Record turnout in memory of 1970 shooting victims
Last Friday’s (June 23) east Belfast march in memory of Jimmy McCurrie and Bobby Neill who were murdered by the IRA in June 1970 passed peacefully — but with a large marshall and police presence.
Jimmy McCurrie and Bobby Neill were murdered on June 27/28, 1970, by IRA snipers in the grounds of St Matthew’s Church on the Newtownards Road.
In the wake of the violence that has marred east Belfast since last Saturday the march went ahead without incident.
Spectators were barred from moving along with the bands at the beginning of the interface at St Matthew’s Chapel by marshalls and the PSNI were present en force and used large screens to keep nationalist youths away from the |parade.
Westbourne Presbyterian Church minister Reverend Mervyn Gibson condemned all the violence from both sides of the interface on Friday before a minute’s silence was held for Bobby Neill and Jimmy McCurrie.
Rev Gibson said that it was a fact that the two murdered men were shot from the chapel, just like those shot in the legs amidst the violence of Monday and Tuesday of last week. “Those are the facts of the matter,” he said.
“There has never been trouble at this parade,” he told the Community Telegraph. “It is very much for the families, it is always dignified and it is good for the families to know that their loved ones are remembered by the community.
“You have to remember these men have never had justice,” he said: “The truth has never come out about their murders, and we still hope that it will.”
He said the weather on Friday night was the worst the parade and service has seen and yet there were more people out on the street than in previous years to show support for the McCurrie and Neill families.
Mr McCurrie’s widow Kathleen, who is now in her 80s, braved the rain to attend along with some of her four children.
One of her daughters carried the banner at the front of the parade in memory of her father.
Mrs McCurrie said the 41 years since her husband’s murder had been a life sentence for her.
No one has ever been convicted of the murder and the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) told her that no prosecutions are ever likely to be forthcoming.
She said that while those responsible have not faced justice in life, they will be judged for what they did in death.
An official memorial to the men and three others killed that night stands on the Newtownards road, the bands that marched on Friday laid a weath at the site of the memorial in memory of the deceased.