By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Loyalist gunmen who murdered two friends out having a quiet drink together in March 1998 smirked and laughed in the dock as they were sentenced to life imprisonment this week, knowing they would be free men by July.
The dead men’s mothers were in court to hear the sentencing, and the reaction to it from the convicted killers, saying afterward they were not surprised but were disgusted at the short sentences they would serve.
Because the murders were committed before the signing of the April 14, 1998, Good Friday agreement, and because all three convicted men are allied to the LVF, they are eligible for early release.
In all, three men were given life sentences for their role in the killing of Poyntzpass friends Philip Allen, a Protestant, and Damien Trainor, a Catholic, at the Railway Bar in the County Armagh village.
Allen and Trainor were lifelong friends and shared a love of car racing. Trainor was to have been Allen’s best man at his upcoming wedding. Their deaths came during a series of sectarian killings carried out by the LVF two years ago.
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Stephen McClean of Banbridge, Co. Down, and Noel McCready, from the nearby village of Seapatrick, Co. Armagh, were convicted of murder, along with a third man, Ryan Robley, from Banbridge, who had earlier pleaded guilty. All three were former members of the British Army.
The killers laughed as Judge Kerr announced his sentence. Identifying the convicted men as sectarian killers, the judge said they had entered the Railway Bar in Poyntzpass on the night of the shooting because they believed the customers were all Catholic and were intent on killing everyone.
A fourth man charged in connection with the killings, David Keys, was tortured and killed by loyalists on the LVF wing in the Maze. He had provided the information leading to the arrest of the other three.
All four men were admirers of the late Billy "King Rat" Wright and had been in jail at the time of his murder by the INLA. Wright had provided the backup they needed during the mid-1990s when the gang had been leading drug dealers in Banbridge.