Northern Ireland

Greysteel 'Trick or Treat' massacre 20 years on

Scene outside Image copyright PAcemaker press
Image caption It happened a week after the Shankill bombing as people were celebrating Halloween.

It was one of the worst atrocities of the troubles - a night on the eve of Halloween in 1993.

UDA gunmen entered the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel and shot dead seven people. Another man later died from his injuries.

Before opening fire, one of the gunmen shouted "trick or treat."

The youngest victim - 19 year old Karen Thompson - replied "that's not funny."

What should have been a weekend of colour and spectacle as people celebrated Halloween turned to terrible tragedy in a matter of minutes.

The attack in Greysteel happened a week after the Shankill bombing. It was like many areas the North-West - gripped by fear of reprisal.

In pubs and clubs customers nervously turned around every time someone came through the front entrance. Extra door staff were on duty but it did not diminish the sense of unease.

On the night of the attack word quickly filtered through of a terrible attack in Greysteel. A colleague in Belfast told me to get to the scene as soon as possible as there were reports of multiple deaths.

For those who were present on that night it was a dreadful experience they will never forget.

Fr Stephen Kearney was the Catholic curate based in the area. He said "pictures flash in my mind now and again of people standing around and the rosary being said."

That is exactly what it was like. People gathered outside the Rising Sun pub and spoke in hushed tones. At another end of the lane there were audible cries in the still night air as people arrived and were given the terrible news.

All the time the emergency services calmly responded to the huge loss of life and the terrible injuries. Ambulance lights were flashing and pain and anguish was etched on every face.

'Screaming was overwhelming'

One of the first paramedics on the scene was Adrian McAuley.

"We had just come back to our base when we got a call to go to the Rising Sun bar for a shooting.

"We turned off the main road and there were about 20 or 30 people outside. They were absolutely frantic waving their arms in shock.

"We were stunned. We saw people shot and wounded lying on the floor and slumped in their seats.

"The sound of crying and screaming was overwhelming.

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Media captionMartin Duddy's mother, Moira, was killed in the attack

"That first sight mixed with the smell of gun smoke, will never leave me."

In the wake of the tragedy, the community in Greysteel was besieged by the world's media. At the funerals the then SDLP leader John Hume was urged to continue with his efforts in the peace process. He broke down - reflecting the sense of bewilderment among the wider public.

In the wake of Greysteel the peace process began to take hold said Fr Stephen Kearney.

"It created an opportunity for the people of Greysteel to get to know each other and John Hume put that message across greatly.

"When I was young I thought I could change the world. Greysteel changed me for the better."

People in Greysteel have been trying to move on with their lives. The Vale Centre business park was further developed to give the area new employment and a sense of renewal. For outsiders who have come to work here there is a determination to foster even greater community harmony.

A local business woman said: "I came here nine years ago and set up my business and have noticed a community working together for the greater good. That's what has struck me....the sense of community."

Many of those who lost loved ones in the attack simply want to solemnly remember them in a quiet and dignified way away from the glare of the media. The sense of loss remains palpable to this day - despite the passing of twenty years.