Taoiseach meets families claiming 'ethnic cleansing'

Published: 18 Oct 2012 13:000 comments

FOR Maureen North, the most prevailing feeling as a result of the attacks her family was subjected to during the Troubles is the sense of frustration that her son was never able to realise his dream of taking on their farm.

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny(fourth left) meeting Fermanagh family representatives(from left)George Latimer, Kenny Donaldson, Director of Services at SEFF; Ernie Wilson, Maureen North, Harriet Kirkpatrick, Eric Brown,
Chairman at SEFF and Jenny and Robin Ferguson.

In a meeting with Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Tuesday she recalled how on a dark day in November 1989, he had been used as a human bomb by members of the IRA -- a day she will never forget.

Along with members of four other Fermanagh families who were victims of our troubled past, she described how she and her family were uprooted from the home they had invested so much time and money into following repeated and seemingly unrelenting attacks.

They had been left with no other choice.

Led by DUP Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA, Arlene Foster and assisted by the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), the delegation of nine people spent an hour and 40 minutes with Mr Kenny in Dublin, describing how 'ethnic cleansing' on the border had impacted on their lives and the legacy it had left behind.

Robin Ferguson, whose brother Alan, was murdered by the IRA in 1978, Ernie Wilson, who was the driver of a school bus targeted with an IRA bomb, Harriott Kirkpatrick, whose first husband, Winston Howe, an RUC officer, was murdered in a landmine attack in 1980, and George Latimer, whose brother and father-in-law were both murdered by Provisional IRA also gave their own personal stories.

They told the Irish Prime Minister they were seeking an acknowledgement for what they saw as they failings of the Irish Government at the time to protect life along the border, allowing the IRA to use the Republic as a safe haven from which to launch its attacks on border communities.

According to Mrs North, Mr Kenny had listened intently to the emotive stories described by each of the five families and gave an assurance that he would visit them in Fermanagh in the near future to discuss the matter further.

The delegation also left the Taoiseach with an Extradition report, stating that between 1973 and 1997 93% of extradition requests of a terrorist related nature were refused.

"He was very courteous," said Mrs North, "He hasn't given us his opinion yet but he said he said he would read all the documents we left him.

"He had a lot more understanding of the situation than I realised -- he came into Government in 1975 so he was quite aware of the situation."

Mrs North said she had never expected to be part of such a meeting.

"Back then you got no support from anybody," she said, "You just tried to get on with your life as best you could. At that time the best thing to do was to try and keep quiet. I don't believe in raising rows but I do feel it was important to meet with the Taoiseach and tell him our story and let him take it from there.

"My son has moved away to England since we left our family home. He wasn't allowed to follow his dreams of working on the farm -- he was robbed of that. He had done a degree at Greenmount and was coming home to farm, but it didn't happen. He had worked so hard. We had to leave the house ourselves as well. Our home had been bombed five times altogether. We weren't safe there. So we had to uproot from our home, leave our neighbours and our friends. Now I'm living in Lisnaskea, trying to live a quiet life. But I still feel frustrated about what happened to my son. I feel it more so now, but life has to go on.

"My circumstances are different from some of the other families who lost loved ones -- we all survived what happened to us and I am very grateful for that."

Director of Services at SEFF, Kenny Donaldson was also in attendance at the meeting.

He said the Taoiseach now had a better understanding of the experiences of families living on the border at the time of the Troubles.

"Enda Kenny is now clearer on why border Protestants describe their experiences as; 'ethnic cleansing' and that this language is not used for the purpose of being 'emotive' but rather that it has factual basis," he said, "He added that he wished to visit our organisation in County Fermanagh to hear more from those affected by terrorism.

"There remains a deep sense of hurt and injustice prevalent within Protestant communities throughout County Fermanagh (particularly those based in Border areas). These individuals are God fearing people. Despite coming under a sustained campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' these individuals did not turn to the bomb or the bullet, they put their trust and confidence in the lawful organs of both States and they believed that both the UK and ROI Governments would do right by them.

"The Taoiseach was reminded that as the political leader of his country he has an opportunity to do right by those families that our organisation represents and indeed all others across Northern Ireland who were affected as a consequence of there not being 'sufficiently robust policies in the Republic of Ireland' to not only pursue but also bring to Justice, terrorists."

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