One of the most cold-blooded atrocities of the conflict, the Greysteel massacre of October 30 1993, was marked with a Memorial mass this week.
The County Derry village was devastated when seven people were killed and six wounded, one of whom subsequently died, after two UDA gunmen riddled the ‘Rising Sun’ bar with bullets.
A mixed crowd was gathering for a Saturday evening Hallowe’en dance when a death squad dressed in balaclavas and boiler suits, entered the bar just after 10pm.
Gunman Stephen Irwin moved to the bar’s dance floor and, waving his AK47 assault rifle, shouted “trick or treat”.
After Karen Thompson replied, “That’s not funny”, Irwin opened fire. Karen was one of the first to die.
In the next few minutes, Irwin emptied one magazine and stopped to reload.
Another gang member, Jeffrey Deeney, fired one shot at a fleeing woman from a 9mm automatic pistol but the gun jammed.
Witnesses reported the screams of those in the bar with women pleading with the murderers to show mercy.
In the end, a number of bodies lay on the floor in a scene of carnage. Some who were physically uninjured were in shock and hysteria.
The people of Greysteel have been forced to carry pain inflicted by an “inhuman lust for cruelty”, a priest told a memorial Mass for the victims this week.
Fr Stephen Kearney, who was a curate in Greysteel in 1993, returned to the parish for a Mass marking the 20th anniversary of the massacre. He was joined at the Star of the Sea Church in Saughanvale on the outskirts of Greysteel by retired Bishop of Derry Edward Daly and other former and present priests of the parish.
Survivors of the massacre were joined by former SDLP leader John Hume, east Derry assembly member John Dallat and Sinn Fein representatives Raymond McCartney and Cathal O hOisin.
Church of Ireland ministers Canon John Blair and Rev Brian Hassan and Presbyterian minister Rev Jim Grey also attended the Mass.
Relatives of the eight who died lit candles in memory of their loved ones.
In his homily, Fr Kearney said the people of Greysteel had shown each other great respect in the aftermath of the killings.
“You saw yourselves as ordinary people who were asked to carry the pain inflicted by men who were driven by hate, bitterness and inhuman lust for cruelty,” he said.
“You did that by supporting each other by being so conscious of the pain that was in other homes like your own, that rather than crying out for revenge, or even justice, you accepted your own pain and used it as the tonic that gave you sensitivity to others and strength to comfort them.”
Fr Kearney said people tended to forget what life was like 20 years ago.
“Bombings, shootings, arrests, harassment, legal and illegal checkpoints were everyday happenings,” he said.
He recalled the words of now deceased Fr Jack Gallagher, who told mourners at some of the Greysteel funerals that they could help and be helped by those who had died.
Fr Kearney recalled: “We pray that they [the victims] will help us to understand that our God is a God of love.”
After last night’s Mass, the victims’ families and survivors of the massacre gathered at the Rising Sun bar for an interdenominational commemoration and wreath-laying service.
* Wreaths were also laid at a council cleansing facility in west Belfast this week in memory of two workers murdered by loyalist gunmen at the site 20 years ago.
Family, friends and colleagues of Mark Rodgers and James Cameron came together at the Kennedy Way depot for the short service. Mr Cameron , a father-of-three from Conor Rise, and Mark Rodgers, a father-of-two from Falcarragh Drive were at work when two men attacked them shortly after 7.30am on October 26 1993. Around 60 shots were fired by the loyalists, who were dressed as council workers and armed with a rifle and a machine gun.