Killings, commemoration and grief


Note: In this blog I originally said the workmen were coming from a British army base. That was inaccurate – I had in mind the Teebane killings. I’ve removed the inaccurate item  – and thanks again to Colmain…


Stephen Nolan’s radio show this morning is dipping both arms up to the elbow in the blood of the past.  Alas, the past is a hugely untidy, contradictory, lethal and passionate place. So here are three points that Stephen and his listeners might want to keep in mind.


  1. Perception One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. The French Resistance during WW2 was, I imagine, seen as terrorists by the occupying Nazis, and something similar with those who collaborated with the Nazis. Both Regan and Thatcher saw the ANC,  including Nelson Mandela, as terrorists. For some, this terrorist/freedom fighter bridge will be impossible to cross. Those who saw the South Armagh IRA as terrorists will never change their views on them, and likewise those who considered them freedom fighters. The same applies to the RUC, the UDR, the British Army. Some people will see them as brutal murderers who got off with little or no punishment while innocent Catholics died at their hands. Others will see them as brave men and women who tried to defend everyone. Neither side is likely to change their perception.
  2. Context The day before the Kingsmill massacre, on 4 January 1976, three of the O’Dowd family were shot dead in their home in Ballydougan. The same day the Reavey family in Whitecross were attacked. Two brothers died on the spot, the last a month later. All six men were Catholics.
  3. Parallels Eight innocent Catholics were shot dead by the British army in Ballymurphy over a few days in August 1971. Fourteen innocent Catholics were shot dead by the same British regiment in Derry in January 1972. No British soldier was arrested or penalised for any of these killings.


The indignation on today’s Nolan Show springs from the fact that Sinn Féin MP John Finucane – whose father was shot dead in front of his family during a meal – will be the main speaker at the South Armagh commemoration of IRA volunteers in South Armagh. Every year this commemoration has occurred, just as every year there are ceremonies commemorating the British army. Which family – the Reavey family, the O’Dowd family, the Finucane family, the Ballymurphy families, the Bloody Sunday families, the Kingsmill families  – will grieve more?  We’ll never agree on whether combatants should be commemorated. Wouldn’t we be better employed in allowing others who see the years of the conflict differently from us to commemorate who they choose?







10 Responses to Killings, commemoration and grief

  1. Kieran McCarthy June 8, 2023 at 10:06 am #

    Thinking out loud, I’m wondering if all this has more to do with unionism trying to lay the groundwork for taking back the North Belfast Westminster seat from John Finucane and SF, while also using it as a big distraction from the continued suspension of the executive and the cul-de-sac in which it currently finds itself.

  2. Nosuchanaplace June 8, 2023 at 10:18 am #

    Well summarised, Jude. Nolan was on a roll last night and this morning. The ‘dreamy, funereal’ music and the hushed voices and the dignity. But the best point of all was the person who wondered would there be a similar tacky insincere show from the Shankill Road boy made good when it comes time to pin on the poppy to commemorate /celebrate the sacrifices and murders of ‘our boys’. Will it be remembered that what is being commemorated in November is the murder and mayhem wrought by the British army and their local yeomanry in a country not their own. And these ex murderers are still receiving sustenance from the poppy fund to this day. As you say it is all a matter of perception.

  3. Phil Mc Cullough June 8, 2023 at 11:00 am #

    The sectarian Orange Order organises 3.000 anti Catholic hate arcades annually. They glorify the winners of a battle with catholics in 1690….
    yes you read that correct , it glorifies a battle against catholics in 1690. Let the media and the political parties start dealing with the Orange Order and its glorification marches.

  4. Colmain Boat June 8, 2023 at 11:08 am #

    Understand the overall viewpoint but for historical accuracy, are you sure the Kingsmill massacre victims were returning from working on an Amy base?
    Weren’t they working at a textile factory in Glenanne?
    Back in those days, Catholics working for the ‘occupying forces’ would have been ‘legitimate targets’ and not allowed to walk away.
    Definitely sectarian slaughter.
    As were the murders of the O’Dowd’s and Reevey’s.
    All poitical football now as Tanaiste Martin proved yesterday when he criticized SF for commemorating armed participants in the conflict, while he eulogizes Dan Breen, Sean Tracy and Michael Collins at yearly commemorations in the South.
    Politics is nauseating at times.

    • Jude Collins June 8, 2023 at 1:24 pm #

      You’re absolutely right, Colmain. I’ve confused it with the Teebane killings. I will rectify immediately – grma…

  5. Another Jude June 8, 2023 at 12:27 pm #

    Nolan is not stupid. He understands the way Nationalists and Unionists perceive things differently. Tom Elliot was being disingenuous by suggesting a UDR colleague was a Nationalist. In the UDR? I fast forward a lot of these programmes, Chris Donnelly deserves a medal for devotion to reality, as does Jude Whyte. Sky plus is a Godsend.

  6. James Hunter June 8, 2023 at 2:47 pm #

    Very good Jude

  7. Kieran McCarthy June 8, 2023 at 3:49 pm #

    I’ve read elsewhere today that Michelle O’Neill had pointed out to journalists in the US, that under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, John Finucane, like all others, are entitled to commemorate their dead with respect. It seems that Tainiste Martin has now joined his colleague Taoiseach Veradkar in denying and disputing the terms of the GFA – i.e. his call for a possible super majority vote threshold needed for a border poll to pass.

    Is it any surprise therefore, that unionism, the DUP in particular, who are listening to these two individuals in Dublin, are themselves are calling for changes to the GFA, even to the extent of some in unionism floating the notion of its complete abolition.

  8. Donal Kennedy June 8, 2023 at 8:45 pm #

    The “French Resistance” in WWII had about as much French Parliamentary Representation as do the “Continuity IRA” or “Real IRA” today.

    In 1940, with its Army beaten and its British allies evacuated, France had no option but to surrender.
    All French Parliamentary members on French soil were party to the surrender.

    A British Labour MP reckoned that they “the British” should organise resistance in France “as Sinn Fein did” from 1919 to 1921.
    But Sinn Fein had won 73 seats out of the 105 in Ireland, with a mandate to establish a Republic, which it did. Home Rule Nationalist had won 6.

    French MPs did mot organise French Resistance.

    British “fly by night” saboteurs “Special Operations Executive” inflicted little harm on the German occupiers.

    Even after D Day Rommel could travel in Normandy in an open car.

    Margaret Thatcher couldn’t do that in Finchley, after IRA and IRSP prisoners had successfully contested Westminster and Leinster House elections.

    The British had to have their arms twisted by the Americans to return in numbers to the soil of France.
    They had been spooked in 1940 and later after a disastrous raid on Dieppe.

    Margaret Thatcher couldn’t do that in Finchley when the IRA and IRSP won Westminster and Leinster
    House Seats.

    When, at last, General de Gaulle got back to Paris and marched to Notre Dame, a woman came out
    to cheer for Marshal Petain, thinking he was the focus of the crowd’s cheers.

    De Gsulle was heard to say “There’s a woman who doesn’t read the papers.

    I wonder if Micheal Martin would dare tour South Armagh in an open car