30th anniversary: IRA responsible for ‘forgotten’ Londonderry atrocity

A News Letter report following the IRA bombs in the Tullyvally area of Londonderry in December 1987
A News Letter report following the IRA bombs in the Tullyvally area of Londonderry in December 1987

A woman whose father was traumatised by the bombing of a mainly Protestant estate in Londonderry 30 years ago has described the deadly attack as a “forgotten atrocity” of the Troubles.

Retired milkman Gerald Doherty – one of only a small number of Catholics living in Tullyally – was killed when one of three devices exploded outside his home around 10.30pm on December 16, 1987.

A number of other residents, including the father of Cynthia Adams, were injured when two bombs went off without warning. A third failed to explode and was identified as typical of those used by the Provisional IRA.

At the time, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said the IRA denied being responsible.

He also suggested the attack could have been the work of an RUC or army “dirty tricks” department. However, a News Letter report two days later revealed that a car used to transport the bombs to Tullyally had been hijacked in the republican Bogside area – and returned to the owner by the terrorists afterwards.

Ms Adams was a teenager and a close neighbour of Mr Doherty at the time of the blasts. Her father Walter was treated in hospital for his physical injuries at the time but it was the mental trauma that proved more difficult to get over.

Recalling the night of the attack, Ms Adams said: “It was a horrendous, horrendous event. My father suffered ill-health after that. It affected his nerves.

“I just remember people running out on the street, screaming, and fathers carrying their children out and people covered in blood. It wasn’t a nice experience.”

The bombing took place just weeks after the Remembrance Day atrocity in Enniskillen that claimed the lives of 12 people.

“It seems to be one of those events that it wasn’t on the scale of other events and has been consigned to a box somewhere,” Ms Adams said.

“From what I remember from reports was that it was Semtex that had been placed in plastic bags and that were transported from the Bogside in a hijacked taxi.”

“It was my late father’s birthday and he was tottering about in our garage when one of the bombs exploded. As can be expected my father was hospitalised and suffered severe mental health issues afterwards.”

Although no organisation claimed responsibility for the Tullyally attack, the RUC divisional commander for the area, Chief Superintendent David Turkington, described the incident as an “outrageous and sectarian attack,” and said the unexploded device has all the hallmarks of those used by the Provos.

Ms Adams said it was a “botched” exercise by republicans and “too big a co incidence that the corresponding house numbers in the crescent matched where members of the security forces weere living at the time.”

She added: “It doesn’t take a genius to work out who was responsible. Murder is murder and there is no justification for it.”