Monday 24 October 2016

Murdered taxi driver's widow writes remarkable letter of thanks to her neighbours

Claire McNeilly

Published 25/04/2016 | 07:56

Michael McGibbon and wife Joanne McGibbon
Michael McGibbon and wife Joanne McGibbon
The funeral of cab driver Michael McGibbon

The heartbroken widow of a taxi driver murdered by dissident republicans has written an emotional message about how her husband's death has brought both communities together.

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Joanne McGibbon's letter also included a fervent wish that Catholic and Protestant children in north Belfast will have a brighter future to look forward to.

The brave mother-of-four personally delivered her letter to Methodist minister Rev Colin Duncan at the Woodvale Manse on Saturday - just 48 hours after her husband Michael's funeral.

And, in a moving show of strength and kindness, Mrs McGibbon asked the cleric to pass on her gratitude to the local Protestant community for their support during the dark days following his brutal murder.

"I just hope one day that this hatred and evil will be gone and we can all live happy with each other, the way it should be," she wrote.

"Thank you all so much again. It is so lovely to see the two communities agreeing with each other for a change. It would be nice if our children could have a brighter future."

Joanne is understood to have been appreciative of the gesture by the Orange Order to suspend its nightly protest at Twaddell Avenue on Thursday - the day Michael was laid to rest after Requiem Mass in Holy Cross Church.

Mr McGibbon passed away in hospital on April 16, surrounded by his family, after he was shot in the legs in Ardoyne by the so-called New IRA.

One of the gunmen's bullets struck the young father on the thigh, severing a major artery and causing him to bleed to death in an alleyway as Joanne, a nurse, cradled him in her arms.

The 33-year-old had gone to meet his killers at Butler Place after refusing to come to the door when two paramilitaries visited his house in Ardoyne 24 hours earlier.

His shocking murder robbed Joanne of a husband and their children - daughters Seanna (17), six-year-old Michaela and Corry-Leigh (4), and their nine-year-old son Shea - of a father.

"To all our neighbours 'on the other side', in Woodvale, Glencairn, Twaddell (Twinbrook LOL) etc etc", the hand-written card began. "I just want to thank you all for the cards and support you have shown to my husband Michael and my family during this difficult time. I have lots of friends who are Protestants and other religions and they all mean a lot to me. It just shows we are all human and feel the same way.

"I have nursed people from all religions/cultures and cared for them all equally."

Mr McGibbon, who was working for Five Star taxis, was targeted after unfounded allegations were made about him making inappropriate comments to a young female passenger.

He left his job with Glenard cabs on Ardoyne Avenue as a result and had assumed a new job as a driver with the Antrim Road company when he was killed.

Five Star also employs prominent dissident Damien 'Dee' Fennell, who was arrested last weekend in connection with Mr McGibbon's murder before later being freed without charge.

Despite the unproven claims about the former chef being at least a year old, they were still being cited as the reason for his murder.

Signing off "Love, Joanne McGibbon xo", the widow entrusted the card to Rev Duncan, who then passed on its contents and sentiment to local parishioners.

DUP North Belfast Assembly candidate William Humphrey said the community had been touched by how Mrs McGibbon had dealt with her tragic loss.

"As someone born and raised in the Woodvale, I am not surprised to read that people from the Greater Shankill community have been of support to Joanne and her family," he said.

"The cancellation of the Orange Institution's Twaddell protest was a manifestation of that.

"I, like many others, have been moved and impressed with how Joanne has conducted herself. Her quiet dignity and decorum is an example to us all and is in stark contrast to the evil people who murdered her dear husband."

Belfast Telegraph

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