Another Prominent Nationalist Escapes Assassination Attempt
Bernadette under fire
by Peter Arnlis
An Phoblacht/Republican News
January 24th, 1981
Late on Thursday night, Bernadette returned home from an H Block meeting of Tyrone delegates in Coalisland. Other travellers on the road that night were stopped at a UDR checkpoint around 1 a.m. at Washing Bay, about two miles from the McAliskey home.
However there is no suggestion that the UDR were directly involved in the shooting, only that their regular patrolling of this nationalist district makes them familiar with it. Given that those charged with the murder bid are complete strangers to the area (two from Lisburn, the other is from Dunmurry, also near Belfast), it is obvious that they needed extremely detailed directions.
because Bernadette and her husband were unable to talk for several days after the shooting, the British army have had a monopoly on the version given of precisely what happened last Friday morning. According to the Brits, "by chance" one of their patrols was in the area, and heard the shooting, which, they say, happened at quarter past eight.
They rushed to the scene and surrounded the three gunmen, whom they arrested. They then gave immediate aid tot he wounded couple but had to send a soldier for transport (which was delayed for almost three quarters of an hour) because their radio was waterlogged and out of order! This version poses many questions which have yet to be satisfactorily explained.
The most predominant local theory is that the Brits were given a "tip off" about the impending attack on Bernadette's life (which logic anyway could have predicted) and that they staked out her house. However, instead of preventing the attack, the Brits allowed it to take place (thus allowing the elimination of a nationalist leader), and then appeared on the scene to make a grand capture of the assassins which would exonerate them from criticism.
However, another possible theory, rather than either the Brits' "by chance" one, or the "conspiratorial" one, is the one of "incompetence". That, in fact, the Brits did have the bungalow staked out - for political observation and/or reasons of a tip off - but thru incompetence (for example, having been inadequately brief, being half-asleep, being badly positioned, or sheltering from the torrential rain - which blotted out their radio), they arrived on the scene, red-faced, seconds after the attack.
Local people, however, are suspicious about the lengthy delay in removing the McAliskeys to the hospital, and are sceptical about the British army patrol having lost radio contact with their base. But it has been attested by Michael McAliskey to Fr Faul that the British soldiers on the scene did give them vital medical aid, and attended to their wounds.