A Derry woman who was just seven when her big brother was shot dead by a British solider has spoken publicly about the impact his killing had on her life.
Fiona Gallagher spoke at the Holywell Trust this afternoon about how proud she was of her brother Jim, a man she had always looked up to.
“I remember Jim as a strong but good natured man,” said Fiona. “He was very much a socialist and believed in people having their rights.”
She described how Jim had been so incensed by what happened in Derry on Bloody Sunday that he had joined the IRA.
Aged 17 he was arrested on charges of IRA membership and planting a bomb in Rossdowney Road and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Jim was released in May 1976, but just six days after his release he was shot and mortally wounded while travelling on a bus down Strand Road.
“The events of that night will always be in dispute,” said Fiona. “We will never get the absolute truth.
“Jim got the bus with his then girlfriend Deirdre. Two shots were fired when the bus ran parallel with Fort George, there was a pause, and two more shots were fired directly at the bus hitting Jim at the base of the neck hitting his lung and a main artery.
“Jim called out, I’m shot. The bus man decided he had to move the bus and drove it to the grounds of Pennyburn Chapel and it was here that Jim’s life ended, it was rapid.
“Another man in the bus, Michael Doherty cradled Jim, and a young soldier got on and tried to stem the blood loss. I have often thought about that, the humanity of the solider who tried to help Jim and the inhumanity of the soldier who shot him.
“That was the night that devastated my family. My sister Ursula was only six weeks old. She was denied ever getting to know her big brother. Jim would have been an amazing uncle, he would have been an amazing father.”
Fiona revealed how Jim’s death led to her feelings of anger and rage, feelings that only subsided when she stumbled upon a website ‘Veterans for Peace and a video made by Ben Griffin.
“It turned all my thinking on its head,” she said. “I watched the video in tears and felt compelled to reach out to Ben. Now I have made many friends on Veterans for Peace. From the most unlikely of sources I was getting compassion and I was starting to heal,” she said.
For full story see Friday’s Journal.