Service held for ‘hidden’ victims of the Troubles

Service held for ‘hidden’ victims of the Troubles
(Niall Carson/PA)

Families bereaved in Ireland during the Troubles have called for more state recognition of their loss as they attended a service for “hidden” victims of the conflict.

Victims’ organisation South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) hosted its 10th annual Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving on Sunday at St Tighernach’s Church in Clones, Co Monaghan.

It selected a venue on the southern side of the border this year, as the theme of the service was acknowledging “hidden victims of the Troubles in the Republic of Ireland”.

Ireland’s Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys attended, as did former justice minister Charlie Flanagan, and a senior officer from the Garda.

Anthony O’Reilly, whose sister Geraldine was killed in the Belturbet bombing in 1972 (Niall Carson/PA)

DUP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Deborah Erskine was among attendees from Northern Ireland.

Michael Donegan, whose Garda inspector father Samuel was murdered by the IRA at Butler’s Bridge on the Cavan/Fermanagh border in 1972, said he and fellow victims felt they had been “ignored by the authorities”.

“The peace process has moved on and it is wonderful that it has, but I suppose I feel that people who have suffered because of these events many years ago, and in many case are still suffering, they deserve their suffering to be recognised,” he said as he arrived at the church on Sunday.

Mr Donegan criticised what he said was a failure by the authorities in the Republic of Ireland to offer therapy, counselling and other services that may help victims.

Anthony O’Reilly, whose 15-year-old sister Geraldine was one of two teenagers killed by a loyalist bomb in Belturbet, Co Cavan, in 1972, also attended the service.

“My father and mother never got over it, my sisters and brothers as well,” he said.

“It has had an awful impact on our lives.”

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys arrives at St Tighernach’s Church of Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

He added: “It’s been completely forgotten about, nobody wanted to talk about it.

“It makes me feel why was it forgotten about.”

Edward O’Neill’s father died and he was left with lifelong injuries after the 1974 Dublin bombings.

He said the service was a chance to remember “forgotten” victims of terrorism in Ireland.

Mr O’Neill was just four when he was caught up in the blast on Parnell Street, part of the Dublin/Monaghan series of bombs.

No one has ever been convicted over the four no-warning bombs on May 17 1974 which killed 35 people, including two unborn babies. The attacks have been blamed on loyalist paramilitaries.

Mr O’Neill was in the city centre with his brother and his father, also called Edward.

He said: “I was four years old, walking out of the barber shop.

“My dad had me by his left hand and my brother by his right hand and he was swinging my brother.

“My brother pulled a button off his coat.

“He bent down to pick up the button and the bomb exploded.”

Michael Donegan, whose father, Garda Inspector Samuel Donegan, was murdered by the IRA in 1972 (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr O’Neill is still receiving treatment for his injuries, including skull fractures, a broken jaw, fractured cheekbone, collapsed lung, first and second-degree burns and severe lacerations to both legs.

He has undergone more than 60 operations.

His mother Martha was heavily pregnant at the time and went on to lose her baby.

Martha junior’s name was added to a memorial for victims in Talbot Street earlier this year.

Mr O’Neill said: “It is like groundhog day with me every single day because of the injuries. It just devastated everybody, my whole family.

“Victims of the Troubles in Ireland have been forgotten. This is why the service of remembrance is incredibly important, because we have been overlooked by successive governments.

“It has always been a case of hoping we will be quiet and go away.

“The Dublin and Monaghan bombings were the single biggest case of mass murder in the history of the Troubles and nobody has ever been charged or convicted for anything to do with it.

“All of us that are left are getting older. We are left to try and fight on for justice.”

SEFF director of services Kenny Donaldson said: “On legacy, both the UK and Irish states need to step up their responses. They need to cease burying their heads in the sand and instead respond to the legitimate needs of victims and survivors around justice and accountability.”

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