Stephen Travers, one of two members of the Miami Showband who survived the horrific 1975 massacre on the band's way back to Dublin from a gig in County Down, is asking the Irish and British governments for answers.
Among the numerous shocking revelations from a volume of documents declassified from 1987 is a letter that shows British intelligence agency MI5 gave the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) detonators they had set to explode prematurely, which the UVF used to carry out their attack.
Five members of the Miami Showband, a beloved touring cabaret band, were traveling back to Dublin from a gig in County Down when they were stopped at a fake British military checkpoint set up by UVF members.
The UVF had been planning to place a bomb on the band's bus and set it to explode as they continued their journey, but – as MI5 had intended – the detonator exploded prematurely, killing two of the UVF men before they could place it on the bus.
The surviving UVF members then shot and killed singer Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty, and trumpeter Brian McCoy. They also shot singer and saxophone player Des Lee and guitarist Stephen Travers and left them for dead, but the two men survived.
Later, three men were convicted for the murders – two had been Ulster Defense Regiment soldiers at the time of the tack, and one was a former UDR soldier.
However, the newly declassified documents have revealed MI5's previously unknown role in the attack, and Travers took to Twitter on Friday to express his fury.
Read the full thread here:
This last official picture of The Miami was taken in May 1975. We had dropped the word Showband by then but the management reinstated it when we reformed in late 1975. From left; Tony Geraghty, Fran O'Toole, Ray Miller, Des Lee, Brian McCoy and Stephen Travers. pic.twitter.com/9lhj3Q3vuK— Stephen Travers (@MiamiShowband) December 28, 2017
Today, thirty years on, the Irish State Papers from 1987 reveal The UVF told Taoiseach Charlie Haughey that MI5 ordered his assassination and claimed their organisation was used by MI5 and MI6, backed up by British Army special forces, from 1972 to 1978 and again in 1985.— Stephen Travers (@MiamiShowband) December 29, 2017
Released today: Irish State Papers 1987: The letter from The UVF says that MI5 also supplied the UVF with detonators "which they had set to explode prematurely," as happened during the attack on the Miami Showband near Banbridge in 1975. https://t.co/pvczJ5Ho2Z— Stephen Travers (@MiamiShowband) December 29, 2017
I woke this morning to the news that, for the past 30 years, The Irish Government was in possession of a letter from The UVF admitting that they were given the bomb, by the British, that murdered The Miami Showband and left me dying in a blood-soaked field. pic.twitter.com/4AcTAiANMn— Stephen Travers (@MiamiShowband) December 29, 2017
I am grateful to the newly-appointed Irish Minister for Justice @CharlieFlanagan for releasing this letter.— Stephen Travers (@MiamiShowband) December 29, 2017
Travers and the victims' families plan to bring a civil court case in a quest for answers.
“We have to talk to the solicitors,” he told the Irish Times. “It’s very disappointing.
“When you think I am now 66, 30 years ago I was 36 and these people, if they had this information it could have saved us a lot of anguish, 30 years of it.
“We could have maybe closed the book on this and said at least we have got to the bottom of it.
“To hear the Irish Government had information and had confirmation of this, what we always said, that MI5 had given these detonators to the UVF.
“I mean the way they put it in the letter was almost as if the big problem was that MI5 was giving faulty detonators to kill them off and we were almost collateral damage but maybe that’s the way they looked at it.
He added that between this and the other revelations from the newly released papers, including UVF claims that MI5 asked them to assassinate former Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Charlie Haughey, the Irish government should be asking hard questions of the British government instead of trying to keep the status quo.
"It’s a very, very serious thing and I think our government, the Irish Government, should be asking questions now of the British government and they should be getting answers,” he added.
“You can ask the British government ’til the cows come home, questions, and they will stonewall you, like they have been stonewalling us for a long time.
“The healthiest thing that can happen, and I know it’s going to be difficult...people, both governments to come clean on what they have and start telling the truth to people, victims from both sides of the conflict.”
On Saturday night, Travers and Des Lee played some Miami Showband songs during a Wolf Tones show in Dublin and used the occasion to address the news.
"The Miami Showband were murdered because they were a powerful force for peace and reconciliation." Powerful words from @MiamiShowband ahead of the Wolfe Tones tonight #CollusionNotAnIllusion pic.twitter.com/ceMvxBNgq3— Oisín MacCanna (@OisMacC) December 30, 2017