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Boylesports founder: Republicans and loyalists targeted our pub during Troubles

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Bookies empire: John Boyle

Bookies empire: John Boyle

Bookies empire: John Boyle

The founder of successful Irish betting group Boylesports has revealed how both republican and loyalist terrorists targeted his family's south Armagh pub during the Troubles.

Betting magnate John Boyle (61) - who built the business up from a single bookie's shop in Drogheda in 1982 to its current total of 220 outlets - revealed the story while speaking to Dublin newspaper the Sunday Business Post about the effect Brexit might have on the border area where he grew up in 1970s.

"We lived in a wee village in south Armagh. We had a pub that we lived above," he said.

"In the early 1970s that was blown up - the pub and the house.

"We were in it. But they gave us 20 minutes to get out."

That attack was carried out by a republican group, Mr Boyle told the paper.

But there was a second attack when loyalist terrorists bombed the Boyle pub.

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"There was the other time, we had the loyalists, not many years later, they came back and blew it up but, thank God, the second time we weren't living in it."

Mr Boyle, a former bread delivery man, said that in his youth terrorism was a fact of life along the border.

"I remember one day in Newry myself and another bread man were out on a day's work and we were stopped, and they threw a petrol bomb into the front seat, and it was burned on the street," he said.

Although the border has not held back the construction of the Boylesports betting empire, the businessman said he was no fan of Brexit.

"That's just what we wouldn't want," he told the Dublin newspaper.

"It would affect everything in a negative way.

"People have no interest in division - and that's what a border brings, especially in Northern Ireland with the troubles they had.

"Going by the vote in Northern Ireland, they didn't want a Brexit.

"We're in a country where there's going to be a hard border, and there's nobody looking for it."

Mr Boyle said he grew up with a hard border, and for him, the implications are psychological as much as physical.

There was a certain fear factor "even if you didn't know what you were afraid of", he commented.

"If there's a border, there's got to be division.

"Leave us alone - let us get on with doing the best we can," he pleaded.

The Armagh man, who now lives in Rostrevor, Co Down, stepped down from the role of chief executive of the betting business last week, passing executive control of the multi-million gambling empire to son-in-law Conor. It's understood he plans to roll out the Boylesports brand in Britain.


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