Belfast Telegraph

'Prince Charles really listened to what I had to say and I felt he understood what we've been through'

Charles moved as relatives of Orangemen murdered by IRA tell their story during heir's visit to memorial garden for 68 victims of Troubles

By Ivan Little

Prince Charles yesterday offered his sympathy to the families of IRA murder victims - including the children of two Orangemen who say they still don't know why their fathers were shot dead by the Provos more than 30 years ago.

The meetings came as Charles went to the birthplace of the Orange Order in Loughgall, Co Armagh, where he visited a memorial garden to 68 members of the institution who were killed during the Troubles.

The prince chatted with relatives of victims from across Northern Ireland, including Claire Kingston, whose father David Wilson was shot 38 times in May 1986 as he drove his van through the Tyrone village of Donaghmore from the shop he owned in nearby Castlecaulfield.

Mrs Kingston, who celebrated her 39th birthday yesterday, said: "I've now reached the age my father was when he was murdered and it was very emotional talking to the prince about his killing.

"However, Prince Charles was very good. He wasn't in a hurry and he took time to talk to us and find out about the killing.

"He really listened to what I had to say and I felt he really understood what we've been through."

Claire's mother Hilary Wilson said the prince had asked her if she had received much help after her husband's murder.

"I told him that the Orange Lodge had assisted us," she said.

"I would just love to know why my husband was murdered.

"The IRA originally claimed that David was a high-ranking officer in the UDR, but that was untrue."

Exactly a week before meeting the prince, Mr Wilson's family visited his grave on the 30th anniversary of the killing.

Mrs Kingston said that on the way home her 11-year-old son asked her what had happened to the people who killed his grandfather. "I told them nothing, because no one was ever caught," she said.

Co Down man Samuel Heenan, who also met Charles, said he, too, was still in the dark about why his father William was murdered by the IRA at their isolated home in Ballyward near Castlewellan in May 1985.

Mr Heenan was only 12 at the time and had to run half-a-mile to a neighbour's house to raise the alarm after finding his father in a pool of blood and seeing the gunman driving away in the family car.

"My father was an Orangeman and a bandsman but he was not a member of the security forces despite the IRA's claims that he was an RUC reservist. Nobody was ever charged with the killing and I have never found out why they shot him.

"I still believe they targeted him for no other reason than he was an Orangeman living in a remote area. But somebody set him up," he said.

"I didn't have long to tell Prince Charles my story but I think he was quite taken aback by the fact that a total of 332 Orangemen had died during the Troubles."

Mr Heenan was one of a number of relatives who gave interviews for an Orange Order DVD called Strong To Survive that documents the impact of the Troubles on its members.

Another man who took part in the production was Berry Reaney. He was injured in September 1975 when republican gunmen opened fire on an Orange Lodge meeting in Tullyvallen in south Armagh.

Five Orangemen died in the attack, which was never claimed by the IRA, though few people have any doubt that it was responsible.

Mr Reaney said the prince had asked him to tell him about the carnage in the Orange hall and about his injuries. "The names of the five men who died after the shooting - Nevin McConnell, William and James McKee, John Johnston and William Herron - are all remembered here in the memorial garden, which is a lovely, quiet place of reflection," he said.

County Armagh grand master Denis Watson added: "It was very poignant that His Royal Highness was able to pay his respects to the 68 local Orangemen, many of whom served in the security forces, who made the ultimate sacrifice."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph