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The Shadow of Bloody Sunday

14 people died after British soldiers opened fire on a civil rights march in Derry in 1972. The impact of one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles is still raw 50 years later.

By Aoife Moore, Political Correspondent 


in 1972, a bullet from a rifle belonging to a man we have come to know as ‘Soldier F’ ripped through my 31 year-old uncle’s body and changed our family forever.

Patrick “ the Skelper” Doherty was shot in the back as he attempted to crawl to safety on the darkest day in Derry’s history. You can see the belt he wore on the day in a museum in the Bogside. A perfect semi-circle blasted through the leather. A perfect shot. The belt lay in my granny’s attic for years, precious evidence for a criminal court case that would never come.

My uncle Paddy’s last words were reportedly: “Don’t let me die on my own.” Which he did. Far from his six children, face down in the street, while another father of six, Bernard McGuigan, who waved a white handkerchief in an attempt to come to Paddy’s aid was shot through the eye and killed on the spot.

This intolerable cruelty, this horrific violence, which happened 19 years before I was born, has cast a shadow over my life, moulded me in its image and made me who I am today. It inspired me to pursue the truth for a living.

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Victims of Bloody Sunday. Top row, left to right: Patrick "Paddy" Doherty, Gerald Donaghey, John "Jackie" Duddy, Hugh Gilmour, Michael Kelly, Michael McDaid, Kevin McElhinney. Bottom row, left to right: Bernard McGuigan, Gerard McKinney, William McKinney, William Nash, James Wray, John Young.


From as long as I can remember Bloody Sunday and all that comes with it has been part of my life. My small hands gripped the white cross which held my uncle’s name in cold Januarys year on year when we marched the sloping hill from Creggan shops down to Free Derry Corner. Children at the front were there to remind the British government that there would be another generation after our parents who were going to fight them for the truth.

I remember busy mammies organising us in a row, trying to match the youngster to their murdered relative in order to ensure you were holding the right picture if you were in the second row, or cross if you were in the first.

I have never seen my murdered uncle’s face in the flesh, but his image is burned into my brain. I knew which portrait I had to carry without being told, even at six years old. Paddy was everywhere because Bloody Sunday was everywhere. His handsome face is painted on the gable end of a block of flats, just metres from where he died. He looked at me from TV, from newspapers and framed pictures in relative’s homes, along with the 13 other men and boys stolen from their families on the same day.

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Bloody Sunday witness Paddy Walsh creeping towards Patrick Doherty, who was shot dead by Soldier F. The Saville Report found Doherty had been shot and mortally wounded as he tried to crawl to safety. Photograph: Gilles Peress / Magnum


When some kind stranger you met later in life inquired who your family were or which street you came from, you always answered: “We’re a Bloody Sunday family” and everyone knew what that meant. Derry’s most unlucky and tragic members-only club. I wasn’t even the only Bloody Sunday relative in my class at school, so wide was the reach of Derry’s aching open wound.

I was probably the only six year old who bounded into Ms McLaughlin’s class announcing Tony Blair had granted an inquiry into the murder of 14 unarmed civilians, though. All my marching in my pink Doc Martens had made a difference, I thought, but my marching days were far from done.
That haunted route is roughly a mile and year after year I, along with my aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and thousands of others would watch our warm breath in the cold air as we trudged in the hope of justice or truth or something like it.

The marches were a constant, as was the fight. The journalists would come every year and every year we’d be on our best behaviour. In the face of state sponsored atrocity, victims are always expected to remain dignified as though a polite demeanor would somehow alter the mindset moulded by hundreds of years of colonial supremacy.

The presence of those journalists and the knowledge that they could wield enough pressure to sway an establishment set me on my own path. If they could make a difference, then so would I.

When you’ve been raised to question everything you’re told by those who claim to represent you, working in journalism was a natural fit.

The families of those murdered on Bloody Sunday, like many of those who found themselves of the crosshairs of the British Army at the time, were slandered in their afterlife: gunmen, provos, bombers, killers all, because you see, when you’re a criminal you deserve it and that means the British Army were fighting an urban war of someone else’s making. Not gunning down men, women and children marching for the right to own a house, or hold a job without their religion taken into consideration.

The same slurs that haunted my uncle in his grave are the same that are thrown at me daily on social media from those who cannot and will not accept that what they attempted to bury on January 30, 1972, turned into seeds.

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1st April 1972: Relatives mourn over the coffin of a victim of the 'Bloody Sunday' march. Picture: Michael Stroud/Express/Getty Images


Those who abuse me in the course of my work use the same tactic. When a mirror is held up to the state, it’s easier to go after the person holding the mirror than admit you might have got it wrong in the first place. If I’m a “provo journalist”, “a shinner” or a “rabid nationalist” then I don’t matter and my view doesn’t count.

Far from choosing a life swallowed by the hatred of what the British government did to my uncle, my family and my city, I am probably a model example of what a “ceasefire baby” should be.

The horrors of war infected every facet of my life, from the estate I was brought up in to the fact I didn’t know a single protestant child my own age until I was 16, I have, along with thousands of my peers, rejected the hate which infected the north for generations.

Hate is something that we in the north have a monopoly on. We have considered hate from every angle. We were creative in our hate and more creative in trying to rid ourselves of it now.

I have considered at length whether I hate Soldier F. He who showed no remorse on the stand during the Saville Inquiry, who shot defenseless men, who tore our family apart, who, under orders from on high, carried out actions which later facilitated the biggest recruitment campaign for the IRA my hometown has ever seen.

My grandfather was known to have cried about Bloody Sunday spontaneously off and on for years afterward. My cousins grew up without a father and in turn lost whatever spark their mother had when she was widowed at 29. All at the hand of those who claim us as their citizens.

The opposite of love is indifference, apparently, but I’m not there yet either. I have mulled who he is, what his life is now with his grandchildren and it gives me some solace that he might have briefly worried about facing criminal prosecution. I don’t believe he ever will. If he had one sleepless night, it would be a fraction of the sleepless nights had across Derry in the decades since he crossed our streets with his rifle.

So, not entirely indifferent, but I have chosen not to hate, as my uncle Paddy told his children before he was taken from them: “Hate eats at your heart”.

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How the bloodshed unfolded 

30th January 1972



Due to get under way at 2pm, the start is delayed by 50 minutes to accommodate the steady stream of late arrivals. 
Marchers leave Creggan Drive and set off for the city centre, with hundreds joining in at almost every turn.


The march passes the Bogside Inn bar and continues on to William Street.
Estimates of the size of demonstration at this point vary.
Organisers claimed up to 20,000 people were involved, while the authorities put it at a more conservative 3,000 to 5,000.


With the Army having erected barricades blocking the way to the Guildhall, the main body of the march turns left on to Rossville Street towards the revised rallying point at the famous Free Derry corner at the entrance to the nationalist Bogside estate.
A number break off and continue down William Street to confront soldiers at a barricade. Some rioting ensues.
Minor clashes between stone-throwers and security forces at this junction were commonplace, with locals dubbing the area “aggro corner”.

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British paratroopers take away civil rights demonstrators on "Bloody Sunday" after the paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights march, killing 14 civilians, January 30, 1972 in Derry. Picture: Getty Images



Before the main shooting incident, and at a location away from both the riot and march, two soldiers in a derelict building on William Street fire a number of rounds after claiming they had come under attack.
An Official IRA member is believed to have fired at the building during this incident.
Two men are injured when the soldiers opened fire.
One of them, 59-year-old John Johnston, dies four months later. Campaigners have long acknowledged him as the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday. However, the Bloody Sunday inquiry said the wounds he sustained on the day did not contribute to his death, noting he had an inoperable brain tumour.


Rioters disperse from William Street after the Army deploys water cannons. Paratroopers request permission to commence an arrest operation on those who had fled down Chamberlain Street and Rossville Street.

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Civilians carry a shooting victim to a waiting ambulance during a lull in paratroopers' gunfire near to Rossville flats in Derry during the Bloody Sunday massacre, 30th January 1972. Picture: William L. Rukeyser/Getty Images



A company of paratroopers, led by Major Ted Loden, is given an order to start arresting any remaining rioters in William Street. But they are told not to engage in a running battle down Rossville Street.


The soldiers open fire on people in the area of Rossville Flats.
Where the victims were shot:
– Car park of Rossville Flats: Jackie Duddy.
– Forecourt on the other side of the flats: Pat Doherty, Barney McGuigan.
– Rubble barricade in Rossville Street beside the flats: Hugh Gilmour, Kevin McElhinney, Michael Kelly, John Young, William Nash and Michael McDaid.
– Glenfada Park on other side of Rossville Street: James Wray, Gerald Donaghey, Gerald McKinney and William McKinney (not related).


The shooting ends.
As well as the 13 fatalities, 15 other people are wounded.
More than 20 soldiers fired in the incident, expending 108 rounds in total.
The Army claims it came under fire in the Rossville Flats area, allegedly from the Provisional IRA.
Eyewitnesses insist none of the dead were armed.

 Timeline by David Young, Press Association


The personal impact

By Aoife Moore

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“She talked about him, the solider who shot her all the time. She could point him out.”

Margie Deery


"son, don’t shoot me again, I’m a woman with 14 wee ones,” are the words Peggy Deery said to the soldier who shot her on Bloody Sunday as she stared down the barrel of his gun.

Margaret Deery was 14 and the oldest of 14 children when her mother, Peggy, was shot on Bloody Sunday. Peggy Deery was the only woman shot on the day and was left with life changing injuries after the bullet entered the top of her thigh. She was 33 and had been widowed just four months before.

She spent five months in hospital recovering and was eventually discharged after which she used a wheelchair and later a prosthetic leg.

Margaret never returned to school and was left in charge of her 13 siblings, the youngest of whom was a baby of seven months. They had no central heating, phone or washing machine.

When their mother didn’t come home from the civil rights march, the children phoned an emergency number that had been advertised on TV for those who were searching for loved ones. When they first called the number, they were directed to contact the morgue until it was discovered their mother had been rushed to hospital in Belfast after she was accidentally transfused with the wrong blood type.


She never was the same ever, ever.

The pandemonium of the day was blamed, as the staff in Altnagalvin Hospital in Derry attempted to treat the wounded in the aftermath of the shooting. She developed kidney failure immediately afterward and in the long term, her left foot was rendered useless. She developed depression, becoming unable to look after her family, and in later life was mostly confined to her bedroom.

Last year, Mr Justice McAlinden described the behaviour of the British soldiers who wounded and verbally abused the widowed mother-of-fourteen as “imbued with a degree of malevolence and flagrancy which was truly exceptional”.

A court heard soldiers entered the property where Peggy was being treated for her injuries and allegedly directed foul language at the widow, stating that she “deserved it” and declaring: “Let the ***** bleed to death.”

Peggy told her family afterward that the young man who had helped to carry her to the house in Chamberlain Street was 17 year-old Michael Kelly, who was shot dead later that day.

Peggy died 16 years later of a heart attack, aged 54. Her son Michael died in 1986 and her son Patrick died in 1987.

A dedicated mother, the birth tags of all 26 of her grandchildren were found in her handbag after her death.

“She never was the same ever, ever,” Margaret said.

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“She eventually was able to walk with a limp, but she couldn't walk very far but the depression had set in anyway. She wasn't the same woman. She cried all the time. When she was shot her life was over. She talked about him, the solider who shot her all the time. She could point him out. When she was lying on the ground after she had been shot, he pointed his rifle at her again. She said to him: ‘Son, don’t shoot me again, I’m a woman with 14 wee ones’ and he turned away.

“She had nightmares about him. He had red hair and said he was around 17, she could have picked him out of a crowd of 100.

“We had no mother and no father. So I was doing the work. I didn’t work until I got married because I couldn’t have a job. I cared for everyone and my mother.

“The British Army would have raided the house almost every night and they’d say things like: ‘We shot your mother and now we're gonna get you too’. They’d abuse us in the street, they couldn’t leave us alone.”

Despite the passing years, the hurt and pain haven’t eased.

“There will be no justice. Derry was just numbed after it. All those coffins lined up in the chapel. I knew most of the younger boys who were shot on the day. It was like yesterday. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I look at my 14 year old grandchildren and think they’re like babies.

“It’s so fresh in the minds of Derry people because there will be no justice. Do we keep going on and on? My mother never thought along the lines of justice but my children have taken it up. They want to know.

“I grew up at 14. I feel resentment, I should have been playing with toys and I was rearing a family.

“I missed out on a lot. I think that's why my marriage broke up. I was married for 25 years before I walked out. I just think it was I got freedom and then I couldn't cope. I had seven children and thought: ‘I can’t do this’ and left. I still cared for my children every day but I had to live alone. My life was just completely changed after Bloody Sunday.

“I hate the man who shot my mother. He took away my life and my mother's. Most of our family has mental health problems now and he just went on with his life. We were thrown to the side like nothing happened."

In 2019, prosecutors decided that they could not bring criminal charges against 16 soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday, including the soldier who shot Peggy Deery.

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“There will never be a resolution to Bloody Sunday, they'll never get what they want.”

Julieann Campbell


julieann Campbell’s uncle Jackie Duddy was 17 years old when he was murdered on Bloody Sunday, four years before she was born. John "Jackie" Duddy, was shot as he ran away from soldiers in the car park of Rossville Flats.

The bullet struck the youth in the shoulder and entered his chest. Three witnesses said they saw a soldier take deliberate aim at Jackie as he ran. He was the first fatality on Bloody Sunday and both the Saville and Widgery Inquiries into the events on the day concluded that Jackie Duddy was unarmed when he was killed.

Although she never met her uncle, Julieann Campbell's life has been changed and dominated by the events of Bloody Sunday. She trained as a journalist in the Derry Journal and began campaigning for the Bloody Sunday inquiry with the rest of the families, later she became a member of the Bloody Sunday Trust.

She was the communications officer for the relatives during the Saville inquiry and eventually worked in the Museum of Free Derry as heritage and programmes coordinator.

She is now undertaking a PHD centered on the study of how conflict affects wider communities. The museum opened in 2007 in order to tell the story of what happened in the city during the period 1968 – 1972, popularly known as ‘Free Derry’, and includes the civil rights era, Battle of the Bogside, Internment, Bloody Sunday and Operation Motorman.


There will never be a resolution to Bloody Sunday, they'll never get what they want.

She has recently published a book on Bloody Sunday.

“We grew up knowing all about Bloody Sunday, like most Derry families,” she said.

“We were confronted by it because we always had photos of Jackie around the house, you could never really escape.

“He was always talked about in hushed tones but they always talked about him and I grew up then with a fear of marches and a fear of soldiers.

“My mother was just absolutely traumatised about it and there was no there was healing that, you know, even when we came along years later, you could still see when people talked about Jackie that there was this hurt that just hung in the air and it was the way that he was killed. They were murdered, they were stolen from us.

“Everyone has a story or knows someone affected and it represents so much more than just Bloody Sunday. It’s held up as this example of a case because of the families’ perseverance, because they always kept in the public eye.

“I don’t feel like I am a campaigner, they done all that hard work, I just came afterwards and wrote about it."

Despite all the hard work over the years, she feels the families will never get justice.

“The book is just the story of Bloody Sunday told by the people themselves.

“There is a deep sense of injustice and a sense that our elders always talked about being second class citizens, that always stood out to me, I wanted to make a difference. When I was younger. I wanted to get involved to make sure it doesn't happen again.

“Then people say well, you're still going on about it, but if you look down to the intricacies of the case. You see straight away why people are still talking about it. That's what gave me the bug when I was young, when I looked it up, but I realised how fascinating and horrifying it was really was. The more I read the more I wanted to educate myself.

“There will never be a resolution to Bloody Sunday, they'll never get what they want. We'll never have fabled justice because they are planning to deny justice for every case in the North.”

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“It's like conflict and struggle is part of your biology. It’s in your mannerisms and the way you speak to people”

David McIntyre


david McIntyre is a 23 year-old documentary film maker, based in Derry. He was born one week after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and recently premiered a documentary during the Foyle Film Festival about the Museum of Free Derry, named “We Shall Overcome”.

David’s films are often based on social justice issues, something he says is bolstered by his upbringing in Derry during the peace process and the neglect of the community he comes from.

The Derry and Strabane area have highest poverty rates in Northern Ireland, something directly attributed to the generational legacy of the Troubles.

David feels young people have been let down by Stormont in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement. At 30.4%, Derry City and district has a significantly higher percentage of economically inactive than both the UK and Northern Ireland.

High levels of social deprivation and educational underachievement continue to plague the city with 21% of the population (30,925) living in areas defined as deprived.

In 2018, the city had the highest male and female unemployment - with barely half the total adult population in work. Two-thirds of the unemployed were men and almost half of claimants (49%) were long-term unemployed (compared to the NI and UK averages of 33% and 31%).


We’re seeing people burning down their own communities because they have nothing else to do. You're angry at the government for the wrong reasons.

“Being from Derry is inherently political, in the last few years we’ve been seeing Palestine being highlighted in the media and I thought; ‘Does everybody not know this?’ We are constantly clued in on the political injustices of the world because of where we are,” David said.

“It's like conflict and struggle is part of your biology. It’s in your mannerisms and the way you speak to people and so for me, if not for the atrocities of Bloody Sunday, Derry people wouldn't be as open and generous as they are, they always want to help. There’s such a deep sense of community and it's generational.

“I’ve always heard stories from my parents and grandparents about the Troubles and Bloody Sunday; but you never get the full scope.

“So going through this process was educating myself, as much as documenting it to educate other people too.”

Despite the signing off the Good Friday Agreement, he feels politicians have let young people down.

“The Good Friday Agreement for people my age is very personal. It was more like a plaster - distracting from the legacy of hurt.

“In retrospect, the politicians have let us down. The culture of drug abuse, alcoholism, addiction in general, and then abuse and disrespect of minority groups. It's generational trauma.

“Where I’m from, Galliagh, in a radius of a mile, there’s one shop and a church. Nothing else. The rest of the businesses are tin units.

“You can say that it’s because Derry is humble, but that's the romanticization of it.

“It’s underfunded. There were riots 10 years ago in Galliagh and a load of the lampposts were damaged, they were literally only repaired last week. Ten years since they were broken.

“We’re seeing people burning down their own communities because they have nothing else to do. You're angry at the government for the wrong reasons.

“So that’s why I chose the museum as a subject. Derry voices just aren’t heard. I’m using this to highlight my surroundings.

“I’m very passionate about my city, I always have been. The representation was kind of the key focus for this film, because most representations of Derry don’t go far.”

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“I joined the IRA then too. I’d say with me it was a bit about revenge.”

Pius McNaught and Thomas Starrs


pius McNaught and Thomas Starrs were both young teenagers on Bloody Sunday and had attended the march separately. The events of that day directly led them to join the Provisional IRA.

They were arrested together for possession of explosives and membership of the IRA in 1977. Thomas was 18 when he was sent to prison.

Pius was 20. They were both sent to Crumlin Road prison and later joined the blanket protest.

The blanket protest was part of a five-year protest by republican prisoners held in the Maze prison (Long Kesh). The republican prisoners refused to wear prison uniforms like ordinary convicts and remained naked except for a blanket.

Both men served just under eight years of their 12 year sentence.

They say they were physically, mentally and sexually abused while in prison. Both men now volunteer in Tar Abhaile, the Republican Former Prisoners Centre in Derry city.

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Pius’ older brother was interned in August 1971.

“His arrest had a big effect on me. I remember going up to the Maidstone (a prison ship) to visit him. I remember all my bruises on his head and body. I knew it wasn’t right. Then on Bloody Sunday, I was only 15 and when the shooting started I remember the noise the most.

“You could hear the crack of the gun, we knew it was live rounds, and we just started running. They were high velocity, the shots were loud. An older man grabbed me by the shoulders and shouted to run. I ran the whole way home, that was a big turning point. I joined the republican movement after that.

“Bloody Sunday really affected the people in Derry, everyone was changed after it.

“I joined (the IRA) in 1975, I was 17. It wasn’t revenge for me. I had no great hatred for the British Army, although we were constantly having the house raided. We counted 60 different raids at one point. For me they were British soldiers and they were in our country and that was it.”

He said many of the British soldiers didn’t want to be there either.

“I remember my Da talking to a Scottish soldier who was raiding our house about Celtic Football Club, a young boy himself. They didn’t want to be there either. They thought they were getting a job to see the world and got sent over here.

“I can understand people that didn’t take the route that me and Thomas took, but we did what we thought was right. I was afraid all the time, you’d have been a fool not to have been. You did what you did and didn’t think about what might have happened.

“Nowadays, we go into schools and community centres and talk to young people and tell them: ‘There’s no glory in killing people’. You’re not born to kill. The years on the blanket protest took a toll on us. We were badly abused but I don’t regret it. I’d prefer I didn’t have to do it but I felt like I had to. I never hated. I never hated anyone in my life.”

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Thomas Starrs' brother John was 19 when he was shot and killed by the British army. During Bloody Sunday, he was a soldier in the Defence Forces in the Republic and joined the IRA immediately afterward.

“I joined the IRA then too. I’d say with me it was a bit about revenge. Bloody Sunday and John being shot, it all happened so close. I don’t regret what I did.

“On Bloody Sunday when the shooting started, my feet never touched the ground. I was so young and I remember running the whole way home. I can still feel how cold the water was in the puddles when I was running through them. I never told my mammy I was even there because she had told me not to go.

“The soldiers probably didn’t know what they had signed up for, I don’t think they wanted to be here either. I’d say they dreaded coming here. How do you think they felt? But I only saw the uniform.

“There were around 1,000 in the IRA in the ‘No-Go’ area alone, so everyone was joining. There wasn’t much IRA in Derry really before Bloody Sunday but there was after. It was the done thing. I never really considered anything else.”
Despite the passage of time, the memories in Derry are still fresh.

“The day after Bloody Sunday, the Monday, Derry was in total silence. It was eerie. People were in shock at the brutality.

“It’s as fresh in Derry as the day it happened but I am surprised that people are still so passionate about it. People won’t forget it. The marches came and went and there were times when the numbers were dwindling, but they never stopped.

“I do still hate. It's a hard thing to get out of you. Because of what happened it's very hard to let it go. But I wouldn’t be as filled with hatred as I was then, you change as you get older, but I’ll always hate them for what they did.”

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"They were shouting: ‘It’s terrible down there! It’s terrible!’."

Margaret Wray


margaret Wray’s brother Jim was 22 when he was shot dead in Derry on January 30, 1972. He was engaged to be married at the time.

Following her brother’s death, Ms Wray said the family’s grief was compounded when initial reports said the Bloody Sunday victims were gunmen.

“Jim would never have carried a gun, he would never have thrown a nail bomb.

“That anger turned to us wanting to prove my brother was an innocent victim.

“My mother died two years after Jim, she couldn’t accept his death, it led to her death.”

Ms Wray recalled the events of Bloody Sunday. A day which had originally begun with a “carnival atmosphere”, quickly turned to tragedy.

“It was a beautiful day. I went to the bottom of the street to watch. It passed by, the sun was shining, you would have thought you were in June.

“There was a carnival atmosphere, everybody was happy and talking, women with prams, men, every age group and they were all mixing together and waving at us that were standing.

“As it passed by I turned to go up back home again because whoever was left at home had to make the tea for them coming back to the march because they would be cold and they needed their tea.”

She added: “I wasn’t in the house that long until people started running in, they were running up the street and we opened the door and they were shouting ‘It’s terrible down there! It’s terrible!’.

“Other people started coming in and saying there was shooting. More people then came in and said there were people dead.

“We couldn’t believe it, we couldn’t grasp it.”

She remembers her brother as a “gentle giant”.

“Jim was very tall, so he stood out.

“He was the eldest boy, he went out of his way to help my mammy do anything.

“Times were tough then, he would help us in the house.

“Jim was engaged to be married. He wanted to be married in the Catholic church because Jim very much believed in his religion.

“He loved people, but Miriam was going to be his wife.”

She added: “I have a wall in my home with the photograph of Jim. So every day, he is there.

“My children grew up, they think that they know him. My grandchildren have grown up with him.

“Every day Jim is alive. My mammy has died and other people have died and we have let them rest, but Jim is always alive.”


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