The New Lodge 6 Massacre on 3rd February 1973 began with the assassination of two teenagers outside Lynch’s Bar at the top of the New Lodge Road in what seemed to be a random sectarian drive-by shooting.
Secret British files, published here for the first time, provide evidence of assassination by state forces rather than random killing by pro-state extremists that began the New Lodge 6 massacre.
Many more were lucky to escape with their lives when the assassins double-backed after passing a British army Saracen and opened up on civilians at a Chinese restaurant.
The two teenagers, Jim McCann and Jim Sloan, were IRA volunteers although they had been socialising and were not armed.
Beginning a few minutes later, another 4 were to die in a kill zone 150 metres away at the junction of Edlingham Street and New Lodge Road. Machine-gun fire from the loyalist half of Edlingham Street was triangulated with sniper fire from the top of a New Lodge tower block.
The other 4 victims were:
- Tony “TC” Campbell who celebrated his 19th birthday on the night he was killed
- Brendan Maguire, 32, who went to TC’s aid
- John Loughran, 35, who had gone to Brendan’s aid (another man doing the same was badly injured by the same burst of gunfire)
- Ambrose Hardy, 26, who was shot whilst trying to get home to his mother, and waving a white flag
In the immediate aftermath of the New Lodge 6 massacre, the British army claimed all of the killings but said that they were all gunmen who had been killed in the midst of a gun battle between British forces and “terrorists”.
If John Loughran and Brendan Maguire had been wearing British Army uniforms, they would have won Military Crosses for their selfless bravery.
On 5th February, the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, David Howell, stood up in the British Houses of Parliament and said:
“Six were killed during a major battle between the security forces and IRA gunmen in the New Lodge area on Saturday night”
Dozens of civilian eye witnesses told a different story and, of course, it was later proved that the victims were unarmed and posed no threat to their British army killers.
Nevertheless, at the inquest on 27th March 1975, the Royal Ulster Constabulary claimed that officers had found the car used in the drive-by killing of the teenagers, Jim McCann and Jim Sloan on 5th February 1973, the day that the Minister of State criminalized the victims.
Police had apparently discovered the vehicle close to Tennent Street police station in a loyalist part of west Belfast. 8 bullets were taken out of the friends’ bodies and 8 bullet casings were found in the vehicle.
Of course, it is highly improbable that loyalists would have taken all of the other casings and left just 8 in the vehicle so close to a police station and without burning the evidence. If this was the car, the assassins wanted it to be found although you would have to be naïve to believe that this leant weight to the pretext that this was a random sectarian shooting perpetrated by loyalist extremists.
In fact, when interrogated by family counsel at the inquest, the police representative admitted “there is no direct evidence to show that this car was the car involved” (p.37, section 9 Community Inquiry). On 6th February, the day after the car was allegedly discovered close to the police station, the police had actually run an appeal for information about the location of the car in the local Irish News.
Anyway, the British army or British Minister of State have never retracted their statements and their claim for all of the killings. They have been consistent in that and secret archives to the British Prime Minister support this too.
Archives: British Prime Minister Informed That British Army Killed the New Lodge 6
I have a personal interest in this horrific case and not only because it happened in the area I was reared or that I know and admire the campaigning families. One of the teenagers who witnessed the attack at the Chinese restaurant and who had to dive for cover was my father, John. Like many who lived in the New Lodge, my father knew many of the dead and their families.
Over the past two years I have tracked and collated information at Kew National Archives relating to the murders as that is what they are if we accept its legal definition as defined by British law. I have kept my father and family representatives informed of my discoveries too and presented them to the campaign’s legal team.
The secret files are disturbing and prove beyond any doubt that the police failed in its investigation and even misdirected the inquest. They also prove how the state can cover up mass murder and criminalize innocent people, exactly in the same way as it did with the likes of the McGurk’s Bar and Ballymurphy Massacres.
In a file belonging to the British Prime Minister’s office, I discovered that the British Prime Minister was informed that the British Army had indeed killed every one of the New Lodge 6 victims (see below). PM Edward Heath has even initialed the document and dated it the 9th February – 4 days after the police were alleged to have found the assassins’ car. He is also told that all of the victims were all gunmen as well too, of course.
Nowhere in the following documents in the file is the British Prime Minister corrected – so the British Army claim of each death and criminalization of each victim remains.
“On Saturday 3 Feb the major violence took place in the New Lodge Road area where between 2345 and 0300 hrs 4 Feb an estimated 189 rounds were fired at SF [Security Forces] who returned 168 rounds and claimed 7 hits, 6 of the hits have been confirmed as bodies are [sic] in the RVH [Royal Victoria Hospital]. 5 of the 6 were known to the SF as members if [sic] the Provisional IRA or Fianna and there is an unconfirmed report of the involvement of the sixth.”
Only three of the victims were IRA volunteers – TC had joined a few weeks before, but the British may not have known that until he was claimed by the IRA as a member. The other three victims were not IRA members and all of the six were unarmed and posed no threat whatsoever to the British Army when they were executed.
Archives: Previous British Army Assassination Attempt and Criminalization of One of the Victims
History now records that killings by the state’s security forces, criminalization of the victim and failed police investigation follows a pattern in the north of Ireland. In Jim McCann’s case it had already happened to him before and only 6 months previously.
On Saturday 29th July 1972 a British Army sniper on top of one of the flats shot Jim in the back as he stood on Jim Sloan’s doorstep. He was unarmed and was just calling to see his friend.
Archives which I found record the incident. What is startling is that again the British army said that he was armed and used that as an excuse for the attempt on his life.
“New Lodge. 2 shooting incidents were reported, 1 of which involved SF. A gunman in Burlington St was fired at and was seen to fall. James McCann, 22 of Hartwell St was later admitted to the Mater with GSW and his condition was stated to be serious.”
IRA Volunteer Seamus Cassidy had been killed in similar circumstances by a British sniper from the top of the flats the night before. Again the British army said they killed a gunman whilst civilian witnesses record that he was unarmed and killed in cold blood.
When Jim McCann recovered – he was lucky to survive – he was not arrested or interned which is proof in itself that the lie he was armed was spurious and without foundation. He was not to be lucky the second time.
Military Reaction Force
Although the Queen’s Regiment was the resident battalion and would have logged the events of that night, we may query whether the initial assassinations which precipitated the killings were perpetrated specifically by a mobile unit of the Military Reaction Force (MRF) attached to the Queen’s Regiment.
A mechanic who witnessed the killing had noted that he car was weighted down on its suspension as if it was armoured. It was seen doing a few sweeps of the area that night and had laisser passer as it drove past British military installations and vehicles.
What we now know of the MRF from archives would also support the evidence that this was a British military Q car in use at the time by covert British army mobile units. The deadly modus operandi was the same too as in other MRF attacks such as the murder of Patrick McVeigh and the attempted murders at Glen Road bus terminus. The failed police investigations to the present day follow the pattern too.
It is notable that the New Lodge 6 case and the murder of Jean Smyth-Campbell do not feature in the present-day “investigation” of the MRF by the so-called reformed Police Service of Northern Ireland. It is also notable that the police botched both and will fight the families to retain the secret archives which will help inform their campaign.
Whilst their disinformation regarding the victims was disproved, the British army’s claim that its forces killed all six stands to this day. As the archives testify, in this we should take it at its word.
The killing of Vols Jim McCann and Jim Sloan was not a random sectarian shooting by pro-state Loyalists – there is no proof of that. The two teenagers were targeted and assassinated, and their deaths triggered a coordinated attack on anyone who happened to walk into a designated kill zone at the junction of Edlingham Street and New Lodge Road.
That makes the New Lodge 6 Massacre a horrific two-step operation – a planned attack designed to kill, and to terrorise the New Lodge community 43 years ago today.
This was our Ballymurphy Massacre or our Bloody Sunday. Yet again, though, British terrorism failed.
Vigil: The families and the wider New Lodge community will be commemorating the victims tonight at 7pm at Donore Court.
Community Inquiry: download the superb work of the Community Inquiry and further information on the New Lodge website.
In the News
Academic and writer, John O’ Neill, has pointed out the grave similarities in the media reporting of the New Lodge 6 massacre and the likes of the McGurk’s Bar atrocity. Again Information Policy and the various information agencies of the state will need examined for future litigation:
Contemporary newspapers, such as the Irish Times, appear to have accurately reported the circumstances of the killings in the immediate aftermath (see Irish Times, Monday 5th February).
This includes claims that British military personnel were responsible for the shots fired from the car – it is noted that eye witnesses believed the reason the car was able to fire on people without being intercepted by the Army was because those in the car were military personnel.
The papers also report and clearly label the British Army’s version of events, in which the British Army claimed that there were 30 separate incidents in the New Lodge Road area in which 200 shots were fired at them and they returned fire. Notably the British Army freely admit opening fire on numerous occasions without being able to log the specific engagements and connect them to killing/wounding individuals.
The British Army even go as far as to deny any loyalist involvement in the shootings.
The Irish Times noted that, while they reported a car wounded five outside a Chinese restaurant, the British Army did not report any incident taking place outside Lynch’s Bar. The British Army also noted that on all occasions when ambulances arrived to remove the wounded, security forces ceased firing.
If that was true, ambulance logs and security force diaries should provide a reasonable chronology to establish the pattern of fire bases used by the security forces on 3rd February.
Notably, a British Army spokesman denied that soldiers were using the new night sights on their weapons and that was the reason for the accuracy of Army fire. We now know they were.
On 6th February 1973, David Howell (Minister for six counties), again reiterated that there had only been a gun battle between security forces and IRA (ie discounting loyalist involvement).
Republican News (9th February) also makes it clear that they believed all six were killed by British troops.[Irish Times, 15th February 1973] A British morning newspaper on the 5th February reportedly claimed that forensics tests had shown all six killed had handled weapons. Solicitors for the dead had asked the Army to withdraw the statement as no tests were carried out until the 6th February and, then, it was only on two of those killed. The solicitors claim was confirmed by the RUC.