Brandon Sullivan ✒ concludes his two part series looking at Provisional IRA targeting of civilian contractors servicing the British Repressive State Apparatuses. 

A Circle of Killings – Belfast

The IRA also targeted Henry Brothers outside of Tyrone and South Derry. On the 21st October 1993, 51 year old John Gibson, a director of the company, became the fifth employee to be killed, shot dead at his home in Newtownabbey. The IRA claimed his killing and named and warned a further five firms that they would be targeted if they continued working for the security forces. Mr Gibson was a leading charity worker for those in the North who had diabetes.

The day after Mr Gibson was killed, loyalists shot a Catholic taxi driver in the head. The driver survived the ordeal, which took place less than 100 yards from where Mr Gibson lived and died. The day after the attack on the taxi driver, the IRA carried out the notorious Shankill bombing.

On Sunday, 5th December 1993, the North Belfast UDA, using their Ulster Freedom Fighters flag of convenience, carried out another sectarian attack on a Catholic taxi. This time the driver, a 31 year old man named John Todd, and a 15 year old boy named Brian Duffy were killed.

In July 1996, Brian Duffy’s 24 year old brother, Robert Duffy, was convicted of the murder of John Gibson. He was released under the Good Friday agreement.

In Hugh Jordan and David Lister’s book Mad Dog, they wrote of a cab firm called Circle Taxis being set up with £10k of UDA money, in 1991. The firm was set up by C Company’s Ian Truesdale, and was known to the police as “murder cars” because of the number of times its cars were “hijacked” and used in attacks.

The Sunday Life reported that “Republicans would have known that all Circle Taxis drivers are Protestant - including one who is the brother of a top UFF terrorist.” (Sunday Life, 10th Dec 2000)

In 2000, Trevor Kell, a member of the North Belfast UDA was shot dead by republicans. I have previously discussed the murder of Mr Kell here. The Belfast Telegraph described Robert Duffy as the “number one suspect” in the murder of Mr Kell. Duffy has never been charged with Kell’s killing, but the Daily Mail and the Irish News quoted Mr Kell’s brother saying that the police told them that Duffy made the call that lured Mr Kell to his death. The Kell family believe that the actual target was Johnny Adair’s brother, James. James Adair was convicted of attempting to murder a Catholic man in a hatchet attack in North Belfast, in 1992. Convicted with Adair for the attack was rapist and child murderer Trevor Hinton.

David Ervine asked of Mr Kell’s murder: “for what was he killed? And for what benefit to Ulster or Ireland?”

The Sunday Life reported that “Republicans would have known that all Circle Taxis drivers are Protestant - including one who is the brother of a top UFF terrorist.” (10th Dec 2000)

We are into the realms of conjecture, but given that Robert Duffy’s brother was murdered by the North Belfast UDA, it could be easy to suggest revenge as a motive for his alleged attack on Circle Taxis. Again, it has to be said, Duffy has not been charged with the attack. The murder of Kell was something of an anomaly. The IRA hadn’t carried out a killing like that in some time. Could it have been a bereaved, trigger happy brother looking to settle a score?

The nadir of the IRA’s campaign against security force contractors

The murder of Patsy Gillespie is, to my mind, the single most appalling act carried out by the IRA. To force a man to drive a live bomb into a checkpoint, or else have his family members murdered, can only be described as a war crime. Mr Gillespie was chosen to die, in a manner which meant no trace of his body would ever be found, because he worked as a cook in a nearby army base. Five soldiers also died: the last soldiers to be killed by the IRA in Derry. Ed Moloney wrote that:

As an operation calculated to undermine the IRA's armed struggle, alienate even its most loyal supporters and damage Sinn Féin politically, it had no equal; no other single act of violence perpetrated by the IRA during this phase of its campaign could match it.

Moloney and Peter Taylor both suggested that an operation as callous as the human bomb attacks could have been a deliberate tactical move by those wishing to reduce support for IRA “hawks.” Even if so, senior IRA commanders made a decision to obliterate the body of a man likely known to some of his killers, for the simple fact that he earned a meagre living at an army base.

But, perhaps, I think the nadir of the IRA’s campaign against contractors to the security forces was perhaps reached on the 13th May 1994, when a bomb was placed under the car of a man who worked as a cleaner in an RUC station, Fred Anthony. Mr Anthony’s wife and daughter were in the car, and suffered terrible injuries. His young daughter suffered two broken legs, and shrapnel in her head.

To endanger an innocent family to kill a cleaner brings to mind an RUC officer’s assessment of the closing stages of the IRA’s campaign as a “grubby, pathetic, little war.”

⏩ Brandon Sullivan is a middle aged, middle management, centre-left Belfast man. Would prefer people focused on the actual bad guys. 

The IRA’s War Against Security Force Contractors – Part Ⅱ

Brandon Sullivan ✒ concludes his two part series looking at Provisional IRA targeting of civilian contractors servicing the British Repressive State Apparatuses. 

A Circle of Killings – Belfast

The IRA also targeted Henry Brothers outside of Tyrone and South Derry. On the 21st October 1993, 51 year old John Gibson, a director of the company, became the fifth employee to be killed, shot dead at his home in Newtownabbey. The IRA claimed his killing and named and warned a further five firms that they would be targeted if they continued working for the security forces. Mr Gibson was a leading charity worker for those in the North who had diabetes.

The day after Mr Gibson was killed, loyalists shot a Catholic taxi driver in the head. The driver survived the ordeal, which took place less than 100 yards from where Mr Gibson lived and died. The day after the attack on the taxi driver, the IRA carried out the notorious Shankill bombing.

On Sunday, 5th December 1993, the North Belfast UDA, using their Ulster Freedom Fighters flag of convenience, carried out another sectarian attack on a Catholic taxi. This time the driver, a 31 year old man named John Todd, and a 15 year old boy named Brian Duffy were killed.

In July 1996, Brian Duffy’s 24 year old brother, Robert Duffy, was convicted of the murder of John Gibson. He was released under the Good Friday agreement.

In Hugh Jordan and David Lister’s book Mad Dog, they wrote of a cab firm called Circle Taxis being set up with £10k of UDA money, in 1991. The firm was set up by C Company’s Ian Truesdale, and was known to the police as “murder cars” because of the number of times its cars were “hijacked” and used in attacks.

The Sunday Life reported that “Republicans would have known that all Circle Taxis drivers are Protestant - including one who is the brother of a top UFF terrorist.” (Sunday Life, 10th Dec 2000)

In 2000, Trevor Kell, a member of the North Belfast UDA was shot dead by republicans. I have previously discussed the murder of Mr Kell here. The Belfast Telegraph described Robert Duffy as the “number one suspect” in the murder of Mr Kell. Duffy has never been charged with Kell’s killing, but the Daily Mail and the Irish News quoted Mr Kell’s brother saying that the police told them that Duffy made the call that lured Mr Kell to his death. The Kell family believe that the actual target was Johnny Adair’s brother, James. James Adair was convicted of attempting to murder a Catholic man in a hatchet attack in North Belfast, in 1992. Convicted with Adair for the attack was rapist and child murderer Trevor Hinton.

David Ervine asked of Mr Kell’s murder: “for what was he killed? And for what benefit to Ulster or Ireland?”

The Sunday Life reported that “Republicans would have known that all Circle Taxis drivers are Protestant - including one who is the brother of a top UFF terrorist.” (10th Dec 2000)

We are into the realms of conjecture, but given that Robert Duffy’s brother was murdered by the North Belfast UDA, it could be easy to suggest revenge as a motive for his alleged attack on Circle Taxis. Again, it has to be said, Duffy has not been charged with the attack. The murder of Kell was something of an anomaly. The IRA hadn’t carried out a killing like that in some time. Could it have been a bereaved, trigger happy brother looking to settle a score?

The nadir of the IRA’s campaign against security force contractors

The murder of Patsy Gillespie is, to my mind, the single most appalling act carried out by the IRA. To force a man to drive a live bomb into a checkpoint, or else have his family members murdered, can only be described as a war crime. Mr Gillespie was chosen to die, in a manner which meant no trace of his body would ever be found, because he worked as a cook in a nearby army base. Five soldiers also died: the last soldiers to be killed by the IRA in Derry. Ed Moloney wrote that:

As an operation calculated to undermine the IRA's armed struggle, alienate even its most loyal supporters and damage Sinn Féin politically, it had no equal; no other single act of violence perpetrated by the IRA during this phase of its campaign could match it.

Moloney and Peter Taylor both suggested that an operation as callous as the human bomb attacks could have been a deliberate tactical move by those wishing to reduce support for IRA “hawks.” Even if so, senior IRA commanders made a decision to obliterate the body of a man likely known to some of his killers, for the simple fact that he earned a meagre living at an army base.

But, perhaps, I think the nadir of the IRA’s campaign against contractors to the security forces was perhaps reached on the 13th May 1994, when a bomb was placed under the car of a man who worked as a cleaner in an RUC station, Fred Anthony. Mr Anthony’s wife and daughter were in the car, and suffered terrible injuries. His young daughter suffered two broken legs, and shrapnel in her head.

To endanger an innocent family to kill a cleaner brings to mind an RUC officer’s assessment of the closing stages of the IRA’s campaign as a “grubby, pathetic, little war.”

⏩ Brandon Sullivan is a middle aged, middle management, centre-left Belfast man. Would prefer people focused on the actual bad guys. 

25 comments:

  1. And Patsy Gillespie might have been executed to move the peace process forward ... possibly but more likely that's a running of history backwards.
    I have a buddy who says that those who provided services to the 'Imperialist colonisers' were equal to those 'Vichy Government types' who rolled over in the face of Nazi invaders. And those who called service providers to the Brits to account were akin to those who might have executed plumbing contractors who provided services to the the Nazis in creating the gas chambers.

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    1. Such comparisons are utterly obscene. I hope you have explained to your buddy why, Henry Joy.

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  2. The murder of Patsy Gillespie is, to my mind, the single most appalling act carried out by the IRA

    Fuck me, where were you living? Under a rock? There were plenty worse.

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  3. @ Stevie R

    The human bomb attacks are the only actions that I can think of that are unique to the IRA. Patsy was used to kill people, his life considered as expendable as the vehicle he was forced to drive.

    It's all subjective of course. The IRA using Frank Hegarty's mother to fool Frank into a false sense of security and coming home to a brutal death likewise sticks out as especially depraved.

    @ Henry Joy

    I think Patsy Gillespie may have been murdered to neuter the hawks, but like you say, it is easy to review history and see motivation and conspiracy. I find it hard to conceptualise that Northern Command didn't realise that the op would have led to a huge drop in support. Enniskillen could be portrayed, regardless of the actual truth, as a mistake. The intent evident in Patsy's sacrifice to kill soldiers was obvious.

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    1. It is as you say subjective. It is why one disaster impacts on us in a way that another might not. There is no denying that the death of Patsy Gillespie was a huge PR disaster because of the revulsion it generated, much like the killing of Sammy Llewellyn did. To be technical about it it was a bit like Mountbatten in that it took the shine of a very effective military strike.
      Henry Joy has a point - what might appear eminently reasonable after the fact might not have factored into the decisions at the time. The same sort of thing was said about Enniskillen - intentionally done to limit the military option - but it is hard to find evidence to support it.

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    2. It's hard to imagine that anyone working for the security forces didn't know the risks involved. Considering that he had previously been forced to deliver a proxy into a military base it is hard to comprehend why the unfortunate Gillespie persisted with his employment.

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    3. He knew the risks involved but might have been of the John Hume school of majority nationalist opinion at the time and felt his right to make a living was greater than the right of a minority to kill him. At the time I did not have a lot of sympathy for him, terming the tactic collaborator bombs rather than human bombs.
      The PR was disastrous - had they shot him at the door of his house, we might not even remember the incident or the name.

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    4. Unfortunately for Patsy, even though Hume was well-determined that Adams & Co would visit his tailor, they still hadn't fully got round to taking on his recommendation.

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  4. @ AM

    I've always thought Mountbatten could have been hit with relative ease and without killing the blameless and harmless people with him. I'm not sure the Derry Brigade could have killed five soldiers in one attack without doing what they did.

    Had the dead soldiers been Para's, perhaps the operation would have been viewed marginally differently.

    In War & an Irish Town, Eamon McCann spoke to confronting a "senior provisional" saying "that was a lousy fucking military operation.". The provisional replied "that was a perfect military operation."

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    1. to the extent to which that is correct, we are left with the fact that both Mountbatten and Gillespie took the shine of what were - had they not died - seriously prestigious military successes.
      Marginally - it is probably as generous as it gets.

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  5. This also stirs the subconscious belief amongst the PUL community that there exists a palpable exercise in minimisation in the CNR community whereby any action taken that was PR disaster was simply fobbed off as being under direction of the Brits. The belief in my community is that absolutely no responsibility for any action is countenanced by the Northern Republican movement either retrospectively nor faithfully. Gillespie, Enniskillen or Omagh. I've heard plenty of deflection of responsibility to the Brits and not one person came out and owned it. No wonder howls for enquiries just piss us off. Remember Bloody Friday? Can we get the a 10th of the money spent on Bloody Sunday on that please? Obviously there's a hierarchy of victims, just ask the Shinners.

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  6. where has it been suggested that Mountbatten, Patsy Gillespie or Enniskillen was under the control of the Brits? There is enough evidence to show that the Brits were up to their neck in running agents and could have stopped operations but chose not to. In Derry in the same era there were accusations from the families of dead British soldiers that two of them had been sacrificed to protect an agent.
    Omagh was the responsibility of the people who planted the bomb. What needs further exploration is if the Brits could have prevented. it given their access to agents with some degree of foreknowledge.
    The money spent on Bloody Sunday was aimed towards exonerating the victims from false allegations. There are no such allegations against those killed on Bloody Friday. What the Bloody Sunday money established was that the victims on Bloody Sunday were as innocent of those on Bloody Friday.

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  7. @ Stevie R

    I don't think anyone is suggesting Brit involvement in Gillespie's murder: just that the revulsion it generated was a bonus to the 'doves' in the Provisionals.

    Bloody Friday is almost universally described as a crime, and was investigated at the time, resulting in a conviction. To this day people view Bloody Sunday as being non-criminal. An inquiry was needed to establish that lies and criminality were covered up.

    Bloody Friday warrants a thorough investigation, but an inquiry isn't needed to establish what happened.

    The subconscious tendency you noted is present in loyalism and unionism. On the Quill, Holy Cross is blamed on republicans, and support for loyalist paramilitaries is excused on the basis that that support was for killing militant republicans.

    Both sides have their myths and avoidant beliefs.

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  8. "we are left with the fact that both Mountbatten and Gillespie took the shine of what were - had they not died - seriously prestigious military successes"

    I can't recall where I read it but there was theory put forward that a very senior Republican, who was suspected of being an agent, authorised/devised the 'human bomb' with encouragement from his handlers. The idea was to create a backlash against the Provos and help path the way to end of their campaign.

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    1. it is a possibility but without something substantial to back it up it has more the ring of a conspiracy theory. If the British allowed that to happen to steer their agent through there is a lot to answer for.

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    2. From memory that was released by Martin ingram allegedly documenting a conversation between MMG, his handler and referencing his brother in Derry.

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  9. It's curious the 'Hawks' in s.armagh and Tyrone gave their abducted drivers a chance to escape I.e refused to tie them into the vehicles allthewhile the Derry attack group, that was riddled and 'wiped out'(according to top cop Martindale, he who bragged he had done thus) carried it out to the letter. Just saying.

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    1. "Cloghoge
      In tandem with the Coshquin operation, members of the IRA's South Down Brigade took over the house of a Catholic man, James McAvoy, 65, in Newry. He was allegedly targeted because he served RUC officers at his filling station, which was beside the house. He was driven away in a Toyota HiAce van while his family was held at gunpoint. At Flagstaff Hill, near the Irish border, members of the IRA's South Armagh Brigade loaded the van with one ton of explosives. McAvoy was strapped into the driver's seat and told to drive the van to the accommodation block at Cloghoge permanent vehicle checkpoint. Before he drove off, a senior IRA member seemed "to have a pang of conscience" and whispered in McAvoy's ear "don't open the door; go out through the window".

      An IRA team followed the van in a car and turned into a side road shortly before it reached the checkpoint. When McAvoy stopped the van and climbed out of the window, a soldier came over and began shouting at him to move the vehicle. Moments later, a timer detonated the bomb. The soldier was killed outright and 13 other soldiers were injured. McAvoy survived but suffered a broken leg.

      The soldier killed was Ranger Cyril J. Smith, from B Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rangers. Smith, who was also a Northern Ireland Catholic, was posthumously awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal, as he tried to warn his comrades about the bomb, rather than running for cover.

      Omagh
      At about the same time, there was a third attempted proxy bombing in County Tyrone. A third man was strapped into a car and forced to drive it to Lisanelly Camp in Omagh while his family was held at gunpoint. The third bomb weighed 1,500 pounds (680 kg), only exploded partially because of a faulty detonator."

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    2. HJ - humanity still bubbled up in that advice to go through the window. Can't recall hearing that before. Good stuff.

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    3. "When Gillespie reached the checkpoint, at 3:55 AM,[11] he tried to get out and warn the soldiers, but the bomb detonated when he attempted to open the door. IRA bomb makers had installed a detonation device linked to the van's courtesy light, which came on whenever the van door opened."

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxy_bomb

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  10. @ Terry

    I'm going from a vague recollection here, but I think it was a Kevin Fulton type who made that claim. I don't think it's credible.

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  11. Would it be a 'conspiracy theory' to suggest Bertie Duffy's kid brother was murdered in order to tempt Bertie across the border? Going by court reports it was alleged Mr Duffy's blood was left at the scene of the Gibson shooting and if I recall Bertie was arrested attending his kid brothers wake.

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  12. That's just the point. British agent controllers do have a lot to answer for. How many people were sacrificed to keeps the likes of Freddie Scappaticci and Brian Nelson in place? The spooks worked by the code of the end justifies the means.

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  13. @ AM

    Re Samuel Llewellyn, did this effect support for the IRA/Sinn Fein in any tangible way, or was it more a general distaste among the support base?

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    1. hard to measure at this stage but probably not - the feud with the Officials a few months later would probably have been more subversive of support within the community

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