Belfast Telegraph

Glenanne gang: Notorious death squad 'fuelled by collusion'

The aftermath of the bomb in Monaghan town
The aftermath of the bomb in Monaghan town
Barry O'Dowd (24)
Declan O'Dowd who was shot with his brother

By Chris Kilpatrick

Four decades on, their name continues to evoke fear and revulsion.

The Glenanne gang was a loyalist Mid-Ulster murder squad which, it is alleged, included members of the security forces.

The terror group was linked to 120 murders across Counties Armagh and Tyrone over a five-year period in the 1970s, and one of its most notorious members was Robin Jackson, also known as the Jackal, who died in 1998 aged 50.

Reportedly an agent of RUC Special Branch, former UDR member Jackson is believed to have been involved in around 50 murders including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 and the Miami Showband massacre in 1975.

Since 2003 the group's activities have also been investigated by independent inquiries: the 2006 Cassel Report, and three reports commissioned by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron, known as the Barron Reports.

Father-of-three Patrick Campbell, believed to have been the gang's first victim, was gunned down at his Banbridge home in 1973. He had previously worked with Jackson at a shoe factory.

His widow has alleged police and Army officers colluded to protect her husband's killers. Nobody has ever been convicted for the attack.

The Miami Showband were returning from performing at a dance in Banbridge when their minibus was flagged down by men dressed in Army uniforms. Band members were told to line up in a ditch while UVF terrorists tried to place a bomb inside the minibus, which the loyalists hoped would explode as the band returned to Dublin. The bomb blew up prematurely, killing UVF members Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville. Both were also in the UDR.

After the explosion the gang opened fire on the band, killing lead singer Fran O'Toole, trumpet player Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy. Guitarist Stephen Travers and Des Lee survived.

The following year the Glenanne gang killed two sets of Catholic brothers, the Reaveys and O'Dowds, and attacked two bars in south Armagh.

John, Brian and Anthony Reavey were shot at their home in Whitecross, Co Armagh, on January 4, 1976. Joseph, Barry and Declan O'Dowd were murdered near Gilford on the same night.Colm McCartney was murdered at Altmackin in August 1975; Trevor Brecknell was killed at Donnelly's Bar, Silverbridge, in December 1975 and Michael McGrath was wounded in a gun attack at the Rock Bar, Keady in June 1976.

The gang's murderous campaign was revisted in a 2013 book that claimed collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries reached systemic levels during some of the worst years of the Troubles.

The book by Anne Cadwallader, Lethal Allies: British Collusion In Ireland, reported a number of then serving police officers and UDR members were part of the loyalist gang.

The author claimed new evidence of co-operation between the police, Army and loyalists further emphasised the need for a truth recovery process here.

Produced by the Pat Finucane Centre in Belfast, the book focused on the killings attributed to the gang, including the UVF Step Inn pub bombing in Keady in August 1976, which killed two.

The book alleged that RUC Special Branch was aware of the planned car bomb attack 10 days before, but failed to stop it.

Referring to the cases investigated, the centre said: "Lethal Allies concludes it can be demonstrated, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was systemic collusion in these cases and that such denials of human rights never contribute towards peace but merely serve to fuel conflict."

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