The McMahon Killings
The McMahon lived in 3 Kinnaird Terrace of the Antrim Rd. Owen McMahon was a well-off publican and a friend of Joe Devlin. The women of the house were herded by the murder gang into one room while all the male members of the household were gathered into the living room. Before the shooting began, one of the killers said “You boys say your prayers”. The four sons killed were Bernard (26), Frank (24), Patrick (25) and Thomas (15). Two sons survived the attack, John (30) and Michael (12) but John was badly injured.
Who was responsible? Phoenix says that there was a ‘murder-gang’ operating within the Belfast police allegedly led by County Inspector Harrison and District Inspector J. W. Nixon. Parksinon says that Collins set up an enquiry into the killings after Craig refused his request to do so. In February 1924, the Ministry of Defence in Dublin issued statements signed by Catholic members of the RIC in the North at the time of this inquiry. They allege that 12 police officers were involved in the murder of the McMahons and several other Catholics (including Trodden, Gaynor, McFadden, the Duffin brothers, Halfpenny, McGarvey, Kerr and McBride). The 12 officers included DI John Nixon; CI Richard Harrison; Sgt Christopher Clarke; Constable James Glover and Constable Sterritt. (The three latter policeman were subsequently targeted by the IRA.) They operated from the Brown St Barracks in the Shankill area. Parkinson goes on to say that “Although sections of the Nixon file are now open to the public, their contents do not categorically prove his direct involvement (or, indeed, that of his colleagues) in the McMahon case or other murders of Catholics … However, … one can conclude that the McMahon outrage formed part of a campaign of targeting Catholics orchestrated by a group of ‘rogue’ policemen.”
In the aftermath of these killings, many refugees move to the Free State from Northern Ireland.