The 1972 bomb outside News Letter that killed seven and injured 147

Yesterday marked 47 years since an IRA car bomb exploded outside the News Letter offices in Lower Donegall Street, Belfast, killing seven people and injuring 147 others.

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 7:39 am
The News Letter front page on March 21, 1972.

Six victims were killed outright by the blast, while a seventh passed away in hospital just over two weeks later.

Despite the News Letter offices being extensively damaged and some members of staff sustaining injuries, the paper hit the streets the following day as normal.

The front page of March 21, 1972 carried pictures of the devastation under the headline ‘BLOODY MURDER’.

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According to the day’s paper, “ugly terrorists” had used a “bomb scare bluff” to get people of all ages to move from the safety of their city centre offices into the killing zone of a 100 lb car bomb.

The report of the incident said: “Police said the terrorists deliberately plotted to get as many people into Donegall Street as possible.

“Two false alarms were phoned in about another bomb just around the corner in Church Street. People were evacuated - towards the real bomb.

“Traffic was also diverted into Donegall Street.

“At 11.55am the Belfast Telegraph received a call saying a bomb had been placed in a car opposite the offices of the News Letter.

“Three minutes later – as nervous people milled about confused by the warnings – the bomb went off.

“The blast sent a ball of flame roaring along Donegall Street. Whole shopfronts caved in and scores of people were lacerated by flying glass from shattered windows.”

The report continued: “Within minutes of the explosion the entire area was sealed off by the security forces.

“Ambulances ferried the injured to hospital after the more seriously wounded had received emergency treatment on the pavement.

“Torn up clothing was used for bandages and tourniquets.

“One teenage girl, with a blood-sodden cloth held to her face, wept hysterically as she was carried to an ambulance.

“Press Association photographer Derek Brind was about 20 yards from the bomb when it went off. The blast hurled him to the ground – but he carried on with his job, taking photographs of the scene and the injured.”

Those who lost their lives in the bomb attack were two RUC constables – Ernest McAllister, 31, and Bernard Malachy O’Neill, 36 – three Belfast Corporation dustbin collectors – Ernest Dougan, Samuel Trainor and James Macklin – motorist Sydney Bell and pensioner Henry Miller, 79.

The horrific attack prompted then prime minister Brian Faulkner to ask officials at Stormont for a report into the possibility of prohibiting cars from being left parked in certain streets in the city centre.