IRA murdered my father 40 years ago today: how do they sleep at night?

Proud dad Herbie Kernaghan with his baby daughter Debbie in 1969.
Proud dad Herbie Kernaghan with his baby daughter Debbie in 1969.
Share this article

A Fermanagh woman will today lay flowers on the grave of her father to mark 40 years since he was gunned down by the IRA while delivering vegetables to a Primary School.

The IRA took staff and children hostage at St Tierney’s Primary School in Roslea as they lay in wait for 36-year-old father-of-three and part-time UDR member Herbert Kernaghan, on 15 October 1979.

Debbie Carson, whose father Herbie Kernaghan was murdered by the IRA in 1979

Debbie Carson, whose father Herbie Kernaghan was murdered by the IRA in 1979

One pupil said later that Mr Kernaghan smiled at them as he drove into the school. “I saw a man with a hood and a rifle go over to the lorry and fire into the cab,” they added.

Staff and pupils later laid a wreath on Mr Kernaghan’s grave. His wife Sylvia gave birth to their fourth child, named Herbie in his memory, a fortnight later.

Debbie Carson was only ten when her father was murdered. “I just remember him being full of fun and devilment, really jokey” she told the News Letter.

One special memory she has is going with him in his lorry to make deliveries on Saturdays. After the murder friends of the family took the children from school to stay with a cousin of her mum’s.

“None of us went to the funeral and it is something I have always regretted in later life.”

In the days after the murder the children took it in turns to sleep with their mother. “She cried the whole time. It just broke the family really.”

Debbie will visit her father’s grave today with flowers. “I just can’t believe 40 years have passed. Dad was missing for my wedding, and the birth of my three children Christmases and birthdays. I missed him on all those occasions.

“Forty years on I still feel how unjustifiable it was and that nobody has ever been brought to justice. How do the people sleep in their beds at night that went out and did these things - I can’t understand it?”

Kenny Donaldson of the South East Fermangh Foundation, said the Kernaghans are “highly respected” and that the murder “caused outrage across the community and left a family fatherless and a wife without her husband”. The IRA killed 104 innocent people in Fermanagh, he said, and it was the Kernaghans, like many others in the county who did not seek revenge, who are “the real heroes and martyrs within our society”.