A young Catholic mother cried “why us?” as the UDA/UFF snatched her baby from her arms and gunned her down with automatic weapons in her Newtownabbey living room, her son told a stunned audience at Stormont yesterday.
Two gunman called at the home of Mervyn and Rosaleen McDonald, aged 26 and 24, in Newtownabbey in 1976. Once inside they opened fire on Mervyn while Rosaleen stood nearby holding their four-month-old daughter, Margaret.
The gunmen calmly took the child from her mother before opening fire on the bewildered young mum.
In an emotional address yesterday at the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism Stormont victims event, her son Seamus, then almost three, said that he later found out his mother’s last words, thanks to an interview given by one of the gunmen to an author.
They were: “Why us?”
Seamus added: “It took four hours for my mother to die.”
given that we all can share in grief maybe we can share in some sense of healing... and then hopefully maybe there will never be a need for anyone like me to stand up and talk like this againSeamus McDonald
The SDLP said at the time it was a deliberate attempt to drive Catholics from the area.
Although present, Seamus has no memories of the event or even his parents. However, he did have feelings stored up and recently “had to have counselling to let go of the hate”.
He added: “I only managed to put a photo of my parents up on my wall four years ago. So given that we all can share in grief maybe we can share in some sense of healing. And then after we have healed a bit maybe we can find some way to grow, all of us together through sharing these experiences ... and then hopefully maybe there will never be a need for anyone like me to stand up and talk like this again.”
Feelings of injustice among terror victims are growing to such an extent that for the first time in its seven-year history, the annual Stormont event had to lay on two sessions to cope with demand, the organisers said.
The European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism was instigated in the wake of the Madrid train bombings on 11 March 2004, which claimed almost 200 lives and injured another 2000.
Around 300 delegates attended two sessions for the Stormont event yesterday in the Senate Chamber. Delegates heard the DUP, UUP, TUV, Alliance and SDLP MLAs all reprimand the mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, for commending former Sinn Fein MLA and IRA commander Martin McGuinness for his “military service”.
The event was organised by TUV leader Jim Allister, co-sponsored by DUP MLA Jim Wells and SDLP MLA Claire Hanna and was supported by the South East Fermanagh Foundation. Mr Allister said that the unmet needs of victims was responsible for the record attendance.
“Instead of those concerns waning they are waxing and need to be addressed,” he said.
“Of course today we meet under the shadow of that retraumatising insult from San Francisco to honour murder.”
Former Londonderry RUC officer Mervyn Lewers agreed. “First of all can I say how disgusted I feel at the award given to Martin McGuinness that was announced yesterday,” he said. “And I am sure it was no coincidence that it was announced yesterday knowing that this event was on today.”
He survived an under-car booby-trap in 1988 in which he lost one leg, his other being amputated several years later.
“I begged the surgeon to take it off because of the pain – I couldn’t hack it anymore ... To this day there is not an hour in the day that I don’t feel pain.”
The next speaker, Geraldine Ferguson, told how she coped after the murder of her son Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quincey by republicans outside Massereene Barracks in Antrim in 2009.
The “extraordinary” love that was lavished on them from around the world helped them through the bitterness.
She added: “We are very proud of Patrick and how he lived his life and that behind him he leaves a legacy of love. In Patrick’s name and in his memory so many good things have been said and done by so many people in many countries around the world.”
She received a standing ovation from all present for her address.
Following her, Claire Monteith told how, aged only 16, her 15-year-old brother Alan was killed in the Omagh bomb. She told the audience that his last words to her were as he left for town that day were: “I love you sister.”
She was scathing of the authorities. “They call it a justice system ... I call it a legal system that only benefits terrorists.”
Her injured mother gets no support and her brother’s blood has been “used” repeatedly by others for their own interests, she claimed.”Two decades on and not one positive change have I witnessed for victims.”
The next story was that of Clifford Lundy, who was murdered on January 2 1980 outside Kingsmills Presbyterian Church, Co Armagh.
A pastor paid tribute that the former UDR soldier was “a decent man who was shot in the back at the house of God”, his daughter Jennifer told the audience.
Her mother lost six relatives to terrorism in the Troubles “but like myself her faith has sustained her”. She added: “I would appeal to the authorities to see that justice is done.”
In closing, DUP MLA Jim Wells described the San Francisco comments as “disgraceful” while SDLP MLA Pat Catney said “the hurt and pain” caused was evident.
UUP leader Robin Swann said the mayor should hear “the pain and hurt” caused, while Alliance MLA Stuart Dickson said people have been “retraumatised by careless words or perhaps even deliberate words”.