As everyone is aware, my late Dad spent over 18 years behind bars in a variety of prison sentences related to his Republican activities from the Sixties right through until the beginning of 1994. He endured many arrests, brutal interrogations, Internment and lengthy sentences. He spent the majority of these years imprisoned at Long Kesh in both the Cages (Compounds) and the Blocks (Maze). Although, he also spent periods in Mountjoy Gaol in Dublin and Crumlin Road in Belfast.
Dad successfully escaped from the 'Crum' in December, 1971 with two Comrades and spent the next eight months 'On The Run'. Operating for the Provisional IRA along the British-Imposed Border between Counties Louth and Armagh, Derry City and in his native Belfast. He was recaptured in Ardoyne in August, 1972 after British Troops conducted a massive search operation. In spite of, successfully defending himself in Court against the original charges, he was rearrested and was the first person convicted of PIRA Membership. He found himself sentenced to three years imprisonment and was immediately transferred to Long Kesh.
|Dad and his imprisoned comrades in Long Kesh (including Belfast Hunger-Striker, Kieran Doherty)|
At the time, the Cages resembled a POW Camp complete with dozens of Nissan Huts housing prisoners, countless Watchtowers, endless miles of barbed-wire secured by around 1,000 heavily-armed foreign troops. Hundreds of Irishmen were held against their will either through Internment or prison sentences. Not for the first or last time, Martin Meehan was housed there by the British Penal System in a bid to break his spirit. The attempt failed and Dad became more determined to end the centuries of imperialist occupation in Ireland.
|Ceis Fada/Long Kesh (Cages)|
On one occasion, Lenny called my Dad over to the fence and handed him a leather wallet he had made in the Cages. As he passed it over the UVF prisoner commented; 'From one soldier to another'. He was somewhat bemused at the gesture, as he had no love for the UVF as Irish Republicans have long considered Loyalist Groups as unofficial Death Squads, given a free hand to ply their sick hatred by the British Government and her Armed Forces. There is ample evidence that the RUC, British Army and Career Criminals have colluded with Loyalist Paramilitaries in hundreds of sectarian killings. My father kept the wallet as a memento of his imprisonment not realising that Lenny went onto become notorious as one of the most brutal murderers of what is commonly referred to as, 'The Troubles'. The wallet has been in my possession for years, as my Dad gave it to me to look after, photographed below,
|Images of the Wallet|
Soon after his release from the Kesh, Lenny assumed command of the West Belfast Brigade of the UVF. His Leadership included some of the most brutal killings of the recent Conflict, known as the Shankill Butcher's. Where innocent Nationalists were badly-beaten, kidnapped, tortured and killed throughout North and West Belfast between 1975 and 1979. The sectarian murder-spree left seventeen Catholics dead with many more severly injured including some from Ardoyne. All of who had their throats cut with butchers tools. The killings terrified Belfast citizens at the time including most of his own community, as the UVF Gang also killed over nine Protestants in personal disputes.
|Shankill Butcher, Lenny Murphy|
Murphy was recaptured in early 1977 after attempting to kill a Catholic woman for which he was given 12 years behind bars. During visits with his friends, he ordered them to continue the cut-throat killings, partly to distract attention away from himself but also to keep sectarian hatred alive in Belfast while he served his time. As ordered, his UVF Gang continued it's murder spree with a further fifteen killings. Most of the UVF Gang responsible for the butcher murders were eventually arrested and imprisoned for their murderous campaign. Even though Murphy was mentioned throughout the Diplock Trial, he escaped charges and the 'Master Butcher' was freed in July 1982, returning to his native Shankill.
Within days, Murphy had killed again only this time his next two victims were Protestants. One a local man with learning-disabilities and the second a UDR soldier from Ballymena. That October, the Provisional IRA kidnapped a different UDR man close to the Border and while questioning him, Murphy seized a Catholic resident from the Falls Road. He telephoned a senior SDLP Councillor in Belfast and informed him that the UVF would kill the man, if the IRA did not free the UDR man. It was a typical ruse, as Murphy had already murdered the man inside his former home long before the phone call. The man's desecrated remains were found the following day and Murphy was arrested and questioned by the RUC about the murder but later released. The UDR man was also killed by the PIRA.
|The Scene shortly after Murphy's killing|
On November 16th 1982, the PIRA executed Lenny Murphy in the Loyalist Glencairn estate of West Belfast. Murphy was shot multiple times by masked gunmen outside the home of his girlfriend. In a statement, the Provisionals said; 'Lenny Murphy (master butcher) has been responsible for the horrific murders of over 20 innocent Nationalists in the Belfast area and a number of Protestants. The IRA has been aware for some time that since his release recently from prison, Murphy was attempting to re-establish a similar murder gang to that which he led in the mid-1970s and, in fact, he was responsible for a number of the recent sectarian murders in the Belfast area. The IRA takes this opportunity to restate its policy of non sectarian attacks, while retaining its right to take unequivocal action against those who direct or motivate sectarian slaughter against the Nationalist population'.