A former family doctor whose patients were slain in a loyalist massacre has hit out at an event linked to two of the men who are thought to be responsible, saying that it adds “insult to injury” .
Dr Alasdair McDonnell – who was formerly SDLP leader, South Belfast MP, and a GP for the lower Ormeau area of Belfast – was speaking ahead of a march today on the Ormeau Road, to be followed by a ceremony which will honour Raymond Elder and Joe Bratty.
The pair were loyalist paramilitaries with links to the area, and are widely thought to have been involved in the UDA’s 1992 mass shooting at a bookie’s shop in the Catholic-dominated lower Ormeau neighbourhood.
The duo are commemorated on an official UDA plaque, and the latter is listed by the book ‘Lost Lives’ as having been the group’s local commander; they were themselves shot dead by the IRA on July 31, 1994.
Dr McDonnell told the News Letter most of the five civilians who died in the UDA gun spree (all Catholic, ranging from 15 to 66) had been patients at his surgery close by, and he also treated a number of those who survived.
“People in the lower Oremau will see any commemoration of these guys as a celebration of what happened in the bookie’s shop,” he said.
“It just adds insult to injury.
“We don’t need commemorations of this kind if we’re going to bind up our society and make our community function.”
He said he had been on the scene of the massacre “within a short space of time”, but could not enter due to a police cordon.
“One of my receptionists rang me – she thought her husband was inside. It was very traumatic, because I knew all of them individually.
“It was just horrific. It was a savage attack on innocent people; I mean, these people were not involved in any military sense.
“Effectively a bookie’s shop is in many ways a working man’s club where people go for a degree of entertainment.
“The attack was totally insane.
“I was left subsequently, in weeks and years, dealing with the scars – physically and psychologically.
“A number of the people that were injured and left for dead had to be nursed back to health.
“Equally, the families of those that were killed, some of them never recovered.
“[There are] people walking about the Ormeau Road here at the moment who were maimed and shot up.”
In response to the fact that many republican paramilitary commemorations are also held every year, he said: “The same applies. Wrong is wrong, and killing is killing, and commemorating people for some event like that is wrong, aside from it being very damaging to relationships.”
He said his condemnation applied “across the board”.
The DUP issued a statement in response to a request for comment, which it said had been agreed with Emma Little Pengelly (South Belfast MP) and Christopher Stalford (South Belfast MLA): “Paramilitaries should have disappeared from the scene long ago.
“The DUP condemns all those who cling to criminality and violence.
“Flags or any other emblems supporting paramilitaries have no place in our communities. We want to have them all removed.”
DETAILS OF PARADE AND COMMEMORATION:
Friday’s parade is organised by the ‘Annadale Heritage and Cultural Society’.
It begins at 7.15pm at the Ballynafeigh Band Hall.
Organisers had intended to parade on to the main Ormeau Road – a main traffic route – but have been ordered not to.
Instead, their route will take them through residential streets next to it, ending beside the Annadale Flats.
Afterwards, there will be a ceremony at a memorial garden which “will include the remembrance of Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder”, according to information provided by the organiser to the Parades Commission.
The commission said it accepts that this ceremony has “associations with a proscribed organisation”.
The Parades Commission’s ruling states that no paramilitary trappings are to be displayed at all in the parade (previous years have seen UDA paraphernalia displayed).
It adds that, although 30 loyalist bands are listed as attending, it is more likely to be 12 on the day.