A LONDONDERRY fire-fighter and the son of a woman whose life he saved will meet for the first time as Ballykelly marks the 30th anniversary of the Droppin’ Well atrocity.
BY NIALL DEENEY
However an Army paramedic who was also involved in saving the life of Nicola George (later Lockett) will not be able to attend this weekend’s commemoration ceremony - because of the mental scars he still bears 30 years later.
Tomorrow marks 30 years to the day since 17 young men and women were killed when the Droppin’ Well pub was blown apart. 11 soldiers and six civilians died.
After learning of their heroism through the Sentinel, Steven Lockett expressed his thanks to Londonderry fire-fighter Paul O’Kane for his courageous actions, and acknowledges that he would not have been born were it not for the Londonderry man’s bravery and that of Army medic, Steve ‘Taffy’ Horvath.
Mr Lockett’s mother Nicola survived thanks to the selfless actions of emergency services such as Paul O’Kane, and off-duty army medic Steve Horvath who was in the bar at the time of the bombing. Sadly, Mr Horvath cannot join Mr O’Kane and Mr Lockett at this weekend’s memorial service in Tamlaghtfinlagan Church due to his ongoing struggles with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, caused by the horrors of the Ballykelly bombing.
Steven Lockett’s upbringing is representative of that experienced by many young people whose families have been left to pick up the pieces after the horrors wrought by armed groups during the darkest days of the ‘Troubles’.
He recalls how his mother and father struggled to cope with the aftermath of the slaughter, how he noticed his mother’s limp, caused by injuries sustained in the bombing, for the first time as a young man, watching a relative’s wedding video. He told how, 30 years on, his family still struggle to speak about the events of that day, as well as his own difficulty coming to terms with the actions of those behind the bombing.
He said: “I had always asked questions to the family but it was never really talked about much, and I never really liked to ask too many questions because I wasn’t here when it happened.
“Talking about my mother, she had a really, really tough time afterwards – getting back on her feet. It had a really big impact on my father too. I think he was in it as well - he was affected by it. My family don’t like talking about it.
“Other members of my family get upset about it every now and then, because of losing my aunt and because of what it did to my mother. It is hard for me to describe the views of the family because each member of the family might just have a different view.
“At a time I thought; why did they do it? Yes, I was angry about it. What they did was wrong, but it is not up to me to judge them.
“It was evil what they did, and it was two girls who carried out that attack and they walked out, knowing what was going to happen. How they could have walked into that bar knowing what they had done and walked out, and then, live with the consequences of 17 lives being lost. Anybody that glorifies the INLA, I would say ‘shut your mouth’.
“I would love to meet the people behind it face to face. But no matter what they could tell me, it will never be good enough.
“My family has been affected by it. My mother was affected by it, my father was affected by it. I had an aunt that I never got to meet.
“The way that I have dealt with it is; I don’t talk about it. People don’t talk about it because it brings up a lot of memories. “Now that it is thirty years on, a lot of people think – well, that was back in the eighties. That was a long time ago now.
“Everybody in this country in some area, in some way through some sort of connection, through a certain part of their family, have been affected, directly or indirectly to what happened in this country. But hopefully, now, we can move forward and people can get past it.
“Some people can’t get past it, and will hold that resentment. But I can say for myself, that I don’t.”