Deaths of three Newry nationalists ‘a tragedy’

The family of a teenager shot dead by the British Army 40 years ago said they hope a report into the killing will help them finally come to terms with the atrocity.


Sean Ruddy was shot dead along with two friends Robert Anderson and Thomas McLoughlin by a covert British Army unit in Newry on October 1971.

His brother, Arthur Ruddy, a former nationalist councillor, said the four-year long investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) had vindicated the family, who always maintained the 19-year-old’s killing was unlawful.

The HET concluded that the killings were “a tragedy that should not have happened.”

The report found there to be a “question mark” over the British Army’s conduct when the three men were shot dead by soldiers who were lying in wait on the roof of the nearby Woolworth’s building.

The British Army claimed it had information that the IRA was planning to carry out a bombing mission in the area.

The three friends had gotten involved in a confrontation with two men lodging cash in a nearby bank’s night safe.

The soldiers opened fire, apparently believing the three to be IRA members. Despite an arrest team also being deployed in the area, no attempt was made to capture any of the three men alive.

All of the former soldiers involved in the original operation refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Mr Ruddy said the report “tells the story of the killings and provides important new information about the circumstances surrounding them”.

“The HET report reveals that the soldiers were sent out to intercept IRA men,” he said.

“Indeed, the information suggests that the soldiers were there for one purpose: to kill people.

“As soon as Sean and his companions drew adverse attention to themselves outside the bank, they were sentenced to death.”

In the aftermath of the killings, violence erupted in Newry that lasted for several days.

Mr Ruddy said that he was aware that some young men had joined the IRA out of anger at the circumstances surrounding the triple shooting.

“The tragic loss of our young brother has been a shadow in the life of our family for 40 years,” Mr Ruddy said.

“I am conscious of my brother, Pat, who raised Sean’s case with the HET but did not live to see this day.

“It is our hope now that this report, which confirms that our brother Sean and his two companions were needlessly and ruthlessly killed, will help us finally to come to terms with this tragedy, “ he said.

The family also thanked staff at the Pat Finucane Centre who have supported them throughout the HET process.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News