Unionists remember victims of IRA's Black Friday bombardment of Belfast
Unionist councillors have staged their annual act of remembrance for the “80 minutes of terror” wreaked by the IRA across Belfast on July 21, 1972.
Nine people were killed and more than 100 injured after the IRA exploded at least 22 bombs across Belfast city centre in a day which became known as Bloody Friday.
The most devastating of the bombs exploded at the then Oxford Street bus station, killing six people and injuring 40.
Three more people were killed in a car bomb which was detonated beside a row of shops on the Cavehill Road.
An estimated 130 people in total were injured across the city.
In 2002, the IRA issued an apology over the attack.
A plaque in memory of the victims in Belfast City Hall is the focal point of an act of remembrance carried out by unionist councillors on the Sunday closest to the date of the atrocity every year.
Yesterday, Lord Mayor Brian Kingston, fellow DUP councillors Lee Reynolds and Aileen Graham, and Ulster Unionist councillors Jeff Dudgeon and Graham Craig laid a wreath at the plaque.
Mr Dudgeon had been on Botanic Avenue on the day of the bombs and recalls the panic and confusion as crowds were evacuated away from a newsagents towards Botanic Gardens, even as they heard the explosions of other bombs going off across the city.
He admitted the experience led to him deciding to leave Belfast to live in London.
“We had been told there was a bomb in Gardiner’s newsagents and were being pushed down towards Botanic Gardens,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“And all the while we could hear the bangs as other bombs went off.
“However, it was only later we realised how many had gone off and how serious two in particular had been.
“At that time I had been working as an English teacher at Dunlambert Secondary School and I knew Stephen Parker, the teenager who was killed at the Cavehill Road bomb.
“He was musical and a very pleasant young man who showed great promise.
“It was a very sad day and affected people a lot.
“A lot of people lost hope at that stage, I myself felt I couldn’t take any more of Belfast and went to London.”
Mr Kingston said the IRA’s aim in Bloody Friday was to destroy Belfast city centre, but instead today it is thriving.
“This act of remembrance is something we do every year to remember the nine people who were killed on that terrible day in 1972,” he said.
“This plaque is one of the few memorials to the innocent victims of terrorism.
“We feel it is important that the victims of Bloody Friday are remembered.
“Some nine people were killed and 130 people injured on that day when 22 bombs were exploded in 80 minutes; we have all seen the footage, people didn’t know where to run.
“It is essential that this terrible suffering wreaked upon Belfast is not forgotten.
“The IRA wanted to destroy Belfast city centre, but today it is thriving.”