A woman who watched her father take his last breaths after being shot dead by the IRA in 1976 says recent efforts by the Orange Order to commemorate his death are a great comfort.
The County Londonderry Grand Orange Lodge recently dedicated a bannerette to ‘murdered brethren’ - 18 men whose lives were taken from them during the Troubles.
The daughter of one of the men, a part-time corporal in the UDR who was gunned down at his garage, spoke about the comfort the Orange Order’s efforts have brought to her family, who have yet to see the killers brought to justice.
Deirdre Speer-White, the eldest of three children, was 16 years-of-age when her father James Speer was killed in November 1976.
Ahead of the 40th anniversary of his death, Deirdre spoke about the horrifying moment she found her father in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the lack of justice the family has had to endure, and the struggle coming to terms with such a brutal murder.
She said: “He was 46 when he was killed. It happened in 1976 so it is the 40th anniversary of his death this year.
“I was 16. My sister Cheryl was 14 and my brother Dermot was 10. It was coming up to my 17th birthday. We were there. We didn’t see the actual seconds when it happened but his garage was only a few feet across the road from our home so we heard the shots.
“He was in the office in the garage, talking across the desk to the secretary. She phoned across, I think she tried phoning the police when the gunman was still there. She phoned across to my mother and we all ran out and we saw him taking his last breaths. I saw him.
“It is not something that ever leaves you. It is something you never forget - the site of his dead body lying there, all the blood.”
An inquest has never been held into the death of the father-of-three, which has compounded the family’s grief over the last four decades.
“Nothing has been done,” Deirdre said. “There was no justice for any of these people. At least when the Orange does something like this bannerette at least you know they are still remembered. I know who murdered my father and he has never been convicted of it.
“People in my generation went through this didn’t and don’t have anyone to talk to about it. Things like counselling just weren’t there back then. The only counselling I really needed would have been to know that at least some sort of justice had gone on - but it hasn’t been done.
“When these reports, the historical enquiries ones, were given to you they didn’t mean anything. They didn’t do anything. It was just a piece of paper handed to you and you were meant to be appreciative that somebody had rehashed the information that you had given them. There isn’t going to be any justice.
“People from a younger generation can’t imagine things like that happening here, in their own country. They see the likes of Isis on the TV and they chop the head off somebody and people see that level of absolute brutality.
“They can’t imagine that sort of thing happening here - but it did. The IRA were cutting people down in ditches and doorsteps for years. There was a gang of them in East Londonderry and they were slaughtering people.”
Deirdre said it was comforting to know her father has not been forgotten: “It’s a big comfort to see something that is there for posterity. We haven’t got justice but that, at least, lets you know that he hasn’t been forgotten.”
18 MURDERED MEN
A new bannerette has been unveiled in memory of 18 Orangemen from Co Londonderry who were murdered by terrorists during the Troubles. The men killed were:
JOSPEH FORSYTHE - LOL 699
Builder killed on March 28, 1972 in an IRA bomb.
JOHN ARRELL - LOL 400
UDR Private shot dead on January 22, 1976 while driving.
ROBERT LENNOX - LOL 1713
UDR Staff Sergeant shot dead on April 2, 1976 in an IRA ambush.
ARTHUR MCKAY - LOL 228
RUC Reserve Constable killed in a car bomb, October 8, 2917
WINSTON McCAUGHEY - LOL 928
UDR Lance Corporal shot dead at home, November 11, 1976
JAMES SPEER - LOL 1015
UDR Corporal shot dead, November 9, 1976 at his garage
SAMUEL ARMOUR - LOL 855
RUC Reserve Constable killed by a car bomb, December 22, 1976
WILLIAM GREER - LOL 757
RUC Reserve Constable killed by a car bomb, January 4, 1977
DAVID MCQUILLAN - LOL 757
UDR Private shot dead, March 15, 1977, at work
ARTHUR McGRAW - LOL 202
Shot dead, August 10, 1979, at home.
ALAN RITCHIE - LOL 1262
UDR Private shot dead in an IRA ambush, May 25, 1981
BROWN McKEOWN - LOL 678
UDR Lance Corporal shot dead at home, December 17, 1983
HARRY HENRY - LOL 1262
Builder shot dead at home, April 21, 1987.
NORMAN KENNEDY - LOL 254
RUC Constable shot dead at home, June 27, 1987
WINSTON FINLAY - LOL 120
UDR Private shot dead at home, August 30, 1987
ROBERT GLOVER - LOL 868
UDR Private killed in a car bomb, November 15, 1989.
HUBERT GILMORE - LOL 175
Ex-UDR private shot dead at a building site, December 1, 1990.
ALAN SMYTH - LOL 361
Ex-UDR Private shot dead in a car, April 24, 1994.