Belfast Telegraph

Loyalists snatched baby from her arms before killing my mum and dad at point-blank range - Seamus McDonald demands to know why

Seamus McDonald
Seamus McDonald
Rosaleen and Mervyn McDonald
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

A man who saw his parents gunned down by loyalists when he was just 18-months-old has said he wants to know why they were killed.

Seamus McDonald has no memory of the terrible night the UFF came into his Newtownabbey home.

The gang snatched his four-month-old baby sister Margaret from her 24-year-old mother Rosaleen's arms and gunned down her and her husband Mervyn (26) at point-blank range with automatic weapons.

As the 43rd anniversary looms, Seamus (45) - who now lives in Mayo with his wife Tara and their three children Se (17), Siva (16) and Oran (12) - said he knows he will never get justice, but wants answers, closure and compensation.

"My mother and father were soft targets," he said. "A young married Catholic couple raising their children in a mixed area on the Longlands Road. They moved there to have a nice life.

"The UFF said that they were linked to the IRA, which was a lie. My parents were pacifists, their world revolved around their children.

"I have no recollection of that night, because I was just a baby, but I have been able to piece together what happened from what people told me."

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Mr McDonald said the killers did a dummy run a few days before the murders, calling at the door and saying they were selling Bibles.

He added: "On July 9 they called to our house. My dad was in the back yard. My mum was holding baby Margaret in her arms. They told my mum they were friends of my dad and she let them in. I was in a playpen in the living room when she brought them in there.

"My dad came in and one of them pulled out a machine gun and shot him.

"While he was doing that the other guy took my baby sister out of my mum's arms and put her in the playpen beside me and shot my mum at point-blank range.

"They didn't have any bullets left in their guns when they had finished shooting my parents.

"My dad died instantly. My mum didn't for a little while.

"When the people came into the house after the gunmen left, they found my mother in a pool of blood, her hand outstretched to the playpen, out to us.

"Later, someone told me that her last words were 'why us?'

"She was taken to the hospital and died there four hours later. Both their coffins had to be closed."

Seamus and his sister Margaret went to live with his aunt Fionuala and uncle Billy. They were brought up with one step-sister and three step-brothers in Twinbrook. He said he had been robbed of so much - not only his mother and father, but a normal childhood

Mr McDonald recalled: "For a long time I had lots of issues, like behavioural issues at school.

"Witnessing what I witnessed, I don't think schools knew how to deal with me. I was quite insular as a child.

"I remember when I was around 10 years old I ran at a British soldier foot patrol with a fake knife. I don't know what my thought process was, but I think I was probably imagining that they might shoot me.

"As I got older I used to get bitter and depressed about it."

Mr McDonald said he experienced depressive states throughout his life, contemplating suicide at one stage before he was diagnosed with PTSD. He said he had been helped by a lot of therapy and self-analysis.

"I hit some pretty low points," he added. "I struggled with depression a lot. I harboured a lot of self-destructive behaviours. I did contemplate suicide, but I have had something inside me that always brought me back. I thought that to do that was nihilistic and wouldn't have been respectful to my mother and father's memory.

"No matter how bad I got, I always found a way of pulling myself back from that."

No one was ever arrested or charged with his parents' deaths. He says he knows he will never see justice.

"It's vile that no-one has ever faced justice over the murder of my parents," he added. "From looking into the case more, I know of the man who killed my parents, and how he killed other people. He has never been prosecuted. From what I can gather there is a compelling case to be made about some form of collusion or some form of protection in the case of my parents' murder.

"Finding this out has just made me think that I will never get any sense of justice and I think I've made peace with that."

Mr McDonald said that if he could speak to the person who murdered his parents, he would ask him to tell the truth.

"For years, I thought that if I ever found out who did this to us, I would want to hurt him," he added. "But I realise that holding on to that thought and that anger is letting them win. It was me holding on to something that they put into me.

"I don't forgive him. I can't. But I don't want him dead. I don't want to hurt him, I don't want to think about him.

"If he was in front of me, the only thing I would say to him is to tell the truth about what happened, so that at least me and my sister and my family can have some peace of mind.

"I would say to him to confess, tell us where the information came from and why he was able to get away with it. I would say, expose whatever it is that needs exposed and maybe that might help him in some small way."

Mr McDonald said his parents' killers must face "demons of their own".

He added: "They did not destroy my life. They tried to.

"I have a life, I have a beautiful wife and beautiful children who I love very much and a lovely home in Mayo. Everything I've done I have done on my own, despite what happened to me.

Most days are good for me. My parents' murder is like a shadow that will never go away. It's about coping with it better and finding a better way to live with it."

Mr McDonald will share his story as part of Towards Understanding and Healing's ongoing series of Valued Voices Testimony events on Thursday at 12.30pm, at the Holywell DiverseCity Community Partnership in Londonderry.

  • To book a place, contact Kirstie Wright on kwright@thejunction-ni-org or 028 7126 1941.

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