Off duty sol­diers were lured to their deaths

Rutherglen Reformer - - News -

The three Scot­tish sol­diers killing took place on March 10, 1971.

Dougald McCaughey, as well as John and Joseph McCaig -aged 23, 17 and 18 - were serv­ing with the 1st Bat­tal­ion, The Royal High­land Fusiliers, sta­tioned at Gird­wood bar­racks in Belfast.

They were given an af­ter­noon pass and headed for the Mooney’s, a Belfast city cen­tre bar in Corn­mar­ket, con­sid­ered to be a safe area for Bri­tish sol­diers at the time.

While there, they were lured out by a group of women who promised them a party, a tac­tic that be­came know as a hon­ey­trap.

But in­stead, they were taken to White Brae, Squire’s Hill, off the Ligo­niel Road in North Belfast.

An in­quest held later in 1971 could not de­ter­mine the ex­act se­quence of events, but it is be­lieved all three were re­liev­ing them­selves at the side of the road when two of them were shot in the head and one was shot in the chest by mem­bers of the Pro­vi­sional IRA.

Their bod­ies were dumped on top of each other be­fore be­ing dis­cov­ered by lo­cal kids at 9.30pm that night.

At the in­quest, the coro­ner re­marked: “You may think that this was not only mur­der, but one of the vilest crimes ever heard of in liv­ing mem­ory.”

The trio were the fourth, fifth and sixth Bri­tish sol­diers to be killed in North­ern Ire­land, but the first to be killed while off duty.

All three fu­ner­als took place in Scot­land but on the same day 20,000 peo­ple at­tended a me­mo­rial ser­vice in Belfast.

The killing caused an ex­treme cri­sis in the North­ern Ir­ish Govern­ment. Rev Ian Pais­ley called for the res­ig­na­tion of the govern­ment and 4,000 ship­yard work­ers took to the streets to de­mand in­tern­ment.

North­ern Ir­ish Prime Min­is­ter James Chich­ester-Clark even­tu­ally re­signed when the UK Govern­ment re­fused to com­mit the ad­di­tional num­ber of troops he wanted to main­tain or­der.

As well as forc­ing the Bri­tish Army to re­view its se­cu­rity ar­range­ments for off-duty sol­diers, it also led to the min­i­mum age of ser­vice in the prov­ince to be raised to18.

No-one has ever been con­victed for the killings.

In 2012 the his­tor­i­cal en­quiries team pub­lished a re­port. It found IRA mem­ber An­thony Do­herty was ques­tioned over the mur­ders, mak­ing ad­mis­sions he was in­volved but had not shot the boys. Other names men­tioned were Martin Mee­han (died in 2007) and Pa­trick McAdorey, who was shot dead by the army on Au­gust 9, 1971.

It is also be­lieved Sean Mee­han, Martin’s brother, may have been in­volved. He turned in­former and is now be­lieved to be liv­ing in Amer­ica.

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