School atrocity plan revealed
School atrocity plan revealed

A unionist paramilitary gang linked to British Crown forces planned to murder 30 Catholic schoolchildren in south Armagh in 1976, it has emerged.

The notorious ‘Glenanne gang’ planned to attack St Lawrence O’Toole Primary School in the tiny village of Belleeks following a wave of deadly sectarian attacks known as the Whitecross and Kingsmill massacres, in which six Catholics and ten Protestants died.

The school massacre plan was abandoned on the orders of the UVF’s Belfast leadership, who decided it would be “morally unacceptable” and could have led to all-out civil war.

The Glenanne gang, which included serving members of the RUC police and British Army’s UDR, was responsible for dozens of killings in the border area in the mid-1970s, including murders in Dundalk, Silverbridge, Whitecross and Gilford.

Victims’ families have called for a public apology after the British army’s official account of the conflict claimed that these murders were the result of a “feud” between the UVF and IRA.

Alan Brecknell, whose father Trevor was one of three people shot dead by the gang in December 1976, has now revealed that a former RUC man confirmed the gang’s plan to murder the children after the Kingsmill attack.

“According to this person the proposal was to attack the primary school in Belleeks, County Armagh and kill 30-odd children and their teacher,” he said.

Mr Brecknell said the plan was only abandoned because the UVF leadership felt it would lead to a civil war and were suspicious that the gang member who suggested the attack was working for British military intelligence.

In 2004 another gang member, former RUC man William McCaughey, also said the gang had planned to attack a primary school.

Mr Brecknell said the families were angry at the British army’s attempts to disown involvement in the murders of their loved ones, given the gang was heavily made up of security force members and was controlled by British military intelligence and/ or RUC Special Branch.

“We acknowledge that the UVF did not follow through on this plan,” the families said.

“The failure of the PSNI to interview McCaughey... has added to our suspicions.

“This is the reason we are so angry and shocked at the claims made in this document of an alleged feud.”

Mr Brecknell said the families were convinced that their loved ones were murdered to create the circumstances necessary to justify increased British military deployment in south Armagh.


Meanwhile, the UVF has been blamed for an attack on a 20-year-old man in Coleraine on Sunday night.

Coleraine Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard said the unionist paramilitary organisation was operating “with impunity” in the Coleraine area.

Mr Leonard said five masked men entered the house and instructed the victim’s mother to lie down before beating her son with hammers.

“For whatever reason they have obviously entered this person’s home to do their dirty work,” Mr Leonard said.

“Local people are in no doubt that UVF members were involved.

“We are so far into a process of change that it seems incredulous that Coleraine once again shows itself to be far behind the rest.

“This community needs to change and the loyalists who are responsible for this attack should have no part of the future.”

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