Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Michaela McAreavey’s murder brings loyalist leader to GAA heartland

Former terror chief relayed sympathies of Shankill folk to families

Winston 'Winkie' Churchill Rea
Winston 'Winkie' Churchill Rea
John and Michaela McAreavey at the Giant's Causeway in north Antrim
Michaela McAreavey's husband John kisses her coffin as her remains are carried to St Malachy's Church in Ballygawley for her funeral mass.
Poignant message and flowers from Michaela McAreavey's family
Margaret Ritchie and Basil McCrea arrive for Michaela McAreavey's funeral
Order of Service funeral of Michaela McAreavey
Order of Service at funeral of Michaela McAreavey at St Malachy's Church
Irish President Mary McAlease and her husband Martin
Michaela McAreavey's cortege makes its way to the church
Michaela McAreavey's husband John wears his wedding ring as the cortege makes its way to the church
John McAreavey places the coffin of his wife Michaela McAreavey, 27, daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte in the back of the hearse.
Irish president Mary McAleese attends the funeral of Michaele McAreavey.
The funeral cortege of Michaela McAreavey arrives at St Malachy's church outside Ballygawley.
Michaela McAreavey's remains arrive for burial at St Malachy's church, Ballygawley. She was killed whilst on honeymoon in Mauritius.
Michaela McAreavey's coffin is carried from her parents' home in Ballygawley
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness attends the funeral of Michaela McAreavey.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams attends the funeral of Michaela McAreavey.
Michaela and John McAreavey outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France
Michaela McAreavey's coffin is carried from her parents' home in Ballygawley, Co Tyrone
John and Michaela McAreavey on their honeymoon
Tyrone Manager Mickey Harte at his daughter Michaela's wedding to John McAreavey
John and Michaela McAreavey, pictured here on a visit to the Giant's Causeway. The couple were on honeymoon in Mauritius when Michaela was murdered.
The remains of murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavey return home last night from Mauritius.
The remains of murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavey return home last night from Mauritius.
Former Tyrone Captain Peter Canavan (3rd left) joins members of the Errigal Ciaran GAA Club line the route as a hearse transporting the body of murdered Mauritius honeymooner Michaela McAreavey approaches in Ballygawley, Co Tyrone.
The body of Michaela McAreavey left George Best Belfast City airport in a hearse on Friday afternoon.
Michaela McAreavey's husband John, (foreground), waits for the hearse to leave Belfast city airport under police escort on the last leg of ehe journey home
Michaela's remains leave Victoria Hospital in Muiritius yesterday en route to the airport. 13th January 2011.
John McAreavey, husband of Michaela Harte leaving the mortuary at Victoria Hospital in Mauritius yesterday wearing her wedding ring and engagement ring around his neck
John McAreavey, husband of Michaela Harte leaving the mortuary at Victoria Hospital in Mauritius yesterday wearing her wedding ring and engagement ring around his neck
A hearse with the body of Michaela McAreavey, leaves George Best Belfast city airport. Friday January 14, 2011.
Michaela McAreavey on her wedding day
John McAreavey and wife Michaela Harte are seen on their wedding day
Michaela Harte Far Right front in St.Malachy's Primary School where she attended and later done her teaching placement..
Raj Theekoy
Suspect Avinash Treebhoowoon (29) is brought to Mapou Court, Port Louis Mauritius, Wednesday, Jan.12, 2011. The room attendant has been charged with the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
Suspect Sandip Moneea (41) covers his face as he is escorted to Mapou Court, Port Louis Mauritius, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. The floor supervisor has been charged with the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
Raj Theekoy (33), faces a conspiracy charge in connection with the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
A distraught Mickey Harte with son Michael.
Michaela Harte (left) in St.Malachy's Primary School where she attended as a pupil and later completed her teaching placement.
Michaela Harte in with Throphy in St.Malachy's Primary School where Michaela attended and later done her teaching placement
Micheala Harte in fancy dress in St.Malachy's Primary School where she attended as a pupil and later completed her teaching placement..
A distraught Mickey Harte with sons Matthew (left) and Michael at their family home near Ballygawley
Michaela Harte after she had received a B.Ed at Queens University Belfast. (Picture taken in June 2006)
Balloons with the couple's names giving directions to St Malachy's Church outside Ballygwley where they recently got married
A distraught Mickey Harte at his family home near Ballygawley
Wedding flowers from the couple's recent marriage at St Malachy's Church outside Ballygawley
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 11/1/2011Mandatory Credit - Picture by Justin KernoghanA distraught Mickey Harte with sons Matthew (left) and Michael at their family home near Ballygawley today.Michaela, the daughter of Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte was strangled, Mauritius police have said.Michaela McAreavey, 27, was found dead at the Legends hotel in Mauritius where she was staying while on honeymoon.The 27-year-old Irish woman had married John McAreavey, a member of Down's gaelic football team, on 30 December. He is not a suspect.Police in Mauritius intend to question six people about the killing later on Tuesday.
A wedding sign and balloons telling wedding guests directions to the church near the family home in Ballygawley
Mickey Harte (centre), is comforted at the family home outside Ballygawley in Co Tyrone
(From the left) Mickey Harte, John McAreavey, Michaela Harte, Bishop John McAreavey and Brendan McAreavey are seen on the wedding day of Michaela Harte and John McAreavey
Donegal Celtic and Cliftonville observe a minutes silence in respect of Michaela Harte at the game in west Belfast
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and his daughter Michaella
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and his daughter Michaela after the All Ireland Football Final 28/9/2003
Michaela Harte, daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte. Pic by Ian Magill. 23/3/10.Real Woman feature by Stephanie Bell.
Michaela Harte
Irish News handout of (left to right) Mickey Harte, John McAreavey, Michaela Harte, Bishop John McAreavey and Brendan McAreavey on the wedding day of Michaela Harte and John McAreavey at St. Malacheys Church Ballymacilrory on December 30, 2010. Michaela, the daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte was murdered in her hotel room, police in Mauritius confirmed today.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte with his son David and daughter Michaela after his side's win at Croke Park
Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte graduates at Queens University pictured with his daughter Machela who also graduatedand became a Bachelor in Education
Michaela Harte appearing on the television programme the Late Late Show.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte celebrates with his daughter Michaela and his son Matthew
John McAreavey and wife Michaela Harte are seen on their wedding day at St. Malacheys Church Ballymacilrory on December 30, 2010.
Mickey Harte, pictured in 2006 with his daughter Michaela

From the tragedy of Michaela McAreavey’s murder a remarkable story has emerged of how the 27-year-old’s death brought a leader in the loyalist ‘war’ into the GAA’s heartland.

Former Red Hand Commando chief and prisoner, Winston ‘Winkie’ Churchill Rea, was so moved by the death of the young Irish language teacher (inset) that he went to Tyrone to pay his personal respects.

On behalf of the Shankill Northern Ireland Football Supporters Club, Rea queued for almost two hours to attend the wake in the Harte family home.

As he stood with the crowds outside the house last Saturday, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness recognised him and came over to shake his hand, telling him he would be warmly welcomed.

Inside, Rea — jailed in the mid-Seventies for his role in the murder of two Catholics — stood at Michaela’s coffin along with her father Mickey Harte and her husband John McAreavey.

“We all have our own daughters and granddaughters and everyone was moved by what happened to say the least. Some of us would have a past, including myself, but none of us would like it if something tragic like that happened to someone in our families. This was not about publicity, it was about showing support to a grieving family who lost a wife, daughter and sister in very tragic circumstances,” Rea told the Belfast Telegraph.

“The committee of 1st Shankill Northern Ireland Supporters Club held an extraordinary meeting on Friday night and it was decided that we wanted to deliver two sympathy cards, one to the Harte family and one to the McAreaveys. I was more than proud and honoured to be asked to deliver the cards. When I got there I was touched by how warmly welcomed I was into the Harte family home.”

Slightly apprehensive, Rea joined the mourners waiting in line on Saturday morning on the long driveway that stretches to Michaela’s childhood home.

“People from the GAA were marshalling at the wake. It was all being controlled by the GAA and it amazed me, the tremendous work that went into it. For the first time, for me, the GAA came across to me like a big extended family. At one particular time of my life I would not have seen myself saying that,” Rea said. As he queued to enter First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Culture Minister Nelson McCausland were leaving.

“Martin McGuinness recognised me and came straight over and held out his hand to me. I took his hand and I felt a very warm sensation. He spoke very kind words to me. He said: ‘It is really nice to see you here and I’m very glad that you made the journey’. And he said that I would be warmly received by the whole county of Tyrone.

“I will treasure those words for a long time because I know he was being totally sincere. His approach to me spoke volumes.”

Rea, part of the loyalist leadership that delivered the 1994 ceasefire statement, was met by a Harte family member.

“I said who I was and who I was representing. When that person heard that, he immediately called over other family members who stood by my side

for the whole duration I was there. I really appreciated the hospitality. Even on a sad day, I was very warmly received.

“I was then asked if I would go up to see Mickey and other family in the room where Michaela lay in an open coffin. As I walked by Michaela I said a few prayer words into myself.

“At the head of the coffin on a stool was her daddy Mickey. I introduced myself, and like Martin McGuinness, he held his hand out and took mine. The whole time we talked he held my hand. He thanked me and said how pleased he was to see me. I then went to shake hands with the rest of the immediate family, and there was her husband John. I stopped and spoke to him and he gave me a warm handshake and thanked me for making the journey. Even for all they were going through they were all very welcoming. I was very touched.

“I left the room and was taken to one of the other rooms where they served sandwiches, buns and tea. I stayed for about an hour-and-a-half and met other family members, including John’s father. We had a very good conversation. As I drove home I thought to myself, I am glad I made that journey. Michaela’s death touched not just me, but the whole nation, including the people from the area I’m from.”

Background

Winston ‘Winkie’ Rea has travelled a long way — decades ago he was jailed for his part in the sectarian murder of two Catholics.

His visit to the grieving family of Michaela McAreavey would have been unthinkable when the Red Hand Commando was carrying out its murderous campaign. Rea became leader of that loyalist organisation.

But in 1994 he was part of the loyalist leadership that delivered the ceasefire statement. Next came the endgame declaration of 2007, and then his organisation’s decommissioning.

And then he made his journey last week — a long way from the 1970s, when he was in jail.

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