Miami Showband massacre survivor Stephen Travers says the Irish Government should be ‘getting answers’ from the British government about allegations emerging from State Papers.
Declassified documents from 1987, published earlier this week under the 30 year rule, revealed a letter stating British intelligence agency MI5 had supplied the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) with detonators “which they had set to explode prematurely”, as happened during the attack on the Miami Showband.
On July 31st, 1975, a minibus carrying five members of the Miami Showband, one of Ireland’s most popular touring cabaret bands, was flagged down at what appeared to be a British military checkpoint as they were travelling south to Dublin after a gig at the Castle Ballroom in Banbridge, Co Down.
"The Miami Showband were murdered because they were a powerful force for peace and reconciliation." Powerful words from @MiamiShowband ahead of the Wolfe Tones tonight #CollusionNotAnIllusion pic.twitter.com/ceMvxBNgq3— Oisín MacCanna (@OisMacC) December 30, 2017
I woke this morning to the news that, for the past 30 years, The Irish Government was in possession of a letter from The UVF admitting that they were given the bomb, by the British, that murdered The Miami Showband and left me dying in a blood-soaked field. pic.twitter.com/4AcTAiANMn— Stephen Travers (@MiamiShowband) December 29, 2017
The UVF had planned to load a bomb on to the musicians' bus and have it explode as they drove home.
Two UVF men were killed by their own bomb as it detonated before they could plant it in the back of the band’s vehicle.
Singer Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy were then shot dead on a Buskhill country road by other UVF men.
Singer and saxophone player Des Lee and guitarist Stephen Travers were also wounded but survived.
Three men, one former and two serving Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers, were convicted for the murders.
They were released under the terms of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.
On Friday Mr Travers wrote on Twitter: “I woke this morning to the news that, for the past 30 years, The Irish Government was in possession of a letter from the UVF admitting that they were given the bomb, by the British, that murdered the Miami Showband and left me dying in a blood-soaked field.”
“I am grateful to the newly-appointed Irish Minister for Justive for releasing the letter.”
Mr Travers and Mr Lee played Miami Showband tunes at the Wolfe Tones gig at City West hotel on Saturday night.
“Our message is reconciliation,” Mr Travers told The Irish Times on Sunday. “We spoke last night, saying we stand shoulder to shoulder with all victims, and we mentioned Omagh and Enniskillen.
“It was very, very well-received.”
Mr Travers said he did not expect the huge reaction there has been to his online comments and is considering what to do next in light of the information coming from the papers.
“We have to talk to the solicitors,” he said. “It’s very disappointing.
“When you think I am now 66, 30 years ago I was 36 and these people, if they had this information it could have saved us a lot of anguish, 30 years of it.
“We could have maybe closed the book on this and said at least we have got to the bottom of it.
“To hear the Irish Government had information and had confirmation of this, what we always said, that MI5 had given these detonators to the UVF.
“I mean the way they put it in the letter was almost as if the big problem was that MI5 was giving faulty detonators to kill them off and we were almost collateral damage but maybe that’s the way they looked at it.
“It was surprising to see our names in that context.”
The victims’ families continue to campaign for official acknowledgement of collusion claims. He believes a civil court case will be their way of “getting answers”.
“After the HET (PSNI Historical Enquiries Team) report came out the evidence was very clear along with other things that we have since.
“Along with things we have been made aware of, the case for collusion is overwhelming now.”
Mr Travers believes that given the range of revelations in the State Papers this week, the Irish Government should be asking questions of the British government.
“It really should be a huge story,” he said.
“When you look at the overall content, when you see these people, the UVF say they are working with MI5 and talking about they were asked to assassinate [Taoiseach] Charlie Haughey.
“I mean it doesn’t get any bigger.”
He wonders if “perhaps people are just trying to calm the waters and say lets not get everybody excited about it”.
“But it’s a very, very serious thing and I think our government, the Irish Government, should be asking questions now of the British government and they should be getting answers,” he added.
“You can ask the British government ’til the cows come home, questions, and they will stonewall you, like they have been stonewalling us for a long time.
“The healthiest thing that can happen, and I know it’s going to be difficult...people, both governments to come clean on what they have and start telling the truth to people, victims from both sides of the conflict.”