Belfast Telegraph

Teenager to tell of murder of her UDR uncle at US young people's conference

Zara Ferguson
Zara Ferguson
Alan Ferguson
Alan Ferguson memorial quilt
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Four Fermanagh teenagers who had family members murdered during the Troubles will be heading to the US next week to take part in a major conference for young people affected by terrorism.

Zara Ferguson from Derrygonnelly, whose uncle Alan Ferguson was a part-time member of the UDR when murdered in Fermanagh in 1978, said that "it's not enough just to remember" the victims of terrorism on a personal level, but that their stories have to be told.

She will join 80 young people from 20 nations who will be attending.

They include Sophie Carson from Maguiresbridge; Melissa Keys from Kesh, and Ambra West from Irvinestown, who will represent the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) at the Global Peacebuilding Conference organised by the Tuesday's Children organisation and its Project Common Bond programme.

"I never knew my uncle," said the 19-year-old Liverpool University engineering student.

"But I know the family suffering. I've seen it through my parents, and particularly through my grandmother. She has been an inspiration to me, but there isn't a day goes by when she doesn't think about the son she lost."

Private Anderson, from Enniskillen, was killed by the IRA in an attack near Scribbagh post office.

The other three teenagers joining her all lost grandfathers.

Sophie is the granddaughter of Herbie Kernaghan, murdered in Roslea in October 1979; Melissa lost her grandfather Robert Keys in Belcoo in 1972, and Ambra's grandfather John Hallawell was murdered in Londonderry in October 1983.

This will be Zara's second time attending the conference, which she said had opened her mind to the need for talking about shared experiences.

She added: "Talking isn't something people in Northern Ireland do enough of, especially people like me who are a new generation.

"I never knew my uncle, but I know the family history and the hurt my family suffered.

"I'm lucky that I come from a strong family.

"They're very supportive of me doing this. We've just passed the 40th anniversary of my uncle's murder and I know my family find remembrance very difficult. It will be another eye-opening experience.

"Last year I went with no idea what to expect.

"I heard so much about conflicts in countries like Sri Lanka, Palestine, Israel, Sierra Leone that I knew nothing about.

"There are so many awful stories, but so many more positive ones from a new generation of young people who, while not forgetting what has happened, remember in a respectful way and learn to move on.

"Everyone has the opportunity to tell their story and it's a great release to get it out there among people who will understand. I'm sure the other three young people from Northern Ireland coming with me will feel the same.

"I find that when I tell friends at university that my uncle was murdered they're shocked and don't know how to react. But people need to know. It's not enough just to remember on a personal level. Stories have to be told."

Zara now hopes she will be able to pass on her experiences to another generation. "I'd love to give something back to my community as a result of this," she said.

"There can be no distortion of the truth, but there needs to be an honest discussion. I love to be in a position where I can share my experiences with schools in a completely non-biased way, in a controlled manner. We have to be proud of who we are and the events that have shaped us, not hide our family history away."

The Tuesday's Children organisation, which was founded to provide support and services for children of 9/11 and others affected by global terrorism, organised the event.

SEFF director Kenny Donaldson said: "SEFF encourages families and individuals connected with our organisation to build networks with others who come from similar backgrounds and experiences.

"This conference will examine how genuine and sustainable peace can be built within and between our peoples of the world and equip our young people with the skills and learning to be leaders within the community in the future."

The conference will be held at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, from July 28 to August 5.

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