Another Prominent Nationalist Escapes Assassination Attempt
Bernadette under fire
by Peter Arnlis
An Phoblacht/Republican News
January 24th, 1981
That the Brits heard the shots at all (from automatic pistols) means that they must have been close to bernadette's house one of her closest neighbours, Michael's cousin, Gerry McAliskey, heard no shooting. And if they were close enough to hear the shooting they must also have heard the approach of the loyalists' orange-coloured Hillman Avenger car, which because of the twisted narrow lane and dangerous ditches would have been reducd to travel at a crawl and would have had to have had its headlights on.
The UDA gunmen parked their car (which apparently had been hired in Belfast) in the small courtyard, got out, and began smashing fown the kitched door with a sledgehammer - a tactic similarily used by the loyalists involved in the murder of prominent IRSP members and H Block activists Ronnie Bunting and Noel Little in Belfast last October.
Inside the house they first shot Michael before shooting Bernadette, ripped out the telephone to prevent their children or any neighbours coming on the scene immediately after the shooting from dialing for help, and then went to escape. The British army have limited themselves to simply saying that they "succeeded in detaining three men at the scene" and have not clarified if this was in the house, or in confrontation in the courtyard or lane. (In confrontation with republicans the British army invaribly shoot first and ask questions later.)
For Gerry McAliskey, Michael's cousin, who lives sevel hundred yards below him, Friday morning began as usual He had drivel into Coalisland just before 8 a.m., had noticed no unusual cars on the road before returning home to read the morning newspaper. At about 8:30 a.m. there were footsteps in the lane. A British paratrooper, in is mid-twenties with face blackened and who was very wet and nervous, had approached Gerry's twenty year old son, Jim, outside the house.
"He said to Jim", recalled Gerry, "'You will have to come with me with your car. I need to get to a phone."
The soldier commandeered the car and Jim drove him to the home Jackie Corr, a Coalisland accountant and local independent councillor, which was about a mile away. Even at this stage Jim, nor his parents, were aware who had been shot.
The soldier had just said that there was a seriosu shooting, that "they were ambushed up in the bushes and two were very seriously injured." The soldier's hand were so cold that Jackie Corr had to dial for him. The number was not a local number and was possibly British army headquarters at Thiepval barracks in Lisburn.
Meanwhile, Gerry McAliskey was getting uneasy and went to the lane to see if his son Jim had returned. Although the soldier had claimed that his patrol radio was broken, two army landrovers, which had obviously been contacted, had arrived and went up Bernadette's lane. At about 8:40 a.m., Jim's car returned and the paratrooper rejoined his patrol.