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Cookstown teen whose grandfather was killed by IRA heading to US to meet other victims of terrorism

By Gareth Fullerton

A Cookstown teenager whose grandfather was murdered by the IRA nearly 40 years ago is set to embark on a special trip to the United States where she will talk to other people who have been affected by terrorism.

Danielle Hamilton (19) will spend five days in Washington DC where she will take part in the Project Common Bond winter programme which helps promote sustainable peace-building and reconciliation.

Her grandfather David Graham was shot in Coalisland by the Provisional IRA on March 15, 1977. Mr Graham, who was a part-time member of the UDR, died of his injuries 10 days later in hospital.

No one has ever been brought to justice for his death.

Danielle - whose family is involved with Innocent Victims United - will use the project to build upon her leadership, conflict negotiation and resolution skills. The aim of the event is to empower participants to use their unique experiences to make a difference in their own communities.

The conference is run by Tuesday's Children, a group that was formed in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist atrocities in the United States.

Despite not being born when her grandfather was killed, Danielle's mum Serena says her daughter witnessed the devastating impact the murder had.

"As a family we have suffered four decades of trauma following my daddy's murder. It has been soul destroying to watch the way the murderers have escaped any form of punishment for their crimes," Serena said.

"I was only seven when my daddy was killed, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about him. Simple things like that loving hug from a father. My health has deteriorated, and I had heart failure 13 years ago which I believe was partly because of the trauma.

"It has been tough, and Danielle witnessed the trauma and heartache as she grew up.

"I don't think people realise the impact a murder can have on a family, even on the generations that come years after the death. Danielle never knew her grandfather, and a lot of the stories she has heard about him have revolved around his death.

"But we have also talked about what a great family man he was. He worked day and night, but at the weekends and when he had holidays, he always spent them with his family. I remember trips to the seaside and sitting in the back seat of his car with my two brothers, eating fish and chips.

"We used to travel the length and breadth of the country when we were on our holidays.

"He was a great man."

She added: "We are very proud of Danielle as a family.

"This is a new experience and a new challenge for her in her life. In a strange way, it is something positive to come out of the murder of her grandfather."

Speaking before flying out to the US, Danielle said: "I hope that I will learn some useful tools while I am in America which will assist me to better contribute to the objective of healing Northern Ireland's society.

"It is so important that I and others continue our journey of development around these issues which plague so many nations throughout the world."

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