On 31 July 1975 as the popular group, The Miami Showband, were travelling back home across the border in the North of Ireland, they were stopped by a fake army patrol made up of Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers and members of the Loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force at a fake checkpoint outside Newry.
As the men were lined up outside the bus the soldiers tried to hide a bomb on the bus. The bomb exploded prematurely killing the bombers . Their compatriots then opened fire on the band, killing Fran O’Toole, Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy. Band members Des McAlea and Stephen Travers were the only survivors.
In this new book Stephen Travers, alongside journalist Neil Fetherstonhaugh, reveals the truth about that night. The truth that “British soldiers were sent out to murder innocent people. The truth that “collusion took place between the security forces and terrorists.” The truth that “Britain colluded in murder, and is therefore, guilty of murder, she must answer the charges.”
The book is Stephen’s story, the story of a young working class man from Carrick-on-Suir, a small town in Ireland, who went on to to become a member of one of the most popular bands in Ireland. Like many people in the south of Ireland in the 1970s he was aware of the so-called “Troubles” but his life was his music, his wife and his family.
The Miami Showband was a band made up of Catholics and Protestants who would entertain audiences right across Ireland. It made no difference to them or their fans what their religion was, but religion was the deciding factor that led to the events of July 1975.
In this deeply moving book Stephen Travers uncovers the truth about that night and about how the British government through its security services colluded with Loyalist terrorists. These “death squads” comprising serving police officers, locally recruited British army soldiers and well known assassins made up the Glenanne Gang which targeted the Miami Showband, as well as taking part in many other atrocities.
Stephen writes, “While the Miami killings were particularly shocking because the band was a household name and the attack therefore received a huge amount of publicity, for the men who who had carried it out it was not very different from the dozens of other, less-well known murders that they had notched up.”
In his search for the truth Stephen not only has to deal with the events of that fateful night, but come to terms with his own mental health issues arising from his own survival.
It is a painful book to read as he traces his experiences from being seriously injured to recovery and the dawning reality of his small part in the bigger picture of what was really a war going on in part of the country he lived in.
Everything has changed since 1975, including a peace process, although the chapter where Stephen meets up with a representative of the UVF, who were behind the murders, is chilling and reflects the reality lived by a section of the Protestant community in the North of Ireland.
The book spans the forty years since the Miami Showband Massacre but, whilst the events described are horrific, they are also a testament to Stephen, his family and supporters in their search for the truth about a night that changed his life forever. Neil Fetherstonhaugh should also be commended for making the journey across the years with Stephen and collaborating in this important book.
For readers it is also in microcosm the story of the war in the North of Ireland, and the way it changed not just Stephen’s life, but the history of Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Today the truth about that war is being played out in the courts as Stephen and the other band members are suing both the Ministry of Defence and the Police Service of Northern Ireland over alleged collaboration between serving soldiers and paramilitary killers.
Stephen has come a long way from the carefree musician of the 1970s. In the epilogue he reflects on past events. “Every day, the British government accuses Syria or Iran or some other far-flung place of aiding terrorists – they should examine their own consciences. They sent their trained soldiers out to murder a pop group on their way home from a concert. We cannot be complacent and believe it could never happen again.”
Buy it here