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Bloody Friday (21 July 1972)
- Northern Ireland Office News-sheet



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Source: Northern Ireland Office ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The following text and images have been reproduced from a newsheet published by the Northern Ireland Office in the wake of the bombings on 'Bloody Friday', 21 July 1972.

BLOODY FRIDAY

JULY 21, 1972

Two of the 130 people injured in the vicious pattern of bombs in the afternoon.


A child's terror as the ruthless IRA bombers strike, crystalises the anguish of the day of murder
Youngest of the nine who died in the IRA holocaust - 14 year old Glynn Stephen Parker, of Belfast.

 

Timetable of terror

 

Between 2.10 and 3.15 on the afternoon of July 21 a total of 19 bombs exploded in various parts of Belfast.

Nine people died in the explosions- seven civilians and two soldiers. The injured were -77 women and girls and 53 men and boys. It was at first thought that 11 had died.

This is the timetable of terror on this day of murderous, ruthless bombing of the civilian population:-

2.10 - Smithfield bus station. Explosion in a car left in an enclosed yard. Extensive damage to houses in nearby Samuel Street. Many houses damaged.
2.16 - Brookvale Hotel, Brookvale Ave., Antrim Road. Three men armed with a sub-machine gun planted a bomb in the building in a suitcase The hotel was wrecked and adjoining houses were damaged.
2.23 - LMS Railway Station, York Road. Explosion in a suitcase left on the platform. Extensive damage to the station interior and the roof was blown off.
2.45 - Star Taxis, Crumlin Road. The explosion was in a car beside the houses of the warders from the nearby Crumlin Road prison. The blast wrecked the taxi offices and caused damages to the houses.
2.48 - Oxford Street bus station. Explosion in a car which had been driven into the rear of the station. Extensive damage to the office block and superficial damage to adjoining property. Six people killed and nearly 40 injured.
2.48 - Great Northern Railway Station, Gt. Victoria Street. Explosion In a Bedford van which was driven into the station and abandoned in the upper yard. Four buses were completely wrecked and 44 others were damaged. Damage was also caused to the nearby canteen in Murray's Tobacco factory.
2.50 - Corner of Limestone Road. The explosion was In a hi-jacked car and caused damage to the premises of the Ulster Bank, nearby private houses, and -six cars. Several people were injured.
2.50 - York Hotel, Botanic Avenue. The explosion was In a bread van outside the hotel which was badly damaged. The van was blown to pieces. Surrounding property was also damaged and approximately 20 cars suffered.
2.55 - Queen Elizabeth Bridge. The explosion was in a Ford car left on the bridge which normally carries heavy traffic, including bus services. Some damage, which was not extensive, was caused to the parapet.
2.57 - Liverpool ferry terminus. Explosion in a mini car. Nearby Liverpool Bar extensively damaged. Superficial damage to the terminus itself.
2.57 - Gas Dept. Office, Ormeau Ave. Explosion in a car left outside the building. Extensive damage.
2.59 - Premises of John Irwin, seed merchants, Garmoyle Street. The explosion was in a box which had been planted in a store by armed men. The premises were wrecked.
3.04 - Bridge spanning M1 motorway at Bellevue Arms, Antrim Road. A car believed to have contained explosives went on fire but not all the bombs went off and no damage was caused to other property.
3.05 - Creighton's Garage, Upper Lisburn Road. The explosion was in a car which was demolished. Petrol pumps were set ablaze.
3.05 - Junction of Salisbury Avenue and Hughenden Avenue. The explosion was in a van and caused extensive damage to an electricity sub-station and superficial damage to the pavilion of Salisbury Bowling Club.
3.05 - Railway bridge at Finaghy Road North. The explosion was in a hijacked lorry and caused minor damage to the bridge and to the parapet.
3.09 - Footbridge over the railway line at Windsor Park Football Grounds. The explosion was in a bag left on the centre span of the bridge. Concrete sleepers were blown on to the line, blocking it. Windows were broken in many nearby houses.
3.12 - Eastwood's Garage, Donegall St. The explosion was in a Ford car which had been left on the premises. The damage was extensive and several people were injured.
3.15 - Cavehill Road Shopping Centre. The explosion was in a hi -jacked vehicle and caused extensive damage to three shops and lesser damage to several other shops. Three people died-one a mother of seven, another a boy of 14.



News Headlines on the Day

The three year bloodbath in Ulster reached a new level of savagery when terrorists unleashed a -killer blitz of stunning ferocity.
This city has not experienced such a day of death and destruction since the German blitz of 1941. With the callous lack of remorse now so typical of the Provos they audaciously accept responsibility for what was an operation clearly requiring considerable planning and manpower.
Throughout the 32 counties Irish men and women should ponder how a virulent Nazi-style disregard for life can lodge In the hearts of our fellow countrymen; all the more virulent in that once again the Innocent have been the main sufferers. Hitler In his Berlin bunker decided that the German people were no longer worthy of him and deserved not to survive. Yesterday's dead and injured and testimony to something similarly rotten in our philosophy of life.
Every Irishman and woman must stand appalled and ashamed at the horror of what was perpetuated In Belfast yesterday In the name of Irish unity.
Belfast is rocked and racked by the most ferocious blitz yet mounted by the IRA. Not even the German bombs could inflict more devastation on the capital of Ulster in the last war.
On this unforgettable day 26 bombs, borne by car and planted to take the greatest toll of life, shattered the bodies of men, women and children in a fiendish holocaust of murder and hate.
The wanton killing of non-combatant men, women and children-the inevitable consequence of exploding so many bombs without adequate warning - is yet another cruel act which will not be forgotten.



A wanton attack on innocent men,
women and children

THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT WAS MADE BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND, MR. WILLIAM WHITELAW, IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, 24 JULY 1972:-

As the House will know, the City and people of Belfast suffered a murderous sequence of explosions last Friday. Most of the 27 explosions in Belfast that day occurred within a 3½ hour period in the afternoon-at a time when, and at places where high civilian casualties must have been expected and intended. No adequate warnings were given.

Seven civilians and two soldiers were killed and at least 130 civilians injured-many gravely. I hardly need point out that all sections of the community are indiscriminately affected by these outrages. Of the dead two were Roman Catholics. Of the 130 injured at least 40 were Roman Catholics. 53 were men and boys, 77 women and children.

I am sure the whole House will wish to join with me in expressing sympathy to the families of all those involved in this wanton attack on innocent men, women and children.

After the appallingly bloodthirsty and criminal events of last Friday, there cannot be any remaining shred of support for the men who perpetrate them. Even those sectors of Roman Catholic opinion throughout the world which have traditionally identified themselves with and perhaps given the benefit of the doubt to any group of men who claimed to speak for the Irish Republican movement can surely no longer continue to uphold the men who were responsible for Friday's horrible catalogue of slaughter.

Supporters of the Republican movement in this country, in Northern Ireland, in the United States and elsewhere, will no doubt notice the revulsion in some circles in the Irish Republic.

Since Parliament at the end of March entrusted the Government with complete responsibility for all administration in Northern Ireland, we have made the most patient and reasoned effort to secure the end of violence.

No one can deny that Her Majesty's Government have now an absolutely unchallengeable right to ask this House, this country, and indeed the whole world for their support in an absolute determination to destroy the capacity of the IRA for further acts of inhumanity.

They have degraded the human race, and it must now be clear to all that their sole object is to promote their aims by violence and by violence alone.



DESTRUCTION In Oxford Street bus station where death came to six people and scores were injured. The station was crowded when the bomb exploded. It was the worst of the afternoon's 19 murderous bombings.



DESTRUCTION at Smithfield bus station, scene of the first of the vicious series of attacks on innocent people. Mercifully the buses here seen ablaze had not started filling up with passengers.



DESTRUCTION in York Road railway terminus where the bomb was in an innocent-looking suitcase left on the platform.


Letters to the Editor

Funeral with no shouted commands
but only sobs of four small children

TO-DAY (Monday) I went to a funeral-that of one of "Bloody Friday's" victims.

It wasn't one of those funerals we know so well in Belfast, with the uniformed men, the ceremonial shots, the shouted commands, the graveside oration.

The only uniforms were the black and white vestments of the clergy. The only arms were those of Christ crucified on the Cross which led the Cortege.

No shouted commands- only the sobbing of four small children. No graveside oration, only the tears in the eyes of a husband as final tribute.

If there is power in the sobs of children and the tears of husbands and fathers, wives and mothers then the cause espoused by the terrorist is on the point of death:

its followers now are but walking. dead, animated husks, soulless and mindless. rejected and disowned by any creature capable of pity and compassion.

The earth which thudded on that coffin covered only a body, not the bestial deed which sent it there, an ever-pointing finger of condemnation to all involved - the terrorists who planned the bombing campaign, the terrorists who made the bombs, the terrorists who planted them: the politicians who wouldn't talk until all their demands were met and the politicians who talked too much and too often said the wrong thing; the leading churchmen, who merely mouthed pious attitudes. condemning violence in general but never aiming at specific deeds and organisations:

The trade unionists who permitted discrimination to be the unwritten rule in our industrial life and the industrialists and businessmen who bowed to this evil on their premises; the neighbours, who were true neighbours and friends-until intimidation entered their street.

To-day's victim had the dignity and honour of innocence and motherhood to take to her grave and Maker, and leaves her legacy of a peace-loving, and In the course of time, happy family.

Her killers will face their Maker with her blood and many others on their hands and can only leave a. their legacy hatred, sorrow and despair.
A FACE IN THE CROWD,
Belfast 13.




DESTRUCTION In Botanic Avenue after a bomb exploded in a hi-jacked bread van parked outside the York Hotel. Cars and houses suffered in the blast and there were the inevitable casualties.



DESTRUCTION at the busy Antrim Road-Limeston Road corner. The wreckage in the forefront is all that was left of the stolen van in which the bomb had been planted. Women shoppers were among the casualties.



DESTRUCTION at the shopping centre on the Cavehill Road, where one of the last of the bombs killed three people, including a mother of seven and a boy of 14.



REPORTS

'Streets swept by terror'

"Such warnings as were given were so vague and imprecise as to be almost useless; For much of the afternoon Belfast was reduced to near total chaos and panic. Girls and men wept openly, hugging each other for safety in the main streets as plumes of smoke rose around them and dull thuds echoed from wall to wall.

It was impossible for anyone to feel perfectly safe As each bomb exploded there were cries of terror from people who thought they had found sanctuary but in fact were just as exposed as before.

Report in the Guardian.


'A day of horror and shame'

Friday, July 21, 1972, was a day of horror and shame in this stricken city. Even hardened newsmen recoiled with shock from the scenes of carnage witnessed in Belfast as firemen lifted the mangled bodies where bombs ripped through crowds of unsuspecting men, women and children at bus depots and other locations.

In all my years of journalism, which included the worst days of the wartime blitzes, I have never seen scenes so horrible in this city and one felt a deep feeling of anger and shame that such deeds were planned and carried out by fellow Irishmen.

All Ireland has been shamed by the events of this terrible July afternoon in Belfast.

Report in the Irish Independent, Dublin.


'A deed of sick men'

"The chief injury is not to the British Army, to the Establishment or to big business but to the plain people of Belfast and Ireland. Anyone who supports violence from any s i d e after yesterday's events is sick with the same affliction as those who did the deed.

"Can anyone now believe that anything worth while can be established by these methods? That the country of anyone's vision can live with more memories of this kind?"

"Irish Times", Dublin.

'The cold-blooded, co-ordinated bomb outrages are a shocking crime against an already innocent population who have already suffered too much. These were brutal murders which will be totally condemned by every decent person in the United Kingdom.'
Mr. Harold Wilson, Leader of the Opposition


THE BOMBERS STRIKE - AND THIS IS SOME OF THE SUFFERING THEY LEFT


Scenes of anguish in Oxford Street Bus Station where six people died - as pictured in the Daily Express


"A black sin ... that will never be erased"

By the Editor of the
Sunday Independent
Dublin

These are dark days for Ireland. We live in an age of cowardice, with the guilt spread evenly between the highest and the lowest in the land.

We fostered the men who planned the murders of innocent men, women, boys and girls in Belfast on Friday. We fed these people with propaganda. We took advantage, when we could, of their exploits. And because we are not a morally courageous people, we never seriously tried to stop their terrible excesses.

Those among us who could have acted to halt the course of tragedy preferred to do nothing. Those who could have spoken out, when words might have meant something, chose to hold their tongues. And the rest of us were content to let matters slide.

Now all of us must pay the price for this neglect. There is a black sin on the face of Irish Republicanism today that will never be erased. Murder now lies at the feet of the Irish nation and there is no gain-saying that fact.

We cannot change past, however much we regret its record. But if we wish to restore the honour of our people, now is the time to act.

We must break the paralysis that leaves the good name of the Irish people in the hands of unscrupulous men. And we must find a way to make restitution for our failings.

The gallantry of those who planted bombs in the middle of Belfast's shopping areas on Friday (and then ran like hell) will be sanctified by the almighty god of Irish republicanism and reverently embalmed- in what we are pleased to call our national heritage.

We won't have a ballad to commemorate the butchered fragments of a woman we saw on the telly being shovelled up by a fireman.

Who said Dan Breen is dead? His spirit is alive and well and looking forward to a cosy corner in whatever parliamentary system we are going to have for the next 50 years.

Is nobody going to shout stop!


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