Rosemary Nelson was an internationally known and respected human rights lawyer in the North of Ireland. She frequently represented suspects detained for questioning about politically motivated offences. Most of her clients were arrested under emergency laws and held in specially designed holding centres, and were often interviewed without access to a lawyer.
One of a small number of solicitors brave enough to take up such sensitive cases, she was frequently the target of harassment, death threats and intimidation. Rosemary’s life had been threatened by members of the RUC police on a number of occasions, primarily via her clients.
On the night of 14th March 1999, an explosive device was placed under Rosemary’s car. The bomb exploded as the 40-year-old mother of three braked at the bottom of the street where she lived. The bomb tore her legs off and ripped through her abdomen. Her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah, was on lunch break in her school yard, less than 50 yards away.
Rosemary would live two hours longer. The struggle for justice in the case, in which Crown force collusion with paramilitaries is suspected, is still ongoing.
The following article by Robbie McVeigh recalls Rosemary from the point of view of the people she worked for in the nationalist enclave of the Garvaghy Road in Portadown who opposed the annual sectarian march by the Protestant Orange Order.
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