From the Archives: January 9th, 1980

In this Inside Belfast column Fionnuala O Connor recorded the first deaths of another new year of the Troubles in Northern Ireland

 

New year, old ways. While the politicians recover their voices, the Provos and the Loyalists and the British Army go right on blasting away – nine people died violently in the first six days of the bright new year, three of them to mark, in the IRA’s inimitable fashion, the opening of Mr Atkins’ conference [political party talks organised by the Northern Ireland secretary].

For Northerners, the string of deaths had the distinction of taking us past the 2,000 mark, though probably few noticed as it happened. When killings come as fast and as frequently as they have done in the past week, only the small personal details register at the time.

Later, when the names and places recede in the mind’s eye, then, perhaps, will perspective be established. Later it will be possible to realise that there have been worse, or at least as bad, beginnings in recent years.

For the moment, the list alone sinks in.

In the first minutes of the year a girl died from bullet wounds in a Belfast hospital. She was 16, one of a family of 13 children living off the Falls.

A man brought her and a boy with his foot half shot away to the Royal and drove away again, quickly, in a bullet-riddled car. Soldiers said that they had fired on a similar car half-an-hour earlier. It had been stolen and hadn’t stopped when they waved it down.

At about 1.30am in South Armagh near the Border, a group of paratroopers split in two and went about their business in the darkness.

Then one group fired on the other, apparently believing them to be the IRA. The two men shot died almost immediately. They were aged 18 and 23 and had been in the North for a week.

And that was the first day of the new decade. On January 2nd, a 62-year-old lorry-driver, Clifford Lundy, was shot dead as he arrived home from work at Kingsmills, Co Armagh. He had been in the UDR [Ulster Defence Regiment], but had left it almost three years ago.

Mr Lundy was a Protestant, a member of a small and isolated community. About 300 yards from his home, on January 5th, 1976, ten of his Protestant neighbours had been taken from their works minibus, lined up at the side of the road and shot dead by the IRA – though they called themselves by another name for the look of the thing. In the same year, one of his brothers-in-law, also in the UDR, was shot by the IRA. In 1975, a second brother-in-law again in the UDR, had also been killed.

On the third day in January, 60-year-old Robert Crilly, a garage owner and part-time RUC reservist, was shot dead by two men in his workshop in Newtownbutler. A neighbour’s 12-year-old boy, who had been watching him at work, saw him die. On the fourth day of January, a 20- year-old Catholic from Ardoyne was battered to death in a derelict house off the Shankill.

Alex Reid had been drinking with a friend. They got a black taxi from a pub near the city centre to go home, but the taxi wound up outside a Shankill pub. There may have been a row among the passengers. Someone went into the pub and brought a number of men out.

Mr Reid’s friend was punched and told to go. He went. In the early hours a woman heard moaning from the derelict house opposite her home, and called the police. When they and an ambulance arrived, Alex Reid was dead. A concrete block had been dropped on his head and he was identifiable only by a tattoo on his arm.

On the 6th day of January, the Provisionals in South Down placed 1,000 lb. of explosives under a bridge on a small country road and detonated it as two UDR landrovers passed.

The first landrover disintegrated, the second fell into the crater in the bridge. Police and passers-by pulled the dead and injured men out of the wreckage and the water. For a time they couldn’t find the third dead man. And that was the sixth day of the New Year and the Twelfth Day of Christmas, the end of the season of peace and good will.

Read the original here

Selected by Joe Joyce; email fromthearchives@irishtimes.com

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