Remembering Loughinisland - and all lost lives
Sir, – In common with many others on this island, I remember well June 18th, 1994. The Republic of Ireland’s win over Italy in the World Cup was fantastic and gave all of us a tremendous boost. All of us that is, except those who walked into the Heights Bar in Loughinisland and sprayed it with bullets killing six people and seriously wounding five others.
As news of this terrible atrocity filtered out, I remember sitting in my kitchen in tears at the thought of such devastation to the lives of so many.
So it is appropriate that, as the Republic of Ireland are playing Italy in the forthcoming European Championship on the same date 18 years later, the Irish players, together with the rest of us, remember the tragedy of those lives destroyed by that evil and horrendous act years before.
As we do so, it is also important we recognise that the same date brings back memories of loved ones lost to others as a consequence of the breakdown in our society during the madness of what we call our “Troubles”.
As part of the group tasked with developing and promoting a Day of Reflection (June 21st each year) with Healing Through Remembering, one of the statistics highlighted by our research was that there was no single day in the calendar year that someone did not die as a result of the conflict emanating out of Northern Ireland.
The book Lost Lives records that as well as those murdered in Loughinisland on June 18th, 2004, there were others in different years who were killed on that day namely:
1972: three soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders, Arthur McMillan, Colin Leslie and Ian Mark Mutch were killed by an IRA bomb planted in a house near Lurgan.
1974: John Harrison Forsythe, a police officer was killed by an IRA bomb near Lurgan.
1976: Robert Craven was killed by a UVF bomb in Conway’s Bar, Shore Road, Belfast.
1982: Albert White, a former member of the RUC was shot by the IRA in Newry.
1985: William Robert Gilliland, a police officer died as a result of an IRA landmine explosion in Fermanagh.
As we look to the future and work to ensure that we never again revisit those dark days and challenge those who still want to repeat them, it is appropriate that the Republic of Ireland football team remember those who lost their lives on that terrible night 18 years ago and remember all those for whom June 18th is a day of sadness, and indeed all those who died as a result of the Troubles.
We cannot undo the past, but we can ensure that we do not repeat it. The counter to what happened that night is the building of relationships. It is of paramount importance that we take every opportunity to do this.
The action of the FAI over the eligibility of players has had the effect of alienating a significant number of Northern Ireland football fans, such as me, from the team. So, as my small contribution to building a shared future in Northern Ireland and on this island, made in memory of those murdered in Loughinisland in 1994 and elsewhere on this island I will support the Republic of Ireland in the European Championships (as well as England, as my English nephews and nieces would never forgive me if I did otherwise!) and I would encourage all Northern Ireland football fans to do the same.
After all, some things are more important that football. – Yours, etc,