AMaguiresbridge man told an event at Stormont for European Day for Victims of Terrorism of his memories of losing his leg in a car bomb in 1990.
Noel Downey, a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), recalled the event that would change his life forever at Stormont on Monday. The Victims event had been sponsored by Jim Allister (TUV), Robin Swann (UUP) and Colum McGrath (SDLP).
Mr. Downey recalled dropping into the Weavers Pub in Lisnaskea on June 10, 1990 at the age of 24.
“There was a general threat against security force members within Lisnaskea at that time but nothing personal against me as such. When returning to the car around 1pm I opened and threw my left leg in as I would always do and upon sitting down, the mercury tilt bomb was triggered by the motion (it had also been wired to the ignition).
I remember a white flash, being blind and deaf for a period of what seemed to be a couple of minutes, I believe I was temporarily knocked out unconscious. I reached over in the blindness and opened the catch on the door - I kept saying to myself - I’m all right, I’m all right.
“I got out of the car and attempted to walk but I kept falling down and the blood was seeping out of me, I made a distance of some 20 metres but after some time realised why I had kept falling, my left leg was gone.
“I later understood that my leg had been blown off and had actually struck me under my jaw, causing me to lose four teeth, two of my teeth were actually lodged in my leg which was blew into the back of my car, my trainer and sock remained on my leg which had been detached from my body.”
“I was aided on the pavement by a number of locals (including Eric Brown, Chairman of SEFF) who is here today - those men helped keep me alive until the Ambulance arrived and I am in their debt for what they did.
I was taken away in the Ambulance to the Erne Hospital, I was wrapped up in tin foil, I had lost so much blood, it was touch and go if I would make it as I had just about 3 litres of blood left in my body. Because of the severity of injuries I wasn’t able to be moved to The Royal for some three days.
“As you will appreciate life was forever changed, I went through multiple serious operations and skin graft procedures. My body ceased to be my own. Clothes are a wonderful disguiser of injury, I have a prosthetic limb and yes I have a slight limp as I walk but few would know from simply watching me walk that I had suffered the severity of injuries which I did.
“Serious physical injuries are often accompanied by serious mental health injuries and this was the case for me - nightmares, flashbacks, bouts of depression, anger, hopelessness were all behaviours which I encountered. ...I ceased to be the Noel Downey who I had known all those years previously.
Despite all of this, he went on to marry Helen and they had a family. “She stuck by me, she lived out the ‘through thick and thin’ and ‘in sickness and in health’ commitments of marriage before we ever wed,” he said.
The couple has two children.
He made a practical appeal : “I want to give Helen a form of security as we grow older and because I was injured as a young man in my 20’s I did not have opportunity to work as I otherwise would in building up an Occupational-based Pension. A Special Pension as is proposed for the seriously injured is something that would help me and many others, it would remove the financial worry. The only way I can see this proceeding would be if the politicians can somehow design an Appeals Process which allows for innocents like me to be given our Pension with perpetrators who have secured injury needing to express contrition for the injuries they sustained whilst involved in a terrorist and criminal act.”