IT was that type of rain that was enough to soak your hair but not enough to make the awkwardness of the umbrella worth it. The ground was wet and slippy in the graveyard, so as she made her way to throw soil on her son’s coffin five people moved around her to make sure she didn’t fall, gripping her elbows, her waist, her light coat. Clara Magee didn’t notice any of them. She was saying goodbye to her son. At 85 years she shouldn’t have been burying another child. The second of her beautiful twins.
Next month will be the 25th anniversary of the murder of Peter, gunned down when he was only 18 years with four others in the Ormeau Road bookies. Martin may not have been hit by the bullets that day but they penetrated him all the same. He lived the next 25 years suffering the effects of trauma which led to his untimely death. All who stood at the grave watched Clara with the understanding that she will be buried with Peter and Martin sometime in the, hopefully, distant future.
Meanwhile Clara Magee awaits the findings of a Police Ombudsman report into the collusion between the UFF and the RUC which was at the heart of these killings.
On Nollaig na mBan we woke to the news that another mother who had buried three sons as a result of the conflict had passed away in Tyrone. Maura McKearney opened Relatives for Justice offices in Dungannon. She was the living embodiment of dignity and grace. At the time of her death she was still waiting for the inquests into the killings of two of her sons, Pádraig who was killed in Loughgall in 1987 and Kevin, killed with his uncle Jack in the Moy in 1992. Kevin’s wife Bernie also grieves the abominable murders of her parents Tess and Charlie Fox in 1992.
All of our conflict losses were unbearable and have a lasting impact. But for mummies it’s different. We all instinctively know that. In this country we joke and love our Irish Mammies. We know that as children we are part of them in a very special way that words cannot express. But my God how badly those who lost their children in our conflict are being treated. This generation of mothers buried their children, sometimes with closed coffins, supported their spouses and their other children, coped with their own trauma, or rather put it aside like an open wound, and ensured that their family’s life continued despite their own lives crashing down around them. And we are complacently allowing them to go into their older years and into graves with those dead children, without the dignity of acknowledgement or truth.
When a term like misogyny is bandied about for self-interest I feel like dragging the offender in front of these women denied their experience of egregious wrongs, who are being daily denied basic legal rights, by the British Government/DUP anti-victim axis. Because the over whelming numbers of those representing the dead in our courts are women – widows, sisters, daughters and yes mothers. We must deliver to these families soon. Before there is more heartbreak or more poignant stories. Time is not on their or our side. Our society cannot continue to be so cruel.