30th anniversary of Derry Volunteers Eddie McSheffrey and Paddy Deery

Eddie McSheffrey and Paddy Deery.
Eddie McSheffrey and Paddy Deery.

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 funeral procession holding aloft the coffins of Eddie McSheffrey and Paddy Deery.

The funeral procession holding aloft the coffins of Eddie McSheffrey and Paddy Deery.

This Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of the deaths of the two Derry men, who were blown up in Creggan while transporting the bomb to an unidentified target after it exploded prematurely.

To mark the anniversary of their deaths, a commemoration event will be held at the Republican Plot at the City Cemetery on Saturday at 1pm.

Following the explosion, the men were rushed to Altnagelvin hospital but were dead on arrival. The car had been hijacked at Colmcille Court earlier that morning, and 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 McSheffrey 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 a 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.

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.

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. After the funeral procession left the Cathedral 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.

Trouble 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.

The Bogside/Brandywell and Creggan Monument Committees will be holding the commemoration on Saturday at 1pm at the Republican plot.