ON THIS DATE (20TH FEBRUARY) 40 YEARS AGO : PRO-BRITISH 'BUTCHER' LOYALIST GANG SENTENCED TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT IN IRELAND.
'A group of 11 Loyalists known as the 'Shankill butchers' were sentenced (Tuesday 20 February 1979) to life imprisonment for 112 offences including 19 murders. The 11 men were given 42 life sentences and received 2,000 years imprisonment, in total, in the form of concurrent sentences..the Shankill Butchers had begun killing Catholics in July 1972 and were not arrested until May 1977. The Loyalist gang operated out of a number of Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) drinking dens in the Shankill Road area of Belfast. The gang was initially led by Lenny Murphy but it continued to operate following his imprisonment in 1976. The Shankill Butchers got their name because not only did they kill Catholics but they first abducted many of their victims, tortured them, mutilated them with butcher knives and axes, and then finally killed them...' (from here).
The following is an edited version of a piece we published here 15 years ago in relation to the above-mentioned gang of loyalist murderers ; it's from a book by Martin Dillon, which was reviewed by Niall O'Flynn in 'The Evening Press' newspaper in August, 1989 -
In each country they occupied, the British have had their supporters - some of the natives wanted 'in' with the new establishment, in the hope that their new masters would leave them, if not in charge, then at least in a 'managerial' position ; others recognised an opportunity to 'settle old scores', or what they perceived to be 'old scores'. Between 1972 and 1977, the 'Shankill Butchers' killed more people than any other mass murderers in Irish or British criminal history. That is the stark fact - more victims than the Yorkshire Ripper, more than the Moors Murderers. Selecting the targets at random from Belfast's Catholic ghettos, the Butchers dragged dozens of innocent victims to their homes, to their drinking holes and 'romper rooms', sometimes just to darkened alleys, there to torture, humiliate, and finally, to kill them, slaughtering them with butchers' knives. But now (ie 1989), ten years after the jailing of the Butchers' inner circle, a new investigation has unearthed more than a dozen other murders committed by the gang and never before linked to them.
*Thomas Madden : suspended by a rope from a wooden beam, a nine-inch double-bladed knife was used on his body as a sculptor would chip away at a piece of stone. In all, there were 147 stab wounds on his body, and a pathologist's report indicates that it was the work of one man, working clinically. A woman heard him screaming "Kill me, kill me..."
*Francis Crossan : beaten with fists, feet and a wheel brace, Lennie Murphy (pictured,one of the 'Butchers') killed him by hacking at his throat with a knife, almost severing his head from his body.
*Sisters Frances Donnelly and Marie McGrattan and teenagers Gerard Grogan and Thomas Osborne : all shot in cold blood in a robbery on a drink wholesalers. Murphy himself killed three of them, the two boys after hearing they were Catholics, and Marie McGrattan as she knelt on the floor.
*Student and songwriter Stephen McCann : dragged from his girlfriend, tortured at knifepoint, shot, and finally all but decapitated.
*Protestant Alexander Maxwell : killed for gatecrashing a party celebrating Lennie Murphy's release from prison. He was beaten and kicked. To kill him, Murphy drove a car over, and back over, the hapless victim.
A murderer at the age of 20, the use of a knife was to become the trademark of Hugh Leonard Thompson Murphy, the leader of The Shankill Butchers. A flamboyant womaniser, only five-foot-six tall, Lennie Murphy began his bullyboy 'career' early. Ironically nicknamed 'Murphy the Mick' by his primary-school classmates on account of his Catholic-sounding surname, he was a belligerent child who, by the age of ten, was threatening other children and relieving them of their pocket-money at knifepoint. He ran rackets even at school - threatening other pupils, stealing their meal tickets and selling them to other boys at a reduced rate. He first came to the notice of the RUC at 12 years of age, when he was convicted of shopbreaking and larceny.
As a teenager, Lennie Murphy began to keep company with men in the Shankill district while, at local discos, it was he who decided who got in and who was turned away. In one early incident, a man who bumped against him at a bar, spilling his drink, was later badly beaten by his gang. Murphy joined the junior wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in 1969 and was in the midst of the violence when Protestant mobs invaded Catholic streets that summer, when hundreds of homes were burned. Says Martin Dillon, author of a new investigation of the gang's activities - "He often talked overtly while drinking in the 'Bayardo Bar' of his hatred for all Catholics because they were 'scum and animals. He was beginning to develop into what one UVF man later called a 'Super Prod', which was shorthand for saying that Murphy was more anti-Catholic, anti-Nationalist and anti-Republican than even the most bitter man on the Shankill Road. Lennie Murphy was prepared to shoot anyone ; man, woman or child. Or a blind man. As long as he could reasonably establish the religion of the victim."
Victim after victim was killed in the same brutal way - hacked through the throat with a butcher's knife. So callous were Murphy's men, so brutalised, that, while their victims waited, it was not unknown for gang members to stop for a cup of tea or to watch football on TV. Belfast is so much a city divided that, tragically, sectarian gangs are able to identify the religion of intended victims simply by the streets on which they are walking or working. Even on public routes, people travel towards either Protestant or Catholic housing estates. "Hundreds of people" , estimates Martin Dillon, had their fate sealed by this ghettoisation - and this was the basis on which The Shankill Butchers operated and selected their victims.
Despite warnings from their 'Ulster Volunteer Force' superiors that only armed republicans were to be considered as the enemy, the bulk of the Butchers' victims, in fact, were innocent civilians, picked up at random, easy pickings - 'If you can't get an IRA man, get a Taig'. Lennie Murphy was 'blooded' first on July 21, 1972, when, with other members of Loyalist paramilitary organisations, he was involved in the torture and killing of a 34-year-old Catholic, Francis Arthurs, who was picked-up by a Loyalist gang after leaving a Catholic area and taken to the Lawnbrook Social Club, a Loyalist club off the Shankill Road. Francis Arthurs was beaten severely by a large group of drinkers, stabbed repeatedly by Murphy, interrogated, tortured and shot. That night, those present have said, Murphy was seen to demonstrate that he could cause the victim the most pain by hitting him harder than anyone else. Joe Bennett, who later became one of the major UVF 'supergrasses', said that Lennie Murphy stood out as the most barbarous gang member present.
Martin Dillon, the Author of this book, confirms Lennie Murphy's pleasure in these sadistic practices : "There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Lennie Murphy committed the crimes firstly for pleasure and secondly for information. Many studies have indicated that sadists need aggression and I believe that in Northern Ireland (sic) the conflict provides the trigger for this aggression. It also allows misfits to find social acceptance by expressing the prejudice which is not endemic but socially acceptable. It has enabled many people who cannot escape prejudice to find a security within it and to accept its manifestations as a badge of patriotism."
The RUC, though they knew not the perpetrators of the Shankill killings ('1169' Comment - those slaughtered by the gang were Catholics ; all members of that religion were suspected by the RUC to be either active IRA members or supporters of same - the 'Butcher Gang' was, 'unofficially', doing the work of the Six-County State. The RUC were therefore not too concerned) recognised from a very early stage that they were dealing, not with 'ordinary terrorists', but with psychopaths. "We're looking for somebody more brutal than the average terrorist and we'd better get to him," RUC Detective Inspector Jimmy Nesbitt told his men as the first victims of the serial killers were found, "It represents for me a new degree of cruelty. We have seen victims who have been killed with concrete blocks, stabbed, shot or beaten to death, but the sight of this stirs something inside me which makes me feel cold," Nesbitt said. Speaking later, another RUC man recalled : "I knew I was witnessing something different, a more personal type of killing."
It was only, finally, in 1977, that 'the Butchers' made a fatal 'mistake' - they left a victim alive. 20-year-old Gerard McLaverty, dumped in an alleyway after being beaten and tortured with a knife, identified key gang members, including 'Big Sam' McAllister. The RUC searched McAllister's home and found a butcher's knife sticking out of the floorboards beside the bed, another knife under the bed, plus two butchers knives and a sharpening steel in the kitchen. The knives ranged in size from six to ten inches, and the sharpener showed signs of heavy use. The breakthrough had been made - most of the gang broke down under RUC questioning, some "crying like babies". Sentencing eleven gang members, including William Moore, 'Big Sam' McAllister and Robert 'Basher' Bates, for their parts in nineteen murders, Mr. Justice Turlough O'Donnell talked of this "catalogue of horror", and told William Moore - "You pleaded guilty to eleven murders carried out in a manner so cruel and revolting as to be beyond the comprehension of any normal human being. I see no reason whatever why you should ever be released. The facts speak for themselves and will remain forever a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry".
In all, 'the Shankill Butchers' were given 2,000 years imprisonment, to run in concurrent sentences. British legal history was made with the 42 life sentences handed down, the largest number ever given out in one sitting. Some gang members, however, will be due for release in the coming decade (ie -the 1990's). One is already out and, of course, many of those involved in the murders were never brought to justice and are still walking the streets of Northern Ireland (sic). At least 17 people who were implicated in some of the killings were never brought before the courts, mostly due to insufficient evidence against them. Lenny Murphy, who walked out of prison in July 1982, three years after the jailing of his gang, had killed again within 24 hours. He met his own death at the hands of a republican assassination squad, as he parked behind his girlfriends house one evening that Autumn (1982). Enemies within the Loyalist camp, it is thought, may have helped to set him up.
After Lennie Murphy's execution by the then IRA, 'The Belfast Telegraph' newspaper carried 87 death notices, including ones from William Moore, Robert 'Basher' Bates and other gang members in the Maze Prison. His Aunt Agnes penned the following tribute to Murphy : 'Nothing could be more beautiful than the memories we have of you. To us, you were very special and God must have thought so too'. His mother told reporters : "My Lennie would not have hurt a fly.."
The UVF afforded Murphy a paramilitary funeral, with a guard of honour wearing UVF uniforms and balaclavas, and a volley of three shots was fired over his coffin as it was brought out of his house, as a piper played 'Abide With Me'. He was buried in Carnmoney Cemetery and on his tombstone the following words were inscribed : 'Here Lies a Soldier'. The tombstone was smashed in 1989.
'BRITISH FORCES MUST GO, DEMANDS SINN FÉIN PRESIDENT'.
From 'The United Irishman' newspaper, December 1954.
Tomas O Dubghaill, when he addressed the Ard Fheis of Sinn Féin in Dublin on the 7th November.
Delegates from all over the nation pledged their support to the policy and programme of Sinn Féin and reported magnificent progress from every area and there was an atmosphere of confidence and hope in the future. Republican actions on the military front have been supported by more widespread Sinn Féin activity and the decision to contest all twelve seats in the forthcoming Westminster elections in the Six Counties has given all members an immediate task which demands considerable work. The Presidential address was enthusiastically received and references to recent IRA actions were greeted with prolonged applause -
"A Chairde ; you will have learned from the reports of the General Secretaries and the General Treasurers that the organisation has made very substantial progress during the past twelve months and the number of Cumainn has increased, the funds at our disposal have increased and the work done by the organisation generally has greatly increased. Indeed, I may say that today Sinn Féin is an organisation which has a very definite place in the political life of our country. Much as they may dislike it, we can no longer be ignored or treated lightly by the professional politicians, North or South..." (MORE LATER.)
ON THIS DATE (20TH FEBRUARY) 98 YEARS AGO : 12 IRA VOLUNTEERS SHOT DEAD, TWO MORE EXECUTED LATER.
'On the 20th of February 1921, our noble Midleton heroes were murdered in Clonmult,
for the fighting of there countries cause, to free her they did go,
but by the informers of our land, in there graves they are lying low.
It was on a Sunday morning this district the enemy did invade, to search for Irish rebels through many a hill and vale,
surrounded were those boys at last when rifle fire began, and Desmond said ‘Your courage lads we have them nearly done”.
From top of roof and window those lads went on to fight, 'till the burning of the cottage and no escape in sight,
but still they kept on fighting and the sad news reached old Midleton - "the column was done".
The bravest boys in Ireland this house they did command, brave Desmond brothers stood there true rebels to the last,
and many another mothers son whose hearts with grief were sore, to think that they should be betrayed and their hearts blood they let flow,
Hegarty you were a brave man and so was Higgins too, like the rest of the east Cork Martyrs ye were straight firm and true,
not forgetting Paddy O’ Sullivan and more as we all know, who were executed in Cork prison and their bodies then let low.' (from here.)
Black and Tan murder gang. The cottage was soon surrounded by these armed pro-British thugs.
Twelve IRA Volunteers were killed and another two were executed later :
Captain James Aherne from Cobh County Cork was killed while jumping a fence 200 yards from the house.
Volunteer Jeremiah Aherne, from Midleton, County Cork ,was killed in action.
Volunteer Liam Aherne, from Midleton, County Cork, killed in action.
Volunteer Donal Dennehy, from Midleton, County Cork, killed in action.
Volunteer David Desmond, from Midleton, County Cork, killed in action.
Volunteer Michael Desmond, from Midleton, County Cork, was killed while attempting to fight his way back into the house.
Volunteer James Glavin, from Cobh, County Cork, was killed during the fighting.
Volunteer Michael Hallahan, from Midleton, County Cork, killed in action.
Volunteer Richard Hegarty, from Garryvoe, County Cork, killed in front of the house when attempting to go for aid.
Volunteer John Joe Joyce, from Midleton, County Cork, killed while attempting to re-gain entry to the farm house.
Volunteer Maurice Moore, from Cobh, County Cork, was captured during the Ambush,and was later executed at Cork Military Barracks on April 28th 1921.
Volunteer Joseph Morrissey, from Athlone, County Westmeath, killed during the fighting.
Volunteer Christopher O'Sullivan, from Midleton, County Cork, killed during the fighting.
Volunteer Paddy O'Sullivan, from Cobh, County Cork, was captured and was later executed at Cork Military Barracks, on April 28th 1921.
'TRAITORS TO THE CROWN...'
And the voice of another John Mitchel is heard with the same defiant spirit that rang through the Dublin courthouse over 100 years ago : "I pray that our comrades in the Irish Republican Army will have the strength and courage to carry on until such times as the last British soldier is driven from the shores of Ireland. Long live the Republic!"
One by one they express such sentiments or approval of what a comrade has said. Twenty-one year-old Corkman, Seán O Callaghan (1169 comment - not the tout), claims it is a great privilege and honour to have been chosen for such work : "It is a great load off my shoulders", he says, "to know that my place in the ranks of the Irish Republican Army, in which a vacancy will be caused by my imprisonment - it is a great pleasure to know that that vacancy will be filled ten-fold by more Irishmen in the very near future."
The scarlet-dressed, white-wigged figure speaks before passing sentences on the men - and one feels a note of reluctance threading his words on the task before him, not because of his love of those courageous patriots or sympathy for the cause which they represent - but mainly because he realises the far-reaching implications and propaganda effects it will have on England's continued occupation by force of arms on part of our nation - showing up the hypocrisy and hollowness of her freedom pronouncements and the rights of nations to their independence... (MORE LATER).
WHAT IS IT WITH THE SIMON'S?
'frightened little boy', is so obviously out of his depth that when an overspend (of taxpayers money) of this magnitude lands on top of him, it doesn't actually hit him because he's standing in such a large hole/crater of his own making. The people pointing out to him that he is in a precarious position are ignored as he washes his hands of responsibility, claiming that such gross incompetence is not a scandal at all, and attempts to distract public attention by complaining that those that he and his fellow administrators in Leinster House have inflicted serious financial and health-care pain on should have the cheek to express that pain in front of his house. Suck it up, Simon - sure you'll still get your pension and a well-paid position in a political side office somewhere, so what do you care...
the 'Brexit' shambles when, in an answer to a question about 'our relationship with Britain', he replied - "We share an island together". Seriously! That's how he and his type view the continuing political and military occupation by Westminster of the six north-eastern counties of this country. A 'shared experience'. Understandable, I suppose, when your party's 'hero' is Michael Collins, who accepted weapons and manpower from Westminster to obtain and then secure the partition of Ireland. So as we could all "share the island", much as you would with an intruder in your house. And that flag, Simon - looks like it's growing out of your head, where it was planted at the beginning of your political 'career'.
From 'Magill' magazine, February 1998.
A man from Mars reading the 'Report Of The Steering Group On The Efficiency And Effectiveness Of The Garda Síochana' would never divine the background that gave rise to the study. Could this be due to the fact that the steering group was peopled entirely by eminent persons under the watchful eyes of the secretary of the (State) Department of Justice and the garda commissioner? An interesting dimension of experience might have been contributed by a typical 'ordinary' citizen.
As it is, the report's analysis is entirely in the context of the 'increasingly demanding environment' in which gardaí must function and on the need "to take an integrated appraisal across the entire criminal-justice system, given the interrelated nature of the service being provided".
Which no doubt is all very well, but there is little evidence of the influence of the typical consumer of "policing practice". There are the inevitable tables comparing Ireland (favourably) with a number of countries "in terms of percentage of crime detected" per 1,000 of the population. And there is the key concession that "the reality that a fair and efficient service is being delivered is lost if the public, as customers, do not perceive the service as efficient and helpful." The report goes on to recommend a 'Quality Service Initiative' whereby "the community know specifically what they can expect from the Garda Síochana" and that "this needs to be articulated in the public arena by setting and agreeing service standards which should then be published..." (MORE LATER).
Thanks for reading, Sharon.