Sunday 25 February 2018

The day that terror was visited on a sleepy Derry village

Anita Guidera

EIGHT-year-old tomboy Kathryn Eakin was cleaning the window of her parents' grocery store on Claudy's main street when the second bomb went off. A single piece of shrapnel entered her brain and killed her.

Her brother, Mark, who travelled from work in Scotland for the launch of the Ombudsman's report yesterday, still marvels at how unmarked her body was.

"She was gone and she didn't even look injured. She had one small cut on the side of her head," he recalled.

Flying metal also struck Patrick Connolly (15) as he stood in a shop on Main Street. He died of his injuries eight days later.

William Temple (16) was delivering milk when he was injured by the first explosion and killed by the third.

Elizabeth McElhinney, a 59-year-old nurse, was killed at a petrol pump outside McElhinney's pub.

Father-of-seven Joseph McCluskey (39) had taken his four-year-old son to the village to buy a newspaper when he was killed in the first explosion.

Also killed were mother-of-eight Rose McLaughlin, Arthur Hone (38), David Miller (60) and James McClelland (65).

In all, nine people perished in the sleepy village in the Sperrin Mountains that July day in 1972 -- five Catholics and four Protestants. To this day, the relatives and survivors have no idea why their mixed community was targeted, and have yet to see anyone brought to justice.

"It is like reading a book for 38 years and discovering the last chapter is missing. We need that last chapter," said Mark Eakin, the sole survivor of his family.

Yesterday could not have been more different from the memorable day in June when thousands gathered in Derry's Guildhall Square for the Bloody Sunday Report.

There were no crowds in Claudy, nor was there anything to celebrate.

Many family members slipped away quietly after a meeting with the Ombudsman that lasted almost three hours.

Those who did face the cameras said they now had more questions than answers.

An emotional Mark Eakin insisted there were enough people still alive to ensure that the people of Claudy got justice.

"I lost the only other member of my family, my sister. I lost, I would say, 50pc of my parents because their life was destroyed. We lost our house, our business. I was left standing in what clothes I had on, the rest were blown to pieces."

Speaking directly to the bombers who were still alive, he insisted it wasn't too late for Claudy to get the justice it deserved.

"You have one last chance to stand up and be counted. I am asking them, if they have any guilt this is their final chance to clear themselves with God and make a path into heaven. Other than that, just be banished to hell and that is the way I feel about it," he said.

"Three 250lb car bombs going off in a village of 400 people. It's half a pound of explosives each. That will do a lot of damage. I was sitting on the bonnet of one of those cars with my father when a man stepped forward and told us to run," he said.

All those in the Diamond Community Centre in the village had unanswered questions about the priest who had eluded police investigation and continued to cross the border on a regular basis following his transfer to Ireland's most northerly point of Malin Head.

But in Co Donegal he was being recalled differently. Malin historian John McLaughlin said he would never believe the priest he knew was capable of such an act.

"He was a lovely man and never once discussed politics during his sermons, and that was a very emotive time.

"If anything, he was a shy man who found it difficult to make eye contact with his congregation. But he was a decent man. I cannot believe that he was capable of being involved in something that led to the taking of life for whatever cause," he said.

And in the village of Fahan where he spent his final years, the priest famously tried to book the Boomtown Rats in a fundraising venture for a youth facility.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News