and transferred to three allocated cars. These cars exploded almost simultaneously in Dublin’s city centre at about 5.30pm during evening rush hour, killing 26 civilians. Ninety minutes later a fourth car bomb exploded in Monaghan, killing another seven civilians.

Mitchell and his female housekeeper, Lily Shields both denied knowledge that the farm was used for illicit paramilitary activity. They also denied partaking in any UVF attacks. In his affidavit, John Weir affirms that the farmhouse was used as a base for UVF operations that included the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Weir also stated that on one occasion an RUC constable gave him two weapons to store at the Glenanne farm:

“He then offered me the two sub-machine guns because he knew about my connection to Loyalist paramilitaries. I accepted them and took them to Mitchell’s farmhouse”.

In his affidavit, Weir recounted when in March 1976 he had gone to the farm where between eight and ten men dressed in camouflage had been parading in the farmyard. Inside he had discussed with Mitchell and others the details of a planned bombing and shooting attack against a nationalist pub, Tully’s in Belleeks. Mitchell had shown him the floor plans of the pub’s interior which he had drawn up highlighting the lack of escape routes for the pub’s patrons. The plan was temporarily called off when it was discovered that the British Army’s Parachute Regiment was on patrol that evening in the area.

Weir returned to Belfast the next day and the attack went ahead that evening, 8 March. There were no casualties, however, as Mitchell’s floor plans had been inaccurate, and the customers had fled into the pub’s living quarters for safety once the shooting had commenced outside, and the bomb only caused structural damage to the building.

Mr. Justice Barron concluded in his report:

“It is likely that the farm of James Mitchell at Glenanne played a significant part in the preparation for the attacks [Dublin and Monaghan bombings]. It is also likely that members of the UDR and RUC either participated in, or were aware of those preparations.”

Miami Showband massacre

 

Site of the Miami Showband killings, in which the Glenanne gang was implicated

On 31 July 1975, four days after Hanna’s shooting and Jackson’s assumption of leadership of the Mid-Ulster brigade, the Miami Showband’s minibus was flagged-down outside Newry by armed UVF men wearing British Army uniforms at a bogus military checkpoint. Two UVF men (Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville) loaded a time delay bomb on the minibus but it exploded prematurely and killed them.

The remaining UVF gunmen then opened fire on the bandmembers, killing three (Brian McCoy, Anthony Geraghty and Fran O’Toole) and wounding two (Stephen Travers and Des McAlea). Two of the three men convicted of the killings and sentenced to life imprisonment were serving members of the UDR, and the third was a former member. The Luger pistol used in the attack was found to have been the same one used to kill Provisional IRA member John Francis Green in January 1975 and was also used in the O’Dowd killings of January 1976.

The following May, the security forces found Jackson’s fingerprints on a home-made silencer attached to a Luger. Although charged, Jackson avoided conviction. A Sterling 9mm submachine gun was also used in the Miami Showband killings. The 2003 Barron Report suggests that the guns were taken from the stockpile of weapons at the Glenanne farm.  The Luger pistol used in the Green, Miami Showband, and O’Dowd attacks was later destroyed by the RUC on 28 August 1978.

Liaison officer Captain Robert Nairac has been linked to the Miami Showband killings and the killing of John Francis Green. Miami Showband survivors Stephen Travers and Des McAlea both testified in court that a man with a “crisp, clipped English accent, and wearing a different uniform and beret” had been at the scene of the explosion and subsequent shootings.

Martin Dillon in The Dirty War, however, adamantly states that Nairac was not involved in either attack. The Cassel Report concluded that there was

“credible evidence that the principal perpetrator [of the Miami Showband attack] was a man who was not prosecuted – alleged RUC Special Branch agent Robin Jackson”.

Although Jackson had been questioned by the RUC following the Showband attack, he was released without having been charged.

Reavey and O’Dowd killings and the Kingsmill massacre

 

The co-ordinated sectarian shootings of the Reavey and O’Dowd families, allegedly perpetrated by the Glenanne gang and organised by Robin Jackson, was followed by the South Armagh Republican Action Force retaliation with a sectarian attack the following day. It stopped a minibus at Kingsmill and shot dead the ten Protestant passengers, after being taken out of their minibus which was transporting them home from their workplace in Glenanne.

In 2001, an unidentified former Glenanne gang member (a former RUC officer who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the gang’s killings) revealed that the gang had planned to kill at least thirty Catholic schoolchildren as revenge for Kingsmill.

It drew up plans to attack St Lawrence O’Toole Primary School in the South Armagh village of Belleeks.   The plan was aborted at the last minute on orders of the UVF leadership, who ruled that it would be “morally unacceptable”, would undermine support for the UVF, and could lead to civil war.

The gang member who suggested the attack was a UDR soldier; he was later shot dead by the IRA. The UVF leadership allegedly suspected that he was working for the British Intelligence Corps, and that military intelligence were seeking to provoke a civil war. In 2004, former gang member McCaughey spoke of the planned retaliation and said that the UVF leadership also feared the potential IRA response.

Convictions

The Cassel Report states that convictions were obtained in only nine of the 25 cases it investigated and that several of those convictions are suspect as erroneous and incomplete. A month before Nairac’s killing, a Catholic chemist, William Strathearn, was gunned down at his home in Ahoghill, County Antrim. SPG officers Weir and McCaughey were charged and convicted for the killing. Weir named Jackson as having been the gunman but Jackson was never interrogated for “reasons of operational strategy”.

The Special Patrol Group was disbanded in 1980 by the RUC after the convictions of Weir and McCaughey for the Strathearn killing.

In December 1978 the authorities raided the Glenanne farm and found weapons and ammunition. This made it necessary for the gang to seek an alternative base of operations and arms dump.  James Mitchell was charged and convicted of storing weapons on his land. Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Robert Lowry presided over his trial on 30 June 1980.

The farm had been under RUC observation for several months before the raid.

On 16 October 1979, Robin Jackson was arrested when he was found with a number of weapons and hoods. In January 1981 he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for possession of guns and ammunition, but was then released in May 1983.

John Weir stated that the Glenanne gang usually did not use the name “UVF” whenever it claimed its attacks; instead it typically employed the cover names of Red Hand Commando, Red Hand Brigade or Protestant Action Force.

Later developments

A judicial review into the actions of the gang was announced by the High Court in Belfast in February 2015. This review found, in July 2017  that the decision by PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott had effectively prevented an “overarching thematic report”  into the activities of the Glenanne gang had breached the victims’ families’ rights as defined in Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court had been told that there was evidence of collusion by elements of the British state in at least three of the cases and Mr. Justice Treacy said that there was a “credible expectation of collusion” in the remaining cases. Therefore, he concluded, the decision of the Chief Constable to end the broader review into the activities of the Glenanne gang and the alleged collusion of elements of the British state in those murders had resulted in a “real risk that this will fuel in the minds of the families the fear that the state has resiled from its public commitments because it is not genuinely committed to addressing the unresolved concerns that the families have of state involvement.”

Mr Justice Treacy gave the parties until the start of September 2017 to try to reach an agreement on the appropriate form of relief.

See Dublin and Monaghan Bombings

See Miami Showband Killings 

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31st July Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

31st  July

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles Claudy Bomb

Monday 31 July 1972 ‘Operation Motorman

Prior to the military operation 4,000 extra troops were brought into Northern Ireland to take part in the dismantling of barricades on the boundaries of ‘no-go’ areas.

It turned out to be the biggest British military operation since the Suez crisis. Some 12,000 British troops supported by tanks and bulldozers smashed through the barricades. Two people, a Catholic teenager and a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), were shot by the British Army during the operation in Derry.

The number of house searches and the number of Catholics interned were to increase over the coming months.

Claudy Bomb

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded three car bombs in Claudy, County Derry killing six people instantly while a further three people died of their injuries over the next 12 days. Five of those who were killed were Catholic civilians while the other four were Protestant civilians.

The first bomb exploded at approximately 10.15am close to McElhinney’s Bar on Main Street, Claudy. Three people died at the scene. At approximately 10.30am there were two further bomb explosions.

The first was outside the Beaufort Hotel, Church Street – three people were killed by the explosion.

The last bomb exploded outside the Post Office on Main Street. This bomb had been spotted earlier by a police officer and a member of the public. No one was killed by this bomb but some of the people cleared from Main Street had moved around the corner to Church Street and were caught in the blast outside the Beaufort Hotel.

Claudy Bomb Victims

See Claudy Bombing

Tuesday 31 July 1973

First Assembly Meeting The new Northern Ireland Assembly met for the first time amid noisy scenes of protest.

Thursday 31 July 1975

Miami Showband Killings / ‘Miami Massacre

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) carried out a gun and bomb attack on the members of the Miami Showband. Three members of the band were killed and one seriously injured during the attack. Two members of the UVF gang were also killed when a bomb they were handling exploded prematurely. The Miami Showband had been playing at ‘The Castle Ballroom’ in Banbridge, Count Down.

Five members of the band left in their minibus and travelled south on the main dual-carriageway. The minibus was stopped by what appeared to be a Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) checkpoint at Buskhill, near Newry. However the checkpoint was bogus and was being operated by approximately 10 members of the UVF – at least four of whom were also members of the UDR.

The members of the band were ordered out of the van and told to line up by the side of the road. Two UVF men then planted a bomb into the van.

The bomb exploded prematurely killing the two UVF members. At this point the other UVF members opened fire on the band musicans. Francis (Fran) O’Toole (29), the lead singer with band and famous for his good looks, was shot 22 times in the face while he lay on his back on the ground. Two other band members Anthony Geraghty (23), who was shot four times in the back, and Brian McCoy (33), shot nine times, both died at the scene.

Another member of the group was shot with a ‘dum-dum’ bullet and seriously injured but survived. The two UVF men who died were Harris Boyle (22) and Wesley Somerville (34); both were also members of the UDR. [There was speculation after the event that the UVF had tried to hide the bomb on the minibus with the intention of the bomb exploding after the members of the van had resumed their journey. It would then have been claimed that the members of the band were transporting explosives on behalf of the IRA.

In 1976 two members of the UDR were sentenced to prison for their part in the attack. They received life sentences but were later released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement

The HET report found that Robin Jackson (aka ‘the Jackal’), a leading mid-Ulster member of the UVF, had been linked by fingerprints to one of the weapons used. Jackson later claimed in police interviews he had been tipped off by a senior RUC officer to lie low after the killings. RUC headquarters was told about this claim, but no action was taken. The HET report said that Jackson claimed that he was told that his fingerprints had been found on a silencer attached to a Luger pistol used in the murders. The HET said the murders raised “disturbing questions about collusive and corrupt behave.

See Miami Showband Killings

Sunday 31 July 1994

Two UDA Men Killed by IRA

Joe Bratty

Joe Bratty (33) and Raymond Elder (32), both members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), were shot and killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) while they were walking along Ormeau Road, Ballynafeigh, Belfast.

Thursday 31 July 1997

A bomb, estimated at between 500 and 1,000 pounds, was left by the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) in the grounds of Carrybridge Hotel, near Lisballaw, County Fermanagh. The British Army defused the bomb.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) announced that it would carry out a review of the electoral system in the region following numerous allegations of fraud during both the last general election and local government elections

The NIO also announced that Andy Wood, who had been chief Press Officer at the NIO for 14 years, was resigning. In the House of Commons it was revealed that David Fell, then head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, would be given £1,000,000 in a lump sum retirement settlement together with £42,188 per annum for six years. iour”.

Friday 31 July 1992

Channel 4 and Box Productions were fined £75,000 in the High Court in London for failing to reveal the source of information for a programme entitled ‘The Committee’ broadcast on 2 October 1991.

The programme claimed that there was an ‘inner circle’ in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) which was colluding with Loyalist paramilitaries in the killing of Catholics.

A subsequent book on the controversy, also entitled ‘The Committee’, was not released in the United Kingdom (UK) by the American publishers who feared libel proceedings

——————————————

Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

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

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

– Thomas Campbell

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

– To the Paramilitaries –

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

24 People lost their lives on the 31st of   July between 1970– 1994

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31 July 1970

Daniel O’Hagan,  (19)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)

Shot during street disturbances, New Lodge Road, Belfast.

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    31 July 1972

 Daniel Hegarty, (15)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)

Shot while walking along Creggan Heights, Creggan, Derry.

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   31 July 1972

Seamus Bradley,  (19)

Catholic

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)

Shot, Bligh’s Lane, Creggan, Derry.

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    31 July 1972

 Kathryn Eakin,   (8) Protestant

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed when car bomb exploded outside McElhinney’s Bar, Main Street, Claudy, County Derry. Inadequate warning given.

See Claudy Bombing

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   31 July 1972

 Elizabeth McElhinney, (59)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed when car bomb exploded outside McElhinney’s Bar, Main Street, Claudy, County Derry. Inadequate warning given.

See Claudy Bombing

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   31 July 1972

 Joseph McCloskey  (38) Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed when car bomb exploded outside McElhinney’s Bar, Main Street, Claudy, County Derry. Inadequate warning given.

See Claudy Bombing

————————————————————–

    31 July 1972

Rose  McLaughlin,   (52) Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Injured when car bomb exploded outside McElhinney’s Bar, Main Street, Claudy, County Derry. She died 3 August 1972. Inadequate warning given.

See Claudy Bombing

————————————————————–

   31 July 1972

 Joseph Connolly,   (15)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Injured when car bomb exploded outside McElhinney’s Bar, Main Street, Claudy, County Derry. He died 8 August 1972. Inadequate warning given.

See Claudy Bombing

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   31 July 1972

Arthur  Hone,  (38) Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Injured when car bomb exploded outside McElhinney’s Bar, Main Street, Claudy, County Derry. He died 12 August 1972. Inadequate warning given.

See Claudy Bombing

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   31 July 1972

 James McClelland,  (65)

Protestant

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed when car bomb exploded outside Beaufort Hotel, Church Street, Claudy, County Derry. Inadequate warning given.

See Claudy Bombing

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    31 July 1972

 David  Miller (60)

Protestant

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed when car bomb exploded outside Beaufort Hotel, Church Street, Claudy, County Derry. Inadequate warning given.

See Claudy Bombing

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   31 July 1972

William  Temple, (16)

Protestant

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Killed when car bomb exploded outside Beaufort Hotel, Church Street, Claudy, County Derry. Inadequate warning given.

See Claudy Bombing

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  31 July 1975

Fran O’Toole,   (27) nfNI

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

Member of Miami showband. Shot shortly after their minibus was stopped at bogus vehicle check point, Buskhill, near Newry, County Down.

See Miami Showband Killings

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   31 July 1975

Brian  McCoy, 33)

Protestant

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

Member of Miami showband. Shot shortly after their minibus was stopped at bogus vehicle check point, Buskhill, near Newry, County Down.

See Miami Showband Killings

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   31 July 1975

 Tony Geraghty  (23) nfNI

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

Member of Miami showband. Shot shortly after their minibus was stopped at bogus vehicle check point, Buskhill, near Newry, County Down.

See Miami Showband Killings

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   31 July 1975

 Harris  Boyle,  (22)

Protestant

Status: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

Also Ulster Defence Regiment member. Killed in premature explosion while planting bomb on minibus belonging to Miami showband, Buskhill, near Newry, County Down.

See Miami Showband Killings

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   31 July 1975

  Wesley Somerville  (34)

Protestant

Status: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

Also Ulster Defence Regiment member. Killed in premature explosion while planting bomb on minibus belonging to Miami showband, Buskhill, near Newry, County Down.

See Miami Showband Killings

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   31 July 1976

 Thomas Cush,   (52)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Shot by sniper while standing at security barrier, Church Street, Lurgan, County Armagh.

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  31 July 1979

 George  Walsh,   (51)

Protestant

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)

Shot from passing car while sitting in stationary car, outside Armagh Courthouse, Armagh.

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   31 July 1981

Thomas  Harpur,   (30)

Protestant

Status: ex-Royal Ulster Constabulary (xRUC),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)

Shot while visiting friend’s home, Mount Sion, Ballycolman, Strabane, County Tyrone.

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   31 July 1981

 Peter  Doherty (36)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)

Shot by plastic bullet at his home, Divis Flats, Belfast.

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    31 July 1990

 John Judge,  (34)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)

Shot outside his home, Valleyside Close, off Springfield Road, Belfast.

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   31 July 1994

 Joe  Bratty,   (33)

Protestant

Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Shot, while walking along Ormeau Road, Ballynafeigh, Belfast.

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   31 July 1994

Raymond  Elder,   (32)

Protestant

Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)

Shot, while walking along Ormeau Road, Ballynafeigh, Belfast.

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Miami Showband Killings – The Day The Music Died

Miami Showband Killing

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

The Day The Music Died

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

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

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

Robin Jackson.jpg

Robin ( The Jackal)  Jackson

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

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

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this post and page are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland.

They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors

Background

Political situation in Northern Ireland

UVF-logo123.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Jackson and the Mid-Ulster UVF

 

refer to caption

Ulster Volunteer Force mural.

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

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

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

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

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

The Miami Showband

 

refer to caption

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Ambush

Bogus checkpoint

refer to caption

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explosion

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shootings

refer to caption

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Forensic and ballistic evidence

 

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

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

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

refer to caption

Sterling submachine gun
similar to the those used in the attack

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Aftermath

Reactions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Robert Nairac

See Robert Nairac

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

Altnamachin attack

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

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

Convictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allegations

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

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

 

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

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

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

Emily O’Reilly Senate of Poland.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later years

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memorials

refer to caption

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The HET Report

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Travers

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

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