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ireland, irish, ulster, belfast, northern ireland, british, loyalist, nationalist, republican, unionist

Bloodiest day of feud that convulsed the city

(Damian McCarney, Irelandclick.com)

The feud came to a close after a settlement was brokered between the two wings by two local priests, Fr Des Wilson and Fr Alec Reid. The IRA feud, and particularly the events of November 11, have been largely overshadowed by more recent atrocities, but for the families and friends of the victims, it remains a painful memory...'

This month marks the 30th anniversary of one of the bleakest periods in West Belfast's turbulent history.

In November 1975 a bloody feud between the Provisional and Official wings of the IRA ripped through the nationalist community as tensions from the split within the republican movement five years earlier resurfaced. Ultimately the renewed hostilities would claim the lives of 11 people and leave more than 40 injured.

What triggered the burst of attacks remains unclear to this day. The Provisional IRA issued a statement at the time saying that their actions against Official IRA members had been to "stamp out criminal activities."

For its part, the Republican Clubs, the political wing of the Official IRA, said the feud had been sparked after a fist fight between an Official and a Republican.

Whatever the reasons, the consequences were appalling in the final days of October and in the first two weeks of November 1975, a period when both wings of the IRA claimed to be on ceasefire.

The feud reached its bloody height with a torrent of bloodletting on Tuesday November 11 with OIRA man John Brown from the Markets area becoming the first of the day's victims. The 25-year-old father-of-two was shot nine times in front of his family in his Cooke Place home. In the same attack John's 15-year-old brother was shot a number of times in the stomach but survived.

Owen McVeigh, who had no connection with any political organisation, was killed later the same day in what was a case of mistaken identity. Two masked OIRA gunmen broke into the father-of-two's Grosvenor Place home and, as he tried to escape, shot him in the back. The gunmen ignored the pleas of the 28-year-old's wife not to kill him. It was reported that witnesses heard one of the gunmen shout as they fled, "We've got the wrong house".

Teenage Official IRA member Jack McAllister became the third to die on this dark day. The 19-year-old Ballymurphy man was with his fiancée, waiting for a bus, when he was shot. Only a week earlier Jack had mourned the death of his close friend James Fogarty, an earlier victim of the same feud. Jack's mother, Ethel McAllister, had been a prominent civil rights activist and in the days following her son's death was prominent in attempts to broker a truce between the two factions.

The final victim of the day's violence was former Republican Clubs man Comgall Casey. Aged only 18, he was working as an apprentice joiner when gunmen shot him. They entered his place of work and asked for him by name before coldly carrying out the execution. As the Andersonstown man pleaded for his life the PIRA gunmen brought him into a separate room and shot him in his back and head.

The following day, November 12, saw the final death of the factional war when the chairman of the Falls Taxi Drivers' Association, Michael Duggan, was gunned down by the OIRA. The gunmen burst into St Paul's Hall in Hawthorn Street and opened fire indiscriminately, shooting the 32-year-old man twice in the back. Another man was wounded when he was shot in the groin. Michael Duggan had not been connected to any paramilitary organisation.

The first fatality of the feud had been two weeks earlier on October 29 when OIRA man Robert Elliman was gunned down in McKenna's bar in the Markets area. On that same night 16 people were wounded in attacks related to the feud.

The following day saw the tragic death of six-year-old Eileen Kelly. She was killed in her Beechmount Grove home when PIRA gunmen tried to shoot her father, who had no link to the Official IRA and was described in reports as a Republican Clubs sympathiser. The following year two teenagers received life sentences for her murder.

In the days following Eileen's death, Short Strand OIRA man Thomas Berry and Sinn Féin member Séamus McCusker were killed. Republican Clubs member James Fogarty was shot dead in his Ballymurphy home on November 3 before a six-day period of peace was shattered by the killing of 19-year-old OIRA man John Kelly near the Antrim Road.

During this period there were a number of protests by women's groups calling for peace, and attempts by various members of the clergy and an Andersonstown News representative to find a peaceful resolution. The feud came to a close after a settlement was brokered between the two wings by two local priests, Fr Des Wilson and Fr Alec Reid.

In a report in the Andersonstown News dated November 22 1975, the PIRA claimed that they suspected "British agents" had carried out a sub-machinegun attack on a local club, in which no one was killed, to keep the feud running. But thankfully the feud was over.

The IRA feud, and particularly the events of November 11, have been largely overshadowed by more recent atrocities, but for the families and friends of the victims, it remains a painful memory that they will never forget.

November 16, 2005
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This article appeared first on the Irelandclick.com web site on November 14, 2005.


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