Battle of Belfast 1996 1&2
Battle of the Ardoyne Giants
Both remembered with pride
With many thanks to: Eamon McAuley for the original posting on YouTube
With many thanks to: Eamon McAuley for the original posting on YouTube
Follow this link to find out more: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2477861312299173&id=167239363361391
With many thanks to: TheDave1916 for the original posting on YouTube and Saoirse na hÉireann for her very fine tribute to my late father GRMA mó chára
“Welcome to my cell,” says ex-IRA prisoner, Brendan Hughes, as he opens the door of his tiny, threadbare flat on the Falls Road. “Sometimes, I’ve sat here crying for a week. I think of all my comrades’ suffering and I don’t even want to go out. You never really leave prison.”
Hughes killed and saw his friends die too. A former ‘officer commanding’ the Belfast Brigade, he’s a living legend among republicans. Small and swarthy with a mop of black hair, he was known as ‘the Dark’.
His bombs reduced the city to rubble; his gun battles with the British entered republican folklore; he spent 13 years in jail and 53 days on hunger-strike. His best friend was Gerry Adams. Hughes, 57, now lives on disability benefit in Divis Tower – the only part of the flats’ complex not bulldozed.
Over the past 35 years, around 15,000 republicans have been imprisoned on both sides of the Border. On release, those close to the Sinn Féin leadership usually fare best. A minority secure paid community jobs; the rest are employed in IRA owned or supporting bars and taxi-depots.
While some ex-prisoners start businesses independently, the IRA gives others businesses to run. But many former prisoners who – for personal or political reasons – are outside the loop, face greater difficulties.
Last week, an ex-IRA prisoner was one of three men charged in connection with the hijacking of a vodka lorry in Co Meath. Former security force members and prison officers received generous retirement and redundancy payments from the state. “We were decommissioned with nothing,” says Hughes. “IRA men and women, who gave everything to this struggle, got poverty, premature death, and mental problems in return.”
It’s the untold story of the Troubles, he claims: “People stay quiet out of loyalty to the movement.” Money never mattered to him, he says: “I was offered £50,000 to become an informer. I told them £50 million wouldn’t sway me. But it’s hard to see ex-prisoners destitute when the leadership are so wealthy and have holiday homes.”
Hughes mentions Kieran Nugent, the first IRA man on the Blanket protest in Long Kesh. “Kieran died in 2000. They called him a ‘river rat’ because he spent his last days drinking by the river in Poleglass.
“Why didn’t somebody in the movement not see he’d problems and help him? He was the bravest of the brave. The screws ordered him to wear the prison uniform and he replied, ‘You’ll have to nail it to my back.'”
Research suggests a third of prisoners suffer broken relationships. Hughes had a baby daughter and his wife was pregnant with their son when he was arrested. “My wife became involved with another man while I was in prison. The lads inside told me to give her a hard time.
“I called her to the jail and told her there was no problem – she was young and deserved a bit of happiness. She always said the war was my number one priority and she was right. I was selfish. I neglected my family. When I got out of jail, I went to her house and shook her partner’s hand.” Hughes is close to his grown-up daughter but has no relationship with his son.
He was released from prison without skills or qualifications. He began labouring. “A big west Belfast contractor paid us £20 a day. I tried to organise a strike but the other ex-POWs were so desperate, they wouldn’t agree. One of the bosses said ‘Brendan, we’ll give you £25 a day but don’t tell the others’.
“I told him to stick it up his arse, and I never went back. I wrote an article about it for ‘Republican News’ but it was heavily censored. People we’d fought for exploited us, and the movement let them.” Hughes never considered crime – “I’m not a thief” – but doesn’t blame those who do “so long as they target only big business”.
Prison left him with arthritis and weakened his immune system. He’s had pneumonia and heart problems, and suffers depression. “After jail, no-one mentioned counselling. I’d to arrange it myself. They say I’ve post-traumatic stress. The hunger-strikers’ faces are always before me.”
He speaks of dislocation after jail: “Everything was different. I went for a walk, just to be on my own. The old streets were gone and I got lost in the new streets. A man had to bring me home. Everything was noisy. I hate crowds. I only go to the pub in the afternoon when it’s quiet.”
Pictures of Che Guevara – laughing, smoking, drinking coffee – dot the living-room. “My brother is taking me to Cuba. The revolution improved ordinary people’s lives there. It was a waste of time here.”
Beneath a picture of the Sacred Heart, is a photo of two tanned, smiling young men in Long Kesh, arms around each other – Hughes and Adams. “I loved Gerry. I don’t anymore, but I keep the photos to remind me of the good times.”
Willie Gallagher from Strabane joined the Fianna at 13. Two years later he joined the IRA – “I lied about my age”. At 15, he was arrested with a gun. He spent 18 of his next 20 years in jail.
“I don’t feel I lost out because I’d no life to lose. I was the youngest in jail and my comrades spoilt me rotten. I remember digging a tunnel for an escape and thinking it a great adventure.” By now, Gallagher was with the INLA.
“At 20, he embarked on a 50-day hunger-strike after beatings by prison officers: “I lost my eyesight. It took me 18 months to recover. Then, I watched the 10 hunger-strikers die. Such brutality damaged me emotionally. I left jail at 25 and wasn’t interested in a normal life. I was full of bitterness. There was no point in killing Brits in ones and twos – I wanted to kill lots of them.
“I planted a no-warning bomb in a pub the security forces frequented. Then I went home, got washed and headed into town. Twenty people could have been killed and it wouldn’t have fizzed on me.” No-one died but 30 people were injured.
Gallagher went back to jail. His first marriage broke up when he was inside but he remarried within a year of his 1993 release. “My heart never hardened in my personal life, but my reputation means my wife’s friends think I’m aggressive. ‘Would Willie hit you?’ they ask.”
Compared to other prisoners, Gallagher, 48, is lucky. His wife owned her own home – they now have two children – and he secured a paid community job. It’s also harder for those whose don’t come from a republican family, “but my brothers were involved – two did 10 years – so I’d a lot of support.”
He runs a prisoners’ group, Teach na Failte. Funding has been suspended pending an official investigation amidst allegations of criminality which the group denies.
Gallagher has been arrested and questioned following a bank robbery in Strabane. The getaway car was bought under the name Robin Banks. “I wasn’t involved but if ex-prisoners were, good luck to them. I’ve no problem with cigarette or alcohol heists either. People who made enormous sacrifices in jail were left with nothing.
“I know one guy who was very fit and always training before he went into jail but he turned to drink and drugs on release and was found dead at 40. If former political prisoners’ records were expunged, they’d have far better employment opportunities and life wouldn’t be so hard for many.” Gallagher has no doubts about his own past: “It’s better to fight and lose than not to fight at all.”
Tommy McKearney from the Moy, Co Tyrone, served 16 years for a UDR man’s murder. One of his brothers was shot dead by the SAS, and another brother and an uncle were killed by loyalists while he was in jail.
“When I got out my father took me to see my brothers’ graves. But what struck me was the graves of the post-mistress and the baker. I couldn’t believe all the changes in our small community. The world had moved on without me. Many prisoners feel lost for so long.”
McKearney now runs Expac, a Monaghan-based group for ex-prisoners in Border areas. “There’s no ideal time to go to jail, but it’s probably best in your mid-20s. Jail stunts teenagers’ emotional development and prison is very hard in your 40s or 50s because you realise how little time is left.
“Serving more than four years affects people. They start to lose contact with the outside world and all but close relatives. After 10, they’re institutionalised. It’s like marathon runners ‘hitting the wall’. After a certain distance, the battle gets too much physically and psychologically.”
Ex-prisoners often feel their relatives are strangers and they left their real ‘family’ in jail. Those who were single when they went to jail, then “play catch-up” with children and mortgages in their 40s and 50s, McKearney says. “At retirement time, when life should be easing, they’re up to their necks in mortgages and debt.”
The situation has improved since the ceasefire, but ex-prisoners still face employment discrimination, he says. They’re officially barred from civil-service jobs and unofficially from many others. “How many become teachers or journalists?” McKearney asks. “I mightn’t reasonably expect to be able to join the gardai but I think I should be eligible for a job as local librarian.”
Even if ex-prisoners slip through the door, “it’s just like with women – there’s a glass ceiling”. Neither the Equality Authority nor the North’s Equality Commission recognise ex-prisoners as a vulnerable group, he says. “An employer can bin an ex-prisoner’s application form, admit it, and the law provides no protection.”
Low-paid jobs are no better: “A supermarket can draw up a list of 20 candidates for shelf-stackers and cashiers. Its head of security, an ex-Special Branch man, says ‘get rid of numbers one and seven’.”
The Special Branch also visit employers, demanding ex-prisoners are sacked, he says. “I was labouring and they ordered my boss to get rid of me. He told them to get lost, but 99% of employers wouldn’t be so principled.”
Still, it’s easier in Border areas than in parts of country where there’s hostility to republicanism and a smaller black/illegal economy. Ex-prisoners are usually barred from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where many would like to begin new lives.
Anthony McIntyre, who served 18 years imprisonment, says: “I laugh when I hear about an ‘IRA pension plan’. The IRA offered me a Christmas loan and nothing else when I was released. I’d two kids and, I’m not ashamed to say, I had to shop-lift to feed and clothe them.”
Today, Brendan Hughes won’t attend any 1916 parade but he’ll privately pay tribute at the IRA Belfast Brigade monument. “I keep wondering ‘what it was all about?'” he says. “The doctors tell me not to drink but I do. It eases the pain, it doesn’t kill it.” A picture of the hunger-strikers hangs in Hughes’ hallway. ‘Soldiers of our past, heroes of our future’, it says. Somehow, it doesn’t seem that way.
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With many thanks to: Antaine Mac Cathmhaoil for the original posting.
There was a massive demonstration of popular resistance to British injustice on Wednesday when thousands upon thousands of people took to the streets of Belfast for the funeral of IRA Volunteer Larry Marley.
Two previous attempts to bury Volunteer Marley, who had been murdered by loyalist assassins at his Ardoyne home almost a week earlier, were frustrated by the heavy-handed actions of the RUC who did everything in their power to prevent a dignified funeral taking place.
Far from intimidating the Marley family, the actions of the RUC merely strengthened their resolve to ensure that their husband and father was buried with proper respect. For two days and nights, the eyes of Belfast, the rest of Ireland and beyond turned towards Ardoyne and to the bravery of the Marley family in the midst of their grief. That bravery inspired others. The number of mourners outside the Marley home grew and, at short notice, major demonstrations against the activities of the RUC and in support of the family were held in Andersonstown and Ardoyne itself.
Yet it was not until the actual funeral that the full measure of popular feeling could be properly gauged. Ignoring the vast array of plastic-bullet guns, helmets, armoured cars and rifles which are part and parcel of the machinery of repression seen at every republican funeral in recent years, the people came out in a spontaneous and moving gesture of solidarity and defiance.
Efforts by the RUC to impose its sectarian control over the funeral were frustrated by the sheer number of people, young and old, who turned out to join the procession or to line the route.
With many thanks to: Clan na Gael.
Was twenty-five-year-old Francis Hughes, from Bellaghy in South Derry: a determined, committed and totally fearless IRA Volunteer who organised a spectacularly successful series of military operations before his capture, and was once described by the RUC as their ‘most wanted man’ in the North.
Eluding for several years the relentless efforts of the British army, UDR and RUC to track him down, Francis operated boldly throughout parts of Tyrone and north and south Antrim, but particularly in his native South Derry, with a combination of brilliant organisation and extreme daring – until his capture after a shoot-out with the SAS – which earned him widespread popular renown, and won general support for the republican cause, as well as giving him an undisputed reputation as a natural-born soldier and leader.
Francis Hughes was born on February 28th, 1956, the youngest son amongst ten children, into a staunchly republican family which has been solidly rooted, for most of this century, in the townland of Tamlaghtduff, or Scribe Road, as it is otherwise called.
His parents who married in 1939, are Patrick Joseph Hughes, aged 72, a retired small cattle farmer born in the neighbouring town land of Ballymacpeake, and Margaret, aged 68, whose maiden name is McElwee, and who was born in Tamlaghtduff.
A quarter-of-a-mile away from the Hughes’ bungalow, on the other side of the Scribe Road is the home of Thomas and Benedict McElwee – first cousins of Francis. Benedict is currently serving a sentence in the H-Blocks. Thomas – the eldest – embarked on hunger strike on June 8th, and died sixty-two days later on August 8th.
In Tamlaghtduff, as throughout the rest of Bellaghy, sympathy as well as active support for the republican cause runs at a very high level, a fact testified to by the approximately twenty prisoners-of-war from around Bellaghy alone.
Francis was an extremely popular person, both to his family and to his republican colleagues and supporters.
His father recalls that as a boy he was always whistling, joking and singing: a trait which he carried over into his arduous and perilous days as a republican, when he was able to transmit his enthusiasm and optimism both to Volunteers under his command and to Sympathisers who offered them – at great personal risk, food and shelter
It was qualities like these, of uncomplaining tirelessness, of consideration for the morale of those around him, and his ruling wish to lead by example, that have made Francis Hughes one of the most outstanding Irish revolutionary soldiers this war has produced and a man who was enormously respected in his native countryside.
As a boy, Francis went first to St. Mary’s primary school in Bellaghy, and from there to Clady intermediate school three miles away.
He enjoyed school and was a fairly good student whose favourite subjects were history and woodwork. He was not particularly interested in sport, but was very much a lively, outdoor person, who enjoyed messing around on bikes, and later on, in cars.
He enjoyed dancing and regularly went to ceilidh as a young man, even while ‘on the run’, although after ‘wanted’ posters of him appeared his opportunities became less frequent.
His parents recall that Francis was always extremely helpful around the house, and that he was a “good tractor man”.
Leaving school at sixteen, Francis got a job with his sister Vera’s husband, as an apprentice painter and decorator, completing his apprenticeship shortly before ‘going on the run’.
In later days, Francis would often do a spot of decorating for the people whose house he was staying in
On one occasion, shortly after the ‘wanted’ posters of him had been posted up all over South Derry, Francis was painting window frames at the front of the house he was staying in when two jeep-loads of British soldiers drove past. While the other occupants of the house froze in apprehension, Francis waved and smiled at the curious Brits as they passed by, and continued painting.
It was such utter fearlessness, and the ability to brazen his way through, that saved him time and time again during his relatively long career as an active service Volunteer.
On one such occasion, when stopped along with two other Volunteers as they crossed a field, Francis told a Brit patrol that they didn’t feel safe walking the roads, as the IRA were so active in the area. The Brits allowed the trio to walk on, but after a few yards Francis ran back to the enemy patrol to scrounge a cigarette and a match from one of the British soldiers.
A turning point for Francis, in terms of his personal involvement in the struggle, occurred at the age of seventeen, when he and a friend were stopped by British soldiers at Ardboe, in County Tyrone, as they returned from a dance one night.
The pair were taken out of their car and so badly kicked that Francis was bed-ridden for several days. Rejecting advice to make a complaint to the RUC, Francis said it would be a waste of time, but pledged instead to get even with those who had done it, “or with their friends.”
Notwithstanding such a bitter personal experience of British thuggery, and the mental and physical scars it left, Francis’ subsequent involvement in the Irish Republican Army was not based on a motive of revenge but on a clear and abiding belief in his country’s right to national freedom.
During the early part of ‘the troubles’, the ‘Officials’ were relatively strong in the South Derry area and Francis’ first involvement was with them.
However, disillusioned, as were many others, with the ‘Sticks’ unilateral ceasefire in 1972, he left to set up and command an ‘independent’ military unit in the Bellaghy area. About the end of 1973 the entire unit – including Francis – was formally recruited into the IRA.
Francis’ involvement brought him increasingly to the attention of the British army and RUC and he was regularly held for a few hours in Magherafelt barracks and stopped on the road by British patrols; and on one occasion he was held for two days at Ballykelly camp.
As the 1975 IRA/British army truce came to an end Francis, fearing his imminent arrest, went ‘on the run’. From that time on, he led a life perpetually on the move, often moving on foot up to twenty miles during one night then sleeping during the day – either in fields and ditches or in safe houses; a soldierly sight in his black beret and combat uniform, and openly carrying his rifle, a handgun and several grenades as well as food rations.
The enemy reacted with up to fifty early morning raids on Francis’ home, and raids on the homes of those suspected of harbouring him. Often, houses would be staked out for days on end in the hope of capturing Francis. Often, it was only his sheer nerve and courage which saved him. One night, Francis was followed to a ‘safe house’ and looked out to see the Brits surrounding the place and closing in. Without hesitating, the uniformed Francis stepped outside the door, clutching his rifle, and in the darkness crept gradually through their lines, occasionally mumbling a few short words to British soldiers he passed, who, on seeing the shadowy uniformed figure, mistook him for one of themselves.
On numerous occasions, Francis and his comrades were stopped at checkpoints along the country roads while moving weapons from one locality to another but always calmly talked their way through. Once, a UDR soldier actually recognised Francis and his fellow Volunteers in a car but, fully aware that Francis would not be taken without a shoot-out, he waved their car on.
The years before Francis’ capture were extremely active ones in the South Derry and surrounding areas with the commercial centres of towns and villages like Bellaghy, Maghera, Toome, Magherafelt and Castledawson being blitzed by car bombs on several occasions, and numerous shooting attacks being carried out as well.
Among the Volunteers under his command Francis had a reputation of being a strict disciplinarian and perfectionist who could not tolerate people taking their republican duties less seriously, and selflessly, than was necessary. He also, however, inspired fellow Volunteers by his example and by always being in the thick of things, and he thrived on pressure.
During one night-time operation, a weapon was missing and Francis gave away his own weapon to another Volunteer, taking only a torch himself which he used to its maximum effect by shining it at an oncoming enemy vehicle, which had its headlights off, to enable the other Volunteers to direct their fire.
Francis’ good-humoured audacity also showed itself in his republican activity. At the height of his ‘notoriety’ he would set up road-blocks, hoping to lure the Brits into an ambush (which by hard experience they learned to avoid), or he would ring up the Brits and give them his whereabouts!
Such joking, however, did not extend only to the enemy. One day, lying out in the fields, he spied one of his uncles cycling down a country road. Taking careful aim with his rifle he shot away the bike’s rear wheel. His uncle ran alarmed, into a nearby house shouting that loyalists had just tried to assassinate him!
The determination of the British army and RUC to capture Francis Hughes came to a head in April 1977. In that month, on Good Friday, a car containing three IRA Volunteers was overtaken and flagged down on the Moneymore Road at Dunronan, in County Derry, by a carload of RUC men.
The Volunteers attempted to make a U-turn but their car got stuck in a ditch as the armed RUC men approached. Jumping from the car, the Volunteers opened fire, killing two RUC men and injuring another before driving off. A hundred yards further up the road a second gun battle ensued but the Volunteers escaped safely.
Subsequently, the RUC issued a ‘wanted’ poster of Francis Hughes and two fellow republicans, Dominic McGlinchey and Ian Milne, in which Francis was named as the ‘most wanted man’ in the North.
When his eventual capture came, it was just as he had always said it would be: “I’ll get a few of them before they get me.”
At 8.00 p.m. on March 16th, 1978, two SAS soldiers took up a stake-out position opposite a farm, on the south side of the Ronaghan road, about two miles west of Maghera, in the townland of Ballyknock.
At 9.15 p.m. they saw two men in military uniform and carrying rifles, walking in single file along the hedgeline of the field towards them. Using their ‘night sights’ in the darkness, the SAS men observed the military behaviour of the two on-comers and having challenged them, heard the men mumble a few words to each other in Irish accents and assumed that the pair were UDR soldiers.
One of the pair, in fact, was Francis Hughes, the other a fellow Volunteer, and with only a second’s hesitation both Volunteers cocked their rifles and opened fire. One SAS man fell fatally wounded but the other – though shot in the stomach – managed to fire a long burst from his sterling sub-machine gun at the retreating figures, and to make radio contact with his base.
Within three minutes, nearby Brit patrols were on the scene and the area was entirely sealed off. The following morning hundreds of Brits took part in a massive search operation.
Fifteen hours after the shooting, at around 12.15 p.m. the next day, they found Francis Hughes sitting in the middle of a gorse bush in a field three hundred yards away, bleeding profusely from a bullet wound which had shattered his left thigh. As he was taken away on a stretcher he yelled defiantly, through his considerable pain: “Up the Provies”.
His comrade, though also wounded, slightly, managed to evade the dragnet and to escape.
How he survived the night of the shooting, possibly the coldest night of that year, bears eloquent testimony to Francis’ grim determination to evade capture. After being shot, he dragged himself – unable to walk – across the Ronaghan road and across two fields without a sound, before burying himself in a thick clump of gorse bushes.
At one point, en-route, Francis fell down a sharp drop between fields, and his left leg – the muscle and bone completely disintegrated – came up over his shoulder; but Francis worked it carefully down before continuing to crawl on his way. In his hiding place, he lay through the night, motionless and soundless, till his capture.
When he was found, unable to move through the cold, pain and stiffness, Francis, knowing that both Brits and RUC were on instructions to shoot him on sight, gave his name as Eamonn Laverty and his address as Letterkenny, County Donegal.
Francis was taken to Magherafelt hospital and from there to Musgrave Park military hospital in Belfast, and it was only then that his true identity was revealed. He spent ten months in Musgrave Park where his leg was operated on, reducing his thigh bone by an inch-and-a-half and leaving him dependent on a crutch to walk.
On Wednesday, January 24th, 1979, Francis was taken from Musgrave Park hospital to Castlereagh interrogation centre where he spent six days before being charged on January 29th. For more than four days Francis refused food and drink, fearing that it might have been drugged to make him talk.
His behaviour in Castlereagh was typical of the fiercely determined and courageous republican Volunteer that he was. His frustrated interrogators later described him as “totally uncooperative”.
Nevertheless, at his trial in Belfast in February 1980, after a year on remand in Crumlin Road jail, Francis was found ‘guilty’ on all charges.
He received a life sentence for killing the SAS soldier, and fourteen years for attempting to kill the other SAS man. He also received fifty-five years on three other charges.
In the H-Blocks, Francis immediately went on the protest for political status and, despite the severe disability of his wounded leg, displayed the same courage and determination that had been his hallmark before his capture.
And, just as always wanting to be in the thick of things and wanting to shoulder responsibility for other political prisoners as he had earlier looked after the morale of fellow Volunteers, Francis was one of those to volunteer for the hunger strike which began on October 27th, 1980. He was not one of the first seven hunger strikers selected but was among the thirty men who joined the hunger strike in its closing stages as Sean McKenna’s condition became critical.
That utter selflessness and courage came to its tragic conclusion on Tuesday, May 12th, when Francis died at 5.43 p.m. after fifty-nine days on Hunger Strike.
With many thanks to: Sean Larkin – South Derry.
I am quoting what would be his official last words on earth. In Nomine Patris, et Filli, et Spiritu Sancti.
“If they aren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won’t break you. They won’t break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show.
It is then we’ll see the rising of the moon.”
PIRA OC MP Bobby Sands
March 17, 1981
Bobby Sands’ last entry into his diary this day in 1981.
“St Patrick’s Day today and, as usual, nothing noticeable. I was at Mass, my hair cut shorter and much better also. I didn’t know the priest who said Mass.
The orderlies were giving out food to all who were returning from Mass. They tried to give me a plate of food. It was put in front of my face but I continued on my way as though nobody was there.
I got a couple of papers today, and as a kind of change the Irish News was there. I’m getting any news from the boys anyway.
I saw one of the doctors this morning, an ill-mannered sort. It tries me. My weight was 57.70 kgs. I had no complaints.
An official was in with me and gave me some lip. He said, ‘I see you’re reading a short book. It’s a good thing it isn’t a long one for you won’t finish it.’
That’s the sort of people they are. Curse them! I don’t care. It’s been a long day.
I was thinking today about the hunger-strike. People say a lot about the body, but don’t trust it. I consider that there is a kind of fight indeed. Firstly the body doesn’t accept the lack of food, and it suffers from the temptation of food, and from other aspects which gnaw at it perpetually.
The body fights back sure enough, but at the end of the day everything returns to the primary consideration, that is, the mind. The mind is the most important.
But then where does this proper mentality stem from? Perhaps from one’s desire for freedom. It isn’t certain that that’s where it comes from.
If they aren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won’t break you. They won’t break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show.
It is then we’ll see the rising of the moon…”
The Milltown Massacre took place on 16th March 1988 in Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery. During the funerals of IRA volunteers Mairéad Farrell, Séan Savage and Dan McCann Murdered in Gibraltar by the S.A.S, an Ulster Defence Association (UDA) volunteer, Michael Stone, attacked the mourners with hand grenades and pistols. As Stone then ran towards the nearby motorway, a large crowd began chasing him and he continued shooting and throwing grenades. Three people had been killed and more than 60 wounded. The evil, attack was filmed by television news crews and caused shock around the world.The funeral service and requiem mass went ahead as planned, and the cortege made its way to Milltown Cemetery, off the Falls Road. Present were thousands of mourners and top members of the IRA. Two RUC helicopters hovered overhead. Stone claimed that he entered the graveyard through the front gate with the mourners. Some eyewitnesses claimed to have seen Stone enter the graveyard from the M1 motorway with three other people (two men and a woman). The others walked across the graveyard and later left on the Falls Road side. As the third coffin was about to be lowered into the ground, Stone threw two grenades—which had a seven-second delay—toward the republican plot and began shooting.
The first grenade exploded near the crowd and about 20 yards (18 m) from the grave. Amid the panic and confusion, people took cover behind gravestones. Stone began jogging toward the motorway, several hundred yards away, chased by dozens of men and youths. He continued shooting and throwing grenades at his pursuers. Three people were killed while pursuing Stone two Catholic civilians Thomas McErlean (20) and John Murray (26), and a Provisional IRA volunteer, Caoimhín Mac Brádaigh (30). During the attack about 60 people were wounded by bullets, grenade shrapnel and fragments of marble and stone from gravestones. Among those wounded was a pregnant mother of four, a 72-year-old grandmother and a ten-year-old boy.
In the 19 March edition of the Irish Times, columnist Kevin Myers, an opponent of republican paramilitary violence, wrote: “Unarmed young men charged against the man hurling grenades and firing an automatic pistol. The young men stalking their quarry repeatedly came under fire; they were repeatedly bombed; they repeatedly advanced. Indeed this was not simply bravery; this was a heroism which in other circumstances, I have no doubt, would have won the highest military decorations.
A white van that had been parked by the motorway suddenly drove off as Stone fled from the angry crowd. The RUC said the van was part of an uninvolved police patrol. Stone later claimed that a getaway vehicle, driven by a UDA member, was waiting for him on the motorway but the driver “panicked” and left. By the time Stone reached the motorway, he had seemingly run out of ammunition. He ran out onto the road and tried to stop cars, but was caught by the crowd and beaten. RUC officers quickly arrived at that point and arrested him.
with many thanks to: Sean Larkin – South Derry.