4 February 1999 Edition

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New Lodge `Bloody Sunday' remembered

By Padraig MacDabhaid

``There are questions to be answered, even after 26 years. Someone at the time described the incident as `The New Lodge's Bloody Sunday'. If the British government is finally going to tell the truth about Bloody Sunday, and that's a big' if', then let's have the truth about the New Lodge massacre''.

So said Gerry Kelly at the commemoration yesterday (Wednesday) for what has become known as the ``forgotten massacre''.

The New Lodge massacre occurred on the night of 3 February and the morning of 4 February 1973 and has become one of the most blatant cases of collusion between the British army and loyalists with the Irish News calling it a ``Murder Pact''.

The first four days of February 1973 were among the bloodiest ever experienced in Belfast, leaving fourteen dead and many injured.

On Saturday 3 February tension was high in the city as the UDA paraded from many areas to Laddas Drive RUC barracks demanding that two of its men being questioned in connection with the grenade attack a week earlier on a Catholic workers' bus, be released. The parade was the first time that the UDA, the Orange Volunteer and the Red Hand Group presented a united front at a public protest.

By 11.30pm the UDA was massed in Tiger Bay and people were gathering on the New Lodge Road. A car drove out of Hallidays Road with its occupants opening fire at Lynch's bar killing IRA Volunteers James Sloan and James McCann and injuring four others. The car moved down the Antrim Road and fired at a Chinese restaurant injuring several more people. Eyewitnesses have said that a British army saracen parked on the Antrim Road did nothing to help the injured or stop the gunmen.

As the local people gathered on the streets after hearing the shooting they came under fire from the UDA and the British army firing along Edlingham Street and from British soldiers on the New Lodge flats.

Volunteer Tony `TC' Campbell was shot dead on his way home from a disco after celebrating his nineteenth birthday. Brendan Maguire was shot dead trying to help Tony Campbell. Father of three John Loughran came out of his house to help the injured and was shot dead.

When the shooting had apparently died down Ambrose Hardy emerged from the doorway of the club holding a white cloth above his head. He was shot in the head by a British army sniper operating from the top of the New Lodge Flats which are still occupied today by the British army.

Speaking at the commemoration Gerry Kelly said, `there are a number of things unclear about that night 26 years ago. How much collusion was involved between the British army, loyalists and the RUC, was it British soldiers in the car that night?'

Trying to cover up the murders the British army statement said that between 11.45pm and 3.00am there was a severe gun battle in the Catholic New Lodge area. In about 30 separate incidents nearly 200 shots were fired at the security forces and fire was returned on most occasions. They claimed to have shot seven gunmen, of whom six died.

An officer in the 1st Queens Regiment, described the massacre as a ``straightforward shootout between troops and the Provisional IRA gunmen''.

Claims that the dead were IRA Volunteers involved in active service have been completely discredited. Six months after the murders the `Daily Mirror' printed an apology saying, ``in our report published in early February on the deaths of six men in the New Lodge area of Belfast, we included a statement that tests had been carried out to determine if the dead men had been carrying guns and that all had proved positive. This statement came from an army source, the reliability of which at the time we had no reason to doubt. We are now informed that no tests had in fact been carried out when our report was published''.

Gerry Kelly concluded saying, ``relatives want truth and the justice that flows from it. I would encourage all those who have lost loved ones to pursue that quest for truth as an essential component in the healing process and the peace process''.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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