Belfast Telegraph

IRA victim hits out at 'sick' hunger strike parade through Derrylin

Up to 10,000 people are expected to turn out for Republican commemoration march

By Chris Kilpatrick

The family of a husband and wife murdered in their home by the IRA say the staging of a huge hunger strike commemoration close to the scene of the atrocity is sick and insulting.

Thomas Bullock (53), an off-duty member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, and his wife Emily (50) were shot near the village of Derrylin, Co Fermanagh.

The killers shot Mrs Bullock in the chest when she opened the door to them before stepping over her body to get to her farmer husband.

Next month up to 10,000 people are expected to turn out for a parade though the area in memory of the Maze hunger strikers.

Mr and Mrs Bullock's niece Dianne Woods said she felt physically sick at the prospect of the parade for the 10 paramilitary prisoners who starved to death in 1981.

Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew announced yesterday that this year's National Hunger Strike Commemoration would take place in the Fermanagh village.

She said she was proud the area had been selected "given the fact that Bobby Sands was elected to represent this constituency in 1981" and said the parade would be dignified.

But Ms Woods said she was devastated by the news.

"It makes me feel sick," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"There are no words to describe it. I feel my stomach turning at the minute. It's 42 years ago but it might as well be 42 days.

"It's devastated our family."

During the Troubles at least five members of the security forces were killed in the area.

A gang of up to six masked men carried out the brutal attack on Mr and Mrs Bullock.

They arrived at the isolated farmhouse in Aghalane just outside Derrylin at around 6pm on September 21, 1972. Mrs Woods said her aunt constantly worried about her husband's safety, often lying on the landing of the house in a sleeping bag to watch for Mr Bullock returning home.

"My aunt always had this awful fear," she said. "She always used to say if they come to get Tommy it will be over my dead body, and that's exactly how it happened.

"My uncle was watching the news. They knocked the door and when my aunt answered they blasted her. They then literally stepped over her body and went on into the living room and shot Tommy.

"I can still visualise being in the morgue with my uncle lying with a bullet through his temple.

"When the gang were leaving the area they blew their horns and cheered."

In the days after the double murder a vile call was made to an abattoir in the area telling them they had two bullocks for them to process. Nobody was ever convicted for the attack.

Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott said the event on August 3 would "retraumatise the families of those murdered by the IRA".

"We must remember that those who were on hunger strike were in prison, they were in prison because they were terrorists and criminals who had broken the law," he added.

"This is another move by republicans to try to justify their murderous campaign as being acceptable. It never was acceptable and never will be acceptable to all right-thinking people."

Ms Gildernew said the hunger strikes were a key part of history and the event would provide a financial boost to the area.


Bobby Sands died on May 5, 1981 in the Maze Prison hospital after 66 days of a hunger strike. Aged 27, the IRA member was the leader of the 1981 hunger strike which saw 10 republican prisoners starve themselves to death in protest over prisoner status and conditions. During his hunger strike, he was elected as MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Government was determined not to give into the prisoners' demands and the protest continued. The strike came to an end 217 days after it had begun.

Catalogue of republican killings in a Fermanagh village

  • September 1972: Thomas Bullock (53), an off-duty member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, and his wife Emily (50) were shot and killed at their home at Aghalane, near Derrylin.
  • April 1974: George Saunderson (58), an ex-member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, was shot by the IRA in the canteen of a primary school of which he was the headmaster. Children heard the shots as the father-of-four was murdered.
  • December 1974: John Maddocks (32), a member of the British Army, was killed by a booby-trap bomb hidden in a milk churn left in a field near Derrylin. The bomb disposal officer was examining the object when it blew up. His family were later refused compensation for the father-of-three's death.
  • February 1985: James Graham (39), an off-duty member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, was shot while driving a school bus. The father-of-two was one of three brothers murdered by the IRA. He was gunned down as he arrived at a school to take the children to swimming lessons.
  • April 1988: Farmer William Burleigh (51), an off-duty, part-time corporal in the Ulster Defence Regiment and an Orangeman, was killed by a booby-trap bomb attached to his car at Tirraroe, near Derrylin. He was married and had five children.


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