The Morning Joe Fitzpatrick Died

Joe Fitzpatrick would and should be 59 now. Those of us who grew up alongside Joe, knew him - laid back, with deep eyes and dark complexion - to be an intelligent guy, more contemplative than most his age, who’s potential should have taken him far beyond the streets he swept to earn his crust. He never made it out of his teens. 40 years ago this morning he was gunned down by the UVF in the Lower Ormeau Road’s Cooke Place as he began his day’s work attending to the streets that his killers would shortly stain with his blood.

The previous evening’s announcement of an IRA ceasefire, scheduled to commence on the night of Joe's death, was of no benefit to him. It might even have prompted the strategic minds behind his killing to up the ante as a shot across the bows of a British Labour government they suspected of parleying with the IRA. The “might even have” is qualified by the understanding that sectarian hatred is often its own rationale, the stated justification mere moonshine for the optics.

The evening before Joe died, two teenagers I had attended school with, Kevin Ballantine and Gerard Kylie, were also gunned down by loyalists as they left Sunday evening mass in the nearby Lisburn Road. An imminent IRA ceasefire: so what IRA activity were they reacting to or trying to deter? The UDA killers, on this occasion, did not anticipate finding the IRA at prayer, just innocent Catholics. Johnny Adair whose objective in life was to be a British drug dealer rather than Irish one, would later come to be the poster boy for this rancid sectarian perspective ad "yabba, dabba doo, any Taig will do.” 

Within a month Michael Adamson and Joey Clarke also had their lives snatched away by loyalist killers. They too were from the Ormeau Road area. Although Michael had since moved on he never moved far enough to escape his stalkers. All five men, four of them still in their teens, were targeted for no reason other than they were Catholics. In Michael’s case his killers alleged that he was a member of the Communist Party. A Communist Catholic, what salivation that must have stirred. 

While all this was taking place I was fomenting in Magilligan Prison: seventeen, enraged and in the grip of a molten malice, vengeful and virulent, that needed slaked. I found myself staring into that Nietzschean abyss at the monster that stared back out, oblivious to the steady erosion of whatever moral distinction I believed separated people like me from those slaying Catholic non-combatants. Auden’s necessary murder does not quite have the moral power of Voltaire’s murder diluted by the sound of trumpets. There is no case other than a naked sectarian one that can be made for targeting non-combatants from the “other side”. 

The five deaths were the working out of the war crime logic that underpinned the entire loyalist military strategy. In ways that later caused me to draw comparisons between loyalism and the OAS in Algeria, an unarmed civilian population was to be targeted for killing: not for any individual culpability on their own part but because they were, in that memorable phrase, born a this rather than a that.

I never considered the man convicted for killing Joe Fitzpatrick a war criminal. That was much more applicable to the strategists that equipped him with the logic of so called military necessity, making his choice to kill Joe seem a reasonable one in the circumstances. It serves to remind us of ‘how utterly malleable and adaptable people are to context.’

I cut Joe’s photo out of the Irish News and with some help from a fellow prisoner I made a varnished wooden plaque in memory of him which I sent out to his father, Dan. When released that November I called to see him. The first thing this grieving father mentioned was the plaque. He seemed deeply moved by it. For my part I was not yet moved enough by his plight to consider military measures such as Kingsmill in the garish light that would accentuate their heinousness, preferring context and the sound of trumpets.

When people like Joe Fitzpatrick are snatched away in their youth, there is no consolation in the romanticised sophistry 'forever young.' Youth is forever lost, life forever dead, the one unquestionable harsh gift of war.


  1. Powerful a cara ,emotion stirring to say the least ,so many of us can change the names but the dirty deed remains the same, I traveled a lot through loyalist areas throughout the "troubles" and it sickened me no end to look at murals dedicated to glorious battalions of heroic women killers, wankers the fucking lot, that includes Irvine and Spence, cowardly cunts who without the backing of the army\ruc sb\udr mrf etc would have never left their drug dens ,yes a few were thrown to the wolves all for the optics,they are today regarded as useful only when Pete the punt wants to stir the pot , what a pity a section of this community never got a grip on themselves as you rightly say "how utterly malleable and adaptable"these fools allowed themselves to be. they stole to many innocent lives for me to give them any respect for their part in our recent past .

  2. A touching perspective indeed, one incident which took place in 1998 that touched me more than anything previously or since was the murders in the early hours of July 12th of the 3 young Quinn brothers Jason 9, Mark 10, & Richard 11, and I’m not ashamed to admit the fact that I privately cried when their deaths took place. Even today it doesn't take much for my eyes to well up when I think about what happened to those poor souls, and don't get me wrong i'm not the softest of people.

    Three young lads burned to death in their peaceful beds in the dead of night for no other reason than
    they were ‘born on the other side’.
    I don’t think there is anything on earth more hateful and unjustifiably wrong than anyone for whatever reason intentionally taking the lives of innocent children be it man made famine, Jewish children during the Holocaust, Palestinian children in Gaza the outcome is the same, the most heinous crime imaginable. Touch wood that this terrible fate never befalls any of my 5 kids because the wrath of violence from me towards the perpetrator(s) would be unprecedented in the history of human civilization.
    Think Tarantino’s Kill Bill then multiply by 1000 for an idea and that would be a day where I felt a degree of leniency.
    Same applies to pedophiles touch any of mine your fucked.

  3. Excellent piece! Should be an essential read for all who care!

  4. very moving piece, God be good to them all. makes u wonder will they ever change. what sad brutal lives young loyalists are born into. they have a hate gene that is frightening, and whats worse for u nordie taigs is the southern taigs did fuck all for ye and actually ended up shafting u. my father (rip) told me once he reckoned 5 in a hundred down here were sound, and then after puffing on his pipe remarked you could probably whittle it down to three. imagine if this was going on in cork. a lot of us irish are spineless and whats worse, try to act the opposite. to think all those years of censorship and not one celebrity/sportstar/writer joined sf just to stick it to those rte freestate turds. sinead o connor is about 30 years too late. what a laugh that would have been - no 1 all over the world but not allowed speak on rte. that would have been global headline news, u missed that one sinead!

  5. I seen the latest display from the global elite in wankerisum was placed on a wall recently in a ‘Loyalist” area and defended by turds on the Nolan show, haven’t got a fucking clue, pure fucking evilest form of poison imaginable from the day and hour they set foot on this tiny island. 400 years of their shitty fucking culture, forget about looking for cures for cancer and ebola Ireland needs a cure from these cunts first. They don’t even deserve a safe passage out of here when zero hour arrives.

    Some culture eh?

    Hate slogans on gable walls, bigot flute bands, burning tyres creating toxic pollution, pissing outside churches, murdering catholic children in their beds, murdering young catholic girls buying sweets from shops, murdering 87 year old catholic pensioners while having a quiet pint, marching where they’re not invited, spouting sectarian chants at football matches, supremacy, elitism, discrimination, there’s no fucking end to their shite they call culture.

    It has never been said before and I’m deadly serious, I want to see an all island referendum on a vote to get these people the fuck off this island once and for all, I’m not talking about ordinary protestants and presbyterians they are welcome to stay.

    If only there could be a way of containing and re-cycling the fumes from those tyres and pump it back into their rat burrows that would enable us to fumigate parts of Ireland we’ve never been able to walk through.

    Here’s something for any protestants who are reading this to think about…

    In the late 1980s-90s I worked in England and a colleague of mine was a protestant from Fermanagh or some place (cant remember) while talking about back home he said to me, “I know we’re wrong but I’ll still fight if it comes to it”.

    Another protestant colleague of mine while socialising in a catholic pub one night turns round and says to all of use there, “I can go anywhere I want in this town or walk into any bar and no one would say a word against me, but youse can’t do the same were I live”
    (we were all born and bread in the same town).

  6. Sean a cara when you have a government in the republic that squanders public money on refurbishing orange lodges and allows the bigots to parade openly their treachery for the land of their birth in favour of a british identity as they do at Rosnowlagh,were the last president and the weasel hubbie wined and dined "loyalist murders and gangsters and feted them like some sort of visiting dignitaries at Áras an Uachtarián and then bring the scum to the garden of remembrance for fuck sake , we witness the same here in norn iorn the quisling $inn £eind cultural monster Caral the cunt ni Chuilin gives money to the kick the pope bands and the ulster scots a language invented by flat earth bigot Nelson Mc Causland,so in finishing a cara we will never get a change of attitude or a willingness to live in peace when these bastards are treated like nothing more than spoilt brats.

  7. there is no republic in the south, its a bigger cesspit than sicily. ireland lost the war against the english hundreds of years ago, some of us cant except it. lost language culture millions of lives and a spine. this island is dysfunctional because the irish are a very weak race now. most people in the south dont really give a fuck. ur stuck with the orangies and stuck with a statelet down here who never have and never will defend ye. dream on about loyalists leavin the country. the only ones leavin are paddies.

  8. Anthony,

    'I found myself staring into that Nietzschean abyss at the monster that stared back out..'

    Like you, I have known many of those who's lives were extinquished as a result of the conflict. As a consequence I found myself staring into the same eyes that stared back at you from the abyss. Having escaped from the grip of the monster by means of reasoning and the force of humanity, there abides an overwhelming desire, if it were within my gift, to resurrect all those who were killed by whatever rationale.

  9. From Beano

    The early part of 1975 was a bloody one for Northern Ireland in terms of sectarian killings. Most of which were in the Belfast area. Anthony’s homage to Joe is heartfelt and a lovely tribute to someone he obviously knew well. All killings—not just sectarian ones-in the past or any conflict are to be condemned and not one of them gained an inch in whatever struggle they were involved with. Whatever the tactics were from Loyalist organisations at that time hindsight clearly illustrates they were wrong and that sectarian killings were equally wrong. Sectarianism particularly in many working class areas of Belfast-but not exclusive to there was rife-and endemic. Undoubtedly more Catholics than Protestants were killed in the early months of 1975 but that would be of scant consolation to the families of Christopher Mein, an innocent milkman-who like Joe Fitzpatrick had set out early in the morning to do a days work—or Wesley Black, shot in West Belfast-or Tommy Truesdale , shot from a passing car in Ballysillan. All around the same time. Sectarianism was not a one way street and this must be acknowledged.
    For Marty to rant about Davy Ervine and Gusty Spence being “ cowardly cunts, who without the backing of the army/ruc sb/udr mrf etc: would have never left their drug dens” is pitiful. And to comment any further on it would perhaps give him the notion that he has a valid point.
    However it is hugely gratifying to hear that Sean O Maoilearca would allow-“ ordinary protestants and Presbyterians”- to remain in his version of Utopian Ireland.

  10. Beano,
    However it is hugely gratifying to hear that Sean O Maoilearca would allow-“ ordinary protestants and Presbyterians”- to remain in his version of Utopian Ireland.

    Charlie Freel on LKIO says the reverse from a Loyalist perspective about 'ordinary catholics & nationalists..' and the o6c's. In fact he and basically every other Loyalist call the o6c'..Ulster!

    He never made it out of his teens. .

    Just done the maths.. Joe was born in 1956 murdered at 19.

    I was 19 in 1987. And my memories of Ardoyne & Belfast are good memories. '87 was around the time I woke up after an all nighter, somewhere off the Newtownards road (got pissed and died in corner at a Rockabilly party), woke up the following morning and the fcukers shaved half my quiff!!! I then went to a friends in Divis Flats and asked him to 'rescue my quiff' (he like me, is stll a kat). he made a bigger balls of it.

    Anyhow, got home at 4pm on Sunday ( I linked up with a few friends at Corn Market on the Sat.).. reeking of stale beer, half a quiff and two very pissed off parents..

  11. from Beano

    Frankie....what I was illustrating in relation to Sean was the extreme ends of the thinking here. I know plenty whose mantra would be..” If they don’t like it tell them to head south”.....Charlie may well be an example of the other end of that thought process....but just as all who comment...he is there to be challenged.
    You’re a lucky man to have wakened up anywhere in Belfast at 19 years old..........and it certainly saddens me to know that many didn’t even reach that age due to the sectarian killings we speak about. Gladly however that is largely a thing of the past and it’s up to the “ Inbetweeners” to ensure it stays that way.

  12. Beano,

    it’s up to the “ Inbetweeners” to ensure it stays that way

    It's up to everyone to make sure the elephant stays in its cage

    For the past few days I was listening to Nolan talk about one of the forgotten side effects of the conflict.. The converstaion gets intresting at 5mins 17 secs when John Tipple from Stop the War takes Jeffery Donaldson apart. Listen carefully to what Gerard Hodgins has to say about PTSD , starts at 7mins 10sec on....( the start is a summary of the previous show. ).

  13. Mackers, I read this piece a few months ago. I found it so evocative of those terrible days that I could not comment. Although I found it an excellent piece with which I immediately related to I was not quite in the mood to comment. But having reread it this evening, I also knew and was great friends with Joe Fitzpatrick. You describe him as I remember him. At the time he was murdered, he was in possession of some records that I had loaned to him, and in the circumstances I just didn't have the heart to ask any of the Fitzpatricks for the return of them! I also knew and well remember Kevin and Gerard from school. I knew Kevin better than I knew Gerard but that is probably because we were enthusiastic smokers of the dreaded Players No.6 at the time. I remember Michael Adamson teaching me how to lift weights at the University Club. He was an enthusiastic coach and on one occasion caused you all great merriment when he elicited the steam of superhuman effort to rise from the back of my head! But to my shame, I cannot remember Joey Clarke. The name rings a bell with me and my instinct tells me I should remember him but I can neither conjure up a face or the circumstances of his murder. Perhaps that what those times have done to us. We simply cannot remember them all and that is terribly sad.
    I am not one for expounding hope in the place of effort, work and commitment, nor am I one given to prayer. I would rather position myself in a place from where I can be certain that the hatred, double think and stupidity that killed those friends of ours cannot flow.