Apologise For This!

Living in Belfast in the 1970s was not a lot of fun. Death was everywhere. I was reminded of this just lately, when I was preparing a list of people who I knew…who ended up as statistics. Names in the book “Lost Lives” by David McKitterick and Others. Really it is the only book needed on The Troubles. The deaths themselves are the history of the Troubles.

Living as I did in West Belfast, there was always a possibility of being killed by any one of the three participants in the Conflict. The IRA were extremely active in the area. Their guns pointed out of the area. I was not on their radar and unless I walked over a booby trap bomb, or became an active informer for the British or RUC (extremely unlikely as I chose a life of ignorant bliss) then I was very unlikely to end up a victim of the IRA. Besides they had no hatred towards me.

Stopped by British Army at checkpoints, searched and deliberately provoked, I DID see hatred in their eyes. And frankly I hated them back. In fairness to them, they generally did not want to be on the Falls Road…they themselves lived in much greater danger than I did. They were active targets. And each face they saw on the Falls Road was at best apathetic to the fate of a young Green Howard from Middlesbrough and a young Black Watch from Musselburgh. Getting a late night kicking from a British soldier was always a possibility ( it never happened to me) or subject to verbal abuse (that did happen to me). And there was always the possibility that the Brits would actually shoot me. Too many innocent victims were shot and routinely slandered in death.

But there was a third fear…realistic and more scary. The Sectarian Assassination. We all carried our “Prayers to St Joseph” laminated cards which was hoped would prevent us falling into the hands of our enemies. In 2013, it is almost impossible to understand the fear of the UDA and their Romper Rooms and the UVF and the Shankill Butchers. “Sectarian Assassination” does an injustice to those victims, whose deaths were lonely, prolonged, agonising and humiliating.

I am not holding any brief for the IRA and their actions such as the mass bombing of Belfast in July 1972…Bloody Friday or any other attack by bomb or bullet. Nor am I going to play the loyalist politician game of talking about a hierarchy of victim.

What I am going to do is say that there was a hierarchy of “combatant”. The IRA and the Brits were opposite sides of the same coin. Of course unionists would not like me saying that. They have issued their respective apologies for Bloody Friday and Bloody Sunday….but should they? Even in a pro-forma way? They fought their wars and for the most part played within their rules.

Unionists would see the IRA and UVF-UDA as two sides of the same coin. They are wrong…deliberately so. It elevates loyalists to a status that they dont deserve. If loyalist thugs wanted to serve their community…the option to join the legal RUC and legal UDR was open to them. Nationalists had no such legal option.

I am not saying that IRA were rebels with a cause. But I am clearly stating that loyalist paramilitaries were a rabble without a cause…except sectarian murder. The British Bullet is one thing. The IRA Bomb is one thing. The Loyalist Meat Cleaver which EVENTUALLY ended your life is very different.

Republicans have apologised for their excesses. The British have apologised for their excesses. The Loyalists….their entire campaign was about Excess. Republicans do themselves no favours by seeing the loyalists as people somehow caught up in something beyond their control.

So why does Miriam O’ Callaghan tackle Gerry Adams on his alleged involvement with the IRA? Why does Gerrys insistence that he was never involved with the IRA irritate so many journalists?

Well…lets start with the premise that journalists are hypocrites. Twenty years ago as the Peace Process was gaining momentum, journalists played the Northern Iron Office game of differentiating between Sinn Fein and the IRA. Fair enough. I went along with it as well. All for the Common Good. Lets be adult about this…the whole point of thea Peace Process was to grt the IRA to stop shooting and bombing and get them into Government. Creative Ambiguity dictated the distinction was made. And it worked well….too well…Sinn Fein was only supposed to be the minority nationalist party but…oops Sinn Fein ended up the majority nationalist party.

So what do journalists do? Having helped in making a distinction twenty years ago..they now seek to blur it.

Questions are asked of Gerry Adams. He denies his own involvement and apologises for the IRA excesses. But nobody asks these questions of loyalist paramilitaries. And they have much more to answer for. They are still involved in criminal activity. And nobody can quite get their heads around the sheer sectarian nastiness of the 1970s.

So why arent questions asked? Well…loyalists were always a marginalised part of the Troubles. A sideshow? Except of course for the people bereaved thru their butchery. They were never meant to be part of the solution.

Was that butchery part of the Conflict? Or was it something different? Just serial killing using the Conflict as a cover?

And yet for me that butchery defines the Troubles. The wife who was phoned by her husbands killers so she could hear the torture….or Rosemary McCartney who was abducted with Patrick O’ Neill….and taken to a UDA Romper Room …where Rosie was forced to SING for her killers….while watching Patrick being tortured by Davy Payne.

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191 Responses to Apologise For This!

  1. Political Tourist says:

    Lost Lives, what can you say.
    Frightening book to the point of terror.
    And yet would a youngster be as frightened by it.
    FJH, you lived through it and the streets and areas are still there.
    You also know some of these guys that carried out the romper room butchery might pass you on the street or be on a bus or train sitting beside you.
    A lot of them died an early death but not all of them.
    The “tartan gang” element would be younger than your good self.
    Although didn’t a chap called Alex Buck Robinson from the 1920s last till he 90.
    Think Ian and Peter were among the mourners.

    Certain loyalist murder gang members were more Glasgow street mobsters (the knife carry on and multiple stab wounds) rather than Fred West.
    What was the torture about?
    Who came up with that idea.
    And they seemed to have zero politics other than a hatred of Catholics.
    What level of IQ would some of these guy had.

    • Its a difficult one to consider..not least because people like me have pushed it to the very back of our minds.
      The figures for these torture deaths are hidden within the general stats and it would be a good PhD subject for someone with a good stomache.
      and if these deaths …lets say 50…can be apportioned and who carried them out.
      One great lie of the Conflict Resolutionists is the 50-50 theory…that everyone was equally right and wrong. “We are all to blame”.
      But to me that theory is NOT History..it is mathematics.
      Historians betray the very basis of History….if they say that everything is 50-50.
      creative Ambiguity…or the Common Good dictates that we have to accept this nonsense.

      I put this thought as just a thought. Devils Advocate if you will.
      The Brits had “legality” on their side but have belatedly owned up to nasty deeds such as Bloody Sunday. All armies will attract a psychopath element and for all their sophistication and resources the Brits could not always weed out the undsirable.
      My perception of 1970 to 1979 was that the IRA changed…in various ways not least in personnel but they too have apologised for exceses such as Bloody Friday. And they lacked the resources to weed out pschopaths.
      Why then are we left with the situation that the nastiest element in the Troubles was the UDA Romper Room and Butcher gangs.
      Why are they under the radar?
      Is it revulsion?
      Is it that they had no political intent then or political clout now?
      It just seems wrong to equate them with the British or the IRA.

  2. Political Tourist says:

    Plus i was never completely convinced by the republican answer that all the various loyalist factions were run by British Intelligence.

    • Not so sure.
      Loyalists always had a measure of support within the RUC and UDR.
      But I think there was a sea-change in the 1980s when there wasa lot of collusion.
      Arguably the loyalists were directed away from random butchery to doing the will of the shadowy character in British Intelligence.

  3. factual says:

    Excellent blog post. Many thanks for posting it.

    Many people will no doubt have been struck by Gerry Adams’s apology – on behalf of Sinn Fein – in the Dail a couple of weeks ago for the actions of the IRA. There is a good case to argue that it is the act of a statesmanshiplike parliamentarian. Despite the fact that the conventional media did not highlight it, it is good to see nationalist blogs commenting on it, and picking up on it, as here.

    • I dont think it was statesmanlike at all.
      Gerry is many things but he is not a statesman.
      I was talking to an “ex prisoner” at a funeral last summer who was very angry about loyalist ex-prisoners being invited on to FallsRoad….his problem and I agree with him is that it puts the IRA on the same level as theShankill Butchers.
      The IRA made mistakes. The Brits made mistakes.
      They also did things which were downright wrong.
      But mostly played within rules (and of course the HISTORIC 700 year wrong is the big issue)….but both were on a different level to loyalists.

      • factual says:

        I think Gerry Adams attended David Ervine’s funeral north of the border – showing that he believes that respect towards loyalist people is important. The invitation to the loyalists to come to the Falls Road north of the border is neither tanta-mout to equating loyalists and the security services or indeed the IRA nor is it tanta-mount to placing them in any particular hierarchy. Gerry Adams has in fact stated there should be no hierarchies.

      • He is absolutely right in saying that there should be no hierarchy of victims.
        But I dont think he has said that there should be a hierarchy of combatant..
        Most Republicans would take the view that it was a just campaign where mistakes AND worse happened.
        The same cannot be said of the loyalist campaign.
        And to consider them in the same light as republican paramilitaries or indeed British soldiers rank and file elevates sectarian loyalist scum to a level they dont deserve and denigrates those who fought on opposite sides and were honourable.
        The fact that you seem to know absolutely nothing about Romper Rooms and the Shankill Butchers tends to prove my point…that their crimes were just so horrific that they have been put to one side and not given the prominence they deserve.
        Find some books by Martin Dillon….or simply look up Paddy Wilson, Irene Andrews, Patrick O’ neill, Rosemary McCartney in Lost Lives or maybe google them. Then you might believe these scum were different.
        It is In the Common Good to treat victims the same.
        It is NOT in the Common Good to consider scum like Davy Payne and Lenny Murphy as combatants.

  4. sammymcnally says:


    re. “So why arent questions asked? Well…loyalists were always a marginalised part of the Troubles. ”

    In the nomenclature of Slugger this a bit of whataboutery. Gerry has very difficult questions to answer. His apolgies in many peoples opinion are no where near good enough.

    The questions wont go away you know until Gerry presents a plausible answer to his involvement in the IRA. If someone stood up and insisted 2 and 2 were 5 we would be inclined to query them until they gave us an answer of 4 – even if they did make a general apology for the poor levels of mental artitmetic.

    As someone who does think the Provos were rebels with a cause(though I disagree with many of their tactics) we should be not be naive enough to not realise that there was a sectarian element in their campaign as there wasin the early part of the 20th century – clearly not nearly as bad as with Loyalism – but there are uncomfortable overlaps which you owuld not guess from reading this article.

    There have been a number of killings(post GFA including in the South) by those assoicated with the Provos where unsatisfacory answers have been given by SF to republican involvement and for a party trying to get into proper government in the South then Gerry needs to do a lot lot better.

    Gerry, unlike Marty, has trapped himself in a silly tactical/legal answer into giving the wrong answer to a simple question that everyone knows the reals answer to – and that is about as clever as SF’s idea of talking about a border poll when the South is in administration.

    p.s. Gerry – if your reading this – I’m saying this as still something of a fan- but for jaysus sake bro – get a fecking grip on your tricolour knickers.

    • I think it is undoubtedly true that there was an element of sectarianism in republicanism…and a degree of imperialism in British violence.
      And certainly things along the border mirrored the old Peep o Day, Whiteboy, Orange, Defender thing of rebel and militia.
      And of course there were things done that were horrific…the murder of the two corporals in Andytown was shameful in its nature and certainly there was one captured RUC man who was tortured …and of course its clear that several informers were tortured.
      On the British side, prisoners were not treated well and there are judgements in Europe against the British.

      But I am saying here that the very nature of the campaign waged by loyalists discredits them totally.
      By the way “Factual” might be under the impression that this post is about Gerry Adams and Miriam O’Callaghan and it isnt.
      At the end of last week, I was expanding on a ten person list of victims that I had known. The list was part of the “Texas” lecture. And the name “Rosie McCartney” came into my head. Had not thought about her in years and thats maybe because the details are too horrific. One of those occasions when I wished that I had not thought about it at all.
      But it DID make me think of the nature of MANY…far too many …loyalist killings.
      Im not overly impressed by Gerry Adams denials. Nor his apologies.
      Like you Im inclined to think “wise up Gerry…dont con a con man” when he talks to Miriam.
      But if he was interviewed by Paxman, Id be cheering for Gerry.
      There is a calculation about these apologies. Its done for effect as much as sincerity. …probably because Sinn Fein are players north and south.
      Davey Payne is long dead. And loyalists are not important.

    • factual says:

      Gerry Adams has been very clear: he has consistently stated that he was not in the IRA.

      • sammymcnally says:


        re. “But I am saying here that the very nature of the campaign waged by loyalists discredits them totally”

        I dont fully agree with that. The Provos should not have expected the state or Prods to not retalitiate via loylaists – the Provos killed most of 300 RUC men- mostly Prods, hundreds of UDR and suplliers ot the security forces.

        There seems a degree of truth in the idea that the targetting of SF members by loyalists(probably via the states bidding) helped conivnce SF-IRA of the need for a ceasefire.

        You cant expect there not to be retaliation and counter insurgency if you conduct a military campaign in a civilian area in the middle of an historically sectarian society.


        the 2 silliest political statements I can think of are.

        Pres Clinton. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman(sic)” – and Gerry’s.

      • Sammy nails it totally with the Clinton reference.

        “Factual” let me be clear. I dont believe the denials. Very few people (incuding most who say they believe the denials) REALLY believe him.
        Now dont get me wrong. Gerry Adams is absolutely entitled to tell any journalist anything he likes. They are after all Journalists and deserve neither the Truth or Respect.
        All that I ask is that people dont lie to ME.
        And Ive never had the impression that Gerry Adams was trying to convince ME one way or the other.
        Its merely a conversation between Gerry and the Media (maybe via An Dail) and therefore nothing directly to do with me.

      • Im actually touched by this level of naievity.
        Its literally NOT important what he says.
        The whole purpose of communication is to influence one way or another what people think.
        Gerrys denials may or may not be true…but nobody is influenced one way or the other.

      • factual says:


        Arrant nonsense. President Clinton was found to have been telling a non truth whereas Gerry Adams has not been found to have been telling a non truth. They are noncomparable.

        Moreover, Gerry Adams has been 110% consistent.

      • Non truth????? In normal parlance, thats what I call a “lie”.
        110% consistent….how is that even possible???

      • factual says:

        It just means he has been very, very consistent FJH.

        Can we not leave it that Gerry Adams will have known people in the IRA, will have understood their concerns and worries, because he saw the hardship, and will have offered help and advice on how to move to a peaceful strategy – the GFA that we have today north of the border.

      • You can accept anything you like.
        Dont ask me to do it.

    • factual says:

      Sammy: Gerry Adams has always been clear and 100% consistent that he is not was not in the IRA. There are a lot of people out there who want to smear him because of his change agenda. FF and FG both fear him and therefore are not impartial witnesses.

  5. sammymcnally says:


    Gerry is trying to get SF into government in the South – making silly statements is not good for a politician and for his chances – I think we can agree on that.

    All Gerry needs to say is that he fought a horrible war like the British did and both sides have their secrets and like Mrs Thatcher and Mr Heath, he was a player and is taking his secrets to the grave – unless and until everyone else does the same.

  6. sammymcnally says:


    “Moreover, Gerry Adams has been 110% consistent.”

    See my earlier point about 2 and 2 = 5.

  7. I would be more impressed by RTÉ’s supposed neutrality (and that of the rest of the Dublin media establishment) if they applied the same rigour to quizzing/investigating Peter Robinson and crew over their past associations with the Ulster Resistance, etc. as they do to quizzing/investigating Adams and McGuinness in relation to the Irish Republican Army.

    As it is one is left with the distinct impression that the Irish media establishment, like their British counterparts, regard the IRA as “terrorists” and the Unionist as “paramilitaries”. In fact I would go further and argue that there was a deliberate agenda in some RTÉ and newspaper circles to excuse away or censor reporting on the violence of the British terror gangs in Ireland because influential people in the Irish media saw them (correctly as it happens) as part of a broader counter-insurgency campaign by Britain against revolutionary Irish Republicanism in Ireland. The simple if unpalatable truth is that numerous Irish journalists, editors and programme-makers saw themselves as part of that same campaign.

    Local journalists in the BBCNI and UTV did more to uncover the activities of the British terrorist organisations in Ireland than our supposed national broadcaster ever did and I’m prepared to argue that fact with anyone.

    By the by, has anyone from RTÉ ever quizzed Peter Robinson on the number of convicted terrorists in the DUP? Has a Sunday Independent editorial ever been issued condemning the DUP for standing sectarian bombers as election candidates?

    • A general reply to all.
      That Sticky Cumann (Stapleton) may have had few members but that attitude still pervades as much as when Mary McAleese was being riduled in RTE decades ago.
      Its not just a broadcast thing either …Kevin O’ Booze and Miriam O’Slag in the print media are not exactly pro-northern nationalist.
      But my point was actually more precise …that the cut-throat killers have been air-brushd out of our northern history in a way that British prisons and bullets and IRA bombs and bullets have not.
      Davy Payne is dead. His followers in UDA might be in lucrative exile in North of England and South of Spain. Lenny Murphy is dead and his UVF followers might be walking in “UVF Centenary” commemorations. …but the political leaders who are “close to the thinking” of UDA and UVF such as the Blessed McMichael and the Blessed Ervine and their very much alive successors have never asked to explain the Romper Room and Butcher Culture.
      Why not?
      The walls between communities in Belfast are there for a reason.
      Its not about golf balls. Its about Abduction and Torture.

    • factual says:

      Peter Robinson is a NI pol so it is not really the place of RTE to grill him. NI journalists such as the highly regarded Eamonn Mallie do grill him, however.

      • are you saying that RTE should not interview northern politicians?
        Are you a partitionist?

      • factual says:

        Each jurisdiction’s media should surely primarily scrutinise its leglslators in order to focus voters for that legislature? The folks in RTE then scrutinise mainly Dail TDs as that is where the law comes from. We are not subjected to NI law.

  8. sammymcnally says:


    If election results go his way Gerry could be in charge of another army who havent gone away either – the IA (and possibly still the IRA?).

    If and when Robbo is anywhere near the levers of military power in the South – I think we wil lall recognise Gerry to have gotten a very easy ride.

    • The prospect of SF in coalition government in Dublin post-2016 may be driving the ongoing negativity towards SF in the Irish establishment but Adams was subject to the scrutiny (and hostility) of the Dublin media long before he got anywhere near Dáil Éireann. Contrast his treatment with that of David Ervine who was fawned upon and eulogised by the Dublin press. No matter that he represented a British terrorist faction some 80% of whose victims were entirely innocent Irish civilian men, women and children.

      If Robinson did lead his community into a reunited Ireland and a coalition government in Dublin (FG-DUP) I very, very much doubt one would hear a single note of criticism from the Dublin elites, media or otherwise.

      As it is, Ireland is Ireland, and Irish people are Irish people regardless of where they live on this island-nation. There is no hierarchy of victims, or so we are told. So why are Irish men, women and children murdered north AND south of the partition line by British state-backed terrorists clearly held to be of lesser value or import by many Irish journalists?

      Because the British terrorists were fighting as part of Britain’s counter-insurgency war in Ireland and the majority of the Irish journalist elite were sympathetic with the objectives of that war?

      I expect the DUP, UUP and PUP to be held to the same standards by the Irish media as their counterparts in Sinn Féin. Not given an easy pass because some Irish journalists believe my enemy’s enemy is my friend.

      On Adams’ revolutionary/military career he has gone too far in the deniability stakes to roll back. And foolishly so, if understandably from a legal point of view. But a more nuanced attitude should have been in place once he decide to stand in Louth. It will continue to damage SF electorally and him personally.

  9. RJC says:

    I guess as the DUP are unlikely ever to organise in the Republic it is seen as less important by RTE. As the Labour Party seem to be in a kind of freefall, we are in a situation now where SF could possibly form part of a coalition government following the next general election. Having people with terrorist links in power in the Republic perhaps doesn’t play as well with the shiny happy modern celtic tiger Ireland, where political violence is seen to be a thing of the past.

    Giving RTE the benefit of the doubt, they perhaps don’t bother as much with terrorist involvement in the DUP as its not considered to be in the public interest. How many people outside of the north really care about the DUP? In a UI which saw DUP members sitting in Dáil Éireann Nua it might be a different story.

    Anyone prepared to put money on SF being in power on both sides of the border by 2016?

    • In the regional government in the north-east by 2016, a definite possibility. But I doubt they will make it into the national government, at least as formal coalition partners. More likely a minority government (FF + Independents?) supported by SF in Dáil Éireann, if the numbers are there (20+ seats?).

      While that might turn out to be a case of the tail wagging the dog it still gives SF an element of plausible deniability, allowing it to vote against those things it disagrees with while escaping to a lesser extent the brush Labour is now being painted with (the local bike for the bigger parties).

  10. Political Tourist says:

    There doesn’t seem to have been any problem getting clergymen to officiate at the funerals of the romper room brigade.
    There will be always be more questions than answers when it comes to the Bates and Murphy story.
    I couldn’t see the likes of Lenny Murphy living his later years in Troon.
    And what becomes of Michael Stone when he gets out.

    • This is really what bothers me most.
      Some of these people will actually live into ripe old age.
      And will be in hospitals, “folds” and nursing homes…shared accomodation with those they would have happily killed….butchered.
      Yet somehow they have had an easy ride.
      We call it the Troubles. Just recently I seem to have adopted …unwittingly and unwillingly ” The Conflict”.
      We talk about Truth. Reconciliation. None of which rally interests me.
      But somehow in the Big Picture of Big Events like Bloody Sunday or Bloody Friday, this hS all been overlooked.
      Are the Romper Room Killers and Shankill Butchers at heart psychopathic serial killers who somehow used Belfast secrarianism?
      nobody seems to want to really talk about them in the Big Picture.
      Yet for me and thousands like me, they define the Troubles Years.

      • factual says:

        Many argue that the loyalists have not necessarily had an easy ride in so far as they have not attained electoral success relative to other partners in the conflict up there, and they feel neglected. Academic studies of them – according to a scholar I was talking to a while back who was a guest at a dinner party I attended – indicate that they feel they have been neglected and overlooked and that they feel cut off from society. These academic studies used primary material including face-to-face interviews.

      • “many argue that the loyalists have not necessarily had an easy ride….”
        But on the other hand ” many” including academic scholars talk bollix.
        QUB is always studying so called disenfranchised loyalists.
        Id pay good money for so called disenfranchised loyalists to study QUB academics.
        Dont waste your time on them.

      • factual says:

        To be fair these studies have generally been published in peer-reviewed journals.

      • Factual…you are far too trusting.

    • hoboroad says:

      One reason for supposing that Paisley and his supporters condone terrorism is that they have been unusually willing to conduct funerals for loyalist terrorists. William McCrea and Ivan Foster conducted funerals for Wesley Somerville and Horace Boyle, members of the notorious Portadown UVF cell led by Robin Jackson. Foster gave a graveside oration for Sinclair Johnston, a Larne UVF shot by the RUC during rioting in 1972. McCrea buried Benjamin Redfern, a UDA lifer who was crushed by a bin lorry while trying to escape from the Maze prison. Robert ‘Basher’ Bates, convicted of a number of vicious murders committed by Lenny Murphy’s ‘Shankill Butchers’ gang, was murdered by a loyalist in June 1997 and was buried by Free Presbyterian minister Alan Smylie. Smylie had come to know Bates through his prison chaplaincy work in the Maze. Roy Metcalfe, a Lurgan businessman who sold army surplus clothing and loyalist memorabilia, was murdered by the IRA in October 1989, purportedly because he was active in Ulster Resistance and the UVF. He was buried by Free Presbyterian minister David Creane. Revd David McIlveen buried UDA man Raymond Elder in 1994. When Billy Wright, the UVF man who founded the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force was buried, the Reverend John Gray conducted a short service outside his home.

      • In fairness the majority of IRA men received Catholic burials.
        But I take your point totally.
        apparently a lot is ready to come out when an individual (NOT Paisley) dies.

      • factual says:

        I don’t think that giving someone a burial is to condone them .

  11. Political Tourist says:

    You’d imagine that anybody who was criminally insane and free during and after August 1969 was on the streets.
    Doubt they took the decision to watch Corrie while two streets away houses were being set on fire.
    According to the history books, Lenny Murphy was already a UVF member by that point.
    So much for loyalism only being a reaction to republicanism.

  12. hoboroad says:

    Are Lenny Murphy’s two older brothers still alive?

    • Political Tourist says:

      John Murphy died in a car crash on the Westlink.
      Didn’t Dillon the author mention the first person to help at the scene was one of the Butchers victims relatives.
      William Murphy’s son was jailed for killing a 78 year old in 1998.

      • Ah I had heard the story about the victims relative.
        In a strange way, thats the story of Norn Iron…out in the car, I often notice that some drivers are downright nasty and others polite. It transcends politics and religion. Its like in our cars we are in a bubble.
        There is however the story of the mother of a unionist who insisted her son not be operated on by a Catholic.
        Apparently she relented when it was pointed out that it could be fatal.

      • hoboroad says:

        I wonder if Mr Martin Dillion will ever release updated versions of his books? You know filling in the blanks as to to the identity of Mr A and Mr B as well as all the others.

      • There has always been speculation.
        Robin Jackson, Billy Wright, Davey Payne, Lenny Murphy are all dead and in the same part of Hell.
        But every death brings out a little more info into the public domain.
        Certainly theres a PhD in it for someone who has the stomach to trawl thru newspapers, transcripts etc.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        No need to wait. A & B just got a mention on this thread.

  13. hoboroad says:

    Was there more than one UDA romper room gang? Albert Baker was in charge of the East Belfast based UDA gang that tortured and murdered many Catholics. There was also a Red Hand Commando gang which tortured it’s victims with red hot poker’s and branded them with a number.

    • yes there was.
      But again this is my point. The Romper Room gangs are almost a footnote rather than central to the Troubles narrative.

    • Political Tourist says:

      Then was the Protestant girl who ended up in a party in the South Belfast drinking den.
      Made the mistake of wearing a cross which the locals decided was a death sentence.
      The whole romper room event took place while the music played.
      But hold on, she wasn’t related to a certain UDA warlord.
      Outcome was one local executed and the building demolished.

  14. bangordub says:

    Whew, Tensions running high here.

  15. bangordub says:

    Perhaps my radar is tuned more acutely?

    • factual says:

      I think perhaps you assume because there is a lot of chit-chat that it is tense..? I detected no tensions anyway.

      • bangordub says:

        I am open to correction. I have been off line for a couple of days and therefore read the thread in entirety at a single sittiing. My opinion is that tensions were running high.

      • factual says:

        Between whom and whom?

  16. bangordub says:

    By the way Mr Fitz, an incisive and keenly felt piece of writing.

    • Thank you Mr Dub.
      very difficult to write it.
      I can only suggest that you look up any internet articles you can find on the Shankill Butchers and Davey Payne.
      I could have written more but its particuarly upsetting for a mN of my background and my age.
      This was what we feared most.

      • hoboroad says:

        I read a article about Payne once he was a nasty piece of work. Didn’t he get involved with the Peace People some talk of money going missing as well. And then he was caught red handed with the largest loyalist arms shipment ever. He used to go up to people in pubs and shout in their faces “I’m Davey Payne they say I Killed Senator Paddy Wilson”.

      • I never heard the Peace People story but as a member of SDLP from just a few weeks before Paddy Wilsons murder in 1973….( He was a friend of my father and a regular visitor to our house in the 1960s)… it was common knowledge that he had been involved in Paddy Wilsons murder.
        As I heard it, he was a very loose cannon towards the end of his life.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        The McCreery gang also belong on that list of psycopaths.

  17. Political Tourist says:

    I couldn’t think of a better and more beautiful place to open a State Mental Hospital than Bangor.
    Lovely scenery over the lough and fresh sea air.
    Locals are easy going and very liberal, well as liberal as unionists can be.

    HM State Mental Hospital, Bangor.

    Has a certain ring to it, don’t you think.

  18. Political Tourist says:

    The only other present day murders of this type outside of a war zone i’ve came across are those involving drugs.
    Most of it but not all is male on male.
    Were the Belfast Butchers high on drink and drugs at the time of the torture.

    • Mostly high on peer pressure and hatred.

    • bangordub says:

      They were “full” on a sense of entitlement and superiority. Something that still needs to be adressed

      • hoboroad says:

        Someone told me once that Fat Sam of the Shankill Butchers now lives in North Down.

      • Ah “superiority” is the exact word.
        The nature of imperialism is that it gives people a feeling that they are superior and that others are children of a lesser God.
        This underpins unionism here.
        And allowed people like the Shankill Butchers to think that the people they were butchering were sub-human. And Nazi concentration camp guards had the same attitude.

  19. Good analysis by Jeffrey A. Sluka: “For God and Ulster”: The Culture of Terror and Loyalist Death Squads in Northern Ireland

    “Protestant stereotyping of Catholics is similar to the stereotypes of ‘natives’ held in settler colonial societies and constitutes a form of racism little distinguishable from settler racism.”

    Perhaps this is one answer for the simple, apolitical barbarism of the British terror gangs. If your opponents are Untermenschen then anything is permissible.

    • Great minds think alike.
      Your comment crossed with mine.
      And you have said it better than I did.

    • factual says:

      This sounds like a stereotype of protestants in and of itself! Really I have met protestants from north of the border (NI) and they were really not like that at all. Let us not be guilty of stereotyping ourselves

  20. bangordub says:

    It is interesting to examine the speech and mannerisms of loyalism.
    WATP- We are the people, Loyal, Follow and lots of faux militaristic terminology.

    It speaks volumes without commentary

  21. anne says:

    The IRA had a political message, like it or not

    Sectarian murders of Catholics in NI have been going on for centuries- Read Holy War in Belfast by Andrew Boyd to get the picture from the 19th Century onwards. Police and judiciary were often compliant

    Sectarian murders are still on-going, though fewer in number
    Protestants murder Catholics in NI whenever they want to
    Sectarian murders carry a hate message and threats “This is what will happen toTaigs if they stand up for their rights and this will happen whether they do or not”

    I agree they were/are terrifying to the Catholic population in NI
    I agree they have been brushed under the carpet because no one, and I repeat no one, has the temerity to look at what they really mean
    I have often been surprised that neither SF nor the SDLP ever campaigned against sectarian murders saying “Never again”
    Never a candle-light vigil at belfast city hall
    Never a walkout from anywhere in protest
    Occasional trades union murmurs of dissent at the murder of a of a fellow-worker
    Makes you wonder!!

    • bangordub says:

      Are you saying that murders in the north are religiously and not politically motivated?
      If so I would say you are wrong but I may be misinterpreting you

      • I think Anne makes a fair point. I interpret as talking about Protestants and Catholics as ethnic groups as much as religion…but there is an anti-Catholic narrative also.
        Remember these people…imperialists…as in Arizona in 1800 or Israel in 1900s…or indeed in South Africa claim a covenant with GOD.
        The late Cardinal O’Fiach used to say that Nationalists were bigoted for political reasons but unionists were bigoted for religious reasons.
        Remember this was the 1970s. We live in a secular age even in Norn Iron but it was common then in workplaces for Catholics to get helpful little leaflets telling them we were all going to Hell.
        Will we ever know the full story of Maura Lyons? You should google that one Mr DUb.

      • anne says:

        I think that often they were/are religiously motivated – politics was just the pretext. Obviously I am basing this opinion upon historical evidence, on Protestants being killed because they were erroneously identified as Catholics and on sectarian murders over the past few years, – young boys in Antrim and Glengormley, near Bellevue in Belfast, a family man elsewhere, Polish and Portuguese immigrants and workers.
        I haven’t the names of victims to hand though I can search for them if you want.
        I wrote this comment before looking at the link Seamus posted which strangely enough bears out what I said, albeit in a more academic language, and identifying the death squads as politically motivated.
        I find it hard to believe this type of political motivation could exist for hundreds of years without an underlying hatred.
        I am clearly not stating that all Protestants are motivated by irrational hatred of Catholics but all the evidence shows some are.
        Which is why nobody wants to touch the topic with a barge-pole

      • bangordub says:

        I will Mr Fitz I will.
        Actually I have already but it is deserving of further research. I am yet to pass a day without learning. My Mother is a huge fan of the late Cardinal O’Fiach. I would not challenge his opinions without due care. As a South Armagh man my deceased father would haunt me if I did

      • bangordub says:

        Anne I have to respond to that.
        I honestly believe that religion has been used as a tool of political manipulation not just here but all over the British empire. Without getting into a worldwide history lesson the story of Irish nationalism has never been one of religion. Religion has been dragged into it many times always as a means of division for political advantage. The simple aim of Irish nationalism has never been conquest, never religious domination. It has always been simply self determination.
        We, as a people and that includes all of us, are diverse and made up of many religions, creeds and colours. I’ll go back as far as you like with that from the celts, to the Hugenouts or more.

      • What was the DUP member doing trying to bomb a Polish family in Antrim? Sure, it could have been racist but I’d not put a fiver on it.

        Fantastic piece FJH. as if you read my every thought on what happened.

      • Thanks for that. Difficult one to write.

    • factual says:

      I detect a party political motive for this post. Just to correct what you say: Sinn Féin have not been found wanting in this regard.

    • I have indeed read ANdrew BOyds book…he was an excellent commentator on the early years of The Troubles.
      In fairness the worst of these murders took place in the 1970s and were “lost” in the general statistics.
      Trade Unions in later years DID organise Peace Rallies butbfrankly in the 1970s they did not get involved. The only time they tried to be political active was in one of the UWC strikes when they brought over Len Murray to lead a march back to work at the Ship Yard. it was a disaster.
      Trade Unions only latterly got involved when there was consensus about a particular death.

  22. Political Tourist says:

    The murder gangs never seemed to have any fear considering West Belfast was surrounded by British Army Forts.
    Was there any stats done on when exactly these murders took place ie any particular night, time etc.
    I’ve seen the stats for months but was anything more specific.
    Was there any pattern to loyalist actions?
    Can remember somebody telling you could tell something was going down.
    The RUC and the BA used disappear off the streets.

    • I dont know that there is an answer.
      Someone should really research it…its a neglected area.
      In the 1970s a lot of the abductions were of easy targets…lone men leaving bars and in interface areas.
      The absence of military …I think this really dates from the 1980s when collusion was more recognised. Everyone just accepted it.
      I think in fairness it has to be said that the RUC especially individual detectives got the Butchers in the end.
      I think this what I find so emotional about these killings.
      Its not just the name recognition.
      I was a young manin my early to mid twenties.The age when young men cannot admit to FEAR.
      These bastards scared me.

    • I’m from the St James’ area, one which suffered badly from loyalist violence right to the end. Above us, at the access to the loyallst “Village” area, was the heavily equipped army observation post above the nurses flats at the RVH. Astonishingly, the highly visible audio devices were unable to pick up loyalist activity, which included shootings, grenade and bomb attacks.

  23. Political Tourist says:

    Was there ever a day, night or time when you or your family thought, quiet night in rather than go out because of the murder gangs?
    Would your family have answered the door without knowing who was there?

    • I suppose every family is different.
      But the short answer is YES
      From 1970 to 1979 we lived in the Greater BallymuRphy area.
      By the 1970s my father was chronically ill and effectively house-bound.
      My mother did her shopping locally.
      I have one younger sister.
      I have no brothers.
      I dont drink and leaving my natural habitat in the Grosvenor Road area of the city in 1970, I really did not make friends in the Ballymurphy area. I had no cousins of my own age in Belfast and I lived by any standards a fairly anonymous existence. I was active in church and in SDLP but that was about it.
      I dont drink alcohol and really the only bars I remember going to at the time were the Green Briar on the Glen Road and the Glenowen. And a bar at the top of Skipper STreet ( a girlfriend lived nearby).
      But it was a fairly solitary existence…
      I did have a 50cc motor cycle which took me out of town.
      But…was actually thinking today that this was BEFORE Breakfast TV….and I think the most dreaded words on the radio were “this morning a body was found….”
      Maybe we …I mean every 60 year old man is mad….made mad by that.
      For me the coping mechanism was that …in most cases the dead body could not have been me.
      I was not in RUC or British Army.
      I was not in IRA.
      I did not drink so would hardly ever been in a bar that would have blown up or have gunmen bursting in.
      I was not an informer.
      I did not live in North Belfast.I KNEW the Falls Road.
      Of course there was always the possibility of being an “accidental death” such as getting caught in crossfire, or walking past a car bomb.
      But ultimately the only people who really scared me (and the British Army could always have given anybody a kicking) were the murder gangs.
      On one occasion circa 1973 I was taking an evening class in College of Business Studies and got home about 9.50pm …my parents were very distressed as they had just got a phone call ” we are the UDA in Springmartin and we have your son”.
      A lot of people got similar calls but in this particular case it MIGHT have been a prank initiated by young neighbours. But distressing.

  24. anne says:

    Bangor dub said “The simple aim of Irish nationalism has never been conquest, never religious domination. It has always been simply self determination.
    We, as a people and that includes all of us, are diverse and made up of many religions, creeds and colours”

    Totally agree. I was not talking about Irish Nationalism/Republicanism.
    Most religiously motivated sectarian murders were carried out by members of the Loyalist community, all of whom are Protestants though not all Protestants are Loyalists
    They say they are not Irish. Who am I to disagree?
    Their only aim in life is to uphold their “Britishness”.
    One of their methods is to murder Catholics – Her Majesty’s Catholic subjects – because they are Catholics, not because they are Irish nationalists or Republicans. They murder Protestants they think are Catholics and they murder and intimidate Poles and Portuguese because they are Catholics.

    • Gareth says:

      Many murders were carried out Anne. Religious motivation is only one motivation and there were political and national motivations too – equally bad.

  25. sammymcnally says:

    Gerry can consider himself lucky he’s not grilled about how close associates of his and SF could have been involved in killing of the corporals – or indeed the McCartney killings where an innocent man had his neck cut for stepping out of line with Republicans.

    This was a horrible and dirty war – there were horrible acts carried out by the PIRA (and the following be fair was referenced by FJH above) but it worth reading the details from Wiki

    “The two men were driven less than 200 yards to waste ground near Penny Lane (South Link), just off the main Andersonstown Road. There they were shot several times. Corporal Wood was shot six times, twice in the head and four times in the chest. He was also stabbed four times in the back of the neck and had multiple injuries to other parts of his body.”

    As I understand it these killing were carried out by leading IRA members and personally I dont give a fiddlers if they were army or not – or if the previous funeral was attacked – they were human beings and the manner of their killing shows just how low a community (Nationalist or Loyalist) will stoop- its a short journey from defending that behaviour to joining in with the activities outlined in the posts above.

    Whataboutery yes – but a sense of perspective regarding the nature of our little squabble should be maintained?

    • bangordub says:

      Your comment illustrates your lack of perspective which, frankly surprises me. Despite the disclaimer built into your post above, I can fully understand the circumstances which led to what happened. It was wrong. I don’t hesitate to say that but I know why it happened.
      I also know why it was wrong but I will not condemn just for the sake of it.
      The people of west Belfast I will defend on that day.

      • sammymcnally says:

        Are you telling me that if the Shankill Road bomber(s) had been caught and taken away by a mob and stabbed multiple times you would be defending them as well?

        Or is just our side that does ‘understandable’ mob rule?

      • bangordub says:

        No Sammy,
        As I said above, “It was wrong”. re read what I said my friend

      • sammymcnally says:


        You said.

        “I can fully understand the circumstances which led to what happened.”


        “The people of west Belfast I will defend on that day.”

        YOU used the terms ‘defend’ and ‘understand’ in relation to the killings – I am asking you if you would defend and understand Prods lynching and stabbing the Shankill bombers?.

        ps I read you post carefully – thats how I actually quoted you.

      • factual says:

        I would not defend those killings they were morally wrong.

      • Gareth says:

        The SDLP position – that they were wrong – is right. It was a horrible time wasn’t it. I don’t think FJH was in any sense condoning these murders in his original post.

    • bangordub says:

      Whattaboutery is a finely honed skill. you are comparing the shankill bombers with the two corporals. Are you saying the two situations are the same?

      • sammymcnally says:


        Since I posted – you have firslty told me I lack perspective and secondly that I didnt read your post.

        No hard feelings – just a bit of deflection.

        …but you still havent answered the question but to indulge a bit of further deflection for a moment – no two situations are the same but if we have 2 communities under attack(or perceived attack) then it is reasonable to compare their responses.

        Any chance of an answer now?

        Reminder of questions after deflection:

        Would you also ‘defend’ and ‘understand’ the actions of the good people of the Shankill if they lynched and stabbedc the Shankill Road bombers?

    • OK, Ill bat this one. We all know the intended target on the day of the Shankill bombing (even though the venue was changed etc) but what has to be recounted is the palpable fear within the Catholic community at that time, a time of an upsurge in random loyalist murders, with a strnge taste in City Cab drivers. I well remeber my mums fears when I went out of an evening and her warnings to be very careful.

      As for the soldiers, a terrible thing but the context of Stone’s attack is everything. I was there at the time (not close to were the incident happened, though) and felt the emotions in reaction to what happened and the presumptions that were made. What would you suggest should have happened?

  26. factual says:

    I think it is important – to all those pointing the finger at the other side – to remember that those without sin should cast the last stone.

  27. anne says:


    The topic of this post is sectarian murder of catholics in Ni, focussing on the 1970s. I have stated there is historical/current evidence that that catholics were/are murdered in NI because they are catholics.

    It’s an unpalatable truth to face up to

    Horrors that were carried out on all sides is another topic.

    • factual says:

      The question is: where does pointing at the wrongs of the other side end an where does wallowing in gratuitous stereotyping begin?

      • anne says:

        When your acquaintance with some NI protestants moves beyond a few social meetings I ‘ll take up your points. Until then your views are based on lack of information and knowledge of who some of them really are and are valueless

      • factual says:

        So no reply to the point about casual stereotyping.

    • sammymcnally says:

      Anne, if you read what FJH said in the actual post you will see that there are quite a few reference to the IRA and Gerry – it is part of the ‘narrative’ of this post that it makes a distinction between the behaviour of the IRA and loyalists. It is a discitnction I would largely agree with – but with qualifications – which I have remarked on.

      • anne says:

        Actually the main thrust of the original post was how catholics feared sectarian murders in belfast and how no political party/grouping is prepared to face up to/come to terms with this past/present reality.

      • Anne,
        the original post seems a long time ago.
        I think I also wanted to draw attention to how the Conflict Resolution ” industry” ignores this aspect of the Troubles.
        I suppose for me..a Belfast Catholic, this is what the Troubles was really about.
        to some extent I could keep out of the war…but not the sectarian assassination.
        The HISTORIANS concentrate on the War…

      • Anne, its always great to see a new commenter (sic). I hope you will be a regular.

      • sammymcnally says:

        re. “Actually the main thrust of the original post was how catholics ”

        I didnt say it wasnt – but part of FJH’s arguement is the disctinction between the Provos and Loyalists – and on that basis comments on that are relevant.

      • Gareth says:

        Anne I think that FJH was saying that people in NI need to put these deaths into an overall framework. The original post by FJH said “So why does Miriam O’ Callaghan tackle Gerry Adams on his alleged involvement with the IRA? Why does Gerrys insistence that he was never involved with the IRA irritate so many journalists?” I think it’s important to keep this point of FJH in mind. It also goes on “Gerry Adams. He denies his own involvement and apologises for the IRA excesses. But nobody asks these questions of loyalist paramilitaries. ” That is there is a need for loyalist apologies to match the IRA’s apology and a need for a truth process in terms of say the activities of PUP politicians.

  28. sammymcnally says:


    Judging by the amount of deflection and wriggling on the difficult subject of the corporal killings and it would be a very interesting if extremely uncomfortable seperate ‘topic’ for discussion – as Anne suggests.


    … and talking of deflection – how are you getting along with those 2 questions?

  29. Political Tourist says:


    Thanks for that.
    I know the Whiterock area, Turf Lodge etc.
    Steering clear of pubs was no loss, take it from me.
    I notice the SDLP didn’t get off light when it came to murder gangs.
    Senator Wilson being an early grisly case.
    Think quite a few of the butchers were ex British Army.
    It wouldn’t beyond the realms of possibility that some old Unionist Party were pulling the strings in the background.
    The last thing those guys should ever have been handed was their own parliament.
    Noticed you mentioned the Patricia Curran case, who do you think did the murder.
    Didn’t the Lyons girl end up back in Belfast.

    • Gareth says:

      The SDLP have fashioned an honourable position that I think is underappreciated. FJH – if I get him right – is actually in his original post keen to see more scrutinisation of former ex loyalists. He in his original post argues that they deserve to be given a low position because if you wanted to go against the IRA then the thing was to join the security services.

    • The Curran Case
      This was about six months after I was born. My earliest recollection of it was around 1967. As a family we used to get on a bus and go to see the new Council housing on the edge of Belfast…Andersonstown, Suffolk, Lenadoon…but one Sunday we went to Glengormley which was all new to us. We walked down O ‘ Neill Road to see this new place…Rathcoole.
      Somehow we ended up in a long driveway. I dont recall actually seeing the house…it might have been a ruin…but my father said that a murder had taken place there years before.
      Anxious to know more…because in those days circa 1967 …it seemed that nothing ever happened in Belfast, I discovered that my father did not want to expand much on the basics. He was a devout Catholic and I recall him saying that people were making anti-Catholic allegations.
      Surprisingly perhaps, I have never really taken much interest in the case. There has always been a kinda “dont go there” attitude but I think Nobody really wants to know the truth…because too many people with too many conspiracy agendas actually prefer the uncertainty.

      Maura Lyons
      Again 1950s and before my time. Right up until she died my Auntie Sheila, a Falls Road woman would shout ” Maura Lyons” at the TV News every time ” that old goat Paisley” appeared. Again a curious “dont go there” to it. It certainly shows Free Presbyterianism in a bad light…and it is a reminder of the anti-Catholic agenda that Paisley had at that time. ” whore of Babylon” but certainly before the Troubles, the Belft Telegraph used to carry a whole page of adverts for gospel hall preachers…and my father a barman often brought home the Protestant Telegraph for our amusement. If I recall correctly he used to say these papers were given to him by RUC Special Branch men in Musgrave Street who were monitoring Paisley.
      But certainly into the 1970s Catholics in the workplace …such as myself would often be targets for evangelical Potestants anxious to save us. And Maura Lyons was such a person 20 years before.
      Secular Norn Iron cant really comprehend that.
      The Catholic Church in West Belfast did not come out of it well either.
      Allegations that Maura had been beaten by her father etc.
      And people tend to see it alongside the “Ferns” case in County Wexford.
      Either way, Maura Lyons went back to the Falls Road and anonymity.
      I think she became a hairdresser.

    • In relation to Spence’s apology to “innocent victims” I saw a list of victims they did count as legitimate. Among what they called being fair game was GAA membership and SDLP membership.

  30. factual says:

    Some people have been commenting on the import behind the blog piece.

    The title of this blog item is “Apologize for This!” This should be seen as an *exhortation* to those responsible for paramilitary murders to apologise for them. It is not a casual stereotyping of the broad loyalist community.

    This blog post follows in the wake of Gerry Adam’s apology in the Dail – on behalf of Sinn Féin – for IRA killings. This apology was (in my opinion) not widely enough reported and should have attained more credit; instead RTÉ gave Gerry Adams a very biased interview. Gerry nonetheless did well in the interview. I asked FJH to do a blog piece on this and I am thankful that he did.

    • “Factual” can I make it absolutely clear that this blog post is not a response to your request.
      The genesis is that around Christmas, I was preparing some papers to supplement my two-part lecture in Texas (February), One of these supplements was the names of ten people who I had known and who were victims of the Troubles. I wrote a paragraph on each one. Paddy Wilson was one.
      It was quite a difficult list to prepare. One difficulty was that I knew more than ten people. Another that I wanted “balance” (victims of British, IRA and Loyalist) but rather obviously I knew people in West Belfast better (so the “Protestant” victims I included were fewer…although I made the reason clear). Also I wanted to emphasise that some I knew mostly thru school which was before 1969. And I wanted to include Combatant and Non-Combatant.
      As a sidebar I should say that in my O Level class 1968 there were 24 boys…two would die. And a third was in my A Level class 1969-70.
      These three were included. But I will not identify them here. Texas gave a certain anonymity.
      Yet…I had to exclude some people. It is an odd thing but on one occasion with our children Mrs FJH and I sat down and counted the people we knew and got a certain number. On another occasion we got a different number. Some names slip our minds. Or the definition of “knowing someone” can be stretched to include people that were merely friends of friends.
      Gerry Adams ws not a factor at all in composing the Blog…except in the sense that the Media are far too keen to question Gerry Adams while overlooking others…particuarly loyalists.
      As Barney Rowan the journalist and Jane Winter the lawyer noted on a UTV programme last night…about Collusion…the current and previous British Government might well want to talk about Truth…but its the permenant “State” ie MI5 who are blocking it. As Barney tellingly put it…the British can put MI5-RUC Special Branch in the dock…but MI5-Special Branch can put a lot of politicians in the dock.
      Adams….and I dont share your sychophancy …and I dont dislike him…is questioned because he is near the levers of power. He is a player.
      Loyalists dont get questioned because they are nowhere near the levers of power.
      And their campaign of sectarian killing was deemed a sideshow and without political motivation or consequence. It is overlooked by analysts and cannot be overlooked by people like me.
      In March 1970, just after the Provisional IRA was formed, I was still 17 and wentto live in Greater Ballymurphy. It was a phoney war for eighteen months until Internment August 1971….and the Ballymurphy Massacre. That will probably be the next “truth” revealed probably as part of some quid-pro-pro….but nobody can really tell me the truth about then because I was there. No British Inquiry, no apology in the House of Commons in ten years time …will tell me something I dont know. Or convince me that I dont know something.
      Like the relatives of the Bloody Sunday Dead were not told something “new” . The Truth in Westminster in 2010 is the same as it was in the Bogside in 1972.
      The Apology is almost irrelevant. The “Truth” is almost irrelevant. And DO NOTE THE QUALIFICATION….”ALMOST”.
      People have been screaming the Truth for forty years.
      Likewise I cannot get enthused about Gerry Adams…his apology or his denial.
      Except the two together dont make sense.
      If he wasnt a member of the IRA, then he has no need to apologise on their behalf.
      Suffice to say that everyone who lived in West Belfast knows “more than their prayers”
      So did I live in an area where D Company 2nd Battn Belfast Brigade were active and not see or hear anything?
      Did I go to Church and ocialise in the area of the 2nd Battalion?
      Did I live in the City of the Belfast Brigade?
      Am I really going to be impressed by apologies in An Dail?
      Am I really going to be impressed by denials to Miriam O’ Callaghan?
      Apologies and Denials dont change FACTS.

      And frankly…I am too old to care.

      • factual says:

        You state: “I cannot get enthused about Gerry Adams…his apology or his denial.
        Except the two together dont make sense. If he wasnt a member of the IRA, then he has no need to apologise on their behalf.”

        To be clear: Gerry Adams stated that he was apologizing on behalf of SF not for his own sake. I would argue this apology does not imply any link between SF and IRA other than a shared political analysis.

      • Yes you would argue that.

  31. factual says:

    Off topic, I see this:anti SF legislation in today’s Queen’s speech:


    • Its hardly anti Sinn Fein.It applies to everyone.
      If I recall correctly SDLPs Seamas Mallon was disqualified from Stormont because he took a seat in An Seanad.

      • I think most people would not favour MLAs also standing as TDs (even in a reunited state). MPs on the other hand would be a different matter. That is something I would like to see if practical.

        Of course northern MPs should be allowed observer status (non-voting, non-participant) in Dáil Éireann anyway.

      • bangordub says:

        I’d rather see northern MP’s having voting rights and full participation in the Dáil 😉

      • factual says:

        Dublin would not agree to that.

  32. Derek says:

    That’s not a bad idea, bangordub. If the ROI was serious about laying the groundwork for re-unification then that would be a worthy step along with the extending of the franchise for the vote for Irish president to citizens in the North. This makes me think of the recent post on re-imagining the Irish nation on footballcliches blog

    On another topic, I would love to see a separate discussion on the deaths of the 2 corporals. I agree that it was wrong, in the same way that all killings are wrong; this is the argument against capital punishment. But in the context of a “war” was it not justified? FJH has already noted above the IRA and British Army were opposing combatants.

    I am also alluding to Jude Collins’ unease with the term “murder” when used in a war situation. I note that above FJH described their killings as murder, which I found to be an interesting judgement. I am also sceptical of the claim that the 2 corporals “accidently” stumbled onto the funeral.

    I also wonder if the high levels of disgust over the corporals’ killings relates to the fact they were caught by helicopter TV cameras? The loyalist torture and killings were never captured by the media in the same way.

    • I think the television coverage of the Corporals Death was important. And seen at road level as well as from the air.
      It was ugly and brutish.
      On balance I would say that it is unlikely that they just stumbled upon the funeral. It looked like a surveillance operation.
      I think it IS possible to see “murder” in a war…and possible just to see “killing”.
      In our Troubles the British had the luxury that the default position of every death they caused was “legal”.
      The Republicans were acting “illegally” with every death they caused.
      I am not of course equating legality and illegality with “right” and “wrong”.

      Derek…Im not sure if I can do a post on the Corporals killing-murder.
      But I have often made the point that when recalling Troubles experience…victims and survivors should be allowed to tell TWO stories of an injustice suffered but only on condition that they talk about ONE injustice caused by their tribe.

      • Derek says:

        Fair enough in no forthcoming post on the subject, it is your blog after all. However, maybe it could be tied in with broader themes? For me, attitudes expressed to the corporals’ killings do serve as a useful platform to discuss the historical revisionism of the letsgetalongerists. As well as the ROI media outlets who take the moral high ground in shaking their heads at the northern conflict as “each side as bad as the other”. I see a deep hypocrisy at the heart of this southern view. And for the Unionist perspective of the corporals’ killings as brutal murders by rabid untermenschen I see a deep failure to grapple with the significance of the GFA.

        Republican injustices should be talked about, but in which forum? in which climate would there be a fair discussion putting events in a fair context? The media in the Republic have demonstrated that they are not up to it and the continued battles in the North over history prevent it. You’ve mentioned before that the absence of a clear victory in the troubles by either side has hamstrung these kind of efforts and to my mind has contributed to the “forgetting” of the loyalist atrocities that you refer to in the original post.

      • I think History is too big a subject to be dealth with adequately in any Blog.
        It is the subject for a book or a thousand books.
        as Mick Fealty points out in another overnight comment, the initial running towards the corporals car was (arguably) brave and that the story of the next fifteen minutes or so is actually what bothers us all.
        There was and is a context. Mick is wrong about the State taking prisoners. There was a shoot to kill policy not least in Gibraltar just a week before the Corporals. There is also the context of Michael Stone and Milltown just a few days before. And thee is the context of what the two men were doing there in the first place. Observation seems the most likely outcome.
        Conflict Resolution is a mess and “Truth” is also.
        My long standing position is that we should not scrutinise it.
        History is effectively two different things …one is the original event…and the second is the interpretation of the event.
        And that interpretation is often the iinterpretation of the Victor. Thus we believe that the air force which bombed London in 1940 were evil and the air force which bombed Hiroshima in 1945 were heroic.
        The ACT was actually the same. People…innocent children included died in horrific circumstances. But we would not expect any historian to say that this is 50-50 …one side is as bad as the other. Thats Mathematics NOT History.
        We have to have context.
        One…the British position is that it was simply a matter of Law & Order and that whatever about events started 700 years previously, there was no justification for the so called war (as they would see it).
        The second …the Irish Republican position is that it was a war of liberation.
        And the Good Friday Agreement provides no handy closure like the ruins of Berlin and Hiroshima.
        To come along and aportion blame (thru Truth) and a way forward (thru Conflict Resolution) just wont work. Even if the British permenant State (MI5 etc) allowed Truth.
        Arguably the British State has a vested interest in keeping the lid on things. Governments have a contract…a need to know basis …with MI5 and the rest. In a State…an imperialist state like Britain with many “interests” strtching from Iran to Ireland, Pakistan to Nigeria…there is even a logic to that.
        arguably Irish Republicans have more to gain from “Truth” albeit limited Truth. Ignoring Gerry Adams himself, the “outreach” advocated by Declan Kearney is to establish Sinn Fein as remorseful but there is a calculation at the heart of it.
        There is a balance to be struck here…the Republicans earn “respectability” (and many republicans would say that they dont need to prove anything) and show the BritishState in a bad light ( which the State will resist).
        Does going for the “little bit right, little bit wrong” option damage History and help Politics?
        and the Loyalists?
        For me compromising History for the benefit of Politics is a LIE.
        And bringing Loyalists into the fold of respectability is certainly a step too far.

      • Derek says:

        Doesn’t Mick Fealty normally comment under his full name? Not sure that the commenter below is the same one.

        Anyway, seems that this post and comments is well on the way to a book already! :p

      • Derek…thanks for this (I hadnt noticed).
        Yes its Mick…or at least Im assuming so.
        The way “word press” seems to work is that regular commentators are automatically published. Comments from new people have to be approved.
        The comment ws published automaticaly so sent up no flags.
        And Ive checked back to Micks last comment and its the same ISP.
        So…its Mick.

  33. Political Tourist says:

    Thanks FJH,

    For the post on the Curran and Lyons case.
    The Curran case was a big case a number of years back in Scotland when the accused fought his corner for compensation.
    The unionist regime seemed quick enough at blaming their cousins across the North Channel when it suited them.
    The Curran case and the 1935 Belfast riots being two case in points.
    So much for the Ulster Scots unity.

    Btw, looks like you’ll have to suffer another Glasgow man down Busby Way.

    • Im working on a Alex FErguson post.
      Hard day to concentrate. Was at Dentists today 😦

      • mick says:

        The men who rushed towards the two corporals were incredibly brave given what had happened before. They could not know how or why they came to be there, but they put themselves in harms way for the sake of their community.

        What they then did with them though was a telling difference between the states war and that of the rebels. In the case of the later they did not take prisoners.

        Consequently they killed far more people, and left themselves far more questions to be answered.

        As to the main point, theres a crude point at the core of it I broadly agree with. It was not the Provies I was scared of. But tge reason no asls tgem questions them about their past is because they have no power.

        A journo’s job is to “speak truth unto power”. If you’ve spent a lifetime serving power perhaps thats not so obvious. Where I do agree with you is that the corrolly of no hierarchy of killers doctrine is that we are forced to treat romper room murderers were not (albeit politically motivated) sadistic killers.

      • Mick…thanks for this.
        I think the bravery option would be a hard sell in unionist and British eyes. They would see the corporals being there as a “right” which a mob did not have. Or at least thats how the Devils Advocate would see it.
        The issue of Prisoners. Hard to see how they could simply have been disarmed and held for a Press Conference (the better option) when there is a mob involved.
        A community already traumatised by Milltown and Michael Stone….and questions still unanswered.
        and of course there was a shoot to kill policy operated by the British and franchised out via Brian Nelson to loyalists.
        and Gibraltar just the week before…the British took no prisoners.
        and we have sadly seen this kinda thing in Syria…and indeed was an Iraqi community going to take six British Military Policemen prisoner a decade ago.
        Yes Journalists are entitled to ask questions of Gerry Adams.
        But the real issue is maybe the “calculation” in the Sinn Fein programme.
        And for the consequence of Sinn Fein apology to allow their volunteers to be equated with the British State and/or Romper Room killers does them no favours with their core support.

        I take your point that a journos job is to speak truth unto power. But are there more powerful institutions than the BBC or News International…or the Media in general.
        Journalists have not been very good in the context of holding those institutions to account.

  34. factual says:

    Mick – interesting contribution. Wouldn’t you agree though that Gerry Adams didn’t get enough credit and coverage in the media for his apology in the Dail for IRA activities?

    • factual says:

      Previous times such initiatives could have been described as historic and given quite a lot of coverage – call me cynical but has this anything to do with the fact that SF are higher in the polls than before?

      • Derek says:

        In short Factual, of course it is. The whole Sinn Fein project is anathema to the partitionist south.

        That said the apology in the Dail was probably a little too “tactical” which compromised its effectiveness. However, you do get the impression that even if Gerry and the whole of Sinn Fein commited mass Hari Kari that that wouldn’t be enough for some of the southern commentators.

    • No …he wouldnt agree. Cos I wont let him LOL
      I dont have any problem with your sycophancy towards Gerry Adams even though its childish and better directed towards Justin Bieber.
      Its downright unseemly to solicit compliments for Gerry Adams. Or indeed to solicit abuse.
      Youve made your point a million times that Gerry Adams is the greatest thing since the proverbial sliced bread.
      We all get that.
      I have no problem with you saying it.
      We (including Mick) have made our own comments.

      Mick…I dont actually believe Im saying this. PLEASE DONT COMPLIMENT GERRY ADAMS.

  35. sammymcnally says:


    As BangorDub and anothers have suggested I have been guilty of the (old Sluggeronian) crime of wahtaboutery and offtopicing in relation to the corproal killings and I would be interested in doing a guest post on this.

  36. Okay, briefly… (I have my own Man U post to write you’ll, no doubt, be pleased to hear…)

    The bravery of the men who surrounded that car and dragged armed men out is and was self evident at the time, particularly to anyone who had closely followed the events beforehand. The mob frenzy was certainly frightening in and of itself, and was used by some elements of the British press to dehumanise those who took part.

    But you should try out your theory on a real live unionist before casting them all them into a Daily Mail reader box btw. The chilling thing for most of us, and for which it is possible only to lodge a tactical rather than a moral defence, was the summary nature of the execution.

    The point I made about ‘no prisoners’ was not intended as a direct criticism. If you are going to wage a long war with a more powerful (and more popular enemy) with a low conversion rate of activists to the war amongst your host community, the summary dispatch of prisoners and touts is a necessary evil.

    It must have been personally damaging for most of those involved at the time. And for the communities in which men like Freddie Scappatici had no problem describing to victims families exactly how he had dispatched their young ones.

    But the legacy of such a war is the thing SF will find hard to shake off whilst their wartime leadership remain in charge. And they will continue to be judged harshly by those on the edge of republican communities who see the war as more moral and just than the peace that has taken its place.

    Loyalists pretty much got nothing for their murderous campaign (except the retention of the union). But Republicans were thwarted in their larger ambitions but got a boost in terms of political power and patronage (which they wield in a similar manner to the way the Catholic Church channelled govt cash through the NIO in the 70s and 80s).

    [Mr FJH is right Derek, it was me. On the android, thus the mangled syntax and spelling]

    • Derek says:

      I agree largely with your analysis Mick. The distinction between a tactical and moral defence is a useful one. When viewed through a moral/humanistic prism the summary execution is chilling indeed and diminishing of the humanity of the killers. That said, can’t all intentional killing be viewed in that light?

      If one were to condemn the corporal killers then one would also need to condemn a large proportion of actions by militaries that are celebrated and memorialised. The distinction seems to be one of viewed legitimacy and perhaps historical distance. Similar actions of cold-blooded killing of British forces are celebrated in the ROI as founding actions of the state, yet condemned by the same when they occur in the North. There is a hypocrisy there.

      • Most wars are messy both in their intention and execution. Most abound in post hoc rationalisation. Tactically, this was a foolish war that had no hope of victory, except in the minds of those who prosecuted it for such a long time when it had no hope.

        Fintan O’T wrote in damning terms of the leadership of the Provos cited this very reason for suggesting it was an unjust war. I’m less clear on the matter, not least because I recall how mad things were when it started.

        By time it came to 88, it was clear to me that war had become the local custom, a habit or reflex. Killing Brits was what you did, it seemed not to occur to those involved in the fighting that their gamble was also ruining the lives of ordinary folk who jumped out of their skin every time a mortar went into the local barracks

        The decision shoo the priest and end life of the two soldiers would not have taken long because it was a reflexive act and it would not have taken long to source the weapon and the man for the job (not everyone in the IRA had a stomach for killing).

        Tactically, I understand it in the context of that ‘war’ (in much the same way I understand why the Brits used men like Scap to blow the brains out of their best volunteers). Morally, I understand how they came to be where they were on that day. Pragmatically, I just wonder why it had to continue at all after 75.

      • Brilliant until you mentioned that buck eejit Fintan O’Toole.
        Actually I think the war could reasonably have ended with the fall of Stormont in 1972. I have previously referred to the roller coaster of events in 1971-72.
        Without saying too much…the Troubles of 1969 were almost a one off. Despite Falls Curfew and St Matthews, 1970 was actually a year I remember very fondly.
        I recall watching the Prpvisional IRA parade to Milltown at Easter 1970 and 1971. Massive crowds and a sense that they were entirely defensive. Something underlined by the Curfew and the Battle of St Matthews.
        I dont things entirely changed with the killing of Gunner Robert Curtis early 1971 even if there was a build up in IRA actions over the summer of 1971.
        I think Internment ended the phoney war and I saw some and heard all of the Ballymurphy Massacre. I think any support the IRA had lost over the summer was got back.
        McGurks Dececember 1971.
        Bloody Sunday January 1972
        The Springmartin Battle-Kellys Bar bombing…I think March 1972
        This was around the fall of Stormont and a certain near euphoria on the Falls Road.

        Claudy and Bloody Friday folowed which split nationalists into supporting IRA campaign and passivity towards it….almost each incident judged on its merits.
        Then Peace talks and even prolonged ceasefire didnt work out.
        You mention that the war should have ended in 1975. Id go with 1972.
        You are presumably talking about Sunningdale 1973-74 as I dont see any significance in 1975…but IRA could not be expected to be part of a settlement that they were not a part of.
        Everybody should really have played it better in 1972-1973.
        That was the key.

      • Even buck ejits get things right every now and again FJH… 😉

      • Most buck eejits like you and me get it right every so often.
        But that man is a complete balloon head.
        Any journos from irish times being investigated on anything? Or getting an easy ride from the Irish justice system.
        If there is…Fintan would be writing about it, wouldnt he?

      • 72 is more logical when you look at the bigger picture, but 72 was actually the most tumultuous year when the Provos were only getting going with the offensive war, I suggest 75, because it ought to have been obvious by then they were on a road to failure. They’d set themselves a higher bar than the fall of Stormont.

      • There was certainly an opportunity in 1972.

      • Who’s this ‘you and me’ kemosabi… You’re as mad as a box of frogs… 😉

      • I certainly hope so…but it could be worse. I could be be a LetsGetAlongerist.
        So at least Im a harmless buck eejit.

  37. factual says:

    FJH any plans to do a blog on the CSI action plan released today. The two First Ministers have stated that it’s the “most ambitious ever brought forward”.


    Seems worthy of hearing the broadly-SDLP-oriented take.

  38. Since FJH mentoned Hiroshima, I thought he might be interested in the fantastic testimony to Dresden https://audioboo.fm/boos/1209026-dresden-survivor-s-story if he hasn’t heard it before

  39. latcheeco says:

    Thought provoking thread! I knew a wee fella once in and around his 11+ year who for thrills and kicks, along with other enthusiasts of a similar age, used to vigorously surprise and chastise the inebriated evening loyalist clientele of a drinking den circa the junction of Lawnbrook Ave. and Lower Cupar Street. Later when he grew older he was stunned to learn what this club whose roof he had often been dared to scale and sunbathe on, was being used for around that time, and that his uncle and grammar school Spanish teacher had both lost brothers to some of the same drinkers-defenceless strays beaten and knifed to bits( His uncle could barely identify his brother’s body in the morgue it had been so disfigured). The same young fella also lost a totally harmless close classmate to a later, similarly horrific manifestation of loyalty from the same area.
    Although it is not all of loyalism, this particular seam of intimate cut throat depravity has generally existed uniquely in loyalism and whether its enticing late night pedestrians into taxis to be later beaten and cut to death by a mob in a bar in the 70s and 80s, or dumping a murdered protestant clubber in a wheelie bin after she was mistaken for a catholic and stabbed, or cutting a catholic girl’s throat from ear to ear after she was lured over to the East to a party by other girls in the nineties is why their sincere and abject apologies later were met with so much derision and why people balk at comparison’s with other combatants

    • Thanks latcheeco.
      The problem is that the actions of these loyalist gangs are never thought of as central to the conflict…they are treated in much the same way that killings by Fred West are thought of….serial killing hatred rather than political.
      To Catholics, these killings were extremely political.

  40. wolfe tone says:

    Simply put, the battles may be over but the war is still ongoing. The war for ‘hearts and minds’ that is. The focus on Republican violence is a deliberate attack on Republicanism itself. Nationalists/republicans are being subliminally taught that they were the problem. Young people growing up are being steered away from talking about a United Ireland almost like it was a evil notion. Parents in this state know that it is still dangerous to allow their kids to openly declare their Irishness. It could still get them killed as the rabid loyalist could be unleashed on them. The butchers’ and tartan gangs had a method in their madness that is why they were allowed longevity;they were a weapon to terrorise all, even their own community. In reality the only combatants’ that are being asked to change are the republican combatant. Nothing else has changed. The rabid loyalist is still amongst us and has the full blessing of the ‘moderate’ unionist. If republicans had cut up people like the loyalist did the media wouldve had no bother showing the world who the ‘bad’ side were. In many respects Adams and co are playing into the hands of the enemy by being continually seen to be sorry for republican violence. My kids’ are taught in school to treat everyone equally etc which i agree with, but i as a parent i must temper that notion with a dash of reality and tell them that in certain parts of this state people will kill you, not because you are a republican;not because you may view yourself as Irish;not even if you viewed yourself as a unionist, but simply because you are a catholic. I have seen with my own eyes the odd person from the protestant community at sporting functions in GAA clubs. There lives were never in any danger from the taigs in attendance as a matter of fact if any animosity had been shown to them i would have no doubt that everyone there wouldve have come to their aid. Alas the likes of Anne Marie Smith from Armagh City,unfortunately didnt have anyone to come to her aid.

  41. Pingback: Paul Theroux And The Boston Bombing | An Sionnach Fionn

  42. Pingback: Ireland’s British Troubles | An Sionnach Fionn

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