Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 12:31 UK

UVF's catalogue of atrocities

Following indications that the UVF has decommissioned a significant amount of its weapons, the BBC News website looks back at the catalogue of atrocities carried out by the organisation during Northern Ireland's Troubles.


1971: MCGURK'S BAR, BELFAST

Just before 8pm on Saturday 4 December, a customer in the bar on Belfast's North Queen Street thought he could smell a stink bomb being let off.

Wreckage of McGurk's pub
Many victims were buried under the wreckage of the pub

It was in fact a UVF bomber lighting the fuse on a 50lb bomb.

Seconds later it exploded almost completely destroying the pub, claiming 15 lives.

It was the UVF's first major atrocity and to this day the biggest loss of life in Belfast in one incident during the Troubles.

Among the dead were the wife and daughter of the bar's owner, Thomas McGurk.

Philomena McGurk had been upstairs in the living quarters with 14-year-old Maria when the bomb went off.

Official sources initially claimed that the IRA had been responsible for leaving the bomb, a myth which held sway for years after the attack.

But in 1978, a UVF man received 15 life sentences after he was convicted of the bombing.

1974: DUBLIN AND MONAGHAN BOMBINGS

The series of car bomb attacks was the worst loyalist attack in the Irish Republic, claiming 33 lives. It was the single biggest atrocity in the history of the Troubles.

Twenty five of the victims were killed by three near-simultaneous explosions in Dublin.

Photograph of Dublin bombing aftermath
Nobody has been convicted of the 1974 bomb attacks

The bombs were detonated at the height of the evening rush hour; a bus drivers strike meant there were more pedestrians than usual on the streets.

Newspaper reports at the time described panic in Dublin as streets literally ran with blood.

Ninety minutes later another bomb exploded in Monaghan.

Five people were killed instantly, with another two dying in following weeks. The UVF eventually admitted the attack in 1993 but there was widespread suspicion among nationalists that it had been assisted by members of the British security forces.

This was borne out by an Irish government report in 2003 which found that it was likely that members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Ulster Defence Regiment had been involved in or were aware of preparation for the attacks.

1975: MIAMI SHOWBAND MASSACRE

Throughout the dark days of the early 1970s, the only entertainment to be had in many towns in Northern Ireland was a visit from one of the showbands - hardworking covers bands who played all over the island.

Three members of one of the most popular bands were taken from their tour bus and shot dead on a country road.

Miami Showband
The Miami Showband had been heading to a gig when attacked

The Miami Showband were heading to Dublin in the early hours of the morning after a gig in Banbridge, County Down.

They were waved down by a group of armed men in army uniforms.

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.

It's thought they 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.

1970s: SHANKILL BUTCHERS

The Shankill Butchers were a Belfast UVF gang so called because they tortured and killed some of their victims with weapons such as knives, cleavers and axes.

They were led by Lenny Murphy who was described as a psychopath and a sadist.

His gang was involved in up to 30 killings but earned greatest notoriety for murders of seven Catholics who were abducted at random, mainly in north Belfast, before being subjected to savage and prolonged attacks.

In one killing an attempt was made to decapitate a man while in another the victim had almost all his teeth ripped out with pliers.

Several members of the gang were jailed in 1979 after one of their victims survived and identified them to the police.

Murphy was murdered by the IRA in 1982.

1994: THE HEIGHTS BAR, LOUGHINISLAND

With a grim circularity, the UVF's last major atrocity was similar to its first - an indiscriminate attack on a pub.

It came just months before the first IRA and loyalist ceasefires and was part of an intense sequence of tit-for-tat attacks.

On the evening of 18 June, locals from the small village of Loughinisland near Downpatrick, County Down, were in The Heights watching the Republic of Ireland play Italy in the World Cup.

The Heights bar in Loughinisland
The murder victims had been watching a World Cup match on TV

Jack Charlton's men were on the way to a famous victory when the UVF gunmen walked in.

They raked the bar with gunfire from assault rifles and in a matter of seconds, six Catholic men lay dead.

Among them was 87-year-old Barney Green, one of the oldest victims of the Troubles.

Witnesses said the gunmen ran laughing to their getaway car.



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