“We will never forget” was the resounding message at an anniversary event held in honour of three members of the Miami Showband, who were killed in a loyalist ambush 40 years ago today.
Lead singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy were murdered on their way back to Dublin following a gig in Banbridge in the early hours of August 1st, 1975, in an infamous episode that became known as the Miami Showband massacre.
Family members of the deceased and two band members who survived the ordeal- Stephen Travers and Des McAlea- were joined by Lord Mayor of Dublin Críona Ní Dhálaigh, former band member Dickie Rock and the Taoiseach's Aide de Camp commandant Ciarán Carey for the ceremony at a statue dedicated to their memory in Dublin's Parnell Square.
Addressing the crowd present, survivor Travers said he will never relent until the truth is revealed, and all of the perpetrators of the attack are brought to justice.
“There are some today who want us to be silent, who want us to tone down and sanitise our rhetoric,” he said of the murders, which many suspect were the direct result of collusion between agents of the British state and loyalist paramilitaries.
He continued: “But if we do, those who planned, facilitated and executed the Miami Showband massacre will continue, unchallenged, to manipulate the foolish and the naïve.
“We are obliged to openly bear witness to that appalling crime until those, who to this day continue to cover up their central role in it, accept responsibility for their actions and the actions of their agents… Only then will true reconciliation be possible, and our ghosts finally laid to rest.”
Floral wreaths were laid by family members, politicians and Justice for the Forgotten secretary Margaret Urwin during the commemoration, which featured performances from the Dublin Gospel Choir and a multi-denominational prayer service.
It finished with an emotional rendition of Fran O’Toole’s song ‘Love Is’, which was released posthumously following his death.
“They were more than friends to me, they were my brothers. Today is not a day to be living in the past, we must move to the future with reconciliation,” said Des McAlea.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Fran O’Toole’s nephew Michael said that the family’s loss is still very keenly felt 40 years on.
“I can still very well remember that first morning when we got the news, I was in bed at 15 years of age and the whole thing erupted very rapidly at three or four o’clock in the morning, so that never leaves.
“Fran was a family man, a man of joy, a man of music, and a man of peace, and I hope the band will be remembered for their joyful contribution to Irish society in some really tough and dark times,” he said of his late uncle.
One of the most high-profile atrocities of the Troubles, three UVF members were later convicted of the murders of Geraghty, O’Toole and McCoy, but were later released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
The victims’ families continue to campaign with justice groups for official acknowledgement of the collusion claims, which were flagged in a Historical Enquiries Team report in 2011, and to bring the other perpetrators to justice.