A promo shot for the Netflix documentary A promo shot for the Netflix documentary "ReMastered – The Miami Showband Massacre".NETFLIX
"ReMastered – The Miami Showband Massacre" now showing on Netflix is a deep dive into one of the worst atrocities of the Northern Ireland Troubles
"ReMastered – The Miami Showband Massacre" is a powerful tribute to the work of one man, Stephen Travers, who has kept the case alive. As so many times justice in Ireland for the innocent comes down to one man and his determination to never give up.
A new Netflix documentary, "ReMastered – The Miami Showband Massacre", tells the incredible story of where that quest for the truth leads him.
The man is Stephen Travers who was a 24-year-old masterful bass player with the legendary Miami Showband, Ireland's hottest band in the 1970s. He had no interest in politics, just music.
His life changed forever on July 31, 1975, with the killing of three members of the band which took place at a fake UVF checkpoint as the band members traveled home late at night from a gig in Banbridge, County Down.
The shocking murders of three innocent musicians on a lonely border road created enormous shockwaves throughout Ireland and abroad that reverberates to this day.
Travers remembers vividly the checkpoint which the band members thought was an official British Army one and not unexpected in that dark era.
He remembers the armed men, the officer with the British accent overseeing the stop operation the growing sense of apprehension as they were lined up on the lonely road. Two of the UVF gunmen placed a camouflaged bomb in the rear of the van, set to explode soon after the band allowed to continue on its way
The bomb went off prematurely killing the two who had planted it. The rest of the armed unit began shooting at the band. Travers tried to escape but a dum dum bullet struck him breaking into sixteen pieces within his body. He played dead.
Only one other member of the band, Des McLea, who has also joined in the battle to learn the truth of that awful night, survived.
The Netflix documentary proves the British Government collusion in the murders.
The Miami Showband, photographed in the 1970s.4
The Miami Showband, photographed in the 1970s.
The British officer at the scene was Captain Robert Nairac whose subsequent capture and execution by the IRA remains one of the oft-examined stories of The Troubles
The UVF gang who shot the men was led by Robert Jackson, AKA The Jackal, Ireland's greatest ever mass murderer suspected of killing up to 50 Catholics.
The plan apparently was to have the bomb explode in the van, have the band members labeled as terrorists and put pressure on the Irish government to seal the border.
Read more: Survivor of Miami Showband massacre in North warns Troubles set to start again
The remains at the Miami Showband Massacre site.4
The remains at the Miami Showband Massacre site.
Unnamed Intelligence officers personally acquainted with Jackson stated that he was a psychopath who would often dress up and attend the funerals of his victims because he felt a need "to make sure they were dead."
The Netflix documentary reports extensively on Travers and his search for the truth. Thwarted at every turn, feeling the power of the hidden hand cover-up led by MI5, the heroic tale of how Travers overcame it all makes for gripping viewing.
It will reach millions of viewers who would not normally have heard of the Miami Showband and the brutal attack which left him so badly wounded in 1975.
A Miami Showband Massacre survivor, Steven Travers.4
A Miami Showband Massacre survivor, Steven Travers.
Travers says the documentary will give a powerful boost to his cause: “I want to show that we can learn from history. And I want to remind people that we are not going away anywhere in our search for justice. It’s a story to highlight the injustice for all of the victims and families on all sides. The attack on our band was totally unnecessary."
Travers believes he has an important story to tell about the failure of violence to resolve political problems and believes his story is more important than ever as wrangling over Brexit heightens tensions between Britain and Ireland.
“It’s important to remind people that violence caused terrible, terrible problems. It failed the people who used it as an instrument for social change. It failed in every single way. It wasn’t successful at all. The people involved in the violence have all renounced it and rejected it. It’s proven that it didn’t work,” he says.
The Miami Showband Massacre: a brutal attack during the Troubles resurfaces on Netflix
The first time Stephen Travers put his hands on a bass guitar he was fifteen years old. It felt like he had just plugged his body into an electrical socket. The connection was both instant and enduring; it would propel him into the spotlight on stages across Ireland, but also make him an innocent target.
At 24 years old, Travers joined the Miami Showband. Wild screams and frenzied audiences greeted the bell-bottomed, wide-collared cabaret bands at the time, and his was one of the most famous. In 1975, their music was freeing for young people living under strict conservatism on one side of the border and armed conflict on the other. Six weeks after Travers joined; half of the band was murdered.
On Friday ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre will screen on Netflix, shedding light on Travers’ story. The documentary is one in a series investigating the manipulation, targeting and murder of famous musicians; the assassination of Bob Marley, the unsolved murder of Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay and Johnny Cash’s controversial performance at the Nixon White House are among those featured.
“We were one of the main threats to anyone who wanted to foster sectarianism,” Travers tells me. The Showband were “mixed”, encompassing three members from the North, two of them Protestant. All they cared about was music – a shared enthusiasm that immunised them to the political divisions tearing apart the island. They breezed through border checks, and were often asked for autographs by soldiers.
In the early hours of 31 July 1975, five members of the Miami Showband were headed back across the border after a show in the Castle Ballroom in Banbridge when their mini-bus was flagged down by torches at what appeared to be a military checkpoint.
Men in uniforms of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) ordered the band to get out and line up. A man with a British accent appeared to be in charge. Trumpeter Brian McCoy reassured everyone: “this is the British army.” “Uniform, to me, meant law and order,” Travers says. “They were there to protect us.”
Moments later the Showband’s bus was a twisted and fiery wreck. Two British soldiers had placed a timed bomb on the minibus that then exploded. Travers believes they intended it to explode after the bus crossed the border, killing the Showband in order to frame them as IRA members and pressure the Irish government into sealing the border.
McCoy was executed alongside frontman Fran O’Toole and guitarist Tony Geraghty, at least one heard pleading for his life. Travers was shot and nearly died. The sax player Des Lee, born Des McAlea, was blown clear and ran for help. Two serving soldiers with the British Army and one former soldier, all belonging to the UVF, were sentenced to life in prison. They were released in 1998 as part of an amnesty.
A later meeting with a UVF representative inspired Travers’ commitment to reconciliation. He helped found the Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TaRP), which brings together survivors of loyalist and republican attacks to confront the seeds of violence that still germinate in communities where kneecappings and death threats are commonplace.
Travers’ father served with the British Army during the Second World War. He grew up respecting soldiers, which made evidence of British collusion in the Showband massacre even more devastating. But he believes some British soldiers have since risked everything to blow the whistle.
Fred Holroyd and Colin Wallace, two former British intelligence officers who appear in the Netflix documentary, both raised suspicions of collusion with the British government. Holroyd was later placed in a psychiatric institute and Wallace was framed for murder (Colin Wallace has since clarified that he was convicted of manslaughter, which was later overturned by the court of appeal in 1996).
Fingerprints later found on a silencer would link UVF brigadier and former British soldier Robin “the Jackal” Jackson to the Showband massacre, but charges against him were subsequently dropped. In 1975, Colin Wallace reported to a senior officer that Jackson was involved in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; Jackson was later allegedly protected from prosecution by special branch.
Above all, Travers wants answers from the British state. In 2017, Belfast’s High Court ordered police and the Ministry of Defence to release more than 80 types of document relating to the Miami Showband murders. Yet the MoD later indicated that a large number of the documents relating to the UDR members involved in the Showband attack were destroyed in 2005 – but provided no explanation for why, or how, this happened.
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