Pub bomber retiree waged online hate campaign against children’s Irish lessons
A retiree from a bombardier pub says ‘NO’ to Irish language lessons in loyalist areas.
e of seven children, Charlie Freel (73) orchestrated the heinous crusade that defeated Linda Ervine’s dream of opening an Irish-language nursery in a Protestant housing estate.
Retired market trader Freel is a former Red Hand commando who was jailed for blowing up a Catholic-owned pub.
And when the Sunday World caught up with him, he freely admitted to handling the Facebook accounts that derailed a toddler Gaelic class in the estate of Braniel, a staunch devotee from east Belfast.
A former Royal Irish Rangers soldier, Freel left the British Army to join the loyalist Red Hand Commando terror team at the start of the unrest.
In the early 1970s, Freel was jailed for blowing up the Catholic-owned Hillfoot Bar near his home in Braniel.
He was indicted along with five other Red Hand Commando terrorists – including the infamous Gorman McMullan – later named as one of the prime suspects in the Loughinisland massacre.
Six Catholics died and five others were injured at the Heights Bar as they watched the Republic of Ireland play the 1994 World Cup final.
And when Freel and McMullan were taken into custody after the Hillfoot Bar attack, their fellow suicide bomber Ken Owens shouted at the judge, âNo surrender! Ride the Red Hand Commando! “
But in a candid interview this week, Charlie Freel told Sunday World he was delighted his anti-Irish social media campaign had worked.
âI am absolutely delighted. The Irish language has no place in Braniel. It is a resolutely loyalist field, âhe declared.
Freel’s social media massacre has put the kibosh on Naiscoil na Seolta – an Irish language school for toddlers – which was due to open on the grounds of Braniel Primary School next month.
As Freel’s hostile Facebook campaign continued, organizers feared the school would become the target of anti-Irish protests.
PSNI Superintendent Gerard Pollock has confirmed that his officers are investigating two complaints that are being treated as hate crimes.
Last week Linda Ervine – Irish language development manager at the East Belfast Mission-based Gaelic-speaking group Turas – said plans for a preschool were scrapped, after a series of hateful rants on the media social.
But without disclosing specific details, Ms Ervine also said that an Irish-language crÃ¨che was still on schedule to open in another part of east Belfast.
“We have the kids, we have the funding, and we have a new place.” she said.
Sunday World investigations in east Belfast revealed that former Red Hand commando Charlie Freel was the driving force behind ‘No Irish language’ messages on social media.
Keyboard Warriors on the United Ulsterman Group Facebook page have targeted Linda Ervine and Braniel Elementary School principal Diane Dawson.
This resulted in plans to open an Irish-language crÃ¨che for 14 school-aged young people abandoned out of fear for the safety of the children.
When we met Charlie Freel at his home in a middle class estate in east Belfast this week, he described himself as a former terrorist who is now a struggling Christian.
And he freely admitted to being behind a social media campaign that forced the Irish-speaking nursery out of the Braniel.
And this week, on the United Ulsterman group Facebook page, Freel thanked Sunday World for giving him the opportunity to present his case.
It is understood that a series of anti-Irish meetings took place at the Braniel Community Center. And a plan has been drawn up to oppose Linda Ervine’s proposal to set up an Irish-language nursery in the grounds of Braniel Primary School.
âI am delighted that our campaign was a success. Freel said.
âIn fact, everyone involved is thrilled. There will no longer be an Irish language school in Braniel. he said.
“But it was certainly not a hate campaign,” he insisted.
âI have nothing against Linda Ervine. And I have nothing against the Irish language either.
âBut as far as I am concerned, we must not waste public money. If you want to learn Irish, it should be done at your own pace and you should spend your own money on it, âhe said.
Freel also criticized Ervine and Dawson for what he claimed was their lack of consultation with parents and local residents.
He said: âLinda Ervine and Diane Dawson, along with the Board of Governors, have attempted to impose a permanent, dedicated and dedicated Irish language immersion nursery school within the existing primary school.
âBut Braniel is a decidedly loyalist estate where there is no Irish demand of any kind.
âThere has been no prior consultation with residents or parents of children who are already attending school.
âBut in a recent online poll, locals democratically showed their massive opposition to what was going on.
âAs far as I’m concerned, the Irish language is totally useless. And he’s also very controversial with his Irish Republican background. And they wanted to bring this to a Loyalist domain?
âThe Irish language is nothing more than an IRA / Sinn Fein armed tool. And it’s just like the GAA which has clubs named after dead IRA leaders, âCharlie Freel said.
It was pointed out to Freel that his own surname was rooted in the ancient Gaelic clans of Donegal.
And also four of the five Red Hand commandos jailed for blowing up the Hillfoot Bar had Gaelic surnames, including Loughinisland massacre suspect Gorman McMullan (Gormain MacMaolain).
It was also reported to Freel that the RHC logo he uses on some of his Facebook posts includes the Gaelic motto – Lamh Dearg Abu – (Victory of the Red Hand).
“I have no interest in Irish,” he said.
Charlie Freel was born on Lower Newtownards Road in the late 1940s. But his family moved to Warren Grove on the newly built Braniel Estate.
After leaving school he found work as an apprentice baker before joining the Royal Irish Rangers.
But as the unrest escalated, an incident took place on Shankill Road that changed Charlie Freel’s life forever.
An unannounced IRA bomb attack on the Four Step Inn on September 29, 1971, claimed the lives of two men and injured 27 others. An estimated 50,000 mourners attended the funerals of the deceased men.
The bar was a favorite watering hole for generations of Ulster Protestants who had served with the Royal Irish Rangers.
Charlie Freel said he often enjoyed a pint there with his team mates whenever he was home on leave.
âI decided there and there, I had enough. I decided to leave the army as soon as possible and return home to Belfast to join the loyalist paramilitaries in the fight against the IRA, âhe said.
Back in the Braniel, Freel joined the elite Red Hand Commando who prided themselves on being the SAS of the Ulster Volunteer Force.
His boss in the loyalist terror group was Sammy Cinnamond who set up the RHC in Braniel following the Bloody Friday atrocities of 1972, when the IRA detonated a chain of bombs around Belfast.
Cinnamond is the Loyalist leader who gave Michael Stone the green light to launch a gun and bomb attack on Republican mourners at Milltown Cemetery.
In September 1972, an off-duty RUC officer shot dead Robert Warnock, an 18-year-old UDA man, while attempting to rob the Hillfoot Bar on the edge of the Braniel Estate.
And according to Charlie Freel, Cinnamond decided to avenge the death of the young loyalist by blowing up the pub owned by Catholics. Other sources insist that it was simply because of the owner’s religion that he was targeted by the attack.
“It was wrong for a cop to shoot a loyalist down and that’s why Sammy wanted him to blow up.” Freel said.
A policeman spotted the Red Hand Commando team escaping. He recognized them and handed over their names.
All five were arrested and on March 27, 1973, they appeared in court for blowing up the Hillfoot Bar. They were each sent to prison for eight years.
But this week, Charley Freel, a retired pub bomber, said he did not regret his role in forcing an Irish-speaking group to abandon plans to open a nursery at Braniel Primary School.
“It was a great victory and I did it for the loyalist people of Braniel.” he said.
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