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Families attend memorial service 50 years on from Claudy bombings

Bombing victim family members at a service in Claudy, Co Londonderry (Liam McBurney/PA)
Bombing victim family members at a service in Claudy, Co Londonderry (Liam McBurney/PA)

Families of those killed in the Claudy bombings paid tribute to their loved ones during a solemn memorial event to mark the 50th anniversary of the attack.

A cross-community service with readings and hymns took place in the Co Londonderry village.

Nine people, Catholics and Protestants, were killed and 30 injured after three car bombs exploded in Claudy on July 31, 1972. The dead included three children.

The attack was blamed on the Provisional IRA, although the group has never claimed responsibility. No-one has ever been convicted for the bombings.

Northern Ireland Troubles
A service in Claudy to commemorate the nine people killed in three bomb blasts in the town in 1972 (Liam McBurney/PA)

Representatives from the nine bereaved families played a part in Sunday’s commemoration, which was attended by hundreds of local people.

Bereaved relatives read prayers at the service and afterwards laid floral tributes at individual plaques dedicated to the victims that sit on a wall behind a memorial statue.

Those killed included nine-year-old Kathryn Eakin, who had been cleaning the windows of her family’s grocery business, Patrick Connolly, 15, and 16-year-old William Temple.

The adults who died were Artie Hone, 38, Joseph McCluskey, 39, Elizabeth McElhinney, 59, James McClelland, 65, Rose McLaughlin, 52, and David Miller, 60.

Several of the bereaved families are continuing legal action against the Catholic Church after a Police Ombudsman report in 2010 found that a Catholic priest, the late Father James Chesney, was a suspect.

The report said police, the state and the Catholic Church covered up his suspected role in the bombing.

Claudy bombings 50 year anniversary
The aftermath of the Claudy bombings in 1972 (PA)

Attending the event on Sunday, James Miller, grandson of David Miller, said it was important to keep remembering those who lost their lives.

“I’m here today to remember my grandfather, the grandfather that I never got to enjoy,” he said.

“I was three years of age at the time he was killed, he was brutally taken away from me and the family.

“I never got to bounce on his knee, I never got to play football with him, we believe that we were robbed of a great man.

“We come to remember because we don’t want to forget these people, we don’t want to forget what happened to all nine innocent victims of Claudy.

“They were brutally mown down, some of them in the prime of their life – there was young, there was old, there was Catholic, there was Protestant, male and female and they were all brutally taken away.”

Northern Ireland Troubles
Flowers on memorial plaques at a service in Claudy (Liam McBurney/PA)

Victims’ Group South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) has been supporting the families over the last 12 months in developing a range of projects and events designed to mark the anniversary.

After the service, guests were invited to a nearby community centre for the official launch of a new book about the bombings.

The foreword was written by former world champion boxer Barry McGuigan, who has a family connection with the youngest victim, Kathryn Eakin.

An artwork created by pupils from two local primary schools was also displayed in the centre.