Bid to honour civilian workers killed in Troubles

Teebane Bombing 17th January 1992'The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a bomb killing eight Protestant civilians who had been travelling in a minibus past Teebane crossroads between Cookstown and Omagh, County Tyrone. The men had been working at a military base in County Tyrone and were travelling home when the attack occurred. (News Letter Library File)
Teebane Bombing 17th January 1992'The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a bomb killing eight Protestant civilians who had been travelling in a minibus past Teebane crossroads between Cookstown and Omagh, County Tyrone. The men had been working at a military base in County Tyrone and were travelling home when the attack occurred. (News Letter Library File)

AN Ulster Unionist is pressing the government to erect a memorial to civilians who were murdered by republicans during the Troubles for carrying out work for the security forces.

Former Antrim mayor Adrian Watson is working with party colleagues Lord Empey and assembly member David McNarry in a bid to honour those civilian workers who made a “significant contribution” to the effort against terrorism.

Mr Watson said they have been lobbying the UK defence secretary, Liam Fox, and will take the campaign to the Commons and the Lords.

“The Teebane massacre, near Cookstown, on January 17, 1992, was the worst of these killings where eight men employed by Blackbournes lost their lives – Gary Bleeks, James Caldwell, Robert Dunseath, Oswald Gilchrist, David Harkness, Robert Irons, John McConnell and Nigel McKee,” said Mr Watson.

“They were all Protestants and died as a result of the firm’s van being blown up by an IRA land mine. They had been working for the British army at the Lisanelly base near Omagh.

“All workers killed in circumstances like these deserve recognition.

“Some were murdered for even selling produce to security personnel, and others worked as personnel within police and army camps – they have been totally forgotten by the government until now.

“I believe that, just as the RUC were honoured, the brave men and women who carried out this vital support work should also be remembered. I have been promised by Lord Empey that he will both ask questions and write to Dr Fox, the secretary of state for defence.”

He added the matter had already been raised with Baroness Garden of Frognall, the government’s whip in the Lords, and it is being considered by the Northern Ireland Office.

Mr Watson said that civilian workers had previously been formally recognised with a reception at 10 Downing Street by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, and that a letter from the PM was displayed at Headquarters 38 (Irish) Brigade.

“But this is not a public place, and the civilians workers deserve a public recognition of the sacrifice they made,” he said.

“It should be a matter of public record. I do not believe the current tribute is either adequate or fitting.”