In what was one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, a night on the eve of Halloween in 1993, UDA gunmen entered the Rising Sun Bar in Greysteel, Co Derry (an Irish Catholic, nationalist area) and shot dead seven people and wounding thirteen. Another man died later from his injuries. Before opening fire, one of the gunmen shouted “trick or treat. “The youngest victim, 19-year-old Karen Thompson, replied “that’s not funny.”
What should have been a weekend of colour and spectacle as people celebrated Halloween turned to terrible tragedy in a matter of minutes. The attack in Greysteel happened a week after the Shankill bombing.
On 23 October 1993, a Provisional Irish Republican Army bomb prematurely exploded in a fish shop on Shankill Road, west Belfast. Eight Protestant civilians, one UDA member and one of the IRA bombers were killed. The IRA’s intended target was a meeting of UDA leaders, including brigadier Johnny Adair, which was to take place above the shop. Unknown to the IRA, the meeting had been rescheduled. Shortly after two IRA members, Thomas Begley and Sean Kelly, entered the shop dressed as delivery men and carrying the time bomb under a tray, it exploded accidentally, killing Begley along with the nine others inside the shop at the time. This became known as the Shankill Road bombing.
In 1995, Irwin, Deeney and Knight were convicted along with two others for involvement in the attack. Knight was also convicted for the Castlerock killings. In 2000, they were released early—along with other paramilitary prisoners—under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. After his release, Irwin joined the Neo-Nazi militant group Combat 18. Knight was also alleged to have had links to Combat 18.
In 2005, Irwin received a four-year prison sentence for slashing a man with a knife. This meant that he also now had to serve the eight life sentences he received for the Greysteel massacre. In 2006, he abandoned an appeal against the sentences. In September 2013, Irwin was released from prison a second time after submitting an application to the Sentence Review Commissioners for early release. The commissioners ruled his application should be granted and he was released immediately.
There have been claims in the media that Knight was a paid Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and/or MI5 informer. Knight denied the claims. In October 2007, a Police Ombudsman investigation concluded that police did not have any prior knowledge that could have helped them prevent the Greysteel attack. The investigators did not find any evidence that Knight was protected from the law.
Photo: (L) The memorial to the victims of the Greysteel massacre (R) Rising Sun Bar