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3 February 2005 Edition

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Eight gunned down in Belfast in two days - Remembering the Past


In two days of February 1992, 13 years ago, eight nationalists were killed in Belfast.

On Tuesday 4 September at 1.15pm at the Sinn Féin offices on the Lower Falls in Belfast, a man entered the building and claimed that he was a journalist there for a press interview. When the office door attendant, Paddy Loughran, notified the duty press officer of the man's arrival, he was told that no such interview was arranged. As the press officer told Paddy that he was on his way down to check out the inquiry, Paddy shouted over the intercom "he's got a gun".

The gunman, Alan Moore, was a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary's notorious Divisional Mobile Support Unit. After emptying his weapon into the unarmed occupants of the building, he calmly left the office, got into his BMW and left the scene. In the wake of his savage attack, three men were left dead.

Paddy Loughran was 62 years old when he was killed by Alan Moore. He was the father of eight children and married to Barbara. A lifelong Celtic supporter, he was a tireless worker for Sinn Féin and was well known for his courteous manner by all those who came in contact with him.

Pat McBride was 40 years of age when he was shot to death by Moore. Friendly by nature, Pat left many devastated by his death, including his partner Bernie and his son Pat Óg. A lifelong Sinn Féin activist, Pat ran a disco in several venues for the kids on the Falls Road.

The third man killed was Michael O'Dwyer, a young father just 25 years old, who had been in the Sinn Féin centre, accompanied by his two-year-old son, seeking advice when the RUC killer struck. Michael was buried by his wife Eileen and his eldest son John Paul in Milltown Cemetery in the grave of his mother, who had died in a loyalist bomb attack 15 years previous.

Fifteen minutes after the attack, the RUC were on the scene at the front of the building, where a large crowd had gathered. The RUC assaulted and jostled people who were attempting to give assistance to those inside. At one stage, a pregnant woman was rifle butted in the stomach and had to be taken to hospital. It was only after some time and much effort on behalf of Sinn Féin officials, among them Gerry Adams, that the RUC senior officers were persuaded to restrain their men and allow the speedy removal of the dead and dying.

The RUC then began what they termed an "intensive search of the area". After they had left, a black bag containing shotgun cartridges was found lying on the pavement. Within two hours of the killings, the RUC began leaking their version of events, shifting the focus away from the killings and claiming that Alan Moore had been an exemplary RUC man who had gone off the rails and shot people before driving 15 miles away to the shores of Lough Neagh, where they claimed he had turned his gun on himself.

The anti-republican media immediately began focusing on a campaign of sympathy for the RUC. Headlines featured such misnomers as "stressful life of a young RUC officer".

A day later, on 5 February, five nationalists, including a 15-year-old boy, were murdered by UFF gunmen at Sean Graham's bookie shop on the Ormeau Road.

The assailants, identified later as two masked and heavily armed men, entered the bookmakers shop shortly after 2.20pm and less than ten minutes after two RUC land rovers had driven off from H and J Martins builders' yard which was directly opposite Grahams bookmakers. According to local people the Land Rovers had been in position for most of the day. Once inside the crowded bookies, which had only one way in and out, the gunmen began to slaughter those whom they had trapped. In just over five minutes of cold-blooded slaying, five men were gunned to death. Nine others lay wounded. Some of the survivors told how the attackers had fired up to 50 shots. They appeared to be in no hurry and were confident about making an unhindered escape. With the dead and wounded littering the floor of Grahams shop, the gunmen calmly walked from the premises and crossed the Ormeau Road, where they climbed into a waiting car, parked only yards away from where the RUC jeeps had sat until just before the attack. As local people rushed to the scene, the full extent of the slaughter became clear. Witnesses spoke of seeing bodies piled on top of each other, where terrified customers had vainly attempted to seek refuge.

All of the dead came from the small and close knit Lower Ormeau Road and Markets areas. Their names were Jack Duffin, Chris Doherty, Willie McManus, Peter Magee and James Kennedy.

Two years later, at the height of the marching season, the Orange Order paraded down the Ormeau Road. Their members, in an act of sectarian triumphalism, goaded nationalist residents by dancing and waving five fingers in the air as they passed the bookmakers, each finger representing one of the UFF's victims.

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