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Narrow Water: Beauty spot falls silent for IRA victims

A hush descended over a Northern Ireland beauty spot yesterday as families and ex-servicemen marked the 30th anniversary of an IRA double bombing which claimed the lives of 18 soldiers and a civilian.

The massacre beside Narrow Water Castle at Warrenpoint, Co Down resulted in the army's largest single loss of life in more than 35 years during the conflict.

The two bombs were detonated on the same day the Queen's cousin Lord Mountbatten was murdered in an IRA bomb attack on his fishing boat off the west coast of Ireland.

As friends and staff of the Mountbattens held a church memorial in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, former soldiers and relatives of those killed at Warrenpoint huddled in the rain as the names of the 18 army victims were read out.

A lone piper played a lament and wreaths of poppies were laid by military and political representatives, among them Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson.

"I well remember as a child hearing the explosions here at Narrow Water and not knowing then the tragic loss of life which had occurred," Mr Donaldson said.

"I think it's appropriate that we remember the contribution that the soldiers made to help get us to where we are today, which is thankfully a more peaceful society."

The first explosion at Narrow Water slaughtered 16 members of the Parachute Regiment, the second killed two members of the Queen's Own Highlanders who had been sent to the scene.

Civilian Michael Hudson was shot dead while bird watching on a nearby island when soldiers opened fire across Carlingford Lough into the Irish Republic from where they believed bombers had detonated the devices.

His name was not included in the roll call. Organisers said they have been unable to trace relatives to ask their permission.

Prayers were read, hymns sung and a silence held in memory of the men during the service.

Narrow Water was the biggest single loss of life in any one attack during the Troubles until the 1998 Real IRA Omagh bomb atrocity killed 29 people, including a mother pregnant with twins.

Mr Donaldson said the attack had impacted on the entire community.

"I know from speaking to many other people that in the quietness of their own homes they will be also remembering the soldiers here today," he added.

Neal Dance was an 18-year-old private with the Parachute Regiment when he was sent to help look for survivors amid the carnage at the scene.

Mr Dance, originally from Somerset in south west England, travelled from Toronto to attend the memorial.

"I feel peaceful today. I just needed to come and be here and I was very moved by the ceremony," he said.

"This is the first time I've been back since it happened and I just wanted to show my respect to the guys - every one of those 16 paratroopers was our friend."

Terry Wood's 19-year-old brother Anthony Wood was killed in the Warrenpoint massacre.

"It's something that never goes away. I've lived for 30 years with the pain of my brother's death and I've seen it in my own family. It's important to keep that memory going," Mr Wood said.

"I came here to never let the people that did it forget, and to show them that we'll never forget.

"I'll be here for the 40th, the 50th and the 60th anniversary if I'm still breathing."

From The Belfast Telegraph