Soldier’s mother: Good McGuinness did can’t wipe out heartache he caused

Jean O'Connor from Fulwood, Preston, with her son Iain at his passing out ceremony in 1986. He was killed by the IRA on March 30, 1987
Jean O'Connor from Fulwood, Preston, with her son Iain at his passing out ceremony in 1986. He was killed by the IRA on March 30, 1987

Nothing the late Martin McGuinness did in his latter years can wipe out the horrors he was responsible for as an IRA leader, says a Lancashire woman whose son was murdered by the terror group.

Jean O’Connor from Fulwood in Preston lost her son, Iain, on March 30, 1987 when he was killed by IRA blast bomb.

“I know you should not speak ill of the dead but he [McGuinness] only went into politics for purely selfish reasons and did it for himself – no one else,” she said.

“I don’t feel that any good he did after can wipe out the atrocities that were carried out that affected not just my son and other military but also his own people. He caused a lot of heartache within the community in Northern Ireland.”

While on the plane to Northern Ireland to go on tour with the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, her son, aged 23, turned to his friend and whispered: “I don’t think I will be coming back.”

When this reached his mother’s ears some years later it sent a chill into her bones.

“I can still picture Iain lying across my knee a few days before he went and saying: ‘I’m frightened mum’.

“It was one of the last conversations I had with him and I told him: ‘Don’t worry, you will be okay. They are killing each other, not soldiers’.”

An IRA blast bomb was dropped from a walkway in Divis Flats into a roof hatch of his Land Rover. A priest came running out and gave him the Last Sacraments.

Jean said: “I don’t really remember much about the days and weeks following Iain’s death. There were plenty of tears and there still are today.”

She added: “When you lose a child, the pain never goes away. I am always wondering what sort of life Iain would have had and what sort of man he would have grown up to be.”

She later found he had been trying to phone her the day before his death to wish her a happy Mother’s Day.

Jean admitted: “That really hurts to know I didn’t manage to speak to him that final time.”

She remembers feeling anger at the IRA. She recalled: “I kept saying: ‘They’ve blown up a Roman Catholic with an Irish name. They say it is about religion but none of it is about religion. It is just terrorism.

“Iain’s death was just such a senseless killing and a waste of a life. It did not achieve anything. If it had been for some greater good, that would have been some consolation. But as it was, I lost my son for nothing.”

A Sinn Fein worker was jailed for the attack and released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Jean said: “I can remember someone asking if I wanted revenge against the IRA but I said: ‘What would be the point? It’s not going to bring Iain back and it would just cause another mother to have her heart broken.’

“Thirty years on, the pain is still there and it never goes away.

“I feel what happened is a forgotten thing as Northern Ireland is on the back burner compared to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. They are supposedly at peace.”

She added: “I just wish Iain was still here. Losing a child is the most terrible thing. It stays with you forever.”

READ EXTENDED INTERVIEW IN OUR SISTER PAPER: Preston mum tells of son’s death at hands of IRA 30 years ago