Northern Ireland news

RUC men 'partied' in the back of Loughgall death van

The Hiace van used by the IRA at Loughgall in May 1987
Connla Young

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A former RUC member has boasted how he and colleagues held “parties” in a van where several IRA men were shot dead by the SAS more than 30 years ago.

The ghoulish revelation was made on a Facebook page believed to be used by British army veterans earlier this week.

Relatives of the dead last night branded the comments as “depraved”.

The admission was later removed from a thread on the Hereford Veterans Association page.

Hereford is where the British army’s SAS regiment is based.

A former RUC man has admitted that he and colleagues held "parties" in the van used by the IRA at Loughgall

Eight IRA members and a passing civilian were shot dead in Loughgall on May 8, 1987 as the unit attempted to launch a gun and bomb attack on the village police station.

Pictures of several dead IRA men and the bullet ridden Toyota Hiace van they travelled into Loughgall in have also been posted on the page.

Three IRA members are believed to have died while sitting in the van, while others were shot and killed nearby when the SAS opened fire.

Two pictures posted on the page also appear to show three dead IRA men lying on the ground beside the van, which was struck by more than 125 bullets.

Another photograph claims to show the rusting van pictured sitting in Gough Barracks in Armagh around 10 years after the ambush.

A former RUC member posted underneath the picture: “During continuity training in 1988 we’d have parties in the back of it.

“The orange lights of HG (Gough Barracks) made for an interesting spectacle as they shone the very many bullet holes…..”

The post was ended with an image of what appears to be a pint of beer.

The person who posted the picture then claims he “took loads of it on my photography course….”

Several posters to the page also gloat about the deaths of the men while one claims to have been involved in the British army operation.

The former soldier, who claims 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….”

Earlier this week it emerged that SAS flags were put up close to where the nine men died.

The IRA men killed were Jim Lynagh, Padraig McKearney, Gerard O'Callaghan, Tony Gormley, Eugene Kelly, Patrick Kelly, Seamus Donnelly and Declan Arthurs.

Civilian Anthony Hughes, who was travelling through the village in a car with his brother, was also shot dead by British soldiers.

Relatives they were victims of a shoot to kill policy.

Patrick Kelly’s sister Mairead said she was shocked by the 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.”

The grieving sister said she would like to see the culprits held to account.

“It’s disrespectful and they have to be held to account,” she said.

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 claimed 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.”

The Loughgal ambush van pictured years later in Gough Barracks in Armagh.

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