25th anniversary of IRA volunteers Paddy Deery and Eddie McSheffrey

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On the afternoon of Wednesday October 28 1987 a loud explosion was heard in the Cromore Gardens area of Creggan. The blast ripped though a Renault 9 car being driven by two IRA members, Paddy Deery and Eddie McSheffrey, killing both men.

This Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the deaths of two Derry IRA men, Paddy Deery and Eddie McSheffrey, who were blown up in Creggan while transporting a bomb. Commemoration events will be held in the city on Sunday to remember both men. ‘Journal’ reporter MICHAEL McMONAGLE looks back at the events surrounding their deaths

Defendents in Raymond Gilmour case who were aquitted when the Judge Lowry threw the case out of the court. Pictured triumphantly outside the High Court.  Pacemaker Press Intl. Dec. '84''992/84/BW

Defendents in Raymond Gilmour case who were aquitted when the Judge Lowry threw the case out of the court. Pictured triumphantly outside the High Court. Pacemaker Press Intl. Dec. '84''992/84/BW

On the afternoon of Wednesday October 28 1987 a loud explosion was heard in the Cromore Gardens area of Creggan. The blast ripped though a Renault 9 car being driven by two IRA members, Paddy Deery and Eddie McSheffrey, killing both men.

The pair were transporting a bomb to an unidentified target when it exploded prematurely. They were rushed to Altnagelvin hospital but were dead on arrival.

The car had been hijacked at Colmcille Court earlier that morning. Shortly after the blast the remains of the vehicle were set on fire by a number of men.

The IRA then released a statement saying both of the men were IRA volunteers and had been on active service at the time of their deaths.

In fact, they were the last members of the Derry Brigade of the IRA to die on active service on the streets of Derry.

Both men were well known in republican circles in Derry and had grown up as the Troubles escalated. Both had direct experience of the conflict since childhood which no doubt influenced their decision to join the IRA.

31 year-old Paddy Deery from Glenowen Park in the city was a member of a well known Derry republican family. His mother, Peggy, was seriously wounded by British army paratroopers on Bloody Sunday in 1972 and in the years that followed the family home was regularly raided by British soldiers and the RUC.

Paddy himself also suffered at the hands of British soldiers when he lost an eye after being hit by a rubber bullet when he was 15 years-old.

Despite his injury, he joined the IRA and became a driver with an active service unit.

Aside from his republican activities, Paddy was known for his sense of humour and was known for his jokes.

He was married to Collete and the couple had three young children, Patrick Jnr., Gavin, and Shauna.

29 year-old Eddie McShefffrey also came from a well known republican family and was no stranger to the Troubles. In 1972 the McSheffrey family had a narrow escape when an explosion which killed two IRA men, John Brady and Jimmy Carr, destroyed their Meenan Park home. He was first arrested when he was 11 years-old and his father was interned in Long Kesh for a time.

As a teenager he spent two years in jail after being convicted of membership of Na Fianna Éireann, the youth wing of the IRA. He was also held on remand on the word of Derry supergrass Raymond Gilmour until the informer’s evidence was thrown out of court in December 1984.

He immediately became reinvolved in IRA activities and in August 1985 he sustained leg injuries in a bomb blast at William Street in which 20 year-old IRA man Charles English was killed while attempting to launch an attack on an passing RUC patrol.

Eddie was arrested and taken to Altnagelvin hospital before being transferred to Musgrave Park hospital where he was charged with conspiring to kill members of the RUC. He spent a considerable time on remand in Crumlin Road jail before the charges were eventually dropped.

Eddie was married to Mary and had two children, Charles and Aisling.

Speaking after the explosion, Martin McGuinness paid tribute to both men and said both had children when the Troubles began and had experienced the “reality of British rule in Ireland.”

“Paddy Deery’s mother was shot and seriously injured by a British para on Bloody Sunday. Paddy, himself, lost an eye when he was 15 after being struck by a rubber bullet. In June 1986 Paddy was the victim of an illegal extradition when and a friend were handed over the RUC by Gardai at Muff. “Eddie McSheffrey’s childhood was an endless succession of house-raids and arrests. Eddie was first arrested at the age of 11. His father was dragged away to internment in Long Kesh and Eddie himself experienced numerous imprisonments and regular brutality in Castlereagh and Strand Road RUC barracks.

“Eddie McSheffrey and Paddy Derry were convinced that only the ending of British rule could bring real and lasting peace to Ireland. They made a conscious decision, a decision taken by many other Irishmen and women, that only armed resistance could bring about the removal of Britain from this island.

“Eddie McSheffrey and Paddy Derry died because they believed, passionately, in what they were fighting for. Their untimely deaths are a tragedy, not only for their loved ones and for their friends, but for all the freedom-loving people of this city and this country,” said Mr McGuinness.

The funerals of the two men attracted some of the largest crowds witnessed in the city for many years and were controversial as police clashed with mourners. A huge security force presence surrounded the houses of both men and lined the route to St Eugene’s Cathedral. Minor scuffles broke out between police and mourners along the route.

The funerals also brought mourners into conflict with Catholic church authorities. Following a previous IRA funeral, during which a volley of shots was fired within the precincts of St Columba’s Church, Long Tower, the then Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly said the remains of IRA volunteers should not be allowed inside churches during Requiem Mass.

The McSheffrey and Deery families appealed to the Bishop to lift the ban and allow the coffins into St Eugene’s Cathedral during the Requiem Mass..

The funerals had been due to take place on the Saturday but the families’ decided to postpone them until Monday and asked the Bishop to reconsider but Dr Daly reaffirmed his position.

However, the coffins were eventually allowed into the Cathedral on Monday for Requiem Mass. St Eugene’s administrator Fr Neil McGoldrick said the decision was taken “to avoid unbecoming scenes.”

After Mass the coffins, which were both draped with Tricolours, remained in the grounds of the Cathedral for almost four hours while protracted negotiations took place between priests and the RUC. The families said the funeral should not proceed until the RUC gave assurances that they would maintain a reasonable distance from the cortege.

The funeral procession finally left the Cathedral at 2.30pm and began to make its way slowly towards the City Cemetery. At 3.20pm a hooded man emerged from the crowd and fired a volley of shots between the two coffins.

Troubled flared when the RUC moved into surround the mourners and the cortege was delayed for ten minutes as police tried to flank the coffins. Pallbearers were jostled and the coffin of Eddie McSheffrey was almost knocked to the ground on two occasions.

As mourners tried to keep the police back a number of plastic bullets were fired and the RUC baton charged the crowd. At least 20 people were injured and had to be taken to hospital.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams delivered the graveside oration for the two IRA men and paid tribute to their courage and determination. He also thanked the familes of the two men for their committment to republicanism and encouraged Derry republicans to support them.

Commemoration events will be held in the city on Sunday to remember the anniversaries of both men.

A commemoration will be held at the republica plot in the City Cemetery on Sunday at 2pm which will be followed by a photographic exhibition chronicling the life of both men, as well as the events surrounding their funerals, in the Gasyard Centre. A presentation will also be made to the families of both men. The commemoration events have been jointly organised by the Bogside and Brandywell and Creggan republican monument committees.