North Belfast massacre remembered
North Belfast massacre remembered


A candlelit procession was among the events which were held to mark the 50th anniversary of the killing of six men in the New Lodge area of Belfast.

In the late hours of 3 February and the early hours of 4 February 1973, six men, all of whom were Catholics and unarmed, were shot and killed.

Jim Sloan and Jim McCann were shot by undercover British agents, while Tony Connolly, Brendan Maguire, John Loughran and Ambrose Hardy were shot dead by British Army snipers a short time later.

While loyalists were initially blamed, it is now widely believed that the British army’s undercover Military Research Force killed Jim Sloan and Jim McCann, both of whom were just 19 years of age.

British sharpshooters located in observation posts at the top of local high rise flats shot the other four, and then falsely claimed a “gun battle” had taken place.

Some of those killed were trying to help the injured, including John Loughran and Ambrose Hardy, who was shot in the head after he emerged from a bar while waving a white cloth.

Ahead of the anniversary, James Sloan’s son, Jim Sloan, has spoken about the death of his father for the first time. The 49-year-old told how his mother found out she was pregnant after his father’s funeral.

He said that he and his mother lived with his grandparents in the years after his father was killed and recounts how growing up he was often taunted and harassed by members of the Crown Forces. On one occasion, as a three-year-old, he claims he was told by a British soldier that his father was a “murdering b*****d”.

He said he was always non political and feels he needs to speak out now for the first time.

“I am only now because my granny and granda are dead and there is nobody else to carry it on,” he said.

The sense of loss for the father he never met remains.

“I was robbed of my da and he was robbed of fatherhood,” he said. “Because you see with my wee kids, it’s brilliant, and to think he was robbed of that for nothing, for something so silly. Because you believe in something and the other person doesn’t. To me it was just a waste of life on both sides - for what? Everybody has the right to their own beliefs.”

He said there’s always “a bit of sadness” on his father’s anniversary and that he normally marks the day with his children.

Last weekend, hundreds of family members, friends and neighbours of the six gathered in a ceremony to listen to the retelling of the horrific events. A new 15-minute documentary compiled by film maker Sean Murray was projected onto the tower block in New Lodge from where the British army snipers fired.

Sinn Féin MP for North Belfast John Finucane was the main speaker, and again denounced planned legislation which includes an amnesty for British war criminals.

“The British government’s Legacy Bill is about: amnesties for state forces; denying investigation; avoiding accountability and cover-up,” he said.

“This Bill will in law deny any family their legal right to an investigation in line with human rights law, or an inquest, public inquiry, or ability to pursue a civil action. It is a full-frontal assault on the administration of justice.

“It will deny the New Lodge Families their right to an inquest. This is beyond cruel and callous.

“The Legacy Bill is unworkable, it will not deliver for victims and survivors, it is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, and it is incompatible with international human rights obligations.

“These are the actions of a rogue state who fears the truth that basic legal process will deliver for families.”

And he called on the British Prime Minister to withdraw the Bill.

“The British government fear families who speak truth to power. They fear families seeking truth and justice.

“So again, to Rishi Sunak I say that neither we nor the families here tonight - will accept the denial of our basic legal rights and that this flawed legacy legislation should be withdrawn without further delay.”

John Finucane said the British government will not succeed in preventing the truth emerging.

“A success for one family is a success for us all, and a challenge or an obstacle to one family is a challenge to us all.

“Every single success a family has had in exposing the role of the British state here, in fighting for truth and justice, has come about in spite of, never because of, the actions of the British government. So we should not be surprised when they use crude methods to cover up their role.

“But they will ultimately not be successful.

“And the reason for this is very simple, it’s because of the families like the New Lodge Six we are remembering tonight, and many others.

“As we leave tonight, we carry the names of Jim McCann, Jim Sloan, Tony ‘TC’ Campbell, Brendan ‘Fat’ Maguire, John Loughran and Ambrose Hardy with us.

“And we say to the families we will always stand with you until truth and justice has been achieved.

“We are not giving up.”

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2023 Irish Republican News