Saturday 22 July 2017

GAA legend reveals hell of the Troubles

Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

ONE of the country's most famous sporting families went through 30 years of hell during the Troubles -- running the gauntlet of extortion and death threats from loyalist paramilitaries.

A new book by Down GAA legend James McCartan Snr reveals the tightrope they walked as a pub-owning Catholic family in a mainly Protestant area.

The family regularly feared for their lives as their pub, run mostly by his wife Marie, became a focal point for intimidation and threats.

The bar was also the McCartan home, which meant the family was at the heart of the Troubles 24 hours a day.

"When the IRA campaign of killings and bombings escalated from 1969 onwards, it was the innocent Catholics living in unionist strongholds such as Donacloney village who suffered most," wrote James Snr, who co-authored the book with Derry writer Seamus McRory.

Between 1972 and 1994 nine people from the McCartans' parish of Tullylish were murdered, for the most part in their own homes, by loyalist paramilitaries.

On one occasion, a bomb was planted outside the bar.

He wrote: "It was a powerful bomb, which would have killed all of us and had been planted by a loyalist organisation."

The McCartan children had to move from the local Protestant primary school beside their home because of intimidation by their peers.

"More frightening was our conviction that the depth of antagonism towards us by the local Protestant population had dramatically increased."

There was also an attempt by loyalist extremists to extort £12,000 from the McCartan family with a written warning that they would kill his son James, now the manager of the Down team

"James's end will not be quick. It will be slow and painful," a note demanding the money said.

A leading loyalist, 'Mr X', who shared James Snr's love of greyhound racing, came to the family's aid.

"The extortion bid and threats were dealt with and no money was paid over," recalls the hero of the double All-Ireland winning Down team that lifted the Sam Maguire in 1960 and 1961.

Sunday Independent

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