Belfast Telegraph

Loughinisland massacre: Despite tragedy, the spirit of village is still unbroken

By Deborah McAlesse

That summer evening in June 1994 I was a guest at a wedding in a hotel just a few miles from Loughinisland village.

I can remember the confusion when the music and carefree laughter was abruptly replaced by panic and tears as news of a shooting in the small village bar spread throughout the wedding hall.

Guests with family in Loughinisland ran into the hotel foyer where they crowded around two pay phones making frantic calls home to make sure loved ones were safe.

A couple of years after the atrocity my family moved to Loughinisland, to a house a short distance from the Heights Bar.

We were "blow-ins", newcomers with no real connection to the village. But the people of this beautiful village, still raw with grief, generously accepted us as part of their close-knit community.

Over the years the resilience and strength of this community has never failed to amaze me.

Despite the shadow of being associated with such a terrible atrocity, the people of Loughinisland have refused to let it define them. It has never destroyed their spirit.

Nobody in this village passes without a wave or a bright smile.

While in my adult years I moved away from the village, I still proudly claim to be a Loughinislander - even if only a blow in.

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