25 years on, anger continues over IRA proxy bomb which killed six

The scene in the wake of the attack
The scene in the wake of the attack

Saturday marks 25 years since the IRA forced a civilian father-of-three to drive a vehicle with explosives on board up to an Army checkpoint, killing him and five soldiers.

Patsy Gillespie, 42, died when the roughly 1,000-pound bomb exploded at Coshquin, Co Londonderry, on October 24, 1990, which was deliberately detonated as he tried to get out to raise the alarm.

The Galliagh man’s family had been held hostage to ensure that he complied, and his widow Kathleen Gillespie, said this week that she remains filled with anger over the attack.

Speaking to the Derry Journal newspaper she said: “My life is changed completely. Sometimes it feels like it happened yesterday and in other moments I wonder where the 25 years have gone.

“The stress of it all was making me ill and my doctor warned me to sort myself out.

“I was so full of anger and hatred. I still am, but I’ve had to realise that the good Lord will cope with that for me... I will never forgive those who murdered Patsy.”

The soldiers who died were King’s Regiment men Stephen Burrows, Stephen Roy Beacham, Vincent J Scott, David Andrew Sweeney and Paul Desmond Worral, all from England. They ranged in aged from 19 to 30.

The IRA mission to blow up Fort George Army base also caused serious damage to about 25 nearby homes.

Londonderry’s Catholic bishop of the time accused the IRA of “crossing a new threshold of evil” with the attack.

In recent years Kathleen has devoted her life to working with peace and reconciliation groups, and has just returned from New York with the ‘Theatre of Witness Programme,’ where she told her personal story of the bombing in an on-stage monologue.

She said: “My work keeps me going. I know I am doing good with it and know Patsy would be proud of the work I am doing. I feel his presence with me all the time and I talk to him all the time.”

In addition, today (Friday) also marks the 22rd anniversary of the Shankill Bomb.

The attack killed nine bystanders and one of the IRA duo who had been leaving the device.

The bomb had exploded prematurely in a fish shop on the road. The IRA team had been intending to target a UDA meeting happening in the property above.

It has been claimed that the timer on the explosives could only be set for a maximum of 11 seconds.

The surviving bomber, Sean Kelly, was among six people arrested by detectives in August investigating the murder of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan.

He was later released from custody unconditionally.

A plaque commemorating the bomber who died, Thomas Begley, was unveiled in north Belfast in October 2013.