Tributes to RUC man Sean Hughes who was left in wheelchair by bullet to head

Warm words of remembrance have been voiced following the death of a policeman who was left in a wheelchair by paramilitaries.
An image of Sean Hughes attending a painting class at the Disabled Police Officers Association in March 2006An image of Sean Hughes attending a painting class at the Disabled Police Officers Association in March 2006
An image of Sean Hughes attending a painting class at the Disabled Police Officers Association in March 2006

Sean Hughes was hit by a bullet fired as he was at home, putting his infant child to bed.

It happened in the early 1970s not long after he had joined the force, but he continued to try and stay active with the Disabled Police Officers’ Association despite his serious disabilities.

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He died on December 10 while under the care of a home in Newtownards.

Hazel McCready, a former officer who was shot three times by the INLA, remembers him well.

“One round of an Armalite rifle to the head,” she said.

“He was putting his baby son into the cot, and he heard a disturbance outside his house.

“And he looked out the window. One Armalite bullet to the head.”

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A Catholic, originally from south-west Belfast, he had been married at the time of the shooting.

His death notice reads: “Beloved father of Ciarán, son of the late Annie and John, brother of Nella, Seamus and the late Hugh and Tom.

“Brother-in-law of Máire and Kevin. Loving grandfather of Seán and Áine. Dearly loved companion of Avril.

“Deeply regretted by Padraigin, all his nephews and nieces and entire family circle.”

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Mrs McCready said despite being left wheelchair-bound, he was often in good spirits and socialised frequently – even going skiing in Austria (with the aid of a sledge-type device), and going sailing.

“He had a wonderful sense of humour,” she said.

“He was just one of us – the injured RUC men and women, and he took part in everything we were doing.

“He never shied away from anything because he was disabled so severely.

“My vision of him is of him sitting in his wheelchair, calculating some mischief or jokes to tell you, and puffing away on his pipe.

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“He always seemed content. I never ever heard the man saying: Why me?

“He was at peace with himself.”

She also described him as a “man of faith”.

One former police officer, who did not want to be named, said: “I find 50 years in a wheelchair to be a remarkable example of service and sacrifice.”

According to the Conflict Archive on the Internet, of the 301 RUC fatalities listed during the Troubles, 25 were Catholic.

More from this reporter:

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Alistair Bushe