John Downey arrest: UDR men were both fathers-of-three

Convicted IRA man John Downey was arrested in relation to the IRA bomb which killed the two UDR soldiers in 1972. Photo: Pacemaker.
Convicted IRA man John Downey was arrested in relation to the IRA bomb which killed the two UDR soldiers in 1972. Photo: Pacemaker.

The two part-time UDR soldiers murdered in an IRA booby-trap in 1972 near Enniskillen were both married fathers of three.

James Edwards Eames, 33, was a post office engineer from Fermanagh while his 32-year-old colleague Alfred Johnston was a butcher who worked in a local bacon factory, also from Enniskillen.

Alfred Johnston was killed in the 1972 IRA bomb while on patrol with the UDR

Alfred Johnston was killed in the 1972 IRA bomb while on patrol with the UDR

Reflecting yesterday on the possibility of a criminal prosecution in relation to the murder of their loved ones almost five decades after they were murdered, the two families opted to stay out of the media spotlight in quiet reflection.

Ken Funston, Advocacy Manager with the South East Fermanagh Foundation, confirmed he has been supporting the Eames family for some time in their pursuit of justice, and also liaising with the Johnston family.

“They do not wish to speak to the press at this stage which is a traumatic and difficult time for them,” he told the News Letter. “They also want it acknowledged that James Eames and Alfred Johnston were two important and cherished people, yet the headlines so far don’t even mention their names.”

According to the Troubles reference work Lost Lives, James and Alfred both died while checking a booby trapped car abandoned by the IRA along the road at Cherrymount, about a mile outside Enniskillen on 25 August 1972.

James Eames was a part time UDR soldier killed in the IRA bomb in 1972

James Eames was a part time UDR soldier killed in the IRA bomb in 1972

The car had been stolen earlier some ten miles away in Kinawley and then left by the roadside

The four man patrol had been returning to Enniskillen after carrying out security duties at an electricity substation in Levaghey, when they came across the stolen Austin 1100.

The 150lb bomb exploded as Pte Eames and Lance Cpl Johnston went to check it. A colleague later said he saw them die in a blinding yellow flash.

“They were hurled through the air and just disappeared,” he said.

Fragments of the car were found up to 200 years away and a large crater was left in the roadway. The RUC found wires and batteries in neighbouring fields which they believed were used to set off the charge.

Thirteen men of the 97th Battery Field Regiment who were passing were also caught in the blast and treated for cuts and shock after their four tonne truck was blown 30 yards along the road.

Both victims were from Enniskillen and their funerals were attended by Secretary of State Willie Whitelaw.

At a memorial service for the victims in Enniskillen Free Presbyterian Church, Rev Ivan Foster said the bombing was part of an overall republican strategy of genocide against border Protestants.

“It is a tragic mark of the times that loyalists are gathering more and more around the grave sides of the sons of Ulster,” he said.

According to SEFF, although over 90% of Troubles murders in Fermanagh were carried out by the IRA, there was practically zero support for loyalist terrorism or retaliation against nationalists in the area.