Truth and Reconciliation
This year, 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, and with it, the end of Troubles. Two decades have come and gone, and a new generation of young people have arrived – but many lack awareness of the tragedy and bitterness that came as a result of the Troubles.
On Wednesday, St Louis Grammar School hosted the Truth and Reconciliation Platform, which had four speakers come into to talk about their experiences during the Troubles. Going into this event, it was difficult to predict how it would go. Some of us would have heard of these tragedies, perhaps read up about them beforehand - but never had I listened to the details of these stories from people who were so intimately close to the victims.
The first to speak was Michael Gallagher, the father of Omagh Bomb victim, Aodhan Gallagher. He spoke of his family’s background, and how they became involved in the unwelcoming environment created by the Troubles. Then, he talked about the day his son had gone out with his friend to buy a pair of jeans – this was the day of the Omagh bombing. Aodhan’s friend survived – but Aodhan didn’t.
Following him was Eugene Reavey, the brother of three men murdered at Whitecross, 1976. On that night he and the rest of the family, save for his three brothers, had gone out to visit their aunt, their assailants had come in and shot the three boys as they sat watching TV. As if that wasn’t horrific enough a few nights later on the way to hospital mortuary, Eugene Reavey came across what has become known as the KIngsmill Massacre. Just a few weeks earlier the Reavey brothers had been playing Pool with two of the victims of Kingsmill. Innocent Catholics and innocent Protestants sacrificed by the paramilitaries.
The third speaker, Stephen Travers, is a survivor of the Miami Showband Massacre of 1975. He showed us a picture of Miami Showband – which he mentioned was the last official picture they had taken before the massacre had taken place. He went into detail about what had happened when the band had been travelling back down to Dublin after a show – of when they were stopped by what they believed to be a UDR checkpoint, instead it was a UVF trap intended to kill all the members of the band with a bomb they would plant in their minibus, the bomb exploded prematurely killing the would be assassins and in the mayhem that followed three members of the Miami showband were massacred.
And lastly, Joe Campbell, the son of RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell, murdered in 1977. He talked much about who his father was, his childhood – and of the last time his father was seen, going out on the night of his murder. Campbell also talked of the promises made to his family that documents related to his father’s murder would be released to them – but were never fulfilled.
Hearing these stories being told, some students had become so upset, that they had to leave the hall momentarily. The mourning and scars caused by these tragedies are not something that you can find in a history textbook, no matter how much detail it may go into the events that transpired during the Troubles. It does not matter how deep the divisions still run in some communities; the Truth and Reconciliation Platform serves as an incredibly important reminder that most of the deaths caused were not of soldiers, or paramilitary members; they were normal people who caused no conflict – and that is a fact we should never forget.