Donegall Arms shooting

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Donegall Arms' shooting
Part of the Troubles
Donegall Arms shooting is located in Northern Ireland
Donegall Arms shooting
Location Donegall Arms, Roden Street, Village, Belfast
Coordinates 54°35′07.8″N 5°55′22.7″W / 54.585500°N 5.922972°W / 54.585500; -5.922972Coordinates: 54°35′07.8″N 5°55′22.7″W / 54.585500°N 5.922972°W / 54.585500; -5.922972
Date 21 December 1991
18:30 (GMT)
Target Ulster Loyalists
Protestant civilians
Attack type
Mass shooting
Deaths 2 civilians
Non-fatal injuries
5 civilians
Perpetrator Irish People's Liberation Organisation

The Donegall Arms shooting took place on 21 December 1991, when gunmen from the small Irish Republican paramilitary group the Irish People's Liberation Organisation (IPLO) burst into the Donegall Arms public house and sprayed it with gunfire, killing two Protestant civilians and injuring several others in the bar. The attack happened at a time when Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries (like the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)) were engaged in a large number of tit-for-tat sectarian killings.


The IPLO was formed by former members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1986. Unlike other Republican groups, the IPLO was willing to engage in sectarian killings of Protestant civilians.

During the late 1980s/early 1990s, the Loyalist paramilitaries, in particular the UVF and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), stepped up their sectarian campaign of attacks against Catholic civilians and known Republican activists. For example, in 1985, the UVF carried out just two attacks, but by 1990, this number had soared to around 20 per year, and continued to rise steadily. The UDA was following a similar pattern to the UVF.[1][2] The Provisional IRA, the main Irish Republican paramilitary organisation, did not want to get involved in a tit-for-tat sectarian campaign, as it would damage their claim to be non-sectarian and it would also damage the election prospects of their political wing, Sinn Féin, if they were seen supporting the murder of random Protestants. Instead, the IRA concentrated their efforts on targeting Loyalist paramilitary members in retaliation for the killing of Catholic civilians. Some IRA units did involve themselves in sectarian killings without the permission of the IRA Army Council.[3]

Events leading up to the shooting

On 12 August 1991, the UDA shot dead Sinn Féin member Pádraig Ó Seanacháin, 33, near Castlederg. Later that same week, on 16 August, the UDA shot dead another Sinn Féin member, Thomas Donaghy, 38, as he arrived for work in Kilrea. This was followed later that same day by the UVF's murder of IPLO commander, Martin O'Prey, 28. These killings of prominent Republicans caused a backlash resulting in a series of violent events that would see the year end with the Donegall Arms attack in December. The Loyalists had killed two important members of the IRA's political wing and a high-ranking member of the IPLO.[4][5]

On 10 October, the IPLO shot dead UDA member Harry Ward in a pub on the Shankill Road. Hours later, the UDA responded by shooting dead a Catholic civilian in another part of Belfast.[6] On 9 November, two Catholic civilians, Kathleen Lundy, 40, and her son Colin Lundy, 16, were burned to death when Loyalists carried out a petrol-bomb attack on their home in Glengormley, County Antrim, in an attack which shocked Northern Ireland.[7] Four days later, the IRA carried out a wave of retaliatory attacks around Belfast. As well as killing Billy Kingsberry, a UDA member, and Samuel Mehaffey, a Red Hand Commando volunteer, and maiming Gerry Drumgoole, a friend of UDA commander Johnny Adair,[8] the IRA also shot dead Protestant civilians Stephen and Kenneth Lynn in a case of mistaken identity.[3] One day later, on 14 November and in retaliation for the IRA's Belfast killings, the UVF shot dead three civilians in Armagh, two Catholics and one Protestant.

As twenty people had been killed since the 10 October 1991 the British government on the 14 November introduced measures to try to stop the killings, they announced that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) would be allowed to recruit an additional 440 members and that 500 additional soldiers would be sent to Northern Ireland. In addition soldiers were moved into Belfast from other areas of the region and 1,200 part-time Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) members were put on full-time duty.[9]

On 24 November, the IRA smuggled explosives into Crumlin Road jail. They planted a homemade bomb in the Loyalists wing of the prison, killing a UVF and a UDA volunteer.[10]

The shootings

On Saturday, 21 December, a 19-year-old Protestant college student and son of a former RUC member who was at home for Christmas, was shot and killed by the INLA in a gun attack in the border village of Moy, County Tyrone.[11]

Later that same night, 21 December, the IPLO Volunteers carried out their attack. The attackers knew the pub would be packed with customers on a Saturday night. Three IPLO Volunteers seemed to be involved in the attack, 2 gunmen and a getaway driver. According to witnesses two gunmen entered the bar, one with an automatic rifle and the other with a hand gun. The gunman with the rifle shot at anything that moved in the bar, while terrified patrons scrambled for cover. The gunfire only lasted about a minute, but it left two Protestant civilians dead: Thomas Gorman, 55, and Barry Watson, 25, who both died almost instantly. Three other people, also civilians, were injured in the shooting. The stolen car used in the attack was found at Devonshire Place in the Lower Falls area of west Belfast.[12] A few hours after the attack, the UDA shot dead a Catholic civilian less than 2 miles from the Donegall Arms.[13]


1992 began with more sectarian killings of Protestants and Catholics. On 3 January, the UVF shot dead 2 Catholic civilians, Kevin McKearney, 32, and his 69-year-old uncle, John McKearney, in the family's butcher shop.[14] Three of Kevin McKearney's brothers were in the IRA. His brother Tommy went on the 1980 Hunger Strike, which was led by Brendan Hughes. Kevin McKearney's other brother, Padraig, was killed, alongside seven other IRA Volunteers, in an SAS ambush at Loughgall[15] in 1987. But Kevin McKearney had no links to the IRA, or even Sinn Féin, and was an innocent civilian. Two weeks later, in one of the most horrific actions to take place in the North since the 1987 Remembrance Day bombing, the IRA killed eight Protestant workmen in a land mine attack on their mini bus at Teebane, and seriously injured several more.[16] Then, three weeks later, came terrible revenge for the Teebane Bombing, when two UDA gunmen, under their UFF cover-name, entered Sean Grahams Bookmakers on the Lower Ormeau Road and shot dead five Catholic civilians.[17]

These tit-for-tat attacks continued up until the 1994 IRA and Loyalist ceasefires. The Loughinisland massacre, carried out by the UVF and which killed 6 civilians, followed by the IRA killings of top UDA members Joe Bratty & Raymond Elder, both attacks occurring in the summer of 1994, were some of the last major tit-for-tat killings during the conflict.[18][19]

See also


  • Jack Holland, Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions'
  • CAIN project


  1. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  2. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  3. ^ a b Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  4. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  5. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  6. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  7. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  8. ^ Lister & Jordan, David & Hugh (2013). Mad Dog: The Rise and Fall of Johnny Adair and 'C Company. Random House. 
  9. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1991". 
  10. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  11. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Retrieved 2016-11-19. 
  12. ^ McKittrick, David (2001). Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Random House. 
  13. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  14. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  15. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  16. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  17. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  18. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
  19. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". 
Retrieved from ""
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia :
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Donegall Arms shooting"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA