The conflict known as the Troubles was a long war on many fronts. There were some people fighting against those they saw as invaders and oppressors and others fighting to show how loyal they were to the country they felt part of. There was also a propaganda war being fought as various groups tried to reach sympathetic audiences (and large pocketbooks) around the world. The third battleground was the deadliest of all and it was comprised of all the tit-for-tat, mostly Sectarian killings between various paramilitary groups. This last front resulted in the vast majority of civilian deaths throughout the region and it was the hardest to prepare for or justify. It includes the Devil’s Night massacre at the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel, which happened on this day in 1993.
The Shankill Road bombing had taken place in Belfast the week before. A bomb the Irish Republican Army meant to plant at Frizzell’s fish and chips shop on the Shankill Road prematurely exploded as the men brought it in, resulting in ten deaths and more than fifty injuries. It was a horrifying scene that inflamed the citizens of the city and the world. The loyalist paramilitaries in Belfast immediately began targeting Catholics in the city and they executed more than a dozen civilians in the days after the bombing. The Ulster Defence Association vowed revenge and they got it a week later in a crowded pub in County Derry.
The Rising Sun Pub was crowded and having a Halloween party. The pub was a well-known hang out for Catholics in the area which was why it was targeted as a good spot for a revenge killing by Protestant paramilitaries. They planned and practiced the massacre in the days before it happened and on October 30th at the height of the party, gunmen burst through the doors and started shooting. One yelled “Trick or Treat” as they opened fire on the patrons in the bar. Seven people were killed instantly, one more died later of his wounds, and nineteen others were wounded. The gunmen laughed as they left the carnage behind and sped away.
The next day the UDA claimed responsibility for the attack using the cover name of the “Ulster Freedom Fighters.” The official statement claimed that the massacre was in response to the Shankill Bombing and it warned there would be more killings to come and that the Nationalist community “would pay a heavy price for last Saturday’s slaughter of nine Protestants.” Killing and wounding more than forty people in the week after the bombing was nowhere near enough payback for them, and more innocent deaths ensued in the days and weeks that followed.
The gunmen were arrested and imprisoned shortly after the killings. They showed absolutely no remorse, bragging about the murders and taunting the victims’ families during the trial. They were sentenced to life in prison but all were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 2000, seven years after the attack. The Rising Sun pub in Greysteel is still open and the victims of the Devil’s Night massacre are remembered on the building with a plaque that reads “May their sacrifice be our path to peace.”
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