The Other Guy and the Lack of Secondary Biligerant Accountability
On this day, May 17, 1974, thirty-three civilians were killed and 300 injured when the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) detonates four car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan, Republic of Ireland. It was the deadliest attack of the Troubles and the deadliest terrorist attack in the Republic’s history.
There are credible allegations that elements of the British state security forces helped the UVF carry out the bombings, including members of the Glenanne gang. Some of these allegations have come from former members of the security forces. The Irish parliament’s Joint Committee on Justice called the attacks an act of international terrorism involving British state forces. Just the month before the bombings, the British government had lifted the UVF’s status as a proscribed organization, meaning the UVF was not considered a terrorist organization at the time of the May 17 bombing. Excuse me?
The bombings occurred within the context of the Ulster Workers’ Council strike, which was called by hardline loyalists and unionists in Northern Ireland who opposed the Sunningdale Agreement. Specifically, they opposed the sharing of political power with Irish nationalists and the proposed role for the Republic in the governance of Northern Ireland. The strike brought down the Agreement and the Northern Ireland Assembly on May 28, 1974.
Ironically, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, on which the current system of Northern Irish devolution is based, closely resembles the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement.
Let’s take another look at these UVF loyalists that few outside of Ireland have heard of, as well as their friends the UDA:
- The UVF carried out three attacks on Catholics in Belfast. In the first, a Protestant civilian (Matilda Gould) died when UVF members tried to firebomb the Catholic-owned pub beside her house but accidentally struck her home.
- In the second, a Catholic civilian (John Patrick Scullion) was shot dead as he walked home. In the third, the UVF opened fire on three Catholic civilians as they left a pub, killing one (Peter Ward, a native of the Republic of Ireland) and wounding the other two.
- The UVF planted their first bomb in the Republic of Ireland, damaging the RTÉ Television Centre in Dublin
- The UVF detonated bombs in the Republic of Ireland. In Dublin, it detonated a car bomb near the Garda Síochána central detective bureau. It also bombed a power station at Ballyshannon, a Wolfe Tone memorial in Bodenstown, and the Daniel O’Connell monument in Dublin.
September Loyalists formed the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). The group would quickly become the largest loyalist group in Northern Ireland. What? Who are these guys?
In addition to the loyalist paramilitary group known as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the UDA/UFF was responsible for more than 400 deaths. The vast majority of its victims were Irish Catholic civilians, killed at random, in what the group called retaliation for IRA actions or attacks on Protestants. Other High-profile attacks carried out by the group include the Milltown massacre, the Sean Graham’s and James Murray’s bookmakers’ shootings, the Castlerock killings and the Greysteel massacre. Most of its attacks were in Northern Ireland, but from 1972 onward bombings in the Republic of Ireland were executed as well. While the UDA/UFF declared a ceasefire in 1994 and ended its campaign in 2007, some of its members have continued to engage in violence.
Also in 1971:
McGurk’s – the UVF exploded a bomb at a Catholic-owned pub in Belfast, killing fifteen Catholic civilians (including two children) and wounding seventeen others. This was the highest death toll from a single incident in Belfast during the Troubles
The British government outlawed the “UFF” in November 1973, but the UDA itself was not proscribed as a terrorist group until August 1992.
Oh, and the Sunningdale Agreement was signed. You know, the one that was agreed to under a different name in 1998? 25 years later… all the violence, what was the point?
Dublin and Monaghan bombings – the UVF exploded four bombs (three in Dublin, one in Monaghan). They killed thirty-three civilians and wounded a further 300. This was the highest number of casualties in a single incident during “The Troubles”. It has been alleged that members of the British security forces were involved. The UVF did not claim responsibility until 15 July 1993.
- The UVF tried to derail a train by planting a bomb on the railway line near Straffan, County Kildare, Republic of Ireland. A civilian, Christopher Phelan, tried to stop the UVF volunteers and was stabbed-to-death. His actions, however, reportedly delayed the explosion long enough to allow the train to pass safely.
- Miami Showband Massacre– UVF volunteers (some of whom were also UDR soldiers) shot dead three musicians (Tony Geraghty and Fran O’Toole, both from the Republic of Ireland, and Brian McCoy, a Northern Irish Protestant), members of the Irish showband called “Miami Showband”, at Buskhill, County Down. The gunmen staged a bogus military checkpoint, stopped the showband’s bus and ordered the musicians out. Two UDR soldiers (Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville) hid a time bomb in the bus, but it exploded prematurely and they were killed. The other gunmen then opened fire on the musicians and fled. Three UDR soldiers were later convicted for their part in the attack, which has been linked to the “Glenanne gang”
- The UVF killed seven civilians in a series of attacks across Northern Ireland. Six were Catholics (Frances Donnelly, Gerard Grogan, Marie McGrattan, Thomas Murphy, Thomas Osbourne, and John Stewart) and one was a Protestant (Irene Nicholson). Four UVF volunteers (Mark Dodd, Robert Freeman, Aubrey Reid, Samuel Swanson) were killed when the bomb they were transporting prematurely exploded as they drove along a road in Farrenlester, County Londonderry, near Coleraine.
- The Reavey and O’Dowd Shootings– the UVF shot dead six Catholic civilians from two families (one group was a trio of brothers; the other was an uncle and two nephews) in co-ordinated attacks in County Armagh. An officer in the RUC Special Patrol Group took part in the killings, which have been linked to the “Glenanne gang”.
- The UVF launched gun and bomb attacks on two pubs in Charlemont, County Armagh, killing four Catholic civilians (Felix Clancy, Robert McCullough, Frederick McLoughlin, and Sean O’Hagan). A British Army UDR soldier was later convicted for taking part in the attacks Nine civilians were killed during separate attacks in and around Belfast. After a suspected republican bombing killed two Protestant civilians (Robert Groves and Edward McMurray) in a pub, the UVF killed three Catholic civilians and two Protestant civilians, all males (Samuel Corr, James Coyle, Edward Farrell, John Martin, and Daniel McNeil) in a gun and bomb attack at the Chlorane Bar. In a separate bomb attack on the International Bar, Portaferry, County Down, the UVF killed a Catholic civilian. The UDA/UFF also assassinated a member of Sinn Féin, Colm Mulgrew.
- The Ramble Inn Attack– the UVF killed six civilians (five Protestants, one Catholic) in a gun attack at a pub near Antrim. The pub was targeted because it was owned by Catholics. The victims were Frank Scott, Ernest Moore, James McCallion, Joseph Ellis, James Francey (all Protestants) and Oliver Woulahan, a Catholic.
Twenty-eight members of the British Army (Ulster Defence Regiment) were arrested on suspicion of leaking security force documents to loyalist paramilitaries
The Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) (acting on behalf of all loyalist paramilitaries) announced a ceasefire lasting until 4 July. This coincided with political talks between the four main parties (the Brooke-Mayhew talks).
- Sean Graham bookmakers’ shooting – the UDA, using the covername “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (UFF), claimed responsibility for a gun attack on a bookmaker’s shop on Lower Ormeau Road, Belfast. Five Catholic men and boys were killed (Christy Doherty, Jack Duffin, James Kennedy, Peter Magee, and William McManus). Nine others were wounded, one critically. This was claimed as retaliation for the Teebane bombing on 17 January 1992. In November 1992, the UDA carried out another attack on a betting shop in Belfast, killing three Catholic civilians and wounding thirteen.
- And, the UDA was finally proscribed as a terrorist organization by the British government. Gee, thanks.
- Castlerock killings – the UDA, using the covername “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (UFF), claimed responsibility for shooting dead four Catholic civilians and a PIRA volunteer at a building site in Castlerock, County Londonderry. Later in the day, it claimed responsibility for shooting dead another Catholic civilian in Belfast
- Greysteel Massacre– the UDA, using the covername “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (UFF), claimed responsibility for a gun attack on the Rising Sun Bar in Greysteel, County Londonderry. Eight civilians (six Catholic, two Protestant) were killed and twelve wounded. One gunman yelled “trick or treat!” before he fired into the crowded room; a reference to the Halloween party taking place. The UFF claimed that it had attacked the “nationalist electorate” in revenge for the Shankill Road bombing
- Loughinisland – the UVF shot dead six Catholic civilians (Eamon Byrne, Barney Greene, Malcolm Jenkinson, Daniel McCreanor, Patrick O’Hare, and Adrian Rogan) and wounded five others during a gun attack on a pub in Loughinisland, County Down.
- The Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) issued a statement which announced a ceasefire on behalf of all loyalist paramilitaries. The statement noted that “The permanence of our cease-fire will be completely dependent upon the continued cessation of all nationalist/republican violence.”
Drumcree conflict – the RUC decided to block the annual Orange Order march through the nationalist Garvaghy area of Portadown. In response, loyalist protestors attacked the RUC and blocked hundreds of roads across Northern Ireland. Eventually, the RUC allowed the march to continue, leading to serious rioting by nationalists across Northern Ireland.
Drumcree conflict – the annual Orange Order march was prevented from marching through the nationalist Garvaghy area of Portadown. Security forces and about 10,000 loyalists began a standoff at Drumcree church. During this time, loyalists launched 550 attacks on the security forces and numerous attacks on Catholic civilians. On 12 July, three children were burnt to death in a loyalist petrol bomb attack. This incident brought an end to the standoff.
- The UVF and RHC issued a statement declaring an end to its armed campaign. The statement noted that they would retain their weapons but put them “beyond reach.”
- The UDA issued a statement declaring an end to its armed campaign. The statement noted that they would retain their weapons but put them “beyond use.”
- It was announced that the Ulster Defence Association(UDA) had decommissioned its weapons in front of independent witnesses
- The UVF were blamed for shooting dead former Red Hand Commando member Bobby Moffett in broad daylight on Shankill Road, Belfast. The killing put the UVF’s claims of weapons decommissioning and commitment to peace under serious scrutiny.
In 2012, the De Silva Report revealed that 85 percent of the intelligence the UDA received had been supplied by the British security forces.
The Other Guy, and the mentality of “but he did it too”
As mentioned, in the podcast on Second Fiddle Belligerents and the Absence of Justice, there is also the lack of international accountability applied to these perpetrators of violence that I call “second fiddle belligerents.” Secondary belligerents seem to both escape international accountability as well as avoid responsibility for domestic accountability. While the international community notes the difference between individual major and minor war criminals, the supposition negates itself if those secondary belligerents do not hold their war criminals accountable. The absence of justice may be a result of domestic disinterest, a lack of international pressure, or the collapse of the nation-state and/or its government.
For example, in the Balkan Wars which began when Slovenia seceded from the Yugoslav Federation on June 25, 1991, Serbia and Croatia quickly sought, not to reunify Yugoslavia, but to create a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia. The primary victim of these landgrabs was the Bosnia-Herzegovina; the Serbs infamously created the Republika Srpska to legitimize their landgrab, but it is lesser well-known that the Croats similarly created the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia within the territorial boundaries of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Franjo Tuđman, the President of Croatia, crush Croatian Serbians, supported the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, and on March 25, 1991, Tuđman met with Slobodan Milošević met at Karađorđevo where he may have discussed the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia.
The Croatians are as responsible for the Bosnia Genocide as the Serbians. The so-called Loyalist organizations of Northern Ireland are as responsible for The Troubles as the Irish so-called nationalist organizations. Violence is violence. Crimes against humanity are, as the term suggests, crimes against all of us, regardless of the numerical stat sheets of organizations that murder civilian populations.
Yes, on this day, May 17, 1974, thirty-three civilians were killed and more than 300 injured when the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) detonated four car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan, within the Republic of Ireland. And yet, how many recognize loyalist organizations as terrorist organizations as readily as the names of the IRA, Provos, and other republican organizations are called-out for their own heinous crimes?
My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor
Thank you for listening! And Remember, Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.