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Garda officer injured in lethal IRA blast wants Sinn Fein to apologise

By Rebecca Black

Published 19/10/2016

The scene of the blast
The scene of the blast
Jim Cannon is disappointed the bomber was never found

A garda officer who escaped death in an IRA bomb, which killed his friend, has said he wants Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams to apologise.

Retired Sergeant Jim Cannon saw his colleague Michael Clerkin die instantly in the blast, at an abandoned farmhouse in Co Laois.

Five Garda officers had been lured to the property by terrorists, who claimed they were holding the then Fine Gael TD, Oliver J Flanagan, father of the Republic's current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan.

It happened just days after the Irish government had introduced the Emergency Powers Act, following the murder of the British Ambassador Christopher Ewart-Biggs in Dublin.

Three of the survivors of the blast - believed to have been carried out by the IRA - were reunited on Sunday at a memorial mass for Garda Clerkin in Portarlington, which marked the 40th anniversary.

No-one has ever been convicted of the bombing.

Mr Cannon - who was left buried in rubble and still receives treatment to this day for his injuries - told the Belfast Telegraph, he finds it very disappointing that the culprit was never caught.

He managed to dig his way out of rubble and stumble across fields through barbed wire to the closest house to raise the alarm, before returning and helping to dig his colleagues out.

He was never able to return to outdoor duties and was desk-bound for the remainder of his career.

The former Garda Sergeant has called for Mr Adams to apologise on behalf of the bombers.

"We are the forgotten people," he said. "I certainly would welcome an apology."

Kenny Donaldson, from the South East Fermanagh Foundation victims' group, said 15 members of the Irish Defence Forces were murdered by republicans, and they deserve justice.

"It is important that these families and the 60-plus civilian-based families in the Republic, whose innocent loved ones were murdered by terrorists, are remembered," he said. "They must also be supported in whatever way they require assistance, whether that be health and well-being needs, financial or compensation-based support, advocacy for the justice, truth and accountability path that they are on, or moreover, generalised acknowledgement of the hurts which have been inflicted upon them."

A Sinn Fein spokesman said: "Sinn Fein has condemned this attack on the Gardai. We regret any loss of life during the conflict.

"All victims of the conflict have a right to the truth about the past.

"Mechanisms were agreed at Stormont House, with a range of options to provide families of victims of the past with the maximum disclosure about the killings of their loved ones.

"The implementation of these mechanisms has been delayed by the British Government's insistence on a bogus national security veto on onward disclosure.

"Sinn Fein is calling on the British Government to end its veto and engage in an intensive negotiation, so that the agreements made at Stormont House on the issue of the legacy of the past can be fully implemented."

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