Irish TV host tears up as she lists Troubles victims from this day in history to warn of hard border return

Claire Byrne offers poignant reminder to negotiators that 'we can never allow a return to violence'

Ben Kelly
Tuesday 12 February 2019 16:46
Irish TV host reads names of Troubles victims

An Irish TV host was moved to tears on air as she read out the names of victims of The Troubles who had died on that day in history, in a stark warning about the threat to peace posed by a disordely Brexit.

In a segment of her prime time RTE show, Claire Byrne called on politicians to ensure there is no return to a hard border, which she feared could see a repeat of the dark days of Northern Ireland’s past.

With the UK set to leave the European Union on 29 March, the issue of the backstop and the Irish border are still unresolved.

It is feared that if the UK crashes out of the bloc without a withdrawal deal - despite the commitments of both parties - it will be necessary to reintroduce a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Many across Ireland fear that the return of such a divisive symbol would provoke a return to the violence of The Troubles.

At the beginning of Ms Byrne's show, she opened the book Lost Lives, which documents the 3,637 people who were killed during the conflict between 1968 to 1998.

“It’s a reminder, if one is needed, as to why we can never allow a return to violence,” she said. “There’s just 46 days for politicians to come together and to ensure that there is no hard border on this island, and to make sure that there are no more excuses for violence and bloodshed.”

Then, selecting the day’s date, 11 February, she listed the people who were murdered on that day in history: Thomas Donaghy in 1974, Samuel Mein in 1975, Winston Howe in 1980, John McCabe in 1986 and Thomas Molloy in 1993.

The men’s stories left her visibly moved, and she was then seen to hold back tears as she spoke with Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aidan was killed in the Omagh bombing in 1998.

“Your son is in this book, and I read his story today,” she said. “I’m sorry to put you through that, but it’s important for us to have this conversation at this point in time.”

Mr Gallagher spoke of how his younger brother had been killed by the IRA in 1984, at the height of the conflict, while his son was killed in the Omagh bomb which was carried out after the Good Friday Agreement by the Official IRA, who opposed the peace process.

“My family is a victim of The Troubles and also a victim of the peace," he said. "I think it’s important that we are here, and we are recognised.

"Those people who are in that book have died so that we can have the peace that we have, and this very serious situation called Brexit has the possibility of sending us back into those dark days.”

Viewers praised Ms Byrne on social media for the “powerful” show, and for “putting victims front and centre".

During The Troubles, the Northern Ireland border – a meandering line which includes hundreds of crossings across 310 miles – was notoriously difficult to police, with many Royal Ulster Constabulary officers and British soldiers targeted by the IRA as they patrolled it.

The detonation of a car bomb outside a courthouse in Derry in January by dissident republicans targeting "British crown forces" renewed fears that they would target any infrastructure or personnel stationed along the border.

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