‘Prayer vigil will let terrorists off the hook’ – victim

Sammy Heenan, at his remote farm in the hills around Leitrim where his father was murdered by the IRA in 1985, leaving him an orphan.
Sammy Heenan, at his remote farm in the hills around Leitrim where his father was murdered by the IRA in 1985, leaving him an orphan.

A man who was orphaned by the IRA says a cleric who is organising a prayer and forgiveness event at the former Maze site is helping absolve terrorist consciences for countless murders.

In this week’s News Letter Anglican cleric Rev David Jardine revealed plans for a prayer and forgiveness event at the site on 17 September.

However Sammy Heenan, whose father William was murdered by the IRA in 1985, has told the News Letter the plans will cause hurt and anger among many victims.

As a 12-year-old he heard his father scream before being shot outside his bedroom window; the IRA wrongly claiming he was in the RUC. His mother having died not long before, he was left an orphan.

“The onus for forgiveness and responsibility always falls on the victims and seldom on the perpetrators,” he said of Rev Jardine’s planned event.

“Republicans continue to engage in revisionism of the past by manipulating the narrative to suit their own jaundiced view of reality. They continue to justify and eulogise those who brought misery and unimaginable suffering to the wider society for 40 years.

“Before forgiveness there should come repentance and contrition. Men like David Jardine are inadvertently indulging in a conscience cleansing exercise for the terrorists.”

He praised his own church for immense support and said grass roots clergy understood victims’ ongoing pain.

“However in the upper echelons of the established denominations there those who continue to seek to force and manipulate victims towards those who brutalised our community.

“Their incessant lust for these love-ins cause retraumatisation and makes innocent victims feel as if we are the stumbling for society in moving forward.”

Mr Heenan said he was a Christian who shares how his faith helped him through his ordeal, but added: “I cannot forgive those that hurt me as there has been no remorse.

“Forgiveness is a very personal matter and evolves over time for some. We do not need mass outpourings of platitudes and public confessions to indulge an ecumenical clique who seem to have no appreciation of the hurt that still prevails.

“If only they would meet victims before they embark on these projects maybe then they could appreciate and understand the depth of pain that still exist for victims who are suffering on a daily basis.”

To the view that Rev Jardine sees forgiveness as a private route to personal healing and not a concession to terrorists, Mr Heenan replied: “Forgiveness is a very personal matter.”

Some people have reached it but others may never be able to, he said. He would consider a genuine apology from his father’s killers but says due process would still be needed.

Support for prayer vigil

South Armagh peacemaker Ian Bothwell, director of Crossfire Trust, came out strongly in support of David Jardine’s plans. He said: “Forgiveness is the key that we need to find in order to release us to a higher place, better thinking and an inheritance which is healthy for children to inherit.”

Rev Jardine is inviting terror victims, terrorists, members of the security forces and members of the public to attend his event at the Maze site on 17 September, to forgive those who shed blood, confess wrongs committed and pray for the future. The entire event is planned to take place in silence.