Howard Thornton (b. 1957)

Howard Thornton (b. 1957)


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Howard Thornton describes the Thornton family background in Co. Leitrim and his grandfather’s relocation to Florence Court. Howard’s father, Louis Thornton, ran a business in the centre of the town, and Howard recalls his first experience of the Troubles in Enniskillen during the Civil Rights marches, when on one occasion the shop window was broken. He describes the breakdown of law and order in the town and the decision made by his father and other business people to join the reserve police force. Howard joined the police force in 1975 and he mentions the various locations at which he was stationed. The murders of his colleagues in the police force are also recalled. In the late 1970s, he was transferred to Clogher on the Fermanagh Monaghan border, and later engaged in Special Patrol Group, before his promotion to sergeant, based in Rosslea. He was promoted to the rank of Inspector and based at Carrickmore where there was a major PIRA campaign against local police. He describes the attacks on his men by the IRA from the Republic, and their retreat back over the Border. To this day he is angry at the fact that these paramilitaries were allowed to act with impunity. He describes an assassination attempt made on him on an occasion when he was on official business in the Republic. In the early hours of 20 August 1988, an army bus was blown up in Ballygawley by the IRA, killing eight soldiers and wounding many others. He went to the scene of the atrocity which has left an indelible traumatic mark on him. In 2014, Howard Thornton was elected a UUP member of Fermanagh County Council.

This collection, carried out by Irish Life and Lore on behalf of Cavan County Library Service, is funded by the EU Special EU Programmes Body Peace IV fund under the objective to build positive relations with people from different backgrounds and communities to support peace and reconciliation.

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Additional information



Audio series:

Voices of the Troubles

Download time limit:

48 hours

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore

Product ID:



45 mins