There has been strong local condemnation of a tribute to the notorious ‘Shankill Butchers’ who terrorised Belfast with their infamously brutal ‘romper room’ sectarian killings.
Among a list of dead UVF men, a mural off the Shankill Road now includes Lenny Murphy, his brother John Murphy, Robert ‘Basher’ Bates, and John Townsley.
They were key members of the gang which held Belfast in terror for seven years from 1975. They were notorious for slashing the necks of their victims, often after hours of torture.
The gang was responsible for at least 23 gruesome murders, usually targeting Catholics, but also some Protestants, in one of the most infamous serial killing sprees of recent decades.
The appearance of Lenny Murphy’s name – along with the other gang members – on the marble memorial has caused anger locally, according to the Sunday World. It declares ‘we will remember them,’ but even diehard unionists have rejected the move.
“He was a disgrace to loyalism,” said one local man, who was afraid to give his name.
“Lenny Murphy was a serial killer, and his brother John wasn’t much better. They were psychopaths who killed whoever they liked using the name of the UVF.
“Why anyone has decided to honour them now is beyond me, next to a plaque to war dead.”
“These men were as much of a danger to loyalists as they were to anyone else,” he added.
The memorial is just a street away from where the final victim of the gang was dumped in 1982, in Brookmount Street, where Lenny Murphy lived.
He came up with the gang’s hallmark murder method of slashing victims’ throats, often after mutilating them with hatchets. As their terrifying reputation grew, they would glory in telling victims they were in the clutches of the Shankill Butchers.
When Murphy was jailed for firearms offences in 1976 after trying to murder a Catholic woman in a drive-by shooting, he ordered one of his deputies, William Moore, to continue the cut-throat killings.
Another former gang member Eddie McIlwain was pictured last month erecting UVF flags in the area, and controversially taking part in an Orange Order parade the next day.
The leader of the Ulster Unionist party, Doug Beattie, condemned the plaque but shamefully attempted to equate it to recent IRA commemorations.
“We see time and time again people standing up and commemorating IRA terrorists and republican terrorists and that needs to stop as well,” he said.