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Report claims UDR members questioned after murder of Tyrone IRA men

Pictured at a memorial in Cappagh are Paul Butler, Relatives For Justice, Pat Quinn, father of John Quinn, Mickey Armstrong, brother of Thomas Armstrong, Siobhan Nugent, sister of Malcolm Nugent, Dympna Armstrong, sister-in-law of Thomas Armstrong, Briege O'Donnell, mother of Dwayne O'Donnell and Mike Ritchie, Relatives For Justice. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Connla Young

Members of the UDR were arrested after the murder of four men in Co Tyrone 25 years ago, a report has claimed.

The victims, who included three members of the IRA, were shot dead when a loyalist gang attacked a country bar in Cappagh, near Dungannon.

IRA men Malcolm Nugent (20), Dwayne O’Donnell (17) and John Quinn (23) were shot dead along with Thomas Armstrong (52) at Boyle’s Bar on March 3 1991.

The three IRA members and a fourth man who survived were shot as they pulled up in a car outside the pub as the gunmen prepared to mount an attack.

It is not known if they recognised the occupants of the car.

Seconds later Mr Armstrong was killed as he stood in the bar after one of the gunmen opened fire through a toilet window.

The attack was later claimed by the UVF.

A new report on the murders published by Relatives for Justice claims that four members of the UDR were questioned by the RUC in connection with the gun attack.

It also stated that members of the UDR and RUC questioned customers in the bar several times in the weeks before the attack and on one occasion made sketches of the pub’s layout.

The ‘Collusion in Cappagh Killings’ document also suggests that undercover British soldiers may have looked on as the loyalist hit squad carried out the attack, which is believed to have involved Portadown-based loyalist Billy Wright who was himself shot dead in 1997.

Some of the weapons used were said to be Czech-made VZ58 assault rifles, believed to have been smuggled into the north by a British agent.

The Cappagh attack has been linked through the weapons and ballistics to 14 other incidents involving the deaths of 21 people across Mid Ulster between 1988 and 1994.

Cappagh is located in hardline republican area that at times was considered a no-go area for security forces during the Troubles.

The Irish News understands the main target of the attack may have been the IRA’s leader in east Tyrone who was in the bar at the time and who was under intense British army surveillance.

Sources said intercepted security force radio communications confirmed his movements were being monitored in the area on the night of the attack.

It is understood one of the dead men, John Quinn, also claimed he was told by RUC Special Branch officers that the senior republican was going to be killed just days before the bar attack.

The families of those killed have always maintained that there was security force collusion.

Dwayne O’Donnell’s mother Briege said people in her community want the truth told.

“It’s sad that so many fathers and mothers are dead and will never get the truth,” she said.

“It’s a very tight knit community and everybody looks out for each other.”

Malcolm Nugent’s sister, Siobhan Nugent, said relatives remain confident they can establish what happened.

“It had a big effect on the community, it could have been anybody,” she said.

Mike Ritchie from Relatives for Justice said the report raised issues that must be addressed.

“We believe there is a real nexus of collusion that underlies this case that needs to be unpicked if the families are going to have confidence in the justice system going forward.”

The Police Ombudsman’s Office has said it is investigating the case.

A weekend of events to mark the anniversary of the men’s deaths has been organised by the PH Pearse 1916 Society.

The report will be launched during a ‘night of reflection’ to be held in Galbally Community Centre tonight, while an independent republican commemoration will take place in Galbally on Sunday.

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