Miami Showband victims receive £1.5m in damages

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Scene of Miami Showband attackImage source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Three members of the band were killed when gunmen opened fire

Survivors and relatives of those killed in the Miami Showband murders are to receive close to £1.5m in damages.

The resolution of legal action against the Ministry of Defence and the Police Service of Northern Ireland was announced at Belfast High Court on Monday.

The victims had argued there was collaboration between the loyalist killers and serving soldiers.

Three band members were killed near Newry in 1975.

The bomb and gun attack happened in July as the band, which toured across Ireland, travelled home to Dublin after a gig in Banbridge.

Their minibus was stopped by a fake Army patrol involving Ulster Defence Regiment and Ulster Volunteer Force members.

A bomb which was placed on the bus exploded prematurely, killing two of the attackers, Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville.

The gang then opened fire, murdering singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
The Miami Showband toured across Ireland as a popular cabaret act

Two other band members, Des McAlea and Stephen Travers, were injured but survived the atrocity.

On Monday, Mr Travers was awarded £425,000 and Mr McAlea will receive £325,000 in damages.

The court ruled the personal representatives of Fran O'Toole and Brian McCoy would receive £375,000 and £325,000 respectively.

The legal action followed a 2011 Historical Enquiries Team report which raised concerns about collusion around the involvement of an RUC Special Branch agent.

It found that mid-Ulster UVF man Robin Jackson claimed in police interviews he had been tipped off by a senior RUC officer to lie low after his fingerprints were found on a silencer attached to one of the weapons.

He was later acquitted on a charge of possessing the silencer.

Two Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers were convicted for their roles in the attack.

'Ever-present images'

Mr Travers, who was 24 at the time, said his life had been defined by a "terrible, premature sadness".

"Sadly my abiding memories of these three talented young men, who I had just been on stage with playing Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet, are forever fused with the most horrific, ever-present images imaginable," he told the court.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Stephen Travers told the court how the attack had affected his life

Mr McAlea said he wakes up to the murders every day of his life.

"There are photographs of Fran, Brian and Tony in my apartment," he said.

"That night will live with me until the day I die."

Rachel O'Toole said her father Fran's death had left her family "broken", while Brian McCoy's widow Helen told the court she was "not bitter" but wanted "all those who colluded in his murder to know how much they damaged" their lives.

Mr McAlea told the court he would like to see a monument built in Northern Ireland to remember the murdered members of the Miami Showband.

Judge Mr Justice McAlinden said he had heard some difficult cases "but the comments expressed will remain with me throughout the rest of my career and indeed throughout the rest of my life".

Counsel for the Ministry of Defence and the PSNI told the court the claims had raised complex, novel and unusual issues of both fact and law.

"The major issues which arose in this case concern questions of vicarious liability and limitation," said Paul McLaughlin QC.

"The settlements which have been reached represent compromises.

"They are compromises in the interests of all parties in the case, and therefore avoided the necessity of reaching a final adjudication, one way or the other, on these difficult issues."