Churchmen seek united solution to Ulster strife: The seven victims of the Greysteel pub shootings were buried yesterday. Ian MacKinnon reports on pleas for peace made at their funerals

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH and Irish governments, which have sought to distance themselves from the Hume-Adams peace initiative, were yesterday urged to redouble their efforts to find a solution to end the strife in Northern Ireland as the seven victims of the Greysteel pub massacre were buried.

With John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, among the thousands of mourners for five of the dead, Dr Edward Daly, the former Bishop of Derry, was clearly referring to the talks between the MP for Foyle and Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein president, when he said those who talk to terrorists and their allies should be supported and encouraged.

Several hours later the bishop heard the same message echoed as he sat with those grieving for John Burns, 54, the only Protestant to die as he sat among Catholic friends when gunmen from the Ulster Freedom Fighters raked the lounge bar of the Rising Sun pub late on Saturday.

At about the time Mr Burns was being buried, the funeral of the seventh and youngest victim of the slaughter, Karen Thompson, 19, was taking place in Ballykelly several miles from Greysteel, her coffin shouldered by her brother Jeremy, on his 21st birthday, her father, Anthony, and Tommy Mullan, father of her boyfriend, Steven, who died alongside her.

The journey for three of the five who were buried together began where their lives had ended, at the Rising Sun. Beneath an unbroken blanket of grey in the chill of autumn, the hearses carrying the coffins of Steven Mullan, 20, Jimmy Moore, 81, and John Moyne, 50, gathered and paused outside the pub.

Propped against the pub wall, the floral tributes bearing messages - some angry, some forgiving, some bewildered - had multiplied. Hundreds of villagers stood in hushed anticipation, among them Mr Burns' 14-year-old daughter, Gillian, her eyes bulging with sodden grief.

Thousands followed the hearses as they moved along the road to Londonderry to join the coffins of Moira Duddy, 59, and Joe McDermott, 54, for the Requiem Mass at St Mary's Star of the Sea Church. The car park and grounds around the church overlooking Lough Foyle was filled with those who could not get inside to hear the parish priest, Father Jack Gallagher, talk of those who had died and Bishop Daly make his impassioned plea for peace.

'We must appeal to govern ments with responsibility to treat

this intolerable situation with the urgency and priority it deserves, not just in the aftermath of atrocities like this, but until the problem is finally resolved and the conflict ended,' the bishop said.

As the five were buried Mr Hume said the bishop's support for his peace effort was welcomed. 'I thought his statement was very good. He has been strong in his support and I'm grateful. Members of the families who were weeping came up to me and said 'keep it up'. That's encouraging.'

After comforting one family the MP broke down at the graveside. He later travelled the short distance to Eglinton where several thousand people filled the lane to walk from Mr Burns' home to Faughanvale Presbyterian church on the outskirts of the village.

Those who gathered heard that Mr Burns' wife, Nellie, who was critically injured in the attack but was 'better and brighter', had asked that her husband's mourners should be given tea in the church hall. But the mourners heard the Rev Jim Gray condemn the killers and point up the irony that despite all the dangers Mr Burns had faced when he was a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, it was loyalist gunmen who had killed him.

'The Ulster Freedom Fighters claimed responsibility for the atrocity,' he said. 'What threat did the decent people who were killed and injured pose to anyone, to anyone's freedom. We feel a sense of revulsion that it was done in the name of the Protestant community. All the gunmen can offer is bondage with terror. The situation appears to be deteriorating and we trust that the politicians will redouble their efforts in imaginative ways to bring about an understanding that will lead to a lasting peace.'

A Requiem Mass was said for Karen Thompson at St Finlough's Church in Ballykelly by the Auxiliary Bishop of Derry, Frances Lagan, who said there was heartache for her family in the cutting 'off of a young life'. 'That she died with her sweetheart adds a special sense to her death. It is almost too much for the human spirit to bear,' the bishop said.

(Photograph omitted)