Kevin Myers: The Miami Showband massacre was one of the most depraved atrocities of the Troubles
Published 16/12/2011 | 17:00
THE official confirmation by the Historical Enquiries Team of collusion in the Miami Showband massacre of 1975 should surprise no one. It was widely known that UDR members of the UVF were involved and there was no serious attempt at the time to cleanse the UDR of loyalist terrorists. This was an utter scandal.
But it doesn't stop there. Most of the UVF men responsible for the Miami massacre had probably been involved in the Dublin bombings the year before. Within a week of these bombings, I met a garda detective inspector in Dublin, who showed me a list of suspects. The only surname that I remember is Somerville, belonging to two UVF brothers, unspeakably evil associates of the supremely wicked Robin Jackson. I believe he too was one of the Dublin bombers.
However, the Dublin government chose not to seek the extradition of the UVF men who had caused the biggest loss of life in the Troubles. Quite simply, the State didn't want later to have to extradite IRA terrorists as a quid pro quo for having got the Dublin bombers. There is no documentary trail to prove this assertion, just missing files and conspicuously discreet inertia. Thereafter, the UVF felt they were immune to the rule of law; and they were right, were they not? Thus the Miami Showband massacre; in scale not the worst of the atrocities, but in its diabolical inventiveness against such a group of harmless and naïve young men, easily one of the most depraved.
Two UVF men, Wesley Somerville and Harris Boyle, were killed in the premature explosion as they put the bomb on board the showband's bus. In the butchery that followed, three young musicians were hunted down and murdered: Fran O'Toole, Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy. Brian was the son of the Orange Grand Master for Tyrone and he was buried in Caledon. Nineteen years later, Brian's sister's husband, Eric Smyth, a former soldier, was murdered by the IRA. She lost her brother to the UVF, and her husband to the IRA: a very model of Irish ecumenism.
I know, beyond all doubt, that senior members of the British government, army and RUC were aware of the degree to which the UVF had penetrated the UDR in the Dungannon/Portadown area. But I also know that the governments of the Republic of Ireland failed to act on the terrorism threat. Throughout this time, members of the IRA army council, such as Daithi O'Connell and Ruairi O Bradaigh, were living at home and running the IRA like a lawful business. Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, who lived in Louth, was never once arrested throughout the Troubles. Successive governments of this Republic allowed the semi-autonomous IRA heartland of south Armagh to be extended across Cavan, Monaghan and Louth.
Over time, Shinners and their fellow-travellers sedulously created a new folklore about the Troubles, which is rapidly becoming the standard narrative of a carefully monitored, daily updated internet campaign. This runs as follows: the Troubles -- "the British war in Ireland" as Gerry Adams memorably called them in 'The Guardian' -- were either the creation of the British or of loyalists working with their collusion. In reply, the IRA conducted a largely gallant Human Rights Struggle, which was marred by a few unfortunate excesses.
No serious counter-narrative is being offered to these myths. Indeed, if anything, official amnesia now prevails. When recently giving evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal into garda collusion with the IRA in Dundalk, I testified that a garda had given information to the IRA about the investigations into the murders of the British ambassador Christopher Ewart-Biggs and the Northern Ireland Office official Judith Cooke. Counsel for An Garda Siochana subsequently took advice and later rose to rebut my allegation, declaring I had confused it with the case of a garda who had been convicted of assisting MI5. I insisted that I was right and that counsel had been misinformed, adding that the garda concerned -- whose name I had forgotten -- had appeared in court.
THE tribunal has now written to me, accepting that my claim was correct. But how is it that the name of Garda Patrick Kirby, traitor and fellow traveller of the IRA, who was convicted of passing on information to the IRA on January 8, 1978, is not a name that endures in infamy within the corporate memory of An Garda Siochana? Well, in much the same way that almost no one remembers that if the Dublin bombers had been extradited to this Republic, as they could and should have been, there would have been no Miami Showband massacre.