​I often get asked why I write so often about Northern Ireland victims. As the pugnacious MP Clare Short put it when she learned that I was deeply involved with the civil case against the Omagh bombers, “Why pick at the scabs?”

Published: 27 June 2024

Sinn Fein supporters assure me that no one cares and I should move on.

Well, I won’t be shutting up. Evil has to be called out. And no one who condones it deserves support.

Left to herself, would Pat Cullen, the Sinn Fein Westminster election candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, have condemned the IRA bombing in Enniskillen on Remembrance Day 1987?

As the editor of this newspaper has pointed out, it is not unreasonable to ask reassurance from the former head of the Royal College of Nursing that she deplored a massacre in which three of the victims were nurses. However, she is already well trained in evasion and gibberish.

Having seen the trauma of many people that lived through that period, she explained: “Let’s not go back there, let’s move forward and bring hope and prosperity to the people.”

Which is a bit much from someone standing for a political party that never misses an opportunity for whataboutery and the recitation of past frequently imaginary wrongs done to its supporters.

Since I receive such torrents of negativity, it’s refreshing when I hear the opposite. Last week I was at a conference featuring people from around the United Kingdom when a Northern Ireland unionist said: “Thank you for what you write about us. Sometimes I wonder if it all really happened.”

Which sums up what Sinn Fein are trying to achieve. Obliterate the embarrassing past by intimidation, attrition and lies.

And that is why I will go on writing about victims of the IRA — and about Fermanagh, a beautiful county with singularly kind people, which experienced appalling cruelty as IRA killers nipped across the border to murder freely and mostly got away with it.

Just to remind you of what you should already know, Ms Cullen, here is another example of stark evil.

After the IRA began targeting their neighbours, the father and four children of the courageous Fermanagh Graham family joined the UDR part-time to protect them. In 1979, aged 27, Hilary, a spinner, died some weeks after being hit by a car crashing through a checkpoint.

Less than two years later, 39-year-old Lance-Corporal Ronnie, a father of three, was murdered as he delivered coal; one conspirator was a 13-year-old who had been recruited into the Fianna, the IRA junior wing, by a teacher.

Five months after that, Cecil, 32, died a couple of days after being shot 16 times as he visited his Catholic wife and their five-week-old premature baby who were staying temporarily with her family in a republican area.

His father-in-law said at the inquest that in the two years since then, not one neighbour had even mentioned his death.

In 1985, 39-year-old Jimmy – farmer, bus driver and father of two, who had been awarded the British Empire Medal after he fought off an assassination attempt in 1980 – was riddled with 26 bullets as he drove a school bus.

“This is genocide,” said the local MP Ken Maginnis – “a conscious effort by the IRA to systematically wipe out Protestant families”.

In a typical forbearing Fermanagh response, their surviving sibling Pamela said many years later: “We never retaliated, because you were just going to leave more sad homes, like we were living in ourselves.”

Their lives were taken from them so we owe it to them to tell their stories. I will go on.

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