Republican figurehead Danny Morrison tells of his revulsion at atrocity and admits claims that police ignored bomb warnings were unfounded
Forty years after the horror of Bloody Friday, a one-time senior republican has described his feelings of personal shame.
July 21, 1972 is remembered for the carnage of an IRA bomb blitz across Belfast in which nine people were killed and more than 100 seriously injured.
Those who remember it recall a day of sheer terror and fear — one of those horrific news days that in the words of veteran journalist Robin Walsh showed “the real effects of terrorism”.
A number of unionists have used the anniversary to call on the Sinn Fein leadership to tell the full story about what happened on Bloody Friday and for the PSNI to launch a new investigation, as they have pledged to do for Londonderry’s Bloody Sunday.
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the attacks, Danny Morrison spoke to the Belfast Telegraph about hearing the bombs explode that day and, hours later, watching the news coverage.
He was 19 at the time— later becoming a senior figure in both the IRA and Sinn Fein.
“I heard several of the explosions,” he said.
“At the top of Broadway, a (republican) supporter came up to me in hysterics.
“Her husband was working close to Oxford Street bus station and she hadn’t heard from him. It turned out he was safe.”
Then Morrison — Sinn Fein’s former publicity director and a one-time IRA prisoner — described his personal feelings as he watched the television news that evening.
“I watched what looked like, and was, a human torso being shovelled into a black bag; felt ashamed and thought, my movement did this, which means I am also morally responsible.”
Bloody Friday came just weeks after the announcement of a bi-lateral truce, secret talks between the British Government and the IRA, which included Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, and then the collapse of that ceasefire.
Morrison said: “When I was quite young I cynically thought they (the RUC and Army) just ignored the warnings — allowed people to be killed to embarrass the IRA.
“But they just couldn’t cope. They were overwhelmed. That’s the change in my thinking. The IRA probably over-estimated the ability of the RUC/Army to cope.”
First Minister Peter Robinson said republicans needed to tell the truth about what happened on Bloody Friday.
He said: “Ten years ago, the IRA issued a half-hearted apology to civilians who were caught up in this terror, but those responsible have yet to explain why bombs were placed in locations such as banks, bus stations, railway stations and in residential streets.
“For the victims' families, real closure would be to see the perpetrators being brought to justice. Those who speak about truth commissions and the need for reconciliation would be taken much more seriously if they were to tell the truth about atrocities such as Bloody Friday.”
Meanwhile, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling on the Sinn Fein leadership to offer information to provide truth and closure for the victims.
Former UDR soldier and UUP peer Ken Maginnis said the PSNI should put resources towards a fresh investigation into Bloody Friday.
“I wonder if the Chief Constable would consider launching a criminal investigation to establish who was involved in the events of that day,” he said.
Danny Morrison was born in Andersonstown on January 9, 1953, into a staunchly republican family. He joined the IRA in the early 1970s and was interned in Long Kesh in 1972. After his release in 1975 Morrison was made Sinn Fein’s director of publicity. In 1990 he was jailed for eight years after being arrested and charged with kidnapping and conspiring to murder IRA informer Sandy Lynch. However, having serving five-and-a-half years in prison the conviction was declared unsafe and was among a number that were overturned in 2008. The reasons behind the Government’s decision to overturn Mr Morrison’s conviction have never been made public.