Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Sunday, 21 June 2009 12:53 UK

'Best wishes' as UVF decommission

Scene of the massacre
The group were waved down by a group of armed men in army uniforms

A survivor of the Miami Showband massacre contacted a former UVF and Irish government intermediary to congratulate the paramilitary group on its decision to decommission, it has emerged.

Bassist Stephen Travers phoned Rev Chris Hudson on Saturday to ask him to pass on his "best wishes".

Three members of the popular band were taken from their tour bus and shot dead on a country road after a gig in Banbridge, County Down, in July 1975.

They were waved down by a group of armed men in army uniforms approximately four miles outside Newry.

It was a UVF gang who had seemingly planned to load a bomb onto the bus and have it explode as the band drove south to Dublin.

"Only yesterday I received a phone call from Stephen Travers, one of the survivors of the Miami Showband massacre," said Rev Hudson, speaking on Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence programme.

The Miami Showband
It is thought the UVF intended to smear the band as bomb carriers

"Stephen has met with members of the UVF in my church, and he phoned me and asked me to pass on to them his best wishes and success in what they were doing in bringing finality to the situation, the problems here in Northern Ireland."

It is thought the UVF intended to smear the band as bomb carriers and damage all showbands by association.

However, the bomb exploded as it was being loaded on board, killing two of the UVF men.

The rest of the gang opened fire, killing the band's lead singer Fran O'Toole, Tony Geraghty and trumpet player Brian McCoy.

Two Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers were sentenced to 35 years in prison for their role in the killings.

In court the judge said the death penalty would have been imposed had it not been recently abolished.

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