Belfast Telegraph

Former Miami Showband man planning Newry peace centre

Stephen Travers
Stephen Travers
The aftermath of the Miami Showband massacre

By David Young

Miami Showband atrocity survivor Stephen Travers said yesterday a new peace centre established in memory of those who died in the 1975 attack would open in Newry next year.

It's a peace and reconciliation project that has been close to the former bass player's heart for a long time.

Mr Travers had been a member of the popular showband for just six weeks when it was attacked by UVF terrorists in 1975.

Two of the attackers died when a bomb they intended to plant in the band's van blew up.

The UVF gang - who were wearing Army uniforms - then opened fire on the defenceless musicians, murdering three and wounding two others.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Mr Travers said the proposed Miami Showband Peace Centre was a project he had been considering for many years.

"It's something that I've had in my mind for a long time.

"So many people have asked over the years about some kind of monument or memorial about the incident - and I think there couldn't be a better memorial than to establish a peace centre. And I think Newry is the perfect place for it."

Mr Travers was treated in Newry in the hours after the UVF attack which killed three of his bandmates - lead singer Fran O'Toole, trumpeter Brian McCoy, and guitarist Tony Geraghty.

Mr Travers is - with Eugene Reavey - a co-founder of Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TaRP).

TaRP has agreed that Newry is the best place for the proposed centre, and Mr Travers said last night that he expected the premises for it would be identified by next February.

"We are still fundraising and we're looking at a number of premises," the Tipperary man said.

"But we're confident that we will have a place that's totally non-political, a non-partisan place that can be used by victims and victims' groups to meet and perhaps have some dialogue together.

"Our mantra is basically that no 'side' has a monopoly on suffering or loss. What we began doing was to have events where people who were impacted by loyalist or republican paramilitaries, or security forces, tell their stories in their own voices.

"In our own case, there were five young lives lost at the time of the Miami Showband incident - three of our lads and two young men who blew themselves up on the night as well.

"I think it was completely futile and it shouldn't have happened.

"Those are the type of stories we tell, and the peace centre is a natural development of that.

"All of our events are held, as it were, 'mobile', travelling around various towns with our counter-radicalisation message.

"But we'd like to have a centre which could be our base.

"We've had a huge amount of support and offers of help. It's very encouraging.

"We're overwhelmed."

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