‘Mum suffered years of nightmares after dad was shot on her birthday’

Renee McCready with husband John before his murder in 1976
Renee McCready with husband John before his murder in 1976

A woman suffered years of nightmares after her husband was shot by the IRA on her birthday in north Belfast, her son has said.

John McCready was shot in a random sectarian attack as he walked home with a friend on the Cave Hill Road on January 27, 1976, his son Martyn told the News Letter.

Martyn McCready said his father John had been a huge figure in his life

Martyn McCready said his father John had been a huge figure in his life

“As the years passed my mum, Renee, had very bad dreams – nightmares actually,” Martyn said. “They went on for three or four years, it was very hard for her.”

Martyn was an only child, and his father John had been a huge figure in his life.

He ran a construction firm building houses with his own father, and when Martyn was about five, he also became a part-time firefighter, further elevating him in his son’s eyes.

“Everything my father did, in my eyes he was brilliant.”

He went to work for his father and in 1970 John gifted Martyn a new home when he announced plans to marry his sweetheart, Doreen. Father and son put the roof on together and the couple still live in the same treasured home.

On his mum’s birthday, January 27, 1976, Martyn enjoyed his last meal with his parents – fish and chips – with no idea what would happen later that night.

At midnight he got a phone call to say his father had been in an accident – later confirmed as a shooting.

Lying wounded on the ground, John told a UDR woman he had been walking home with his friend when a car stopped and asked where he was going. Giving his address as Westland Road identified him as a Protestant, Martyn said, and so he was shot.

“He was not in any organisation or security force, just a family man and a builder.”

They drove to the Royal Victoria Hospital and saw John before surgery.

“As he lay there his lungs were full of blood and his breathing was laboured. I could only hear him saying ‘look after your mum for me’.”

He died 10 days later, aged 56, his wife living on without him until two years ago.

Fingerprints on the number plate of the getaway car led to a 17-year-old who remained silent during police interviews. Police believed he was the IRA man responsible.

“The cost of this murder is; no husband, no father, no father-in-law, no granda, no brother, no uncle, no son ... and the killer is still free.”

Martyn saw part of the recent funeral of Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander.

“My own personal belief is that he had an awful lot of fingers on triggers and buttons,” he said.

To claims that he was the only person who could have led the IRA to peace, Martyn replied that “he only did so because he was tired of doing what he did”.

It is “very difficult” for people like him to put the past behind them, he said.

“It is up to the younger generation to pick up pieces and forget about what has happened over the years.”

His highest hope for the future is “people living together and forgetting about whether there will be a united Ireland or not”.