Twentieth anniversary of Teebane

Almost any date in Northern Ireland is the anniversary of a death from the Troubles. Often the less iconic are forgotten about. As such marking one event may be unfair to the relatives of the less well known about deaths. Sometimes, however, the anniversary is such that is should be marked.

This is the 20th anniversary of the Teebane murders. 20 years ago this evening a group of workmen were returning home from working on Lisanelly army base in Omagh: the bomb the IRA detonated killed 8 of them. The News Letter have been running a series of articles on the anniversary and the murders of two decades ago (the picture is from their coverage).

Jean Caldwell had been going to collect her husband from Omagh but they had agreed he would take the minibus that day instead. She doubts that an enquiry would achieve much but still wants justice for her murdered husband:
From the News Letter:

“At this stage I think it would be a waste of money,” said Mrs Caldwell.
“The money it would take for that to happen would be unbelievable. Are we going to get justice at the end of it? I think it would be like banging your head up against a brick wall.
“The only thing that has been done is the Historical Enquiries Team investigation, and I am pleased with the work they have done, but to me there is still a lot more to be done.”
Mrs Caldwell, who trained as a bereavement counsellor following her husband’s death, said that she has overcome her bitterness towards the IRA killers responsible, but said justice still needed to be done to help each family and survivor of the atrocity come to terms with the tragedy.

Another relative is Linda Clarke: her 22 year old brother was murdered.
Again from the News Letter:

“My father had died when I was two, so after Nigel died, it was just my mother and I.
“My mother is now 71 and won’t talk about it, she gets too annoyed.
“This year the 20th anniversary means a lot to us. However it is gut-wrenching to think that 20 years after my little brother was murdered we are still no closer to justice.
“Ten years ago we went to William McCrea and started asking questions. That was when we found out the police investigation had been closed.”
The Historical Enquiries Team has re-investigated the atrocity but Linda says the families have been left disappointed.
“The main feeling among the families is frustration,” she said.
“After all this time, still no one has been caught and now they say too much time has passed.”
Linda’s husband, DUP MLA Trevor Clarke, has challenged republicans to respond to what they did at Teebane 20 years ago.
“People have lost their lives. I condemn all murders both of Protestants and of Catholics,” he said.
“So I would like to hear what republicans now, who have condemned more recent atrocities, say now about Teebane.
“I accept that I am an MLA and sit in Stormont with republicans, which does upset my wife and I.

“I believe if republicans are genuine about wanting to move forward, if they have consciences, then they should give any information they have which could help bring the perpetrators to justice.

“We are sick, sore and tired hearing about demands for inquiries for atrocities like Bloody Sunday, Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane, yet no effort from our government to find resolution to the scores of people murdered in attacks carried out by the IRA.”

The HET report which has been seen by the News Letter does provide some information although the interview notes of the suspects have been damaged with asbestos. Nineteen pieces of evidence were recovered from the scene including sweet papers and a cigarette packet but they yielded no useful evidence even when subjected to new DNA tests. What it does record is that:

In terms of logistics the report finds that the Teebane bomb was placed overnight on Thursday 16 to Friday, January 17, placed to attack the van as it passed on the way to Omagh, but detonation was postponed due to fog.
While a bearded man was seen by a survivor Bobby O’Neill straight after the bomb detonated, a bearded man was also seen by witness L, a lorry driver at the bus stop at Teebane crossroads on the morning of the attack. Both assisted police in compiling a photo fit of the man. Witness L viewed photographs of the suspects but failed to identify anyone, while Mr O’Neill was never asked to view any photographs of suspects. HET says there is no explanation for this in the RUC investigation.

The paper edition of the News Letter noted that the bearded man walked past the dead and dying, looked at them and walked on. It also notes that house to house inquiries spoke to 221 people but only one piece of useful information was obtained. One resident told officers of four men- one of whom was a known IRA man- acting suspiciously around the area a week before the attack. The resident was, however, too fearful to provide a witness statement.

Rev Dr Willam McCrea led the service on Sunday at the site of the memorial to the murdered men which has itself been attacked on a number of occasions. He said that although the murderers seemed to have escaped justice in this life one day they would answer for their crimes.

As I observed above the 17th January is not only the anniversary of the Teebane murders but also that of 9 other murders from the Troubles. Loyalists murdered two people in a bomb in Sheridan’s bar in Belfast on the 17th January 1976; the IRA murdered two people when a bomb exploded on the Ballymena to Belfast train in 1980 (one IRA terrorist was also killed). In addition the IRA shot three people on this date and loyalist terrorists two.

Their names:
Robert Jameson
Daniel Hughes
Mark Ashford
Seamus O’Brien
Sarah O’Dwyer
James Reid
Mark Cochrane
Abayoni Olorunda
David Harkness
Gary Bleeks
Robert Dunseath
John McConnell
James Caldwell
Nigel McKee
Robert Irons
Oswald Gilchrist
Sharon McKenna

Lest we forget.

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  • Eglise en bois

    In the new era in which we live, is it too much to expect and ask that the republican leadership now openly apologise for what can only be described as a totally unjustifiable murder.

    For too long the ambiguity of “legitimate” and “non legitimate” targets has been maintained. Now we must see maturity, decency and honesty.

    These murders – as all murders in mho – were never justified!

  • JR

    How anyone thought this would bring a united Ireland one step closer is beyond me. That they thought it would be worth it is even worse.

    I think it is good every so often to look back at these incidents to motivate us never to go back there.

  • sliabhluachra

    In the context of the struggle being waged by the non compromised IRA units of East Tyrone. this attack is totally understandable. With the Henry brothers, most of whom were killed or shot, those workers were building and rebuilding RUC stations and so they were a primary target at a time when the barrack busters were coming into play. PIRA had to negate those fortifications.
    Though it can be asked if such PIRA attacks would have hastened all out war for good or for bad, the following cannot be denied as they are relevant to RIRA/CIRA etc activities.
    The reinforcement of RUC barracks, the commandeering of hill tops, the increasing penetration of PIRA, the use of electronic eavesdropping cameras etc were negating any effect the PIRA were having, so much so that only two and eventually one brigade was still active.
    One of those two, East Ttyrone, who did the Teebane attack, was all but wiped out in shoot to kill and the other South Armagh, was reduced to sniper fire.

    JR: Sorry to disappoint you but humans never advance morally. We will never go back there but we might go to a worse palce some time in the future.

  • sonofstrongbow

    A despicable crime that illustrated the depravity of the Irish ‘freedom fighters”. A crime born of rank sectarian hatred. A hatred that survives as shown in the near continuous desecration of the monument marking the massacre.

    There will be no justice for the families of the victims, no open access to heads of state or the fawning attention of the media. Their pain is an inconvenience to the ‘peace process’. They are simply the ‘wrong sort’ of victim.

  • sliabhluachra

    Sonofstrongbow: If we must speak in shades of black, how bad is Teebane with reference to other PIRA attacks? Was Teebane worse than Enniskillen, Warrenpoint, La Mon, Mountbatten, the M62 bombing, the 1988 Ballygawley bus bombing?
    How would you rank the above by the metrics you mention?

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    It’s true there will be no justice for the Teebane victims or their families. But it is vital that atrocities such as this must never be forgotten or airbrushed from history.

    SF wish to portray the provos as brave freedom fighters. Teebane, like so many other senseless murders, merely portrays them as hate-filled psycopaths.

  • sliabhluachra

    Gerry: Teebane happened for a specific reason I outline above. It was the same reason PIRA mercilessly hunted down the Henrys. Not askling you to agree with it or condemn it from the rafters but it was one small step preceded bby another and followed by another.
    Sorry to disapppoint you but everything gets forgotten, reshaped, rewritten.

  • Decimus

    In the context of the struggle being waged by the non compromised IRA units of East Tyrone. this attack is totally understandable. With the Henry brothers, most of whom were killed or shot, those workers were building and rebuilding RUC stations and so they were a primary target at a time when the barrack busters were coming into play. PIRA had to negate those fortifications.


    The problem is you see that if you do not draw a line at what constitutes a legitimate target then eventually everyone becomes one. You advocate the murder of Protestant builders because they provided logistical support to the police and army. If you view that as legitimate then do you also regard it as legitimate to shoot a Catholic shopkeeper who serves the Provos? Another form of logistical support.

    Is there a line to be drawn in your view? Or is it a free for all?

    Normal, decent people of course regard all murders as being wrong and evil. Regardless of who the victims are or what they do for a living. It is however highly hypocritical of those who support murder to then go on to complain about other murders which affect them.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    If the specific reason you’re thinking of is that the East Tyrone murder gang picked on the softest of targets in the most cowardly way imaginable, then you’d be right.
    There is not, and never will be, a justifiable excuse.

    The provo campaign was a dismal failure. Actions such as Teebane simply confirmed that PIRA were merely a virulent sectarian mafia.

    Apologists are attempting to portray them otherwise. Incidents such as Teebane must not and will not be ‘forgotten, reshaped or rewritten’.

  • sliabhluachra

    Decimus: I did not state my opinion at all and, of course, I would not expect Unionists or most others to condone Teebane and more. I merely tried to say what PIRA’s thinking was.
    Normally, in a situation like this, the PSFer would say some glib words and ask to move on.
    I asked Unionists to rank IRA actions/mass murders not to score a point but for matters of reflection and to also stay away form whataboutery.
    Teebane and the Henrys were not shot as they were soft targets. They were part of a strategy, for good or bad, approved by you know who, to whom all queries should always be addressed.

    As regards the UDA etc kiling Catholics,.that old trick worked well in the 1920s and the logic behind it is not hard to fathom.

    As regards drawing lines, well maybe that is part of the Irish problem. They just don’t go in hard enough. Perhaps a more robust campaign w0ould have worked. I doubt it as the Irish do not have the stomach for that stuff.

    People can be conditioned to do anything. That is why soldiers square bash. Look at Dolours Price, going from a nice teenage kid to doing one way drives. Look anywhere from 1969-72. Three short years and civilisation vanished, along with unfortunates like Jean McConville, for many.
    When we relfect, we see who the winnders were. Crime does pay.

  • Decimus

    As regards drawing lines, well maybe that is part of the Irish problem. They just don’t go in hard enough. Perhaps a more robust campaign w0ould have worked. I doubt it as the Irish do not have the stomach for that stuff.

    Perhaps the Irish problem is that they don’t understand that murder is wrong.

  • sliabhluachra

    Yes Decimus. I am sure that is a particularly Irish fault, not knowing that murder is wrong. Still hope springs eternal. Gerry Adams uses that word wrong a lot. Are you Gerry Adams?

  • wee buns

    Sliabhluachra wrote:

    ‘As regards drawing lines, well maybe that is part of the Irish problem. They just don’t go in hard enough. Perhaps a more robust campaign w0ould have worked. I doubt it as the Irish do not have the stomach for that stuff.”

    Drawing lines – were they capable – to killing uniformed personnel ONLY, preferably those in position of command – would have qualified for a robust campaign. Not sure if it as a matter of ‘stomach; as you say.
    Regrettable lack of principle I say.

  • sliabhluachra

    Wee Buns, People have not advanced an iota morally since Aristotle’s time. Dogs of war.
    On Teebane and here, it mudt be awful for the families to think no one really cares anymore about that or any other lost lives.

  • HeinzGuderian

    People care.
    Tis why we have a border.

  • sliabhluachra

    Eglise en bois: I did suggest something similar, suggesting that Unionists rank PIRA attacks in terms of horror. A silly suggestion perhaps but that is why the Jean McConville murder is so important, to try to pin down the apparent ring leader on any fronts. One hopes that if a crack appears in the dyke…..

  • Pigeon Toes

    I haven’t commented on this thread, out of respect for the families and remembering a very dear friend murdered that night.
    It hardly seems like twenty years since that devastating phone call and my father giving me news I thought I would never hear.

    There must be justice for the families, but equally there must be justice ” for atrocities like Bloody Sunday, Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane.”

    “Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice”
    Baruch Spinoza

  • Hopping The Border

    A despicable act, serving no purpose other than to increase sectarian strife.

    Is Rev. McCrea the local minister for the area or how come he was chosen to lead the commemorations? Or were all the victims Free Ps?

  • Brian

    Where are the Provo apologists on this one?

    Munsterview, where are you with your patented 18 paragraph post? How could you defend this?

    A senseless murder for a hopeless cause carried out against the will of the people you claim to be fighting for.

    Absolutely sickening.