Chapter 9: MRF hit on Brigade meeting
The next day’s newspapers were full of the news that a local IRA feud in Glenbeg had developed into a full scale riot, with the RUC and Army separating the two sides with much difficulty. The rioting had gone on all night with cars and buildings being burnt. Dozens had been badly injured in the rioting and fighting. It was reported that several of the rioters had been detained but released without charge.
Sean had been thrown into the back of a jeep and unceremoniously dumped at the top of the short driveway to his house. Ann, Hugh and his brothers had been waiting at the house, worried and planning what to do when they heard the roar of the engine as the army vehicle came closer to the house. They ran out the door as the jeep slowed down and tossed Sean from the back and then sped away. They ran swiftly to Sean’s prone form and lifted him up and carried him between them to the house. Ann sobbing and holding his hand squeezing it like she would never leave it go again. The kids stood worried by the door. Sean was still dazed and incoherent. They laid him on the sofa covered him with a blanket and pressed a damp cloth against his forehead.
He looked at them and smiled crookedly at Ann “I’d kill for a cuppa and a fag” he whispered hoarsely.
Seamus his brother, went out to the kitchen to boil the kettle.
Sean squinted at Ann “What time and day is it?” he asked then before she could answer he pull on her arm noticing the bandage for the first time.
“What happened to your head?” he urgently croaked.
Ann smiled and kissed him, “its Wednesday morning just before nine. I got a belt of a baton last night when the bastards lifted you. It’s nothing. Hugh came soon after they had taken you and found me unconscious out the front. The kids were all huddled around me trying to keep me warm. Your mam patched me up and I’m heading to the doctors now that you are home safe and sound.”
Sean sat up on the sofa, sipping his tea and drawing deeply on his cigarette, his body still occasionally going into spasms and cramps.
Hugh said firmly “Look, we have a lot to talk about but you need your rest. Now that we know you are home safely, I am going to visit the other families and make sure everyone is home safe and sound. You need to sleep and rest up. I’ll be back this evening or tomorrow morning.”
In the background the phone rang, Seamus answered it and came back. “Thank God Stephen is home safe too, that was his dad.”
“Right” says Hugh as he patted Sean’s hand “get rest and we can talk later.”
Seamus said “I’ll bring the wee ones to my house to give ye some time alone.”
Ann nodded gratefully as she helped Sean down the hallway to a good hot bath.
Sean sat stretched out in the tub, the hot water relaxing and unwinding his muscles. Ann poured in another basin of boiling water into the tub. She lit a cigarette and put it into Sean’s mouth
“I’m off to the doctor, I’ll be back as soon as I can” she said. “It will be a while” she added “there are so many people injured last night after the Police and Army rioted.”
Sean raised his eyebrows “Oh” he said “what happened?”
“Your dad and O’Malley the Sinn Feiner organised a protest at the barracks. Dáithí had his group already to start some trouble if it was needed. But he didn’t have to start anything. Everyone had gathered up by Cleary’s pub. There were all the families plus nearly the whole town and countryside. A thousand people surely.”
Sean raised his eyebrow “Da and O’Malley?” he asked surprised.
Ann smiled “Aye, hard to believe but O’Malley and your Dad actually agreed on how to best respond and worked together last night.”
Sean took a deep drag on his cigarette and nodded silently as Ann continued “So we started walking down to the barracks, there was some chanting but mostly people were just marching and talking to each other. Everyone was just so shocked and outraged that we just wanted to talk to the coppers to get everyone released or something, we didn’t know what really. But we didn’t even get to the main gates when they burst open the front gate and they just charged us! They came racing at us firing rubber bullets straight at us and live ammo into the air. Then they just wailed into us, swinging their batons, kicking and beating up anyone that they could grab. Dáithí and his lads tried their best but they were hopelessly out numbered.”
Ann shook with nerves as she remembered “The marchers in front were turning in terror to try to get back up the street away from the cops and Brits. There was mayhem. Dozens of people were being beaten, men, women, old and young everyone was getting it. Eventually everyone that was able had run and scattered. They stopped chasing us up past Cleary’s when the British bastards started burning cars that were parked on the street. Then the fuckers, God forgive me, started dragging people out of the houses closest to the barracks front gate and they set those houses on fire!”
Sean was in shock to hear of the viciousness of the attack.
Ann continued “Sean it was unbelievable. It was around half past two in the morning at this stage and we all just stood in shock, as the flames leapt to the skies. The fire brigade was eventually allowed in but only allowed to stop the fire from spreading further up the street. Those poor people never did anything to the barracks people.” Ann stood there looking away in silence crinkling up her face to stop from crying.
She turned suddenly “Here it’s nearly time for me to head to the doctors. I’ll help you to bed and try to rest Sean please?” She asked with pleading eyes.
Sean laid on the bed wretched with exhaustion but he couldn’t sleep. His mind was buzzing with doubts, accusations and guilt. He ran his fingers through his hair as he remembered the words of that blonde bastard in the cells. Their ripped remains of clothes had been tossed into the cells and they had just put them on, confused and in a state of bewilderment as to what was happening. They all had been trained to resist answering questions but not one question had been asked. The soldiers had just systematically beaten and abused them without saying a word other than the odd threat. Then their comrades from the other cell was pushed and beaten up the corridor and shoved into the holding area cell with them.
The soldiers stood in a line outside the cells, the difference total and complete. The British soldiers standing stiffly to attention in a straight line. The prisoners thrown wretchedly on the ground shivering and moaning.
Blondie stepped forward “Listen up you dredges of society. Welcome to your new world, should you chose to accept it. The Clarke’s have deliberately build up a local Provisional IRA Company here in this lovely peaceful town. Sean Clarke has boasted that he will make this one of the most feared company’s in Northern Ireland!”
He paused and then raised his voice “You have chosen to assist him. This is my response to your actions and my response will be consistent should you continue to assist Sean Clarke. I will concentrate on the people that surround Clarke. Not him, not his lovely wife Ann or children but the people that help him in his horrific actions! Do you hear me?” he roared at the shivering wretches. He was silent for a moment and said softly “Now ye will be dropped home and I want you to remember what I have told you all.”
Then louder “Vermin! Your chariots await!”
Turning to the tall one beside him, that Sean recognized as the MRF shooter in Belfast, Blondie barked “Take this shit out of my barracks.”
Sean thought deeply about this as he eventually dozed off to a nightmare filled slumber. Sean tossed and turned for the rest of the day. That night he woke up when Ann got in beside him, as she gently ran her fingers lightly across his battered body. He hugged her and turning over he finally fell into a fitful sleep.
The next morning when Sean awoke, he still felt extremely stiff and sore but his mind was crystal clear as to the road he would travel. He needed to consult with Ann. He needed her advice and agreement. Then they would go to his Da to discuss whatever Ann and he had decided would be the best course of action.
Pulling on his bathrobe he went down the stairs and up the corridor to the kitchen, following the gorgeous smell of a full Irish fry. His mouth started watering just thinking about eating that breakfast. Ann gave him a quick hug as he sat down to the table.
“Ann” Sean said “after we eat we need to talk about our involvement in the movement. A serious talk with no holds barred ok?”
Ann smiled and patted his cheek “Yes love, but would you rather wait until your da comes. He is doing a tour of all the tortured prisoners to get their feedback. O’Malley wants everyone to go to the solicitor and the papers with their story. Hugh, surprisingly agrees with him and is helping out.”
Sean again raised his eyebrows in surprise, “Good grief that beats banner.” He rasped. “No he’ll be gone all day I want to talk to you about us. Not about the company, not about the cause or the movement. Just us.”
Ann smiled and nodded “Yes”, but her mind was elsewhere thinking about the future that they might have. The two oldest children were at school and Ann settled the youngest by the TV to watch the cartoons while she and Sean settled down to talk after Sean had eaten his fill. Sean poured them each a cup of tea and lit a cigarette for each of them. Sean gave a brief description of what had happened, from what he could remember as it was all a haze really to him. But he did remember what Blondie had said at the end. When he finished he looked at Ann.
“What do you want from me?” Ann asked.
“The truth” said Sean “Is what he said the truth? Have me and Da kept this going just for the sake of it? Are we just using people? Was all that suffering our fault? Plus where does it leave us? I keep going till I get killed? Then everyone stops?”
Ann took a long drag from her cigarette and took a longer sip of her tea.
“Sean” she began “of course you and your da kept things going here when things were slow and the Army was nearly finished. Of course you and your da started the Provisionals here after the split in 1970. Of course you have put in a tremendous effort here to build the local company and to get it active. But did you do it on your own? Of course you didn’t. Your relatives, my relatives everyone helped out in whatever way they could. What you lads went through, this conversation is being held in some form or another in all of the tortured Volunteers homes.”
Sean looked across the table “I hear what you are saying Ann, but answer me this. Are you happy about it? Would you be happier if I just walked away and stuck to the building?”
Ann looked at him and replied, “I have always accepted who you were and what you do and why you do it. Remember my family is as republican as yours. I understand why people don’t accept the British occupation of our country. Sure life would be easier but that doesn’t mean happier. Look love, you know the old republican saying.”
She paused and stared directly into his eyes and quoted the old Republican Movement saying about the cause and why people were active, despite all the hardships that their involvement brought into their lives.
“ For those who do understand no explanation is needed. For those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible.”
Ann took another pull of her cigarette and stubbed the butt into the ashtray and continued
“It’s your call Sean. After five years on your building sites will you look back and say “Ah yes this is what I wanted to do.” If you do look back, five years from now, shake your head and say “What a waste those five years were”. Don’t blame me. It was always your choice and I supported you so don’t try to use me and my happiness for your decision, Sean. You know that I’ll always support you. If you choose the building site there will be someone else to step up to fill your IRA shoes. This war, the cause is bigger than you or me.”
She sat still while Sean digested what she had said.
“You know this is really about me being afraid that the lads will all quit and blame me” Sean said thinking out aloud. “I knew what you would say but I needed to hear you say the words.”
He looked into Ann’s sad knowing eyes. “Thanks for the talking to love. I need to think about it but deep down I couldn’t walk away and leave this to a younger generation” he said thinking about the Shades words. They stretched their arms across the table and took each other’s hands and gently squeezed them as they sat in silence, deep in thought.
Hugh came in with his wife, Winnie after tea time.
“How are you, son?” his mam asked and gently hugged him. “Da told me all about the beatings, you poor pet. How are you feeling now?”
Sean nodded and hugged her back, deliberately harder than he should have but he wanted to show her that he was not too sore. Ann poured the tea and opened up the biscuits. The kids came in straight away on hearing the biscuit tin opening but were hunted good naturally back into the sitting room with some of the biscuits each.
Sean looked at his father. “Well what do the other families and Volunteers say?” he asked.
“It varies” said Hugh cutting straight to the chase. “They all talked about what Blondie said at the end. Some agree with him and others are mad that you should be singled out as the hero after all their efforts.”
Sean looked at his father forlornly as Hugh continued. “Listen Seaneen, I have some idea of what you are going through. You got in one night, all the torture that I received in seven years of their English prisons. I came home to a country that wanted nothing to do with the Republican Army and the old ways as they called it. Me and your mother know what’s it like to be looked at as though we are the odd ones out. So did Blondie. He knows how to hurt you where it really hurts. That bastard knows that beatings will not stop or change you, but by fuck, does he know how to get into people’s heads.”
As he paused for breath Sean started to speak but Hugh held up his hand
“Hold your whist for a minute more. The lads are all suffering. Some will never come back to the Army, but they are all still republicans and supporters. That is their choice to make. Everyone took a terrible beating. But some are mad anxious to get stuck back in. Naturally all of their families are in an awful way. I talked to Bernie’s mam and she told me that they sent her down to Omagh to get away from it all. Her Mam is in a fierce state altogether.”
Sean looked out the window and clenched his fists “Can you believe that those bastards dragged that poor girl into a cell and beat her up too? For fuck sake, what kind of animals are they?”
Hugh glanced over to Winnie, who gave a slight shake of her head, warning Hugh not to say any more about Bernie.
Hugh silently agreed and said “Her Mam asked me to tell Stephen that if he can visit her Saturday in Omagh, that he’s more than welcome. Stephen wanted to go straight away as soon as I told him, but me and his mam talked a bit of sense into him. So Sean we won’t talk about this anymore.”
Winnie added “You know that we are 100% behind you Sean. You think about it tonight and however long you need to sort this all out. Life goes on you know love” as she gave Sean’s hand a hard squeeze.
Hugh looked at Sean “There is a bigger problem for the Company. Those bastards knew every one of the volunteers, their names, addresses family details. Last year they couldn’t even manage to lift me; their information was so bad. We have a tout and he needs to be identified and taken care of.”
Hugh stopped uncomfortably “That is of course if you are going to continue being active. It’s your choice son.” He hurriedly added.
He then looked around the room “In the meantime where’s our grandchildren, hey Mrs!” He roared and laughed.
Kenneth and his squad slept all day Wednesday, wretched from the night’s exertions. The adrenalin had sagged after a couple of hours of beating and abusing their captives and it became very tedious and tiring. When the troops and police had rioted outside and the army captain had started burning the houses, Kenneth had had to send some of his team out to ensure that things didn’t get too carried away. He didn’t want a burnt village as a monument to British Army brutality for the areas rebels to publicize. Losing the manpower had put more pressure on the others left with the prisoners. At least there was a bit of a fight outside. Here, inside the prison, was just hanging, moaning Paddies that they just kept hitting slapping and prodding. By the time it came to drag everyone out to the jeeps and drive them back home, dumping everyone out of the back of the jeeps and other vehicle’s they were all fit to collapse with exhaustion. They squeezed into their tight and cramped quarters and all of them, including Kenneth dropped off to sleep immediately quite satisfied with their night’s work.
Outside the barracks the buildings smouldered and the people stayed out of sight, everyone afraid to venture from behind their closed doors. The British Army and RUC patrolled the streets and the surrounding countryside in a cold ring of steel. The air of tension could be cut with a knife as the resentful people watched and waited.
On Thursday, in the barracks, everyone was up early fighting fit. Kenneth and the whole MRF unit got into the one of the vans and drove out the back and speeded off. They were going to Omagh to recon the area that the IRA Brigades meeting was going to be held in. They were well rested, well fed, in civilian clothes and heavily armed.
“Times are good” cracked Ringo. “A good ambush in a couple of days, you can’t beat this line of work!”
The others in the van laughed and studied the map of the local area that Kenneth had supplied them with. Kenneth wanted his team to get to know the feel of the town and the surrounding countryside. They approached the targeted house, deep in a housing estate, and drove very slowly past it. Kenneth and Harold continuously talking to the team and pointing out area of interest.
“That’s where team one will be stationed” Harold said pointing at a corner and then at the map. Then as they drove further down the street he continued, “That’s team twos corner.”
The van turned into another street where the targeted house was. Kenneth pointed out two more corners identifying them as team three and four corners. They only did one drive by as they did not want to attract attention. They continued to drive showing the two team’s where their vans would drop them off and be picked up after the hit on the IRA Brigade meeting. They only stayed for half an hour and then drove back to Glenbeg.
“Right” says Kenneth, “not the normal way we plan an ambush but I want you somewhat familiar with the kill zone. Back at the barracks we will go through everything until we know the plan backwards. This is massive and we do not want any surprises. Also. remember we will be blending in with the crowd in civvies but we will still maintain discipline and order.”
Kenneth finished and leaned back in his seat to enjoy his cigarette, sighed and stretched himself. Yes, he was happy. He had had his fun with Clarke and was now prepared to kill him. The fucker moaning and peeing on the floor. Some hero alright. Army Intelligence was trying to find out if Clarke was attending the Brigade meeting but Kenneth didn’t care. This Sunday or next week it was all the same. Actually he would rather two killing sprees than just the one. The tout Barry will have to come good and help set up that paddy scum and whoever re-joins him, good and proper. After Sunday he will concentrate on that killing, in the meantime practice and more practice. He could smell the blood and gun smoke in his nostrils already.
He spoke out aloud “Yes, life is good.”
The British Army’s MRF trained for what would be the biggest scalp in the history of this century’s troubles. They would operate in a tightly cordon area with the regular army ensuring their safety and security, ready to react and assist if needed. Politics called for civilians to carry out these murders not uniformed security personnel. The media will be told whatever line suited the politicians at that particular time.
In Glenbeg there was a lull in the people’s activities as the town and the surrounding countryside tried to come to terms of the horror and terror that had come to their area.
Stephen had wanted to visit Bernie from the moment he was dumped from the British Army jeep outside his mother’s house. He was a nervous wretch and his anguish about her treatment was eating the insides of him. His great uncle Hugh had come up to visit him but he was in no mood to talk about revenge or the Movement until he had met Bernie and they talked and held each other. Eventually Saturday came and his brother Johnny drove him off to meet Bernie in the house that Bernie’s sister lived in. When the car pulled up to the gate he struggled out, still sore but delighted to see Bernie again. The door was opened and Katie, Bernie’s sister threw her arms around him. Katie was the complete opposite to Bernie. Bernie was 5 foot 7 inches tall, lean and a mass of long red hair and had always a tomboy. Katie was two years older, 5 foot 4 inches, pleasantly plump with jet black hair and she loved being quiet and normal.
Katie held on to Stephen “Thank God you are alright and safe. Bernie told me all about those bastards, lord forgive me.”
Stephen nodded quietly while Katie continued “She is in an awful state Stephen. So be prepared for a bit of a shock. But come in, come in. Richie is gone to the shop for bread and milk, oh and fags. Go straight up to the kitchen to Bernie” she said as she ushered him into the house.
Stephen bounded up the hallway to the kitchen shouting “Hello babe” and screeched to a halt when he saw Bernie leaning against the countertop.
She was wearing an odd assortment of old baggy clothes that hung off of her. She seemed to have wizened and was hunched over puffing furiously on a fag. She smiled weakly and knowingly at Stephen look of shock.
“Jaysus Bernie pet” he rushed to her giving her a gentle but firm hug.
“You poor baby! You look shattered” he whispered into her ear.
Her long wild mane of red hair was gone. It had been cut in the most uneven way, short and choppy. As he held her he could feel the sobs retching her body and he felt like sobbing too. What had they done to wild mad beautiful Bernie, my wild mad beautiful Bernie he thought?
The stood holding each other saying nothing with Stephen trying to will strength into her body. Katie had stayed outside to talk to Johnny and now came back in with Ritchie banging and rattling the door shut as she walked up the hall.
“Time for a cuppa” she announced loudly.
Stephen and Bernie parted but let their hands linger together for a short few seconds. They all sat around the table sipping their tea and puffing away on their cigarettes. They talked, small talk about anything except the horrors of Tuesday night. After a while Ritchie and Katie went out to stretch their legs even though it was pouring rain, but they obviously want to give the other two time alone and Bernie was still refusing to go outside.
After they left Stephen said abruptly “I want to talk to you about that night. I can’t talk to my family and Sean is as shattered as the rest of us. He is just staying close to his family and there’s no harm in that.”
Bernie paused and looked closely at Stephen, she lit another cigarette to gain her thoughts.
She exhaled and said softly “Stephen if that’s what you want then talk to me, but I do not want to talk. At least not yet” she added as she saw his hurt look.
She took his hand and asked “What happened at your house when they came for you?”
Stephen started talking and kept talking. He retraced events that were all such a blur that time jumped from one minute on to the next and then back an hour. But that’s the way it was that night too. Stephen talked himself quiet and still Bernie said nothing.
Then Stephen whispered “Do you know the worse was seeing you being dragged down that corridor and hearing your screams and me totally useless. I always thought that we were unbeatable together. Yet when you needed me the most I couldn’t help you. I feel such a failure.”
Bernie wrenched her hand back out of Stephens and angrily stubbed her cigarette into the ashtray. “Don’t pull that bullshit with me Stephen. Don’t lay a guilt trip on me! That you couldn’t help me? I never asked for your help, ever. I never need or needed your help so don’t pull that on me.”
Stephen looked at her in total confusion as Bernie kept talking “Poor Stephen couldn’t help poor Bernie! Fuck you! And I’m supposed to feel sorry for you?”
She pushed her chair back and stormed out of the kitchen down to the sitting room where she sat, curled up into a ball on the sofa, breathless from her outburst and shaking with temper.
Raging mad but raging at what she asked herself. She sat there deep in confused thought.
After a few minutes Stephen came into the room “Here Bernie” he said handing her a fresh tea, actually coffee this time and a freshly lit cigarette.
He sat on a different chair opposite her looking at the curled up shape.
Stephen said “You’re right Bernie, in what you said. Those thoughts kept me going though that torture night. By thinking of how I could not help you kept me angry and helped me survive. I know you are strong enough to look after yourself I didn’t mean that you need me. I was just so devastated.”
Bernie sat still for what seemed an age then she spoke so low that he could hardly hear her.
“When they dragged and beat me past all of you hanging there I was in shock to see such a horrific sight. When I heard you cry out and then get beaten I felt so guilty. Then they dragged me into my own cell and I soon forgot about you Stephen, I didn’t think about you once after that. They ripped my clothes, all of my clothes off of me, all the time beating and slapping me. When I was naked they tied me up like you men, spread eagled. I was sobbing and begging and I detested myself for being so weak. Then that short wee sick blond fucker walked back into the cell and the others, except a black haired one as spiteful as the blond fuck, left the room. I tried to toss my hair around to the front to cover my breasts. And Blondie laughed as he walked to me. He pushed my head back and tossed my hair to the back of my head. Then holding my head still he started slapping me across the face, harder and harder. At first I struggle but I was so tired I gave up and just hung there, helpless. He picked up my chin and the fucking bastard started licking my face”
Bernie sobbed uncontrollably for a minute, and then regained herself and her breath and continued while Stephen sat rigid in his chair, emotions rushing through his body, “And then he whispered into my face: You are like a wild animal to me. I am going to ride you, break you, tame you and ride you again. As he was saying this he felt my breasts and dropped his hand between my legs and started prodding and poking. I could do nothing.”
Bernie crushed her cigarette into her empty cup “He left the cell and different ones came in, like you it was a haze. Some beat me, others felt me all over my body. I could hear the screaming and begging coming from you men. And I screamed when I had the strength and begged when I could too. Time was meaningless like you said. Then at some stage close to the end, the Blond fuck came back in and the others left us alone. He played with me for a while, feeling, me touching me and licking me, the fucking disgusting bastard, then he untied me and I fell to the floor. He untied my legs and I tried to crawl away, to move away but I was numb and my legs wouldn’t move.”
Bernie is in a trance, her eyes wide open as she looked into the distance and continued her story, “Then he has his trousers down and his erection is out and he is stabbing me with it. Rubbing it all over me. I am trying to curl up but he stops me. He is sitting on top of me, kneeling on my arms. Then suddenly he grabs my hair and jerks back my head and forces my mouth open. He starts to climax into my mouth and it’s going all over my face and into my mouth.”
Bernie is crying but still talking in a trance “I’m struggling and gagging, but I can’t seem to move. He stops, he smiles and says let’s clean the slut up with her slutty red hair. Then he wipes himself in my hair and uses my hair to wipe his cum all over my face. He pulls up his trousers and the big black haired fellow comes in. The blond bastard then takes my underwear and tells me that he’ll be back for me some night, to return them.”
Bernie starts to shutter and sob, retching for breath. Stephen went to her and she pushed him away saying “Leave me alone, please, just please, leave me” and curling up into a tight ball she kept sobbing.
Stephen left the room and stood in the hall. He lit another cigarette listening to the sobbing slowly getting softer and then just an uneven sound of breathing. He went upstairs to a closet and pulled out a blanket and returned back into the sitting room. Bernie was in an uneasy sleep on the sofa. He wrapped the blanket around her and sitting down on the couch he lifted her head onto his lap. She still slept uneasily and he stretched and settled down for an exhaust filled sleep, his head leaning against the back of the couch.
And that is how Katie and Ritchie found them an hour later when they came home. It was still only early evening but Bernie and Stephen slept till night time. They woke up at around midnight, stiff and sore and they went upstairs to sleep the rest of the night away, wrapped around each other.
Sergeant Major Kenneth Colthurst called his men together. It was early Sunday morning and they went through the planned operation again.
He pointed at a map “Today at 1500 hours a charity football game is due to kick off. This game is between the two local counties, Derry and Tyrone. It will be preceded by an under 18 year’s game between the same two counties. The early game is due to kick off at 1330 hours. The Provisional IRA Tyrone and Derry Brigades have a meeting planned, using this game as a cover.”
The others nodded as they had heard it all before, but the Sergeant Major was a stickler for planning.
Kenneth continued with his monologue “Their meeting is due to start at 1300 hours. At 1400 hours Van A with team 1 & 2 will park in this shopping lot car park. Team 3 & 4 in Van B will park at this side of the target inside the church parking lot. Each team will then proceed, separately to the target area. We are dressed like civilians to blend in with the crowd. It will be fairly busy due to the football game. Station yourself at your allotted corners and wait for my signal over the radio. We are using dum-dum bullets to avoid the rounds travelling through the terrorists and hitting one of us. We are also wearing bullet proof vests. The meeting is starting at 1300 hours we will strike them at 1405. We need the crowd to cover us as we approach the house as they will have lookouts posted at various spots. We need to be able to walk without drawing attention to ourselves to the target. Do you understand?”
All the men answered in unison “Yes sir, Sergeant Major sir!”
Kenneth nodded pleased “The regular troops will have the area cordon off, ready to move in as soon as we hit the target. They have to stay out of sight so we have approximately 3 minutes from start of gunfire to when the troopers start to arrive. We will only need 3 minutes in the house. Then two minutes for us to run back to the vans and get out of the area as the Troopers cordon off the area. According to Intel the meeting will be held in the kitchen. Team 1 will remain outside at the back of the house. Team 2 bursts in through the back door shooting anything and everything in there, but remember team 3 will be bursting in from the front of the house. Team 4 will run upstairs and kill everyone that’s there. We want a 100% kill. On our way out there will be confusion but we have to be careful with the lookouts. They mightn’t be heavily armed but they will have a dump somewhere nearby. We leave here at 1300 hours. Any questions?” he asked.
“No sir” replied the men.
Kenneth looked at his men “Remember why we are here gentlemen. We need to kill the animals that are spreading the poison that is destroying a truly democratic country from functioning. We need to kill the IRA! That is all gentlemen.”
The men left to prepare their bulletproof vests, weapons and equipment talking quietly amongst themselves. There was not an air of apprehension or worry but one of confident anticipation, as they looked forward to the coming action.
Bernie and Stephen woke up still fully clothed but much better rested. Bernie was still very subdued and withdrawn but her head felt a small bit clearer after finally telling someone what had happened. She had told no one and it was eating her insides. Now she was awake and Stephen was lying beside her holding her hand. She quietly slipped out of the bed and went out the hallway to the bathroom. She went to the toilet and while washing her hands she looked at her reflection in the mirror. A haggard drawn face with an awful cropped head stared back at her. She realized that she was hunched over but couldn’t be bothered to straighten back her shoulders.
“I need to pull myself together” she said to herself,” But what am I going to do? I don’t have the will to face everyday life. I am so tired”
She splashed water in her face and gave a grimace of a smile.
“It is good to have Stephen here” she thought to herself.
She came out to the bedroom as Stephen was sitting up in bed.
“I think I’ll cook up a good fry” she announced, doing her best to try to bring some semblance of normal back into her life. “It will do us the world of good.”
Stephen too perked up at that news. “Dead on, I’ll follow you right down, after I go to the bathroom and wash up” he said.
It was a typical Sunday morning. After the morning fry Katie and Ritchie got ready and went to Mass. Bernie declined and no one pushed her while Stephen just said that he would clean up and hang around. After they cleaned up they sat down in the kitchen looking out the back window. It was a lovely morning with hardly a cloud in sight.
“A great day for the game” Stephen commented.
It took Bernie a few seconds and then she remembered how everyone was pumped up for this charity game. Tyrone versus Derry, the old rivals. It seemed so irrelevant now.
“Tell me Stephen, what are you going to do about the Army and the cause?” she asked.
Stephen didn’t hesitate “The fight goes on. Blondie blamed Sean and his Da for everything that is happening here and Sean is shook up over that. I called into Jimmy before I came here and we have an operation planned for this week. Not massive but enough to let them know that we are still here.”
Bernie sighed “So even after all that happened, you boys want to have another go” she said
She shook her head and said “This time last week I would have been so excited about helping, in any way, in an operation. But now I just say, why? I can’t get my fighting spirit up at all Stephen. I just feel so tired all of the time.”
Once again she sighed.
Stephen patted her hand “You will love. There’s no need to panic. Everyone is rattled after that night”
He paused and continued carefully “And we didn’t go through the hardship and abuse that you did but even some of the boys are reconsidering their involvement. Hugh did the rounds and explained that there was no shame in pulling back to consider their options.”
Stephen laughed “And then with the next breath he’s talking about revenge!”
Bernie looked at him, glad to hear his laugh, “How many will fall out, do you think?” she asked.
“According to Hugh nearly half the lads are up to going back to active service, plus we have all those new recruits.” He replied
“Here” he said tossing her a lit cigarette which she deftly caught.
“See you’re improving already” he laughed “Katie and Richie, are back let’s just relax and not talk about the cause for the day?”
She smiled and said gladly “Aye, I could do with that.”
Katie and Richie returned from Mass and they all settled down with a cup of tea to read the papers. Richie and Stephen were talking about the football game when Katie suggested that they sit outside. it being such a beautiful day.
“It will be a bit of craic watching everyone going to the game” Katie said “the pitch is only down the road a bit and a lot of people cut through the estate to get there”
Bernie was reluctant, but the others insisted as it was such a lovely day.
“Sure why not?” she though “the sunshine and the buzz of the crowd going to the game would be a welcome distraction.”
However, she could not bring herself to wear regular clothes, instead she dressed in the long baggy clothes with old big pointy cowboy boots and wore a tea cosy wool hat to cover her hair. They went outside with their cups of tea and sat or leaned on the wall separating the front yard from the street. The crowds were starting to swell the normal car and pedestrian traffic in the estate and there was an air of excitement filling the area. The houses next door came out too. Word of the happenings at Glenbeg had spread throughout the nationalist community and the fact that two of the victims were in the estate spread like wildfire. Soon between the three houses there was 30 people lounging about looking at the two from Glenbeg and offering acknowledgment and encouragement. It passed 1:45 and the first game had started. The crowds were hurrying now to the main game streaming passed Katie’s house. All the neighbours were out talking and enjoying the sun and the banter between the Derry and Tyrone people.
Bernie was standing with her back to the house, starting to get tired and a bit fed up of everyone looking at her and Stephen. See looked out at the people heading to the match thinking about how she must look out of place with all her long sweaters on her and everyone else in shirts.
She paused as she looked out to the street and thought “That’s strange, those guys are wearing long heavy jackets.” as two men casually walked down the road looking straight ahead but with eyes taking everything in.
Her gaze followed them, recognition, trying desperately to remember where she had saw them before. She glanced back up the street and nearly gagged with fear and fright. Also casually walking down the street, nearly at their house, with a long heavy jacket was that Blondie Bastard. Fear turned to rage and she pulled Stephens arm and strode purposely forward and out the gate. Stephen turned and saw her moving and then saw where she was heading. Just then Blondies head swivelled towards her, their eyes locked.
“Who was this hippie misfit walking into his face” he casually looked at her. “Wait” he thought, “those green eyes where..…,?”
Too late for him, Bernie’s cowboy booted foot swung upwards and crashed into his unprotected testicles. The pain exploded into his brain, numbing the brain itself. He lurched, bending forward his face totally unprotected. Bernie’s pointed cowboy boot lashed forward and the pointed toe buried itself into his face.
Stephen had leapt the small wall shouting
“Undercover Brits! Brits! Brits”
as he crashed into the second man with Blondie, they tumbled to the ground, the man desperately trying to reach his gun to bring it into action. Bernie had connected with a kick into Blondies face causing Blondie to stumbled and fall on to the ground. Bernie leaping onto his bullet proofed chest tearing and ripping his face. The neighbours poured out of their yards attacking the two struggling Brits.
The shout went up
“Undercover Brits! Undercover Brits!”
And the crowd were like a pack of starving wolves attacking Blondie and his fellow Brit. The two MRF members of team 3 turned at the sound of the baying crowd coming behind them, trying to listen to what the Sergeant Major was saying over the radio piece.
“Fuck” shouted Ringo as he recognised what the crowd were shouting and saw the Sergeant Major and Lesley on the ground, frantically trying to protect themselves, from the boots and blows raining down on them.
Ringo and his partner, Andy pulled their semi-automatic machine guns out from under their jackets. They let a blast off over the heads of the crowd shouting a warning, holding back from firing into the crowd for fear of hitting their colleagues.
Someone was trying to pull Bernie off the Brit and out of the way of the boots raining into the two forms that still continued to struggle. Bernie caught the look of fear in Blondies eyes. She grabbed his cheek with her nails, sinking into the soft flesh, blood pouring out of the wound. She looked him in the eye and whispered into his ear
“You will die in Ireland you bastard.”
His eyes opened wide and another boot hit his head causing his head to jerk sharply away.
Shots rang out and the crowd began to back away as Ringo and his mate shouted warnings that they would shoot the people. Team 1 came crashing through the crowd and the two teams surrounded the lying injured men. Tommy was shouting into his radio for back up and for the vans to come to them.
There was a brief pause as the undercover Brits assessed their wounded colleagues, with the crowd standing warily only yards away. Then the first bottle and stones started to rain down in the soldiers. Picking up their wounded and keeping the crowd at bay with their threatening guns they made their way back to the van, half dragging half carrying Kenneth and Lesley. The bottles and stones fell on them, bouncing off unprotected heads and bodies. Blood started to pour out of head wounds and still the van was so far away. In the distance they could hear their Army reinforcements speeding towards them, the sirens blaring. The people further up the street were trying to slow the Army vehicles down throwing rocks and bottles at them. The crowd were closing in again, with a steady aim Ringo and Alfie fired into the cars that were parked between them and the crowd. The crowd dived to the ground to seek protection behind the cars and garden walls. Ringo and the other MRF members gathered all their energy and they picked up Kenneth and his mate. They half ran half stumbled up the road and still the bottles and stones rained on them.
Then the taunting chant began
“Run Brits Run! Run Brits Run!”
The crowd was closing in again and the Brits knew that the IRA would be there soon, with guns.
And the chants got louder
“Run Brits Run! Run Brits Run!”
“Thank God” said Tommy as their van reached them, just as the first of the regular Army reinforcements arrived and set up a protective wall of vehicles around them. The bottles and stones stopped as the Army pushed the crowd back down the road. Ringo and the other hit men climbed into the shelter and protection of the van, frenetically tending to their wounds and anxiously trying to assist their Sergeant Major and Lesley while the rocks bounced off the van.
At the football match the Derry minors drew level with a very strong Tyrone team, with 20 minutes left to play.