Sinn Fein mayor honours pledge to attend IRA bomb commemoration
A Sinn Fein mayor joined bereaved relatives and unionists yesterday at a memorial service for the victims of an IRA bombing.
Six Protestants - all aged over 60 - were killed and more than 30 others injured when a car bomb exploded in Coleraine in June 1973.
Yesterday around 200 people gathered at The Diamond in the town to remember the victims.
Dinah Campbell, Francis Campbell, Elizabeth Craigmile, Nan Davis, Elizabeth Palmer and Robert Scott lost their lives in the blast on Railway Road.
A second bomb exploded five minutes later in Hanover Place in the town.
Ministers from a number of churches led prayers and hymns before a floral tribute was laid by one of the survivors, David Gilmour, who was just 10 when the bomb went off in front of him and his parents.
Representatives from all parties on Causeway Coast and Glens Council were in attendance, including the recently elected Sinn Fein mayor Brenda Chivers, East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell and MLAs Claire Sugden, Maurice Bradley and George Robinson.
Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey, who was convicted and served 18 years in prison for his role in the bombing when he was a member of the IRA, has previously expressed regret for his actions.
Yesterday Ms Chivers declined to comment other than to say: "The day and the service was for the families."
She said she felt it would be inappropriate for her to speak or comment on her decision or reasons for attending the service.
For those caught up in the atrocity, yesterday brought back painful memories.
Speaking after the ceremony, Mr Gilmour said the passing years had not diminished his vivid recollections of June 12, 1973.
He said: "I was a 10-year-old with my mother and father when the bomb exploded, so the three of us were very, very fortunate to survive.
"My father was quite severely injured and those injuries took their toll on him for 31 years until he died.
"It is very important to me to remember this day, because the things I saw and heard have never left me."
Mr Gilmour said the scenes he witnessed that day will never be forgotten.
He added: "I can still hear the screaming and see the bodies and smell the burning - it just never goes away. I was just 10 years old and it took me a number of years to process what I had seen and heard, but my experiences have made me determined we never go back to those days."
Mr Gilmour also said he wanted to have a proper conversation with Mr McGlinchey.
"I sat in the council chamber when there was a discussion as to whether or not to hold this memorial service less than 10 feet away from Sean McGlinchey, and it was disappointing that he, nor anyone from his party, came over to speak to me," he added.
"I think it was important that Sean McGlinchey has said he regrets the Coleraine bomb.
"But that is tempered by the fact that he won't speak to me.
"If he had come and spoken to me it would have made such a difference to me."
Lynda Anne Young, the granddaughter of Nan Davis, said it was a poignant afternoon, but said that she believed it was now time to move on.
"My grandmother was such an important person in our family," she said.
"I was a 15-year-old girl - and I am now the same age as Nan was when she was killed and a grandmother myself, so this year is very poignant to me.
"I think we have to move forward.
"I think this memorial was important, but let's not have it again in Coleraine or anywhere else.
"My grandmother would have wanted that too, she was a very forward-thinking woman.
"She wouldn't want to continue the divide - just remember today and then move on in peace, that's what she would have liked."
DUP councillor Trevor Clarke said the presence of Sinn Fein representatives at the service had upset some people affected by events.
"Some in the local community have expressed surprise at Sinn Fein's attendance because of the party's links with the perpetrators of the attack," Mr Clarke said.
"Only two months ago the party group on Causeway Borough Council refused to support proposals to hold a commemoration to mark the 1973 atrocity.
"Sinn Fein's subsequent change of heart is nothing to do with reconciliation."