Belfast Telegraph

This is his truth. Is it time more victims told theirs?

By Maurice Hayes

August was always a wicked month during the Troubles, not least in 1979 when the atrocities of Mullaghmore and Narrowwater took place.

Timothy Knatchbull, a survivor of Mullaghmore, has written a compelling and moving account of that atrocity and its impact.

It's not easy reading, but it is one of the most penetrating and humane books to have emerged from the Troubles.

At times, it is a painful book to read and must have been even more painful to write.

But those who take the trouble will learn much about the impact of acts of violence on individuals and families, of the incredible closeness of the relationship between identical twins, about mourning and grieving, about remembering and forgetting, and, in the end, the hopeful triumph of good over evil.

Knatchbull was a 14-year-old schoolboy on a brilliant August morning in 1979, sitting on a battered old fishing boat off the coast of Sligo when, From a Clear Blue Sky of the book's title, he was blown almost into eternity by an IRA bomb which killed his two grandparents, his identical twin brother, and Paul Maxwell — a schoolboy from Enniskillen working a as boatman.

That his grandfather, the prime target, was the Earl Mountbatten, made the event world news.

In fairness, Knatchbull does not treat the killings as any more or less significant than any other death in the Troubles. What he does show is that the impact on a family is the same, rich or poor.

The book is mainly a journey back to that August day, trying to piece together the narrative from a variety of sources; and to face up to what he discovered, and trying to make sense of it all.

After nearly 30 years he found it possible to return to Sligo. He searches out and speaks to witnesses, to rescuers, to gardai, to villagers, to the doctors and nurses who treated him.

What he finds is not always easy to stomach. Behind the public sympathy is private bitterness, there are those who saw and did not speak of IRA activity in the area and some who could still see the murder of two boys and two 80-year-olds as a military triumph.

In the end he got there, to his personal haven of peace and healing, relieved to see the ballot-box replacing the bomb and |the bullet, and those responsible for his twin's death now committed to the disciplines of democratic government.

The message for society is that other victims and survivors are entitled to release, too, and to be helped by therapy, by access to records and archives and, most of all, by a willingness from those from both sides who inflicted to talk honestly. Now there's a job for a real Truth Commission.

Belfast Telegraph


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