Northern Ireland

Troubles: Plea to include suicide in death toll

Ernie and James
Image caption Ernie Wilson (left) has no doubt that his son, James, took his own life because of the Troubles

There has been a call for an official record of suicides linked to the Troubles.

Ernie Wilson was a part-time UDR soldier when an IRA bomb exploded on the school bus he was driving in Lisnaskea in 1988.

The school children on board the bus included the current DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Although no-one died in the blast, a year after the bombing, Mr Wilson's 27-year-old son, James, took his own life.

Image caption Ernie Wilson was a part-time UDR soldier when an IRA bomb exploded on the school bus he was driving in Lisnaskea in 1988

The 82-year-old year said James blamed himself for what happened to his father's bus, as he helped to check it every morning before it left their family home.

Mr Wilson said there was no way his son could have spotted the concealed device.

"He just went quiet, out of himself," recalled Ernie Wilson. "He wasn't the same James, lively and stuff.

"He was always the man for doing the work around the house, cutting the grass and cleaning up but that had all gone.

"He just went down."

'Awful thing to live with'

Mr Wilson says he has never recovered from losing his son.

Image caption Ernie Wilson said his son had always done work around the house, cleaning and cutting the grass - but that changed after the bus bomb

"You never forget it, it's always always there," he said. "Never leaves.

"That's a number of years gone by now, and James is always on your mind".

An emotional Mr Wilson added: "It's an awful thing to live with, desperate thing to live with. I'll take it to the grave with me."

Mr Wilson has no doubt that his son took his own life because of the Troubles and, he says, his death should be recognised on the official death toll.

Image caption Ernie Wilson says deaths by suicide linked to the Troubles should be recorded as Troubles-related

"If there was no Troubles and that happened to James, that's a completely different story.

"It was the Troubles that done it on James."

The former school bus driver believes that similar deaths by suicide, linked to the conflict, should also be recorded as Troubles-related, but only with the agreement of each family.

"That's if their parents, or whoever is left allows it or wants it. I'm not talking for anyone else, only myself. You might have people there who wouldn't want that, but in my opinion , it should be".

The number of people who lost their lives in the Northern Ireland conflict is estimated to be about 3,600.

However, this figure is believed to include only a very small number of people who died by suicide.

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