The Funeral Murders


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The Funeral Murders

Documentary offering a range of perspectives 30 years after a dramatic and deadly series of events that took place at two funerals in Belfast in March 1988.


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This programme contains scenes which some viewers may find upsetting from the start and some strong language

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How charged is vocabulary here?

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In other words, how much mess can I get myself into

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making this programme if I use the wrong word?

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A terrible mess.

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Words mean everything over here.

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Even the term Northern Ireland, people object to.

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It's the North of Ireland.

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So, terminology is vital

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and you won't be the first and I'm sure you won't be the last

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very well-meaning, liberal,

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broad-minded journalist from that beautiful city of London to come

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to Ireland and get into trouble - it means you're doing your job.

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This is the story of a dramatic and deadly series of events

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that took place at two funerals in Belfast in March 1988.

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EXPLOSIONS

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I just thought it was disgraceful and despicable.

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Sickened. Sickened by it.

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It was barbaric.

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It was just the worst excesses of republican violence.

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I think people were looking down the barrel and seeing Armageddon.

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30 years on,

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I want to understand one of the darkest chapters in the history of

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the conflict in Northern Ireland,

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and find out what it means to us today.

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GUNSHOTS

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In the 1980s, Northern Ireland was divided.

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Protestants and Catholics had been locked in conflict for over 20 years...

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..with republicans fighting for a United Ireland

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and trying to force the British troops to leave.

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It's only now,

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30 years on, that people from all sides who were intimately connected

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to the events of March 1988 have agreed to talk

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and have given me their unique perspectives on what took place.

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The chain of events began on the 6th of March when the British Army

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shot dead three members of the IRA who were on a mission in Gibraltar.

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What would the IRA have been doing in Gibraltar?

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-Why weren't they just fighting at home?

-OK...

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Well, the IRA considered it...

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..opportune to hit and hurt the British

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wherever it was possible to do so.

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So, if there was a British soldier shot on the streets of Belfast

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it would get a small...

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..you know, postage stamp

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in the corner of the Daily Mirror.

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But if the IRA were to be able to kill British soldiers

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outside of the North of Ireland,

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that would be an added coup.

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On the afternoon of the 6th of March, three members of the IRA,

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two men and one woman, were shot dead by the SAS

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on the streets of Gibraltar.

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Did you know any of the Gibraltar three?

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I knew Mairead.

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Her family were local shopkeepers,

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they were very well known.

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I didn't know Sean Savage. I knew Dan McCann.

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Dan's family also were shopkeepers,

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they kept a butcher shop on the main Falls Road.

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The three families were highly respected members

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of the local community.

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I've known the Savage family for about 30 years now.

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The father was a barman.

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The mother was a stitcher.

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There is nothing about the Savage family that I could pluck out of

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the air right now and say, that made them extraordinary.

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Nothing.

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They are the most ordinary people,

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in the most positive sense of the word,

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who found themselves in the most extraordinary times.

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A gentle paramilitary?

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Well, we never use the term paramilitary.

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-What term did you use?

-What?

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What term did you use?

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-He's a volunteer.

-A volunteer?

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But that sounds like you're working in the local charity shop.

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It does, but that's the terminology used.

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You know?

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I had no sympathy for them whatsoever.

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They were going out there to commit mass murder and they died.

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So, when something like that happens and there's three terrorists

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who're shot dead, there's no sympathy.

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Were we happy? Yeah, probably.

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If you're going out and carrying out military attacks

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against the British Army

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and the unionist community, as well,

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you have to expect to get killed.

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So, if you're out planting bombs and you're involved in armed conflict,

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that's what happens.

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You're not fighting each other with feather dusters, you know?

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The republican community in Northern Ireland was appalled

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by the manner of the deaths.

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We were horrified at the deaths. Yeah.

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In complete shock, and horrified.

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And we believed that, you know, it was kind of a shoot to kill.

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So...

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Yeah, we just looked at it as three innocent people who were shot dead.

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The Gibraltar Three were unarmed when they were killed.

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But Mairead's car was later found across the border in Spain

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containing 132lb of explosives.

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The plan had been to bomb a parade

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of the Royal Anglian Regiment in the centre of Gibraltar two days later.

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You know, Dan was shot five times, twice in the back of the head.

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Mairead was shot four times.

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Sean Savage was shot 16 times.

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It was an execution.

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Eight days after the shootings,

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the bodies of the Gibraltar Three were brought home.

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Unable to land in Belfast,

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where airport staff refused to handle their bodies,

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the coffins were flown into Dublin.

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From Dublin, the coffins were driven 100 miles north,

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across the border to Belfast.

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Was it a difficult decision as funeral directors

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to agree to get involved in that funeral?

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No, not really. Our perspective as funeral directors is that

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you're putting the political side aside

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and you're there under the instructions of the family,

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the relatives and that you're carrying out their wishes.

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The police operation that day - simply the intelligence

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we received - indicated that it was going to be huge numbers

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of people on the street.

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Through the Catholic Church we had contact with the families.

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The indication was that they just wanted the remains back

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so my task was to ensure the remains got back to their families

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in a dignified fashion.

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As it hit the border, the whole atmosphere changed.

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There was a massive RUC presence

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and they started to dictate the terms for travelling north.

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Whenever the police Land Rovers dropped away and left the hearses exposed,

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where we got pelted with bricks and bottles

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and anything they could get their hands on, which was a bit scary.

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The car that I was in,

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the side window was broken and a brick came in and hit me on the shoulder

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and bounced off and hit his brother-in-law,

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split his head open.

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So it was a very tense time between there

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and when we got to just outside Lisburn,

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when basically, the RUC hijacked the coffins

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and we were told to take another route.

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The republicans, they use very particular vocabulary.

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In their words, they say the RUC hijacked the bodies

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and returned them to their families.

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What do you say to that, Cyril?

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Absolutely not.

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The mission that I was on

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was to ensure that the remains got back to the respective homes

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in a dignified fashion and that's what happened.

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How would you describe your politics?

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And what about your wife?

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What did that involve for both of you?

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And would you have hidden weapons?

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-Yeah.

-Where would you hide them?

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Stupid places, when we thought about it - under mattresses.

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What about this sofa?

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Oh, no, never, no.

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No bullets in the cushions?

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-Oh, there was.

-So, your wife,

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would she unzip the back of the cushion and put the bullets inside?

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Yeah.

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Can't have been very comfortable, Stephen.

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HE CHUCKLES

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On the night the bodies of the Gibraltar Three arrived

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back in Belfast, Stephen's 32-year-old son Kevin,

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a member of the IRA, was out patrolling the neighbourhood

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when he was shot dead by the British Army.

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There was suspicion that the British Army would be basically...

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..trying to cause trouble in and around the...

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..the family homes and Kevin was out trying to do something about that.

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So, Kevin was patrolling around near Sean Savage's house?

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-Yeah.

-Would he have been trying to shoot a member of the army?

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So he wasn't just trying to protect Sean Savage's house?

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Would he have taken a pot at a soldier, wherever he would have seen one?

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Oh, aye. No hesitation.

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Did you feel that he had bravely given his life for the cause?

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Yes, yes.

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Was that any consolation for losing him?

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Not really.

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On Tuesday the 15th of March,

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the day before the funeral of the Gibraltar Three,

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there was a heavy police presence around the homes of their families.

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And, amongst republicans,

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a sense of nervousness about how the funeral would be policed.

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For several years prior to the funeral of the Gibraltar Three,

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all of our funerals had been attacked.

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There were scenes in Derry where - unseemly scenes - where a coffin was knocked over and almost

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split open when the RUC baton charged the mourners.

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For years we were used to our funerals being attacked

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and indeed we had no reason to believe otherwise

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that this wouldn't be the case that morning.

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Over the years, republican funerals had become symbolic events,

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used by the IRA as a show of strength.

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Gunmen in balaclavas would salute the dead with a volley of shots,

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invariably sparking conflict with the police.

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Shoot, shoot, shoot!

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So we're moving on now to Wednesday the 16th of March,

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which was the funeral itself.

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You need fortification for this, do you, Cyril?

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The funeral itself, yeah.

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What was your role on that day?

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Well, I had drawn up a plan

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which was a very detailed plan

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involving police and military, and that plan had been approved.

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On the evening of the previous day to the funeral,

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I was summoned to a meeting with my superior

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and was told that there was a change of plan.

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At the last minute, we were told we weren't deploying that day,

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there'd been an agreement made so therefore there was not going to be

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police on the ground.

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Basically, what happened was the Catholic Church were in contact with

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our headquarters and gave an undertaking that there would be no

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paramilitary trappings and there would be nothing of that nature.

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And as a quid pro quo to that, the Chief Constable decided

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we would adopt a standoff approach.

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Were you surprised by that decision?

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I was shocked.

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That was anathema in policing terms,

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is that you simply do not do that,

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but that was my instruction, and that was the policy for the day.

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Had the RUC ever been pulled from an IRA funeral previously?

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Not to my knowledge.

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On Wednesday the 16th of March, the Gibraltar Three - Dan McCann,

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Sean Savage, and Mairead Farrell - were buried in a triple funeral.

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I remember that republicans were

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very surprised, almost shocked, in fact,

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that the British Army and the RUC did stay clear of the funerals.

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Pleasantly surprised or suspicious?

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Well, suspicious.

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No police, no military, no armoured cars, no jeeps, no checkpoints.

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This is amazing, this is the way it should be.

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Little did I know what was in wait.

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This triple republican funeral was a major event in West Belfast

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with thousands of people lining the route to pay their respects.

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We had lowered Mairead Farrell's coffin down into the grave

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and we were getting ready to lower the second.

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We were lowering Dan's coffin down into the republican plot

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and there was a loud boom.

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EXPLOSIONS

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Jesus!

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And then people were sort of in a panic.

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Get down, everybody, get down!

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SCREAMING

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I was confused, at first I thought actually we were being mortar bombed

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from across the M1, which leads into a loyalist area, so we ducked down.

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There were more explosions.

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EXPLOSIONS

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We thought,

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were some of the graves booby-trapped?

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Was there a timing device in some of the graves?

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And you're trying to take families away from the graves,

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because no-one had a clue at that stage what was happening.

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I took the microphone and tried my best to restore calm.

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Can people please stay calm? Can people stay where they are?

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I seen this fellow,

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ended up, Michael Stone, having this handgun in his hand.

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GUNSHOTS

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Some of the people screaming, "There he is, there he is" and...

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..you know, some of the people running down towards him.

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I got fairly close to Stone.

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And he turned around and he fired a couple shots at me

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but he wasn't...

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It must've been the adrenaline and stuff like that,

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he wasn't able to hit me.

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And then he pulled out a grenade and he threw it in my general direction.

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As it exploded,

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there was shrapnel fired all over the place and it was actually

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underneath the water whenever it exploded

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which meant, as the fragments...

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you know, they sizzled.

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They were running after a man who was throwing grenades at them.

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He was shooting at them and they

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were still were able to apprehend him on the motorway, and I thought,

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if that was a British soldier doing that,

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he'd probably be awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.

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I felt an impact on my...

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inner thigh and I realised that I was injured.

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My dad and the limousine drivers

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just started getting all the injured

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and the wounded into the limousine.

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The limousines then were used for ferrying

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the wounded and the injured down to the hospital.

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They actually put me into the hearse.

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They took me in, they put me under,

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give me anaesthetic and operated, took the shrapnel out,

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and gave me a lot of stitches.

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Meanwhile, Michael Stone had reached the motorway,

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where the crowd of mourners caught up with him

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and successfully overpowered him.

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When did you first become aware that the funeral was being attacked?

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Well, we had the benefit of heli-telly -

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the army had a helicopter in the air and we had this small little monitor

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that was about ten inches square.

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People were diving down

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and people were starting to run

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and you could hear these sort of muffled explosions.

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Then I directed officers from Grosvenor Road

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to approach the motorway.

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So, we jumped into the Land Rover

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and headed as quickly as we could down

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towards where the explosion was coming from.

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We actually got up

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as they were manhandling who I now know to be Michael Stone

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from the back of a car.

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My first concern with explosions was, have you any grenades?

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Cos what I didn't want to do was put my hand in his pocket and pull out

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a grenade and kill me or kill everybody else.

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After the commotions and stuff in Milltown,

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I'll always remember walking in and the phone had rang...

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..and this guy saying,

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"We missed you today but we'll get you the next time."

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My dad had come in and he was in

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a very bad state of shock...

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..and he just broke down.

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My dad actually ended up taking a nervous breakdown

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over the whole incident.

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He went out of work for well over a year and even trying to get him

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motivated to come out on funerals and stuff with us after that was...

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it was very hard.

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Michael Stone, a seasoned loyalist paramilitary,

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later claimed that his ambition had been

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to assassinate republican leaders Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness

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and Danny Morrison.

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In fact, he attacked the mourners indiscriminately,

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injuring 60 people and killing three of the young men

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who chased him through the cemetery.

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Of the three dead, only one - Kevin Brady -

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happened to be a member of the IRA.

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He worked for the republicans and was Danny Morrison's driver.

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To be in his company

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was quite a feeling. He always brought joy into your life,

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he could be quite funny.

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He could be quite droll, as well, and basically I loved him.

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And so...

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I'm sorry.

0:26:130:26:15

The gun went through his stomach and out his back and hit an artery.

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Just...

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And that was it. If it had been quarter of an inch either way,

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he would have been OK.

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Heartbreaking.

0:26:380:26:39

Somebody that you saw a few hours before...

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..just lying cold on a table.

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The other two victims were married men with children

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and had no political involvement.

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John Murray's siblings have never spoken publicly before,

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having lived with the stigma

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of their brother dying at an IRA funeral.

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He was at that funeral simply because

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he had a right to be there.

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It was wrong what happened in Gibraltar

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but it wasn't a big deal - in Ireland we all go to funerals.

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My husband called to work to tell me that John was injured.

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He says, "Mary, he's dead."

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So the next thing was, "We'll go and see him, where is he?"

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SIREN BLARES

0:27:340:27:38

When we got to the hospital...

0:27:380:27:39

..and my mother and sisters went in to identify him...

0:27:400:27:43

..and we just couldn't believe...

0:27:440:27:48

John's gone.

0:27:480:27:49

My mummy was there and she said, "Peter, there he is."

0:27:540:27:59

Fella I loved... a lovely man, wasn't he?

0:28:040:28:07

And she says, "Be brave, Peter,

0:28:080:28:11

"there's John" and I just held John and I held my mummy, and

0:28:110:28:17

that's what I recall of that day.

0:28:170:28:21

When her husband, Thomas McErlean, was killed at the funeral,

0:28:280:28:33

Anna was 19 and pregnant with their third child.

0:28:330:28:36

That's the clothes Thomas was wearing when he was killed.

0:28:450:28:48

You can see where they cut his jumper off him.

0:28:510:28:54

And where he was shot in the trunk of the neck...

0:28:550:28:58

There wasn't much blood

0:29:000:29:02

and I think people in the graveyard just thought he had fainted,

0:29:020:29:06

because had haemorrhaged inside.

0:29:060:29:09

I can still smell him off them.

0:29:210:29:22

-Can you?

-Yeah.

0:29:220:29:24

It's been a comfort. Almost.

0:29:240:29:28

SHE SIGHS

0:29:310:29:33

As far as I was concerned

0:29:420:29:44

and people, from a loyalist concern,

0:29:440:29:46

if you went to an IRA funeral, you were a republican.

0:29:460:29:49

There was all aspects of being involved in republicanism, you know,

0:29:510:29:54

you were a gunman, you were hiding guns,

0:29:540:29:56

you were driving cars, you were raising funds,

0:29:560:29:58

you were a supporter, you were involved in the republican movement,

0:29:580:30:01

so anybody that was at a funeral of three IRA volunteers

0:30:010:30:05

that was killed in military action in Gibraltar,

0:30:050:30:07

they were supporters of the republican movement.

0:30:070:30:10

So as far as we were concerned within the loyalist community,

0:30:100:30:14

everybody at that funeral was a target.

0:30:140:30:16

For some people,

0:30:180:30:19

the fact that the security forces stayed away from a funeral

0:30:190:30:23

on the very day that Michael Stone launched his attack

0:30:230:30:26

was just too much of a coincidence.

0:30:260:30:29

To me, it has never, ever been explained how

0:30:320:30:36

on the first day in five years

0:30:360:30:39

that the police and the army decide not to monitor an IRA funeral

0:30:390:30:42

that that's the day that

0:30:420:30:44

Michael Stone, out of the blue, decides to attack.

0:30:440:30:47

So, in my mind and the mind of most people in our community,

0:30:470:30:52

there was collusion.

0:30:520:30:53

I had noticed when I arrived at the plot that

0:30:550:30:59

there was a white van parked on the M1 motorway,

0:30:590:31:03

which I just presumed was

0:31:030:31:05

the British Army...

0:31:050:31:07

..or the RUC.

0:31:070:31:09

The significance of the white van seen on the motorway

0:31:090:31:12

remains a contentious issue.

0:31:120:31:15

Many Catholics made the assumption it was a police vehicle

0:31:150:31:18

and was part of Michael Stone's getaway plan.

0:31:180:31:21

Well, there was a van sitting on the M1,

0:31:240:31:27

which he was trying to get down to,

0:31:270:31:30

so I think there was collusion there.

0:31:300:31:33

I believe the British Army

0:31:330:31:36

were behind it.

0:31:360:31:38

So, you think somehow the British state

0:31:380:31:40

were involved in giving Michael Stone a free run?

0:31:400:31:42

Yep.

0:31:420:31:44

There's no way that a police van was going to get Stone away.

0:31:450:31:49

Never would there have been any sort of arrangement

0:31:530:31:56

to lift a terrorist away. That's a nonsense.

0:31:560:31:59

The white van could have been there to assist his escape.

0:32:040:32:08

It didn't necessarily have to be

0:32:080:32:11

British Army or an RUC white van.

0:32:110:32:14

It could have been a loyalist

0:32:140:32:17

friend of his or a member of

0:32:170:32:19

a loyalist paramilitary organisation, etc.

0:32:190:32:22

People have their own interpretation of it.

0:32:220:32:25

Do you believe that Michael Stone was acting alone?

0:32:270:32:30

Yes. Yes, he was acting alone, he told me he was acting alone.

0:32:300:32:34

He got an Ulsterbus there that day to Milltown

0:32:340:32:37

and he walked in and that was that.

0:32:370:32:39

And he took it upon himself to do what he was doing,

0:32:390:32:42

you know, as far as we were concerned in the loyalist community,

0:32:420:32:45

there was no collusion.

0:32:450:32:46

Most people seen Michael Stone as a hero.

0:32:530:32:56

Simply because the fact of the matter is that

0:32:560:32:58

he took the war to the IRA.

0:32:580:33:00

In celebration?

0:33:040:33:05

Yeah, oh, aye.

0:33:070:33:08

You know, I heard the songs being

0:33:290:33:32

sang and, you know, within our community

0:33:320:33:35

and obviously there was murals went up celebrating what he did,

0:33:350:33:38

you know, cos at the end of the day, he was a hero, you know?

0:33:380:33:42

# Knew when to run

0:33:420:33:43

# But he never just walked away

0:33:430:33:46

# And the fenians started chasing him

0:33:460:33:48

# There was 20 dozen more

0:33:480:33:51

# Michael stopped, had a wee look

0:33:510:33:54

# And threw a couple more... #

0:33:540:33:56

In the aftermath of the funeral,

0:33:560:33:57

the police and army sat together to watch news footage of the event.

0:33:570:34:02

Unlike the British Army, the police were recruited locally

0:34:030:34:07

and were largely drawn from the Protestant population.

0:34:070:34:10

For police officers to carry on in the manner that they did -

0:34:130:34:16

every time one of the grenades blew up

0:34:160:34:20

there was cheers going up.

0:34:200:34:21

You thought you were at a football match.

0:34:210:34:23

It was, "Yeah! Yeah! Pity he didn't get more of them!"

0:34:230:34:28

The reaction, for me, I thought was totally disgusting.

0:34:290:34:33

Certainly nobody I ever knew

0:34:350:34:37

had any praise for him, you know...

0:34:370:34:41

..that's all I can say, really.

0:34:450:34:47

Nobody was running about going, "Ya-ho."

0:34:480:34:50

Just 72 hours after the funeral of the Gibraltar Three,

0:34:550:34:59

republicans prepared for another funeral.

0:34:590:35:01

The funeral of IRA volunteer Kevin Brady,

0:35:150:35:18

who'd been killed by Michael Stone three days earlier,

0:35:180:35:22

took place on Saturday the 19th of March.

0:35:220:35:25

Were you in charge of police operations that day?

0:35:300:35:32

I was. It was a similar arrangement to the previous funerals -

0:35:320:35:38

that we wouldn't closely police the event.

0:35:380:35:42

And again I was in Andersonstown Police Station with

0:35:420:35:46

the same two officers,

0:35:460:35:47

my two superiors were with me.

0:35:470:35:49

There was a sense of nervousness.

0:35:530:35:55

We were on exactly the same funeral route leaving St Agnes's Chapel

0:35:550:35:59

going down to the republican plots.

0:35:590:36:02

This was the exact same route that we had followed three days earlier,

0:36:030:36:07

so it was quite fraught.

0:36:070:36:09

I was on the main Andersonstown Road as part of the funeral cortege

0:36:130:36:17

and we passed a section of the road which had shops on either side.

0:36:170:36:21

And a car came very, very fast to my left,

0:36:230:36:28

up the road, in front of the shop.

0:36:280:36:31

This car had come round the bend,

0:36:340:36:37

had ignored the stewards who were simply,

0:36:370:36:39

you know, asking people to go into the side...

0:36:390:36:42

If the car had simply just

0:36:420:36:44

moved in to the side of the road as people did,

0:36:440:36:47

then nothing would have happened.

0:36:470:36:50

As the car approached,

0:36:570:36:58

Kevin Brady's sister Ann was carrying his coffin

0:36:580:37:02

at the front of the cortege.

0:37:020:37:04

We just thought, "Oh, my God, it's happening again,

0:37:050:37:08

"the loyalists have come again to attack another funeral."

0:37:080:37:11

The heli-telly started to focus in.

0:37:210:37:25

We picked up a surge in the crowd

0:37:250:37:27

and realised then that there was a car -

0:37:270:37:30

it seemed to be a white or silver car -

0:37:300:37:32

had stopped and the crowd were gathered around the car.

0:37:320:37:36

Under attack,

0:37:360:37:37

one of the men in the car produced a pistol

0:37:370:37:40

and fired a single warning shot into the air.

0:37:400:37:43

GUNSHOT

0:37:450:37:46

SCREAMING

0:37:460:37:47

The crowd sort of burst back

0:37:490:37:52

and it looked to us as if there had been a shot,

0:37:520:37:56

or something, maybe fired.

0:37:560:37:58

But the crowd then very quickly re-gathered and started thumping

0:38:000:38:05

and banging at the car.

0:38:050:38:06

The crowd reacted because they

0:38:110:38:12

thought they were under attack again.

0:38:120:38:15

Here you had a car pulling up,

0:38:150:38:17

they produced weapons. So automatically in the aftermath of

0:38:170:38:22

the Michael Stone situation, they thought, "Here we go again."

0:38:220:38:26

An ordinary Catholic woman, who happened to be walking

0:38:270:38:31

along the Andersonstown Road

0:38:310:38:32

that day, found herself caught up in the funeral procession.

0:38:320:38:36

She told her daughter what she witnessed.

0:38:360:38:38

Also in the crowd was a republican from Glasgow who had travelled

0:38:590:39:03

to Belfast for the funeral.

0:39:030:39:05

Everybody's running for the car

0:39:090:39:11

so your adrenaline,

0:39:110:39:13

you're running beside them, you're running towards that car.

0:39:130:39:17

So you ran towards the car, too?

0:39:170:39:19

Yeah.

0:39:190:39:20

Yep. We were, like, right on the, sort of, outside of the crowd.

0:39:200:39:25

Seen all the crowd round about the car

0:39:250:39:28

and that's when we seen the guys getting dragged out

0:39:280:39:30

and taken into Casement.

0:39:300:39:32

The two men - who subsequently turned out to be British soldiers -

0:39:330:39:38

were taken into Casement Park, a walled sports ground just opposite.

0:39:380:39:42

Nuala will only speak anonymously about what happened next,

0:39:450:39:49

as her mother still fears reprisals from republicans.

0:39:490:39:52

They brought one over the railings,

0:40:310:40:34

and his leg was caught - if I remember right -

0:40:340:40:37

his leg was caught in the railings. Yeah.

0:40:370:40:40

The injured men were put in a black taxi and driven away by the IRA.

0:40:470:40:52

What do you feel about the fact that the corporals weren't rescued, Noel?

0:40:580:41:03

We were very, very annoyed.

0:41:030:41:05

Police-wise, we were raging, is the right term,

0:41:050:41:08

because immediately straightaway

0:41:080:41:10

people were saying we could've been there, we could've saved them.

0:41:100:41:13

We didn't take any action initially

0:41:160:41:18

because we had no idea what was going on

0:41:180:41:20

and of course I was operating under the strict policy

0:41:200:41:25

that we would not deploy.

0:41:250:41:27

As soon as we realised something was wrong, we decided we needed to go,

0:41:280:41:32

we needed to get out there.

0:41:320:41:34

So you defied orders to go?

0:41:340:41:36

We did.

0:41:360:41:38

One of the soldiers had carried ID which mentioned Hereford

0:41:420:41:47

and Hereford is the headquarters of the SAS,

0:41:470:41:50

so the crowd and the IRA that came on the scene

0:41:500:41:52

thought that they had got two SAS men.

0:41:520:41:55

The IRA had confused Herford -

0:41:560:41:58

a town in Germany, where the British Army had a base -

0:41:580:42:02

with Hereford, the headquarters of the SAS in Britain.

0:42:020:42:06

They believed they had captured two members of the same elite unit

0:42:070:42:11

who had killed the Gibraltar Three only 13 days before.

0:42:110:42:14

One guy came out the left side

0:42:320:42:34

and sort of crawled a wee bit that way.

0:42:340:42:37

The door opened and there was a guy come out the driver's side and tried

0:42:410:42:45

taking a run, stumbled.

0:42:450:42:46

And I just seen your man...

0:42:490:42:50

basically, senior guys shooting him.

0:42:500:42:53

I actually seen it.

0:42:570:42:59

You saw them being shot?

0:42:590:43:00

Yeah.

0:43:000:43:01

But the fellow had a balaclava on him, you couldn't tell who he was.

0:43:030:43:07

It wasn't nice to watch.

0:43:100:43:12

You said it wasn't nice to watch?

0:43:170:43:19

-No.

-Do you think it was right that they were killed?

0:43:190:43:21

Yeah. They shouldn't have been there.

0:43:210:43:23

It's hard to say things like that but that's what it was.

0:43:260:43:29

When you got to the scene, what did you see, Cyril?

0:43:470:43:50

I'll not forget it until my dying day -

0:43:500:43:53

they were stripped down to their pants,

0:43:530:43:56

both men, and the steam was actually rising from their bodies

0:43:560:44:04

and we weren't actually sure whether they actually were dead

0:44:040:44:08

but we couldn't find any pulse.

0:44:080:44:10

How did you become aware that these men were army?

0:44:190:44:22

One of the officers I deployed from Woodburn Police Station,

0:44:240:44:28

an inspector,

0:44:280:44:30

came over to me and pointed out

0:44:300:44:31

that the car was... their car was burnt out.

0:44:310:44:34

When I went over and looked at the car, it was very clear to me that

0:44:360:44:39

although it was burnt out, there was armoured plating

0:44:390:44:43

in the backrest of the seats

0:44:430:44:45

and indeed, if I remember rightly,

0:44:450:44:47

there was maybe a serial number.

0:44:470:44:49

At this point, it became known to the security forces

0:44:510:44:54

that the two men were British soldiers

0:44:540:44:56

who had been travelling in an unmarked vehicle.

0:44:560:44:59

The guys displayed magnificent restraint.

0:45:020:45:05

They had Browning pistols,

0:45:060:45:08

14 rounds in the magazine, or 11, whatever.

0:45:080:45:11

I think the reason why the guys were so restrained

0:45:110:45:14

is because the army and the police,

0:45:140:45:15

it's hammered into you from the minute you start training,

0:45:150:45:18

do not use your firearm.

0:45:180:45:20

So what do you do?

0:45:220:45:24

What would they have had to do?

0:45:240:45:25

Would they have shot their way out?

0:45:250:45:28

Cos they would have ended up getting prosecuted by the British Army.

0:45:280:45:31

So they were in a no-win situation.

0:45:310:45:34

No family deserve to have to sit and watch...

0:45:370:45:41

They would have seen that on the TV...

0:45:410:45:44

First, they wouldn't have known who that was

0:45:450:45:48

but anybody that had sons in the army that day would have

0:45:480:45:51

been thinking, "Is that my boy?

0:45:510:45:53

"I hope to God it's not."

0:45:530:45:55

The two men were David Howes and Derek Wood,

0:45:580:46:02

who turned out to be corporals

0:46:020:46:04

in the British Army.

0:46:040:46:05

They were in the Signals Corps, a unit responsible for communications.

0:46:060:46:11

David Howes had only been in

0:46:140:46:16

Northern Ireland for a week

0:46:160:46:18

and was travelling with his more experienced colleague.

0:46:180:46:21

The press reacted in horror to their deaths.

0:46:250:46:28

For many, it seemed that the conflict in Northern Ireland

0:46:310:46:34

had reached the depths of depravity.

0:46:340:46:37

In 31 years of policing...

0:46:420:46:45

..there've been many things that one has been shocked about in different

0:46:460:46:50

parts of the province. That is probably one of the worst.

0:46:500:46:55

It was just the worst excesses of republican violence.

0:46:560:47:01

When you have young IRA volunteers all over this city,

0:47:050:47:11

all over the North and, as Gibraltar showed,

0:47:110:47:15

clearly across any countries that they could get access to,

0:47:150:47:20

where they're out endeavouring to...

0:47:200:47:23

You know, and that's what they're trying to do,

0:47:230:47:25

they're out trying to kill British soldiers,

0:47:250:47:28

they're out trying to attack them.

0:47:280:47:29

You know, it wouldn't have made much sense for IRA volunteers to think,

0:47:310:47:35

"Well, OK, we'll let these two go."

0:47:350:47:39

So it was more like a mob lynching?

0:47:570:47:59

So, just to clarify, if they had been shot cleanly, you wouldn't

0:48:050:48:10

feel uncomfortable with that?

0:48:100:48:12

Can you explain the impact that it's had on you as a family

0:48:210:48:25

that the corporals were killed at Kevin's funeral?

0:48:250:48:28

Well... we...

0:48:300:48:33

Kevin to us was a hero.

0:48:330:48:34

He ran after Michael Stone and that's how we looked at Kevin

0:48:340:48:38

and that's how we were honouring Kevin.

0:48:380:48:40

And then this happened and then because of it

0:48:400:48:44

we were sort of demonised and in the media we were actually called

0:48:440:48:50

depraved and despicable.

0:48:500:48:53

-And people were saying "savages".

-Savages, you know.

0:48:530:48:57

And I thought, "We're not depraved."

0:48:570:49:01

We're brothers and sisters and mothers and aunts and uncles.

0:49:030:49:07

So, there was a lot of shame and blame.

0:49:070:49:11

Blame as if it was our fault.

0:49:110:49:14

Do you think that a crowd of loyalist mourners would have reacted

0:49:160:49:20

if the boot had been on the other foot?

0:49:200:49:23

If two republicans were, you know, come into a loyalist funeral,

0:49:230:49:28

they'd have got the same.

0:49:280:49:30

You're very even-handed, David, because actually in the media

0:49:310:49:35

what was suggested at the time, that it was evidence

0:49:350:49:38

that the nationalist community were

0:49:380:49:41

a kind of horribly savage community,

0:49:410:49:44

but actually you're saying it would have been the same?

0:49:440:49:46

No, it would have been the same.

0:49:460:49:48

It would have been the same.

0:49:480:49:49

You know, that's part of the media, they were demonising republicans,

0:49:490:49:55

but, you know, I have to be honest,

0:49:550:49:58

we were equally as vicious as republicans were

0:49:580:50:01

and that's just the way it was.

0:50:010:50:03

I remember watching a wildlife programme and it was hyenas

0:50:140:50:17

and they'd got their kill and they were around their kill

0:50:170:50:20

and they were just ripping this apart

0:50:200:50:22

and for some reason, that situation,

0:50:220:50:24

these two guys getting dragged out of that car, came right in my head.

0:50:240:50:28

I just thought it was such a horrendous thing to happen.

0:50:310:50:34

Sometimes I have flashbacks.

0:50:360:50:38

I can't be surrounded by people,

0:50:380:50:41

I can't have people touching me or being aggressive towards me.

0:50:410:50:44

I get this fear that I'm going to be abducted

0:50:460:50:50

and this is why I'm going to see a counsellor.

0:50:500:50:52

I'm still seeing them at the minute.

0:50:520:50:54

That incident sticks with me

0:50:570:50:58

and it always will until the day I die.

0:50:580:51:00

Does it still haunt you now, what you saw?

0:51:080:51:10

Aye, I still see the guys.

0:51:100:51:12

And I say prayers for people at night

0:51:140:51:17

and sometimes I say prayers for they two guys, aye,

0:51:170:51:20

because it doesn't matter who they are,

0:51:200:51:23

they didn't deserve what they got.

0:51:230:51:25

The killings made their mark

0:51:340:51:36

on ordinary Catholics in West Belfast, too.

0:51:360:51:38

What the corporals were doing there that day remains a mystery.

0:52:220:52:26

According to statements made by the army at the time,

0:52:270:52:30

they were driving through Belfast

0:52:300:52:32

from one army barracks to another at the time of their deaths.

0:52:320:52:36

The safe route would have been

0:52:380:52:39

to drive due south on the M1 motorway.

0:52:390:52:42

Instead the corporals drove down

0:52:430:52:46

the Andersonstown Road, straight towards the funeral cortege.

0:52:460:52:50

And the first thing we always said, and I always remember it, thinking,

0:52:530:52:57

"What the fuck were they doing there?"

0:52:570:52:59

How the hell did they end up in that funeral?

0:52:590:53:01

That's the first thing that went through our heads.

0:53:010:53:03

Is that because all of you would

0:53:030:53:04

have known that that area was out of bounds?

0:53:040:53:06

Everybody, the wee men on the moon would have known that

0:53:060:53:09

that was out of bounds and for the life of me, only these two guys...

0:53:090:53:13

And I still look back at that to this day, thinking,

0:53:130:53:18

there was no need for what happened,

0:53:180:53:20

but why the hell they ended up there in the first place,

0:53:200:53:23

I'll never know.

0:53:230:53:25

How would they have known which routes were off-limits?

0:53:270:53:30

They would have been compelled to find out what areas were off-limits

0:53:300:53:35

so that's the first check. The second check

0:53:350:53:37

would have been when they were leaving the base,

0:53:370:53:40

they should have been warned.

0:53:400:53:41

A lot of areas in that territory

0:53:410:53:45

would have been, from time to time, out of bounds,

0:53:450:53:47

so that would have been like putting your shirt on in the morning,

0:53:470:53:51

is that you always check and plan your route.

0:53:510:53:54

The army were very good at laying routes.

0:53:570:53:59

You'd get a route to go from A to B and that's the route you take,

0:53:590:54:02

so they know if something happens, where to find you was that route.

0:54:020:54:06

And I think it was a case of just the guys went wandering.

0:54:060:54:09

The British have told lie after lie after lie -

0:54:130:54:17

"Poor guys were in there by mistake."

0:54:170:54:19

No danger they were there by mistake.

0:54:190:54:21

They couldn't have got in there by mistake.

0:54:210:54:24

Everybody knew that funeral was on.

0:54:240:54:27

They would have known.

0:54:290:54:30

The British Army, biggest intelligence in the world

0:54:300:54:34

and they don't know there's a funeral

0:54:340:54:36

and the two guys drive in by mistake - don't think so.

0:54:360:54:38

Well, they were undoubtedly undercover,

0:54:410:54:44

they weren't in British Army uniform and they weren't,

0:54:440:54:48

they didn't have the standard GI haircut, if you will. You know?

0:54:480:54:54

They had long hair and

0:54:540:54:56

moustaches and stuff. Just...

0:54:560:54:59

Whatever they were at...

0:54:590:55:01

And who knows? Only their commanders would be able to answer that, but

0:55:020:55:06

I don't believe that they were up to any good.

0:55:060:55:08

They were plainclothes, I don't know if they were undercover or not,

0:55:150:55:19

I don't think anyone knows. But people find it strange.

0:55:190:55:22

What were two plainclothes British soldiers

0:55:220:55:25

doing to drive up the Andersonstown Road into a funeral cortege?

0:55:250:55:28

So, to this day it is inexplicable.

0:55:290:55:32

Someone suggested maybe the driver of the car, who was familiar with

0:55:330:55:36

the terrain, thought he would show off

0:55:360:55:38

but I don't want to do a disservice to that man's memory

0:55:380:55:41

or his family. I don't know what the explanation is.

0:55:410:55:44

But it was...

0:55:460:55:48

It was disastrous for all concerned.

0:55:490:55:52

I think it was you, Sean, that coined the phrase

0:56:040:56:06

-the "Battle Of The Narratives."

-Yeah.

0:56:060:56:09

And that battle does seem to continue to this day.

0:56:110:56:13

It's still ongoing, because

0:56:130:56:15

someone once made the statement, and I think they were right -

0:56:150:56:18

it's a continuation of the conflict by other means.

0:56:180:56:22

-You know?

-So the fighting's over but the fighting over the narrative

0:56:220:56:26

-continues?

-Different type of battle.

0:56:260:56:28

So it's a battle around narratives

0:56:280:56:30

and people want to justify past actions.

0:56:300:56:32

I don't think loyalists and unionists

0:56:370:56:39

are very good at propaganda.

0:56:390:56:42

I think the republican movement are very, very good at propaganda.

0:56:420:56:47

Whose account is the true one?

0:56:470:56:50

Well, history will judge that

0:56:520:56:55

and I think there's a big attempt

0:56:550:57:00

by republicans, in particular, to rewrite history.

0:57:000:57:03

It's almost like the police were the terrorists and

0:57:030:57:07

the IRA were these wee men, just freedom fighters.

0:57:070:57:10

Who's going to be believed?

0:57:120:57:14

Whoever shouts the loudest.

0:57:160:57:18

I'm giving you a perspective which is undoubtedly a republican

0:57:200:57:24

perspective. I don't say otherwise.

0:57:240:57:27

If you talk to a loyalist, they'll give you a loyalist perspective.

0:57:270:57:30

If you talk to state forces, they will give you their perspective.

0:57:300:57:34

So who do we believe? Who should we believe, Sean?

0:57:340:57:36

You don't believe anyone.

0:57:360:57:38

You listen to all perspectives.

0:57:380:57:40

Listen to them all and try and understand them.

0:57:400:57:44

So, it's not a question of saying "That is the right perspective" -

0:57:440:57:47

none of them are right on their own merits.

0:57:470:57:49

They're all right on their own merits, if you know what I mean.

0:57:490:57:53

So, people need to understand what made people tick,

0:57:530:57:56

but the important thing is, having said that,

0:57:560:58:00

we all have to have a common

0:58:000:58:01

resolve that another generation doesn't have to go through what

0:58:010:58:05

our generation had to go through.

0:58:050:58:07

Whether you're a British soldier from Leeds or London,

0:58:090:58:13

or a republican from Ballymurphy or Clonard,

0:58:130:58:16

that's the important thing.

0:58:160:58:18

A new documentary by acclaimed film-maker Vanessa Engle, The Funeral Murders follows a dramatic and deadly series of events that took place at two funerals in Belfast in March 1988. Thirty years later, those who witnessed or were intimately connected to these events tell their stories. This film offers a range of perspectives - from republicans and loyalists to the security forces and family members of those who died, who share their moving stories for the first time.

The chain of events began when three members of the IRA on a mission in Gibraltar were shot dead by the SAS on 6 March. The three were unarmed when they were killed, but one of their cars was later found containing explosives,which they planned to use to bomb an upcoming parade of the Royal Anglian Regiment in Gibraltar. At their triple funeral ten days later, loyalist paramilitary Mchael Stone launched an attack in the cemetery using guns and grenades which killed three people, including IRA member Kevin Brady, and injured 60 others. At Kevin Brady's funeral three days later, two British army corporals, Derek Wood and David Howes, drove down a main road in West Belfast towards the funeral cortege. Mistaken initially for loyalist paramilitaries mounting another attack, and subsequently thought to be members of the SAS, they were beaten and killed by some members of the crowd.

Now, thirty years on, Vanessa Engle wants to try to understand these events, one of the darkest chapters in the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and find out what it means today. Featuring previously unheard testimony as well as archive footage, The Funeral Murders documents the fortnight in 1988 in forensic detail, painting a picture of the shocking events as they unfolded.