Slaughter of the innocents in post-Shankill killing spree

The daughter of UFF murder victim Mr Sean Fox (left with ponytail) is comforted after arriving at the murder scene in Harmond Park, Glengormley. Pacemaker Belfast
The daughter of UFF murder victim Mr Sean Fox (left with ponytail) is comforted after arriving at the murder scene in Harmond Park, Glengormley. Pacemaker Belfast

Within six days of the 1993 Shankill Road bomb blast, six innocent Catholics were murdered in four separate revenge attacks.

The loyalist killing spree culminated a week later with the massacre of seven more people at a bar in Greysteel, Co Londonderry on October 30.

Martin Moran who was shot and killed by the UFF on Donegall Road on 23/10/1993. Pacemaker Press

Martin Moran who was shot and killed by the UFF on Donegall Road on 23/10/1993. Pacemaker Press

Following the IRA’s atrocity on the Shankill – which claimed the lives of ten people – and the vicious loyalist backlash, those talking up the prospect of a meaningful ‘peace process’ were dismissed as delusional by many observers.

However, within two months of the carnage both the UK and Irish prime ministers would pave the way for progress with the Downing Street Declaration – accepting the principle that a united Ireland could only come about by democratic means.

The partner of the first Shankill bomb retaliation victim believes not enough has been done to cement the peace process that followed the ground-breaking 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Lorraine Girvan had given birth to daughter Amanda just five weeks before new dad Martin Moran was shot dead while delivering a Chinese meal in south Belfast.

The 22-year-old Catholic was murdered less than 12 hours after the Shankill bomb.

“The peace process didn’t come quick enough for us,” she said.

“I was terrified bringing my daughter up because I was so worried that anything would happen to her. I wouldn’t even let her go to sleep-overs when she was growing up. That maybe sounds a bit stupid but you have that fear in you. A split second and your life can be destroyed.”

The food order was bogus and a ruse to lure a Catholic into a UFF ambush. Mr Moran lived at Ava Street in the Ormeau Road area.

Ms Girvan said his murder has been completely overshadowed by the events of the Shankill and Greysteel massacres.

“My Amanda often said to me ‘why is my daddy not mentioned, why is my daddy not remembered?’

“People didn’t seem care who was getting killed. It was just madness and bitterness. There isn’t a word for it. He was a new father who didn’t get to know his daughter.”

Ms Girvan believes everyone involved in the spiral of violence shares the blame for the deaths on both sides of the sectarian conflict.

She was angered on the 20th anniversary of the Shankill bomb when republicans erected a memorial in honour of Thomas Begley – the IRA bomber who died along with the nine Protestant victims when his bomb exploded prematurely.

“What is he a hero of? Murdering innocent people? It hurts you more when you see things like that,” she said at the time. She said her views have not changed over the years.

“Martin was a human being, not just a Catholic, and his life was taken for what happened [on the Shankill]. He wasn’t involved in anything yet withal he was robbed of his life.”

Martin Moran’s grandchildren are aged three and 12 months.

“Amanda had to grow up without her daddy when everyone else had their daddy. She now has two daughters of her own,” Ms Girvan said.

“This has been a life sentence for us, but no one has ever been charged over Martin’s murder. They (the killers) are still getting on with their lives while we are left with the suffering. You live with it every day and that makes it worse.

“I get angry because I had to bring Amanda up on my own when we should have been with him. Now that Amanda has two daughters it hurts even more that he’s not here to see his wee grandchildren.

“Amanda often asks me what would my daddy think of the two kids. They have red hair and big blue eyes – just like him. There is just a gaping hole that never goes away.”

In the days following Martin’s murder, loyalist gunmen shot and killed a in Glengormley, two workmen at a cleansing depot in west Belfast and two young brothers near Lurgan in Co Armagh.

The brothers Gerard and Rory Cairns, aged 22 and 18, were attacked in their home at The Slopes, Bleary on October 29 by at least two UVF gunmen. They were hit at close range as they watched television. Gerard was a lorry driver and Rory an apprentice joiner.

Their sister, who had been celebrating her 11th birthday, told a local priest that when the gunmen brushed past her she thought they were playing a Hallowe’en prank.

According to the book Lost Lives, their father had left the house to collect his wife who was attending mass. Another of his sons, aged 15, had gone to a nearby house.

The coffins of the Cairns brothers were draped with their football jerseys, and a priest described them as “two fine young men who touched all our lives in their own special way”.

In an address to the congregation, an uncle said: “It is long past the time that the problems of our country – of our countries – should be resolved.

“How else should we expect to resolve these problems but by all of us sitting down and talking together, communicating with each other?”

A car used in the killings had been bought two weeks earlier at an auction in Portadown. The brothers were not connected wtih any political party or organisation.

The father of the two murdered men made a number of allegations to the Police Ombudsman, including that the security forces had ‘cleared a path’ for the killers to escape.

He also claimed that police had prior knowledge of the attack but did not intervene, however, the then ombudsman Nuala O’Loan concluded there was no evidence of any collusion.