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Republicans to remember four IRA men killed in premature blast 50 years ago

A wreath-laying ceremony will be held for four IRA men killed in a premature explosion 50 years ago on Monday
A wreath-laying ceremony will be held for four IRA men killed in a premature explosion 50 years ago on Monday A wreath-laying ceremony will be held for four IRA men killed in a premature explosion 50 years ago on Monday

REPUBLICANS are set to remember four IRA men who died when the bomb they were transporting exploded prematurely 50 years ago.

Gerard Steele (27), Gerard Bell (20), Joseph Magee (21) and Robert Dorrian (29) were killed as the drove in the Ballygowan Road area of east Belfast on February 21, 1972.

It is believed the IRA members, who were all from the Short Strand area of east Belfast, had been planning to leave a 20lb bomb at a bar in the Braniel estate.

Three of the IRA men died instantly, with a fourth dying a short time later.

Three other people were injured.

It is believed the device had been sitting on Gerard Steele's knee when it went off at around 3pm.

Mr Steele, who was from a well known Belfast republican family, is understood to have been the most senior IRA man in the car.

Eyewitness accounts described how the bomb scene was littered with debris after the explosion.

Two handguns were later found at the scene.

There are conflicting reports as to what happened in the run up to the explosion.

One report from the time suggests one of the men walked into the bar being targeted before leaving after recognising someone.

It has also been reported that the bomb team had been spotted by an RUC man and were forced to pull out of the area.

A large crowd attended the men's funerals and a volley of shots was fired over the their coffins at Leeson Street, off the Falls Road.

British soldiers later clashed with mourners as they moved in to arrest the republican firing party.

A wreath laying ceremony for the dead will be held at the republican memorial in Short Strand, An Tine Bheo, on Monday at 7pm.

There was further loss of life in the tiny nationalist enclave just three months later when another premature explosion claimed the lives of eight people, including four IRA members.

The victims died when a bomb estimated to be between 20lb to 40lb exploded in the Anderson Street area on May 28, 1972.