Belfast Telegraph

Teens living with the legacy of terror US-bound for conference

By Chris McCullough

Four Northern Ireland teenagers are jetting off to the United States this month for a global conference that brings together young adults affected by terrorism.

Project Common Bond unites people aged 15 to 20 who have lost a family member through terrorism, violent extremism or war.

Three Co Fermanagh teens - Rebecca Beacom from Maguiresbridge, Zara Ferguson from Derrygonnelly and Alex Kernaghan from Ballinamallard - will represent South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) at the conference organised via the Tuesday's Children organisation. They will be joined by Ellie Heenan from Rathfriland in Co Down.

The conference in Waterville, Maine, runs from July 22-30.

Ellie's grandfather William Heenan was murdered in 1985 by the IRA at his home in a rural townland outside Rathfriland while on his way to feed livestock.

"My grandfather was 51 years old and lived with his 12-year-old son Sammy, my dad, in one of the most rural areas of Northern Ireland," explained Ellie.

"On May 3, 1985, at 7am, an IRA gunman waited on my grandfather at his home. As my grandfather made his way to feed livestock, the gunman forced him to his knees and shot him twice in the head at point-blank range.

"I am so excited about my pending participation in Project Common Bond.

"I hope to bond closely with my fellow Northern Ireland participants and learn from those who are coming from other conflict areas.

"I am aware of the continued battles and struggles faced by innocent victims in Northern Ireland.

"We continue to counter the lies, spin and propaganda of those who are trying to rewrite our past.

"As a new generation, we strive for peace and prosperity which will mutually benefit both communities. I hope my experience will aid that transition in my life and I can relay that to others within my country."

Alex Kernaghan's grandfather Herbie, a part-time member of the UDR, was murdered by the IRA in October 1979 when making his morning delivery to a primary school in Roslea.

She said: "I am really looking forward to attending the conference as I have heard it is an amazing experience. I also want to share my story about Granda Herbie as I feel it shouldn't be something we don't talk about.

"I also feel that young people from other areas of conflict would have a lot to learn about how we have moved forward in Northern Ireland from a place of violence to a country of peace."

Kenny Donaldson from SEFF said: "We trust that our representatives come back with a set of skills and learning which will equip them to be leaders within the community in the times that lie ahead."

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