Belfast Telegraph

We will never forget the grief of these courageous mothers

By Gail Walker

On what is always a night of high emotion, there was an unbelievably poignant moment at this year's Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year awards - one that unfolded away from the stage, the cameras, the rounds of applause and the standing ovations.

It was a quiet little encounter, taking place in a darkened corner of the ballroom.

First, last year's overall winner Penny Holloway, whose 15-year-old son Thomas Devlin was murdered by loyalists, made her way over to say a few words to this year's winner, the lovely, gentle Nuala Kerr, whose PSNI officer son Ronan was murdered by dissident republicans. Then the winner of this year's inspirational woman of the year category Patricia Cardy, arrived at Nuala's table, too. Earlier that day she'd been in court to see her nine-year-old daughter Jennifer's murderer sentenced. Having broken her kneecap in a car accident, Patricia was pushed in her wheelchair over to Nuala by husband Andy, who had also pushed her to the stage earlier to accept her award.

Three mothers who have lost a child in the most heartrending of circumstances, somehow charting their way through a grief mercifully few of us will ever have to know.

Patricia was glad to see Robert Black sentenced but told me it would bring no end to her sorrow. Nuala has three other children and said she promised them, and they her, to keep going for each other.

Our awards go to such a wonderful line-up of women, from surgeons who save lives to tireless voluntary workers to dedicated sporting stars. And sometimes they go to women who would give everything they had not to be in the position that steers them towards such recognition.

But Nuala, Patricia and Penny were glad to be acknowledged, because it is an acknowledgement not just of their courage and stoicism, but also of their enduring loss. It's a reminder too - that each time such grief is inflicted on a mother, we will never forget their suffering or those who caused it. And we will never accept it, either.

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