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‘As I opened our bedroom door, there was a neighbour going past. She had blood on her hands’

Sisters recall murder of father Terry McDaid in their home in Belfast in 1988. His case is one of 36 inquests halted by UK government’s controversial Legacy Act

When she was just five years old, Patricia McDaid secretly followed her father to work one morning along a busy Belfast street.

Terry McDaid was a bricklayer and by the time he’d crossed the main Antrim road, she called out his name after realising she was lost. “I was a daddy’s girl,” she says, smiling.

It was 1987 and the McDaids lived in the nationalist area of Newington in the north of the city. Tuesday swimming lessons and summer holidays in Donegal were among the schoolgirls’ happiest past times during one of the most turbulent periods of the Troubles.

On a Tuesday in May 1988, Patricia and her older sister, Tracey, were allowed to stay up late as their grandparents were visiting after an evening swimmers class. Their mother, Maura, had just brought them up to bed when they heard a loud bang.


“I don’t think Mummy got to the bottom of the stairs when we heard all the noise; we thought she had actually fallen down the stairs. It didn’t seem that long after she left us until… all the screaming and banging started,” recalls Tracey.

“We got up and as I opened our bedroom door, there was a neighbour going past. She had blood on her hands and she was asking for towels, she kept saying, ‘stay there, stay there’.”

Directly below the sisters’ bedroom, two loyalist gunmen had burst into the livingroom and shot their 29-year-old father seven times in the head and chest as he watched the 10pm news on television.

Maura McDaid fought one of the gunmen off with a metal pipe from a vacuum cleaner; they tried to shoot her in the head but the gun jammed and she escaped uninjured.

Terry’s mother, Gerty, was shot in the leg.

The sisters, now 42 and 44, tell their story very quietly side by side in Patricia’s front room of her home in north Belfast; both women have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

They recall their mother and grandmother bringing them downstairs that night. “My nanny always wore nylon tights and she had a bullet wound on her leg… I was asking her what happened to her leg,” remembers Patricia.

“She kept saying, ‘I’m all right, I’m all right’. When I got to the bottom, she said ‘don’t look in’ and ushered me past. I didn’t look in – but Tracey did.”

For Tracey McDaid, it’s a memory that still haunts her.

“My daddy was on his knees leaning on the sofa and my mummy was over him… It was the look on her face looking at me,” she says, composing herself.

Another neighbour carried Patricia out of the house: “I can remember looking back and seeing the blue lights… We didn’t know he had been shot but we knew something was wrong with all the commotion.”

It emerged that their father’s murder by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was a case of mistaken identity; his brother, Declan, had been the target.

A fresh inquest into Terry McDaid’s killing opened a decade ago after new information emerged about the role of a British Army Intelligence agent, Brian Nelson, in the murder amid suspected collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

The McDaids have now been informed their case is one of 36 inquests that will not proceed following the introduction of the UK government’s controversial Legacy Act, which ends all current investigations into Troubles-era crimes from May 1st.

Bereaved families can request that a new body, the ICRIR, carry out an investigation. But the McDaids are insistent they will not engage with the body and say the decision has devastated their family.

Their mother died in 2002, aged 43, from cancer, after campaigning relentlessly for justice. She and Terry had been childhood sweethearts and got engaged when they were 16 and were married within two years.

Maura McDaid was one of the founding members of the Wave trauma centre in Belfast, the leading support group in Northern Ireland for victims of the Troubles.

“We always knew after Mummy passed away that we could never let it go, even though we didn’t know all the ins and outs of it,” says Tracey. “But with her gone, my daddy had no voice; so we had to do it.

“We knew the inquest would take a long time but it gave us that bit of hope. Even if we weren’t here for it, our children would be here.

“People think they can take an innocent man’s life and there’s no consequences for their actions. This has affected our whole lives; it’s had that roll-on effect.”

In 1989 a corporal of the British Army’s Royal Scots Regiment and a female Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier admitted passing on the security documents used to target Terry McDaid to loyalists. Both were given 18-month suspended sentences.

The UDR woman resigned though the Scottish corporal was allowed to remain in the army as a training instructor in England.

The McDaid family is among those who are challenging the new UK legislation in the European Court of Human Rights through their solicitor, Pádraig Ó Muirigh.

Patricia has vowed to continue the fight for her parents. “My mummy told me they put the gun to her head that night and it jammed. She said she looked down the barrel of that gun.

“We’re heartbroken because she fought so long and so hard on her own. It’s not about getting prosecutions, we’re past that now. It’s about getting truth for our family and truth for our daddy. He was an innocent family man who was murdered. For what? For nothing. It did go higher than the man on the street and the British government know that too.”