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Sunday 20 April 2014

Soldiers, labourers, women, children -- all murdered in the IRA's terror campaign

Martin McGuinness claims he left the Provisional IRA in 1974. But in the five years he admits to membership -- from 1969 -- the terror group killed hundreds of people. Here we recall some of the most horrific murders.

On August 14, 1969, 26-year-old Protestant Herbert Roy was shot dead during sectarian clashes in West Belfast. There is some dispute as to whether he was the first civilian killed by the IRA during the Troubles.

There is less doubt that David Linton, a Protestant father of three, was shot dead by the IRA two days later at a tribal barricade in North Belfast.

Because a substantial number of killings remain disputed, it is impossible to put an exact figure on IRA victims, but the following 10 atrocities from the years 1969-1974 are beyond dispute.

November 16, 1971

Catholic Arthur McKenna (35) and his partner in petty crime Alexander McVicker were the first people shot by the IRA for criminality. They were involved in protection rackets, fencing, burglary and moneylending. McKenna had left home that afternoon telling his wife he'd finish the decorating after he'd fitted some fans in another house.

February 9, 1971

Orangeman John Aiken (52) was a labourer with seven children on a work contract with the BBC. Along with fellow labourers Harry Edgar and George Beck, they drove to check a damaged TV transmitter in Tyrone, along with English BBC technician Malcolm Henson who had just arrived in NI. The IRA had sabotaged the transmitter and left a roadside bomb primed with a tripwire. All four died in the explosion.

March 9, 1971

Seventeen-year-old John McCaig went drinking with his brother Joseph (23), Dougald McCaughey (23) and other soldiers in a Belfast bar. With drink on board, they dropped their guard and allowed themselves to be lured away from their comrades. They were lined up on a lonely country road and executed. Children discovered their bodies. Dougald McCaughey's brother, serving in the same unit, would have been with them but for a duty shift.

may 25, 1971

Paratrooper Michael Willets (27) was on duty at Springfield Road RUC station in West Belfast when a car pulled up outside and a man flung a suitcase containing a bomb into the reception area. Willets shoved two children into a corner and heroically shielded them with his body, taking the full lethal blast.

july 21, 1972

With Belfast's streets full of afternoon shoppers, the IRA detonated 20 devices in 70 minutes on Bloody Friday, creating mayhem, killing nine, and injuring 130 others. Two devices accounted for all the deaths. A car bomb at Oxford St bus station killed four Ulsterbus employees, while another parked outside a row of shops killed two women and a young schoolboy.

march 8, 1973

The IRA bombers picked a day when a public transport strike meant that commuters flooded the centre of London with their cars, impeding normal police vigilance of suspicious vehicles. A car bomb went off outside the Old Bailey as afternoon pedestrians milled about. A 60-year-old caretaker was killed and 130 injured.

february 4, 1974

Britain's trains were on strike so a coach was hired to carry servicemen and their families off for a holiday. A 25lb bomb was smuggled on to one coach in luggage. It exploded on the M62 motorway, killing 12, wiping out the entire family of Corporal Clifford Houghton, his wife Linda and sons Lee (5) and Robert (2).

october 5, 1974

An active service unit based in England planted gelignite bombs in two Guildford pubs popular with servicemen. The first exploded in the Horse & Groom, killing two male and two female soldiers, and a 22-year-old plasterer. The second pub was evacuated before the bomb went off.

november 7, 1974

Just after 10pm, a gelignite shrapnel bomb packed with bolts was hurled through the window of the King's Arms in Woolwich. The authorities said that off-duty soldier Richard Dunne threw himself on it to take the blast. He died along with 20-year-old part-time barman Alan Horsley.

november 21, 1974

Devices planted in two Birmingham pubs, the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern In The Town, killed 21 and injured 182. A warning was phoned to a newspaper at 8.11pm, but the Mulberry Bush had not been cleared when the bomb went off six minutes later. Police were attempting to clear the second pub, just 40 metres down the street, when the device ignited.

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