Hopes visit will ‘revive memories’ of massacre victims

A panorama of Narrow Water near Warrenpoint (with a design for a bridge superimposed close to where the attack happened)
A panorama of Narrow Water near Warrenpoint (with a design for a bridge superimposed close to where the attack happened)

It is hoped Prince Charles’ trip to commemorate Lord Mountbatten’s murder will also “revive memories” of the 18 soldiers killed in an IRA attack on the same day.

Jim Wells, DUP MLA for South Down, said the combined tolls from both attacks meant that August 27, 1979, remains “one of the darkest days in Northern Ireland’s history”.

Jim Wells

Jim Wells

He said of the prince’s visit: “I hope it will help us to maintain the memories of these men in perpetuity. Everyone was dreadfully shocked by the murder of Lord Mountbatten and all of those on that boat.

“But equally on that day, a terrible incident happened in south Down. I want to ensure that decent people commemorate and pay tribute to these men, both dead and injured.”

The bombing of Lord Mountbatten’s boat (killing him and three others) happened at around 11.30am.

The Warrenpoint attack unfolded roughly five hours later.

The prince is colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment, and the bulk of those killed at Warrenpoint were paratroopers.

Former Royal Irish Regiment soldier Doug Beattie, now a UUP councillor, said: “Warrenpoint was a terrible, dark moment in our history, with so much loss of life on the same day...

“But this [Prince Charles’ visit] is something different.

“This is a man coming to terms with the death of someone who meant an awful lot to him.”

He said the events should be seen as “different entities”, adding: “We all have to remember Warrenpoint regardless of whether Prince Charles is down there or not.”

In the run up to the visit, one Bloody Sunday victim’s relative questioned the visit, on the basis of the Prince’s role with the Parachute Regiment.

Councillor Beattie added: “I’m getting lots of questions about why General Mike Jackson [former commander of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment] finds it hard to apologise; people have been saying, ‘Look he should apologise for the likes of Bloody Sunday and things that the paratroopers did’.

“What people don’t realise is that on the day of Warrenpoint, Michael Jackson had to pick his friend’s face out of the water at Warrenpoint – he recognised him by his moustache.”