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Ivan Little on La Mon firebombing: A deadly, horrific inferno that literally brought the Troubles to my doorstep

By Ivan Little

Published 03/11/2016

Ivan Little outside building
Ivan Little outside building

Nothing could have prepared me for that fateful first shift as a duty news editor in Downtown Radio, on all-too-memorable night I wish I could forget.

The first indication of the hell that was to come was in a phone call from a freelance photographer, Bill Hamilton, who was wearing his other hat as an ambulance man.

He said there had just been a massive explosion at La Mon House Hotel, causing casualties on a massive scale.

I knew the information was sound and my first priority was to find a reporter to go to the hotel. And Eamonn Mallie was quickly on the scene to confirm the worst with a sickening prediction that the death toll could reach double figures.

I broadcast a news flash and in his subsequent chilling and graphic reports, Eamonn talked of seeing what looked like logs being taken away from the inferno - they were charred corpses.

Little did I know that some of the bodies and many of the casualties were actually friends and church associates of members of my family.

And one of the most seriously injured was a girl who lived directly opposite my parents' home, which literally brought the Troubles to my own doorstep.

After moving from Downtown to UTV, I made a documentary to mark the 10th anniversary of the atrocity and forged close bonds with some of the survivors.

What I found difficult to share with them was the fact that, after the only man who was ever accused of the murders was acquitted of all charges against him, I gave him a lift home from court because his lawyer said he would probably give me an interview in return.

Throughout the journey to west Belfast Edward Manning Brophy said he'd had nothing to do with the bombing. And he reasserted his innocence on camera.

But my contacts in the RUC insisted they'd got the right man. And half of west Belfast knew it too, they said, because dozens of people had telephoned the RUC's confidential telephone to tell them that Brophy was the bomber.

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