The soft rain fell on weeping women and stoic men as they said farewell to the six Catholics who met sudden deaths at the hands of loyalist gunmen, shot in the back with assault rifles as they took a drink and watched Ireland play in the World Cup.
In that instant Loughinisland was transformed from a place where nothing ever happened to the latest in Northern Ireland's long litany of massacres. Barney Green, 87, ceased to be a pipe- smoking character who enjoyed a game of whist and became the latest grim statisic: the oldest victim of the troubles. He died simply because his bachelor nephew, Dan McCreanor, who was 59, took him, as a treat, down to O'Toole's bar to watch the match. Dan died too, and yesterday their coffins were carried side by side into Holy Family church in Teconnaught.
Emma Rogan, seven, and her brother, Tony, eight, became children without a father when the UVF bullets cut down Adrian Rogan, known to everyone as Frosty, who worked in a local scrapyard and was one of the most popular men in the district. Canon Bernard Magee told mourners that his wife, Clare, had cried uncontrollably that night. 'What am I to say to the children?' she kept saying.
Another casualty, Malcolm Jenkinson, 52, left three children and a wife, Ann, who works in a psychiatric hospital. The priest said that her grief was very intense, but after saying the Rosary she had asked him: 'Father, would you please say a prayer for those who killed him?'
Eamonn Byrne's wife, Marie, gave birth a few weeks ago to their fourth child, a child which will never know its father.
The various funerals were held at three different churches within a two-hour period, but many of the mourners knew all six of the victims and tried to get to as many of them as possible.
The little 200-year-old church in Loughinisland, just around the corner from O'Toole's bar, was filled to overflowing. Hundreds stood for more than an hour in the rain outside during Frosty Rogan's funeral, straining to hear their priest and their bishop telling them of the messages of sympathy which had arrived from the Queen, the Pope , and from many Protestant communities. Then everyone walked together down into the graveyard to bury Frosty, the bishop leading, the coffin carried by four country stalwarts, the distressed family following.
As they stood at the graveside a hearse quietly arrived bearing the body of Malcolm Jenkinson, and after a short time the whole service was repeated. Later, more coffins arrived from the other services in the neighbouring parishes.
There was much grief but no bitterness was evident. There is a real sense of community in Loughinisland, and much quiet dignity. O'Toole's is an insignificant little pub in an insignificant little hamlet, but real character was to be seen yesterday on a day of great sadness, a day of too many
A man was last night charged with the murder of building worker Jim Dougherty, 30, in Newtonabbey, near Belfast, last Friday. The accused man, 32, from Newtonabbey, is due to appear before Belfast magistrates today.
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