Victims of violence
Victims of violence
3637 people have died as a result of "the Troubles"
in Northern Ireland. Of these 240 were killed in south Armagh.
Listed below are 15 people I have known. This page is dedicated to their memory and to all who have died in this conflict.
The views expressed represent a personal perspective. Similar stories can be repeated many times over. The numbering used corresponds with that given in "Lost Lives" by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney and Chris Thornton, published by Mainstrem Publishing at £25.
494 Stephen Parker 21 July 1972.Aged 14, son of Rev. Joe Parker, Chaplain to the Missions to Seamen. Stephen was killed in an IRA car bomb explosion on Bloody Friday, while trying to warn others. He was posthumously awarded the Queen's Commendation for bravery. Stephen's father founded "Witness for Peace" in 1972 and campaigned ceaselessly for an end to political violence. His parents never really got over Stephen's death and later moved to Canada where they continued to serve with the Missions to Seamen.
699 Jean McConville 7 December 1972.Aged 37, Widow with 10 children. Abducted and killed by the IRA because she gave aid to a dying soldier at her front door at Divis Flats, Belfast. One of the "Disappeared". Jean's remains are believed to have been buried at Templetown beach, Carlingford Co. Louth. An extensive search has so far failed to locate the body. I visited the relatives three times during their four week vigil at Templetown. The remarkable courage and quiet dignity of this family during their long ordeal lasting 27 years is in stark contrast to the utter callousness and ruthlessness of their mother's killers.
840 John McCormick 14 May 1973.Aged 34. John was from Portadown. Work colleague, Belfast West Social Security Office. Murdered by UVF. More than a decade later tragedy again struck the family when John's 14 year old son died after accidentally inhaling fumes from a heat rub he had been spraying on some bruising.
John's brother Hugh was a Sergeant and Instructor at the RUC Training Depot, Enniskillen. He was shot by the IRA as he arrived for Mass.2691 Hugh McCormick 3 March 1985.
915 Norman Hutchinson 11 August 1973.Aged 17, son of an RUC officer. He was murdered by loyalists because he had a Catholic girlfriend and attended Rosario Youth Club.
1579 Ted McQuaid 10 January 1976.Aged 25. Work colleague, Belfast West Social Security Office. Murdered by Lenny Murphy and UVF accomplices. Ted had been celebrating his promotion to senior clerk. He was walking home with his wife late at night on the Cliftonville Road when the killers struck. As we came out of Holy Cross Church Ardoyne following the funeral on 13 January, word literally swept up the Crumlin Road that a bomb had gone off in Lower Donegall Street. (Four people were killed and 20 injured.)
2202 Robert Smith 6 January 1980.UDR. Aged 18. From Comber Co. Down, Robert was killed along with two others by an IRA bomb near Castlewellan.
2561 Billy Finlay 6 October 1983.RUC Reserve. Aged 55. Murdered by IRA.
2562 James Ferguson 6 October 1983.RUC Reserve. Aged 53. Murdered by IRA.
I was visiting in Meadowlands Estate Downpatrick when the two unarmed community policemen were shot. I followed the ambulance to the hospital where I was admitted to the Casualty Unit. Billy had already died from his wounds. As Jimmy had head injuries I held his feet, while the staff worked desperately to save his life. The scenes in the casualty unit were described as emotional. The staff were in tears. " It's Jimmy and Billy". Both men were known to the nurses and doctors. The consultant was there in 8 minutes from home 6 miles away, but it was too late. His three children were at church choir practice when the murder occurred. Councillor Edward McGrady SDLP, (later MP) called at the home on the night of the murder to express his condolences. He was kept at the front door rather than being invited inside, an action which the widow later regretted.
2769 Denis Taggart 4 August 1986.UDR. Aged 33. Shot by the IRA as he got out of his car. His 13 year old son who was delivering papers nearby found his father dead outside their house. Two members of the Cornerstone Community, one Catholic and one Protestant, called at the home to express their sympathy. From that time on they paid similar bereavement visits to all victims' families in north and west Belfast. Fr. Gerry Reynolds of Clonard Monastery attended the funeral service in St. Andrew's Church Glencairn. It was an act of solidarity with the protestant community, although his presence puzzled some members of the congregation.
2772 Robert Coggles 16 August 1986.Aged 31. Robert's mother was aged 13 when he was born. He spent his life in three children's homes before being moved to Muckamore Abbey Special Care Hospital. When he died there was noone to claim his body. The funeral service was conducted by the Prison chaplain and the coffin was carried from the hearse to the grave by the Probation Service staff. There was one death notice from three friends.
You had to be quite brave to be a friend of Robert's. He would often shout abuse at the security forces on the streets. When Robert brought christmas presents to the Probation Office staff, they knew they were receiving stolen goods! He kept one large jar of coffee in their office,- with the lid carefully selotaped, because he didn't quite trust the staff. Robert was murdered by UVF probably because he had caused offence by saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. I remember that as a twelve year old he used to smoke. Instead of telling him not to smoke I asked, "Robert, What is bad for your health?" and he would always say, "Smoking!"
2835 William Marchant 28 April 1987.Major 1st Battalion Belfast Brigade, UVF. Aged 39. "Frenchie" Marchant had a long paramilitary career and is alleged to have led a UVF group which carried out the Dublin bombings in 1974. He was shot by the IRA on the crowded Shankill Road. The Roman Catholic Bishop Cahal Daly later phoned to express his appreciation of what was said in the funeral address. The loyalist paramilitaries were less impressed.
ADDRESS GIVEN AT THE FUNERAL OF WILLIAM MARCHANT
1 MAY 1987.
To kill someone by shooting in a crowded street is a particularly brutal and cruel act. It is both sickening and heart rending. Murder is always evil. every death diminishes us all. Catholic tears are the same as Protestant tears.
Do not be misled by the false gospel of the paramilitary organisations which feed on each other. Their violent acts and misguided activities do not represent justice, whatever excuses they may offer for their crimes. Someone else's death does not "justify" Billy Marchant's death, just as his death dores not "justify" the death of yet another victim. Such actions create even more injustice, misery and grief, along with bitterness, resentment and fear.
The Christian way is different. St. Paul says, "Do not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Having been through the suffering, tragedy and heartache of the last four days you would not want to inflict that same hardship on any other family.
The message of the gospel is God's promise of redemption through the death of Jesus Christ. That message of salvation freely given out of the eternal love that was in the heart of God is available to us all. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." The way of Jesus is the hard way, the way of the Cross that alone leads to ultimate victory over sin and death, to life and peace.
I was aware that Mrs. Marchant had allowed her youngest son to play football in the grounds of the Roman Catholic Clonard Monastery. A year later she gave permission for her son to go on a Catholic / Protestant exchange visit to USA sharing with a Catholic child whose family had been bereaved in similar circumstances to herself. Mrs Marchant, who played a leading part in the loyalist anti-supergrass campaign, also spoke of her high regard for Monsignor Denis Faul and his assistance for the loyalist paramilitary prisoners.
Two weeks after her husband's murder I met Mrs. Marchant at a funeral of a 38 year old lady from the loyalist Highfield Estate who had died from an asthma attack. The fact that there was at least one lorry load of wreaths was an indication of paramilitary associations. The deceased's husband John Trainor was a tough cookie. He was the manager of the Mountainview Tavern on the Shankill Road frequented by the loyalist paramilitaries. He told me that a Catholic friend had called at his pub on the Shankill Road and left him £5 for a drink as an expression of condolence and that another Catholic friend whose son had been shot by the army had called at his home in this loyalist estate to offer his sympathy. I said to him, "John, if your Catholic friends can do that for you - what are these troubles all about.?"
2862 Alan McQuiston 12 July 1987.Aged 47. Killed by the IRA while ushering youths away from the "peaceline" at Ardoyne on bonfire night.
2935 Paul McBride 15 May 1988.Aged 27. Murdered by loyalists along with two others, while having a quiet Sunday afternoon drink in The Avenue Bar. He always said that he would only have a short life. At his funeral Bishop Cahal Daly called for forgiveness for his killers. (- Paul's brother Sean had been killed by a loyalist car bomb at a funeral in April 1977.)
A statement condemning the killing was read the following Sunday (Pentecost) at St. Andrew's Church in the loyalist Glencairn Estate, and later forwarded to the family.
During the week Bishop Daly called for prayers for those who carried out the Avenue Bar murders last Sunday "so they may be freed from their murdering hate, forgiven by God and change their lives." We can understand the reaction of the bar owner's wife, "Why should we pray for the Protestants? It's the Protestants that did it!" If you have ever been close to any similar situation then you can share the very strong natural reaction expressed in that point of view.- "Why should we pray for the other side. They are responsible." It takes a very strong and mature Christian faith to pray for those who carry out such deeds, especially when they belong to the other tribe.
For all of us the endless cycle of violence is only brought home to us when the victim is known to you personally. Paul McBride was an ordinary decent Catholic from Ardoyne. He was unemployed and took too much to drink. He was no different from many of the young men on this estate. He was an innocent person in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Saturday before he died, Paul had the courage to do what I did not have the courage to do. He invited a drug addict, a Protestant, home for his tea. It was a Christian act. I gave both of them a lift home from town. The conversation turned to the Troubles. Paul said, "You see the IRA, they are really evil." Can I say anything less about the loyalist thugs who ended his young life so cruelly last Sunday? I hope that none of those responsible for his murder come from this parish!
I know that I experience all those feelings of anger and hurt. I know why that woman said, "Why should I pray for their killers?" Yet somehow we have got to allow that inner healing to come to ourselves so that we can find it in our hearts to reach out without bitterness and to pray not only for our own lot, but for the other lot as well, "that they may be freed from their murdering hate, forgiven by God and change their lives." In our better moments we know that someone needs to pray that prayer. It is my belief that only Christians can do it.
(Fifteen men from the parish were at that time serving long term prison sentences for paramilitary offences - more men than were in church on a Sunday morning. One area, Glencairn Road, was known locally as 'murder mile' because of the large number of dead bodies that were dumped there. Most were victims of the notorious "Shankill Butchers" gang.)
3217 Thomas Oliver 19 July 1991.Aged 43. Farmer. Abducted and murdered by the IRA.
The brutal death of Thomas Oliver last week has been widely condemned by Churchmen and responsible politicians. The large attendance at his funeral was an indication of the respect in which the Oliver family is held and that his neighbours and friends unreservedly reject the excuses for his murder put forward by his paramilitary killers.
The political violence that is being directed daily against both communities in Northern Ireland has come to our own doorstep here in this quiet corner of Co.Louth. As members of a small Parish which spans the border we are grateful for the good community relations which have always existed here in South Armagh and North Louth. We share with our Catholic neighbours the shock and horror of yet another unnecessary death of a good man.
Let me say plainly that this deed was not done for Ireland. Terrorist organisations have nothing to offer but misery, destruction and death. Those who identified the victim, planned his abduction and carried out his execution share the same guilt. We should pause to reflect that some of those invovled in this senseless killing may come from this locality. Time will tell.The scripture readings for today state:"From evil doers come evil deeds." (1 Samuel 24:13) and "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction." (Galatians 6:7-8a.)
Beyond the rightful condemnation of this sinful act lies the tougher task of challenging the assumptions and the attitudes which lead to violence and the support given to paramilitary orgainsations by word or deed. We also need to confront our own prejudices - both Catholic and Protestant.
We could begin by asking ourselves the question: "In a divided society what helps to overcome the barriers of silence, of fear and of ignorance? - And what hinders?" We could commit ourselves to working through some of the issues and to the search for positive solutions which respect the other persons right to be different.
In any society the most basic civil right is the right to life. That right has been cruelly taken away from our neighbour Thomas Oliver. I ask you to continue to pray for his wife Bridie and her seven children. And to pray too for those who carried out this crime, that they may be converted and turn away from evil.
3556 David Templeton 24 March 1997.Aged 43. Presbyterian Minister. Killed by loyalists.
3558 Darren Bradshaw 9 May 1997.RUC.