Memories flood back of one of the North’s darkest days

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Trick or Treat” – that phrase has always had a chilling resonance for me. On a more innocent level, it’s now the catch cry of children all over the world as they go ‘trick or treating’ (or ‘mumming’ as we used to say when we were small) on Halloween night – but it was its use on a night 30 years ago that has always seared it into my mind.

It happened in Greysteel, a small village near the shores of Lough Foyle, about 10 kilometres from Derry City.

On that night there were about 70 people in a local bar, the Rising Sun. A Hallowe’en party had been organised and some people were wearing fancy dress.

At around 10 o’clock, three men wearing blue boiler suits and balaclavas entered the bar. Because people were in disguise, some people in the bar assumed the three were revellers playing a party prank.

The masked men were anything but that; they were terrorists from the Ulster Freedom Fighters attached to the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). Without warning they produced guns, two shotguns and an assault rifle.

The main gunman, Stephen Irwin, yelled out ‘trick or treat’ and then began shooting indiscriminately with his assault rifle. He reloaded and continued shooting. A second gunman, Geoffrey Deeney, saw his shotgun jam on him as he fired. The third, Torrens Knight, kept guard at the door with a shotgun.

Irwin did almost all of the killing. By the time the shooting stopped eight people were dead and over 30 injured. Among them were a young man and woman, 20 and 19 years of age. Of the eight who died, two of them were Protestant. Greysteel was a quiet place where both communities mixed.

As they made their escape in an Opel car, the three killers could be heard laughing and joking to each other.

TIn a conflict that claimed over 3,000 lives there were terrible atrocities, some with far more casualties than this attack. But it was the callous nature of it that was really borne home.

Pictured: The lounge in the Rising Sun pub after the Greysteel Massacre.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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