Prince Charles royal visit: Bloody Sunday widow tells granddaughter to sing her heart out for peace
The granddaughter of a man shot dead on Bloody Sunday has revealed how her granny told her to sing her heart out for peace when she performs in front of Prince Charles today.
Bethany McLoughlin's grandfather Gerard McKinney was among 14 people shot dead by the Parchute Regiment in Londonderry on January 30, 1972 - leaving his wife Ita to bring up eight children on her own.
Mr McKinney was just 35 when he was killed by a paratrooper in Glenfada Park after raising his arms and shouting: "Don't shoot, don't shoot."
But his widow has given her blessing to her 17-year-old granddaughter to sing in a choir for Charles, the Parachute Regiment's Colonel-in-Chief, at an ecumenical service in Drumcliffe, Co Sligo, today.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Bethany said she had not initially known who she would be singing for.
"As soon as I heard it was Prince Charles I thought about my grandfather and of how he was killed on Bloody Sunday," she said.
"I wanted to know what my granny thought, but she was fine and told me to sing my heart out, which has made all the difference. I was nervous - but now it is more excitement than anything else."
The teenager's mother Mairead, who was 18 months when her father was killed, said it was particularly poignant that someone whose family had endured a terrible loss in the Troubles should sing for a prince who had lost his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten.
"This visit by Prince Charles is supposed to be about peace and reconciliation and moving on, so it is entirely fitting in that sense that Bethany has been chosen to sing," Mrs McLoughlin said.
"She is fully aware of the significance of Prince Charles' connection to Bloody Sunday, so when she found out the royal visitor she had been chosen to sing for the first thing she asked me was would it be OK.
"I rang my mother in Derry and she has absolutely no difficulty at all and has given Bethany her blessing, so that is all that matters to us.
"My mother was left with eight children to bring up after Bloody Sunday and no one will ever know just how difficult times were for her. But she brought us up not to hate, to treat everyone with love and respect, and we have done the same with our own family.
"Apart from being a prince, Charles is also a man who has known the pain of losing someone he loves during the Troubles, and I don't think it was any coincidence that during his visit to Sligo someone from a family who has also experienced that same loss and pain was chosen to sing for him."
However, around 40 people - including relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday - protested against the royal visit. And while Gerry Adams was meeting the prince, his successor as the MP for West Belfast was protesting over the killing of 11 civilians by the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy in August 1971.
"Sinn Fein have long supported the Ballymurphy families and will continue to do so," Paul Maskey said. "Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and other Sinn Fein representatives met today with Prince Charles. This is part of a larger process of peace and reconciliation and moving society forward."
John Teggart, whose father Danny was shot dead, said he totally opposed Charles' visit to Ireland.
"Prince Charles represents the Parachute Regiment who, for many years, murdered innocent civilians in Belfast, including my father," he said.