A Londonderry woman whose teenage sister died after an IRA shooting that took place on Martin McGuinness’ birthday exactly 44 years ago has said she’ll be mourning her and her murdered RUC father on what would have been the former Provisional leader’s 70th birthday on Saturday.
Republicans planned a series of celebrations to mark the ex-Deputy First Minister’s birthday on Saturday evening.
But Lorraine Sadler took to social media on Friday to condemn Mr McGuinness and his colleagues.
Looking back to the day that her sister Linda, who was a shop assistant and a police reservist, was shot by the Provisionals on Mr McGuinness’ 26th birthday, she said of the former IRA leader: “While his family were celebrating, we as a family on the 23rd of May, 1976 certainly weren’t courtesy of his murdering gang.”
It was on that May day in 1976 that 19-year-old Linda Baggley was shot and wounded while on a police patrol in the Waterside area of Derry not far from the spot where her father William was killed two years earlier.
Linda died in hospital on June 2 and she was one of the first female RUC casualties of the Troubles.
Three youths and a teenage girl later received life sentences for Linda’s murder.
One of the killers Eoghan Mac Cormaic served 15 years for the murder. In the dock he had said: ”I would like this court to understand how much I regret the death of the policewoman. I did not play any willing part in the murder. I felt my life was in danger and so I did what the men who got into my car told me.”
On his release from prison he went to university and became president of the Students Union in Galway University.
Subsequently he became a Sinn Fein councillor in Loughrea, Co Galway and was later appointed deputy chairman of the cross border Irish language body, Foras na Gaeilge that was set up under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
The Republic’s Gaeltacht Minister Eamon O Cuiv said he had no problem with Mac Cormaic’s appointment.
Another of Linda Baggley’s killers Kieran Fleming escaped from the Maze during the 1983 mass break out. In December of the following year he died after a gun battle with the SAS in Kesh, Co Fermanagh.
Another IRA man was shot dead. Undercover soldier Alistair Slater was also killed. East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell contrasted the celebrations planned for Mr McGuinness today and the grieving for Linda Baggley and her father in the same city.
But he added: “Sinn Fein makes no distinction between the different parts of Martin McGuinness’ life. They will celebrate the IRA terrorism which Martin McGuinness commanded and condoned.
“On his birthday in 1976 he was second in command of the IRA unit that shot an innocent teenager.”
Mr Campbell said the IRA had not only robbed a 19-year-old woman of her life, but were also responsible for cutting short over 1,800 lives in Northern Ireland and destroying many others left behind. The MP said the minds of the Baggleys wouldn’t just be on Linda today, but also on her English-born father William, who was shot dead in January 1974. His shooting happened on the Dungiven Road and it was estimated that his daughter was hit by gunmen less than 100 yards away two years later.
Four years ago Lorraine Sadler was one of nearly 3,000 people who signed a petition protesting a decision by the PSNI to remove and relocate memorials to murdered officers inside Strand Road police station.
She wrote: “I am signing this petition as a daughter and sister of two murdered RUC officers to show my disgust at the appeasement to airbrush from history the brave and gallant officers who made the supreme sacrifice.”
The PSNI later said the decision on the memorials had been “a mistake”. To mark International Women’s Day, Ms Sadler posted an online message to remember her sister and all the other “brave” female members of the RUC whom she described as the “greatest, most professional and truly respected police force ever”.
She said her sister and father had both served for peace.
Republicans remembered Martin McGuinness on Saturday night with a special online event in place of celebrations that would have been held if it hadn’t been for the coronavirus restrictions.
The line-up included musicians Christy Moore, Damien Dempsey, and Matt Molloy from The Chieftains.
It also included tributes from Sinn Fein leaders past and present including Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O’Neill and Gerry Adams.
Mr McGuinness’ granddaughter Cara also took part.