Belfast Telegraph

IRA man Alex Murphy who killed corporals 'unrepentant', funeral told

The coffin of Alex Murphy is carried along the Falls Road in west Belfast
The coffin of Alex Murphy is carried along the Falls Road in west Belfast
Alex Murphy
Corporal David Howes
Corporal Derek Wood
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Police are reviewing footage following a paramilitary-style funeral in west Belfast for an IRA man convicted of killing two corporals in 1988.

Alex Murphy (61) received a life sentence along with Hugh Maguire for killing Royal Signals corporals Derek Wood (24) and David Howes (23).

The soldiers were shot dead after being dragged from their car, stripped and beaten by a mob when they strayed into the funeral cortege for IRA man Kevin Brady, one of those killed when loyalist Michael Stone attacked a funeral at Milltown Cemetery.

A graphic photo of Fr Alec Reid kneeling to give the last rites beside Mr Howe's body has become one of the most harrowing images of the Troubles.

Murphy, a father-of-four, died last Thursday and hundreds gathered on the Falls Road yesterday as a coffin draped in the Irish tricolour was carried from his home.

Around 15 men in the funeral parade wore berets, sunglasses and black jackets bearing the symbol of the Provisional IRA's D Company 2nd Battalion.

Nicknamed the Dogs, the notorious Belfast unit was responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, including Bloody Friday in June 1972 which saw at least 20 car bombs detonated across Belfast, killing nine people and injuring 130.

At the garden of remembrance, where members of the unit are honoured, the coffin was saluted by those wearing uniforms during a minute's silence.

Henry Reid, a friend of the deceased, told the crowd that Murphy - also known as Alec - remained unrepentant about his IRA past and became "disillusioned" when he was no longer needed after the armed campaign ended.

He said Murphy was 12 when he heard "gun battles raging on the streets", referring to the Falls Road curfew in July 1970.

The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Alex Murphy takes place on the Falls road in west Belfast August 19th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Four civilians were killed by the Army when gun battles broke out with the IRA following a two-day military curfew and extensive house searches.

Murphy was also arrested at 15 and was one of the youngest internees in Long Kesh.

As "a very active volunteer" he was returned to prison on more than one occasion.

In the only reference to Murphy's role in the corporals' deaths, Mr Reid said the killing of three IRA members by the SAS in March 1988 "set off a chain of events which would result in Alec again finding himself inside a prison cell, he was charged with murder and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment on June 1, 1989".

He was released after 10 years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and immediately reported back to D Company.

He added: "But like many before him, it was clear that Alec's type of service was no longer needed and he was sidelined and became disillusioned.

"He was cast aside and forgotten about by those now in high positions, what a shame."

He said Murphy was unrepentant, adding that he "never tried to sanitise his involvement in the liberation struggle".

"And is on the record as saying if he had to do it all again, he would."

A police Land Rover fitted with a camera was present as the funeral cortege proceeded to St Peter's Cathedral.

Superintendent Lorraine Dobson said: "An evidence-gathering operation was in place.

"Police will now review all evidence gathered and, if any offences are detected, a police investigation will be carried out."

During the funeral Mass, Fr Martin Graham made no direct reference to Murphy's crimes, but said he was "profoundly affected" by the outbreak of the Troubles.

"He would be in and out of jail for most of his life.

"But that is not to say that Alec had no other focus because we know he had many," he said.

"He excelled in hurling and Gaelic football and boxing at Immaculata.

"And above all of that, he loved his family.

"His parents and brothers and sisters, and then his own children and grandchildren as they came along."

He is survived by his children Sean, Mairghread, Piaras and Conall.

His three sons were among family members who gave readings before his remains were taken to Roselawn Crematorium.

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