The Milltown Massacre

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.