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Greysteel massacre

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Greysteel massacre
Part of The Troubles
Front of the Rising Sun Bar
Greysteel massacre is located in Northern Ireland
Greysteel massacre
Location Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Coordinates 55°01′55″N 7°07′20″W / 55.031883°N 7.122120°W / 55.031883; -7.122120Coordinates: 55°01′55″N 7°07′20″W / 55.031883°N 7.122120°W / 55.031883; -7.122120
Date 30 October 1993
Attack type
mass shooting
Weapons VZ58, shotgun, handgun
Deaths 8
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Ulster Freedom Fighters/Ulster Defence Association

The Greysteel massacre[1][2] was a mass shooting that happened on the evening of 30 October 1993 in Greysteel, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group, opened fire on civilians in a crowded pub during a Halloween party, killing eight and wounding nineteen. The pub was targeted because it was frequented by Catholics. The group claimed responsibility using their cover name "Ulster Freedom Fighters", saying the attack was revenge for the Shankill Road bombing by the Provisional IRA a week earlier. Four men were sentenced to life imprisonment for the massacre, but were released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.


On 23 October 1993, an IRA bomb prematurely exploded as the bombers carried it into a fish and chip shop on the Shankill Road, Belfast. The IRA's intended target was a meeting of UDA leaders, including brigadier Johnny Adair, which was to take place in a room above the shop. Unknown to the IRA, the meeting had been rescheduled. Eight Protestant civilians, a UDA member and one of the IRA bombers were killed in the blast.[3][4] This became known as the Shankill Road bombing.

The UDA launched a number of "revenge attacks" for the bombing. Later that day, it fatally shot a Catholic delivery driver after luring him to a bogus call at Vernon Court, Belfast.[5] On 26 October, the UDA shot dead another two Catholic civilians and wounded five in an attack at the Council Depot at Kennedy Way, Belfast.[4]


The massacre was carefully planned. The order for the attack came from the UDA leadership, and it is believed Greysteel was chosen partly because it was well away from Belfast, where security force activity was intense after the Shankill bombing.[6] Those involved in planning and organising it included Billy McFarland, 'Brigadier' of the UDA's North Antrim & Londonderry Brigade.[7] Stephen Irwin, Geoffrey Deeney and Torrens Knight, all members of the brigade,[6] were to carry out the shooting. The gunmen were first briefed on the plans for the massacre on 27 October in an office owned by the Ulster Democratic Party at Bond's Place, Derry.[7] Before the massacre, the gunmen went to the pub to familiarise themselves with the layout and choose the best positions to shoot from. Knight made Irwin and Deeney rehearse the shooting in the office at Bond's Place. The gunmen would drive to the pub in an Opel Kadett with UDA member Brian McNeill driving a 'scout car' in front. After the shooting, the gunmen would drive the Kadett to a pick-up point near Eglinton, where they would meet McNeill and burn the car.[7]

The massacre

Just before 10pm on Saturday 30 October, the three gunmen, wearing blue boiler suits and balaclavas, entered the "Rising Sun Bar" in Greysteel. There were at least 70 people inside attending a Halloween party[6] and at first some believed the men were playing a Halloween prank.[8] Stephen Irwin yelled "trick or treat" as he opened fire[6][8][9] with a VZ58 assault rifle on the packed crowd in the lounge. He kept shooting until the magazine emptied, quickly reloaded, and continued shooting.[10][9] Geoffrey Deeney opened fire with a 9mm handgun at a fleeing woman,[9] but it jammed after one shot.[10][8] Torrens Knight, armed with a shotgun, guarded the entrance while the shooting was taking place.[10][9] There was panic and screaming as people scrambled for cover and women pleaded for mercy.[9] The scene in the Rising Sun was described as "hell-like"; bodies lay everywhere, and the lounge and dancefloor were covered with blood and broken glass.[9] The gunmen, laughing, then made their escape in the Opel Kadett driven by Knight.[9] While driving away from Greysteel, the getaway car's wing mirror was hit by a police car speeding towards the scene.[8]

Seven people were killed outright and nineteen were wounded,[1] with another later dying of his wounds.[11] The dead were Karen Thompson (19), Steven Mullan (20), Moira Duddy (59), Joseph McDermott (60), James Moore (81), John Moyne (50), John Burns (54), and Victor Montgomery (76). Six of those killed were Catholic civilians and two were Protestant civilians.[12]

The following day, the UDA claimed responsibility for the attack using the cover name "Ulster Freedom Fighters" (UFF).[4] Its statement said that the "Greysteel raid"[1] was "the continuation of our threats against the nationalist electorate that they would pay a heavy price for last Saturday's slaughter of nine Protestants".[13] A West Belfast UDA member claimed that his organisation "had information that senior IRA men drank in the Rising Sun ... Unfortunately they were not there on Halloween but our boys acted on the briefing they had been given".[6] Afterwards, the gunmen were said to have boasted about the killings.[9]

The pub is still open in Greysteel. There is a memorial to the victims outside the building that says: May their sacrifice be our path to peace.


The UDA members involved were arrested shortly after the massacre. During their first court appearance, Knight was filmed laughing, taunting and shouting abuse at the victims' relatives as he was led from the building.[14] In February 1995, Irwin, Deeney, Knight and McNeill were sentenced to life imprisonment for their involvement in the attack.[15] Knight was also convicted for the Castlerock killings. In 2000, they were released early—along with other paramilitary prisoners—under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.[16] Irwin called the massacre "payback" and said he had "no remorse".[10] After their release, both Irwin and Knight are believed to have joined the Neo-Nazi militant group Combat 18.[17][18]

In 2005, Irwin received a four-year prison sentence for slashing a man with a knife. This meant that he also now had to serve the eight life sentences he received for the Greysteel massacre.[19] In 2006, he abandoned an appeal against the sentences.[20] In September 2013, Irwin was released from prison a second time after submitting an application to the Sentence Review Commissioners for early release. The commissioners ruled his application should be granted and he was released immediately.[21]

There have been claims in the media that Knight was a paid informer for the British security forces.[22] Knight denied the claims.[23] In October 2007, a Police Ombudsman investigation concluded that police did not have any prior knowledge that could have helped them prevent the Greysteel attack. The investigators did not find any evidence that Knight was protected from the law.[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Crawford, Colin. Inside the UDA. Pluto Press, 2003. p. 193
  2. ^ Henry McDonald, Jim Cusack. UDA: Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror. Penguin Ireland, 2004. p. 251
  3. ^ "Sutton Index of Deaths: 23 October 1993". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Chronology of the Conflict: 1993". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  5. ^ McKittrick, David. Lost Lives. Mainstream, 1999. p. 1333
  6. ^ a b c d e Wood, Ian S. Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA. Edinburgh University Press, 2006. pp. 172-173
  7. ^ a b c "Greysteel killings were planned in Waterside". Londonderry Sentinel, 1 October 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d Crawfod, p.208
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h The Queen v. Stephen Geoffrey Irwin: Decision on Tariff. Lord Chief Justice's Office. Delivered 6 March 2008. pp.1-4
  10. ^ a b c d Crawford, pp.195-196
  11. ^ McKittrick, p.1353
  12. ^ "Sutton Index of Deaths: 30 October 1993". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  13. ^ English, Richard. Armed Struggle. Pan Macmillan, 2004. p. 283
  14. ^ "Greysteel 20 years on: Snarling and contorted with rage, the image of a killer that haunts us still". Belfast Telegraph. 30 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Four Loyalists get life for Greysteel pub massacre". The Herald. 25 February 1995.
  16. ^ "Prisoner releases: Some smiled, others covered their heads". The Guardian, 29 July 2000.
  17. ^ "UDA killer to join English neo-Nazis". The Guardian. 3 September 2000.
  18. ^ "Neo-Nazis form axis with loyalists". Belfast Telegraph. 8 April 2001.
  19. ^ "Greysteel killer to serve terms". BBC News. 1 November 2005. Retrieved 23 June 2008. 
  20. ^ "Greysteel killer abandons appeal". BBC News. 24 March 2006. Retrieved 23 June 2008. 
  21. ^ "Greysteel killer Stephen Irwin freed as anniversary of massacre looms". Belfast Telegraph. 5 September 2013. 
  22. ^ "Torrens Knight: 'I have changed. Leave me alone'". Coleraine Times. 26 August 2008. Retrieved 9 June 2017. 
  23. ^ "Greysteel murderer Knight was not an MI5 agent: UPRG" (PDF). Belfast Telegraph. 14 March 2007. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  24. ^ "No evidence Greysteel could have been prevented: Nuala O'Loan". Police Ombudsman Press Release. 16 October 2007. Retrieved 16 November 2009. 

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