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Miami Showband killings

Memorial at Parnell Square, Dublin
Location near Newry, Northern Ireland
Date 31 July 1975
Attack type Bomb, shooting
Death(s) 3 civilians
2 UVF members
Injured 2
Perpetrator Ulster Volunteer Force (with alleged British Intelligence collusion)

The Miami Showband killings (also known as the Miami Showband Massacre)[1] occurred on 31 July 1975 near Newry, South Down, Northern Ireland. The Miami Showband, one of Ireland's most popular cabaret bands of the 1970s which comprised both Catholic and Protestant musicians, was stopped and three of its members shot dead by Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) members. The killings took place shortly after the UVF men, some of whom were in the British Army's Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) regiment, had set up a bogus checkpoint.

Contents

The Massacre

The band was travelling home to Dublin after a gig at the Castle Ballroom in Banbridge, County Down. The vehicle they were travelling in stopped at a roadblock after being flagged down by men in British Army uniforms at Buskhill around 2.30 AM.[2] During the Troubles the British Army used to set up checkpoints on daily basis. The unsuspecting members of the band were taken out of the minibus, and told to line up in a ditch by the side of the road.[3] Some of the men involved were British soldiers, from the Ulster Defence Regiment. However, they were also members of an illegal paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).[3]

Out of sight of the band members, one UVF member attempted to plant and hide a bomb in the minibus, with a plan that the bomb would blow up en route to the band's destination in the Republic of Ireland, killing all on board. Had all gone according to plan, the Loyalist forces would have been able to advance the proposition that the band were acting as bomb-smugglers, eventually embarrassing the Irish government.[4] Whilst the bomb was being loaded into the back of the minibus, it exploded prematurely, killing Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville instantly. Boyle and Somerville were members of the UDR as well as holding the rank of major and lieutenant, respectively, in the UVF.[5][6]

After the explosion, the remaining UVF members opened fire on the dazed band members. Three of the musicians were killed: lead singer Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty, and trumpeter Brian McCoy. Bassist Stephen Travers, aged 24, of Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, was gravely wounded by a dum-dum bullet[7] and barely survived his injuries. Saxophone player Des McAlea (aka "Des Lee") was blown over into a ditch by the force of the explosion and not seriously injured and thus was able to alert authorities after the attack. Ray Millar, the band's drummer, was not travelling in the minibus at the time of the attack, as he had elected to go straight to his home town in Antrim to spend the night with his parents. Brian McCoy was the first to die, having received nine rounds in the back from a machine gun.[3] Fran O'Toole was shot twenty-two times in the face, while Tony Geraghty was shot four times in the back, despite having cried and pleaded for his life.[7]

Three members of UDR were eventually convicted for their part in the attack. On 15 October 1976, James Somerville, Thomas Crozier and James McDowell all received life sentences,[8] and remained in jail until their release under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

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Collusion allegations

After the attack, it was repeatedly alleged by former serving MI6 agent, Captain Fred Holroyd, and others, that British Army officer and member of 14 Intelligence Company, Captain Robert Nairac, organised the attack in cooperation with the UVF.[9][10][11][12] Surviving band members echoed this allegation: "Surviving Miami Showband members Stephen Travers and Des McAlea testified in court that an Army officer with a crisp English accent oversaw the Miami attack", the implication being that this was Nairac.[13][14] Martin Dillon, in The Dirty War, dismissed this claim, based, as he considers, on an erroneous linkage of Nairac to a previous murder of IRA man John Francis Green in County Monaghan in which one of the pistols used in the Showband massacre was employed.[15]

References

  1. ^ Dillon, Martin (1991). The Dirty War. Arrow Books. pp. p. 174. ISBN 978-0099845201.  
  2. ^ "All About The Miami Showband (1961 - 1996)". IrishShowbands.com. http://www.irish-showbands.com/Bands/Miami.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-01.  
  3. ^ a b c McGurk, Tom (2005-07-31). "The mystery of the Miami murders". Sunday Business Post. http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2005/07/31/story6772.asp. Retrieved 2008-11-01.  
  4. ^ Dillon, pp. 198-199
  5. ^ Mid Ulster Brigade mural Cain Web Service. Retrieved 9 July 2009
  6. ^ Dillon, The Dirty War', pp 214-15
  7. ^ a b Taylor, Peter (1999). Loyalists. London: Bloomsbury Press. pp. p. 148. ISBN 0-74754-519-7.  
  8. ^ Saoirse32 15 October 2005 (retrieved 12 September 2008)
  9. ^ The SAS in Ireland - Revealed, by Barry McCaffrey, Irish News, July 13 2006.
  10. ^ Ken Livingstone, maiden speech British House of Commons, Hansard Parliamentary Debates, volume 118, July 7 1987
  11. ^ Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) report on the bombing of Keys Tavern, p. 160
  12. ^ Holroyd, Fred; Burbridge, Nick (1989). War without honour. Hull : Medium. pp. pps. 78–79. ISBN 1-87239-800-6.  
  13. ^ Enigmatic SAS man linked to massacre, The News Letter, August 1 2005.
  14. ^ See also External links to (Irish) Daily Mail articles below
  15. ^ Dillon, The Dirty War, pp 216 ff.

External links

See also

Coordinates: 54°15′38.43″N 6°18′58.53″W / 54.260675°N 6.3162583°W / 54.260675; -6.3162583

  • Martin Dillon, The Dirty War (Arrow Books, 1991)

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