Greysteel: The violence of the Troubles was visited on a quiet village
WHAT made Greysteel stand out in a litany of shocking atrocities was the contrast between the normality of the victims and the hatred displayed by their killers.
The Rising Sun bar was deliberately chosen by the leadership of the UDA as a target for revenge after the Shankill bombing. It was far away from Belfast and would not attract a large security presence in the aftermath of the Frizzell’s fish shop murders.
It was unremarkable in any way. The UDA wanted to extract a terrible revenge for Shankill. In choosing the Rising Sun, the UDA was certain all its victims would be innocent.
The bar, just off the main Derry to Limavady road, is typical of countless pubs the length and breadth of Ireland. It’s local pub, catering for the tastes of customers who are able to walk to it. In the Rising Sun, the conversation was as likely to be about the fortunes of Faughanvale GAC as it is about the local cricket league.
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On October 30 1993, people gathered in the Rising Sun for a typical Saturday night’s entertainment. It was a scene being re-enacted all over Ireland.
As he opened fire with a Czechoslovakian-made assault rifle, UDA killer, Stephen Irwin shouted “trick or treat.” He callously emptied the magazine before re-loading and continuing to shoot at his screaming, terror-filled victims.
Geoffrey Deeney opened fire with a 9mm handgun but it jammed while Torrens Knight stood guard at the door with a shotgun.
When journalists were allowed to view the inside of the bar the following morning, the overturned tables and pools of thick blood were still visible around the floor. There was a rawness about the scene.
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At the victims’ funerals, then SDLP leader John Hume famously broke down in tears. He was approached by a relative of one of the victims who told him that as they prayed around the coffin the night previously, they prayed that he would continue his work for peace.
Within days, the four killers had been caught. As he was led from Limavady courthouse where he had just been charged with mass murder, Torrens Knight screamed abuse at waiting crowds.
Handcuffed to a police officer, his hate-filled face remains one of the iconic photographs of the Troubles.