Quinn brothers' killings

Last updated
The Quinn brothers. Left to right: Jason, Mark, Richard Quinn brothers.jpg.png
The Quinn brothers. Left to right: Jason, Mark, Richard

Jason, Richard and Mark Quinn were three brothers killed by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in a firebomb attack on their home in Ballymoney, County Antrim, Northern Ireland on 12 July 1998. The crime was committed towards the end of the three-decade period known as "The Troubles".

One man, Garfield Gilmour, was found guilty of murdering the three brothers 15 months later and sentenced to life imprisonment after admitting that he had driven three other men to the house to commit the fatal petrol-bombing. Although Gilmour named the three alleged killers, they were never charged due to a lack of concrete evidence.


A loyalist mural in Carnany Carnany Loyalist Mural.JPG
A loyalist mural in Carnany

The Quinn family, consisting of mother Chrissie and sons Richard, Mark and Jason, lived in the Carnany estate in the predominantly Protestant town of Ballymoney. The family was of a mixed religious background. Mother Chrissie was Roman Catholic from a mixed background and the boys' father Jim Dillon was Catholic. After separating from her estranged husband, Chrissie reared the boys as Protestant "to avoid the hassle". [1] Chrissie lived with her Protestant partner Raymond Craig in Carnany which had only a few Catholic residents and was mostly Protestant, reflecting the religious make-up of Ballymoney itself. The boys, aged 9, 10 and 11, attended a local state school and on the evening before their deaths had been helping to build the estate's Eleventh Night loyalist bonfire. [1] A fourth brother, Lee, was staying with his grandmother in Rasharkin at the time of the attack.

The entrance to Carnany Carnany Estate Entrance.JPG
The entrance to Carnany

The killings took place at the height of the stand-off over the Orange Order march at Drumcree, which created a tense atmosphere in various towns across Northern Ireland. In Ballymoney, the previous year, an off-duty Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer, Gregory Taylor, was beaten to death by a group of loyalist bandsmen. The killing followed a row about the RUC's position after loyal order marches had been banned from the nearby nationalist village of Dunloy. [2] In the weeks before the fatal attack, the children's mother Chrissie had expressed fear that she wasn't welcome in the area and that there was a possibility the family home might be attacked by loyalists. [3] The Ballymoney Times reported a story the week of the deaths, stating that a resident of the Carnany estate called in and was concerned about tension in the area adding something serious might happen "unless Catholic residents were left alone". [4] Various members of Chrissie's family had lived in Carnany but due to several incidents only Chrissie and her sons remained. The family had only been living in the home, which was previously occupied by the boys' aunt, for six days before the attack.

The attack

The attack occurred at around half past four in the morning as the inhabitants of the house slept. A car containing members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary organisation, arrived at the house and threw a petrol bomb through a window at the rear of the house. The petrol bomb was made from a whiskey bottle. [5] The sounds of the boys' shouting had woken their mother, who found her bedroom full of smoke. Chrissie Quinn, Raymond Craig and a family friend Christina Archibald escaped the resulting fire with minor injuries. Chrissie had thought the boys had escaped the fire as she couldn't locate them in the dense smoke before she jumped to safety from a first floor window. Two of the brother's bodies were found in their mother's bedroom and the other in another bedroom. [6] Chrissie was taken to hospital and released the next day after receiving minor injuries and shock in the attack.


The M.P. for the area, Dr. Ian Paisley, visited the site of the attack and described the killings as "diabolical", "repugnant" and it "stained Protestantism". [7] However, in an interview with ITN he stated that "The IRA have carried out worse murders than we had in Ballymoney over and over again". [8]

Then British Prime Minister Tony Blair denounced the attack as "an act of barbarism". [4]

Reaction from America was also noted as United States President Bill Clinton extended the condolences of the American people to the Quinn family. [9]

Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy condemned the killings and stated "The Orange Order must recognize that its refusal to abide by the decision of the Parades Commission led to the murder of the Quinn boys". [9]

New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani extended sympathy to the family from the city of New York. [9]

Representatives of other groups from all sides of the constitutional issue in Northern Ireland also condemned the killings. [10]

The then Chelsea F.C. chairman, Ken Bates, offered a £100,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for the attackers. [11]

At the brothers' Requiem Mass, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Down and Connor, Dr. Walsh observed that

For all too long the airwaves and the printed page have been saturated with noises – strident, harsh, discordant noises – carrying words of hatred, of incitement, of recrimination, words not found in the vocabulary of Christianity. But the time for words is over. It's now time for silence, a silence in which we will hear the voice of God.

Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern attended a memorial mass in Dublin for the children. [12]

The Progressive Unionist Party, which has political links to the UVF, made no comment that the UVF was implicated in the attack. [13]

Conviction of Garfield Gilmour

Garfield Gilmour, a local loyalist, was arrested soon after the killings and charged with three counts of murder. He was found guilty of murder for his part in the attack and sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1999. He admitted to driving the car which had contained three members of the UVF unit [14] to the Quinn home. He named the three men as Johnny McKay and brothers Raymond and Ivan Parke. However, the three men were not charged with the murders due to a lack of concrete evidence. [10] Gilmour was described at his trial as a hard working, farm machinery salesman who came from a middle-class background who was unwillingly part of the attack which killed the Quinn brothers. The judge described Gilmour as an "accomplished liar". [15] Gilmour and his girlfriend Christina Lofthouse alleged that an uncle of the Quinn boys, Colm Quinn, had approached their daughter offering her a sweet, knowing it was a small piece of cannabis. Colm Quinn confirmed that the couple had made allegations against him previously that he was a drug dealer. He then had to flee the Carnany estate. However, returning to his old house three months before the fatal attack on his nephews, Quinn claimed he was confronted by Gilmour again and was warned he was "going to be sorted out". [5]

The Orange Order released a press statement a year after the attack, stating, "According to today's judgment the murders were a combination of a sectarian attack by the UVF and a personal grudge between Gilmour and the uncle of the three boys," and voiced the "Order's absolute commitment to ensuring that justice is done for their family". [16]

Gilmour had named the three alleged petrol bombers he had driven to the Quinn family home, but these men were never charged due to a lack of concrete evidence. [17]

Gilmour's conviction for murder was reduced to manslaughter on appeal on 5 June 2000 and he was released six years later. [18] Nine days later, his life sentence was replaced by a fixed prison sentence of 14 years. [19]


After being released from hospital Chrissie Quinn returned to her mother's native Rasharkin to live and decided to have the boys buried there. The boys were buried two days later in St Mary's cemetery in Rasharkin after requiem Mass. Thousands of both Catholics and Protestants attended the funeral. [7]

A number of loyalist bands defied RUC requests not to play music while marching past the boys' grandmother's house in the days after the killings. [20]

In April 1999 the former home of the boys in Carnany Park was demolished and replaced with a children's play park as a memorial. [8]

An uncle of the boys, Frankie Quinn, appeared in court in 2007 accused of stabbing Garfield Gilmour in Ballymoney. Quinn was successful in an application for bail. [21]

Related Research Articles

Billy "King Rat" Wright was a prominent Ulster loyalist leader during the ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. He joined the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in 1975. After spending several years in prison and becoming a born again Christian, Wright resumed his UVF activities and became commander of its Mid-Ulster Brigade in the early 1990s, taking over from Robin "the Jackal" Jackson. According to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Wright was involved in the sectarian killings of up to 20 Catholics, although he was never convicted for any. It has been alleged that Wright, like his predecessor, was an agent of the RUC Special Branch.

Ulster Volunteer Force Ulster loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is an Ulster loyalist paramilitary group. It emerged in 1966. Its first leader was Gusty Spence, a former British soldier. The group undertook an armed campaign of almost thirty years during The Troubles. It declared a ceasefire in 1994 and officially ended its campaign in 2007, although some of its members have continued to engage in violence and criminal activities. The group is classified as a terrorist organisation by the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, and United States.

The Shankill Butchers was an Ulster loyalist gang—many of whom were members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)—that was active between 1975 and 1982 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was based in the Shankill area and was responsible for the deaths of at least 23 people, most of whom were killed in sectarian attacks. The gang was notorious for kidnapping and murdering random Catholic and suspected Catholic civilians; each was beaten ferociously and had his throat hacked with a butcher's knife. Some were also tortured and attacked with a hatchet. The gang also killed six Ulster Protestants over personal disputes, and two other Protestants mistaken for Catholics.

Kingsmill massacre 1976 sectarian massacre during The Troubles in Northern Ireland

The Kingsmill massacre was a mass shooting that took place on 5 January 1976 near the village of Whitecross in south County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Gunmen stopped a minibus carrying eleven Protestant workmen, lined them up alongside it and shot them. Only one victim survived, despite having been shot 18 times. A Catholic man on the minibus was allowed to go free. A group calling itself the South Armagh Republican Action Force claimed responsibility. It said the shooting was retaliation for a string of attacks on Catholic civilians in the area by Loyalists, particularly the killing of six Catholics the night before. The Kingsmill massacre was the climax of a string of tit-for-tat killings in the area during the mid-1970s, and was one of the deadliest mass shootings of the Troubles.

Rasharkin village in Northern Ireland

Rasharkin, is a small village, townland and civil parish in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) south of Ballymoney, near Dunloy and Kilrea. It had a population of 1,114 people in the 2011 Census.

The Troubles in Portadown

This article recounts the violence and other effects related to The Troubles in Portadown, County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Much of it has been related to the Drumcree parade dispute.

The Troubles in Lisburn recounts incidents during, and the effects of, the Troubles in Lisburn, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The Troubles in Armagh recounts incidents during The Troubles in Armagh City, County Armagh, Northern Ireland; the violence was substantial enough for the city to be referred to by some as "Murder Mile". Over the span of 36 years, although mainly concentrated in the years from 1969 until 1994, the small city of around 15,000 people, including some outlying areas, seen 86 deaths in the Troubles, including those of a number of people from the city who lost their lives elsewhere in Troubles-related incidents.

The Northern Irish Troubles resulted in 14 deaths in or near the County Antrim town of Ballymoney; the sole incident involving two or more fatalities was the Quinn brothers' killings in July 1998. The three Catholic brothers, aged 9, 10 and 11, were killed during a sectarian Ulster Volunteer Force petrol bomb attack on their home at Carnany Park, in a predominantly Protestant area of Ballymoney. The family had only moved into the house the previous week. The mother and her partner escaped, but couldn't save the three children.

1969 Northern Ireland riots Series of political and sectarian riots, August 1969

During 12–16 August 1969, there was an outbreak of political and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, which is often seen as the beginning of the thirty-year conflict known as the Troubles. There had been sporadic violence throughout the year arising out of the civil rights campaign, which demanded an end to discrimination against Catholics and Irish nationalists. Civil rights marches had been repeatedly attacked by Ulster Protestant loyalists and also came into frequent conflict with the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the overwhelmingly Protestant police force.

Protestant Action Force

The name Protestant Action Force (PAF) was used by loyalists, especially members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), to claim responsibility for a number of paramilitary attacks during the Troubles. It was first used in this context in 1974, and has since been used to claim the killings of at least 41 Catholic civilians.

Reavey and ODowd killings

The Reavey and O'Dowd killings were two co-ordinated gun attacks on 4 January 1976 in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Six Irish Catholic civilians died after members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), an Ulster loyalist paramilitary group, broke into their homes and shot them. Three members of the Reavey family were shot at their home in Whitecross and four members of the O'Dowd family were shot at their home in Ballydougan. Two of the Reaveys and three of the O'Dowds were killed outright, with the third Reavey victim dying of brain hemorrhage almost a month later.

Gerard Casey (Irish republican) Irish Republican

Gerard Casey was member of the 1st North Antrim Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

This is a timeline of actions by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), an Ulster loyalist paramilitary group since 1966. It includes actions carried out by the Red Hand Commando (RHC), a group integrated into the UVF shortly after their formation in 1972. It also includes attacks claimed by the Protestant Action Force (PAF), a covername used by the UVF. Most of these actions took place during the conflict known as "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland.

Glenanne gang

The Glenanne gang or Glenanne group was a secret informal alliance of Ulster loyalists who carried out shooting and bombing attacks against Catholics and Irish nationalists in the 1970s, during the Troubles. Most of its attacks took place in the "murder triangle" area of counties Armagh and Tyrone in Northern Ireland. It also launched some attacks elsewhere in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. The gang included British soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), police officers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), and members of the Mid-Ulster Brigade of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Twenty-five British soldiers and police officers were named as purported members of the gang. Details about the group have come from many sources, including the affidavit of former member and RUC officer John Weir; statements by other former members; police, army and court documents; and ballistics evidence linking the same weapons to various attacks. Since 2003, the group's activities have also been investigated by the 2006 Cassel Report, and three reports commissioned by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron, known as the Barron Reports. A book focusing on the group's activities, Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland, was published in 2013. It drew on all the aforementioned sources, as well as Historical Enquiries Team investigations.

UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade formed part of the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force in Northern Ireland. The brigade was established in Lurgan, County Armagh in 1972 by its first commander Billy Hanna. The unit operated mainly around the Lurgan and Portadown areas. Subsequent leaders of the brigade were Robin Jackson, known as "The Jackal", and Billy Wright. The Mid-Ulster Brigade carried out many attacks, mainly in Northern Ireland, especially in the South Armagh area, but it also extended its operational reach into the Republic of Ireland. Two of the most notorious attacks in the history of the Troubles were carried out by the Mid-Ulster Brigade: the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the Miami Showband killings in 1975. Members of the Mid-Ulster Brigade were part of the Glenanne gang which the Pat Finucane Centre has since linked to at least 87 lethal attacks in the 1970s.

1991 Cappagh killings

The 1991 Cappagh killings was a gun attack by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) on 3 March 1991 in the village of Cappagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. A unit of the UVF's Mid-Ulster Brigade drove to the staunchly republican village and shot dead three Provisional IRA volunteers and a Catholic civilian at Boyle's Bar.

Ramble Inn attack

The Ramble Inn attack was a mass shooting at a rural pub on 2 July 1976 near Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is believed to have been carried out by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary organisation. Six civilians were killed in the attack—five Protestants and one Catholic—and three others were wounded.

The Hillcrest Bar bombing, also known as the "Saint Patrick's Day bombing", took place on 17 March 1976 in Dungannon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group, detonated a car bomb outside a pub crowded with people celebrating Saint Patrick's Day. Four Catholic civilians were killed by the blast—including two 13-year-old boys standing outside—and almost 50 people were injured, some severely.

1991 Craigavon killings

The 1991 Craigavon killings took place on the 14 November 1991 when the Mid-Ulster Brigade of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) shot dead three civilians at the Carbet Road-Carn Road junction near Craigavon, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, on their way home from work at a forklift factory just outside Lurgan.


  1. 1 2 Friel, Laura (16 July 1998). "Three little boys were dead". An Phoblacht.
  2. "A chronology of the conflict 1997". Conflict Archive on the Internet .
  3. Hewitt, Bill (25 July 1998). "Black Sunday". People . Vol. 50 no. 2.
  4. 1 2 "It's ten years since the death of the Quinn boys". Ballymoney Times . 24 July 2008. Archived from the original on 14 September 2016.
  5. 1 2 Graham, Ian (30 October 1999). "Life three times over for brothers murder". Irish Independent .
  6. Mullin, John (7 September 1999). "Distraught mother flees petrol bomb trial". The Guardian .
  7. 1 2 "1998: Children die in Drumcree protests". On This Day. BBC News. 12 July 1998.
  8. 1 2 McKittrick, David (1999). Lost lives: the stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles. Mainstream. p. 1435.
  9. 1 2 3 Falvella-Garraty, Susan. "President decries deaths of Quinn brothers". The Irish Echo .
  10. 1 2 "Life for Quinn boys' murder". BBC World Service. 29 October 1999.
  11. Harkin, Greg (11 July 1998). "Slaughter of the innocents". The Examiner . Archived from the original on 11 December 2008.
  12. "Ahern attends mass for Quinn brothers". Northern Ireland: A Search for Peace. BBC News. 18 July 1998.
  13. "The murders that shocked Northern Ireland". Northern Island. BBC News. 29 October 1999.
  14. Friel, Laura (4 November 1999). "Death, denial and Ballymoney". An Phoblacht.
  15. "Gilmour the boy who fell in with a bad crowd". Birmingham Post via The Free Library.
  16. Rev. William Bingham (1999-10-29). "PRESS RELEASE FROM REV. WILLIAM BINGHAM". Press Statements. The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. Archived from the original on 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
  17. "BBC News | NORTHERN IRELAND | Judgment reserved in Quinn murder appeal".
  18. "Man cleared of NI brothers' murder". BBC News.
  19. "Man jailed for 14 years for manslaughter of Quinn brothers". RTÉ.ie http://www.rte.ie/news/2000/0614/7435-quinn/ .External link in |work= (help)
  20. David McKittrick et al, Lost Lives, Mainstream Publishing, 2008, p. 1433
  21. "Bail for accused in stabbing case" Ballymoney Times 9 February 2007 Retrieved 13 November 2012