Hillcrest campaigner and father dies before discovering truth about his son’s murder

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The father of a Dungannon schoolboy, murdered by a notorious loyalist gang, has died before discovering the truth about his son’s death.

Norrie (Norbert) McCaughey, 81, from Woodburn Crescent, campaigned for more than 40 years to have justice done for his son and other victims of the Glenanne gang.

He passed away on Sunday just a fortnight after the 41st anniversary of the brutal loyalist bombing that killed his son James and best friend Patrick Barnard, both 13, as they walked past the Hillcrest Bar on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1976.

Two others, Andrew Small and Joseph Kelly were killed by the bomb, which tore the heart out of the busy Donaghmore Road area of Dungannon, and launched Norrie on a quest for justice and the truth that earned him respect and admiration across the political divide.

So horrific were young James’s injuries that Norrie was only able to identify his son by the pioneer pin he was wearing on his jacket lapel. The family never celebrated a St Patrick’s day afterwards.

In 2010, the McCaugheys received a public apology from the British government for the “gross intrusion” caused when police used “flawed intelligence” to raid their home eight hours after their beloved son was killed.

Throughout his campaign, Norrie insisted that he was not seeking to have his son’s killers punished, only to have the truth told.

His demands for a public inquest to examine claims of state collusion were delayed by court proceedings and a long-running legal battle.

The Glenanne gang were linked to more than 120 murders on both sides of the border during the early 1970s.

Along with other victims, Norrie launched a legal action against the PSNI for failing to complete an overarching review of the activities of the gang, which allegedly contained members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment.

SDLP Councillor Denise Mullen, whose father Denis was also a victim of the gang, paid tribute to Norrie.

“I’m deeply saddened by Norrie’s death. He was tireless in his pursuit of the truth and reached out to many people, including me, even though we would not necessarily have agreed on political matters.

“We sought the same answers and shared the viewpoint that it was the truth we wanted and not punishment.

“With the amount of time that has passed since the 1970s more and more parents and partners of the victims are passing away without discovering the truth.

“It’s time we had some accountability and answers or this pattern will be retreated and more relatives will go to their graves.”

Norrie, who was the was the husband of the late Molly, father of Peter, Teresa, Siobhan, Martin, Rhoda, Patrick, Brenda and Helen and the late James and Paul, passed away peacefully at home on Sunday surrounded by his loving family. His funeral Mass will take place on Wednesday at 10am in St Patrick’s Church, Dungannon, with burial afterwards in St Malachy’s Cemetery, Edendork.