Avenue Bar shooting

On 15 May 1988, the Ulster Volunteer Force launched a gun attack on the Avenue Bar on Union Street in the city centre of Belfast, Northern Ireland, killing three Catholic civilians and wounding six others. The bar was close to the Unity Flats complex and as a result was frequented mostly by Catholics.

Avenue Bar shooting
Part of the Troubles
Avenue Bar shooting is located in Northern Ireland
Avenue Bar shooting
LocationUnion Street,
Northern Ireland
Date15 May 1988
14:20 (GMT)
Attack type
Mass shooting
WeaponsVz58 assault rifles
Deaths3 civilians
PerpetratorUlster Volunteer Force


In 1988 both the UVF and the UDA had stepped up their campaigns against the Nationalist community, in part due to receiving a large arms shipment of handguns and assault rifles from South Africa. On 15 January the UVF shot dead Catholic civilian Billy Kane at his home in the New Lodge. The objective of the Avenue Bar attack was to kill a leading Republican from the Unity Flats.[1] The bar had already been targeted by the UVF in 1973 in a bomb attack in which a Catholic pensioner, Francis McNelis, was killed.[2]

The shootingEdit

The attack happened at 2:20pm when the bar was crowded with Sunday drinkers. Two gunmen walked into the pub after being admitted through an electronic security door. A witness said they at first seemed to be looking for someone, but then opened fire indiscriminately with automatic weapons.[3] People threw glasses at the gunmen in an attempt to fight them off. The gunmen escaped in a car which had been hijacked 20 minutes earlier on the Shankill Road, and which was found abandoned at Carlow Street behind Shankill Leisure Centre shortly after the attack.[4] The three victims were Stephen McGahan (27), from the New Lodge, Damien Devlin (24), from Andersonstown, and Paul McBride (27), from Ardoyne. The UVF almost managed to kill another leading Provisional IRA member from the Unity Flats who was drinking in the bar at the time of the attack.[1]


In January 1990 three self-confessed Ulster Volunteer Force volunteers were sentenced to life for the parts they played in the Avenue Bar shooting along with the killing of another Catholic civilian on 15 January 1988 in Upper Meadow Street, Belfast. .[5]

A month after the killings at the bar, on the 15 June 1988, the Provisional IRA (PIRA) shot dead a UVF commander, Robert "Squeak" Seymour, who the PIRA alleged had ordered the Avenue Bar attack. He was killed by the PIRA in an alley behind his video shop in Woodstock Road, east Belfast.[6]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b McDonald & Cusack, Henry & Jim. UVF - The Endgame. Poolbeg.
  2. ^ McKittrick, David (2001). Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Random House.
  3. ^ . The Glasgow Herald. 16 May 1988. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ McKittrick, David (2001). Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Random House.
  5. ^ https://www.rte.ie/archives/collections/news/21389009-three-uvf-members-jailed-for-life/ RTÉ Archives|Three UVF Members Jailed For Life|
  6. ^ https://www.rte.ie/archives/collections/news/21278842-ira-shot-uvf-member-robert-seymour/ RTÉ Archives| IRA Shot UVF Member Robert Seymour BROADCAST: 1988.JUN.15|by Fergal Keane|rte.ie