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Poyntzpass bar murders eyewitness Bernie Canavan dies aged 89

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Bernie Canavan died after a short illness

Bernie Canavan died after a short illness

Bernie Canavan died after a short illness

A Co Armagh pensioner who survived an LVF gun attack on her family's pub never forgot the events of that day, her son has said after she died on Monday.

Bernie Canavan from Poyntzpass passed away peacefully at her home following a short illness.

The 89-year-old, originally from Carrickcruppen, was a familiar figure in Poyntzpass' Railway Bar and was well-known in Armagh's GAA circles.

A fan of Poyntzpass, Redmond O'Hanlon and Armagh GAA teams, her son Brian played for the Orchard County for 18 years and captained the side, winning back-to-back Ulster titles in 1999 and 2000. He was previously co-manager, while her son Damien also represented Armagh.

In March 1998, Mrs Canavan was working in the Railway Bar when friends Philip Allen and Damien Trainor - one a Protestant and the other a Catholic - were shot dead by the LVF as they sat in the pub.

Three shots were fired at Mrs Canavan who was lucky to escape without injury.

Mrs Canavan's husband Desmond considered closing the pub down but after speaking to the families of the victims it was agreed not to let the gunmen's actions shut the bar down.

The SDLP's Seamus Mallon, former UUP leader David Trimble and former Secretary of State Mo Mowlam were among the politicians to visit the relatives of the victims in what was a powerful display of unity.

Her son Brian said his mother came through the attack with "great courage".

"They fired three shots at her and they missed but she came through it but she always said she never forgot it," he explained.

"At the time I will always remember that after my father spoke to the Allen and Trainor families it was agreed to reopen because there was no point in letting those men close the place.

"They were all in agreement that things had to move forward and you couldn't let those people run your life.

"It was a huge thing at the time around here because there was nobody in the village involved in anything like that. Protestants and Catholics all knew each other."

At Mrs Canavan's funeral yesterday, the local community and Redmond O'Hanlon members looked on as the cortege made its way to St Joseph's Chapel in Poyntzpass.

"The streets were lined with people," Mr Canavan said. "The local football club and people around the village agreed to stand along the route to the chapel with social distancing in place."

During the early years of the civil rights movement, Mrs Canavan struck up a lasting friendship with the late Mr Mallon and her son said she was "very disappointed" after hearing the news of his passing in January.

He added that she had a lot of time for young people and could have talked to the "Queen or a wee child on the street".

"A lady came up to me last night and gave me a mass card," said Mr Canavan. "She said that my mother had gave her daughter £5 for her first communion and I hardly knew her. She was that sort of a woman and she acknowledged people.

"She loved to see young ones coming round the place because she had great time for them to try and advise them and show them where they can go wrong and go right."

Mrs Canavan is survived by her children Brian, Desmond, Damien and Fiona, her brother Charles and the wider family circle. She was predeceased by her husband Desmond and siblings Patsy and Roisin.

Belfast Telegraph