Twenty years on, Teebane families voice frustration

Twenty years on and relatives are visibly moved as they mark the 20th anniversary of the Teebane Massacre.
Twenty years on and relatives are visibly moved as they mark the 20th anniversary of the Teebane Massacre.

The families of eight Protestant men killed in an IRA massacre at Teebane have voiced their frustration and anger that 20 years after the murder of their loved ones, not one person has been brought to justice.

Twenty years ago tomorrow seven construction workers died instantly as an IRA bomb exploded at Teebane crossroads on the road between Omagh and Cookstown as they returned from work at Lisanelly army barracks.

The driver of the blue Mercedes minibus died four days later in hospital from his injuries.

Additionally, six other men also travelling in the minibus were left with serious injuries.

No one has ever been convicted of the murders, which were one of a group of Ulster’s most horrific atrocities along with Kingsmills, Claudy and Darkley carried out by the IRA where the perpetrators have never been brought to justice.

Linda Clarke was 26 when her younger brother Nigel McKee was killed in the bomb at Teebane.

The 22-year-old had started working for Karl Construction just a few months before the deadly bomb.

Linda says he was typical of most young Ulster men. He loved cars, helping out on his uncle’s farm and along with his girlfriend was looking forward to the rest of his life.

But as the Troubles raged on, Linda said Nigel didn’t think about dangers, just his day-to-day life like most people his age.

“To him it was just a job,” she told the News Letter.

“He would have been 43 in March. He had just got his HGV licence so that he’d be able to drive lorries. He’d always worked in construction. He’d been going out with a girl.

“My father had died when I was two, so after Nigel died, it was just my mother and I.

“My mother is now 71 and won’t talk about it, she gets too annoyed.

“This year the 20th anniversary means a lot to us. However it is gut-wrenching to think that 20 years after my little brother was murdered we are still no closer to justice.

“Ten years ago we went to William McCrea and started asking questions. That was when we found out the police investigation had been closed.”

The Historical Enquiries Team has re-investigated the atrocity but Linda says the families have been left disappointed.

“The main feeling among the families is frustration,” she said.

“After all this time, still no one has been caught and now they say too much time has passed.”

Linda’s husband, DUP MLA Trevor Clarke, has challenged republicans to respond to what they did at Teebane 20 years ago.

“People have lost their lives. I condemn all murders both of Protestants and of Catholics,” he said.

“So I would like to hear what republicans now, who have condemned more recent atrocities, say now about Teebane.

“I accept that I am an MLA and sit in Stormont with republicans, which does upset my wife and I.

“I believe if republicans are genuine about wanting to move forward, if they have consciences, then they should give any information they have which could help bring the perpetrators to justice.

“We are sick, sore and tired hearing about demands for inquiries for atrocities like Bloody Sunday, Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane, yet no effort from our government to find resolution to the scores of people murdered in attacks carried out by the IRA.”

The barracks the murdered men had been working at are now the focus of plans for Northern Ireland’s first shared education campus. Consultation is currently ongoing to transform the barracks into a shared education campaign, with plans to base six schools on the site.

The army moved out of Lisanelly barracks in 2007. The 120-acre site originally opened during the Second World War close to the historic St Lucia barracks. The Kings Dragoon Guard was the first regiment to be posted to Lisanelly in 1948 and since then it has played host to the 6th (Co Tyrone) Battalion of the Ulster Defence Regiment, later the 4th (Co Fermanagh and Co Tyrone) Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.

- For more in-depth coverage of the Teebane anniversary, see Monday’s News Letter