Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Vigil marks 40th Anniversary of triple murder attack

Several hundred people attended a candlelit vigil in Silverbridge on Friday evening to mark the 40th Anniversary of the loyalist gun and bomb attack on Donnelly’s Bar in the village.

Relatives and friends of the attack’s three victims – 14-year-old Michael Donnelly, Patsy Donnelly (23) and Trevor Brecknell (32) – laid floral tributes and released lanterns in memory of the trio who died in the no-warning attack on 18th December 1975. A wreath was also laid to remember those caught up in the attack who had died in the intervening 40 years.

The notorious Glenanne Gang, whose members included serving RUC officers, UDR soldiers and UVF paramilitaries, were found to be responsible for the atrocity, and dozens of other murders throughout the area and beyond.

Family members and representatives of victims from other attacks were also present at Friday’s poignant ceremony as local parish priest, Fr. Kevin Cullen, led a decade of the Rosary in memory of Michael, Patsy and Trevor.

Trevor’s son, Alan, addressed the crowd and introduced his colleague from The Pat Finucane Centre, Paul O’Connor, whose research has revealed much of the truth behind the attack.

Mr O’Connor spoke about the progress which has been made in the investigations into the Donnelly’s Bar shootings since he first got involved with the Finucane Centre fifteen years ago, taking statements in the Clubrooms in Silverbridge from people who were either at the scene or in the bar that fateful night.  He underlined how much more is known about the nature of the incident – that it was not an isolated incident as was presumed at the time and of the number of legal cases presently ongoing into the further 120 deaths at the hands of the Glenanne gang.

The families of the victims have extended their heartfelt support to their neighbours, friends and all those who turned out in such numbers to show their support.

Speaking on behalf of the families, Alan Brecknell said it was “hugely gratifying” for them to witness the numbers that came out to remember those who died 40 years ago.

He said the vigil had not only been about remembering Michael, Patsy and Trevor but was also to remember all the support that the three families have received from the community over the last four decades.

“The huge numbers that turned up actually reiterated that to the three families,” said Alan.

“It was overwhelming how many people came out to show their support and we never expected it. It was heartening also to hear from people who could not attend, who personally got in touch to say they were with us in spirit. It was an amazing and important occasion and we are very thankful to the community for their unwavering and continuing support.”