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  • Writer's pictureClay Anderson

Review of The Shankill Butchers by Martin Dillon

Martin Dillon's book, The Shankill Butchers, is a chilling and stomach-turning study of Northern Ireland's infamous Shankill Butchers, a Loyalist gang of murderers who preyed on Belfast's Catholic population. The book was first published in 1989 and has since become a classic in the true crime genre. In this review, we will examine the book's strengths and weaknesses, its historical context, and its contribution to the understanding of the Northern Ireland conflict.


The Shankill Butchers is a case study of mass murder that focuses on the activities of a Loyalist gang known as the Shankill Butchers. The gang was active in the 1970s and early 1980s and was responsible for the deaths of at least 23 people, most of whom were Catholics. The book provides a detailed account of the gang's activities, their methods of operation, and the social and political context in which they operated.


Dillon's book is based on extensive research, including interviews with former members of the gang, police officers, and victims' families. The book is divided into three parts. The first part provides an overview of the Shankill Butchers' activities and their impact on the Catholic community. The second part focuses on the gang's leaders, including Lenny Murphy, who was the gang's most notorious member. The third part examines the social and political context in which the Shankill Butchers operated.


One of the book's strengths is its detailed and comprehensive account of the Shankill Butchers' activities. Dillon provides a wealth of information about the gang's methods of operation, their victims, and their impact on the Catholic community. The book is also well-researched, with Dillon drawing on a wide range of sources, including interviews with former members of the gang.


Another strength of the book is its historical context. Dillon provides a detailed account of the social and political context in which the Shankill Butchers operated. He examines the role of Loyalist paramilitaries in the Northern Ireland conflict, the relationship between the police and the Loyalist gangs, and the impact of the conflict on the Catholic community.


One weakness of the book is its focus on the Shankill Butchers to the exclusion of other Loyalist gangs. While Dillon acknowledges that the Shankill Butchers were not the only Loyalist gang operating in Northern Ireland at the time, he does not provide a detailed account of the activities of other gangs. This limits the book's scope and may give readers a distorted view of the conflict.


Another weakness of the book is its lack of analysis. While Dillon provides a detailed account of the Shankill Butchers' activities, he does not offer much in the way of analysis. He does not explore the motivations of the gang members or the social and political factors that contributed to the conflict. This limits the book's usefulness as a tool for understanding the Northern Ireland conflict.


Overall, The Shankill Butchers is a well-researched and comprehensive account of one of the most notorious Loyalist gangs in Northern Ireland. The book provides a wealth of information about the gang's activities and their impact on the Catholic community. However, the book's focus on the Shankill Butchers to the exclusion of other Loyalist gangs and its lack of analysis limit its usefulness as a tool for understanding the Northern Ireland conflict. Despite these weaknesses, The Shankill Butchers remains an important contribution to the true crime genre and a valuable resource for those interested in the Northern Ireland conflict.

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