Violence puts me off coming home says schoolboy's sister after Donegan murder
The sister of a 15-year-old boy who saw Jim Donegan's lifeless body "lying on the ground" moments after he was shot dead in west Belfast said the shocking incident has made her reluctant to come home to Northern Ireland.
Law student Anna Burroughs (20) has been living in Dublin for the past two years and had always planned to return home to Lagmore once she graduates.
But now the Trinity College student is reconsidering after her younger brother left St Mary's and stumbled upon the bloodied body of 43-year-old father Mr Donegan, who was slain outside the school gates.
"My brother had been walking down to the school gates to get his bus home," she said. "He saw the body lying on the ground with some of his teachers huddled around trying to help."
Ms Burroughs was left reeling with anger after learning the chilling details and brutal nature of the crime scene her brother had unwittingly walked into.
"He seemed really shook up about it last night and hasn't really discussed much more about it," she said.
"My first reaction was anger, followed by disappointment.
"It's unsettling to think that someone in our community would think it's acceptable to fire a weapon in the vicinity of so many young children."
The potential which existed for the assassin's plan to have gone badly wrong - or for the situation to have escalated into something much more catastrophic - was not lost on the former St Dominic's Grammar pupil.
"It terrifies me to think what would have happened," she said.
But what frightens Anna even more is her fear that cold-blooded murder has been "normalised as another part of life" in Northern Ireland as a result of our troubled history.
Ms Burroughs said Tuesday's calculated murder was a reminder that Belfast is a very different place from the "more progressive" city in which she currently resides.
"I feel like we are still very focused on the past conflicts and that appears to be holding us back from developing into a prosperous society," she said.
"Despite the fact that we have come so far since the Good Friday Agreement, there is still very much a mantra of green vs orange."
She was referring to a flurry of tit-for-tat sectarian comments which appeared on social media after the murder, leaving her bitterly disappointed.
"Northern Ireland is moving further and further away from an environment that I would want to raise children in," she said.
"I love Belfast as a city and there are so many positives about living there, but unfortunately it is undermined by backward thinking individuals.
"I definitely want to move back home, but only when I see some form of positive progression."
A man who was stuck in traffic at the time of the shooting has also described what he saw unfold next to two bus stops on the very busy road.
"Some fella just ran up and shot him," he said.
"I went straight over to the car and there he was, dead.
"He was covered in blood. Everybody was shaking like a leaf."
Ms Burroughs praised the response of teachers and the action taken to ensure counselling is in place when students return today.
"Lots of parents have talked about how well they have handled the situation," she said.