Father of three young sons who was cut down by hail of IRA bullets

John McTier worked in the wages department of the Prison Service and was ambushed by the IRA after leaving work.
John McTier worked in the wages department of the Prison Service and was ambushed by the IRA after leaving work.
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The dreams of a young father were lost and his family was left shattered after the IRA shot a Prison Service clerical officer as he made his way home from work in Belfast in 1978.

John McTier, 33, worked in the Prison Service wages department on the Crumlin Road in Belfast. He was giving some colleagues a lift home from work when the IRA opened fire from a car behind.

John had been eager to get some to see his three young sons - all aged under four - before their bed time. Instead was cut down in a hail of bullets and died two days later in hospital.

“That’s when the world stopped for us as his family,” his wife Angeline said. “It was a future lost; the dreams of a young father and his family shattered. John was a hard working man, a poet, a writer, a man who loved nature and sailing, most of all he loved Ireland and his family.

“I don’t think people even realise when they shot it was not just John they shot, his beautiful mother just went to pieces, as did his father. They both had strokes very shortly afterwards and never recovered.

“I just lived from day to day for the boys. But there were many days I did not want to live. It was a sentence on me as well.”

The people that shot John were never brought to task.

“What happened whenever they were going home at night to their own families and watching their own children growing up? Did they ever stop to think - I took away that man’s life? He never got to know his children. And most of all the children never got to know their father.”

Angeline found that working was “good medicine” and went on to raise awareness of the dangers of experimenting with drugs and aerosols in schools. “If I could change things, it would be to educate our young people together. I want to keep looking forward. People that keep looking backwards are only pulling themselves and the country down.”

She will be attending the Operation Banner parade.

“I believe it is important to say thank you to those that gave up so much for us, to recognise what they did.

“I thank the young soldiers, some only boys, who lost their lives whilst serving in Northern Ireland, following orders and in fear of being ambushed. Those were dark and fearful times, they were vulnerable and in fear of their own safety. I think of their last moments on earth and I think of their parents’ grief.

“I think we have to remind people that yes it was a very dangerous, dreadful time and soldiers that came over and all the people in the security forces were there to protect the citizens of Northern Ireland.”