Quinn brothers' killings

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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".

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.

Ballymoney town and parish in County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Ballymoney is a small town and civil parish in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is currently served by the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council. The civil parish of Ballymoney is situated in the historic baronies of Dunluce Upper and Kilconway in County Antrim, and the barony of North East Liberties of Coleraine in County Londonderry. It had a population of 10,393 people in the 2011 Census.

County Antrim Place in Antrim, Northern Ireland

County Antrim is one of six counties that form Northern Ireland. Adjoined to the north-east shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 3,046 square kilometres (1,176 sq mi) and has a population of about 618,000. County Antrim has a population density of 203 people per square kilometre or 526 people per square mile. It is also one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland, as well as part of the historic province of Ulster.


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.

Eleventh Night Ulster Protestant celebration in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Eleventh Night or 11th Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, a yearly Ulster Protestant celebration. On this night, large towering bonfires are lit in many Protestant/loyalist neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland and are often accompanied by street parties and loyalist marching bands. The bonfires are mostly made up of wooden pallets and tyres, with some reaching over 100 ft tall. The bonfires are lit to celebrate the Glorious Revolution (1688) and victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1690), which began the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. The event has been condemned for displays of sectarian or ethnic hatred, anti-social behaviour, and for the damage and pollution caused by the fires. The flag of the Republic of Ireland, Irish nationalist/republican symbols, Catholic symbols, and effigies, are burnt on many bonfires. There have been attempts to make the event more family-friendly and environmentally-friendly. It is also known as "bonfire night", in common with other events in which bonfires are lit.

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 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.

Drumcree conflict Drumcree Conflict (Portadown, Northern Ireland)

The Drumcree conflict or Drumcree standoff is an ongoing dispute over yearly parades in the town of Portadown, Northern Ireland. The Orange Order insists that it should be allowed to march its traditional route to and from Drumcree Church. However, most of this route is through the mainly Catholic Irish nationalist part of town. The residents, who see the march as sectarian, triumphalist and supremacist, have sought to ban it from their area. The Orangemen see this as an attack on their traditions; they had marched the route since 1807, when the area was mostly farmland. The "Drumcree parade" is held on the Sunday before the Twelfth of July.

Orange Order Protestant fraternal organisation

The Loyal Orange Institution, more commonly known as the Orange Order, is a Protestant fraternal order based primarily in Northern Ireland. It also has lodges in the Republic of Ireland, a Grand Orange Lodge in the Scottish Lowlands and other lodges throughout the Commonwealth, as well as in the United States and Togo. The Orange Order was founded in County Armagh in 1795, during a period of Protestant–Catholic sectarian conflict, as a Masonic-style fraternity sworn to maintain the Protestant Ascendancy. It is headed by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, which was established in 1798. Its name is a tribute to the Dutch-born Protestant king William of Orange, who defeated the army of Catholic king James II in the Williamite–Jacobite War (1688–1691). Its members wear orange sashes and are referred to as Orangemen. The order is best known for its yearly marches, the biggest of which are held on or around 12 July.

Drumcree Church Church in Portadown, Northern Ireland

Drumcree Parish Church, officially The Church of the Ascension, is the Church of Ireland parish church within the townland of Drumcree, roughly 1.5 miles (2.3 km) to the northeast of Portadown, County Armagh.

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.

Ulster loyalism Pro-UK political alignment in Northern Ireland

Ulster loyalism is a political ideology found primarily among Ulster Protestants in Northern Ireland who maintain a strong desire to remain part of the United Kingdom. Many Ulster Protestants are descendants of settlers from Great Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries. Like most unionists, loyalists are attached to the British monarchy, support the continued existence of Northern Ireland, and oppose a united Ireland. Ulster loyalism has been described as a kind of ethnic nationalism and "a variation of British nationalism". It is strongly associated with paramilitarism.

Molotov cocktail incendiary weapon using flammable liquid in a bottle

A Molotov cocktail, also known as a petrol bomb, gasoline bomb, bottle bomb, poor man's grenade, Molotovin koktaili (Finnish), polttopullo (Finnish), fire bomb, fire bottle or just Molotov, sometimes shortened as Molly, is a generic name used for a variety of bottle-based improvised incendiary weapons. Due to the relative ease of production, Molotov cocktails have been used by street criminals, protesters, rioters, criminal gangs, urban guerrillas, terrorists, hard-line militants, anarchists, irregular soldiers, or even regular soldiers short on equivalent military-issue weapons. They are primarily intended to ignite rather than obliterate targets.


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]

Ian Paisley Northern Irish politician and religious leader, 1926–2014

Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, Baron Bannside, was a loyalist politician and Protestant religious leader from Northern Ireland.

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

Tony Blair Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He was Leader of the Opposition from 1994 to 1997. As of 2017, Blair is the last British Labour Party leader to have won a general election.

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]

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  20. "Bail for accused in stabbing case" Ballymoney Times 9 February 2007 Retrieved 13 November 2012