IRA War Crimes – Deliberate Murders of Civilians

Since its foundation in 1970, the Provisional IRA’s ‘Army Council’ has authorised five types of War Crimes (in the case of an armed conflict not of an international character, serious violations of Article 3 common to the Four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949).

Previously, in Part 1, I examined the IRA’s use of child soldiers.

Here I examine the IRA’s policy of deliberately murdering non-combatant civilians.

IRA Shoot to Kill Murders

There were a number of different reasons why the IRA decided to deliberately murder civilians, but a primary purpose was to achieve terror, shock and publicity.

While the optics of these murders clearly showed a bias toward murdering Protestant Unionist civilians, murders of Catholic Nationalist civilians also occurred in order to similarly terrorise and to stem opposition in areas the IRA wished to control.

On 02.02.77, in Martin McGuinness’ home town, the IRA decided to carry out the spectacular murder of a totally innocent civilian and businessperson, Jeffrey Agate, prominent MD of the American Du Pont chemical plant, which was one of the biggest and best employers of both Protestants and Catholics in the North West.

To murder him, the IRA had to change its rules of engagement temporarily to suddenly make business persons targets in order to inflict more damage on the economy of Northern Ireland.

Two IRA gunmen shot unarmed Agate when he arrived home from work in the evening, after which the brave patriots ran away.

Respected MD of Du Pont in Derry, Jeffrey Agate

The people of Derry were horrified and a mass protest against the murder occurred in Guildhall Square.

Dr. Raymond McClean, former Mayor of Derry and civil rights’ activist, noted in his book ‘The Road to Bloody Sunday’ that “Jeff Agate was an honest and just human being of the highest calibre. His assassination by the IRA left me in total disbelief and disgust.”

Once more, Martin McGuinness pretended ignorance of a War Crime he and his Army Council colleagues had authorised.

Joanne Mathers with son Shane (2)

On 07.04.81, the IRA decided on another shocking civilian murder, this time of 29 year old unarmed Protestant mother, Joanne Mathers, who was supplementing her family’s income by collecting census forms.

As she was chatting to a householder in Anderson Crescent, Gobnascale, in the Waterside area, a masked IRA gunman ran up to her, grabbed at her census forms and shot her through the neck.

Wounded, she ran into the hallway of the house and the householder slammed the door shut to try to defend her.

The IRA gunman smashed through the glass door, grabbed at more census forms and ran off brandishing his weapon to deter people from approaching him.

Joanne died from her wound.

The IRA and INLA denied her murder.

McGuinness pretended in a most cowardly fashion that he had left the IRA before this war crime and knew nothing about it, although he had in fact ordered the census collector’s murder.

He was once more telling huge lies ‘for the cause’.

On 07.12.83, 29 year old human rights’ lawyer, law lecturer and Ulster Unionist member of Stormont for South Belfast, Edgar Graham, was chatting in Queen’s University to colleague Dermot Nesbitt when, without any warning, an IRA gunman approached and shot him a number of times in the back of the head, killing him instantly.

Graham’s War Crime murder was intended to terrorise and intimidate Unionism and Protestants in general. The IRA’s Army Council ordered his murder because his opinions were deemed to be mortal to its armed struggle, a murder since defended by Sinn Fein.

Edgar Graham’s body in Queen’s University after his murder

The IRA also murdered a total of six members of the judiciary and almost murdered a seventh – but neither the IRA nor Sinn Fein sees any hypocrisy in the creation of a wholly biased Pat Finucane Human Rights centre.

IRA Murders of Family Members

The IRA had decided long before on a terrorist tactic which involved exceeding the murder of the main target – who was usually a male – by deliberately murdering his wife or other family members.

On 21.09.72, a six-man IRA team arrived at the isolated home of Thomas Bullock, a member of the UDR, in Aghalane, Derrylin, County Fermanagh.

When his wife Emily answered the front door, she was blasted to death and the gang climbed over her body and entered the living room where they shot Thomas in the head and killed him.

Niece Dianne Woods visits the grave of Thomas and Emily Bullock, murdered together by the IRA

Neighbours reported that as the gang left the area they sounded their car horns and cheered at the job well done.

On 04.02.79, the IRA murdered Catholic civilian and retired prison officer, Patrick Mackin, as he sat in his chair at home in Ardoyne; to increase the shock and terror factor to prison officers, they also murdered his Protestant wife, Violet, as she sat in her chair.

On 27.08.79, the IRA exploded a remote control bomb on a boat at Mullaghmore in County Sligo to murder Lord Louis Mountbatten who was in his 79th year. The IRA was aware that a party of civilians was aboard the boat, including women and children, but the bomber – Thomas MacMahon – had been authorised by the IRA Army Council to proceed with the bombing without regard for civilian casualties.

As a result, 83 year old Doreen Lady Brabourne was murdered, as were Mountbatten’s grandson, 14 year old Nicholas Knatchbull and 15 year old crew member Paul Maxwell from Fermanagh.

Remains of a child are brought ashore at Mullaghmore following the IRA bombing

In response to this War Crime, Gerry Adams stated, “The IRA gave clear reasons for the execution… What the IRA did to him is what Mountbatten had been doing all his life to other people and with his war record I don’t think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation. In my opinion, the IRA achieved its objective.” Adams entirely disregarded the civilian casualties.

Lord Louis Mountbatten’s body is brought ashore after the IRA bombing

On 21.01.81, an eight-man IRA gang murdered former leading Ulster Unionist MP and member of the RUC Reserve, James Stronge of Tynan Abbey allegedly in response to various loyalist attacks on nationalists. For good measure, they also murdered his 86 year old father, Sir Norman, former Speaker of the Stormont parliament who had fought at the Somme and had been awarded the Military Cross and the Belgian Croix de Guerre for bravery.

Unlike his cowardly murderers, Sir Norman Stronge had worn a uniform, had fought according to the laws and customs of war and had abided by Geneva conventions. By any stretch of the imagination, the deliberate murder of an 86 year old pensioner constituted a War Crime. For full effect, the IRA also burned down Tynan Abbey.

The burnt remains of Tynan Abbey, following the IRA’s murders of the Stronge family

The Republic of Ireland Supreme Court later rejected an appeal by Seamus Shannon against his extradition to Northern Ireland to face charges of involvement in the Stronge double murder. The Court rejected the defence that these were political offences, saying that they were “so brutal, cowardly and callous that it would be a distortion of language if they were to be accorded the status of a political offence”. Shannon was extradited but later acquitted.

Gerry Adams with Alfredo Scappaticci, aka ‘Steaknife’, head of the IRA’s ‘nutting squad’

Regarding Sir Norman Stronge’s murder, Gerry Adams said: “The only complaint I have heard from nationalists or anti-unionists is that he was not shot 40 years ago.” Adams evidently had no problem with the War Crime murders of civilians.

On 08.04.84, two IRA gunmen attacked Catholic magistrate Tom Travers and his family as they were coming out of Mass. One gunman shot his daughter, Mary, in the spine and she and her mother fell to the ground.

Mary Travers (22), shot in the back and murdered by the IRA in front of her mother and father

The second gunman shot Tom Travers first in the shoulder, which caused him to fall, and then shot him five more times as he lay on the ground. The gunman who had shot Mary Travers then put his gun to her mother’s head and pulled the trigger twice – the gun misfired both times.

Mary Travers, twenty-two years old, died in her mother’s arms. Tom Travers miraculously survived. The IRA claimed afterwards that Mary Travers had been accidentally hit by a bullet that passed through Tom Travers.

Scene of the IRA’s attack on the Travers family coming home from Mass

Forensics and witness accounts disproved the IRA lies. A woman member of the IRA, Mary McArdle, was arrested nearby after the shooting and was found to be carrying two guns, a wig and a black sock attached to her thighs. She was sentenced to life in prison and served fourteen years.

Tom Travers identified a well-known Belfast republican, Joseph Haughey from Unity Flats, as the gunman who stood over him and shot him, but Haughey was acquitted. [Haughey was later accused of being a Special Branch informer.]

Travers believed that Gerry Adams personally ordered the attack on his family.

The details of the Travers’ attack proved that the IRA had deliberately intended to kill all of the Travers’ family as a ‘shock and awe’ message to other judges.

On 25.04.87, the IRA murdered Chief Justice Maurice Gibson, 74 years of age, and for good measure murdered his Protestant wife, Cecily, who was 67 years old.

By authorising the deliberate murder of these innocent family members, the IRA Army Council had made itself liable to prosecution – even now – for crimes against humanity.


IRA Volunteer and Civilian Bomb Casualties

Within months of its creation, the Provisional IRA discovered that it was unable to plant bombs in a manner safe for either the bomb makers or the civilian population.

On 26.02.70, a powerful incendiary bomb exploded prematurely at Dunree Gardens in the Creggan estate in Derry killing three senior IRA men, Tommy McCool, Tommy Carlin and Joseph Coyle, but also two innocent children, Carol Ann McCool (4) and Bernadette McCool (9).

Remains of an IRA civilian bomb victim

The following is a list of the dead caused by IRA bombs in just eighteen months from February 71 until August 72 with some surprising conclusions.

On 02.11.71, the IRA exploded two bombs on the Ormeau Road in Belfast, one at a drapery shop and the other at the Red Lion bar, and murdered three Protestant civilians, John Cochrane (67), Mary Gemmell (55) and William Jordan (31).

On 22.11.71, IRA man Michael Crossey, was killed in a premature bomb explosion in Lurgan, County Armagh.

On 11.12.71, The IRA bombed a furniture shop on the Shankill Road in Belfast, murdering four Protestant civilians, two of whom were children: Hugh Bruce (70), Harold King (29), Tracey Munn (2) and Colin Nicholl (1).

1 year old Colin Nicholl’s body is carried away after the IRA bomb on the Shankill Road

On 18.12.71, three IRA men, James Sheridan, John Bateson and Martin Lee were killed by a premature explosion on King Street, Magherafelt, County Derry.

On 30.12.71, IRA GHQ Quartermaster Jack McCabe was killed in Dublin while mixing black powder explosives for use in Belfast.

On 26.01.72, IRA man Peter McNulty was killed in a premature bomb explosion at Castlewellan RUC base, County Down.

On 05.02.72, two IRA men, Phelim Grant and Charles McCann, were killed in a premature bomb explosion on a barge in Lough Neagh.

On 21.02.72, four IRA men, Joseph Magee, Robert Dorrian, Gerard Steele and Gerard Bell were killed in a premature bomb explosion while driving on the Knockbreda Road in Belfast.

On 09.03.72, four IRA men, Anthony Lewis, Gerard Crossen, Sean Johnson and Thomas McCann, were killed in a premature bomb explosion in Clonard Street, Belfast.

On 20.03.72, the IRA exploded a car bomb in Lr Donegall Street, Belfast, killing seven people, two RUC officers, a UDR soldier and four Protestant civilians, James Macklin (30), Ernest Dougan (39), Sydney Bell (65) and Henry Miller (79). Hundreds of people were injured.

Soldiers comfort a dying bomb victim after the IRA’s Donegall Street attack

On 07.04.72, three 17 year old IRA volunteers, Charles McCrystal, Samuel Hughes and John McErlain, were killed in a premature explosion in Bawnmore Park, Greencastle, Belfast.

On 28.05.72, four IRA volunteers and four civilians were killed in a premature bomb explosion in a house in Anderson Street, Short Strand, Belfast. The IRA members included two seventeen year olds, Joseph Fitzsimmons and John McIlhone, a nineteen year old, Martin Engelen, and Edward McDonnell. The four civilians included a seventeen year old, Geraldine McMahon, and Mary Clarke, Henry Crawford and John Nugent.

On 21.07.72, which became known as ‘Bloody Friday’, the IRA exploded twenty bombs in Belfast and, entirely predictably, murdered nine persons, injured seventy-seven women and girls and fifty-five men and boys.

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Human remains of Bloody Friday IRA bomb victim

The dead were Protestants Stephen Parker (14), William Crothers (15), William Irvine (18), Thomas Killops (39) and Jackie Gibson (45) and Catholics Margaret O’Hare (34) and Brigid Murray (65) and two British soldiers, Stephen Cooper (19) and Philip Price (27).

On 31.07.72, the IRA exploded three car bombs in Claudy, nine miles from Derry, to coincide with Operation Motorman when the British Army ended republican ‘no go’ areas by smashing barricades and occupying them with high troop concentrations.

Aftermath of the IRA’s Claudy bombings

The IRA’s bombs in Claudy murdered nine civilians – four Protestants, Kathryn Eakin (8), William Temple (16), David Miller (60) and James McClelland (65), and five Catholics, Joseph Connolly (15), Joseph McCloskey (38), Arthur Hone (38), Rose McLaughlin (52) and Elizabeth McElhinney (59).

On 26.08.72, two IRA volunteers, James Carlin and Martin Curran, were killed in a premature bomb explosion at Downpatrick racecourse grandstand.


In just eighteen months, the Provisional IRA – using ordinary time bombs intended to attack commercial targets – killed at least at least 33 civilians, at least 28 of its own volunteers and 2 RUC officers, 1 UDR soldier and 2 British soldiers.

These statistics alone proved beyond any doubt that the IRA’s bomb technology and protocols could never safeguard either civilians or its own volunteers.

The IRA Army Council’s decision to cynically continue this type of bombing campaign was taken in the full knowledge that it would continue to attack and murder innocent civilians – and kill a large number of its own cannon fodder ‘volunteers’ – which is exactly what happened for many years.

Child killed by the IRA’s Warrington bombing

The IRA later graduated to such War Crimes as:

  • the Birmingham Pub bombings (21.11.74) which murdered 21 civilians and injured 182
  • the La Mon bombing (17.02.78) which murdered 12 civilians and injured 30
  • the Harrods bombing (17.12.83) which murdered 3 civilians, journalist Philip Geddes (24), a U.S. citizen, Kenneth Salvesen (28) and Jasmine Cochrane-Patrick (25) and 3 police officers, and injured over 100 others.
  • the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing (08.11.87), which murdered 12 civilians and injured 63
  • the Teebane bombing (17.01.92) which murdered 8 civilians and injured 6
  • the Warrington bombing, (20.03.93) which murdered two children, Johnathan Ball (3) and Tim Parry (12) and injured 56 other civilians.
  • the Shankill Road bombing (23.10.93) at Frizzells fish and chip shop which killed the IRA bomber and 9 Protestant civilians

The IRA’s Army Council had evidently decided in the early 1970s that it needed the regular civilian death toll produced by its bombing campaign to pressurize democratically elected British governments to surrender to its terrorist demands.

It does not appear to have ever considered the likelihood that it would face trial for crimes against humanity, unlike its cousin, ETA, whose leaders are now arraigned on these very charges.

No, Gerry, just Decommissioned, Disbanded and Despised for its Crimes Against Humanity

In a later post, I will examine the IRA Army Council’s policy of ordering the specifically sectarian murders of innocent Protestant civilians.

24 thoughts on “IRA War Crimes – Deliberate Murders of Civilians

    1. Some PEOPLE just got away murder, Blair’s government dirty deals lost lives, coverups corruption- bag of tricks Tony should be ashamed – no morals.Taken to task war crimes against humanity innocent people suffering at the hands of terrorism.


      1. If justice for civilians is to be had surely we need to investigate senior PIRA/Sinn Fein and Army council members in order to have redress viscous offences against innocent people. Sinn Fein hypocrisy and their version of legacy against veterans is unsustainable it verges on discrimination and the fact they had a strategy of fear who’s motive was to murder innocent civilians regardless of religious affiliations tell you all you need to know about their despicable acts of violence


    2. Interesting if somewhat harrowing reading. This is put together pretty comprehensively, and I thank you for this no holds barred piece.

      Why are they in jobs of power now. Surely sending the wrong message out?


    3. How come he wasn’t put away by a sniper or locked up for long.
      Well goes to show that Adam’s was and still is a British cover boy, put in there to get rid of others. Your time will come Gerry


    1. The relatives of the brave ‘volunteers’ killed at RUC Loughall were compensated to the tune of £10K each, by the UK Government, because the Court of Human Rights found (unbelievably) the Government violated the human rights. In addition the Government paid their £105K legal bill!

      The relatives had stated that the 8 ‘volunteers’ had been unlawfully killed in a ‘shoot to kill’ policy by the Crown Forces. Ignoring completely that the brave ‘volunteers had just detonated a 400lb bomb destroying the RUC Station, and then they had opened fire, themselves, on the remains with weapons taken from murdered off-duty UDR and off-duty RUC personnel.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. When we hear about republicans complain about Bloody Sunday, read the many atrocities by the IRA & not held accountable, thanks in part to Tony Blair.


  1. It is shameful in the utmost that the leaders & colleagues of the perpetrators of these crimes have been placed into Government in Northern Ireland, by a serving, at the time, British Prime minister Tony Blair, & that now it seems to be impossible to remove them from office.


  2. A harrowing portrayal of the P.I.R.A inhumane disregard for life seeking to intimidate the majority of the populace to adhere their political objectives denying others of the democratic right of choice. Today’s generation who did not live in those turbulent times and support militant republicans would do well to understand their meaning of democracy and read the Green Book that sets out the objectives of the P.I.R.A and how the taking of life is some now justifiable. Those who part took did so in the belief they were at war so why should these self confessed individuals not be tried for War Crimes ?


  3. Sorry to point out but 12 people were murdered in La mon and 8 murdered in the Teebane bomb.We must be careful of getting all the facts correct.


  4. And to think Unionists shared power with these murderous thugs?
    Sadly the Ulster electorate have buried their heads in the sand and refuse to face up to the War crimes of Republican criminals.
    There is a God in Heaven and Vengeance is His.


  5. I think it’s disgusting that there is a witch hunt for ex–soldiers, which by the way this government is doing nothing to stop this from happening, yet because of fucked up Blair, he gave the IRA a get out of jail letter, which I know makes thousands of ex–soldiers wonder which side the government on


    1. They also murdered civilians too.look at the war crimes against Ireland 800 years of blood shed and not one British soldier or prime-mister been done its OK for the brits to remember the past anyone else no. England committed mass murder in Ireland fact murdered priests nuns men women and children and us Irish as to forget it and move on.I will never forget the crimes the brits done to my people where was their justice .


  6. Perhaps worth emphasising that although the 1972 Donegall Street bombing killed two policemen and a UDR soldier, their deaths were by fortune not design: the part-time UDR soldier was simply one of the three ‘refuse collectors whose bin lorry was parked close to the vehicle containing the bomb’, while the two coppers ‘were attempting to evacuate the area’. (One of the policemen killed, Bernard O’Neil, was Roman Catholic, and only there due to ‘volunteering for extra duty’. Details and quotes from Lost Lives, 2001 ed., p.168.) Sort of a reverse ‘collateral damage’, a few stray military being killed when targeting civilians.

    Policemen in a counter-insurgency situation can be perceived somewhat ambiguously in their role as enforcers of the State’s laws; nevertheless, under international law, police, unless part of a country’s armed forces such as Brazil’s Polícia Militar or France’s Gendarmerie nationale, are civilians and entitled to the protections of the 4th Geneva Convention.

    And even soldiers are entitled to the protection of the 3rd Geneva Convention and POW status once captured; such as Robert Nairac, abducted from a Forkhill pub in 1977, his body still not recovered (Eamon Collins (RIP) in his Killing Rage (Granta, 1998, p.140–2) related an ex-PIRA friend detailing Nairac’s body being fed ‘through the meat mincer at the [nearby meat-processing] factory’). Attempts could have been made to capture other soldiers, such as the three unarmed young Highlanders shot in the back on a Belfast hillside in 1971 (brothers Joseph (18) and John (17) McCaig along with Dougald McCaughey (23), whose own brother would have joined them but for being on duty).

    Granted the difficulty insurgents have detaining POWs long-term (although Hamas managed to hold on to Gilad Shalit for five years), but if they possessed a shred of decency, they could have at least tried, or found alternatives.

    They could have offered parole—and the British Army would have honoured any parole taken by a British soldier to obtain his release (when an RAF fighter pilot, an American from 133 ‘Eagle’ Squadron, baled out over the Republic in 1941 and was interned, and then broke his parole (offered to prisoners of both sides to enjoy days out) to return to Britain, we sent him back—You gave your word as a British officer and by gosh! we’ll make you keep it). There were many roles where a paroled regular soldier could have served productively without contributing to Operation Banner; part-time members of the UDR (like Thomas Cochrane, abducted then murdered in 1982) could have pledged to swap their UDR uniform for a TA one, the TA in Ulster having no COIN function, primarily training for WW3 with Ivan (not that that prevented their being targeted, e.g. Hugh McGinn (a Catholic), shot dead by INLA outside his home in 1980; seven TA members altogether were killed in The Troubles; also one 16-year-old Air Cadet and a part-time Army Cadet Force instructor).

    They could have tried kneecapping captive soldiers, which would have removed them from front-line service, if not the military altogether, without usually killing them; and even on the occasions that such a method went wrong (such as Andrew Kearney, who bled to death after being kneecapped in 1998), one would have to acknowledge that they had at least tried to deal with a captive soldier humanely.

    But they never tried. They never, ever tried a humane, civilised way of dealing with captured Security Forces, military or civilian, Catholic or Protestant—always, they preferred to kill. Even amoral utilitarianism should have caused them to realise the advantage of hostages for negotiating, and they might have agreed prisoner exchanges as various ME terrorist groups have done with Israel—yet even the prospect of freeing the ‘men behind the wire’ was not enough to dissuade them from ‘stiffing’ defenceless Brits and Prods.


  7. Thank you for keeping up the pressure to bring these criminals to justice. The International Criminal Court is the appropriate forum now, given the Government’s abrogated its responsibility. No other definition can be applied. These are crimes against humanity and need to be treated as such in the international arena.


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