Massacre victim demands action after UVF letter revealed

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Miami Showband massacre survivor Stephen Travers says the 26 County government should be ‘getting answers’ from London about revelations emerging from declassified state papers.

Documents from 1987 released last week disclosed a letter stating Britain’s MI5 agency had supplied the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) with detonators “which they had set to explode prematurely”. The Miami Showband, then one of Ireland’s popular touring bands, was the victim of a horror abortive attack as a result.

On July 31st, 1975, a minibus carrying five members of the Miami Showband 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, County Down.

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 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.

In response to the revelation, Mr Travers wrote: “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 Justice for releasing the letter.”

Interviewed by the Irish Times, Mr Travers said he 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. 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 26 County 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.”

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