Friday, July 08, 2005

Deaths predicted

Jarleth Kearney:

A 17-year old document uncovered by Daily Ireland reveals that the Irish government was warned “a ‘Bloody Sunday’ type incident was imminent” just days before the Gibraltar and Milltown massacres in March 1988.

The warning was raised during a private meeting in Dublin on March 1, 1988, between prominent civil rights activists from the North and Dr Martin Mansergh, special adviser to then taoiseach Charles Haughey.

Among those present were representatives of the Community for Justice, the Civil Rights Congress, Springhill Community House and the Fair Employment Trust.

Detailed minutes prepared by the Northern delegation recording their contribution to the meeting have now been unearthed.

The three-page document provides a fascinating historical archive of grassroots nationalist concerns in the North at the time, ranging over job discrimination and the MacBride Principles campaign, political vetting against community organisations, harassment experienced by the families of shoot-to-kill victims, orchestrated RUC attacks on nationalist gatherings, ongoing abuse of republican prisoners in Long Kesh, and the torture of female prisoners in Maghaberry through the policy of strip-searching.

It also contains the chilling prediction that the actions of “the RUC and other British forces” would have devastating consequences over the following weeks.

“The Northern Community Groups expressed the deep conviction that a ‘Bloody-Sunday’-type incident was imminent, and formally requested that the Irish government appoint official observers to attend all nationalist and republican commemorations and demonstrations during the coming months,” the document records.

“It was stressed that the Community Groups had not had any discussions with either of the main nationalist political parties in the six counties before submitting this request and were motivated only by the desire to avoid loss of life.

“Nevertheless, deep foreboding existed about the motivation and intentions of the RUC and other British forces in the coming weeks,” the minutes state.

Five days after the meeting, on March 6, the SAS assassinated three unarmed IRA volunteers in Gibraltar – Dan McCann, Mairead Farrell and Sean Savage.

Ten days later on March 16 – as the burial of the Gibraltar Three was taking place at Milltown Cemetery – loyalist assassin Michael Stone used the uncharacteristic withdrawal of British forces from west Belfast to mount a gun and grenade attack on mourners, prompting widespread suspicion of collusion.

Thomas McErlean, John Murray and IRA Volunteer Caoimghín Mac Bradaigh were killed and over 50 others were injured during attempts to apprehend Stone, who was subsequently saved by the RUC.

Three days after that, on March 19, during the funeral of Caoimghín Mac Bradaigh, two armed undercover British soldiers, David Howes and Derek Woods, drove directly at the cortege.

Their Volkswagen Passat was quickly obstructed by a row of black taxis protecting the front of the funeral.

After discharging a shot, both soldiers were captured by the IRA before being stripped, beaten and shot dead on nearby waste ground.

Dozens of republicans were subsequently arrested and charged with “common purpose” involvement in the killings. Some of those cases were highlighted worldwide as huge miscarriages of justice.

Yesterday, Dr Mansergh – now a senator in the Oireachtas - confirmed to Daily Ireland that he would have conveyed the concerns of the Northern delegation “directly to the Taoiseach and a number of other senior officials”.

Warning was issued before massacres


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