Irish Republican News · October 20, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Tragic incident was ‘major success’ for British Army

A confidential British government document has been unearthed that describes one of the most painful incidents of the conflict, resulting in the deaths of three children, as a “carefully planned operation” and “a major success”.

The memo was written the day after the deaths of the three children who were struck by an out-of-control car whose driver had been shot dead by British troops.

The case is being reviewed by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) as part of a probe into the August 10 1976 events.

The deaths of the three innocent children on Finaghy Road North in Belfast sparked the formation of the Peace People movement.

Among the documents the HET is reviewing is the confidential note of the meeting held in the Northern Ireland Office the day after the tragedy.

“The chairman remarked that the incident which resulted in the death of two children in Belfast had otherwise been a major success for the security forces,” it states.

The driver of the vehicle was 23-year-old IRA volunteer Danny Lennon, whose family unearthed the memo as part of their own investigations into the case.

He died at the wheel and his car smashed into and killed eight-year-old Joanne Maguire and her six-week-old brother Andrew. Another brother, two-year-old John, died from his injuries the next day. Their mother Anne survived but took her own life eight years later.

Sean Lennon, a brother of the dead man, said he believed the memo offered a “whole new slant” on the incident.

“My main point is that if this was a carefully planned operation, if they had prior information, why did they not arrest my brother?

“Why did they start shooting on a busy road in the middle of a hot summer’s day when the place was full of people?

“It’s reasonable to see if you fire in an open area, people may get shot and if you fire at a car, it may go out of control.

“It was reckless and the end result was the tragic death of three children and my brother at the hands of the British army. “

The Lennon family also say the Peace People, founded by the children’s aunt Mairead Corrigan Maguire and campaigner Betty Williams, hindered a proper investigation into the event.

“The birth of the Peace People, we believe, prevented people from coming forward at the time,” Sean Lennon said.

The Peace People movement held marches that were thousands strong before its founders became the youngest recipients of the Nobel peace prize.

While lauding the Peace People movement, the political and media establishment also ensured the childrens’ deaths were blamed squarely -- and falsely -- on the executed IRA Volunteer.

“Our family became hate figures throughout the world,” Mr Lennon said.

“We got hate mail through the door for months and we would have to come to the house before the postman so that our mother didn’t have to see it.

“The Peace People was a politically orchestrated campaign.

“They didn’t do our family any favours and portrayed a story that my brother murdered three children.

“With the whole Peace People movement, we were forgotten about.

“There has never been any inquest in this case and the autopsy reports into the children’s death have never been made public.

“l have all the sympathy in the world with the Maguire children.

“The story of the Maguire kids was rightly told but ours never was.

“Our family have carried that for all the years. I do not blame Danny one iota for the death of the Maguire kids.

“Danny was innocent of the deaths of the Maguire children.

“I lay the responsibility with the British army.”

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© 2011 Irish Republican News