Carnage at Oxford Street haunts ex-RUC man
A former RUC Constable has told of how he will never forget the horror of Bloody Friday.
The atrocity happened months after he had graduated from the training depot in Enniskillen and was posted to central Belfast.
The officer, who prefers to remain anonymous, was with about 80 other RUC officers and colleagues from the Military Police in Musgrave Street police station for “bomb transit duty”.
He recalled: “There were two Transit vans with about 10 police in each one and maybe four or five Royal Military Police cars crewed by one or two Military Policemen and one or two RUC men. That day the first bomb scares started to come through in the early afternoon. There were probably about 20 of them phoned in.
“The Provos usually used a code word to prove it was them. ‘Phoenix’ was one from around that period. On Bloody Friday the rub was that many of the bomb scares were hoaxes, but we duly responded in those areas.
“I remember standing in Winetavern Street dealing with a bomb scare, but instead there was an explosion about 50 yards away at the Irish News. No warning was given on that. There were other scares phoned in to Sawyers on the corner of Castle Street. As I was clearing that, another bang went off at Smithfield bus depot.
“There was absolute carnage when we got to the bus station at Oxford Street. I was in the first Transit there. There were about five or six in the Transit — we had already left two people at the Irish News and two at Smithfield.
“There was a wrought-iron railing about six or seven feet high. Two soldiers were blown through them; the effect was like a cheese grater. There were bits and pieces of flesh covering the railings.”
He went on: “There was a bus driver killed. I remember very clearly seeing a torso, with no head or no arms, with bits of an Ulsterbus uniform, grey serge with an enamel badge.
“We had a full-time reserve officer in with us. Although he didn’t know it, the torso was his brother, who was a reservist too. We were lifting body parts into plastic bags for hours afterwards.”
The Constable was later told by Special Branch colleagues that Gerry Adams was second in command of the IRA's Belfast ‘brigade’ and had planned the complex operation which involved 22 bombs detonated within 80 minutes.
Mr Adams has consistently denied any involvement in either Bloody Friday or the IRA, but gave a rationale for the bombings in autobiography, Before The Dawn.
He argued that the attacks were for “economic damage” and that adequate warnings were given but not acted on. He conceded the IRA planted “too many bombs”, adding that civilian casualties were “the IRA’s responsibility and a matter of deep regret”.