‘Growing up we became used to stares and taunts’

Author Jayne Olorunda, from Belfast was just two years old when her father, Nigerian born, Max Olorunda was killed by an IRA incendiary bomb which detonated prematurely in Dunmurry aboard a train from Ballymena to Belfast in January 1980.  Legacy is her book detailing what life was life for her family as victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles.''Picture by Debbie Deboo Photography.
Author Jayne Olorunda, from Belfast was just two years old when her father, Nigerian born, Max Olorunda was killed by an IRA incendiary bomb which detonated prematurely in Dunmurry aboard a train from Ballymena to Belfast in January 1980. Legacy is her book detailing what life was life for her family as victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles.''Picture by Debbie Deboo Photography.

A victim of the Northern Ireland Troubles has revealed how she was forced to flee to England after a series of racist incidents and a horrifying attack

Jayne Olorunda, 39, was just two years old when her father, Nigerian born, Max Olorunda was killed by an IRA incendiary bomb which detonated prematurely in Dunmurry aboard a train from Ballymena to Belfast in January 1980.

Since the death of her father Jayne and her family have been forced to overcome the devastating effects of losing an innocent loved one while struggling to battle racism, poverty and grief.

In 2013, determined to show people the reality of being an unlikely victim of The Troubles, Jayne released her book Legacy, a heart-breaking account of how her family lived and continue to live with the aftermath of her father’s tragic death.

“Growing up I realised our story was different and as I got older I wanted people to know” said Jayne.

“I quickly realised the only way to do this was to write it down. I hope that Legacy will give people an insight into what it was really like behind the curtains for victims across the country, to give them an idea as to what we had to endure as a family.”

In Legacy Jayne recounts the very personal story of her mother Gabrielle’s deteriorating health, how they eventually met the “man who murdered” her father, how Gabrielle ended up believing her family was under the spell of a Nigerian voodoo curse and Jayne’s own struggle as a mixed race Catholic child who “never really fitted in anywhere”.

“As I grew up I got sick of being told ‘go back home’ and being asked ‘where were you from before here’, people just wouldn’t believe I was born in Northern Ireland.”

As a campaigner for victims rights over the years Jayne questioned what was really being done to support victims of The Troubles across Northern Ireland.

“In my opinion no-one is out there to treat post-traumatic stress, no-one is there to prevent families falling into the abyss that mine fell into. Above all no one is there to help the children of the struggle.’’

Over the years Jayne’s growing popularity as a voice for victims led her to become a cross-community project worker and eventually to stand for election in 2014 with the ill-fated post-Troubles political party NI21.

But despite her public profile Jayne was not immune to the tide of severe racism that began sweeping through Northern Ireland post-conflict.

In fact, Jayne believes that the reduction of sectarian violence led the way for a new wave of hate crime.

She added: “Racism has always been an issue in my life, after all we are a mixed race family and don’t always blend in. Growing up we became used to stares and taunts, but that was all we had.’’

Jayne found herself the victim of a devastating and horrifying racist attack in 2016 that eventually led her to fleeing Northern Ireland with her family.

She revealed: “I had been invited to dinner by an African family. I had to leave early so I said my goodbyes and thought nothing of walking out the front door onto the street and walking the short distance to my car.

“But within seconds of being out the door I unwittingly encountered a group of right-wing thugs, who surrounded me, blocked me in with an SS banner they were carrying and proceeded to terrify me. There was about eight of them shouting racist slurs, telling me to ‘go home’ and using threatening gestures and behaviour.

“They had me cornered, I feared for my life. I couldn’t knock the door of the house - people inside were having a good time, singing and were joyful. I didn’t want to expose them to what was happening, especially because there were children in the house.

“One of the men was walking towards me quickly screaming that I wasn’t from Northern Ireland and therefore didn’t belong. As he got closer he suddenly asked whether I was from Belfast and when I said ‘yes’ he stopped in his tracks and called me by my first name.

“He said ‘is that you Jayne?’. I replied ‘yes’ and I was allowed to carry on. I was shaken and scared, my car seemed like it was a million miles away.

“It turned out I was ‘lucky’ that I was recognised by this man. I honestly believe he stopped the attack or at least gave me time to get away, even though he was part of it. I am under no illusions though, I know he intended to do harm, I don’t see him as a hero but I’m glad he recognised me.”

The attack had such a profound effect on Jayne’s life that she gave up campaigning, public appearances and even restricted her movements to areas close to where she was living at the time.

‘‘I literally became a hermit.’’