The Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) began a round of hearings yesterday on a series of loyalist bombings from the mid-1970s. The Irish Times has a useful report:
Survivor had no doubt checkpoint officer British
A member of the Miami Showband who was injured in an attack which killed three of his bandmates in 1975 yesterday said it is his belief that checkpoint at which his band’s minibus was stopped was commanded by a British army officer.
Stephen Travers was speaking at a subcommittee of the Oireachtas Justice Committee, which is holding public hearings into loyalist bombings during the 1970s. Among the other murders about which the subcommittee heard evidence yesterday were bombings in Dundalk, Dublin Airport and the O’Dowd and Reavey shootings.
It heard claims by relatives of many of those killed that the Government had let them down by failing to properly investigate and, in at least one instance, prevent the attacks.
Mr Travers said that, having previously worked as a trainee broker with Lloyds in London, he knew the difference between a mock and a real British accent. He had "no doubt" that the checkpoint was not bogus. He added that "somebody was issuing orders" to the British officer in question, and that this went all the way to the top".
The Miami showband were returning from Banbridge, Co Down, when their minibus was stopped by men dressed in army uniforms on the road to the border town of Newry.
Band members were told to line up in a ditch as the gang loaded the bomb. But this exploded prematurely, killing two of the men involved in the planting of the bomb. After the explosion, the gang opened fire, killing Mr Travers’ bandmates Francis O’Toole, Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy. Mr Travers and Des Lee survived.
"I heard them [Francis and Tony] being killed. I heard them begging for their lives," he told the subcommittee yesterday. "I always felt that we were let down by our own State… I do feel that recent Irish history is being airbrushed out."
The subcommittee heard harrowing testimony from relatives of several of those murdered, as well as strong criticism of the actions of the authorities on both sides of the Border before, during and after the attacks.
The fourth and final report of Mr Justice Henry Barron into the bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk in December 1975, in which two people died, found that allegations of collusion were impossible to prove or disprove. It concluded that it was carried out by loyalist extremists but was unable to identify those involved. (Irish Times -subs needed).
For more on the Miami Showband murders, see this Sunday Business Post story by Tom McGurk at the Pat Finucane centre website. Note that if the allegations in the McGurk article are true then the unit involved would have been a precursor of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment.