Thirty years on, TV documentary relives horror of funeral murders

Previously unheard testimonies of those affected by the terrorist events of March 1988 in Belfast will be revealed in a major new BBC2 documentary later this month.

One of the UK’s top filmmakers has spoken to a number of people whose lives were changed forever 30 years ago when sectarian tensions threatened to spiral into unprecedented violence.

Corporal Derek Woods emerges from his car with his gun in hand and is quickly beaten to the ground by the mob at the IRA funeral of Kevin Brady in March 1988

In The Funeral Murders, Vanessa Engle hears the testimony of bereaved relatives, security force members, republicans and loyalists who witnessed the brutality of both Michael Stone’s murderous attack at Milltown, and the savagery involved in the murder of two Army corporals three days later.

The tragic chain of events was sparked when the SAS shot dead three IRA members on March 6 in Gibraltar as they prepared for a bomb attack on the British overseas territory.

At the triple funeral in Milltown cemetery 10 days later, loyalist gunman Stone began throwing grenades and firing pistols at mourners killing three people and injuring more 50 others.

As the world’s media then turned its attention to the funeral of one Milltown victim, IRA member Kevin Brady, two Army corporals inexplicably drove into the path of the cortege.

Loyalist gunman Michael Stone attacks mourners at an IRA funeral in Milltown cemetery

In suspecting another attack on a paramilitary funeral, the crowd surrounded the soldiers’ Volkwagen car. Despite disarming and stripping the two corporals to their underwear, the mourners continued a frenzied attack before handing the pair over to be shot dead by the IRA.

In examining the events of 30 years ago, the filmmaker said she wanted to understand the tensions during what was one of the darkest chapters of the Northern Ireland conflict.

Ms Engle said: “The film is in its own terms a document of historic importance, given that the conflict in Northern Ireland witnessed some of the most cataclysmic events to have taken place in the UK since the Second World War.

“But beyond its value as a document of historical record, it also has contemporary resonance, 30 years on from the funerals in showing how enduring conflict arises when groups of people have politically polarised views.”

Patrick Holland, controller of BBC Two, describes the documentary as “a hugely important and powerful film” and added: “Vanessa has made a film where the past feels intensely immediate as well as showing how far the communities of Northern Ireland have travelled over the last 30 years.”

• The Funeral Murders will be broadcast on March 19 at 9pm.

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