Dublin 1974 bombings survivor: ‘It needs to be talked about’

Wendy Doherty lost her mother and unborn sibling in May 1974 Talbot Street blast

Members of the public tend to the injured following the detonation of a bomb on Talbot Street in Dublin in May 1974. Photograph: Tom Lawlor

Members of the public tend to the injured following the detonation of a bomb on Talbot Street in Dublin in May 1974. Photograph: Tom Lawlor

 

Wendy Doherty, who was just under two years old, was found wandering, bloodstained and confused, through the panic-stricken streets of central Dublin on the evening of May 17th, 1974.

Earlier, at 5.30pm, the toddler had been walking between her nine-month pregnant mother Colette and her pram, on their way to where her father John ran a grocery shop on Sheriff Street.

As mother and daughter walked and pushed the pram past Guiney’s department store on Talbot Street, the second of three car bombs that ripped through the capital within six minutes of each other exploded.

“Mammy was blown one way and the pram was blown the other way,” says Ms Doherty. “I was shielded. When the bomb went off, I was just left standing. Obviously people ran past me, running for their lives, in hysterics.”

'It is a massacre that happened in this country, a terrorist attack on Irish people'

A fireman found her around an hour later, lost and walking, some distance away.

She was taken to hospital to get 10 stitches, unaware her 21-year-old mother and unborn sibling, due two days later, were among the dozens lying dead on the city’s streets.

‘I was gutted’

When Ms Doherty’s second son, 13-year-old Tyler, came home from his first day at Coláiste Phadraig in Lucan last month, she was appalled reading his newly-issued history text book, Making History. 

Among a 16-page chapter on the Troubles, there wasn’t a mention of the single biggest ever atrocity in the State.

“I was gutted,” she says. “It is completely censored from the book. It was just another snub for ourselves and for the families. No-one remembers them, no-one speaks about them.

“School children don’t know anything about this and it is part of their history.”

Although she has no conscious memory of the day her world was blown apart, she daily lives with the destruction it wreaked on her family – only her father and her to survive – and now her own children “have to live it”.

Wendy Doherty with her son Tyler who brought the new ‘Making History’ text book home Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Wendy Doherty with her son Tyler who brought the new ‘Making History’ text book home from school. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Silence

She struggles with anxiety and panic attacks.

“They ask me: ‘Mam, why can we not go to Funderland, why can we not go to the pantomime, to Disney on Ice?’ Because I panic. It is still in my head. It is pandemonium in there. It is a constant battle for me. Noises, crowds, anything.”

Years ago, she was in the city centre to cheer on her husband running an evening street race.

“All of a sudden I was just overwhelmed, because of all the crowds.

“Tyler put his arms around me: ‘It’s okay, Mam, it’s okay, it’s okay’. They had to know from a very early age what it was all about, why their family is so small and where their Nan is. They have lived it since the time they could understand.”

Details of the ‘chronological awarenes’ timeline in the new school Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Details of the ‘chronological awarenes’ timeline in the new school, 'Making History'. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Ms Doherty says if “there wasn’t so much guilt, collusion and lies and deceit” surrounding the bombings then it would be taught to every school child in Ireland.

“It needs to be spoken about,” she says. “It is a massacre that happened in this country, a terrorist attack on Irish people.

“It was our 9/11, it was our Omagh. It happened here on Irish soil and it is being forgotten. The Americans won’t let you forget 9/11 and rightly so.

“The silence surrounding it all is deafening.”