Claudy bomb victim Mary Hamilton has lamented Martin McGuinness’ passing without having disclosed all he knew of the 1972 atrocity.
Mrs. Hamilton was among the badly injured when three car bombs exploded in the County Derry village on July 31, 1972, one outside the Beaufort Hotel she managed with her husband Ernie at the time.
She was one of the lucky ones.
Kathryn Eakin (8), Joseph McCluskey (39), David Miller (60), James McClelland (65), William Temple (16), Elizabeth McElhinney (59), Rose McLaughlin (51), Patrick Connolly (15) and Arthur Hone (38) were all killed in the triple bomb blast that devastated the sleepy rural village forty-five years ago this year.
Mrs. Hamilton said she wished Mr. McGuinness had met with relatives to address claims that the bombing had been ordered by the Derry City Brigade of the IRA in retaliation for the the British Army’s Operation Motorman, which was attempting to break the ‘no go’ area of Free Derry in the Bogside on the same morning.
She said that the former Sinn Féin and IRA leader’s passing three weeks ago means the families of the Claudy victim will never have a chance to question him about what he knew about the notorius bomb attack.
“Martin McGuinness has now made his last journey,” she said.
“During his life he made many journeys to the United States of America and other places and I was very disappointed that he was unable to take a 10 mile journey to Claudy to meet the relatives of the dead and the wounded victims,” she added.
The long-standing unionist councillor claimed that Mr. McGuinness could have addressed claims that the South Derry IRA had been ordered to plant the bombs in Claudy to ease pressure on the IRA in Derry City, which was the focus of Operation Motorman at the time.
Unverified intelligence sources and anonymous tip-offs suggested that this had been the case although this was never proven, the Police Ombudsman reported in 2010,
Mrs. Hamilton said Mr. McGuinness, who acknowledged having been a senior member of the Derry Brigade of the IRA in 1972, should have come forward to confirm or deny the claims.
“It would have meant so much to the Claudy victims if he had made that journey to tell us what he knew, if not to clear his name, because if I was blamed for something I did not do I would go to any length to clear my name. No journey would be too far,” she said.
Mrs. Hamilton said that the carnage she witnessed in the village almost a half century ago haunts her to this day. “The sights I saw that day will stay with me all my life. A lady without arms, legs on fire; a young boy, his first day on the milk lorry, blown to piece at my side; a gentleman whose head was blown off and was picked off a fence and his insides blown out at my feet; and other victims that I saw. How do you cope with that?” she asked.
Mrs. Hamilton also remembered her brother-in-law George ‘Ellis’ Hamilton (28) who was shot dead a few months after the Claudy atrocity.
The part-time Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) man was working for the Derry Development Commission (DDC) on the Croppy Hill reservoir near the city when he was shot in the back by an IRA sniper on December 20, 1972, on another dark day for the North West.
Later that day loyalist gunmen burst into Annie’s Bar in Top of the Hill and opened fire killing four Catholics and one Protestant: Michael McGinley (37), Charles McCafferty (32), Charles Moore (31), Bernard Kelly (28) and Frank McCarron (58).
Mrs. Hamilton said: “My brother-in-law was shot in the back at his work in Londonderry and died leaving a wife and four year old daughter. What a waste of life.
“Martin has left a widow and family behind. There were lots of widows and families across the province who lost loved ones and were unable to be at their bedsides and say goodbye.”
She said the IRA has left her a legacy for much of her added life and found it difficult to listen to the eulogies offered up to the late Mr. McGuinness.
“I do not need a reminder of Martin McGuinness as I live with my injuries everyday and suffer with the shrapnel in my body and all my horrific injuries. ”