| 6.8°C Belfast

Ex-IRA prisoner Tarlac Connolly who killed nun and RUC officers passes away

Close

Died : Tarlac Connolly

Died : Tarlac Connolly

PA Archive/PA Images

Died : Tarlac Connolly

A prominent republican convicted of the murders of three RUC officers and a nun has passed away.

Ex-IRA prisoner Tarlac Connolly, who had been in ill-health, was buried on Thursday after a funeral service at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh city.

The 59-year-old was jailed for life in 1992 for the killings of the three officers and a nun two years earlier.

Constable William Hanson, Reserve Constable Joshua Willis and Reserve Constable David Sterritt all died instantly when their unmarked patrol car detonated a 1,000lb landmine hidden in a culvert.

Sister Catherine Dunne, who was in a car travelling in the opposite direction, was also caught in the explosion. She was the only nun killed as a result of the Troubles.

The force of the blast on the Killrea Road threw the RUC vehicle over a hedge and into a field where it landed on its roof. It also blew a crater 20ft deep and 30ft wide in the ground. A social worker who had been travelling in the same car as Sister Catherine was seriously injured.

Connolly, who was jailed for a minimum of 20 years, had an appeal against his conviction rejected in 1994.

He was freed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 2000.

A talented musician, after his release he became involved in community projects throughout Armagh.

He also campaigned on behalf of his cousin Peter Ryan, who was one of three IRA men shot dead by the SAS in Coagh, Co Tyrone, in 1991.

In a 2009 interview, he said: "Our concern is not that it was a shoot-to-kill. They were involved in a war situation and that was the consequences of war. Soldiers do what soldiers do.

"Our concern is that our relatives were dragged off the road wounded after this incident and burned, and that breaks the Geneva Convention and is a war crime.

"We want the person who took that decision to face a war crimes tribunal in The Hague."

In 2017, PSNI officers from the Legacy Investigation Branch arrested two men aged 55 and 54 in connection with the IRA bomb murders for which Connolly was convicted. They were later released without charge.

At the time republicans blamed a former senior IRA member from Armagh turned drug dealer on providing police with new information about the killings.

He had been arrested just weeks before on a major organised crime charge.

Belfast Telegraph