seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The Milltown Cemetery Attack

The Milltown Cemetery attack takes place on March 16, 1988 at Milltown Cemetery in Belfast, Northern Ireland. During the large funeral of three Provisional Irish Republican Army members killed in Gibraltar, an Ulster Defence Association (UDA) member, Michael Stone, attacks the mourners with hand grenades and pistols.

On March 6, 1988, Provisional IRA members Daniel McCann, Seán Savage and Mairéad Farrell are shot dead by the Special Air Service (SAS) in Gibraltar, in Operation Flavius. The three had allegedly been preparing a bomb attack on British military personnel there, but the deaths outrage republicans as the three were unarmed and shot without warning. Their bodies arrive in Belfast on March 14 and are taken to their family homes. Tensions are high as the security forces flood the neighbourhoods where they had lived, to try to prevent public displays honouring the dead. For years, republicans have complained about heavy-handed policing of IRA funerals, which have led to violence. In a change from normal procedure, the security forces agree to stay away from the funeral in exchange for guarantees that there will be no three-volley salute by IRA gunmen. The British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) will instead keep watch from the sidelines. This decision is not made public.

Michael Stone is a loyalist, a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) who had been involved in several killings and other attacks, and who describes himself as a “freelance loyalist paramilitary.” He learns that there will be little security force presence at the funerals, and plans “to take out the Sinn Féin and IRA leadership at the graveside.” He says his attack is retaliation for the Remembrance Day bombing four months earlier, when eleven Protestants had been killed by an IRA bomb at a Remembrance Sunday ceremony. He claims that he and other UDA members considered planting bombs in the graveyard, but abandon the plan because the bombs might miss the republican leaders.

The funeral service and Requiem Mass go ahead as planned, and the cortege makes its way to Milltown Cemetery, off the Falls Road. Present are thousands of mourners and top members of the IRA and Sinn Féin, including Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Two RUC helicopters hover overhead. Stone claims that he entered the graveyard through the front gate with the mourners and mingled with the large crowd, although one witness claims to have seen him enter from the M1 motorway with three other people.

As the third coffin is about to be lowered into the ground, Stone throws two grenades, which have a seven-second delay, toward the republican plot and begins shooting. The first grenade explodes near the crowd and about 20 yards from the grave. There is panic and confusion, and people dive for cover behind gravestones. Stone begins jogging toward the motorway, several hundred yards away, chased by dozens of men and youths. He periodically stops to shoot and throw grenades at his pursuers.

Three people are killed while pursuing Stone – Catholic civilians Thomas McErlean (20) and John Murray (26), and IRA member Caoimhín Mac Brádaigh (30), also known as Kevin Brady. During the attack, about 60 people are wounded by bullets, grenade shrapnel and fragments of marble and stone from gravestones. Among those wounded is a pregnant mother of four, a 72-year-old grandmother and a ten-year-old boy. Some fellow loyalists say that Stone made the mistake of throwing his grenades too soon. The death toll would likely have been much higher had the grenades exploded in mid-air, “raining lethal shrapnel over a wide area.”

A white van that had been parked on the hard shoulder of the motorway suddenly drives off as Stone flees from the angry crowd. There is speculation that the van is part of the attack, but the RUC says it was part of a police patrol, and that the officers sped off because they feared for their lives. Stone says he had arranged for a getaway car, driven by a UDA member, to pick him up on the hard shoulder of the motorway, but the driver allegedly “panicked and left.” By the time he reaches the motorway, he has seemingly run out of ammunition. He runs out onto the road and tries to stop cars, but is caught by the crowd, beaten, and bundled into a hijacked vehicle. Armed RUC officers in Land Rovers quickly arrive, “almost certainly saving his life.” They arrest him and take him to Musgrave Park Hospital for treatment of his injuries. The whole event is recorded by television news cameras.

That evening, angry youths in republican districts burn hijacked vehicles and attack the RUC. Immediately after the attack, the two main loyalist paramilitary groups—the UDA and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)—deny responsibility. Sinn Féin and others “claimed that there must have been collusion with the security forces, because only a small number of people knew in advance of the reduced police presence at the funerals.”

Three days later, during the funeral of one of Stone’s victims, Caoimhín Mac Brádaigh, two British Army corporals, Derek Wood and David Howes, in civilian clothes and in a civilian car drive into the path of the funeral cortège, apparently by mistake. Many of those present believe the soldiers are loyalists intent on repeating Stone’s attack. An angry crowd surrounds and attacks their car. Corporal Wood draws his service pistol and fires a shot into the air. The two men are then dragged from the car before being taken away, beaten and shot dead by the IRA. The incident is often referred to as the corporals killings and, like the attack at Milltown, much of it is filmed by television news cameras.

In March 1989, Stone is convicted for the three murders at Milltown, for three paramilitary murders before, and for other offences, receiving sentences totaling 682 years. Many hardline loyalists see him as a hero and he becomes a loyalist icon. After his conviction, an issue of the UDA magazine Ulster is devoted to Stone, stating that he “stood bravely in the middle of rebel scum and let them have it.” Apart from time on remand spent in Crumlin Road Gaol, he spends all of his sentence in HM Prison Maze. He is released after serving 13 years as a result of the Good Friday Agreement.

In November 2006, Stone is charged with attempted murder of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, having been arrested attempting to enter the Parliament Buildings at Stormont while armed. He is subsequently convicted and sentenced to a further 16 years imprisonment. He is released on parole in 2021.


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Funeral of Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick

dana-fitzpatrick-funeralOn Saturday, March 18, 2017, President Michael D. Higgins is among hundreds of mourners at St. Patrick’s Church in Glencullen for the funeral of Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who died when her Sikorsky S-92 helicopter (call sign Rescue 116) crashed off the County Mayo coast on March 14.

The funeral cortege arrives at the church in Glencullen at 11:00 AM and is met by an honour guard from the Coast Guard and other rescue services. Captain Fitpatrick’s parents, four siblings, her young son Fionn, and other family members accompany the coffin into the church.

In addition to President Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross are in attendance, as is Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Also present are members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Civil Defence Ireland, mountain rescue and many other groups.

In his homily, Parish Priest Fr. Andrew O’Sullivan says St. Patrick’s church has seen many sad and tragic funerals but few as sad and sorrowful as this one. He pays tribute to the Fitzpatrick family and says they and the community have lost a loved and valued member. He adds that the congregations’ thoughts are with Captain Fitzpatrick’s three crew members who have yet to be found.

Fr. O’Sullivan says the family takes comfort from the fact that Dara had lived life to the fullest. Mourners hear that as well as being a loving mother, Dara was an avid traveller, cook and animal lover.

The funeral Mass is followed by cremation at Mount Jerome Crematorium.

Poor weather conditions off the west coast of Ireland hamper the search for the three missing crew members and the wreckage of the Coast Guard helicopter R116. On March 22, the wreckage of the main part of the helicopter is detected by underwater cameras about 60 metres off Blackrock Island. The body of co-pilot Captain Mark Duffy is found in the cockpit section of the wreckage. A helmet and lifejacket belonging to one of the two missing crewmen is discovered on a beach on the Mullet Peninsula on September 30, 2017.

(From: Captain Dara Fitzpatrick remembered during funeral service, RTÉ.ie, the website of Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster, March 18, 2017)


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State Funeral for Thomas Kent

thomas-kent-funeralA state funeral for Thomas Kent takes place on September 18, 2015, 99 years after his execution following the 1916 Easter Rising. Thousands of people line the route from Collins Barracks in Cork to the Church of Saint Nicholas, Castlelyons, County Cork for the funeral mass.

Kent is executed after a gun battle with members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) who come to arrest him and his brothers on May 2, 1916, during the aftermath of the Easter Rising. During the ensuing fight, head constable William Rowe is killed and Kent’s brother Richard later dies of his wounds. He is executed by firing squad on May 9, 1916 in the Military Detention Barracks, Cork and is buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds.

Apart from Roger Casement, Kent is the only one of the sixteen men executed after the Easter Rising to be executed outside Dublin. In June 2015, his remains are exhumed and DNA testing confirms their identity.

A ripple of applause breaks through the crowd when the funeral cortege arrives at the church near where Kent was born and raised. The church is unable to accommodate all the visitors so a marquee is set up on the grounds of the church.

President Michael D. Higgins is in attendance along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton, Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. The diplomatic corps is represented by British ambassador Dominick Chilcott, U.S. ambassador Kevin O’Malley and the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown. The extended Kent family is represented mostly by the relatives of Edmund and William Kent, Thomas Kent’s brothers.

Kent’s funeral “writes the final chapter in a long ordeal for the Kent family,” the Bishop of Cloyne William Crean tells the congregation. Delivering the funeral eulogy, Cmdt. Gerry White says Thomas Kent was once known only for being the man who gave his name to Kent Station in Cork. “Today, however, all that is changed. Today, because of the recent discovery of his remains, Thomas Kent has once again become someone who is very much in the present. Today, members of Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Defence Forces, will render the military honours that were denied him 99 years ago. Today, he will no longer be the ‘Forgotten Volunteer.’ Today, after 99 years, Thomas Kent is finally coming home.”

Thomas Kent’s life is represented by a picture of the family home, rosary beads, a pioneer pin and a leabhair gaeilge representing his interests in life. He is buried in the graveyard at Castlelyons. Taoiseach Enda Kenny gives the funeral oration.

(From: “State funeral for executed 1916 rebel Thomas Kent” by Ronan McGreevy and Éanna Ó Caollaí, The Irish Times, September 18, 2015 | Pictured: The remains of Thomas Kent as they are carried into St. Nicholas’ Church, Castlelyons, County Cork, photograph by Alan Betson)


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State Funeral for Former Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey

A State funeral is held in Dublin at noon on June 16, 2006 for former taoiseach Charles J. Haughey followed by burial at St. Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton.

Large crowds turned out for the proceedings including VIP guests, members of the Fianna Fáil party and members of the Oireachtas, who begin arriving at the church at 10:00 AM, although some members of the public begin queuing for a chance to get into the church as early as 8:00 AM. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, accompanied by his aide-de-camp, arrive at 11:45 AM, followed shortly afterwards by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr. Catherine Byrne. Many members of the public watch and listen to the service outside the church on loudspeakers and big screens.

Approximately 2,000 people pack into the large church for the two-hour service, which includes contributions from members of Haughey’s family and from the Fianna Fail Teachta Dála (TD) Brian Lenihan, Haughey’s friend P.J. Mara and the poet Brendan Kennelly. The majority of seating in the church is reserved for friends of the Haughey family and members of the public from the Dublin North Central constituency that he represented for nearly 40 years.

The requiem Mass is celebrated by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin, and by Haughey’s brother, Fr. Eoghan Haughey, OMI. Minister of State Brian Lenihan, the son of former tánaiste Brian Lenihan, conducts the first reading, while the second reading is delivered by Haughey’s daughter Eimear Mulhern. Members of Haughey’s family, including his son, Ciarán, and old friends such as his former political adviser, P.J. Mara, read prayers. Haughey’s son, Seán, who inherited his father’s seat in Dáil Éireann, gives his personal reflections on his father’s life as does poet Brendan Kennelly near the end of the ceremony.

After the solemn Requiem Mass, the coffin is removed from the church by Military Police pallbearers from the 2nd Military Police Company at Cathal Brugha Barracks, followed by President Mary McAleese and her husband, the immediate Haughey family, the Lord Mayor, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste Mary Harney.

The funeral cortege forms outside the church. Soldiers drawn from the 2nd Eastern Brigade battalion carry the Tricolour and the brigade’s flag, escorted by 24 military cadets from the Curragh Military College. Military Police pallbearers carry the coffin to the graveside, where they remove the Tricolour before the prayer service begins.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern delivers a graveside oration in which he says Haughey was “blessed with a strong intellect, natural charisma and driving spirit which was to make him the dominant public figure in the late 20th century Ireland.” A Naval Service firing party fires three volleys over the grave, while the Defence Forces‘ Band plays the Last Post and Reveille.