Cemetery Massacre, March 16, 1988
Cemetery on that day was probably the most scared I have been
and set in train a number of incidents that had Belfast set
to explode in an orgy of sectarian hatred."
flew into Belfast from London on March 15, 1988.
funeral was to be held the next day for three IRA volunteers who
had been killed by the SAS while they were planning a bombing in
trio - Danny McCann, Seán Savage and Mairéad Farrell - were going
to detonate a car bomb at the Governor's residence during the weekly
changing of the guard.
main target of the attack were bandsmen of the Royal Anglian Regiment.
wasn't the first time the IRA had gone after military bandsmen.
On July 20, 1982, two bombs were detonated - one in Hyde Park the
other in Regent's Park.
Hyde Park nail bomb killed three soldiers of the Blues and Royals
outright and a fiourth died later of his wounds. Many other soldiers
were badly hurt, as were tourists watching the parade. Seven of
the regiment's horses were also killed or had to be put down.
Regent's Park the IRA placed a time bomb in the bandstand at which
a concert of Oliver music was going to be played by the Royal Green
Jackets musicians. Seven bandsmen died and scores of other people
were hurt by shrapnel.
The funeral for
McCann, Savage and Farrell was on March 16, 1988, in the republican
area of Milltown Cemetery.
cortege that wound through the streets of West Belfast was huge,
with more than 3000 mourners - and a huge contingent of media -
was an amazing procession and I joined it fully expecting some form
of public disorder, although never for a moment did I expect the
attack that followed.
took a lot of photos of the procession, which you can see on these
pages, and stood by the graveside as the three coffins were prepared.
republican figures Jerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were within
metres of me.
they were the target for Michael Stone, a Protestant paramilitary
terrorist, who went to the funeral with murder on his mind.
the coffins were being lowered pandemonium broke out as Stone hurled
grenades into the crowd.
had absolutely no idea what was going on. We could hear the explosions
and the screams and IRA officials yelling at poeople to duck down.
took up a position behind a headstone but as further explosions
sounded, I was not sure if it was grenades or a mortar attack being
launched at the cemetery.
things got really scary when some started yelling the attacker was
a photographer. One press photographer was beaten and had to be
rescued by officials.
Adams called for calm, something that was in very short supply.
Stone eventually began to try to make his escape, but was chased
down by the crowd.
shot three men fatally before being grabbed and beaten by the irate
mourners. He was bundled into a black cab and was to be take away
to be shot when the RUC arrived and arrested him.
Danish photographer and I were picked up by a lovely Catholic couple
who thought we were in danger and they took us back to the city
centre and safety.
would catch up with them again under very different circumstances.
Cemetery on that day was probably the most scared I have been and
set in train a number of incidents that had Belfast set to explode
in an orgy of sectarian hatred.