Narrow Water victims’ service told: We are here for peace

A service to mark the anniversary of the killing of 18 soldiers by two IRA bombs has been told that those who come to remember should do so in peace.

The bombers targeted a convoy of vehicles transporting Parachute Regiment soldiers from Ballykinler barracks to Newry on August 27 1979.

As they passed the old Narrow Water castle ruins, IRA members remotely detonated the two bombs from a firing point across the Newry River in the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland Troubles
An inter-denominational prayer service is held at Narrow Water close to Warrenpoint in Co Down to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of 18 soldiers on August 27, 1979 (Niall Carson/PA)

There was also a 19th victim – Michael Hudson, who had been visiting the Republic of Ireland from London, who was killed by army gunfire across the river following the blasts.

The incident came just hours after Lord Mountbatten, two members of his family and a Co Fermanagh teenager had been killed by the IRA in a boat bomb in Co Sligo.

Around 200 gathered at the spot of the Narrow Water bombings on Tuesday for a service to mark the 40th anniversary.

The Reverend Andrew Rawding told those gathered: “We are here today for peace.”

Northern Ireland Troubles
Commemorative crosses placed as part of an inter-denominational prayer service held at Narrow Water close to Warrenpoint (Niall Carson/PA)

“We are standing here today because they and many members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces were willing to put their lives on the line for peace,” he said.

“Whatever anyone else might want to say, they might want to marginalise and stigmatise us, to politicise our pain, politicise our actions and say we were something else… No, I came here for peace, and we are here today for peace.

“And anyone who uses these deaths in a way to cause more conflict, to create more turmoil, to create more instability or lack of peace, I am telling you now: You are not remembering them, because they came here for peace and they died here for peace and we will go from here to build peace.”

Former head of the army General Sir Mike Jackson was among the veterans who attended.

Northern Ireland Troubles
General Sir Mike Jackson takes part in the service (Niall Carson/PA)

He was one of the first to attend the scene of the atrocity on August 27 1979.

Sir Mike was then a member of the Parachute Regiment serving in Northern Ireland.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MLA Jim Wells and former UUP MLA Danny Kennedy were among the politicians who attended the service, which heard Tom Caughey, a survivor of the first blast, read out the names of his Parachute Regiment colleagues who had been killed.

Ben Higgins read out the names of the members of the Queen’s Own Highlanders who had also been killed in the IRA attack.

Wreaths were laid at the scene.

Speaking after the service, Graham Eve, a former member of the Parachute Regiment who was deployed to secure the scene after the bombs, urged Northern Ireland’s politicians to start working together and get devolved government restored.

Northern Ireland Troubles
Former Parachute Regiment soldier Graham Eve (Niall Carson/PA)

He said: “People ask you what it was like (at Narrow Water) – I could tell you what it was like, but you still wouldn’t have an idea of what it was like.

“In the moat house there was plastic cellophane bags which were clear, the smaller body parts that couldn’t be identified were put into those bags, and you’d think: ‘Whose finger is that? Whose thumb is that?'”

Mr Eve went on: “You grow older, you get grandchildren and you realise: ‘Hey, let’s put this behind us and move forward for the children.’ Some of my colleagues might think differently, but I’m not bitter at all now.

“What I am bitter at now is the politics of the country and why we still haven’t got this sorted out.

“The Secretary of State should turn around to the politicians of this country and say: ‘Stormont will be open on Monday morning, you turn up you get paid, you don’t turn up you get sacked, and let’s take it from there and sort this bloody thing out.’

“Why are they still arguing? Why is there so much hatred? Put the orange away, put the green away, let’s move forward. Sort themselves out, it’s terrible and I am so annoyed by the politicians.

“I appreciate the history of the past, that’s the problem, it’s the past, let’s forget about the word ‘past’ and let’s move forward. Please.

“I am not going to die a bitter man, I have no bitterness in me.”

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