Eamonn ‘Bronco’ Bradley remembered 30 years on

IRA volunteer Eamon 'Bronco' Bradley. (2408MM08)
IRA volunteer Eamon 'Bronco' Bradley. (2408MM08)

A commemoration will take place in the city tomorrow to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of IRA man Eamonn ‘Bronco’ Bradley.

The 23 year-old was walking along the Racecourse Road with a friend when he was shot dead by British soldiers in August 1982. He was unarmed when he was killed by members of the Anglian regiment.

Martin McGuinness carying the coffin of Eamonn 'Bronco' Bradley flanked by masked IRA members. (2408MM12)

Martin McGuinness carying the coffin of Eamonn 'Bronco' Bradley flanked by masked IRA members. (2408MM12)

Mr Bradley, who had been released from Long Kesh eighteen months earlier, had just left the Shantallow House with a friend, Paul McCool, when he was shot. The pair had just stepped outside the bar when they were surrounded by British soldiers. One soldier grabbed Paul McCool while another shot and wounded Eamonn Bradley. Eyewitnesses then said a soldier then shot Mr Bradley in the head as he lay wounded.

People who were in the area at the time were adamant that no other shots were fired apart from those fired by the British army.

Speaking shortly after the shooting, Mr McCool described it as “cold blooded murder”.

Mr Bradley’s mother also had no doubt about what happened. “My son has been murdered; there’s no other expression for it,” she said.

“I only hope that the mother of that soldier never has to go through a pain as sore as mine. Why couldn’t they have left him wounded? Why did they have to kill him while he lay there?” she asked.

The shooting was widely condemned in Derry at the time, with the Bishop, Dr Edward Daly, describing it as “callous murder.”

Dr Daly also called for the soldiers responsible to be brought to justice. “On the rare occasions that charges have been brought against soldiers responsible for murders here, there have been few, if any convictions. The question must be asked; ‘Why have those responsible for the murder of Eamonn Bradley not been charged before now?’ Unlike many of the terrible murders that have occurred here, the authorities were able to identify the individual or individuals responsible immediately.”

The Shantallow man was one of eight children and was known as ‘Bronco’ after ‘Bronco Layne’, a character from a popular western TV show.

He became involved in republicanism at a young age and at 16 he was officer commanding (OC) of Na Fianna Éireann in the Shantallow area and soon became the second-in-command of the Fianna in Derry. At 17 he moved from the Fianna to the IRA and was known as a dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer. His activities soon brought him to the attention of the security forces and on April 1st 1976 he was arrested and was eventually sent to Long Kesh. He spent five years in the H-Blocks, four of them on the blanket.

He was released in 1981 and immediately reported back to active service with the IRA. He was shot dead 16 months later.

He was buried with full military honours and thousands of people attended his funeral. Three masked IRA members fired a volley of shots over the coffin as the funeral cortege left the Bradley family’s Carnhill home.

In his graveside oration, veteran Derry republican Sean Keean, paid tribute to the 23 year-old IRA man. “Eamon ‘Bronco’ Bradley had been devoted to the cause of freedom and was a dedicated volunteer in the IRA. Eamonn has joined that glorious band of Tone and Emmet, Pearse and Connolly, Mellows and Sands, his fallen comrades of the Derry Brigade and, with them, his name will be forever honoured.”

To mark the 30th anniversary of the killing, a number of events will be held in Shantallow tomorrow evening. A wreath laying will take place at 8pm at the Shantallow Republican Monument, Racecourse, Road. This will be followed by the presentation of trophies for the annual Bradley/Heaney memorial football competition. A dance and buffer will then follow in the nearby Shantallow House with music by Jerry Mac.

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney appealed for a large turnout at the commemoration. “I am calling on as many people as possible to attend Saturday night’s wreath laying ceremony in memory of Eamonn ‘Bronco’ Bradley. It will be a very poignant occasion as it will mark the 30th Anniversary of Bronco being murdered by the members of the Royal Anglican regiment shortly after leaving Shantallow House with two friends”

“The people of Derry have continually demonstrated their support and respect for our fallen republican dead and I would once again call on people to the take time out and come along and remember with pride Eamonn and all the republican dead from the greater Shantallow area.