President recalls Abercorn restaurant bombing in Belfast on 50th anniversary

1972 IRA bombing shows ‘depths to which conflict can bring human beings’ - Higgins

The bombing of the Abercorn restaurant in Belfast will "endure in our collective memory as a warning to all people", President Michael D Higgins said on the 50th anniversary of the atrocity.

The president issued a statement remembering the two young women who were killed and scores more injured in the March 1972 no-warning bombing of the popular city centre cafe.

Two friends, Ann Owens (22) and Janet Bereen (21), were killed and more than 140 people were injured, some with life-changing injuries, in the attack.

The Provisional IRA never officially claimed responsibility for the bombing but were widely blamed for the attack. It marked the start of a series of indiscriminate bomb attacks on civilians in Belfast city centre during the bloodiest year of the Troubles.

Two young girls who fled the restaurant before the blast are suspected of planting the bomb.

Referencing an Irish Times article published last weekend about the attack, Mr Higgins said the Abercorn bomb targeted a place "used by people of all backgrounds, particularly by the young."

It unleashed a “whole series of atrocities - they are known to us: the list of death and mayhem from that year 1972 is distressing to recall,” he said.

“What is important is that we take this exemplar event and resolve that it will not be forgotten,” said the president.

“It will endure in our collective memory as a warning to all people of all ages, of all background and the need for us all to commit to such conditions of living together in peace.”

It should be remembered so that “such an atrocity will never be repeated,” he said.

Mr Higgins said that in the context of International Women’s Day on Tuesday, it was worth noting that the victims of the bombing were “mostly young women enjoying cups of coffee in a packed restaurant on a Saturday afternoon on a busy shopping day.”

“It is important that we face the depths to which conflict can bring human beings, that such devastation could be brought to a crowded civilian place with so many young people and the fact it is not beyond suspicion that young people were used to place this bomb among their own generation,” he said.

“It is important to be reminded that this is a level not only to which people can sink, but one that is using others as instruments.”

The president said that as the country prepares to commemorate more events during “the Decade of Centenaries” it was important that this “does not absolve us from recording and learning from events of 50 years ago.”

“These are events that should not have to wait a centenary for reflection,” he said.

Mr Higgins concluded his statement: “To all those who lost loved ones and who were injured, whose lives were changed forever, I send my thoughts on this important week.”