"The Miami Showband Massacre" now showing on Netflix is a deep dive into one of the worst atrocities of the Northern Ireland Troubles. It is a powerful tribute to the work of one man, Stephen Travers, who has kept the case alive
As so many times justice in Ireland for the innocent comes down to one man and his determination to never give up.
A new Netflix documentary tells the incredible story of where that quest for the truth leads him.
The man is Stephen Travers who was a 24-year-old masterful bass player with the legendary Miami Showband, Ireland's hottest band in the 1970s. He had no interest in politics, just music.
His life changed forever on July 31, 1975, with the killing of three members of the band which took place at a fake UVF checkpoint as the band members traveled home late at night from a gig in Banbridge, County Down.
The shocking murders of three innocent musicians on a lonely border road created enormous shockwaves throughout Ireland and abroad that reverberates to this day.
Travers remembers vividly the checkpoint which the band members thought was an official British Army one and not unexpected in that dark era.
He remembers the armed men, the officer with the British accent overseeing the stop operation the growing sense of apprehension as they were lined up on the lonely road. Two of the UVF gunmen placed a camouflaged bomb in the rear of the van, set to explode soon after the band allowed to continue on its way
The bomb went off prematurely killing the two who had planted it. The rest of the armed unit began shooting at the band. Travers tried to escape but a dum dum bullet struck him breaking into sixteen pieces within his body. He played dead.
Only one other member of the band, Des McLea, who has also joined in the battle to learn the truth of that awful night, survived.
The Netflix documentary proves the British Government collusion in the murders.
The British officer at the scene was Captain Robert Nairac whose subsequent capture and execution by the IRA remains one of the oft-examined stories of The Troubles
The UVF gang who shot the men was led by Robert Jackson, AKA The Jackal, Ireland's greatest ever mass murderer suspected of killing up to 50 Catholics.
The plan apparently was to have the bomb explode in the van, have the band members labeled as terrorists and put pressure on the Irish government to seal the border.
Unnamed Intelligence officers personally acquainted with Jackson stated that he was a psychopath who would often dress up and attend the funerals of his victims because he felt a need "to make sure they were dead."
The Netflix documentary reports extensively on Travers and his search for the truth. Thwarted at every turn, feeling the power of the hidden hand cover-up led by MI5, the heroic tale of how Travers overcame it all makes for gripping viewing.
It will reach millions of viewers who would not normally have heard of the Miami Showband and the brutal attack which left him so badly wounded in 1975.
Travers says the documentary will give a powerful boost to his cause. “I want to show that we can learn from history. And I want to remind people that we are not going away anywhere in our search for justice. It’s a story to highlight the injustice for all of the victims and families on all sides. The attack on our band was totally unnecessary.
Travers believes he has an important story to tell about the failure of violence to resolve political problems and believes his story is more important than ever as wrangling over Brexit heightens tensions between Britain and Ireland.
“It’s important to remind people that violence caused terrible, terrible problems. It failed the people who used it as an instrument for social change. It failed in every single way. It wasn’t successful at all. The people involved in the violence have all renounced it and rejected it. It’s proven that it didn’t work,” he says.
"ReMastered – The Miami Showband Massacre" is now available to 130 million Netflix subscribers across the globe.
* Ciaran Tierney won the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award at the Tramline, Dublin, in October 2018. Find him on Facebook or Twitter here. Visit his website here - CiaranTierney.com.