The 90s: Another Decade of Death
As the 1980s ended and the 90s began the situation in Ulster was more or less the same as it had been at the start of the previous decade. PIRA/Sinn Fein continued its murderous campaign whilst Loyalist paramilitaries attempted to force them to stop. Killings were followed by retaliatory killings. Violence was met with counter-violence. But whilst the UDA/UFF and UVF continued to target and kill men, and increasingly turned their sights on active republican terrorists, PIRA/SF continued to target men, women and children, often without regard to age or gender. Few could’ve foreseen in the first days of the 1990s that this would be the decade that would finally see an end to ‘The Troubles’. Indeed, many times in the 90s it seemed that the Conflict was, almost inevitably, going to escalate into a full-blown civil war. Indeed, all out war seemed more likely than peace. Yet before peace would arrive, before the final days of ‘The Troubles’, Ulster would witness some of the most awful and bloody atrocities in the whole sorry history of the Conflict.
The Provisional IRA were limited in their activities during this period because of the increasing effectiveness of Loyalist paramilitaries. Between 1989 and 1994 (when the CLMC ceasefire was called) the UVF and Ulster Freedom Fighters killed dozens of PIRA/SF, INLA/IRSP and IPLO activists as well as a large number of others who were providing Irish nationalist terror groups with information, financial and/or logistical support. This effectively neutered the Provo murder gangs in many parts of Northern Ireland. Despite this however, PIRA/Sinn Fein still did their utmost to cause havoc and commit murder. The Provos, becoming ever more desperate, sunk lower and lower, carrying out some of the most heinous crimes the ‘Western World‘ has ever seen.
On Wednesday, the 24th of October, 1990, eleven members of the Provo’s ‘Derry City Brigade’ kidnapped 42 year old Patsy Gillespie from his home in the Shantallow area of Londonderry. While his wife and children were being held at gunpoint, Patsy was forced to drive his Vauxhall Nova car to a rural spot on the Co. Donegal side of the Border. Patsy Gillespie was then forced into a van loaded with 1,000lbs (450kg) of explosives and told to drive to the Coshquin permanent Border checkpoint on the Buncrana Road. Armed PIRA gunmen followed him in a stolen car to ensure he obeyed their commands, the Provo terrorists having already told Gillespie that his wife and children would be murdered if he did not follow their orders. Four minutes from the checkpoint, the PIRA hoods armed the bomb remotely. When Patsy Gillespie reached the checkpoint, at 3:55 AM, he desperately tried to get out and warn the soldiers, but the bomb detonated when he attempted to open the door. The callous Provo bomb makers had installed a detonation device linked to the van’s interior light, which came on whenever the van door opened. As a ‘safeguard’, the bombers also used a timing device to ensure the bomb detonated at the right moment (ie. when the bombers were safely out of the way). Patsy Gillespie and five soldiers were killed instantly when the device exploded. Witnesses reported hearing “shouting, screaming and then shots” right before the explosion. The bomb devastated the base, destroying the operations room. The death toll would have been much higher if most of the soldiers hadn’t been sleeping in a recently built mortar-proof bunker. The blast also damaged 28 nearby houses, with many of the occupants of those homes requiring treatment for shock and minor injuries. At Patsy Gillespie’s funeral, Roman Catholic Bishop Edward Daly said that PIRA/Sinn Fein and its supporters were:
“the complete contradiction of Christianity. They may say they are followers of Christ. Some of them may even still engage in the hypocrisy of coming to church, but their lives and their works proclaim clearly that they follow Satan.”
Meanwhile in Newry, at the other end of Northern Ireland, members of PIRA/SF took over the home of James McAvoy (65). He was allegedly targeted because he served RUC officers at his filling station(!), which was beside the house. He was driven away in a Toyota HiAce van while his terrified family was held at gunpoint. At Flagstaff Hill, near the Border, members of the Provo’s ‘South Armagh Brigade’ loaded the van with a ton of explosives. James McAvoy was strapped into the driver’s seat and told to drive the van to Cloghoge permanent vehicle checkpoint. Before he drove off, one of the terrorists seemed to have a pang of conscience and told James McAvoy not to open the van’s door, but to exit the vehicle through the window. The cowardly Provo gang followed the van in a stolen car and turned into a side-road well before it reached its intended target. When James McAvoy stopped the van and climbed out the window, a soldier came over and began shouting at him to move the vehicle. Seconds later the device exploded. The soldier was killed outright and 13 others were injured. James McAvoy survived with just a broken leg. 21 year old Ranger Cyril J. Smith, from No.4 Platoon, B. Coy., 2nd Battalion RIR, was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal, for leading James McAvoy to safety and trying to warn his comrades about the bomb rather than running for cover. Ranger Smith was a Catholic from Carrickfergus. He had recently gotten engaged. At about the same time, there was a third attempted “proxy bombing” in Co. Tyrone. A third innocent man was strapped into a car and forced to drive it to Lisanelly Army base in Omagh while his young wife and seven year old child were held at gunpoint. This third bomb weighed 1,500lbs (680kg) but, due to a faulty detonator, failed to explode.
These ‘proxy bomb’ attacks, or to describe them more accurately, involuntary suicide attacks, marked a new low, even for PIRA/Sinn Fein. A tactic so despicable, so disgusting, that it has not been copied by any other terrorist group anywhere in the world. Not even al-Qaeda, Hamas or Boko Haram. That alone is ample demonstration of PIRA/SF’s absolute lack of morality. To hold a civilian’s wife and children at gunpoint and force them to drive a van, laden with high explosive, to a target where the bomb will explode, killing the kidnapped man and anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, is a vile and cruel tactic. The work of individuals too cowardly to confront their so-called “enemy” face to face. Individuals too wretched and pathetic to wage war by the accepted standards of warfare.
Teebane: An Attack on the Entire Protestant Community
On Friday, the 17th of January, 1992, at a place known as Teebane crossroads in Co. Tyrone, the Provos carried out the single biggest planned mass killing of Protestant workmen since the Kingsmills massacre of 1976. Eight Protestant men, travelling home from work, were murdered and another six badly injured when a PIRA/SF roadside bomb exploded, destroying the Ford Transit mini-bus they were travelling in. The Provos later added insult to injury by declaring that the dead men were “eight collaborators engaged in rebuilding Lisanelly barracks”. It is very probable that the sick minded bigot that concocted that vile statement is now a Sinn Fein elected representative!
The victims of the Teebane bombing came from a wide area of Northern Ireland, from Doagh, Magherafelt, Ballymena, Cookstown. Many Protestant communities were deeply affected by the atrocity. One of the dead was Gary Bleeks (25) who had returned from England to his native Cookstown, taking up a job with Karl Construction Ltd., from Antrim. He lived with his elderly Grandmother, Elma. She later described how she and the rest of the young man’s family had learned of his death:
“We waited in suspense from six o’clock. Didn’t know until ten. We rang the hospitals. He wasn’t admitted and we knew if he wasn’t admitted [to hospital] he must be dead. And a woman came yesterday and told us that her daughter had held his hand till he died. She asked him where he was from and he told her Cookstown. He was quick to tell her that. A lorry driver came and helped him till he died. And so it was a comfort, to know there was somebody with him, that he wasn’t dying on his own”
In a way the Teebane massacre was another case of “mistaken identity” by the Provo death squads. In the immediate aftermath of the atrocity the bungling terrorists had insisted that their innocent victims were employees of Henry Brothers, based in Magherafelt, a company that had been targeted repeatedly by the sectarian killers of PIRA/Sinn Fein. Needless to say that the Provos really didn’t care who the men worked for, just as long as they had been working at an Army base or police station, thus giving the hate-filled bombers an excuse to mask their deep-seated sectarianism, for Teebane was a sectarian attack. A deliberate act of savagery, directed squarely at the Protestant community as a whole.
More Dead Children: More Wrecked Lives
On Friday, the 10th of April, 1992, at about 9:20pm, Irish nationalist terrorism returned to London. A Provo bomb, containing one ton of explosives packed into a large white Volvo lorry, with a detonation cord made from 100lbs (45kg) of semtex, exploded at the Baltic Exchange, London. It killed three people: Paul Butt (29), a Baltic Exchange employee, Thomas Casey (49), and 15 year old Danielle Carter, a schoolgirl from Essex. Another 91 people were injured. Almost half of the wounded were women and children. The façade of the Exchange’s offices at 30 St. Mary Axe was partially demolished, the rest of the building extensively damaged.
The bomb led to the destruction of the Baltic Exchange which has now been replaced by The Gherkin. London had seen more than its fair share of PIRA/SF bombings and gun attacks but the murder of two men and a young girl was truly shocking. Irish republican apologists will try to warp the facts of the matter and claim that the civilians murdered that night were killed “in error”, but the facts speak for themselves. PIRA/Sinn Fein set out to destroy the Baltic Exchange and as much of the surrounding area as possible. The bombers didn’t care who died in the blast. They probably cheered when they heard that they had killed three ‘Brits’. PIRA/Sinn Fein’s sectarianism only being matched by their racist hatred for anyone and anything that is not Irish and ‘Gaelic’.
On Monday, the 12th of October, 1992, that xenophobic hatred was once again visited upon the innocent civilians of the UK’s capital. A Provo bomb gang left a small device, packed with ball-bearings and other deadly shrapnel, inside ‘The Sussex’, a busy pub on Upper St.Martin’s Lane in the popular Covent Garden area of the city. Five people were badly wounded in the attack. One of those unfortunate people, David Heffer (30), succumbed to his wounds the following day. The bomb attack on ‘The Sussex’ was just one of several such attacks in October of that year, although thankfully the other indiscriminate bombings caused only minor injuries to 12 people and no-one else was killed.
Any Irish republican reprobate who still foolishly clings to the notion that PIRA/SF did not deliberately target civilians should do some research. Not only did they target civilians, at times en masse, but the Provo thugs did it throughout the Conflict. From their emergence (aided and funded by the Irish government) in 1970, right up until their first ceasefire in 1994, PIRA/Sinn Fein targeted and killed civilians, deliberately, coldly, callously, without compunction. The sanitising of PIRA/Sinn Fein’s history needs to stop because it is farcical, it is damaging to the ‘Peace Process’ and it is insulting, not only to victims and their families, but to every decent, sane, rational person of a certain age who can remember ‘The Troubles’ as they really were, not as republicans would have the world believe they were.
NEXT WEEK: PART TEN – FROM WARRINGTON TO THE SHANKILL