Wednesday 29 January 2020

A killing machine behind 120 murders

Margaret Canning

IT was made of just 10lbs of commercial explosives -- but the device detonated by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) at the Droppin' Well pub in Ballykelly, Co Derry in December 1982 was its deadliest.

Seventeen people lost their lives, including 11 soldiers from the Cheshire regiment whose members used the pub frequently.

Condemnation was led by Cardinal Tomas O'Fiaich, who called the attack "gruesome slaughter".

The loss of life that day cemented the INLA's reputation as a small but deadly terrorist group which would be behind 120 killings, including 45 members of the security forces.

Formed in 1975 by disillusioned members of the Official IRA, and quickly emerging as the military wing of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the INLA struck at the heart of the British establishment in March 1979 when it killed Conservative MP Airey Neave, the party's Northern Ireland spokesman, leaving a bomb under his car outside the House of Commons.

In 1982, it bombed a British Army patrol in the Divis Flats in Belfast and killed two Catholic children, Stephen Bennett (14) and Kevin Valliday (12), and one soldier, Kevin Waller (20).

Hundreds of Divis residents marched to the IRSP office on Falls Road, leaving a note accusing it and the INLA of having "the blood of our children on your hands". Another deadly blow came when it murdered LVF leader Billy Wright inside the Maze prison in December 1997.

Ten Catholics lost their lives in the weeks after, killed in retaliation by the LVF and UFF. In February last year, the INLA claimed responsibility for the murder of a drug dealer in Derry. On October 22, the IRSP said it would be dedicating itself to "exclusively peaceful political struggle".

Source: Belfast Telegraph

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