The 10,000 strong march sets off from Irish Street at 1500 GMT to call for an end to the “no-go” areas on the east bank side of the River Foyle.
The biggest security operation since the start of the Troubles is set up for the march with soldiers on every corner. The bridge is the centre of the trouble as it joins the Protestant side of the town to the “no-go” Roman Catholic areas of Bogside and Creggan.
Despite pleas from march organisers for the violence to stop it does not end until the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) steps in. They form a human barrier between the protesters and the Army. The confrontation lasts an hour and results in one man being injured but no arrests.
A spokesman for the Army says, “Naturally it is regretted that we have to fire rubber bullets but there we are. The only alternative is the Bogside would be invaded by the Protestant marchers.”
Despite the violence, William Craig, the leader of the Ulster Vanguard movement, who organised the march, says the marches will go on. “We are no longer protesting – we are demanding action,” he says.
The bombing takes place at a time when the Northern Ireland Office arranges multi-party talks, known as the Brooke/Mayhew talks, on the future of Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin members are not invited to attend because of their links with the IRA, which prevents them from being recognised as a “constitutional” party. The talks end in failure soon after.
At 11:30 PM, a driverless truck loaded with 2,500 lb (1,100 kg) of a new type of homemade explosive is rolled down a hill at the rear of the barracks and crashes through the perimeter fence. According to a witness, a UDR lance corporal who alerts the base, the truck is a Mercedes, and a Toyota HiAce van carrying at least two men acts as a support vehicle. The men are seen outside the parked van, masked and armed, one with a handgun and the other with a submachine gun. This same witness alerts the base believing the IRA team are about to carry out a mortar attack, and debris thrown up on the roof by the lorry as it plunges down the hill is misinterpreted by some inside the base as a mortar projectile. Automatic fire is heard by other witnesses just before the main blast. A Reuters report claims that IRA members trigger the bomb by firing upon the driverless vehicle. It is later determined that the lorry had been stolen the day before in Kingscourt, County Cavan, in the Republic of Ireland.
The blast leaves a crater 200 ft. (61 m) deep and throws debris and shrapnel as far as 300 yards (270 m). The explosion can be heard over 30 miles (48 km) away, as far as Dundalk. This is the biggest bomb detonated by the IRA up to this point. Most of the UDR base is destroyed by the blast and the fire that follows. At first, a massive mortar attack is suspected. Some livestock are killed and windows broken around the nearby Mossfield housing as a result of the explosion. The cars parked outside the base are obliterated. Ceilings are brought down and the local primary school is also damaged.
The barracks is usually manned by eight soldiers, but at the time there are 40 people in the complex, attending a social event. Three UDR soldiers – Lance Corporal Robert Crozier (46), Private Sydney Hamilton (44) and Private Paul Blakely (30) – are killed and ten are wounded. Two of them are caught by the explosion when they come out to investigate after a sentry gives the alarm. A third dies inside the base. Four civilians are also wounded. The Provisional IRA claims responsibility two days later.
The base is never rebuilt. It had outlived its operational usefulness and a decision had already been taken to close it down. The decision not to rebuild the compound raises some controversy among unionists. A memorial stone is erected by the main entrance road with the names of the UDR soldiers killed over the years while serving in Glenanne.
Williams’s father works as a butcher and her mother is a housewife. She receives her primary education from St. Teresa Primary School in Belfast and attends St. Dominic’s Grammar School for Girls for her secondary school studies. Upon completing her formal education, she takes up a job of office receptionist.
Rare for the time in Northern Ireland, Williams’s father is Protestant and her mother is Catholic, a family background from which she later says she derived religious tolerance and a breadth of vision that motivated her to work for peace. Early in the 1970s she joins an anti-violence campaign headed by a Protestant priest. She credits this experience for preparing her to eventually found her own peace movement, which focuses on creating peace groups composed of former opponents, practicing confidence-building measures, and the development of a grassroots peace process.
Williams is drawn into the public arena after witnessing the death of three children on August 10, 1976, when they are hit by a car whose driver, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) paramilitary named Danny Lennon, had been fatally shot in return fire by a soldier of the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. As she turns the corner to her home, she sees the three Maguire children crushed by the swerving car and rushes to help. Their mother, Anne Maguire, who is with the children, dies by suicide in January 1980.
Williams is so moved by the incident that within two days of the tragic event, she obtains 6,000 signatures on a petition for peace and gains wide media attention. With Mairead Corrigan, she co-founds the Women for Peace which, with Ciaran McKeown, later becomes the Community of Peace People.
Williams soon organises a peace march to the graves of the slain children, which is attended by 10,000 Protestant and Catholic women. However, the peaceful march is violently disrupted by members of the IRA, who accuse them of being “dupes of the British.” The following week, she leads another march in Ormeau Park that concludes successfully without incident – this time with 20,000 participants.
In recognition of her efforts for peace, Williams, together with Corrigan, become joint recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1976.
The Peace Prize money is divided equally between Williams and Corrigan. Williams keeeps her share of the money, stating that her intention is to use it to promote peace beyond Ireland, but faces criticism for her decision. She and Corrigan have no contact after 1976. In 1978, Williams breaks off links with the Peace People movement and becomes instead an activist for peace in other areas around the world.
Williams receives the People’s Peace Prize of Norway in 1976, the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1977, the Schweitzer Medallion for Courage, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Award in 1984, and the Frank Foundation Child Care International Oliver Award. In 1995, she is awarded the Rotary International “Paul Harris Fellowship” and the Together for Peace Building Award.
At the 2006 Earth Dialogues forum in Brisbane, Williams tells an audience of schoolchildren during a speech on Iraq War casualties that “Right now, I would like to kill George W. Bush.” From September 17 to 20, 2007, she gives a series of lectures in Southern California. On September 18, she presents a lecture to the academic community of Orange County entitled “Peace in the World Is Everybody’s Business” and on September 20 she gives a lecture to 2,232 members of the general public, including 1,100 high school sophomores, at Soka University of America. In 2010, she gives a lecture at WE DayToronto, a WE Charity event that empowers students to be active within their communities, and worldwide.
Speaking at the University of Bradford before an audience of 200 in March 2011, Williams warns that young Muslim women on campus are vulnerable to attacks from angry family members, while the university does little to help protect them. “If you had someone on this campus these young women could go to say, ‘I am frightened’ – if you are not doing that here, you are dehumanising them by not helping these young women, don’t you think?”
At the time she receives the Nobel Prize, Williams works as a receptionist and is raising her two children with her first husband Ralph Williams. This marriage is dissolved in 1981. She marries businessman James Perkins in December 1982 and they live in Florida in the United States.
In 2004, Williams returns to live in Northern Ireland. She dies on March 17, 2020, at the age of 76 in Belfast.
O’Hagan, known to all and sundry simply as JB, dies on Monday, April 23, 2001, in the town in which he was born almost 79 years previously and from which he and his wife Bernadette had been exiled for 25 years during the current phase of the conflict. As befitted a soldier of Óglaigh na hÉireann, a uniformed IRA Guard of Honour attends O’Hagan’s body in the wake house and it is six of his comrades who carry the coffin, bedecked in the Irish Tricolour and beret and gloves, from the family home on the first section of its journey to St. Paul’s Chapel for the Funeral Mass.
Up to 2,000 people attend the funeral and businesses in the bustling North Armagh town close along the route as a mark of respect. At St. Colman’s Cemetery just outside the town, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams pays fulsome tribute to a republican who had been active from the 1940s into the 1990s and right up to his sudden death. Adams notes O’Hagan’s strong faith and welcomes the tribute paid during the Funeral Mass to JB’s republican beliefs and exploits. He adds, however, that it is high time the Catholic hierarchy reverses its directive banning the Tricolour from republican funerals in church premises. “Our National Flag should be allowed to stay on the coffin for the entire ceremony,” he says.
“I have always associated JB with Bernadette,” he tells those gathered at the graveside, “even though they were apart for so many years. They were married for 52 years, and Bernadette told me yesterday that she wouldn’t change a day of it, that she was proud of him and of his life.”
“In many ways he died the way he had lived, very quietly, modestly, not complaining, unassuming to the end. He was one of the most respected republicans of our time. There is no greater tribute that can be paid to any man or woman than to be known as a decent human being and Joe B. was that and more.”
Adams goes on to briefly record the extraordinary history of O’Hagan’s involvement in the republican struggle, as soldier and political activist, since he first joined the IRA in 1940, including that famous 1973 escape from Mountjoy Jail by helicopter, accompanied by Kevin Mallon and the late Seamus Twomey.
“JB grew up in the 1920s in a state abandoned by the Irish Government, where nationalists were subjected to the B-Specials and the Special Powers Act. He stood up at a time when standing up was a very very dangerous thing to do,” says Adams. “It is a wonder to me that he was active in every decade from the 1940s on. There is a mighty man!”
“He also personifies why Irish republicanism has never been defeated. He was an example of a physical force republican who was prepared to support and exhaust other means of struggle. He saw armed struggle as a means rather than as an end, but he never ceased to be an unrepentant republican and to work always for the establishment of an Irish Republic based on national rights for the people of this island. He supported the Good Friday Agreement not as an end but as an effort to build a new accord with our opponents and enemies. Political unionism has found it very difficult to deal with this strategy.”
“Joe B was very philosophical and very wise. He is representative of that republican element who never broke a promise in their lives.”
“Those who seek to defeat the republican struggle by blaming the IRA for everything need to know that none of this will work. That is because of the work that JB and people like him put into this struggle. We won’t be worn down or accept anything less than our full rights. The message for David Trimble and Tony Blair is that it is impossible for us to accept inequality, injustice and second-class citizenship. That is the past. We are looking to the future.”
“Joe B’s passing has left a huge gap, but we should celebrate his life. He touched so many of us. Joe B kept us right. The flame he kept flickering in the lean times is burning brightly now because of his contribution.”
Adams extends his solidarity and sympathy and that of all those present to Bernadette, to O’Hagan’s children, Barry, Kevin, Fintan, Siobhán, Felim and Dara, to his eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, his sisters and entire family circle.
At the end of the Funeral Mass for O’Hagan, the O’Hagan family lead by Joe’s son Fintan place the Irish Tricolour on the coffin before the remains are taken from the chapel. This act is borne out of anger and frustration.
O’Hagan was a republican, an honourable man and a religious man who went to Mass every day. So, his family feels that the Catholic Church, that was as much an influence on O’Hagan’s life as was his republicanism, should respect his wish and allow his coffin to be draped in the Tricolour. The family appeals to the Catholic Church authorities and Adams intercedes on their behalf, but they are refused the right to grant O’Hagan his wish that the Flag not be removed from his coffin.
Also, the Catholic hierarchy misses a great opportunity to heal a hurt that has existed for over 20 years, when the remains of IRA Volunteer Kevin `Dee’ Delaney were refused entry into Corpus Christi Church in Springhill while bearing the Irish Tricolour. The rancour and hurt felt by republicans over this slight, coming as it does, in conjunction with the British Government’s attempts to criminalise republicanism, has long been an insult that republicans have resented. After all, churches are the people’s property as it is their money and effort that build them. The people of Springhill and the Greater Ballymurphy area paid £5 a brick for the Corpus Christi building and the Delaney family no doubt contributed to that fund.
By taking matters into their own hands, the O’Hagan family claims back some ground for republicans and sends a message to the bishops that they have a part to play in this new political era and that they need to look at their attitude to republicanism.
O’Hagan’s wife Bernadette says that as Fintan draped the Irish Trocolour on Joe’s coffin and the church burst into spontaneous applause, her heart was lifted. “I was so glad, and I walked down the aisle with a smile on my face,” said Bernadette.
(From: “Unassuming and mighty man laid to rest” by Martin Spain, An Phoblacht Republican News, May 3, 2001)
To seek to achieve unity among the Irish people on the issue of restoring national sovereignty and to promote the revolutionary ideals of republicanism and to this end involve itself in resisting all forms of colonialism and imperialism.
To seek the immediate and unconditional release of all Irish republican prisoners throughout the world.
The organisation is founded on December 7, 1997, at a meeting of like-minded Irish republicans in the Dublin suburb of Finglas. Those present are opposed to the direction taken by Sinn Féin and other mainstream republican groups in the Northern Ireland peace process, which eventually leads to the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, the following year. The same division in the republican movement leads to the paramilitary group now known as the Real IRA breaking away from the Provisional Irish Republican Army at around the same time.
Most of the 32CSM’s founders had been members of Sinn Féin, with some having been expelled from the party for challenging the leadership’s direction, while others felt they had not been properly able to air their concerns within Sinn Féin at the direction its leadership had taken. Bernadette Sands McKevitt, wife of Michael McKevitt and a sister of hunger strikerBobby Sands, is a prominent member of the group until a split in the organisation.
Before the referendums on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the 32CSM lodges a legal submission with the United Nations challenging British sovereignty in Ireland. The referendums are opposed by the 32CSM but are supported by 71% of voters in Northern Ireland and by 94% in the Republic of Ireland. It is reported in February 2000 that the group had established a “branch” in Kilburn, London.
In November 2005, the 32CSM launches a political initiative titled Irish Democracy, A Framework for Unity.
On May 24, 2014, Gary Donnelly, a member of the 32CSM, is elected to the Derry and Strabane super council. In July 2014, a delegation from the 32CSM travels to Canada to take part in a six-day speaking tour. On arrival the delegation is detained and refused entry into Canada.
In 2015, the 32CSM organises a demonstration in Dundee, Scotland, in solidarity with the men convicted of shooting Constable Stephen Carroll, the first police officer to be killed in Northern Ireland since the formation of the PSNI. The organisation says the “Craigavon Two” are innocent and are victims of a miscarriage of justice.
The 32CSM also operates outside of the island of Ireland to some extent. The Gaughan/Stagg Cumann covers England, Scotland and Wales, and has an active relationship of mutual promotion with a minority of British left-wing groups and anti-fascist organisations. The James Larkin Republican Flute Band in Liverpool and the West of Scotland Band Alliance, the largest section of which is the Glasgow-based Parkhead Republican Flute Band, are also supporters of the 32CSM. As of 2014, the 32CSM’s alleged paramilitary wing, the Real IRA, is reported to still be involved in attempts to perpetrate bombings in Britain as part of the dissident Irish republican campaign, which has been ongoing since 1998.
The 32CSM is currently considered a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in the United States, because it is considered to be inseparable from the Real IRA, which is designated as an FTO. At a briefing in 2001, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State states that “evidence provided by both the British and Irish governments and open-source materials demonstrate clearly that the individuals who created the Real IRA also established these two entities to serve as the public face of the Real IRA. These alias organizations engage in propaganda and fundraising on behalf of and in collaboration with the Real IRA.” The U.S. Department of State’s designation makes it illegal for Americans to provide material support to the Real IRA, requires U.S. financial institutions to block the group’s assets and denies alleged Real IRA members travel visas into the United States.
Ó Dálaigh, one of four children, is born on February 12, 1911, in Bray, County Wicklow. His father, Richard O’Daly, is a fishmonger with little interest in politics. His mother is Una Thornton. His birth name is registered in English as Carroll O’Daly, which he uses during his legal career, and which is recorded by some publications.
Ó Dálaigh is a committed Fianna Fáil supporter who serves on the party’s National Executive in the 1930s. He becomes Ireland’s youngest Attorney General in 1946, under TaoiseachÉamon de Valera, serving until 1948. Unsuccessful in Dáil and Seanad elections in 1948 and 1951, he is re-appointed as Attorney General of Ireland in 1951. In 1953, he is nominated as the youngest-ever member of the Supreme Court by his mentor, de Valera. Less than a decade later, he becomes Chief Justice of Ireland, on the nomination of Taoiseach Seán Lemass. He is a keen actor in his early years, and becomes a close friend of actor Cyril Cusack. It is commonly stated that Ó Dálaigh and Cusack picketed the Dublin launch of Disney‘s Darby O’Gill and the Little People in 1959, for what they felt was the film’s stereotyping of Irish people. However, there is no known contemporary reference to this having occurred.
In 1972, Taoiseach Jack Lynch suggests to the opposition parties that they agree to nominate Ó Dálaigh to become President of Ireland when President de Valera’s second term ends in June of the following year. Fine Gael, confident that its prospective candidate, Tom O’Higgins, will win the 1973 presidential election, having almost defeated de Valera in 1966, turn down the offer. Fianna Fáil’s Erskine H. Childers goes on to win the election that follows.
When Ireland joins the European Economic Community (EEC), Lynch appoints Ó Dálaigh as Ireland’s judge on the European Court of Justice. When President Childers dies suddenly in 1974, all parties agree to nominate Ó Dálaigh to replace him.
Ó Dálaigh’s decision in 1976 to exercise his power to refer a bill to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality brings him into conflict with the Fine Gael-Labour National Coalition. Following the assassination of the British Ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart-Biggs, by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), on July 23, 1976, the government announces its intention to introduce legislation extending the maximum period of detention without charge from two to seven days.
Ó Dálaigh refers the resulting bill, the Emergency Powers Bill, to the Supreme Court. When the court rules that the bill is constitutional, he signs the bill into law on October 16, 1976. On the same day, an IRA bomb in Mountmellick, County Laois, kills Michael Clerkin, a member of the Garda Síochána, the country’s police force. Ó Dálaigh’s actions are seen by government ministers to have contributed to the killing of this Garda. On the following day, Minister for DefencePaddy Donegan, visiting a barracks in Mullingar, County Westmeath, to open a canteen, attacks the President for sending the bill to the Supreme Court, calling him a “thundering disgrace.”
Ó Dálaigh’s private papers show that he considered the relationship between the President (as Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces) and the Minister for Defence had been “irrevocably broken” by the comments of the Minister in front of the army Chief of Staff and other high-ranking officers. Donegan offers his resignation, but Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave refuses to accept it. This proves the last straw for Ó Dálaigh, who believes that Cosgrave had additionally failed to meet his constitutional obligation to regularly brief the President. He resigns from the presidency on October 22, 1976, “to protect the dignity and independence of the presidency as an institution.” He is succeeded as President of Ireland by Patrick Hillery.
Ó Dálaigh dies of a heart attack on March 21, 1978, less than two years after resigning the presidency. He is buried in Sneem, County Kerry.
The Brady funeral is making its way along the Andersonstown Road toward Milltown Cemetery when the corporals’ car appears from the opposite direction. The car drives straight towards the front of the funeral, which is headed by several black taxis. It drives past a Sinn Féin steward who signals it to turn. Mourners at the funeral say they believed they were under attack from Ulster loyalists, as three days earlier, loyalist Michael Stone had attacked an IRA funeral and killed three people. The car then mounts a pavement, scattering mourners, and turns into a small side road. When this road is blocked, it then reverses at speed, ending up within the funeral procession. Corporal Wood attempts to drive the car out of the procession but his exit route is blocked by a black taxi.
An angry crowd surrounds the car, smashes the windows and attempts to drag the soldiers out. Wood produces a Browning Hi-Power 9mm handgun. He climbs partly out of a window and fires a shot in the air, which briefly scatters the crowd. The crowd then surges back, with some of them attacking the car with a wheel-brace and a stepladder snatched from a photographer. The corporals are eventually pulled from the car and punched and kicked to the ground.
The attack is witnessed by the media and passersby. JournalistMary Holland recalls seeing one of the men being dragged past a group of journalists. “He didn’t cry out; just looked at us with terrified eyes, as though we were all enemies in a foreign country who wouldn’t have understood what language he was speaking if he called out for help.”
The men are taken to nearby Casement Park sports ground, just opposite. Here they are beaten, stripped to their underpants and socks, and searched by a small group of men. The BBC and The Independent write that the men were “tortured.” A search reveals that the men are British soldiers. Their captors find a military ID on Howes which is marked “Herford,” the site of a British military base in Germany, but it is believed they misread it as “Hereford,” the headquarters of the Special Air Service (SAS).
Redemptoristpriest Father Alec Reid, who plays a significant part in the peace process leading to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, intervenes and attempts to save the soldiers, and asks people to call an ambulance. “I got down between the two of them and I had my arm around this one and I was holding this one up by the shoulder….They were so disciplined, they just lay there totally still and I decided to myself they were soldiers. There was a helicopter circling overhead and I don’t know why they didn’t do something, radio to the police or soldiers to come up, because there were these two of their own soldiers.”
One of the captors warns Father Reid not to interfere and orders two men to take him away.
The two soldiers are placed in a taxi and driven fewer than 200 yards to a waste ground near Penny Lane (South Link), just off the main Andersonstown Road. There they are taken out of the vehicle and shot dead. Wood is shot six times and Howes is shot five times. Each also has multiple injuries to other parts of their bodies. The perpetrators quickly leave the scene. Father Reid hears the shots and rushes to the waste ground. He believes one of the soldiers is still breathing and attempts to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Upon realizing that the soldiers are dead, he gives them the last rites. According to photographer David Cairns, although photographers have their films taken by the IRA, he is able to keep his by quickly leaving the area after taking a photograph of Reid kneeling beside the almost naked body of Howes, administering the last rites. Cairns’ photograph is later named one of the best pictures of the past 50 years by Life magazine.
The whole incident is filmed by a British Army helicopter hovering overhead. An unnamed soldier of the Royal Scots says his eight-man patrol is nearby and sees the attack on the corporals’ car but are told not to intervene. Soldiers and police arrive on the scene three minutes after the corporals had been shot. A British Army spokesman says the army did not respond immediately because they needed time to assess the situation and were wary of being ambushed by the IRA. The large funeral procession also prevents them getting to the scene quickly.
Shortly after, the IRA releases a statement:
“The Belfast Brigade, IRA, claims responsibility for the execution of two SAS members who launched an attack on the funeral cortege of our comrade volunteer Kevin Brady. The SAS unit was initially apprehended by the people lining the route in the belief that armed loyalists were attacking them and they were removed from the immediate vicinity. Our volunteers forcibly removed the two men from the crowd and, after clearly ascertaining their identities from equipment and documentation, we executed them.”
Two men, Alex Murphy and Harry Maguire, are sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, but are released in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Several other men receive lesser sentences for their part in the corporals killings.
(Pictured: Catholic priest Father Alec Reid administers the last rights to Corporal David Howes, one of two British soldiers brutally beaten and murdered in Belfast)
England had been relatively untouched by the violence up until the beginning of 1973, but the IRA Army Council draws up plans for a bombing campaign to take place in England some time early in 1973. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, loyalist paramilitaries had bombed Dublin and other parts of the Republic of Ireland a number of times before the IRA began its bombing campaign in England. Following the Dublin bombings in late 1972 and in January 1973 carried out by Loyalists which killed three people and injured over 150, the media attention these bombings received helped the IRA decide to take its campaign to Britain in return. The arrest of top IRA personnel in both the Republic and Northern Ireland like Máire Drumm, Seán Mac Stíofáin, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Martin McGuinness in late 1972 help to convince the IRA to bomb England to take the heat off of the IRA in Ireland.
The IRA selects the volunteers who constitute the Active Service Unit (ASU) for the England bombing operation, which is scheduled to take place on March 8, 1973, the same day that a border poll, boycotted by Nationalists and Roman Catholics, is being held in Belfast. Volunteers from all three of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade Battalions are selected for the bombing mission. The team includes Gerry Kelly (19), Robert “Roy” Walsh (24), an expert bomb maker from Belfast, Hugh Feeney, a Belfast-born IRA volunteer and explosives expert, and two sisters, Marian (19) and Dolours Price (22) from Belfast and are from a staunchly Republican family, along with five other lesser-known volunteers from Belfast: Martin Brady (22), William Armstrong (29), Paul Holmes (19), William McLarnon (19), and Roisin McNearney (18).
Several days before the bombing, the leaders of the IRA ASU, which includes sisters Marian and Dolours Price, go to London and pick out four targets: the Old Bailey, the Ministry of Agriculture, an army recruitment office near Whitehall and New Scotland Yard. They then report back to their Officer Commanding (OC) in Belfast, and the IRA Army Council gives the go ahead. The bombs are made in Ireland and transported to London via ferry, according to Marian Price.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) warns the British that the ASU is traveling to England, but are unable to provide specifics as to the target.
The drivers and the volunteers who are to prime the bombs wake up at 6:00 a.m. and drive the car bombs to their various targets. Gerry Kelly and Roy Walsh drive their car bomb to the Old Bailey. It is planned that by the time the bombs go off around 3:00 p.m., the ASU will be back in Ireland. The bomb at New Scotland Yard is found at 8:30 a.m. by a policeman who notices a discrepancy in the licence plate. The bomb team starts lifting out 5-pound (2.3 kg) bags of explosives and separates them, so that if the bomb does go off, the force of the explosion will be greatly reduced. The bomb squad eventually finds the detonating cord leads, which run under the front passenger seat of the car. Peter Gurney, a senior member of New Scotland Yard, cuts the detonator cord leads, defusing the bomb.
However, at the Old Bailey the bomb explodes, injuring many and causing extensive damage. Scotland Yard states it had warned the City of London police at 2:01 p.m. to search near the Old Bailey for a green Ford Cortina. The car is not located until 2:35 p.m. and explodes at 2:49 p.m. while police are evacuating the area. Several more people are injured by the car bomb near the Ministry of Agriculture, which brings the total number injured to over two hundred. A British man, Frederick Milton (60), dies of a heart attack. Dolours Price writes in her memoir, “There were warnings phoned in but people had stood about, curious to see… If people ignored the warnings and stood around gawking, they were stupid. The numbers of injured came about through curiosity and stupidity.” The ASU is caught trying to leave the country at Heathrow Airport prior to the explosions, as the police had been forewarned about the bombings and are checking all passengers to Belfast and Dublin. All ten give false names that do not match their documents and they are detained. The IRA Volunteer who gave a warning about the bombs an hour before they exploded is the only one not captured.
The IRA volunteers have to be tried at Winchester Crown court in Winchester Castle as the Old Bailey is wrecked by the car bomb. The trial takes ten weeks and is set amid extremely strict security. William McLarnon pleads guilty to all charges on the first day of the trial. On November 14, 1973, a jury convicts six men and two women of the bombings. The jury acquits Roisin McNearney in exchange for information and she is given a new identity. As her verdict is handed down, the other defendants begin to hum the “Dead March” from Saul, and one throws a coin at her, shouting, “Take your blood money with you” as she leaves the dock in tears. Six of the nine people convicted admit to Provisional IRA membership.
The judge sentences the eight to life imprisonment for the bombings and 20 years for conspiracy, while William McLarnon, whose family was forced out of their home in August 1969, is sentenced to 15 years. When his sentence is read he shouts, “Up The Provisional IRA.” As the eight are led to the cells below the court, several give raised fist salutes to relatives and friends in the public gallery. The Price sisters immediately go on hunger strike, soon followed by Feeney and Kelly, for the right not to do prison work and to be repatriated to a jail in Ireland. The bombers on hunger strike are eventually moved to jails in Ireland as part of the 1975 IRA truce agreed with the British. In 1983, Kelly escapes from Maze Prison and becomes part of an IRA ASU in the Netherlands. He is recaptured three years later by the Dutch authorities and extradited.
One of the Old Bailey bombers, Marian Price, explains the IRA’s reasoning for bombing England. “It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s Irish people dying.” So if the armed struggle was to succeed then it was necessary to “bring it to the heart of the British Establishment.” Hence symbolic targets such as the Old Bailey “were carefully chosen.”
The Shankill Butchers, a gang of eleven Ulster loyalists, are sentenced to life imprisonment on February 20, 1979, for 112 offences including nineteen murders. Many of the gang are members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) that is active between 1975 and 1982 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The gang is based in the Shankill area and is responsible for the deaths of at least 23 people, most of whom are killed in sectarian attacks. The gang is notorious for kidnapping, torturing and murdering random or suspected Catholic civilians. Each is beaten ferociously and has their throat hacked with a butcher’s knife. Some are also tortured and attacked with a hatchet. The gang also kills six Ulster Protestants over personal disputes, and two other Protestants mistaken for Catholics.
Most of the Butchers are eventually captured and eleven of them come to trial during 1978 and early 1979. On February 20, 1979, the eleven men are convicted of a total of nineteen murders, and the 42 life sentences handed out are the longest combined prison sentences in United Kingdom legal history.
William Moore pleads guilty to eleven counts of murder and Bobby “Basher” Bates pleads guilty to ten counts. The trial judge, Lord Justice Turlough O’Donnell, says that he does not wish to be cast as “public avenger” but feels obliged to sentence the two to life imprisonment with no chance of release. Gang leader Lenny Murphy and his two chief “lieutenants,” however, escape prosecution.
In summing-up, Lord Justice O’Donnell states that their crimes, “a catalogue of horror”, are “a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry.” After the trial, Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Nesbitt, head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Murder Squad in Tennent Street Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) base and the man charged with tracking down the Butchers, comments, “The big fish got away,” a reference to Murphy (referred to in court as “Mr. X” or the “Master Butcher”) and to Messrs “A” and “B.”
Lenny Murphy is assassinated by a Provisional Irish Republican Army hit squad early in the evening of November 16, 1982, outside the back of his girlfriend’s house in the Glencairn estate. The IRA is likely acting with loyalist paramilitaries who perceive him as a threat.
The first of the Butchers to be released from prison is John Townsley, who had been only fourteen when he became involved with the gang and sixteen when arrested. Bobby Bates is released in October 1996, two years after the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994. He reportedly “found religion” behind bars. He is shot and killed in the upper Shankill area on June 11, 1997, by the son of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) man he had killed in the Windsor Bar. “Mr. B”, John Murphy, dies in a car accident in Belfast in August 1998. William Moore is the final member of the gang to be released from prison in August 1998, in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement, after over twenty-one years behind bars. He dies on May 17, 2009, from a suspected heart attack at his home.
The investigations by Martin Dillon, author of The Shankill Butchers: A Case Study of Mass Murder (1989 and 1998), suggests that a number of other individuals (whom he is unable to name for legal reasons) escape prosecution for participation in the crimes of the Butchers and that the gang are responsible for a total of at least thirty murders.
The Butchers brought a new level of paramilitary violence to a country already hardened by death and destruction.