Uncle relives horror of Quinn boys' slaughter
The uncle of three children killed in a loyalist arson attack at the height of the Drumcree stand-off in 1998 has relived the tragedy ahead of the 20th anniversary of their deaths on Thursday.
Frankie Quinn's nephews Richard (10), Mark (9) and eight-year-old Jason Quinn died after the home where they were living with their mother Chrissie was petrol bombed by the UVF on July 12, 1998.
The triple killing, which took place in the mainly Protestant Carnany estate in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, was condemned around the world and a minute's silence was held in the brothers' honour at the European Parliament.
In an interview published by the Irish News yesterday, Mr Quinn said he remained traumatised by having to identify two of the children's bodies.
"I did ID them. They were black," he said.
"Their wee mouths were all melted, where they had been bringing in the hot fumes.
"It was tough.
"I only ID'd two. I didn't want to ID the third - I knew who the third was.
"I was just numb and could not believe it was happening, that's why I had to see their bodies. I didn't want to believe it."
Mr Quinn also told how he persuaded their mother not to view the bodies.
She had desperately tried to save her sons' lives on the night.
"My sister wanted to see them," he explained.
"I talked her out of it. I told her it was something she didn't want to see.
"I could clearly see their mouths were melted like plastic, it's something I will not forget."
The boys' older brother Lee, who was 12 at the time, avoided the attack as he was staying at his grandmother's home that evening.
Mr Quinn revealed that Chrissie had feared her home was going to be attacked due to loyalists targeting family members, and had stayed up late that evening.
Two hours after she went to bed, her home was petrol bombed.
The boys, who attended a Protestant school, were given a Catholic funeral and burial.
The children's killings took place just hours before thousands of Orangemen were due to descend on Portadown after they were banned from marching along the nationalist Garvaghy Road.
Mr Quinn said that before the murders he and other family members had been targeted by the UVF, which he said started when he refused to make a donation to a loyalist prisoners' collection.
He added that the loss of the three boys had ripped his family apart.
"It has an impact on everybody in the family. We lost three important members of the family," he said.
"Richard was just a wee devil, Jason was a wee fighter, and Mark was just soft and gigglier."
Ballymoney man Garfield Gilmour was later convicted of the boys' murders, but had the charge reduced to manslaughter on appeal.
He was jailed for 14 years in 2000.
In April 1999 the Quinn brothers' home was demolished to make way for a play park, which was erected as a memorial to the boys.