Posted by: skyward | October 17, 2008

Speechless

Stunned.  Saddened.  Horrified.  Confused. 

That’s how I felt, reading about the 1975 Miami Showband Massacre while exploring the sharp division in Ireland. 

In my prior post, I explored the brutal and senseless murder of a black boy who had committed the “sin” of whistling at a white woman:   https://lovelindy.wordpress.com/2008/08/29/african-americans-in-america-historical-perspective/#more-422

Depicted as “one of the most shocking atrocities of the Troubles,” this massacre remains just as brutal and senseless.

The following summary was cited from Wikipedia:

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The Miami Showband killings (also known as the Miami Showband Massacre) occurred on 31 July 1975 around 2.30 AM near Newry, in South Armagh, Northern Ireland when The Miami Showband musical group, one of Ireland’s most popular cabaret bands of the 1970s, comprising both Catholic and Protestant members, were travelling home to Dublin after a gig at the Castle Ballroom in Banbridge, County Down.

The vehicle they were travelling in stopped at a roadblock after being flagged down by men in British Army uniforms. During the Troubles it was a common occurrence to be stopped by the British Army on the roads. The unsuspecting members of the band were taken out of the minibus, and told to line up in a ditch by the side of the road. Some of the men at the checkpoint were British soldiers, from the Ulster Defence Regiment. However, they were also members of an illegal paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force(UVF).

Out of sight of the band members, one UVF member attempted to plant and hide a bomb in the minibus, with a plan that the bomb would blow up en route to the band’s destination in the Republic of Ireland, killing all on board. Had all gone according to plan, the Unionist forces would have been able to advance the proposition that the band were acting as bomb-smuggling couriers for the Irish Republican Army.

Whilst the bomb was being loaded into the back of the minibus, it exploded prematurely, killing Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville instantly. Boyle and Somerville were members of the UDR as well as holding the rank of major and lieutenant, respectively, in the UVF.

After the explosion, the remaining UVF members opened fire on the dazed band members. Three of the musicians were killed: lead singer Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty, and trumpeter Brian McCoy. Bassist Stephen Travers, aged 24, of Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, was gravely wounded by a dum-dum bullet and barely survived his injuries. Saxophone player Des McAlea (aka “Des Lee”) was blown over into a ditch by the force of the explosion and not seriously injured and thus was able to alert authorities after the assassins had fled. Brian McCoy was the first to die, having been machine-gunned down on the spot, receiving nine rounds in the back.  Fran O’Toole was shot twenty-two times in the face, while Tony Geraghty was shot four times in the back, despite having cried and pleaded for his life.

Three members of UDR were eventually convicted for their part in the attack. On 15 October 1976, James Somerville, Thomas Crozier and James McDowell all received life sentences, and remained in jail until their release under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

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