Greysteel: Victims of bar attack remembered on 30th anniversary

Families who lost loved ones in a loyalist gun attack on a bar in Greysteel attended a 30th anniversary Mass on Monday evening.

Seven people were shot dead when Ulster Defence Association (UDA) gunmen attacked the bar in the County Londonderry village in 1993.

Another man died later from his injuries, while many more people were wounded.

Before opening fire, one of the gunmen shouted: "Trick or treat".

The eight people who died were John Burns, Moira Duddy, Joe McDermott, Victor Montgomery, James Moore, John Moyne, Stephen Mullan, and Karen Thompson.

Monday evening's remembrance service was held in the Star of the Sea church, where the funerals for some of the victims took place.

After the Mass, relatives attended a cross-community service at a memorial outside the Rising Sun bar. It lists the names of those who died in the attack.

A man standing in a church
Monsignor Andy Dolan recalled his memories of the night of the atrocity at Monday evening's 30th anniversary Mass in Greysteel

'A deadly hush'

Monsignor Andy Dolan, who spoke at the Mass, recounted his memories of the night of the killings, when he was in Derry's Altnagelvin Hospital visiting a family member.

"I was there in A&E that night to see an nephew of mine and one of the nurses asked me could I stay back because they were expecting an incident coming in," he recalled.

"And, you know, I got an insight that night [into] what it must be like in hospital and places like it waiting on all these people to arrive.

"I didn't know the extent of it at that stage but there was just a deadly hush and silence and then the doors just burst open.

"There was complete confusion and mayhem. Even talking to people and trying to minister to them - they didn't even know where they were shot; they were just carrying the pain."

A woman stands in front of a memorial for the victims of the Greysteel attack
Amanda Logue whose grandfather James Moore was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in the Greysteel shooting in 1993, at the memorial to those who died

At 81, Amanda Logue's grandfather James Moore was the oldest of the victims.

"My father was just completely heartbroken by it and he's now deceased himself," Ms Logue said.

She said Monday's remembrance service had brought it all back to her.

"I know I was only 17 [when the attack happened] but it just makes it feel as if it's all so real again," she said.

She added that for her grandmother to be told that her grandfather "had died in such a traumatic way" had been "very heartbreaking for her and for the family as well".

"It just never leaves you. It's there all the time... every time you drive up and down the road," she said.

The 'reality of their heartache'

Speaking ahead of the remembrance service, Catholic Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown said the community would come together to remember but also to look ahead.

"We are standing together in the face of all that has happened," he said.

"We can't understand or explain or take away the pain but together we can face the future."

Relatives of those killed 30 years ago still lived every day with the "reality of their heartache and pain", Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe Andrew Forster said.

He said it had been an especially appalling week of violence in Northern Ireland in 1993.

A turning point

The attack on Greysteel came exactly a week after the IRA bombed Frizzell's fish shop on the Shankill Road in Belfast.

The loyalist paramilitaries behind the Rising Sun murders said they were carried out in retaliation for the Shankill attack - in which nine people and one of the bombers were killed and more than 50 injured.

In the days between the two attacks, six other men were murdered.

Killings between the Shankill bombing and the Greysteel attack:

  • 25 October - Martin Moran, 22, killed by loyalists while working in Belfast. Sean Fox, 72, killed by the UVF at his home in Glengormley, near Belfast

  • 26 October - James Cameron, 54, and Mark Rodgers, 28. Both killed by the UFF at their workplace in Andersonstown, Belfast

  • 28 October - Brothers Gerard Cairns, 22, and Rory Cairns, 18, killed by the UVF at their home in Lurgan

Source: CAIN

Msgr Dolan said he believed the Greysteel attack was "one of the turning points" of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

"We had had a terrible week of deaths prior to that. We had the Shankill bomb; we had others killed in between times and then eight people killed here in Greysteel," he said.

"All of that, as I say, left us very downhearted and depressed people. It was hard to believe that out of that we've come through a peace process that's stayed intact ever since.

A memorial sevice at the Rising Sun Bar in Greysteel
Relatives of victims of the shooting attended a cross-community service at a memorial outside the Rising Sun bar after Monday evening's Mass

"Even though some people would wish we could go back to those days. And why? I just wonder."

You could say the atrocity "bound a lot of people together", he added.

'Great dignity'

"Whatever was meant to be as a result of the action taken by the loyalists in trying to maybe divide a community, or to attack a community or whatever, their response was one that comes out with a stronger community than ever," Msgr Dolan said.

"They have worked together to build up and to improve their area in every way and I think, fair dues to them. They have acted with great dignity."

A man standing in front of a memorial for the victims of the Greysteel attack
Rev Lindsay Blair from Faughanvale Presbyterian Church

Rev Lindsay Blair of Faughanvale Presbyterian Church agreed.

"People are very united together here tonight. No-one wants to see trouble and pain inflicted on anyone," he said.

"It was good to see so many people here and it speaks volumes of just how people want to see things progress in the right way going forward."

Rev Blair said have one family in his church had lost a loved one, John Burns.

"His family are here tonight and they're still broken," he added.

Candles for eight people killed in Greysteel
Candles for each of the eight people killed in Greysteel in October 1993 during Monday evening's memorial service in the Star of the Sea church

"It never leaves them really. It just comes back again, again and again.

"It's very, very difficult."

Victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson described the day of the Rising Sun murders as difficult to forget.

"It was one of those horrific incidents of the Troubles where people seem to remember where they were," he said, speaking ahead of Monday's service.

"The timing of it, in terms of Halloween, also made it extra dark almost," he added.

Mr Donaldson, of the South East Fermanagh Foundation, said the events of Greysteel had brought out the "darkest of situations".