Dungannon in the 1970s was a difficult town in which to be young. It was bitterly divided and heavily militarised. But on March 17th, 1976, all that Patrick Barnard had in mind was celebrating St Patrick's Day.
The 13-year-old spent the day at the parade in Coalisland, nearby, rushed home for dinner, then set out again with his friend Jimmy McCaughey to go to a disco at a local school. They called for another friend, but he was too busy watching The Magnificent Seven on television.
Patrick and Jimmy were outside the Hillcrest Bar, across the road from the school, when a car bomb planted by the Ulster Volunteer Force exploded. Patrick and Jimmy were killed, along with Andrew Small, a 62-year-old who had been walking home from Mass with his wife, and Joseph Kelly, a 57-year-old who had been in the bar between Mass and going to collect his wife after she finished her shift as a nurse. Almost 50 other people were injured, nine of them seriously.
He was a copycat – everything we did he wanted to do as well
Patrick was still only what his brother Eddie Barnard calls a cub. “He was the youngest, and he was always called the Wee Boy, and I was the eldest, so I got the Big Boy,” says Barnard, who is now 58. In between came Anthony, June and Kieran.
“Our father, Ted, was a Protestant, our mother, Mona, a Catholic,” Barnard says. “My mother’s family didn’t mind, but my father’s family wasn’t happy, so they eloped to Birmingham. When they came back, in the 1960s, they found it hard to get a house. Eventually they got a prefab in Fairmount Park. Everyone was squatting – mostly Catholics but with a few Protestant families as well.” The prefabs, built for the British army during the second World War, were cold and basic.
A few months before Patrick was born Ted Barnard left his family. “My mum was left on her own with the five of us,” says Eddie Barnard. “It was tough, but we were content. My father had become violent towards my mother. She used to have black eyes and bruises. I used to have to run out to the phone box to call the police.”
“He was known as Paddy Whack”
“The fields and hills around Dungannon were our playground,” says Barnard. “Patrick liked to be with the big boys. He was known as Paddy Whack. He was the pet in the family. He was what you would call devilish, though our neighbours never had to complain about any of us.
“He was a copycat – everything we did he wanted to do as well. If we were making bows and arrows the next thing was he’d come out of the hedge with a stick, wanting it sharpened. He was always in the middle of everything, like the scouts and the youth club. We used to gather up wood and bottles, and at Christmas we’d get holly and sell it round the doors.
“Patrick had a milk round. After he was killed the fellow he worked for, a Protestant, was really cut up about it.
“A dog adopted Patrick, an old black-and-white spotted dolly mixture of a thing. It didn’t bother with anyone else. It would come down and bark at the house, and then we’d hear Patrick going out and talking to it. Everywhere he went the dog was with him.
“My mother told me after he died that the dog used to come looking for him and barking. Eventually she allowed it in, and it sniffed about the house, realised he was no longer there, and never came back.”
Discrimination against Catholics in housing put Dungannon at the heart of the civil-rights movement. Eddie Barnard remembers his mother pushing Patrick in his pram during protest marches in the Citizen’s League in the early 1960s.
The first bomb in Dungannon was planted by the UVF in 1969 at the GAA club. In the same year the Ulster Special Constabulary – the paramilitary reserve police force whose members were known as B Specials – attacked the Catholic west end of the town.
The Hillcrest was Dungannon's Bloody Sunday
“My mother put us all in the wardrobe,” says Barnard. “We were out the next day, gathering stones and milk bottles for petrol bombs. From then on, after dark the town was completely shut up, turned into a fortress. There were police and soldiers everywhere – you couldn’t go out without getting stopped and questioned.”
Mona was a devout Catholic; her husband’s parents were elders at Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church. Ted Barnard’s brother Trevor was in the UVF, although Eddie Barnard did not know this until Trevor was jailed in 1974 for his part in a bomb attack on a Catholic housing estate.
The bombers who killed Patrick were members of the Glenanne gang; alongside the UVF, this loyalist alliance included members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment. The gang is alleged to have murdered 120 people, mostly in Cos Armagh and Tyrone.
The Glenanne gang included two men who were arrested, but paperwork about their involvement went missing, and they were released. A few months later, it is alleged, they took part in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, in which 34 people were killed.
Eddie Barnard was studying engineering in Belfast. That St Patrick’s Day he and some friends went to the cinema. “I said to one of the fellows, ‘I’ve an awful bad feeling.’ ” Later on he heard that a bomb had gone off in Dungannon. “There were no mobile phones or anything in those days,” he says. “The next day someone got in touch and said Patrick was in Craigavon hospital. But by the time I got there he had died.
“When the UVF landed in the scout car they would have seen the cubs messing about in front of the school where the disco was to be, and the bar. People said after it, ‘At least they could have chased the cubs away.’ ”
I regret that he never knew anything different, but in some ways he was luckier than some of those who survived
Patrick’s body was in a bad state. “I can remember the undertaker standing there as I looked into the coffin. He looked at me, and I said, ‘We can’t take him home.’ There were crowds waiting in the estate, but I said the coffin should go straight to the church.”
The coroner returned open verdicts on all four victims who died in the bombing – Patrick Barnard, James McCaughey, Andrew Small and Joseph Kelly – and expressed his sympathy to the families. The deaths brought to 88 the number of people killed in the North in 78 days.
“My mother was devastated,” says Eddie Barnard. “She became reliant on Valium, and she used to just sit in tears. But she weaned herself off them. In later life she learned to read and write, which she had never been able to do. She never talked about it, but she took Patrick’s school jumper to bed with her every night. It was under her pillow when she died.
“My two grannies took it very bad as well. I used to dread meeting my father’s mother, because she would always break down in the street. She was a very conflicted woman. She knew her eldest son had beaten my mother and her youngest son was in the UVF.”
Eddie Barnard gathered information about the people involved in the Hillcrest bombing but the RUC was not interested, he says. One man was later jailed for the attack, but the main gang members never were. The bomb was similar to the one used to kill The Miami Showband some months earlier.
“Patrick lived till the ripe old age of 13 in a town in which there was nothing but trouble,” says Barnard. “I regret that he never knew anything different, but in some ways he was luckier than some of those who survived.”
The youngest victim was a nine-year-old boy who was seriously injured. He later told a newspaper that his life had been ruined. He missed years at school and was in and out of psychiatric hospitals. He joined the IRA but had to flee the country when he refused to set up a Protestant friend. In constant pain, he used a lot of cannabis, which led to convulsions and his death in his late 30s.
“The Hillcrest was Dungannon’s Bloody Sunday,” says Eddie Barnard. “It had an awful effect on the town. I couldn’t believe the amount of boys got involved in the IRA afterwards.” The IRA bombed the town centre into ruins.
Eddie Barnard was never reconciled with his father, who died of cancer, and at family funerals he refused to shake his uncle Trevor’s hand. Barnard named his own son after Patrick; he looks uncannily like him, he says.
Eddie Barnard's legal challenge
'If the bomb attack which killed my brother had been properly investigated by the RUC, a lot of other people need not have died.'
On Thursday, the High Court in Belfast will begin hearing a legal challenge by Eddie Barnard against the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Barnard’s 13-year-old brother Patrick was murdered in 1976, in a bomb attack in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, along with three other people. The bombers were members of the Glenanne gang.
This gang included loyalist paramilitaries and members of the security forces, including the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment. The gang is alleged to have murdered 120 people, mostly in Cos Armagh and Tyrone, as well as the Dublin and Monaghan bombs, which claimed 34 lives in one day in May 1974.
“If the bomb attack which killed my brother had been properly investigated by the RUC, a lot of other people need not have died,” says Eddie Barnard.
The case came before the court in February, when lawyers for the state indicated that they did not oppose the call for a judicial review.
Barnard’s lawyers will allege that the police failed to investigate the activities of the Glenanne gang and that the PSNI has failed to conclude the inquiry, which was to have been carried out by the Historical Enquiries Team.
Eddie Barnard’s solicitor, Kevin Winter, has said that the team was known to have been at an advanced stage of its work on the inquiry when it was effectively shut down last year. This followed a highly critical report of its work by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
The journalist Anne Cadwallader made use of unpublished Historical Enquiries Team reports into the activities of the Glenanne gang in her book 'Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland', published in 2013. One report referred to "indisputable evidence of security force collusion". Cadwallader is a researcher for the Pat Finucane Centre ,which provides support to, among others, families bereaved by the Glenanne gang.
When the case came before the High Court in February, Barnard says, a large number of people from other families joined him in court. “The sense of pain in the room was terrible,” he says. “I hope that now we can get something to ease that pain so that another generation of our families does not have to carry it forward.”