A man who watched his parents shot dead in front of him as a two-year-old boy has told the gunmen they achieved nothing.
Seamus McDonald and his younger sister, Margaret, who was only four months old, were at their North Belfast home with father Mervyn and Rosaleen when two loyalist paramilitaries went in and murdered both adults in a random sectarian attack in July 1976.
Mr McDonald, who now lives in Co Mayo, spoke publicly about the incident for only the second time in his life at an event in Belfast on Monday commemorating innocent victims of terrorism.
It was just pointless and it was cruel and it achieved nothingSeamus McDonald
“The people that did this to me achieved nothing, my mum and dad are alive inside me,” he said, during an emotional address at Stormont.
“They are alive in my sister and I see them in the face of my children. It was just pointless and it was cruel and it achieved nothing.
“I am shaking now and I am upset now, but I am actually OK – what they tried to do to me didn’t work, what they tried to do to my family didn’t work, it was horrific and unnecessary.”
Mr McDonald outlined graphic details of the incident in July 1976 when the murderers from the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) called at their front door in Newtownabbey.
“The area we lived in was mixed, we were out in the country, so it made it quite an easy target,” he said.
“On the 9th July 1976 as my dad was having his dinner, my mum had my baby sister in her arms and I was on the sofa, and two men came to the door asking for my father.
“My mum didn’t recognise the men, thought they were friends of my dad, she invited them into the house.
“When my dad came in from the kitchen to see what was happening, one of the men produced a machine gun and shot my father and killed him instantly.
“After that he took my sister from my mother, put her next to me, and then turned his gun on my mum and shot her – it took about four hours for my mother to die.”
I think in the context of terrorism-related incidents a lot of victims always ask that question - 'Why us, why me, why them?' I don't think there is any answer to that question that will ever satisfy anyoneSeamus McDonald
Mr McDonald revealed that his mother’s last words to the gunmen were “Why us?”.
“I think in the context of terrorism-related incidents a lot of victims always ask that question – ‘Why us, why me, why them?’,” he said.
“I don’t think there is any answer to that question that will ever satisfy anyone.”
He said he would never have been able to address a public event about the murders a few years ago.
“I don’t know what normality is, I have always had this,” he said.
“I have no memory of my mother and father, I don’t know their faces. At the same time I have no memory of the incident.”
Mr McDonald said support from the victims’ sector was gradually helping him to heal and let go of some of the “fear, hate and trauma”.
“I only managed to put a picture of my parents up on the living room wall four years ago,” he added.
“One thing that unites all victims and all members of society in Northern Ireland, even though I don’t live here now, is that we all grieve the same and we all feel loss the same and, if we can all grieve the same and all feel loss the same, we can all heal the same, and if we can do that that might bring us a bit closer.”