Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

‘Victim’s family opposes RHC legalisation attempt’

News that the loyalist paramilitary group – which was responsible for the murders of three people in a gun and bomb attack at Silverbridge in 1975 – is seeking to be legalized, has been met with opposition by some of its victims’ families.

The Red Hand Commando (RHC) carried out the December 1975 attack on Donnelly’s Bar, killing father-of-three Trevor Brecknell (32), Patsy Donnelly (23) and 14-year-old Michael Donnelly, the owner’s son.

On Wednesday last, a delegation representing the organization, and backed by the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), travelled to London to petition the Home Office to be de-proscribed. 

In a statement the LCC said: “It is further hoped that this course being taken by the Red Hand Commando can lay out a road map for the transformation of loyalist groups in general and that this action might be followed in due course by the other two main loyalist groups.”

Reacting to the news, Trevor Brecknell’s son Alan says, while the move away from paramilitary association is to be welcomed, the name of the RHC is “soaked in blood” and should not be used in connection with community work.

“It is obviously very laudable that people are trying to improve their community and move young people away from paramilitarism, but I just don’t see how you can do that while holding onto the Red Hand Commando name. The role of a commando is to kill people,” he said.

Alan was seven years old when his father was killed and he now works at conflict resolution with the Pat Finucane Centre.   He says it is good that supporters of the RHC are engaging in community work “to get people moving in the right direction” but questioned the necessity for the organization to retain its name, claiming it is “soaked in blood and brings back so much heartache and pain for so many people”.

Kenny Donaldson, the spokesman for Innocent Victims United, said the RHC request to be de-proscribed is “not appropriate”.

“Our first concern is with the innocents and their families whose lives were stolen as a result of the terrorist actions of the RHC,” he said.  “The IRA, UVF/RHC, INLA, UDA etc must be remembered in history for what they were – organisations of oppression with ideologies which encouraged and indeed demanded one neighbour to murder another.

The decision on de-proscription is made via the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) by Secretary of State James Brokenshire, who has 90 days to consider the application.