“They burnt us alive, yet it’s forgotten about” La Mon survivor

Aftermath of the bombing of La Mon House hotel in 1978
Aftermath of the bombing of La Mon House hotel in 1978
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SURVIVORS of the La Mon atrocity have said they feel deeply hurt that Castlereagh Borough Council has no plans to mark the 35th anniversary of the bombing.

In previous years the council organised a service in remembrance of the victims.

La Mon bomb survivor Jim Mills lost his wife and sister in the atrocity and suffered serious injuries

La Mon bomb survivor Jim Mills lost his wife and sister in the atrocity and suffered serious injuries

Billy McDowell, whose wife Lily was seriously injured in the bomb, said he plans to simply visit the La Mon memorial garden and lay flowers in memory of those who died in the bomb.

“We are disappointed that there has been no official recognition of the 35th anniversary planned,” he told the News Letter.

“Ever since the 20th anniversary there was a service every five years.”

Mr McDowell said he feels let down by the Historical Enquiries Team and also by the Government.

“If it wasn’t for Ulster Human Rights Watch, we’d be completely on our own – we’re not like the Finucane Centre,” he said.

“We’re at the age now, I’m in my 70s, and I’ve always said, Government are waiting for us to die and the whole story to be done.”

Jim Mills, who lost his wife Carol and sister Sandra Morris in the bomb, and suffered serious burns to his back, arms and shoulders, also expressed his regret that there will be no memorial service.

He will remember his loved ones by visiting their graves on Sunday.

“They burnt us alive, yet it’s all forgotten about,” he said.

Mr Mills described the terrifying moment that the bomb went off.

“I was sitting at the table beside the window where the bomb was, along with my wife and sister who were killed.

“All I remember is everything went dark then it was like a furnace, everything was burning.

“I bent over choking and that’s why my back and arms were burned, my brother-in-law Joe Morris kicked one of the doors in and got me out. Others escaped through the kitchens.

“Me and Lily McDowell were the most badly injured, they saved my arms and back with skin from my legs.

“My daughter was two years old, that’s what got me through it knowing I had to be there for her.

“I go to the graves regularly, I think of them most days.”

Mr Mills said he couldn’t understand why the Bloody Sunday victims are being offered compensation when others like himself have not been.

“My sister Sandra had a husband and two children, they were never offered a penny.

“You can’t give one side and not the other.

“I hate to say it but if this was the other side, things would be very different. That’s why so many people are so angry at the minute, it’s not just to do with the flag.”

Twelve people, including three married couples, died when the IRA left a fire bomb at La Mon House hotel on the outskirts of east Belfast.

At least 30 people were injured in the giant fireball that engulfed the room.

All the victims were Protestants and they had been attending the annual dinner dance of the Irish Collie Club.

The device, described as a blast incendiary, had been hung on the grille of a window with a meat hook.

When it went off it produced an effect similar to napalm.

The remains of three of the men and two of the women killed could only be identified by blood samples, while a further two could only be identified by elimination.

The atrocity provoked outrage across the world.

The IRA released an uncharacteristically remorseful statement after the attack, saying: “There is nothing we can offer in mitigation bar that our inquiries have established that a nine-minute warning was given to the RUC.

“This was totally inadequate given the disastrous consequences.”

*The News Letter is marking the 35th anniversary of the La Mon atrocity with a two page feature in Saturday’s edition.