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IRA bomber behind Falls Road blast was an RUC informer

Double agent triggered device that killed two as survivor sues Libya for supplying Semtex to the Provos

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West Belfast man Gerry McGivern died in July 2014

West Belfast man Gerry McGivern died in July 2014

Ex-IRA gunman Gerry McGivern with his unsuspecting partner Anne Mackay.

Ex-IRA gunman Gerry McGivern with his unsuspecting partner Anne Mackay.

West Belfast man Gerry McGivern died in July 2014

An IRA double agent was at the centre of a notorious ‘own goal’ explosion that left two civilians dead.

Police informant Gerry McGivern — who died in exile in England — can be named as a member of the Falls Road Baths bomb team that murdered Eamon Gilroy (24), Elizabeth Hamill (60) and soldier John Howard (29) in a no-warning attack.

His name emerged after a survivor of the devastating 1988 blast lodged a High Court claim against the Libyan government for supplying the IRA with Semtex used in the west Belfast slaughter, when Muammar Gaddafi was in control of Libya.

This is the first time that a compensation case of this nature has been pursued through the Northern Ireland courts.

Victims are now questioning whether the bombing could have been avoided because of McGivern’s role as a double agent.

One told Sunday Life: “I want to know if Special Branch had prior knowledge of this attack through its agent Gerry McGivern.

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Ex-IRA gunman Gerry McGivern with his unsuspecting partner Anne Mackay.

Ex-IRA gunman Gerry McGivern with his unsuspecting partner Anne Mackay.

Ex-IRA gunman Gerry McGivern with his unsuspecting partner Anne Mackay.

“It was a massive own goal for the IRA and no one has ever been able to explain why the bomb was detonated.”

The IRA took over the Falls Road Baths in the hours before the bombing, waiting on an Army foot patrol to pass.

However, its members inexplicably detonated the command-wire activated device after the soldiers had walked by, killing Eamon Gilroy and Elizabeth Hamill. Five other locals were also seriously injured, including a four-year-old child and her grandmother.

Soldier John Howard was blown up by a second bomb hidden in the baths targeting members of the security services who the Provos knew would be sent to seal-off the scene.

The IRA said in a later statement that it was “an operation that went tragically wrong”.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, who is representing one of the survivors, has been trying to establish the role informants played in the attack. The PSNI is refusing to co-operate with his requests for assistance citing national security concerns.

In an email it said: “Disclosure of the identity of informants would impact on the recruitment and retention of CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Sources) in general as this would place individuals and their families in danger.”

However, republican sources have been more vocal and named Gerry McGivern (right) as being among the Falls Road Baths bomb team.

This comes as no surprise to the victim whose compensation case is now before the High Court in Belfast.

He said: “McGivern was untouchable, he led a charmed life and now people know why — because he was being protected.”

When McGivern died from a heart attack in the south coast of England in 2014, his local Conservative Party club, of which he was an esteemed member, flew the Union flag at half mast.

What they had no idea about is that the 46-year-old, known locally as ‘Irish Gerry’, was an IRA killer and convicted drug dealer.

McGivern first joined the Provos in the 1980s and quickly forged a reputation as a ruthless bomber.

In 1989, the year after the Falls Road Baths explosion, he blew up soldier Steve Gill with a barrel bomb. The 19-year-old squaddie, who later appeared on Big Brother, lost both legs and an eye in the blast.

At the same time, McGivern was providing information to his Special Branch handlers leading to the arrest of more than a dozen IRA members from the Lower Falls. He also gave up the location of primed bombs and weapons — tip-offs that saved lives.

After one of these discoveries in 1991, McGivern, who was under suspicion from Provo bosses, was thrown out of the paramilitary gang.

The explanation given for the expulsion by republican chiefs was his involvement in the burglary of a pensioner’s home. However, the real reason was the belief that he was working for Special Branch.

McGivern only avoided being murdered by the IRA because of family friendships with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Later that year he was kneecapped by the Provos for stealing £6,000 from a supermarket on the Springfield Road while holding the owner and staff at gunpoint.

Fearing that it was only a matter of time before he was killed, McGivern gave himself up to police. In 1992 he pleaded guilty to IRA membership, armed robbery, criminal damage and aggravated burglary, receiving a six-year prison term.

After getting out of prison, McGivern moved to Liverpool where he became a leading member of a heroin-dealing gang. In 1998, he was caged for a further three years for supplying the drug.

Released in 2000, he relocated to Torquay, settling down with unsuspecting partner Anne Mackay and becoming a member of the Hele Conservative Club.

When Sunday Life revealed McGivern’s IRA past to shocked Tories in the seaside town, local councillor Robert Excell said: “I’ve no idea why the flag at Hele was flown at half mast when Gerry McGivern died, as this normally only occurs when dignitaries have passed away. I must admit, it is embarrassing.”

Following his funeral, partner Anne told a local newspaper: “He was a charmer, well-liked by everybody and had a heart of gold.

“He was a colourful character in the village. Everybody knew Irish Gerry.”

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

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