Military Wiki
Greysteel massacre
Part of The Troubles
File:Rising sun bar.jpg
Front of the Rising Sun Bar
Location Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Coordinates 55°01′55″N 7°07′19″W / 55.032°N 7.122°W / 55.032; -7.122Coordinates: 55°01′55″N 7°07′19″W / 55.032°N 7.122°W / 55.032; -7.122
Date 30 October 1993
Attack type
mass shooting
Weapons AK-47, shotgun, handguns
Deaths 8
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Ulster Freedom Fighters

The Greysteel massacre[1][2] was a mass shooting that happened on the evening of 30 October 1993 in Greysteel, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Three members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group, opened fire in a crowded pub during a Halloween party, killing eight civilians and wounding thirteen. The pub was in an Irish Catholic and Irish nationalist area. The group claimed responsibility using their cover name "Ulster Freedom Fighters" and said that the attack was revenge for the Shankill Road bombing a week earlier.


On 23 October 1993, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb prematurely exploded in a fish shop on Shankill Road, west Belfast. Eight Protestant civilians, one UDA member and one of the IRA bombers were killed.[3] The IRA's intended target was a meeting of UDA leaders, including brigadier Johnny Adair, which was to take place above the shop. Unknown to the IRA, the meeting had been rescheduled. Shortly after two IRA members, Thomas Begley and Sean Kelly, entered the shop dressed as deliverymen and carrying the time bomb under a tray, it exploded accidentally, killing Begley along with the nine others inside the shop at the time. This became known as the Shankill Road bombing.

The UDA launched a number of "revenge attacks" for the bombing. Later that day, it shot a Catholic delivery driver after luring him to a bogus call at Vernon Court, Belfast. He died on 25 October.[4] On 26 October, the UDA shot dead another two Catholic civilians and wounded five in an attack on the Council Depot at Kennedy Way, Belfast.[5]


UDA/UFF flags flying in Derry, where the massacre was planned

The Londonderry Sentinel newspaper revealed that the massacre had been carefully planned. Those involved in planning and organising the attack were Billy McFarland ('Brigadier' of the UDA's North Antrim & Londonderry Brigade), a UDA commander with the initials 'RS', and Brian McNeill.[6] Stephen Irwin, Geoffrey Deeney and Torrens Knight, all members of the UDA's North Antrim & Londonderry Brigade,[7] were to carry out the shooting. According to court documents, the gunmen were first briefed on the plans for the massacre on 27 October in a house-office owned by the Ulster Democratic Party at Bond's Place, Derry.[6]

Before the massacre, the gunmen went to the pub to familiarise themselves with the layout and choose the best positions from which to shoot. Knight turned the office at Bond's Place into a mock-up of the pub and made Irwin and Deeney rehearse the shooting. It was agreed that Irwin would enter the Rising Sun armed with an AK-47 and keep shooting until the magazine emptied. Whilst Irwin reloaded, Deeney would fire from his 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. Both would then keep shooting until Irwin's second magazine was empty. Knight, armed with a shotgun, would 'cover' the front door.[6]

Two cars would be used for the attack. The gunmen would drive to the pub in an Opel Kadett with McNeill driving in front as a 'scout car'. After the shooting, the gunmen would drive the Kadett to a pick-up point near Eglinton, where they would meet McNeill and the Kadett would be burnt.[6]

The massacre

On the evening of 30 October, the three UDA members, two of whom were wearing blue boiler suits and balaclavas, entered the "Rising Sun Bar" in Greysteel. There were about 70 people inside attending a Halloween party,[8] and so the masked men were not noticed until they produced an AK-47 and a 9 mm pistol, and started shooting into the packed crowd in the lounge area. The leading gunman, Stephen Irwin (who was carrying the AK-47), yelled "trick or treat" as he opened fire.[9] The scene was chaotic as people inside the lounge began to scream in panic, with women pleading for mercy from the gunmen. Six of those killed were Catholic civilians and two were Protestant civilians.[10] None had any known links to political parties or paramilitaries. The killers, laughing, then made their escape in their getaway car—an Opel Kadett driven by Torrens Knight. Afterwards they were said to have boasted about the killings.[11]

The following day, the UDA claimed responsibility for the attack using the cover name "Ulster Freedom Fighters" (UFF).[12] Its statement said that the "Greysteel raid"[1] was "the continuation of our threats against the nationalist electorate that they would pay a heavy price for last Saturday's slaughter of nine Protestants".[13] A West Belfast UDA member said that his organisation "had information that senior IRA men drank in the Rising Sun ... Unfortunately they were not there on Halloween but our boys acted on the briefing they had been given".[7]

The pub is still open in Greysteel. There is a memorial to the victims outside the building that says: May their sacrifice be our path to peace.


In 1995, Irwin, Deeney and Knight were convicted along with two others for involvement in the attack.[8] Knight was also convicted for the Castlerock killings. In 2000, they were released early—along with other paramilitary prisoners—under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.[14] After his release, Irwin joined the Neo-Nazi militant group Combat 18.[15] Knight was also alleged to have had links to Combat 18.[16]

In 2005, Irwin received a four-year prison sentence for slashing a man with a knife. This meant that he also now had to serve the eight life sentences he received for the Greysteel massacre.[17] In 2006, he abandoned an appeal against the sentences.[18] In September 2013, Irwin was released from prison a second time after submitting an application to the Sentence Review Commissioners for early release. The commissioners ruled his application should be granted and he was released immediately.[19]

There have been claims in the media that Knight was a paid Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and/or MI5 informer.[20] Knight denied the claims.[21] In October 2007, a Police Ombudsman investigation concluded that police did not have any prior knowledge that could have helped them prevent the Greysteel attack. The investigators did not find any evidence that Knight was protected from the law.[22]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Crawford, Colin. Inside the UDA. Pluto Press, 2003. p. 193
  2. Henry McDonald, Jim Cusack. UDA: Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror. Penguin Ireland, 2004. p. 251
  3. CAIN – Sutton Index of Deaths – 23 October 1993
  4. McKittrick, David. Lost Lives. Mainstream, 1999. p. 1333
  5. CAIN – Sutton Index of Deaths – 26 October 1993
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Greysteel killings were planned in Waterside". Londonderry Sentinel, 1 October 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Wood, p. 173
  8. 8.0 8.1 Wood, Ian S. Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA. Edinburgh University Press, 2006. p. 172
  9. BBC Online 1 Nov 05
  10. CAIN – Sutton Index of Deaths – 30 October 1993
  11. The Queen v. Stephen Geoffrey Irwin: Decision on Tariff. Retrieved 4 April 2011
  12. CAIN – Chronology of the Conflict – 1993
  13. English, Richard. Armed Struggle. Pan Macmillan, 2004. p. 283
  14. "Prisoner releases: Some smiled, others covered their heads". The Guardian, 29 July 2000.
  15. Loyalist Feud: 1 September – 30 September 2000. Pat Finucane Centre.
  16. Sectarian attacks: September 2002. Pat Finucane Centre.
  17. "Greysteel killer to serve terms". BBC News NI (1 November 2005). 1 November 2005. Retrieved 23 June 2008. 
  18. "Greysteel killer abandons appeal". BBC News NI (24 March 2006). 24 March 2006. Retrieved 23 June 2008. 
  20. Was this loyalist murderer in the police's pay?
  21. "Greysteel murderer Knight was not an MI5 agent: UPRG". Belfast Telegraph (14 March 2007). Retrieved 23 June 2008. 
  22. "No evidence Greysteel could have been prevented: Nuala O'Loan". Police Ombudsman Press Release. Retrieved 16 November 2009. 

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