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Family's anguish as Belfast memorial to Scottish soldiers killed by IRA attacked

By Rebecca Black

Published 18/11/2016

The vandalised memorial to Royal Highland Fusiliers killed by the IRA in March 1971
The vandalised memorial to Royal Highland Fusiliers killed by the IRA in March 1971

The cousin of one of three Scottish soldiers murdered by the IRA at the start of the Troubles has said his family was left devastated after a memorial dedicated to his memory was vandalised.

David McCaughey's cousin, Dougald (23), was killed by terrorists, along with brothers John (17) and Joseph (18) McCaig on March 10, 1971, at White Brae, close to Ligoniel, north Belfast.

Members of the IRA lured the off-duty soldiers to the remote spot after talking to them in city centre.

A memorial to the three members of the 1st Battalion, Royal Highland Fusiliers was erected in 2010 at the spot where they died, but since then it has become one of the most attacked monuments dedicated to Troubles victims.

It has been targeted more than 20 times, costing thousands of pounds to repair. Last year, a man was convicted damaging the memorial.

Now, within days of Remembrance Sunday, a second memorial to the soldiers on Ballysillan Avenue has been daubed with black paint.

The vandalism, which also included graffiti on the back of the 15-foot tribute, was discovered earlier this week.

John MacVicar, secretary of the Old Park and Cavehill branch of the Royal British Legion, which built and maintains the memorials, hit out at those behind the latest attack.

Mr McCaughey, meanwhile, told the Belfast Telegraph the news had left his family devastated.

He travels to the city frequently to pay his respects to his cousin and also regularly represents his family during services at the monument.

"I was sent a photo of the memorial and initially was confused, thinking it must have been an old photo," Mr McCaughey said.

"I was gutted to realise this was a new attack. We just wish people would let the boys rest in peace."

This latest attack was also condemned by politicians from across the community.

MLA Nelson McCausland criticised the culprits and called the incident "a vile act of vandalism".

"This was a shameful attack, and it was clearly intended to cause the maximum possible damage to the memorial," the DUP man said.

"Two of the soldiers were just teenagers when they were killed, and the families are still scarred by the callous manner in which the young men were murdered by republican gunmen."

SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon, meanwhile, described the attack as a cruel crime.

"Attacks of this nature are designed to cause hurt and pain to those who have suffered loss," she said.

"They are incredibly cruel and have no place in a society attempting to heal the scars of conflict."

UUP MLA and former soldier Andy Allen voiced his disgust at what he termed an "abhorrent" incident.

"This needs to stop," he said. "My thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of the three Scottish soldiers as they learn of this despicable and totally unacceptable attack."

Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn described the incident as "a cowardly act".

"Those responsible should be ashamed of themselves as they have no respect for the dead and are clearly intend on damaging community relations," he said.

A PSNI spokesman added: "Police in north Belfast received a report of criminal damage to a memorial at Ballysillan Avenue on the morning of Thursday November 16. It was reported that paint had been daubed on the monument sometime overnight. Police enquiries are under way".

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