Cecil McKnight was a dedicated and highly motivated man. Cecil was a true Loyalist, an erudite and articulate community activist, and an honest and forthright man. Active within Loyalism for many years, he had risen to become leader of the Ulster Democratic Party in the City of Londonderry. Cecil was active in the Orange Institution (LOL 1866), and worked tirelessly, not only for the benefit his own community but also, as a senior member of the Ulster Democratic Party, in an effort to deliver a viable political process which would finally bring the internecine conflict in Ulster to an end.
On the 29th of June, 1991, Cecil McKnight was murdered by the enemies of Ulster. Shot dead at his home in Melrose Terrace. Incredibly, an RUC inspector and a constable were in the house when the attack happened, having earlier arranged to meet Cecil there to discuss some unspecified issue. Contrary to some reports, the two armed policemen did not pursue the two men who had just murdered Cecil McKnight.
The fact that an Irish republican murder gang knew exactly where Cecil would be, the fact that two police officers were present at Cecil’s home and the fact that those police officers did nothing to challenge the republican gunmen, or to afterwards apprehend them, has lead many Loyalists, in the North-West and beyond, to believe that Cecil McKnight was ‘set up’ and that his killers acted in collusion with an agency (or agencies) of the state, most probably RUC Special Branch.
The republican terror gangs of the time were absolutely riddled with informers and paid agents, the former ‘Officer Commanding’ of PIRA/SF in Derry being one such example. Irish nationalist/republican paramilitary groups also have a long history of collusion with- An Garda Síochána, the Libyan government, Colombian drug cartels, the East German government, the Dublin government etc, etc. To suppose that such groups would not have acted in concert with, or at the behest of, a branch of the Security Services, or elements thereof, is naive in the extreme.
To his credit, the then Catholic Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, described the killing as a wholly sectarian murder, adding: “May I say on behalf of the Catholic community that we do not want anything to do with this type of sectarian conflict“. Cecil McKnight’s murder was also condemned by all of the mainstream political parties, with only the lunatic fringe- Provisional Sinn Féin and the IRSP- refusing to condemn what had been a vicious and blatantly sectarian attack upon the entire ‘PUL’ community in Derry/Londonderry.
Loyalists in the Londonderry and North Antrim area, and indeed throughout Ulster and the rest of the UK, remember Cecil McKnight with pride and affection. A fearless and determined Ulsterman, Cecil McKnight lead by example. Remembered by his comrades for his courage, intelligence and honesty, Cecil McKnight will never be forgotten, nor his legacy tarnished.
“NOT GOLD BUT ONLY MEN CAN MAKE, A NATION GREAT AND STRONG. MEN WHO, FOR TRUTH AND HONOUR’S SAKE, STAND FAST AND SUFFER LONG. MEN WHO WORK WHILE OTHERS SLEEP, WHO DARE WHEN OTHERS SHY, THEY SET A NATION’S PILLARS DEEP AND LIFT THEM TOWARDS THE SKY”
“They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them”