Brothers Richard (10), Mark (9) and Jason (8), died when a petrol bomb was thrown through the living room window of their home in Carnany estate in Ballymoney, on July 12 1998. Dave Joyce, father of one of the Quinn boys, spoke to the Sunday World.
The father of one of the Quinn boys who were burned to death by loyalists 25 years ago returned to the scene of the tragedy last week and said: “The pain never leaves us.”
Davy Joyce, whose son Jason was just nine when he was killed alongside brothers Mark (10) and Richard (11) on July 12 1998 as the Drumcree dispute reached new depths of hate, revealed that the boys’ mother Chrissie and other brother Lee were too upset to attend a special ceremony.
Davy released balloons in the Carnany community garden in Ballymoney, County Antrim, which had been created in tribute to the boys at the spot they died.
“It’s a very sad day for all of us. What happened here is with us all the time and it never leaves us,” he said.
“Chrissie and Lee were too upset to be here today. It was just too much for them.
“It’s 25 years ago today since this all happened, but in truth, it’s just as though it happened yesterday. It’s raw emotion for everyone and it never leaves.”
Balloons are released at a gathering on the 25th anniversary of the murders of the three Quinn boys in Ballymoney.
Jason, who turned nine just three days before his death, would have been 34 now, and his father said this week: “I often wonder if Jason would have had kids and would I have been a grandfather – he had an eye for the girls even at that age!
“He and his brothers were just rascals – they were lovely young boys.”
Mum Chrissie escaped the burning house, as did a man and a woman who were inside at the time. Chrissie’s other son Lee was fortunate to be staying at his grandmother’s house.
The savage no-warning UVF attack in the early hours of the morning came as the Drumcree crisis on the outskirts of Portadown reached its zenith.
News of the fireball horror went around the world, with dignitaries like the Pope, US President Bill Clinton and Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani sending messages of condolence and support.
And Prime Minister Tony Blair described the petrol bomb attack as “an act of barbarism”.
Last Wednesday – exactly 25 years after these tragic events – Davy joined friends and neighbours at the spot where the boys died. The house where the brothers died at Canany Park was destroyed in the firebomb attack and was demolished soon afterwards.
A children’s play area was erected on the place where the property stood. And the local council dedicated it in memory of the boys.
Around 30 family, friends and neighbours gathered there and balloons were released into the air by children.
Local man Mervyn McIntyre was one of those attending to offer his sympathy.
“I was Chrissie’s next-door neighbour when this happened and I remember it well,” he said. “It had a devastating effect, not just on Chrissie and her family, but the entire Carnany estate.
“And to tell you the truth it hasn’t really recovered. A lot of good people moved away and it changed the atmosphere on the estate.”
He added: “I honestly believe Carnany will never recover from what happened here 25 years ago.”
Davy Joyce is comforted by family members at Carnary estate at a park which was once the boys home.
Twenty-five years ago, with Northern Ireland on a knife-edge and fears that it could slip into all-out civil war, the RUC put Detective Chief Superintendant Hamilton Houston in charge of the Quinn brothers’ murder investigation.
Within hours of the attack, it emerged it had been carried out by the UVF. Arrests followed soon afterwards. And one of those arrested, Thomas Robert Garfield Gilmour, turned out to be a very unusual UVF suspect.
And adopted lad from a middle-class family, Garfield Gilmour – as he was known locally – attended the local grammar school and had played for Ballymoney Rugby Club.
Gilmour admitted driving the murder car to the Quinn home and waiting while one of his accomplices hurled a whiskey bottle full of petrol through an upstairs window.
In a written statement, Gilmour also named Johnny McKay and brothers Raymond and Ivan Parke as being the UVF men who were with him.
He told police that, days before the attack, he and the others had scouted the area. And Gilmour had even called to one of Chrissie’s neighbours’ houses asking for a packet of baby pampers.
It also emerged that as the three Catholic Quinn brothers were attending an 11th night bonfire event on the Carnany estate, Gilmour drove the UVF killer gang around the streets in his Vauxhall Astra car.
Gilmour was charged with three counts of murder, three of attempted murder and arson. Those he named were never charged due to lack of evidence.
Gilmour was found guilty and Lord Justice McCollum handed him three life sentences.
Just 14 years later, it was revealed Gilmore was working as a handyman on a caravan sit in Portrush on the north Antrim coast.
He died suddenly two years ago. A number of years earlier, his alleged accomplice Ray Parke died in a drowning accident.
And Johnny McKay – another of those named in Gilmour’s statement – was badly mutilated when hot fat was accidentally spilled over him.
Two years ago, it was reported that the UVF chief who gave the go-ahead for the petrol bomb attack on the Quinn home was a former British soldier, believed to have been working as military intelligence agent operating inside two loyalist terror groups.