Belfast Telegraph

'Dad's murder devastated us... I'm sad he missed so much of our lives'


Shot: John McKeegan
Shot: John McKeegan

By David Young

"The heartache never leaves you."

Londonderry woman Elizabeth Dalzell's voice trembled with emotion yesterday as she remembered her father, part-time UDR member John McKeegan, who was lured to his death in an IRA ambush in 1981.

Mr McKeegan was 40 when he was shot dead in Strabane while making a delivery for the timber firm he worked for.

He was married with three young children.

Elizabeth was just 11 when she heard the devastating news of her father's murder.

"It was difficult for us before he was murdered. We were all frightened because of the Troubles," she said.

"We wouldn't go to the door if there was a knock. There were places we couldn't go.

"Then, when dad was murdered, it was devastating for us. It still is to this day. It still affects us.

"He was so young. It makes me so sad to think of the things that he has missed. He missed so much in our lives.

"He didn't get to meet any of his grandchildren."

A public consultation on the legacy of the Troubles was launched by the Government in May. It ends on Friday.

People have been giving their views on how a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) - which would have a caseload of about 1,700 Troubles-related deaths and aim to complete its work in five years - would operate.

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said that, as the proposals stand, families who had their cases looked at by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) will not have access to an HIU investigation.

That means the McKeegan family will be excluded.

The family had taken part in the HET process.

But Mrs Dalzell, now 48, described it last night as the most "horrendous experience" she had endured since her father's murder.

"It was just awful. It was a review, not an investigation. We learned nothing that we didn't already know," she said.

"They didn't investigate anything. I cried for a week after they gave us their report.

"My mum didn't actually want us to go through the HET process.

"She felt it would be too harrowing for us. But we wanted to do it - and it was a terrible experience.

"They gave us a report which just went through how my father's murder had come about. There was nothing in it that we didn't already know."

One man was convicted in connection with Mr McKeegan's murder. He has since been released from prison.

Mrs Dalzell is aware that at least three others were involved, one of them a woman.

But she said the HET was not interested in pursuing the other people involved in her father's killing.

She added: "I feel very let down by these new proposals about legacy matters. There's not a day goes by that I don't think of my father and the things that he has missed in our lives. I have to keep his memory alive. I miss him so much."

Mr McKeegan's widow, also called Elizabeth, remarried 10 years after the murder, only then to lose her widow's pension. It was a bureaucratic decision that still rankles with the UDR man's family.

"We were very happy that mum remarried, but she lost her widow's pension immediately," she said.

"At the end of the day, she was still widowed.

"Dad still died for his country. There were still three children.

"But the minute she remarried the pension was taken off her."

Mrs Dalzell said the rules had now changed, and that Army wives widowed since 2005 retain their pensions for life.

But that revised policy does not apply to her mother because of how long ago her father was killed.

"When the new rules came out I phoned the Ministry of Defence but was told that my mother could only have her pension back if she divorced her current husband," she explained.

"They said she could always marry the same man again, and she'd be able to keep the pension then.

"How immoral is that?"

Belfast Telegraph


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