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IRA's Canary Wharf bombing 'ruined lives of all my family'

Daughter tells story for first time at victims event

By Cate McCurry

The daughter of an IRA victim left with severe brain damage after a bomb ripped through Canary Wharf in London has spoken of how her mother struggled to cope with his devastating injuries right up until the moment she took her own life.

Rajaa Berezag described the heart-breaking moment she heard her dad Zaoui was injured in the blast and how they thought he was dead after her brother said his "brain was all over the car".

Despite surviving the 1996 atrocity, Zaoui was left seriously brain damaged with his life changed for ever along with that of his family.

Speaking during an event to mark the European Victims' Day Event at Stormont, the 31-year-old dance teacher revealed publicly for the first time how the incident "ruined their lives" and how her mother Gemma took her own life after being his core carer for over 20 years.

The blast killed two men, John Jeffries and Inam Bashir, and injured more than 100 people.

"I think it's now time that everyone knows the real struggle we go through and I want to give other people hope at how far we have come," she said.

"We lost his mind that day, he was never again the same person. I feel that people here understand me and have the same pain and struggle."

Rajaa, who was just nine at the time, now visits her father in a care home following the death of her mother in May 2016.

She added: "My mum struggled the whole time until the last minute. The moment she took her own life is when you know someone is struggling and had enough. She had to do things a wife shouldn't have to do for so long."

Also in attendance yesterday was former police officer Paul Donley. He joined the RUC in 1981 at 19 and suffered a broken back just three years later when he was injured in a landmine explosion. He escaped two further attacks when a booby trap bomb was spotted under his car and another found by his wife in their front garden.

Paul, who is the director of the Disabled Police Officers Association, was forced into an early retirement in 2003.

The dad-of-two said: "I have survivor's guilt, suffer constant nightmares, sleepless nights and flashbacks.

"I wanted to tell my story and hopefully help others as I can see in their face they are feeling the same as me. It has left me feeling a bit happier."

Meanwhile, Anthony O'Reilly's sister Geraldine was killed at the age of 15 by a loyalist terrorist bomb in the village of Belturbet in Co Cavan in December 1972. Patrick Stanley (16) also died in the explosion.

Anthony was with his sister in the town that evening, having brought her in for chips. He suffered survivor's guilt for a long period and his health suffered a downward spiral with the onslaught of alcoholism, depression and other mental health issues.

Anthony, who travelled to Stormont with his wife Marie, said it was only after his parents died that he talked about it.

"It's been like self-therapy - when you come here you realise that you are not the only one. It's encouraging to see other people speak about it. People together have a voice," he said.

The event, now in its seventh year and organised by TUV leader Jim Allister, also included the launch of an exhibition of memorial quilts that commemorates victims of terrorism.

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