Truth lies buried in grounds of St Matthews…

WHAT prompted British spy Denis Donaldson to betray his IRA comrades has been a matter of speculation ever since his murder. But the theories always fitted neatly with Sinn Fein’s post-Agreement narrative. However, an extract from a book published more than a decade ago suggests that Sinn Fein has attempted to bury the truth about one of the IRA’s most famous gun battles, as well as the memory of an innocent man killed by a comrade he never had.

For most, the Donaldson shoplifting story never rung true, and I could not comment about stories about his suspected affairs. However, another story, which emerged at the weekend, has cast doubt on the accepted story – one which explodes the myth of the IRA’s legendary defence of St Matthews church in the Short Strand from a loyalist mob.

The mainstream republican version tells of a heroic defence of the Catholic church by Donaldson and the formative Provisionals, in which ‘IRA Volunteer’ Henry McIlhone (pictured) lost his life and the Provos emerged as a fighting force after previous accusations of cowardice.

But McIlhone was never in the IRA, according to his family. Tirghra (Sinn Fein’s ‘role of honour‘) describes him as ‘Oglach (Volunteer) Henry McIlhone’ but adds that “although not a member of the IRA, Henry McIlhone was included on the Republican Roll of Honour as a mark of respect for a great Irish man by Republican Comrades who fought alongside him in the defense of Short Strand.” It doesn’t say whether it was one of those same comrades who filled him with bullets. An Phoblacht simply referred to him as “IRA Volounteer Henry McIlhone” in an account of the gunfight, and lists him as “Vol Henry McIlhone” of the 3rd Battalion elsewhere. His family’s fight for compensation, mentioned in entry 32 of Lost Lives, in which a judge overturned police evidence, suggests otherwise.

For the five years they could keep the truth hidden, the RUC and IRA found the common lie they shared of mutual benefit. The police may well have used the information to recruit Donaldson. While the IRA must have suspected his vulnerability, protecting the narrative was more important than admitting that Donaldson may have killed his comrade. And so he rose through the republican ranks, all the while helping the other side.

Pete has already blogged the new account from the Historical Enquiries Team, but what hasn’t been revealed before and adds weight to the McIlhone family’s belief that he was neither an IRA gunman nor a victim of the loyalist mob is this important account in Tony Geraghty’s book The Irish War.

Geraghty wrote that “[L]ocal Catholics, close eye-witnesses of events that night, have since told me that McIlhone was actually killed in a battle accident by one of his own side, a diminutive man incapable of controlling the swing of his Thompson sub-machine-gun once he pulled the trigger. The accident apparently occurred as the IRA men were ordered to withdraw tactically. The man with the Thompson was several feet behind McIlhone.”

There is no doubt that Donaldson was a “diminutive” man. Others can say whether Billy McKee was, and I doubt Joe O’Donnell ever was. If a teenage Jim Gibney was ever of such a tiny stature, I’m sure it will form the basis of another anodyne column in the Irish News. But, according to a family friend, McIlhone’s widow “refused an IRA funeral and fought tooth and nail to get his name taken off the republican roll of honour. IRA men told his sons they had fought beside Henry. The family are very pleased that the HET have finally cleared his name”.

So when Gerry Adams mentioned in passing in ‘Before the Dawn’, while leading a “crazy life“, that McIlhone was a volunteer (p140), it would seem that the events being remembered were only in the minds of those concerned with creating a certain republican narrative based on lies. McIlhone was not an IRA man. Donaldson’s motivation for becoming a spy seems more likely to have been to keep his accidental killing of McIlhone a secret, than any other theory put forward.

Like Donaldson, Sinn Fein’s job since 1970 has been to enforce a view that portrays mainstream republicanism in a particular light. As it becomes clearer that their version of events was false, and as new historical narratives like the O’Rawe account of the Hunger Strike emerge, one wonders how long the party line will hold.

  • George

    How long will the party line hold?
    I imagine the bookmakers have odds now.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Never mind why Sinn Five behave the way they do – we all know the answer to that – why do their voters behave like such sheep? That’s the thing that has always puzzled me. I mean, if I sincerely belieevd what Sinn Fein claim to believe in, then learnt the truth about Sinn Five, I’d, from a Republican point of view, just be too ashamed to vote for them. Still, MOPE is as MOPE does I suppose.

  • it was the loyalist mob which done it

    I’d be embarrassed to be a Sinn Fein politician this weather. It’ll be interesting to see how they avoid this?

  • Brian MacAodh

    Gerraghty’s book came out quite some time ago.

    Even if what he says is true, and it may be, it doesn’t change the fact that the defense of st mathews gave the Provos some respect and backing as in the wider Catholic community. No one is disputing McIhone was one of the defenders.

    I doubt that this is what caused Donaldson to become an informer. It wasn’t murder, let alone manslaughter. He was shooting to hold off a bloodthirsty mob and accidently hit one of his own men in the confusino. Sure, it would be embarassing but I don’t think this is what pushed him to be a spy.

  • Rory Carr

    “Donaldson’s motivation for becoming a spy seems more likely to have been to keep his accidental killing of McIlhone a secret, than any other theory put forward.”

    Really? I seem to be having some difficulty with this line of reasoning. Would you care to walk me through it, please. Slowly now, if you don’t mind.

    Who was it that Donaldson so desperately needed to keep this “secret” from that he choose to become a paid informer in order to protect it?

    The IRA? They surely already knew and were keen as Donaldson to keep it secret (so you say).

    McIlhone’s family? But the IRA (so says Clarke and Gonzo agrees) were already complicit with Donaldson in keeping the “secret” from the family.

    The RUC? Donaldson keeps the “secret” by admitting it to the RUC so they can blackmail him into becoming an informer under threat of revealing the secret – to whom? To the IRA?

    You can see the difficulties I am having here with the conclusion you have drawn, Gonzo. How can they be resolved do you think?

  • joe

    the problem for the theory that the mcilhone killing started donaldson on a life as a double agent is a hard one to overcome. you write yourself, gonzo: ‘Donaldson’s motivation for becoming a spy seems more likely to have been to keep his accidental killing of McIlhone a secret, than any other theory put forward.’
    the problem is that it is unlikely that it was a ‘secret’ inside the IRA since it appears from tony geraghty’s account that there were likely ira witnesses around when mcilhone was accidentally shot. if this is true then the british would would have had no hold over donaldson. and anyway ‘friendly fire’ killings happen in every war and most are acknowledged. no, this was about keeping an ira blunder secret from the outside world lest it diminish a myth.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]He was shooting to hold off a bloodthirsty mob and accidently hit one of his own men in the confusino.”[/i]

    Its the lies, especially the lies about innocent families, Catholic families, and the general attitude that its everyone else’s fault but their own, that is so despicable.

    “[i]Sure, it would be embarassing but I don’t think this is what pushed him to be a spy.”[/i]

    I agree there was probably more than this incident to get Donaldson to become a spy, but in saying that, once the lies were told, it became increasingly difficult for Donaldson and those who knew about the murder and cover-up to admit it.

  • Dec

    one which explodes the myth of the IRA’s legendary defence of St Matthews church in the Short Strand from a loyalist mob.


    There was no myth – there was a loyalist mob determined to do to the Short Strand what they’d done to Bombay Street. The IRA held them off – that is a fact.

    As to this story, I’d pay it a bit more attention if there was any actual evidence or named sources contained within it.
    Rory has already exposed some flaws in the theory that Donaldson became a spy to protect his involvement in the death of Mr Ilhone. Nor does this version explain how Donaldson later ended up in Long Kesh during the 1970’s and 80’s, if he was such a valuable asset to the Security Services prior to that.

  • oracle

    You have to hand it to Liam Clarke, he seems to know where all the hornets nests are and just loves ripping them open.
    What I can’t fathom is the moronic refusal by S/F posters on this site to see that they have followed a party of liars for decades

  • UMH Watch

    UMH, the following is the tip of the iceberg:

    [i]Its the lies….that its everyone else’s fault but their own…here was probably more than this incident to get Donaldson to become a spy…her political and moral views maybe screwed up[/i]

    Back to school, little boy.

  • tom

    Not sure about research for the piece, but it would have helped if Liam Clarke had managed to get the actual date of the incident correct.

  • If one is going to go over claims long since made, I would have thought that whether Henry McIlhone was shot from the front – what the Provos claim about his loyalist opponents – or from the back as local Catholics contend (pp. 31-2)would be the first order of business.

    I would think that someone would be able to answer such an elementary question, though it sounds IMHO totally far-fetched in explaining why Donaldson became a British tout.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    I can’t understand why people find it difficult to comprehend that this event made Donaldson become a spy. It might not be the only event, but the cover-up was influencial in making him a spy. The lies and cover-up made it impossible for the provies to tell the truth. The RUC had them where they wanted them.

  • Mayoman

    Whilst not a follower of SF, Oracle, it has to said that if SF supporters are following liars, they are no more at fault in following liars than anyone else in NI. Do you believe there was security force collusion in many killings? If not you are just as guilty of that which you accuse others. It seems all sides were very keen on the ‘truth is the first casualty of war’ premise.

    It is strange, however, that on another current thread about a loyalist mob killing a Celtic fan, unionist posters are whining that there is no real proof. Yet on the same very site, on the same day, innuendo, non-corroborated stories and ‘theories’ are fine to establish who killed this brave guy. One of the posters on this thread is already excelling in that very hypocrisy. I wonder can you guess who?

    On another point, I have to agree that how this man died does not affect the story of St Matthews. He died because the area was being attacked by a bunch of bigots — another parallel with that other current story. Unfortunately, its a parallel many unionists, including those who have the power to influence, will once again care to ignore (lip praise aside).

  • fin

    I find the way a detail is picked up on in an event while the event itself is ignored. Here we have the usual faces discussing the ‘lies’ of the IRA etc, yet no comment on what was actually happening, does UMH etc agree that this event was a group of Volunteers defending a nationalist enclave from an armed unionist gang? if so than whose fault is it that this man lost his life?

  • CS Parnell

    I have no desire to excuse Gerry Adams or any other Sinn Fein liar, but one has to ask a few more questions:

    Do we really think that even if the IRA told the truth about this event it would have stopped the conflagration?

    The crucial moment in the conflict was the election of Ted Heath in June 1970 because that meant the gloves came off the Unionist government (then in the hands of morons who’s only thought of Catholics was that if you hit the croppies hard enough they’d eventually lie down) and given that Heath and Faulkner were in the same party (like Marx said – first time as tragedy, second as farce), the British government too thought there was a “physical force” solution – Adams and Faulkner were reading off the same page in the playbook.

    The decades of lies from SF (and the state) will have caused a family of innocents huge distress, and any of us who lived through even a part of these last forty dirty, disgusting years in the North will have some knowledge of that. But don’t look to this tale for explanation for the civil war.

  • the joxer

    Suggestions that Donaldson’s alleged killing of Mr. McIlhone motivated him to become a spy are rank nonsense. Other IRA men would have seen what happened at the time that Henry was shot so there was never any secret that Donaldson was able to keep to himself.The fact that Clarke can’t even get the date of the gun battle right underlines the paucity of his knowledge of the incident and the consequent weakness of his argument.

    What is a fact is that Mr. McIlhone died a hero in trying to defend a small District from an attack by a much greater force of loyalists.

    The similarity with recent events in Coleraine is compelling and reinforces the sad reality that sectarianism continues to appear in peaks and troughs and has yet to be eradicated from our sick society.

  • Brian MacAodh

    “Its the lies, especially the lies about innocent families, Catholic families, and the general attitude that its everyone else’s fault but their own, that is so despicable.”


    I don’t understand you here…are you saying there was no mob trying to burn down St Mathews and other catholic buildings in Short strand?

  • Scrappage

    Five Protestants apparently legitimately killed by the IRA that day and one apparant IRA own goal.
    Fair enough?

    27 June 1970 William Kincaid (28) Protestant
    Status: Civilian (Civ), Killed by IRA.
    Shot during street disturbances, Disraeli Street, off Crumlin Road, Belfast.

    27 June 1970 Daniel Loughins (32) Protestant
    Status: Civilian (Civ), Killed by:IRA.
    Shot during street disturbances, Palmer Street, off Crumlin Road, Belfast.

    27 June 1970 Alexander Gould (18) Protestant
    Status: Civilian (Civ), Killed by:IRA.
    Shot during street disturbances, Disraeli Street, off Crumlin Road, Belfast.

    27 June 1970 Robert Neill (38) Protestant
    Status: Civilian (Civ), Killed by: IRA.
    Shot during street disturbances, at the junction of Central Street and Newtownards Road, Belfast.

    27 June 1970 James McCurrie (34) Protestant
    Status: Civilian (Civ), Killed by:IRA
    Shot during street disturbances, Beechfield Street, Short Strand, Belfast.

    27 June 1970 Henry McIlhone (33) Catholic
    Status: IRA, Killed by UVF.
    Shot during gun battle, grounds of St Matthew’s Church, Short Strand, Belfast.

  • Don Mattingly

    What reason can you see for there being Taigs making the sign of the cross yesterday? None other than for to get a reaction from the loyalist community, and they certainly got a reaction this time, which is very sad.

    -probably comment from unionist politician the day after this gun battle

  • Stephen

    Some interesting comments there about the “Battle of St Matthews.” The reason people from the Newtownards Road attacked the Chapel and Short Strand that night was that Provo gunmen opened fire on the local community, killing 2 and injuring another 28 including men, women and children. It is widely believed that the shots that killed Bobby Neill were fired from the Chapel or the grounds itself. Both Neill and Jimmy McCurrie were totally innocent victims of random sectarian murders by Provo gunmen who where determined to demonstrate to the Official IRA thet they would not run away.

  • william

    liam clarkes comments raise a few questions maybe the reason who killed Henry McIlhone was kept quiet by the I R A was the person who shot him also shot their own commander McKee who according to Clarke and others was very close to McIlhone after all McKee was shot in the back and according to McKee’s account he had just spoke to him and heard him fall,( WHY DID HE NOT GO TO HIS ASSISTANCE?) as any comrade would do never mind a commander

  • william

    liam clarkes comments raise a few questions maybe the reason who killed Henry McIlhone was kept quiet by the I R A was the person who shot him also shot their own commander McKee who according to Clarke and others was very close to McIlhone after all McKee was shot in the back and according to McKee’s account he had just spoke to him and heard him fall,( WHY DID HE NOT GO TO HIS ASSISTANCE?) as any comrade would do never mind a commander

  • Brian MacAodh


    Funny how all the accounts of it I have read, by authors including Gerraghty who are certainly no friends of the Provos, differ from yours.

    “It is widely believed that the shots that killed Bobby Neill were fired from the Chapel or the grounds itself.”

    What significance is this? The mob was attacking the church and the IRA were defending it. So they might have been on hte church stoop. so what?

  • Brian MacAodh

    “McKee’s account he had just spoke to him and heard him fall,( WHY DID HE NOT GO TO HIS ASSISTANCE?) as any comrade would do never mind a commander ”

    Well, when you are in the middle of a gunbattle against superior numbers it is hard to stop what you are doing and call timeout.

  • Stephen

    I have read most if not all the text that has been wriitten about that night including two books some of you may not have read, they are Lagan Enclave and Murder in Ballymacarrett.

    The reason I made the post was to address some of the comments about my community. It is an established fact (not myth) that the first shots were fired by the Provos (at that time the road was qiet following earlier disturbances), they shot killed and injured people from the Newtownards Road community. The people from the Road naturally took the law into their own hands (the RUC where unarmed)and attacked the Chapel. Neither McCurrie or Neill were involved in any trouble but the Provos decided to murder them.

    The Provos clearly planned this attack and the other attacks in the Woodvale area where other innocent Protestants died.

    For many Provos this may well have been the first time they had fired shots in anger. Does it surprise me that the Provos used McElhone to suit them and didn’t give a toss about his family? No.

    It would be interesting to see the Coroners report and to the type of bullets that killed him. That would tell it’s own story.

  • david

    Murder in Ballymacarrett is hardly a book Stephen.
    More a loyalist propaganda booklet.

    Still available in the unionjack shop

  • Stephen

    Why is it not a book? Have you read it? Since when did facts become propaganda. Yes it is available in the Union Jack Shop as are many books. Poor post David.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Nah, Stephen… the fact the book is written with less restraint than a dime-store bodice-ripper and peddled by folks who all but wrapped themselves in the Union-jack — nah, that’d never present an appearance of propaganda…

  • Stephen

    Dread – no harm but that’s rubbish. Read the book. A certain gentleman came out of Seaforde Street, got down on one knee and shot a couple on the Newtownards Road, walking home from the Talk of the Town. That was how the “gun battle” started. Propaganda I don’t deal in just facts. Hard to take?

  • jim

    is it not strange it now appears that all the people shot that night 3 dead. McKee wounded, 28 other innocent people protestants men,women,children,all wounded and NOT ONE short strand resident wounded, how is this possible if the protestants fired first into the streets of short strand common sense tell you this is not possible, or is it the case as the lagan enclave says ( it was great to see the I.R.A. on parade in Lowry Street before going into action this has not been seen since the 1920s) quoted a resident of Seaford Street which Lowry Street runs off to the left a cul-de-sac with a wall over which is the chapel grounds, who parades their army if they are under attack??

  • stephen

    Dread – I meant to ask what is wrong with wrapping yourself in the Union flag? Not a lot.

    Good post Jim. There is no doubt that the events that day and night where well planned by the Provos who where determined to shed the I Ran Away tag. Unfortunately innocent people where to pay the price for that bravado.

  • scotchrow

    Whilst the article in last Sundays Times, highlights one of the families hurt and struggle for closure, justice is a two sided coin.

    The romantic image of a gun battle, protecting the community is being portrayed, but it’s far from an unbiased true account

    The story of Dennis Donaldson is one which I could not comment on, but the story has came from somewhere and if the family of Mr.McIlhone
    receive any comfort in this story then at least someone has.

    There is a lot of whitewash history in the times article(or perhaps that’s what the authors own personal view is!). Mr. Clarkes statements/personal view surrounding the event are not impartial, but the article throws in reference to the HET to give it weight (so it must be right!!!)

    Billy McKee and victims on the night who were sadly taken away from their families are the ones who can tell the real truth.

    Now can the provisional movement admit that 2 innocent men were murdered and give other families some small piece of comfort.

    To romanise this as a battle for reasons previously described of flexing muscles in nationalist areas would be better described as
    Murder Most Foul.

    Remember folk’s justice is a two sided coin and innocent victims paid with their lives for a struggle for superiority.

    It’s sad that the label of “Civilian” in this Sunday Times article was not used for the innocent protestant victims of that evening, as the Lost Lives book correctly refers to.

  • Brian MacAodh

    I was not there that night. Nor was anyone I know.

    I am unfamiliar with the Lost Lives book. I am basing my account of what happened that night from Gerraghty’s The Irish War and Maloneys’ The Secret History. I could be wrong, but I don’t think either author is a Provo apologist. In fact, Gerraghty comes off as being viciously anti-Irish (just read the last part of his book, which is on the history of Ireland from 1691 to present).

    Both of them relate much the same thing. This year 1970, once again, a march resulted in violence with gunmen on both sides firing on each other. Maloney states 3 protestant gunman were killed. Angered, a mob of Protestants gathered and made there way up towards St Mathews area, “bent on death and destruction”. “Inexplicably, the British Army units there did nothing to stop them.” (big surprise, right)

    The Catholic gunmen took up in and around the Church and after a long firefight managed to hold them off.

    You can read Gerraghtys eye witness account for youself in the link in this article. There is little doubt that the Provos were itching for a fight. But to portray the killings as Provos just opening fire on innocents is dishonest.

    What a fucked up city Belfast was/is.

  • circles

    Regardless of the turn of events and that Stephen’s version is spiced up by the fact that he admits that “I don’t deal in just facts” (wha’?), the idea that this may have lead to Donaldson becoming a tout is pure nonsense.
    The IRA would have known, the brits would have known – where was the threat?

    Looks like Clarke has bought a few history books and is on a mission to find something. Keep digging Liambo – even a stopped clock gets it right twice a day.

  • scotchrow

    Quote-But to portray the killings as Provos just opening fire on innocents is dishonest -end.

    I am afraid i am and have every reason not to say otherwise.(could you put a link on for these books you refer to- would be interested, thanks)

    These 2 people where innocent and i wish you could belive this than the pure byle which was pushed for years to create this “Protectors” image. Time to own up!

    Quote- What a fucked up city Belfast was/is- end.

    Agreed- but wouldnt be the word i would use- Mislead Belfast perhaps would be better.

  • Brian MacAodh
  • Mike

    Brian, Dec, fin et al:

    Why do you present the nationalist/republican side of the story as if it’s the objective truth about the incident? Are you even aware there’s a unionist/loyalist side to the story?

    The objective facts are that two Protestants, Robert Neill and James McCurrie, were deliberately killed by Provisional IRA gunmen on East Belfast that night, and one Catholic, Henry McIlhone, was accidentally killed by the PIRA. (Just as the main objective facts about the incidents earlier that day are that three Protestants were deliberately killed by the PIRA).

    As the blog that started this thread explains, the republican side of the story now has a serious hole blown in it – Billy McKee & co’s self-serving tale of how Henry McIlhone was an IRA ‘auxiliary’ shot dead by a loyalist gunman while defending a church has been shown to be utterly false. And Mr McIlhone’s family have stated they are glad his name has finally been cleared.

    On the claim that the PIRA gunmen were simply providing defence from a “bloodthirsty mob” – please consider the fact that Robert Neill was shot dead while standing on his own street. Yes, the street where he lived. Hardly a bloothirsty invader of the Short Strand.

  • Mike


    In the interests of bringing to your attention both sides of the story, here is an extract from ‘Lost Lives’ (David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, David McVea):

    “Although there had been a history of sectarian conflict around the small Catholic enclave of Short Strand, it had been largely confined to stone throwing, beatings and attacks on property. The St Matthew’s incident was therefore the first major confrontation to occur in east Belfast during the troubles.

    Catholics from the Short Strand area later claimed that a Protestant mob had attempted to burn St Matthew’s after tempers on both sides had been inflamed by an Orange march along the Newtownards Road. According to nationalist folklore a few IRA men positioned in the grounds of the church, using guns brought into the area, successfully repelled attacks from a much larger Protestant force.

    Protestants living in the lower Newtownards Road area, however, recount that they were attacked by a Catholic mob. Their claim is that in forcing the mob back into the Short Strand they were lured into a carefully prepared trap.”

  • Mike

    Peter Taylor, in his book ‘Loyalists’, states…

    “That same evening [as the violence in North Belfast including the three PIRA killings] there was another fierce gun battle in East Belfast around St Matthew’s Catholic church, which stands where the nationalist enclave of Short Strand meets the heartland of Protestant East Belfast. The widely received view of this violent encounter, which I reflected in my account in ‘Provos’, is that loyalist mobs attacked the church with petrol bombs until the Provisional IRA came to the rescue and made a stand in its grounds. In the gun battle, the Provisionals shot dead two Protestants, Robert Neill (38) and James McCurrie. The IRA also lost one of its auxiliaries, Henry McIlhone (33), who was defending the church with the Provisionals’ Belfast Commander, Billy McKee. Subsequently when I was in east Belfast researching ‘Loyalists’, I was taken to task by angry local residents who said that I had got the story wrong and fallen for IRA propaganda. They insisted that loyalists in the area had come under attack from nationalists and were only defending themselves. The depth of feeling concerning an event that happened so many years ago suggested that there might be some truth in what they said. Whatever the truth – and nothing will change each community’s perception of it – that violent weekend marked a turning point in the conflict. The Provisionals claimed they had defended the nationalist people of Short Strand by their actions at St Matthew’s church, while loyalists claimed that, with five Protestants dead, they were now the victims of an IRA murder campaign and had to do something about it”

    (As a footnote from myself, the feeling of the local Protestant community in respect of the death of James McCurrie may also be gauged to some extent by the fact that 6,000 local people signed a petition presented to the Northern Ireland Government, demanding an inquiry into his killing).

  • Mike

    I cannot get involved in this debate as I do not know the facts of what occurred, but I am impressed by your posts. It seems to me reading slugger, more and more people are looking back at the past through their own eyes instead of accepting what has ‘become’ the established truth, which is something I welcome.. (if you get my drift)

  • Stephen

    Some excellent posts. The book Murder in Ballymacarrett which goes into detail about all 5 Protestants murdered that day is based on people who where there when these incidents happened, coroners reports, reports in the various books and papers.

    Even the book Lagan Enclave (written by people from the area) states how the Provos went on parade and how the local population prepared for the nights activities.

    There is no doubt unless you are a blinkered republican that the events that weekend where planned by the Provos. The first shots where fired into the Woodvale and three Protestant men died as a result. They had no guns to defend themselves.

    Later the action switched to the east where a local woman and her husband where attacked as they walked home from the Talk of the Town. Jimmy McCurrie who was out with his friends having a beer left the Buffs Club to go home for a soup sandwich and was gunned down for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Billy Neill had been out, fell asleep only wo be woken by the racket. He walked to the top of Central Street to see what was going on and was shot dead.

    People need to decide between republican myth or facts. As a previous poster has stated the republican myth is somewhat in tatters.

  • Thanks you very mach.

  • newton resident 1970

    as someone who was there on that dreadfull evening, i can honestly say that the ira opened fired on the newton fron the steple of st matthews chapel,as a then 12 year old, it still haunts me to this day seeing with my own eyes what was unfolding that night, there was no so called loyalist mob on the newton till after the first shots where fired, what else could the loyalist people of the newton do, they had to retaliate, which was nearly a nightly occurance in them days, people should read between the lines and stop believing sinn fein/ira propaganda into events of that night, this night will live in my thoughts until the god lord above me calls me to a far better place which we call civilisation

  • aquifer

    If the Provos were aggressors from the off, shooting innocent protestants and accidentally shooting their own, this is a real problem for the preferred late Provo narrative of being brave defenders of civil rights rather than sectarian provocateurs.

    These were strange times, the Irish government backing the retro Provos against the socialist officials, giving out weapons and arms training. Did the adolescent revolutionaries believe that if they stirred things up enought the UN would be drafted in? were they just swept up in the anger and anarchy of it all, or loosing off rounds in revenge?

    Somebody knows, but if they could lose half a life’s work by telling the truth, why would they?

  • jim

    u must have been a feral child why werent u in bed at 12 years of age reading a book instead of running free range

  • HeinzGuderian

    ‘loyalist mob’…..3

    pira,faced with 3 loyal Newtownards \Road men,or dragging a Mother of TEN from her bath,chose the latter.

    Ayee El beardo…….big brave volunteers,one n all ??? hehe :O)

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    My own perception is that the St Matthews was a second front to a gun battle at Ardoyne.
    Whether or not it was a second front opened up by loyalists or republicans of course depends on your viewpoint. History tends to think it was loyalists who attacked the Short Strand and were successfully held back.
    The word “auxillary” to describe Henry McIlhone is probably retrospective but it is clear he was with the gunmen/active service unit (delete as applicable) in the grounds of St Matthews. The diminutive gunman unable to use a sub machine gun is certainly feasible…a lot of friendly fire incidents in training etc in those days. Id think it risible to say that Donaldson could be blackmailed by RUC over his “involvement”.
    Rather childish of course to say “he started it” but just to put the historic record straight.
    Henry McIlhone is the only “IRA” man to have a marker where he fell INSIDE a Catholic Church grounds. Perhaps this gives an idea of how the Church felt about the incident.
    It is to the left of the Church looking towards the Newtownards Road. To the casual visitor it would seem to give very limited fire power into loyalist areas but excellent position to deal with people coming into Church grounds.
    The loyalists of Newtownards Road no doubt would never dream of attacking a Catholic Church. Especially boozed up after an Orange march and hearing of a gun battle at Ardoyne.
    On the other hand just a year or so later, a Catholic priest in the grounds of St Colmcilles Church about a mile further up the road was shot and seriously wounded by loyalist gunmen. Perhaps they were attacked by him first. But I doubt it.

  • joeCanuck

    I am as confused as you, Rory. I was trying to formulate some questions but you have caught them all. I’ll read on and see if there are any answers. Gonzo’s article is somewhat convoluted.

  • Mark McGregor

    I thought Slugger had a systemto prevent comments after several months – so we didn’t have old threads like this rise to the top as if it was current.

    We discussed this a year ago and it never came to anything – resurrecting it now will lead to similar levels of non-enlightenment.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    oh Im not so sure Mr McGregor.
    I thought I was very enlightening.
    And its almost topical again. 40th Anniversary impending an all.

  • I think the difference twixt the two lies in authority:

    The ‘loyalist’ mob got lucky due to a failing of the local law. Does not make it state-sanctioned.

    The above article portrays a series of events that makes the republican movement rotten it’s recent core.

  • Munsterview

    Can you be sure that he did not look at them in a way that could have appeared threatening to them ?

  • Unlucky Erb

    Nicely put.

    Seems this story is a bit of a stretch. Nice try but.

  • Mark McGregor

    Mr Horse,

    Will you please stop caling me ‘Mr McGregor’ this isn’t a feckin court.