IRA bomb victim Celia Gourley a ‘remarkable woman’

A Lisburn woman who lost both legs when an IRA bomb exploded under her car has been praised as a “remarkable woman” following her sudden death on Friday.

Celia Gourley OBE, MBE
Celia Gourley OBE, MBE

Celia Gourley (nee Hadden) was the victim of a mistaken identity attack in June 1991.

No one has ever been charged or convicted of involvement in the bomb blast.

She survived despite her horrific ordeal and went on to contribute greatly to many areas of society, including education, music and helping other victims.

Mrs Gourley, who was awarded both the MBE and OBE, was a long-serving governor and trustee of Wallace High School.

A Wallace spokesperson said: “The ‘spirit of generosity’ attributed to our founder and the school’s motto of Esperance (meaning hope) were embodied in Celia and many pupils have derived great benefit from her financial support via her Hadden bursaries and Celia Gourley scholarship.”

Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson Doug Beattie described Mrs Gourley as someone who “typified the grace and resilience of victims seriously injured during our Troubles” through a vicious terrorist campaign.

“Largely a forgotten group who were not even entitled to an investigation as part of the Stormont House Agreement, Celia packed her life doing the best for Northern Ireland as part of the Industrial Development Board, ADAPT NI or as vice chair of the NI Prosthetics Forum. Sadly she has passed away before the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme was finally realised,” Mr Beattie said.

He added: “Northern Ireland will be a lesser place without Celia and her beloved Wallace High School, family and friends will mourn her loss.”

Addressing the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster in 2005, Mrs Gourley said she was not prepared to meet with the perpetrators of such an “obscene” attack, if they were ever caught or came forward, in the absence of an apology.

“They apologised that I was blown up because I was not the target, but that meant that someone was the target and we believe it was a policeman.

“I think that is obscene. I cannot describe how bad I feel about the people who did that and I am not prepared to meet them at present until there is a huge sea change,” she told MPs.

In relation to her own determination in the face of adversity, Mrs Gourley added: “A doctor came to see me. He said. ‘You have lost both legs above the knee. You will probably never walk again’, and it was actually that comment that determined me that I would walk again, if only to prove him wrong, and I did.”

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