Sunday 20 May 2018

Irish victim's family fear death will delay September 11 trials

Ralph Riegel

THE family of an Irish woman killed in the September 11 terror attacks alongside her four-year-old daughter last night said the world was a better place without Osama bin Laden in it.

However, the family of Ruth (45) and Juliana Clifford McCourt (4) said they now want the US authorities to use the death of the al-Qa'ida leader to push ahead with the trials of those still in custody over the plane hijackings and terror attacks on New York's Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

Mark Clifford -- Ruth's brother -- said the family's biggest concern was that the killing of the al-Qa'ida leader could further delay staging US trials for those in custody in relation to the September 11 murders.

"The world is better rid of a man like Bin Laden," Mr Clifford told the Irish Independent.

"He wasn't just implicated in the September 11 murders but was also implicated in a host of other terror attacks across the world including the bombings of embassies."

"But what our family wants to see now is justice being done for Ruth and Juliana -- we want to see trials in the US where the people who masterminded and took part in these attacks, these murders, can be held to account in a court of law," he said.

"The 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks is this year and we still haven't the trials that we have campaigned for."

Mr Clifford said not a day went by that his family did not think of their lost loved ones.

"It doesn't take an event like this (Bin Laden's killing) to make us think of Ruth and Juliana -- we think of them every single day of our lives."

The story of the mother and daughter ultimately came to encapsulate the tragedy of the world's most notorious terrorist attack -- and photos of Ruth and Juliana appeared on the front pages of newspapers across the world.

Ruth -- a native of Cork who had emigrated to the US -- had recently quit her job to spend more time with her only daughter and husband.

Together with her friend, Paige Farley Hackel, Ruth was taking Julianne on a surprise trip to Disneyland on the morning of September 11.

But Ruth was delayed travelling to Boston's Logan Airport and missed the flight with Paige on it. However, Ruth managed to catch a later flight with her daughter -- the last flight that was ultimately hijacked by the terrorists.

Both the Boeing 767s carrying Paige as well as Ruth and Juliana were flown by the terrorists into the World Trade Centre/Twin Towers in New York.

The Clifford family in Cork initially presumed Ruth was safe -- but were worried for the safety of Ruth's brother, Ronnie, an architect who lived in New Jersey and regularly worked in New York city.


Ronnie was in New York for a business meeting that day and narrowly missed debris and burning fuel from the crashed planes -- one of which was carrying his sister -- as he entered the Marriott Hotel directly beside the World Trade Centre plaza.

He was later hailed as one of the heroes of September 11 for the courage he showed in helping to drag badly injured people to safety.

Mr Clifford last night said he could understand the celebrations across America when it was confirmed that a US Navy SEALS special forces team had killed the al-Qa'ida leader at his Pakistan hideaway after 10 years on the run.

"This person has represented for a decade or more the public enemy No 1 for the US. In fact, he has probably been the enemy of the entire western world."

Mr Clifford said he and his family had been "heartened" by the pro-democracy demonstrations across the Arab world over recent months.

Mark Clifford's brother, Ronnie said he believed the death of Osama bin Laden marked the beginning of the end for al-Qa'ida.

"This will start a transformation for the Muslim world that will see the end of it," he said.

Mr Clifford said he was delighted with the news that Osama bin Laden had finally been tracked down.

"I think US forces should be commended for this. I think it is a great day -- I think it is a great thing that happened.

"Juliana would have been 14 this coming week and we should be celebrating her birthday. It is still very raw for us," he added.

Irish Independent

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