More pain for Poppy Day bombing victim’s family

Christopher Quinton with President Bill Clinton.
Christopher Quinton with President Bill Clinton.

A woman, whose mother was killed in the IRA Poppy Day massacre in 1987, has spoken of the tragedy of losing two brothers in sudden deaths in the space of three months.

In February Aileen Quinton’s brother Ian, aged 60, died only days after an old friend had tried to contact him through the News Letter.

The scene of the Enniskillen bomb seconds after the 1987 Poppy Day bombing

The scene of the Enniskillen bomb seconds after the 1987 Poppy Day bombing

This week a second brother, Christopher, died at his home in Enniskillen, aged 61, from a suspected heart attack.

Aileen said yesterday that the two deaths in close succession bring to mind other losses in her immediate family – her mother Alberta died in the Poppy Day bombing.

“I couldn’t get Christopher so I called the police, who broke in to his flat on Sunday,” she told the News Letter yesterday. “It is so soon after Ian.”

Christopher lived in Enniskillen but had also lived in Poland, where he had worked with Ernst and Young.

“He started studying his law degree at the age of 40 having done a variety of jobs up until then, such as working in building societies and driving jobs.

“But he was very intelligent and had brains to burn.

“He loved the oddities of Fermanagh grammar and told me that when I wa studying for my maths degree I was doing ‘big sums’ at university.

“We are waiting for the post-mortem results but we suspect it was a heart attack.”

She and her brother Derek, 63, are the surviving siblings.

They also survive both parents, George and Alberta, who was already widowed by the time she died.

Aileen spoke fondly of her memories of Christopher yesterday.

“In his youth he was in a band – The Jaguars. He also won the Mr Enniskillen contest and as far as I know there was never another one so he never relinquished his crown.

“He was very excited when Northern Ireland played the Polish team in Poland. And as a Northern Ireland man living in Poland, he was interviewed on television there. While on air he took the iconic Polish phrase ‘Let Poland be Poland’ and changed it to ‘Let Northern Ireland be Northern Ireland’.

“The phrase came from a song written in 1976 by Jan Pietrzak which was an expression of the struggle against communist rule in Poland. He was a bit worried in case his Polish work colleagues thought it was sacrilege for him to appropriate it, but apparently they were delighted.

“He also met Bill Clinton when the former US President visited Enniskillen. Christopher had a friend from Nebraska and during a question and answer session he asked Mr Clinton why he had been to Northern Ireland three times but had not been to Nebraska. Mr Clinton was visibly perplexed but eventually answered that it was because he got more support in Northern Ireland.”

Aileen said that her brother Ian, 60, who died of a heart attack in February, had been “a very sweet and gentle soul” and a brilliant artist.

He had been very close to their widowed mother, she said.

Her murder in 1987 when she was 72 and Ian was in his 30s had “devastated” them.

Christopher had helped her clear out Ian’s flat in February and taken hundreds of Ian’s paintings to store in his flat.

“Part of me is still thinking ‘how am I going to break the news of Christopher’s death to Ian’,” she added.

Her two brothers had increasingly been getting behind her campaigning in relation to the 1987 IRA bombing.

Aileen was one of the protestors outside Windsor Castle when former IRA commander Martin McGuinness recently attended a banquet hosted by the Queen.

In February she also spoke out about her anguish when she and other victims of the Libyan-supplied Semtex used in the Enniskillen bomb discovered they were not told of the Libyan Prime Minister’s visit to the town last year; they were all the more angered to find out the Libyan premier had been introduced to Martin McGuinness instead.

“Ian had not been well but was very pleased with what I am doing,” she said. “Christopher was starting to take an interest too. But the cards are all stacked against us.

“I was outside Windsor Castle to remind people what Martin McGuinness was all about.”

Ian was like her mother Alberta in many ways, she says.

“Christopher was very like our father George – he had brains to burn and would make me laugh at the most in appropriate time – and then put on an innocent face.

“Some of the IRA victims in England had written to say they were most impressed with his ‘really clever guidance and fantastic use of English’.”