Still seeking justice for our dad

The funeral cortege of Jim Loughrey in 1976.
The funeral cortege of Jim Loughrey in 1976.

John Loughrey was sitting on his kitchen floor playing a football game on a Sunday evening in November 1976 when there was a knock at the door of his home in Greysteel.

His father went to answer the door preventing any other family member answering it, and as he opened the door Jim Loughrey was shot 12 times by two loyalist gunmen who then ran away.

FAther-of-eight Jim Loughrey was murdered by loyalists in November 1976. (2809BM01)

FAther-of-eight Jim Loughrey was murdered by loyalists in November 1976. (2809BM01)

Jim was to survive for another 11 days before succumbing to his wounds on November 25.

Suddenly the Loughrey family were plunged into a nightmare going from just another happy family to one where their mother Mary would be faced with raising eight children on her own at the tender age of 34.

As Pauline Loughrey, John’s sister, said: “Daddy was there and then he was not.”

John Loughrey recalled the immediate aftermath of the shooting: “I can remember the house filling with neighbours and hearing crying in the hall. My father had tried to run away from the gunmen but he did not make it.”

Following the shooting John said that he could not remember anything for years afterwards.

He said: “After the shooting I couldn’t sleep at night and until I was 14 I had this fear and dread that my mother would also disappear as suddenly as my father had. I also had nightmares that someone was going to shoot me. But as regards the actual night of the shooting I had simply blacked it out of my memory and could remember nothing at all. It was strange but it was not until around 1982 or so that everything came back to me.

“What brought it back was a shooting in south Armagh; I think it was the Darkley shooting. Someone had made a recording of the actual shots being fired and when I heard that it just brought everything rushing back. The sounds like fireworks going off just brought everything back.”

For Mary Loughrey the prospect of having to bring up eight children aged from 15 to 4 on her own, with no financial help apart from a widow’s pension, was daunting but like many women of her time she simply got on with it.

John Loughrey describes his mother as “an amazingly resilient woman who did an incredible job raising us despite the financial and emotional hardship caused by our father’s murder.”

He added: “The only money my mother was ever offered was £150 in funeral expenses and this would not even have covered the cost of my father’s funeral. She was never offered any compensation or anything like that.”

John went on: “My father believed strongly in education for his children and one lasting impact of his murder was that we did not have access to the educational opportunities he had hoped for. For some of us there was the perceived need to get out and start earning money to help contribute to the house.”

Pauline still gets emotional when she recalls having to leave Thornhill College in Derry and go to a school closer to home.

She said: “I can still remember how it felt to have to leave Thornhill. Mammy told us that she simply couldn’t send us to Thornhill anymore and we had to move.

“At the new school there seemed to be no understanding about what had happened to us and no allowances made for us.”

Pauline added: “We simply did not talk about the shooting among ourselves and I suppose we all dealt with it in our own ways.”

One of the hardest things for the whole family was that they stayed in the family home where their father was murdered.

John said: “We stayed in the same home and of course there were reminders everywhere. Every time we redecorated you could see the strike marks from the bullets they fired that night.

“At the end of the day my mother is a simply amazing woman who brought us up despite the incredibly difficult circumstances she found herself in.”

As regards the HET report into Jim’s shooting which concluded that collusion between the loyalist killers and members of the British security forces was a possibility that could not be ruled out, the Loughrey family are less than impressed.

John said: “After the report we do know a bit more but there are still too many unanswered questions.

“My mother saw a white car outside our house on the day of the shooting and one of the people in it matched a description my sister gave of the gunmen running away.

“Then there was the checkpoint that Pauline saw when she was coming home from Mass minutes before the shooting. Was that coincidence?

“David Hamilton, a UDR man, was convicted of having the gun that was used to shoot John Toland.

“The same gun was used to shoot my father yet no link was ever made. Ironically David Hamilton was our bus driver who used to take us to school.

“But despite there being evidence of collusion in the report, the report itself falls short of coming out and saying there was.”

Pauline said: “If someone had been convicted of our father’s murder, at least that would have been something and we could have felt we got some sort of justice. But the way it is with no-one ever being charged we felt that no-one cared.”