Memorial service marks 20 years since tragedy

THE families of those murdered in the IRA massacre at Teebane gathered with survivors, politicians and members of the public on Sunday at the spot where eight civilian workers were robbed of their lives.

Rev. William McCrea and Rev. Ivor Smyth lead the praise at the memorial service at the rural crossroads two days before the tragedy reached it’s 20th anniversary.

Seven construction workers died instantly on January 17th, 1992 after an IRA bomb exploded at Teebane crossroads on the road between Omagh and Cookstown as they returned from work at Lisanelly army barracks. The driver of the blue Mercedes minibus died four days later in hospital from his injuries.

Additionally, six other men also travelling in the minibus were left with serious injuries.

Speaking after the service, family members of those killed voiced their frustration and anger that in two decades, no-one person has ever been brought to justice.

“To him it was just a job,” said Linda Clarke, whose 22 year-old brother Nigel McKee was killed in the atrocity.

“He would have been 43 in March. He had just got his HGV licence so that he’d be able to drive lorries. He’d always worked in construction. He’d been going out with a girl.

“My father had died when I was two, so after Nigel died, it was just my mother and I.

“My mother is now 71 and won’t talk about it, she gets too annoyed.

“This year the 20th anniversary means a lot to us. However it is gut-wrenching to think that 20 years after my little brother was murdered we are still no closer to justice.

“Ten years ago we went to William McCrea and started asking questions. That was when we found out the police investigation had been closed.”

The Historical Enquiries Team has re-investigated the atrocity but Linda says the families have been left disappointed.

“The main feeling among the families is frustration,” she said.

“After all this time, still no one has been caught and now they say too much time has passed.”

Ruth Forrest, sister of 24 year-old Teebane victim David Harkness, also expressed her hurt and anguish at how long it has taken to get some answers to the many questions surrounding his, and his colleagues’ death.

“The loss of David has left a devastating and profound effect on the whole family circle, his life being cut down at the young age of 24 years,” said Ruth in a family statement.

“Prior to his death David had been living and working in Australia and only came home because mum was ill at the time.

“He took the only available work going at home which was with a firm called Karl Construction but his intentions was to go back to Australia.

“David was a quiet fellow and didn’t talk much about his work but he knew there was a heavy threat on at the time and had confided to mum about it. Unfortunately the week leading up to his death he had taken mums car to work but on the Friday, 17th January he left the car and took the van.

“He was killed instantly.”

Ruth continued: “As a family we have been robbed of a loving Son and Darling Brother, not to mention grandson, nephew, brother in law and uncle to 11 nephews and nieces.

No one has ever been brought to justice for the murder of David and his 7 workmates.

“The HET report was revealed to the families in November 2010, answering a lot of the questions which had never been revealed to the families before. Although I personally found the report very distressing the HET team were very helpful.

“I think it is disgusting it has taken almost 20 years to get some answers for what was one of the biggest atrocities and loss of civilian life during the Troubles.”