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Lord Mountbatten's murder tainted Mullaghmore village... royal pilgrimage will help us move on

By Ed Carty

Published 18/05/2015

Parish priest Fr Christy McHugh stands by the cross in Mullaghmore which marks Lord Mountbatten’s boat being blown up by the IRA in 1979
Parish priest Fr Christy McHugh stands by the cross in Mullaghmore which marks Lord Mountbatten’s boat being blown up by the IRA in 1979
The body is brought ashore

A rescuer who pulled bodies from the water following Lord Mountbatten's assassination has said the murder site should be known for the joy it brought the royals, not just the horror.

On the eve of the Prince of Wales' emotional visit to Mullaghmore, Co Sligo in the Irish Republic, where the 1979 IRA bombing began one of the bloodiest days of the Troubles, locals spoke of a time for healing.

The massacre claimed four lives - Lord Mountbatten, Lady Doreen Brabourne, the 83-year-old mother-in-law of the earl's daughter, his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull and 14-year-old Paul Maxwell, from Killynur, Enniskillen, who was in the village for the summer and worked on the royal's boat.

The killing of the 79-year-old, the Queen's cousin and Prince Charles' great-uncle and godfather, brought to a sudden and bloody end the family's 30-year connection with the west of Ireland. A few hours after the remote control bomb, as shockwaves reverberated worldwide, the IRA struck again detonating two 800lb bombs at Narrow Water in Co Down, killing 18 soldiers.

But Lord Mountbatten's assassination and the indiscriminate nature of the murders in Mullaghmore made the village synonymous with republican terror.

Peter McHugh, a lifelong resident of the seaside spot, was in his early 20s when he witnessed the aftermath of the bombing and helped pull bodies from the sea.

"Mountbatten spent probably 30 years of happy times with himself and his family there and I think it should be remembered for that aspect as well as the ending of his life," the businessman said.

John Maxwell, whose son Paul was killed, spoke briefly about the royal visit, but was reluctant to revisit his family's great personal tragedy and reopen old wounds.

"I'm in favour of anything that improves relations between the countries," he said.

The historic return of members of the royal family to Mullaghmore - Prince Charles will travel with the Duchess of Cornwall - will include a peace and reconciliation religious service in St Columba's Church in nearby Drumcliffe.

Mullaghmore parish priest Fr Christy McHugh has been involved in preparations for the prayer service said: "This particular visit I think shows that this is another real marker that we can put down and say all the work for peace has been fulfilled. I know Mullaghmore is blackened by that particular tragedy. But as far as I can make out from listening to people in the last week, everyone is delighted this point has been reached."

Mr McHugh expressed hope the personal visit will help the reconciliation process.

"I don't think you ever bring closure to an event like that (but) I'm sure it's very healing for Prince Charles," he said.

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