Greysteel killings: 'I didn't realise I had been shot'

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Media caption,

Greysteel killings: 'I didn't realise I'd been shot'

It was supposed to be a good night out for Christine O'Donnell and her friends - a hen do in the local pub in Greysteel, County Londonderry.

But that ordinary Saturday 25 years ago turned into a nightmare.

Gunmen burst into the Rising Sun bar and sprayed it with bullets.

Seven people were killed. An eighth died later of his injuries.

Ms O'Donnell was shot in the abdomen but survived.

"I didn't actually realise I had been hit," she says.

"I just felt a burning sensation in my stomach."

The loyalist UDA, using the cover name of the UFF, claimed responsibility for the Greysteel attack.

Four men received life sentences for the murders - Jeffrey Deeney, Stephen Irwin, Torrens Knight and Brian McNeill.

Image source, PACEMAKER
Image caption,
The inside of the Rising Sun bar after the gun attack

Ms O'Donnell was with her sister-in-law when the gunfire started.

Half of the hen party had left in taxis. Ms O'Donnell and her sister-in-law were waiting for another one to arrive.

"I remember seeing the first boy coming in," she tells BBC News NI.

She heard his taunt of "trick or treat" and said to her sister-in-law "that's not very funny with what happened last week".

Only a week before, nine people and an IRA bomber were killed in a bombing at a fish shop on the Shankill Road in Belfast.

Ms O'Donnell was not alone in noticing the remark.

Nineteen-year-old Karen Thompson was also heard to have said "that's not funny".

She was to become the youngest victim of the Greysteel shooting.

Deaths between the Shankill bombing and the Greysteel killings:

  • 25 October - Martin Moran, 22, killed by loyalists while working in Belfast. Sean Fox, 72, killed by the UVF at his home in Glengormley, near Belfast.
  • 26 October - James Cameron, 54, and Mark Rodgers, 28. Both killed by the UFF at their workplace in Andersonstown, Belfast.
  • 28 October - Brothers Gerard Cairns, 22, and Rory Cairns, 18, killed by the UVF at their home in Lurgan.

Source: CAIN

'Pulled to the floor'

"After the first fella, the next one came in and that's when it started," Ms O'Donnell says.

"I actually didn't realise what was going on, but my sister-in-law pulled me to the floor.

"I didn't actually realise I had been hit - I just felt a burning sensation in my stomach."

Ms O'Donnell vividly recalls the horrific scene when the shooting stopped.

Media caption,

The Greysteel attack happened a week after the Shankill bombing.

"I knew practically everybody that was killed," she says.

"I saw them all lying on the floor and it wasn't a pretty site.

"I was very fortunate. Put it down to good posture, or bad posture, but the bullet that hit me missed everything vital."

On the 25th anniversary of the attack, she says her focus is, and always has been on the future.

"I'm not a person who looks back, I try and look forward. That's just me.

"I just hope that everything now stays peaceful, the way it has been.

"That's all that people can hope for. It's what everybody wants."

'A kind, gentle, loving mother'

Martin Duddy's mother, Moira, was one of those shot dead in the pub.

He says the 59-year-old was "kind, gentle, loving" and had "a mother's intuition".

He said her murder tore the family apart.

Image caption,
Mr Duddy was 19 when his mother was shot in the attack

"The mother to me is the unit that holds everything together in the house," Mr Duddy told BBC News NI.

"It's who you go to. She looked out for us all.

"She did everything for us and nothing was a problem - we always came first."

At the time of the shooting, Mr Duddy was 19.

He says it left him asking "why did it happen?" but that he has never been able to explain it.

"It happened and the tragedy ripped through the community at the time and still is in everybody's hearts."

Like Ms O'Donnell, Mr Duddy hopes peace will continue, and that others will never have to experience what he or his family did.

"I want a future that has no violence, no borders or divides, that everybody can get on together and not have to worry about what religion they are, but just get along," he said.