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Ballymurphy massacre documentary maker Macrae defends film as 'providing balance to false official narrative'

By Jonathan Bell ·

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Victims of the Ballymurphy massacre in west Belfast (Ballymurphy Massacre Committee/PA)

The filmmaker behind a documentary on the Ballymurphy massacre in Belfast has defended his work as "providing a balance" to what he described as the "false official narrative believed by most people in the UK" on events at the time.

A documentary on Channel 4 on Saturday night reconstructed the events of August 9 and 11 in west Belfast in 1971.

Ten people were shot during three days of gunfire involving members of the Parachute Regiment. They included a priest attending to those wounded and a mother of eight.

In the documentary it heard how that mother, Joan Connolly, lay crying on the ground until she passed away.

Another man died of a heart attack following an alleged violent confrontation with the troops in the estate.

The shootings took place as the Army moved in to republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects in the wake of the introduction of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Soldiers have long been held responsible for killing the 10 people in Ballymurphy but the accepted narrative became clouded earlier this year when former UVF members came forward to claim their organisation was also involved.

Inquests into the deaths are due to open in November.

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Belfast IRA men with a drogue bomb in 1987

Filmmaker Callum Macrae, rejected criticism the piece did not tell "the whole story" in that it did not go into the context of the major gun battles around the time or give the "full context" about the actions of paramilitaries including the IRA at the time.

He said: "The description - which is widely held by people in the UK - that Protestants and Catholics were at each others throats, the Provisional IRA was an incredibly dangerous force rushing around killing people and the British Army was sent in as the patsies, the guys in the middle, trying to restore order and peace - that is the official narrative, it is accepted by almost everybody in Britain - and it is simply not true.

"When I tell people the Provisional IRA did not exist until several months after the Army arrived, they are astonished. Because there is a false narrative.

"So to describe what I am doing as some kind of false unbalanced narrative is just simply wrong.

"My film actually is the balance to the official narrative which is fundamentally wrong."

Mr Macrae said "of course the IRA" were active at the time of the Ballymurphy massacre.

"The British Army described very clearly a 'major gun battle', with upwards of 700 rounds being fired at soldiers. The Army, specifically in a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, claimed there were 20 gunmen coming down from the top of the hill onto the Whiterock Road and the Army fought a two-hour battle involving Thompson sub-machine guns, pistols and rifles."

He said the reports from the time - based on what the British Army had said happened - although "well-intentioned" were "transparently untrue".

"They talk about wiping out a 'hardcore IRA unit'," he went on.

"Now I have been looking into this for four years and there is not a shred of credible evidence I can find to say any of that is true."

He added: "Let me be clear - I am no apologist for the IRA.

"No one can say there was no IRA present - I am certainly not saying that.

"What we can say for sure is no one can say for certain there were no armed paramilitaries present. And we do mention the UVF claim.

"What we can say for sure is no one can say for certain there were no armed paramilitaries present. And we do mention the UVF claim.

"We said most of the IRA had been tipped off and most of their members had left, that's what the IRA claimed."

Quoting Gerry Adams who claimed a "small number" of IRA remained to offer "token resistance", Mr Mccrae said there were no guns found, ammunition or shells and two of those killed had been shot in the back.

"Not for a second do I deny the IRA were there," he added.

"What the army claim is 'a large number of IRA were involved with sub machine guns'. I have looked very hard for four years and can not find evidence of it.

"Nonetheless - even though I can't find evidence of it, does not mean it didn't happen."

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Victims of the Ballymurphy massacre in west Belfast (Ballymurphy Massacre Committee/PA)
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Belfast IRA men with a drogue bomb in 1987
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Belfast IRA man on patrol in West Belfast 1987 - Pacemaker
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IRA Bomb attack on the La Mon House Hotel
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Customs officers check cars at the old Killen-Carrickarnon border post
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MOURNERS CARRYING HURLING STICKS HEAD THE FUNERAL PROCESSION OF JOHN JOSEPH KAVANAGH, FOUND SHOT DEAD IN THE RIVER BLACKSTAFF. 27.01.1971.
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John Hume is detained by soldiers during a civil rights protest in Londonderry in August 1971.
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John Hume is detained by soldiers during a civil rights protest in Londonderry in August 1971.
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La Mon House Hotel Provisional IRA Bomb Victim, Sandra Morris
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La Mon House Hotel Provisional IRA Bomb Victim, Carol Mills
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La Mon House Hotel Provisional IRA Bomb Victim, Christine Lockhart
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RUC constable Victor Arbuckle who was shot during street disturbances on the Shankill Road Belfast. He was the first RUC man killed in the troubles. October 1969
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Mrs Arbuckle, wife of constable Victor Arbuckle who was shot during the Shankill Road riots receives the Union Jack which covered the coffin during the funeral service at Roselawn Cemetry
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Miami Showband massacre... A Ford Escort which was one of the cars used by loyalist gunmen, is left abandoned near the murder scene. 31/7/1975
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Miami Showband
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Darkley (Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Hall). The scene where three elders were shot dead by the INLA. The terrorists broke in during a church service. 20/11/1983
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The children who escaped death by inches at Darkley, from left, Graham Ritchie, Helen Wilson, Nigel Wilson, Andrew Reid (standing) and Keith Ritchie, photographed the day after the INLA attack.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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First protest march to Belfast city centre. A crowd pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley at Shaftesbury Square, Belfast. 9/10/1968.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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The first Civil Rights (Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association) from Coalisland to Dungannon, held on 24/8/1968. Pictured is a member of the official party leading the civil rights marchers, appealing to the crowd, and requesting that there should be no violence during the march in Dungannon.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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First protest march to Belfast city centre. A crowd of students pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley near Belfast City Hall. Pictured is Ciaran McKeown(with beard). 9/10/1968.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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Banned Derry Civil Rights march broken up by RUC batons in presence of Gerry Fitt MP, three British Labour MPs and television crew. Two nights of rioting ensued. 5/10/1968.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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Civil rights marchers are confronted by a strong force of polive in Duke Street. October 1968
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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Banned Derry Civil Rights march broken up by RUC batons in presence of Gerry Fitt MP, three British Labour MPs and television crew. Two nights of rioting ensued. 5/10/1968.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
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Sir John Hermon, the former Chief Constable of the RUC at the funeral of the RUC's 100th victim of the Troubles, Constable Neill Quinn. Newry 22/6/1081
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Betty Williams, former leader of the NI Peace People, pictured with Mairead Corrigan.
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UDA members being carried in a Land Rover along the Shankill Road. 22/05/72.
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A soldier recieves first aid after being injured by debris after a car bomb exploded on the Crumlin Road. 29/05/72
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Riots in Belfast.
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UDR colleagues fire a volley of shots over the grave of Private Steven Smart, at Movilla Cemetary. Private Smart was killed along with three others after an IRA bomb blew up their Land Rover in Downpatrick. 13/04/90
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Troops and UDA members on joint patrol at Clon Duff Drive in Castlereagh Road area of Belfast, 1972.
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The funeral of RUC man William Russell, shot while investgating a burglary at the Avoca Shopping Centre, Andersontown, Belfast
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Hunger striker Bobby Sands coffin, flanked by an IRA colour party, leaving his mother's home in Twinbrook.
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Bobby Sands' son Robert Gerald holds his mother's hand at the funeral of his father Bobby in west Belfast flanked by Masked IRA men. Picture by Martin Wright
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Army engineers take away the fallen statue of the famous Protestant minister The Rev 'Roaring Hugh Hanna' after an early morning IRA bomb blast at Carlisle Circus. 3/3/1970
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Newly elected DUP MP Peter Robinson and his wife Iris. 4/5/1979
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Peter Robinson about to invade the small village of Clontibret, Co Monaghan, in 1986.
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Gerry Adams and Brendan Hughes in Long Kesh
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Martin McGuinness in Derry's Bogside at a press conference. 1971
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Members of the UDA provide an escort at the funeral of 30 year old John Lunnen Brown, a UDA volunteer, of Blackmountain Park, Springmartin. 01/07/72.
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Northern Ireland Troubles Gallery: Mrs Mary Meehan who was shot by the army in Cape Street, 23rd october 1971. Family photo.
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Northern Ireland Troubles Gallery: Scots Guardsman, Paul Nicholls, from Caithness, killed by an IRA sniper on the Falls Road, Belfast. 1971
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Scene of the IRA bomb and shooting attack at Loughall Police Station which resulted in 8 IRA and 1 Civilian being killed.
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Supporters of the UDA preparing food to be used by UDA members in the Shankill Road area. 02/07/72
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A UDA checkpoint barrier at Moat Road. 08/06/72
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UDA on the streets of Londonderry. 30/09/72
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Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney, who spent 53 days on IRA hunger strike.
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Some of the 24 Ulsterbuses which were burnt out after an IRA attack on the depot in Armagh. 28/4/1982.
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Mourners panicking at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, after a gun and bomb attack by Michael Stone which left three people dead and four seriously injured during the funerals of three IRA membes shot dead in Gibraltar. 1988
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Joan Travers and her daughter Ann at the funeral of her other daughter, Mary, shot dead by IRA gunmen in Windsor Avenue, Belfast. while walking home from Mass with her father Judge Tom Travers. 1984
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Ian Paisley at the scene of the IRA motar attack on Newry Police Station. which killed 9 officers. 28/2/1985.
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President of Sinn Fein Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at the funeral of Patrick Kelly . 1987
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Martin Meehan (centre) with Gerry Adams at a funeral in Belfast in 1971 of a Belfast IRA commander.
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UDA men line up for inspection at Bloomfield before the march. 30/09/72
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Reverend Martin Smyth and Billy Hull with UDA leaders. 1972
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The Shankill Road member. 1972
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A man is frisked by masked members of the UDA at a barricade on the Lisburn Road end of Sandy Row. 1972
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Belfast, Bloody Friday, 21 July, 1972, the IRA set off 26 explosions in Belfast, which killed 11 people and injured 130. 7 people were killed in Oxford Street bus station and 4 at a shopping centre on the Cavehill Road.
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Riots in Belfast, 1969
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A man talks to soldiers over the barricade, in Divis Street, Belfast. 16/8/1969
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Respects are paid to the victims of Bloody Friday, Oxford Street, Belfast
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Rioting in Belfast, 1962
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A family flee their home during rioting in Belfast 1969
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Belfast 1969
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British soldiers patrol Belfast in 1969
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Belfast City Hall bombed. 23/5/1994.
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O'Tooles Bar (The Heights), in the quiet Co Down village of Loughinisland where UVF gunmen burst in opened fire, during a World Cup match on June 18, 1994.
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O'Tooles Bar (The Heights) in the Co. Down village of Loughinisland. Six men were shot dead by two UVF gunmen, while they were watching the 1994 World Cup on television.
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The ruins of McGurks Bar. Dec 1971
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UDA barricades off Ainsworth Avenue. 04/07/72
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John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono raise their fists as they join a protest in this Feb. 5, 1972, file photo in front of British Overseas Airways Corp. offices in New York on Fifth Avenue. The demonstrators called for the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland.
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Martin McGuinness handcuffed to a policeman after being remanded at Special Criminal Court in Dublin, January 1973.
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SDLP press conference with John Hume, Gerry Fitt, Austin Currie and Paddy Devlin. 11/09/75
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Behind the barbed wire of long kesh internment camp are SDLP MPs(from left)Paddy Devlin, Austin Currie, John Hume and Ivan Cooper. They were visiting internees. 21/09/71
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Billy Wright ,loyalist fanatic who was shot dead in the Maze Prison, was leader of the renegade Loyalist Volunteer Force
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Ulster Vanguard Movement: Ulster Vanguard Association Rally at Stormont. 29/03/72
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William Craig:Leader of the Vanguard Unionist Progressive party.
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Ulster Vanguard Movement: A section of the crowd at the Vanguard Association Rally at Ormeau Park. 18/03/72
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Ulster Defence Association/U.D.A: 1972. Delegates at the talks between Vanguard, Ulster Defence Association and the Loyalist Association of Workers.
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Ulster Vanguard Movement:September 1972.
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As the Queen was visiting Belfast city centre in 1977, soldiers came under attack a few hundred yards away in the republican Falls Road area. An army captain was seperated from his unit and was being heavily stoned and kicked when a 'snatch squad' of his troops rushed the crowd to rescue him from the mob.
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RUC: Police officers at the 12th parades at Portadown 1985.
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The body of catholic man lies in an entry off the Shankill Road in West Belfast after being murdered by members of the Shankill butchers. 25/10/82. Pacemaker Press
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Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy
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William Moore aka Shankill Butcher gang member. Pacemaker Press
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Con Neeson who was killed by the Shankill butchers in the late 70's. Pacemaker Press
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Shankill Butcher Edward McIlwaine. Pacemaker Press
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Robert 'Basher' Bates: Shankill butcher
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A man with slashed wrists after an attack by the Shankill Butchers. Pacemaker Press