Stories of Troubles heartache told for first time in victims’ project

Stella Robinson, whose parents Wesley and Bertha Armstrong were killed in the Enniskillen bomb in 1987
Stella Robinson, whose parents Wesley and Bertha Armstrong were killed in the Enniskillen bomb in 1987

The heartache of a daughter whose parents were killed in an IRA bomb is being told for the first time in a landmark victims’ project.

Stella Robinson, whose parents Bertha and Wesley Armstrong were killed in the Enniskillen bomb on November 8, 1987, speaks out in ‘Stories from Silence’.

The project, which includes a series of short podcast interviews with people reflecting on how their lives have been changed by the loss of a family member during the Troubles, launched on Wednesday night in Belfast Castle with moving testimonies from children who lost a parent during the Troubles.

Mrs Robinson’s parents were killed along with nine other people – and many others were injured – when the IRA bomb exploded without warning as people gathered at the Cenotaph for the annual Remembrance Sunday commemoration.

Many of those present were remembering relatives killed in the First and Second World Wars.

The Armstrongs had their 16-year-old son Julian with them when they were killed.

Speaking of her deep loss, Mrs Robinson said: “People say grief is the price of love, but I think, if you love the person... It depends on how deep the love is, how you grieve and how long you grieve.”

Speaking of her parents, she said: “I loved them very much but I think there was a deeper love that I had with my own mother because we were very close and you could tell her anything.”

She added: “She loved the country farm life, loved animals and particularly hens.

“She was always hugging us. It had to be a tight hug. She was a fun mum and I can still see her smile.”

She added that “as you get older, and you have grandchildren yourself, there are times you wish she was here to tell her things I know she was always interested in”.

Author and journalist Susan McKay, who conducted and edited the interviews, said: “These brief recordings give a moving sense of the enormous loss that haunts the lives of those bereaved in the Northern Ireland conflict.

“The poet Phillip Larkin wrote, ‘What will survive of us is love’. We are profoundly grateful to those who were willing to share their stories. Their courage and resilience shines through.”

Others taking part in the project include Anthony Bridgewater, whose mother was pregnant with him when his father was killed by one of the IRA’s Birmingham bombs, and Serena Hamilton whose father, a UDR member, was ambushed by two IRA gunmen in Coalisland.

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