Events have been taking place in west Belfast to commemorate three IRA Volunteers ambushed and executed by the British Army’s SAS in Gibraltar 30 years ago.
Mairead Farrell, Sean Savage and Daniel McCann were unarmed when they were brutally shot down by the SAS, operating under direct instructions from the British cabinet led by Margaret Thatcher.
The European Court of Human Rights later found excessive force had been used and the British military had violated their right to life.
At their funeral, three men now known as the Milltown Heroes -- Thomas McErlean, John Murray and IRA Volunteer Caoimhin Mac Bradaigh -- were killed as they intervened in a planned massacre by loyalist serial killer Michael Stone.
They are also being commemorated this week, as is IRA Volunteer Kevin McCracken, shot dead by the British Army during this period of intense and bitter conflict.
The Gibraltar Milltown Anniversary Committee, set up by Sinn Fein to organise the commemorations, has invited people to gather at Lower Kennedy Way in West Belfast today for a 30th Anniversary March and Memorial Unveiling.
“As we look back 30 years to those painful days in March 1988 many of us will remember the intense feelings associated with this brutal period, but also we will remember the great spirit of our community in its endeavour to bury our dead with dignity,” they said.
“We will remember the strength manifested in our community at a time when we were being brutalised by the British army, the RUC and unionist death squads. We will remember our anger at those who sought to demean and criminalise us, and we’ll remember the deep sense of purpose and vision which emanated from our community during those dark days.”
Events organised to remember the ‘Gibraltar Three’ included the unveiling of a mural and a vigil on the site of the former Andersonstown RUC barracks last night.
Speaking at the vigil, Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey said republicans were proud to remember the sacrifice of the shoot-to-kill victims
“This period of 1988 was a very sad and awful time,” he said.
“Sean, Mairead and Dan were murdered in Gibraltar, in the days that followed Kevin McCracken was killed in Turf Lodge and then at the funeral in Milltown Thomas McErlean, John Murray and Caoimhin Mac Bradaigh were killed with around 60 people wounded.
“When the three bodies were returned to Ireland on 14th March I travelled with Mr Savage. Thousands of people lined the streets from Dublin to Belfast despite intense abuse from British state forces in an attempt to intimate.
“This makes us realise the ferocity of British state violence and collusion with unionist death squads that was directed at our community 30 years ago.
“The relatives of Sean, Mairead and Dan unsatisfied with the response to their case in the British legal system took their case to the European Court of Human Rights in 1995. The court found that the three had been unlawfully killed. This case became the benchmark for legacy cases and has helped many other families in their quest for truth and justice.
“The events of 1988 and the people we lost did not deter republicans then and it certainly doesn’t deter us now.
“We are proud to remember those who lost their lives; their legacy is and will continue to inspire us and make us determined to work towards everything they died for an Ireland where all citizens can live in freedom and with equality.”
The 30th Anniversary March and Memorial Unveiling will begin at Lower Kennedy Way in West Belfast today [Saturday] at 3.30pm.