Praise for McGuinness only adds to our pain, says victim

A Rathfriland man whose father was murdered by the IRA says the praise heaped on Martin McGuinness has caused further trauma to many victims of The Troubles.

Sammy Heenan pictured at the remote farm where his father was murdered by the IRA in 1985. (Archive photo) Pic by Brian Little

Sammy Heenan said he and many other victims have been “experiencing difficult emotions” in the days following the death of the former deputy First Minister.

Mr McGuinness, a former IRA commander, passed away on March 21 after a short illness. Thousands of people, including many political and religious leaders, attended his funeral in Londonderry on Thursday, March 23.

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In a letter written just hours after the 66-year-old Sinn Fein politician’s passing, Mr Heenan said: “For 40 years the PIRA with Martin McGuinness as one of its leading figures sustained an unnecessary campaign that brought death and suffering to thousands of innocent people irrespective of background.

“On May 3rd 1985 my father William was murdered at our rural home in the Dromara Hills. We lived alone and after hearing two gunshots at seven in the morning I ran out of our home and found my father murdered, after which I ran half a mile to raise the alarm. I was only 12 years old.

“My father did not reach the age of 66, nor did he receive dignity in death, instead he was forced to his knees and shot twice in the head at point blank range and his body dragged to concealment.

“That image of his face covered in blood is one I can never forget.

“According to intelligence services Martin McGuinness was an activist that oversaw the PIRA strategy throughout that period.

“The praise and platitudes that are being heaped on Martin McGuinness causes further trauma to many victims. Regrettably, the scrutiny of his past will be lost in the quagmire of expediency which facilitates the great historical whitewash. No one should ever be praised for turning from their brutal sectarian past that nothing justified in the first place.”

Claiming that republicans only embraced politics after their terrorist campaign failed, Mr Heenan continued: “Republicans have always sought to persuade emerging generations that we were all equally culpable for what happened here and are relentless in their pursuit of absolving themselves from their own depravity while holding everyone else to account. Over the next few days we will experience republican choreography at its very best as they seek to exploit every opportunity that will undoubtedly be facilitated naively by the great and good.

“In the meantime victims like myself will continue to endure further trauma and emotional rawness as events unfold.

“We must continue to ensure people are reminded of the brutal truth, especially younger generations, of the real Martin McGuinness. These young people who are the future must be prepared and equipped to challenge the narrative distortions and not in any way acquiesce with the false propaganda and liberal delusions.”

Mr Heenan added: “Over the past few days I have found solace and comfort from other victims as we speak with one voice, a voice that transcends borders and religious boundaries. It is very evident Martin McGuinness was proud of his past and showed no remorse or contrition. He went to his grave unrepentant with the truth that would have provided closure to many of his victims in his home city and surrounding areas.

“Ultimately, we will all give an account of our deeds before God and unless Martin McGuinness repented of his sin, God will be his judge and justice will prevail.”