The priest who comforted families at the time of the Greysteel massacre last night returned to the parish to celebrate the 20th anniversary mass, and allow families to remember their dead.
Father Stephen Kearney, 69, who was curate at Star of the Sea church in Faughanvale in 1993, told mass-goers during his homily that “those who suffer the most are sometimes the quietest and those who cry loudest have least to cry about”.
The 69-year-old cleric reiterated the words of former parish priest the late Rev Jack Gallagher during the homily given at the time of the Greysteel funerals that “we all live among saints who all make a great impression on us”.
He said that in recent days there “had been a lot of speculation and outpourings about the atrocity” adding that “now people are coming to unite and commemorate and join in prayer with family friends and neighbours”.
At 9pm an interdenominational service was held for victims’ families outside the scene of the massacre, the Rising Sun bar.
Last night 20 years ago, UFF gunmen burst into the pub in the mainly Catholic Co Londonderry village during a Halloween party and raked the bar with gunfire.
They killed seven people and another man later died of his injuries. The toll included two Protestants.
At first, customers believed it was a Halloween prank as the killers shouted “trick or treat” before pulling the trigger.
The dead were: John Burns; Moira Duddy; Joe McDermott; Victor Montgomery; James Moore; John Moyne; Steven Mullan and Karen Thompson.
Torrens Knight was given 12 life sentences for Greysteel and the separate murder of four workmen in a nearby village. Four other UFF men were also handed eight life sentences for the murders.
East Londonderry MLA John Dallat attended the Greysteel commemorations.
He described the evening as “very emotional” but said the overall mood “gave hope” for the future.
“People were buoyant. The Shankill families had just left and the message couldn’t have been clearer – that any young person in the future who might be contemplating getting involved in violence would be absolutely mad,” he said.
“Anyone in Greysteel here this evening would realise the terrible blunders that those involved in violence in the past made. They left a legacy of grief behind them but, unwittingly, they also created a determination that ordinary people would never be sucked into a kind of Balkans-type event that some people hoped would happen.”
The SDLP representative added: “The church service had a Church of Ireland and a Presbyterian clergyman. Afterwards in the Rising Sun – a place where 20 years ago there was bloodshed – you had people in to have a warm cup of tea. You had local policemen and women, Protestants and Catholics – you had a very normal society.”
Earlier yesterday Martin Duddy, the son of 59-year-old victim Moira Duddy, told the BBC that staying strong through prayer is the only option. “My mother was dedicated to her family. She was shy but caring and a loving woman.
“We have our own healing mechanisms and we have kept together. We have to.”
He remembered the sense of shock and disbelief and the strength of the family.
“We are in a better Northern Ireland and I hope we have lasting peace here and that everyone can talk together,” he added.
“I can’t really think about those who carried out this atrocity. I look on the good and thankfully for the next generation we are living in a better Northern Ireland.”