| 15.7°C Belfast

Murder-bid survivor and victims’ campaigner Paul Gallagher to graduate with Queen’s PhD


Paul Gallagher during his MA graduation at Queen's University

Paul Gallagher during his MA graduation at Queen's University

Paul Gallagher during his MA graduation at Queen's University

A victims’ campaigner left in a wheelchair after a loyalist gun attack on his home is graduating tomorrow with a PhD from Queen’s University.

Paul Gallagher said that, in the aftermath of the 1994 west Belfast shooting, he never would have thought that such a future was possible.

“I was a bit of a lost soul for a good few years,” he said. “It took me a long time to recover physically and emotionally.

“Before I was shot, I’d never considered university. I was too busy out enjoying myself. I was thinking about becoming a chef.

“I started with the Open University in 2010 because I needed to do something with my life. There was no big academic goal, it was just learning for the sake of learning, and I’ve taken all the opportunities that have arisen since.”

Paul’s PhD thesis was on injured Troubles’ victims’ campaign for a pension. He interviewed scores of other victims as well as local and Westminster politicians during his research.

He was 21 years old when loyalist gunmen burst into his family’s home in Lenadoon and held them hostage.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

The gang was preparing to launch an attack on an ex-republican prisoner who lived nearby.

However, after an hour they tired of waiting for their target.

As they fled, they opened fire in the Gallaghers' living room with a submachine gun.

Paul was hit with six bullets, one of which shattered his spine. He also lost his spleen and half a lung.

After graduating with a first-class Honours degree in Psychological Trauma Studies from Queen’s in 2016, Paul completed a Masters and then began his PhD.

“Studying the stages of trauma was very personal for me. I was effectively covering my own journey — from feelings of anger and revenge, to rebuilding my life,” he said.

“For me, what's most important is securing the resources to support victims psychologically, physically and financially.”

Paul works for Wave, Northern Ireland’s largest cross-community victims’ group as a trauma education officer.

He said the fight for a victims’ pension had been long and challenging. Wave co-ordinator Alan McBride, whose wife Sharon was killed in the Shankill bomb, began campaigning on the issue full-time in 2009.

“We really needed someone like Alan with the charisma to keep everybody going and to have the leadership skills to drive the campaign forward,” Paul said.

“At times I found it challenging to stay neutral and to hold my tongue — to remain above the politics of it all and focus on our goal.

“The victims’ pension scheme opened up for applications last September, and I’m delighted to say that money is starting to arrive in people’s bank accounts.

“Hopefully, it will help make their lives more comfortable than before. I am dedicating my thesis to the members of the Wave injured group because, without their perseverance and dignity, there wouldn’t be a pension.”

Paul’s sister identified one of the gunmen who shot him, but nobody has ever been arrested in connection with the incident.

“We didn't really expect anything from the old RUC,” Paul said. "As a family we decided after the Good Friday Agreement to leave it at that.

“If there was peace, what we went through wasn't going to happen to anybody else. I decided that holding on to hatred and bitterness wouldn’t help me.”

Top Videos