Thursday 16 January 2020


The Provisional IRA shot dead a Catholic judge as he left a church service in south Belfast.  Judge William Doyle had been attending midday mass at St Brigid's in the affluent district of Malone.  The 56-year-old father of two had offered a lift to an elderly worshipper and they had just got into his Mercedes when two men approached.  One of them tapped on his window before both men opened fire as he wound it down.  The judge was struck five times and the 72-year-old woman in his passenger seat was seriously injured.

Judge Doyle's daughter described him as a "Republican who had grown up on the Falls Road".  Despite this, he was reportedly targeted because the IRA saw him as 'working for the enemy'.  Although he received a police escort when travelling between his home and the courthouse, he declined the service at all other times, even after being told he was a potential target.  Prior to his appointment as a judge in 1978, he was a high profile QC and despite his Republican upbringing he represented defendants from both sides.  In 1966 he defended the infamous UVF leader Gusty Spence over the murder of a Catholic civilian.

William Doyle QC and, right, his funeral

The following year the IRA attempted to murder a Catholic magistrate outside the same church in Malone, again following midday mass.  The magistrate survived the attack, but his 22-year-old daughter was killed.