Saturday, 17 December 2011
THE MURDER OF REV ROBERT BRADFORD
Reverend Robert Bradford was a Methodist church minister and Westminster MP for South Belfast. A deeply religious man, he had entered politics to try and improve the lives of ordinary people suffering at the hands of religiously-motivated IRA terrorism.
On 14th November 1981 Reverend Bradford was holding a clinic for his south Belfast constituents to help them deal with everyday issues like housing, welfare benefits, employment, etc. It was held at a community centre in the Finaghy area at the same time as a children's disco for underprivileged kids from the area.
A gang of IRA gunmen stormed into the building firing shots all around (including towards the young children) and murdered the minister and an innocent caretaker Ken Campbell.
Robert Bradford (Ulster Unionist politician)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Robert Bradford, MP In office 1974–1981
Preceded by Rafton Pounder
Succeeded by Martin Smyth
Constituency South Belfast
Born 8 June 1941 Limavady, Northern Ireland
Died 14 November 1981 (aged 40) Belfast
Ulster Unionist Party
Robert Jonathan Bradford MP (8 June 1941 – 14 November 1981) was a Vanguard Unionist and Ulster Unionist Member of Parliament for the Belfast South constituency in Northern Ireland until he was killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army on 14 November 1981
Bradford was born on 8 June 1941 to a Belfast family resident in Limavady due to the wartime evacuation. Bradford's father left the family not long after his birth and his mother died so he was raised by foster parents. A talented footballer, Bradford signed for Glenavon F.C. as a teenager and his displays soon attracted the attentions of top English side Sheffield Wednesday F.C, who invited him to a trial. However, Bradford was not signed by the club and returned to Northern Ireland to resume his career with the then Belfast-based club Distillery.
Bradford gave up football in 1964, after deciding to train to become a Methodist minister. After spending the rest of the 1960s attached to congregations in East Belfast and Fivemiletown, Bradford was fully ordained in 1970 and given his own parish in the Suffolk area of South-west Belfast. Bradford would later be removed from post in the late 1970s and would spend the final years of his life without a church. During these years he came to spend time in the 'Bible belt' of the United States and became associated with Evangelicalism. Nevertheless Bradford claimed to always remain at heart a Methodist and also rejected suggestions that he was to join Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church (which he never did).
 Political career
Bradford first became involved with unionism in 1971 when he joined the Orange Order. From here he became more involved in the political side of the movement and stood as a candidate for the Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party in the Northern Ireland Assembly election, 1973 in South Antrim, although he was not elected.
Bradford was first elected as Member of Parliament for South Belfast in the February 1974 British general election, this time under the banner of the United Ulster Unionist Council (an alliance between the Vanguard, the Democratic Unionist Party and the anti-Brian Faulkner Ulster Unionists under Harry West), defeating the sitting MP Rafton Pounder, a pro-Faulkner Unionist. His campaign had been openly supported by the British National Front and, at a September 1974 NF Rally, Martin Webster read out a letter of solidarity from Bradford.
Bradford greatly increased his majority in the October election, after Pounder dropped out, and largely maintained this increased majority in 1979. Between 1974 and 1978 he sat for the Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party until in February 1978 he joined the Ulster Unionist Party (then commonly called the Official Unionist Party), along with Vanguard leader William Craig and most of the membership. He was re-elected in 1979 for the UUP.
A mural dedicated to Bradford, Oak Street off Belfast's Donegall Pass
Bradford was shot dead - by the IRA on 14 November 1981 in a community centre in Finaghy, Belfast, while hosting a political surgery. Kenneth Campbell, the 29 year old Protestant caretaker in the centre, was also shot dead in the attack.
The Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald made an expression of sympathy in the Dáil Éireann saying: 
“I would like to refer to the brutal murder, by the Provisional IRA, of the Reverend Robert Bradford, MP in Belfast on Saturday last. His death and that of Mr. Ken Campbell, caretaker at the Finaghy Community Centre, are part of a calculated series of atrocities committed in recent days. I know that all the people we represent share the sense of sorrow, anger and outrage widely felt in Northern Ireland at present.
The killing of an elected representative of the people calls for particular condemnation in the strongest possible terms and serves to remind us of the real objectives of the organisation responsible. The IRA has once again shown its utter contempt for human life and for the democratic process which it has recently sought to distort for its own ends. Its true attitude to democracy and freedom was summed up in a recent statement of an IRA spokesman who, when asked by an interviewer for a foreign newspaper about the wishes of the people in this part of the country concerning an aspect of reunification, replied, “We call the shots. We don't really give a damn what they want”.
His seat was won by Martin Smyth, also of the Ulster Unionists, in a by-election in 1982. A book about Bradford's life, A Sword Bathed in Heaven, was written by his widow, Norah, in 1984, dealing largely with his path to Methodism, although also examining his political career.
Norah Bradford, A Sword Bathed in Heaven, 1984
1.^ p182, Nigel Fielding, The National Front, Taylor & Francis, 1981, ISBN 0710005598
2.^ Dáil Éireann Parliamentary Debates - Volume 330 - November 17, 1981
 External links
Seanad Éireann (Senate of the Republic of Ireland) passes motion of sympathy on assassination of Rev Robert Bradford MP.
NI Conflict Archive on the Internet
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Member of Parliament for Belfast South
I AM ALSO REPUBLISHING THIS
Former cleric urges new probe into MP murder
Sunday, April 29, 2007
By Pauline Reynolds
THE former head of the Methodist Church is to ask the Police Ombudsman to investigate the IRA murder 26 years ago of UUP MP Rev Robert Bradford.
Former Methodist president Rev Jim Rea and Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers are due to meet with Nuala O'Loan tomorrow to call for the case to be re-opened following revelations in Sunday Life.
In our story, journalist Greg Harkin sensationally revealed how Special Branch AND Army intelligence knew details of the murder plot THREE days before.
Mr Rodgers also plans to raise the case with the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team.
He described our revelations as "terribly disturbing".
"Some people may think that because Robert was murdered so long ago it doesn't really matter any more," he said.
"But I believe it's important we find out the truth.
"Greg Harkin is a highly respected journalist with very good contacts and I have no reason to doubt his information.
"At the time of his murder, it had been rumoured Robert may have been set up, not by the Special Branch but by British intelligence.
"There were also a number of names put forward suggesting involvement in the killing, but no one has ever been brought to book. We need to get to the bottom of this and put it to rest.
"These claims will obviously have been very upsetting for Robert's wife Nora and the couple's daughter."
Mr Rodgers and Rev Bradford were good friends.
Added the councillor: "We had a lot in common, belonging to the same church and the same political party.
"We appeared on a number of public platforms together and his views and my own would have been very similar.
"He was a person who I held in the highest regard."
MP could have been saved
MP 'sacrificed to protect agents within ranks of the provisionals'
Sunday, April 15, 2007
In the third part of our explosive series The Special Branch Files, journalist Greg Harkin reveals how a botched undercover operation led to the murder of the Rev Robert Bradford
Shortly before 11.30am on Saturday, November 14, 1981, three armed IRA members carrying ladders and dressed in painters' boilersuits arrived at the community centre at Benmore Drive in Finaghy.
At first their arrival did not arouse suspicion; there was ongoing work at the centre.
One of the gang members, carrying a sub-machine-gun, took up position at the front door.
One of his accomplices shouted "freeze" before opening fire on the caretaker, 29-year-old Kenneth Campbell, who was returning to the centre after a break at his nearby home.
While one of the IRA men pinned an RUC bodyguard to the ground at gunpoint, another gunman quickly turned to the Reverend Robert Bradford, Ulster Unionist MP for South Belfast.
He opened fire, shooting him in the eye, chest, neck and ear.
The 40-year-old father-of-one died instantly.
As the IRA's active service unit (ASU) fled, the RUC officer fired three shots after their getaway car.
It was another horrific day in a blood-spattered year in which 117 people lost their lives in the Troubles - 1981, the year of the hunger strikes.
Today, however, 26 years later, Sunday Life can reveal that neither Rev Bradford nor Mr Campbell should have died in the IRA attack - RUC Special Branch and Army Intelligence had prior knowledge of the incident an incredible THREE DAYS beforehand.
They told neither the Rev Bradford, nor his police protection officer.
Three years ago, a former officer with the shadowy Army intelligence-gathering outfit the Force Research Unit (FRU) contacted me with information on several murders which took place during the Troubles.
He knew of - but did not know - 'Martin Ingram', another former FRU officer.
He hinted at a cover-up in the murder of the Ulster Unionist MP in 1981.
Now, for the first time, he has decided to tell the whole story.
I have since been able to verify these claims with two other sources not known to each other.
"The Rev Bradford was a sitting duck. The IRA had checked out the (community) centre before as a possible venue for a hit," said the source.
"He had certainly been warned that he had to be extra careful when he was there, but the information before the shooting was 100pc certain that an attack would take place that Saturday, November 14.
"This was not a general warning. We had someone in the IRA giving us information on the planned attack.
"I know for a fact that Special Branch also had someone inside giving them the same information."
The ex-officer claims he had spent that weekend expecting to hear about the arrests or shootings of IRA members.
"I couldn't believe it when the MP was taken out along with another civilian," he recalled.
"I made a point of finding out what went wrong. Our lot had put a great deal into this intelligence operation and I know Special Branch did, too.
"All the information was passed up (the chain of command), but nothing happened. I know that teams were prepared by the RUC to intercept the IRA team, but they were still on their way (to Finaghy) when the murders took place. They were too late. It was mind-boggling.
"But they shouldn't have been too late. They (the RUC) knew for three f*****g days what was going to happen, but there was no operation put in place around the IRA team as they set off from Andersonstown, there was no operation put in place around Mr Bradford or his home on the Malone Road, and the operation for the community centre was still leaving the station when the murders took place.
"It defies belief that this could have happened, but it did. Army Intelligence would have had people on the ground the night before, for God's sake."
But how could such a monumental mistake take place?
Branch sources say officers at the time were also furious that the Rev Bradford had not been saved, but put the incident down to poor planning and incompetence rather than any more sinister reason.
The former soldier however said he believed that now was the time for information on the murder to be investigated - believing there could have been other reasons.
"I believe the hit went ahead to save agents' lives," he claimed.
He admitted that he had "no evidence whatsoever" to substantiate this claim, but insisted: "I find it hard to believe any other reason.
"This is not just about Mr Bradford, either. There was also Mr Campbell who died and at least three Catholics were killed by loyalists in retaliation in the days after the killing."
Just hours after the Bradford murder, Stephen Murphy (19) was shot by a UVF gunman as he answered his door in the Oldpark area of north Belfast. He died from his injuries 10 days later.
Thomas McNulty (18) was murdered by the UVF as he walked home in the Short Strand area of east Belfast the day after the Bradford murder.
Two days later, Billy Wright, then UVF leader in Mid-Ulster, shot dead 20-year-old Catholic Peader Fegan in Lurgan.
When the MP and Mr Campbell were shot, children at a kids' disco witnessed the horrific murders.
A 15-year-old DJ described how he threw a chair at one of the killers while shouting at other children to dive for cover.
"The gunmen pushed the children out of the way as they made their way out of the building," he added.
An 11-year-old told reporters afterwards: "They shot the Rev Bradford about six times. We were quite close by. The shots were very loud."
The murders were widely condemned.
TDs in Dail Eireann stood for a minute's silence, but in Northern Ireland there were fears of an all-out civil war.
The SDLP leader, John Hume, said the murder was a deliberate attempt by the IRA to provoke the community into civil conflict.
Unionists reacted with anger. UUP leader James Molyneaux threatened a 'Third Force' if the Secretary of State, Jim Prior, did not announce a 'crackdown' on the paramilitaries.
At the Rev Bradford's funeral, Mr Prior was jostled by dozens of mourners. He recalled afterwards: "I had to make a run for the church door with my detectives shielding me. I just about managed to get through in one piece. "
He was later heckled inside the church and as he left afterwards he was jostled again by crowds shouting: "Kill him! Kill him!"
Earlier, mourners cheered and applauded when the minister conducting the funeral service called for the reintroduction of capital punishment.
The IRA admitted responsibility for the murders just hours after the killings.
The Provisionals' statement read: "Belfast Brigade IRA claims responsibility for the execution of Robert Bradford MP, one of the key people responsible for winding up the loyalist paramilitary sectarian machine in the North.
"Let Mr Tyrie (UDA leader) and the UDA know well the cost of killing innocent nationalist people."
The Rev Bradford had become a Methodist minister when he was 22, turning his back on a career as a professional footballer with Sheffield Wednesday.
He joined the UUP when he served as a minister in the loyalist enclave of Suffolk in west Belfast and was elected MP for south Belfast in 1974.
He became an outspoken critic of the IRA and had demanded the reintroduction of hanging for terrorist killers.
The Rev Bradford's widow, Norah, was 33 at the time of the killing. They had one daughter, Claire.
Speaking after the murder, she told reporters: "They have tried several times at the advice centre. They came at least two times before and they were caught out watching the advice centre, but he would not give it up just for them.
"He knew it would be the most likely place for them to get him.
"He never feared he would be attacked. He felt it was a possibility. He did not fear it."
It is clear from other interviews at the time that the Rev Bradford knew he was a target for the Provisionals.
He also knew the centre in Finaghy where he attended clinics at least once a month was a place where an attack could take place.
What makes the claims from a former Army officer more serious is the fact that the security forces knew an attempted murder was going to take place on the morning of November 14, 1981 and appeared to do very little to prevent it.
They know who was in the gang, who was providing support and various other details.
What is clear is that the gang would not stop at these murders. The gun used to kill the Rev Bradford was also used to shoot Judge William Doyle and Mary Travers several years later.
"Northern Ireland has to move on, but I don't think that is possible until we have dealt with the past," said the ex-FRU officer.
"I believe there has to be a lawyer-free truth and reconciliation tribunal where everyone makes statements about the past.
"Police officers, for example, are allowed under the law to waive the restrictions of the Official Secrets Act when they talk to the Police Ombudsman. "A tribunal could offer an amnesty to all participants - security forces and paramilitaries - and a way forward that doesn't involved expensive investigation and legal fees."
Today's revelations will certainly lead to calls for inquiries.
Mrs Bradford said of her husband's killers at the time: "The Lord will deal with them in his own good time. It is not for me to speak of that."
Roy Magee takes his secrets to the grave!
Roy knew a lot but fear and a sense of helplessness (guess why he felt helpless?) he kept his silence because he knew no-one would publish his claims! But I have! Because he blurted out what he knew about the murder of Rev Robert Bradford in a telephone conversation between us both in 1996. Powerful people WILL NOT LET this info be published in mainstream press or media!R
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"Disappeared off the face of the earth" by Jim Cairns
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