Coshquin Bomb 25 years on

An RUC  officer sifts through the debris following the huge bomb blast at Coshquin which killed six people and seriously injured five more.
An RUC officer sifts through the debris following the huge bomb blast at Coshquin which killed six people and seriously injured five more.

Twenty-five years ago, on the morning of 24th October, the lives of the Gillespie family were changed forever.

In the early hours of that otherwise normal Wednesday, masked IRA gunmen entered the Gillespie home, held Kathleen Gillespie and her children hostage while they forced her husband Patsy to drive a car containing a huge bomb to the then permanent army checkpoint at Coshquin.

The massive IRA bomb went off, killing Patsy instantly and leaving five British soldiers dead.

Twenty-seven other people were injured and the devastation at Coshquin was colossal.

At the time, the IRA released a statement sying they did not regard the the 42-year-old as a civilian but rather as what they called ‘a part of the British war machine’ because he worked at the Fort George British Army base.

In ‘Derry Journal’ reports in the aftermath of the bomb they reported that Patsy Gillespie was forced to take a vehicle containing 1000lb of explosives to the search bay at the checkpoint.

His wife Kathleen had been told by the gunmen that Patsy would be returned home within half an hour and that no one would be hurt.

Instead, the bomb went off and the loss of life was mourned across the city.

At the time, the Bishop of Derry, Most Rev. Dr. Edward daly described the incident as one of the worst ever in the history of the Troubles in Derry.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Right Rev. Dr James Mehaffey was outraged by the attack and added that peace and negotiations were the only way forward.

An Taoiseach Charles Haughey, described the bombing as ’savage, stating that such attacks were futile and served only to bring tragedy and suffering in their wake.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said he regretted the deaths but they were an inevitable consequence of Britain’s refusal to accept Ireland’s right to self-determination.

Aside from the loss of life, the devastation surrounding the bombing was huge.

The Benview Estate, with 22 homes, was completely evacuated.

Almost all of the houses suffered damage, with 95% having windows blown in.

Worst affected was a row of pensioners’ homes about 100 yards from the scene of the explosion.

A newly-erected community centre was wrecked and the Three Flowers bar took the full force of the blast.