Former members of the British Crown Forces have been sharing photographs of the assassinated IRA Volunteers of Loughgall and gloating about how they held “parties” in the van in which three of the martyrs were killed, it has emerged.
Pictures of the dead Volunteers in the bullet ridden van have been posted on the Facebook page of the ‘Hereford Veterans Association’. Hereford is home to the British Army’s SAS regiment, which carried out the ambush.
The IRA men who died in the pre-planned massacre in 1987 were Jim Lynagh, Padraig McKearney, Gerard O’Callaghan, Tony Gormley, Eugene Kelly, Patrick Kelly, Seamus Donnelly and Declan Arthurs. They men were preparing an attack on a nearby RUC base at the time. Civilian Anthony Hughes, who was travelling through the village in a car with his brother, was also shot dead by British soldiers.
Two pictures were posted on the page under the name of Ernie McGookin, a former British soldier and former cartoonist for the Belfast Telegraph group. They appear to show three of the victims lying in blood on the ground beside the van. A number of other former British soldiers clicked ‘like’ on the images.
Another photograph appears to show the rusting van, which was struck by more than 125 bullets, pictured sitting in Gough Barracks in Armagh around 10 years after the ambush.
Comments on the photos, as reported by the Irish News, include one by a former RUC policeman, who claimed that he and colleagues held “parties” in the van.
“During continuity training in 1988 we’d have parties in the back of it,” he said. “The orange lights of HG (Gough Barracks) made for an interesting spectacle as they shone the very many bullet holes.....”
Several other posters to the page also gloated about the deaths of the men, while one appeared to admit direct involvement.
A former soldier, who says he drove two dog teams into the area in a van on the night of the ambush, describes it as “one of the best nights of my army career playing a little part in the night....”
Unionists have again this year erected SAS flags close to where the nine men died in an annual attempt to provoke local nationalists.
Patrick Kelly’s sister Mairead said she was shocked by the latest development.
“If you make fun of people who are killed it shows the nature of the people doing it,” she said.
“Nobody with common decency would make fun of anybody who was killed.
“From a personal point of view it is absolutely disgusting and it is depraved, there’s no other way to describe it.”
Former republican prisoner Brian Arthurs, whose brother Declan was killed, said “any loss of life is regrettable in war or otherwise. These men gave their lives in a struggle for the freedom of their country.”
He said the actions showed the sectarian nature of the RUC and “the dehumanisation of a whole race of proud honourable people.”
“We look on this behaviour with contempt and it reflects the true nature of the state they profess to protect.”