A YOUNG woman often described as a “forgotten victim” of the Troubles was remembered at a special service in Co Fermanagh last night.
Jillian Johnston was shot dead by the IRA 25 years ago today as she sat in a car with her fiancé Stanley outside her family home near Belleek.
The 21-year-old was murdered during one of the most turbulent periods of the conflict and her death was overshadowed by a series of headline-grabbing killings.
Last night’s service was held at St John’s Parish Church in Muckross – the church where Jillian was to be married, and was laid to rest following a funeral service attended by thousands of mourners from across the county.
Jillian and her fiancé had just returned home from buying fish and chips in Belleek village around 10.30pm when the IRA gunmen struck.
She was struck by more than 20 bullets from an automatic rifle suffering fatal injuries. Stanley was seriously injured but survived the attack. The IRA said afterwards that the ambush had been “a mistake”.
The young woman, who worked as an assistant in a chemist’s shop, was planning her wedding at the time of her murder.
In an emotional interview with the Impartial Reporter last week, Jillian’s widowed mother Annie spoke of the enduring pain she has suffered over a quarter of a century.
“Sometimes I can talk about her without shedding a tear,” she said. “But at other times when her name is mentioned I just burst into tears,” revealed Mrs Johnston as she remembered her daughter who would have celebrated her 22nd birthday the month after she was murdered on March 18, 1988. “The 25th anniversary is difficult ... every anniversary is difficult.”
Stephen Gault, whose father Samuel was murdered in the Enniskillen Poppy Day bombing, was one of many to attend the service. “It was very, very busy,” he said. “There were dozens of people standing at the back of the church and they had to bring in extra seating. My wife and I arrived 25 minutes early and the church was full to capacity. It was of course an emotional service for the family.”
He also said it was important that individual victims of terrorism were remembered in the same way as those killed in atrocities which claimed many lives: “All the victims of the Troubles have to be remembered whether it was in Enniskillen or a single victim. The Johnstons are no different from what we suffered, we have to remember them all equally.”
Stephen attended the service after reading the interview with Jillian’s mother in which she said that Jillian had made sure to pay her respects at all the funerals of those who died in the Enniskillen area.