Posted by: the watchmen | March 9, 2009

IRA Victims Remembred 20 Years On.

March 2009

THIS week marks the 20th anniversary of the death of three men in Coagh at the hands of the Provisional IRA.
Leslie Dallas, Austin Nelson and Ernie Rankin, were shot dead by gunmen at Leslie’s garage on March 7, 1989.

And on Saturday a special memorial service was held at 7:30pm in Coagh Presbyterian Church.

Ian Wilson, a nephew of Mr Dallas who died in the atrocity, has said the day is one which is forever etched in the memory of the citizens of Coagh

And he has recalled the horror which the families faced at learning their loved ones had been killed in such a callous way.

“Most of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when we received the phone call,” he said.

“For me personally, I was at work sitting at my desk and on the phone with a customer. I can remember another call coming in and I asked the customer to hold on for a moment. It was my sister to tell me that my Uncle Leslie Dallas along with two of his friends, Austin Nelson and Ernie Rankin, had been shot dead at Leslie’s garage in Coagh. I was totally shocked and numbed. I tried to get rid of the customer because I didn’t actually want to hear myself say that these men had been murdered.”

He said he remembered driving home as quickly a possible.

“Coming round Coagh corner, my heart sank as I saw the police cordon and forensic experts working at the scene. I still couldn’t believe that this really had happened. My initial feelings of shock and horror would turn to bitterness and anger. My feelings would continually fluctuate between sympathy for the families involved and anger towards those who had carried out such a barbaric act.

“Twenty years on my feelings still fluctuate and it is still painful. My three children never had the privilege of meeting their Great Uncle Leslie. My experience and memories of March 7, 1989 could be replicated hundreds of times over. For the widows, children, brothers, sisters and close friends of those brutally and cowardly murdered, their pain is the greatest of all. I am sure many of them, like me never pass the garage without remembering that awful day,” he said.

This year marked the twentieth anniversary and a special memorial service, which was led by the newly installed minister of the church, Rev Martin Gracey, was held in Coagh Presbyterian Church. A number of others took part in the service, bringing their personal reflections from that day.

He added: “This is an opportunity to look back and thank God for the memory of the three friends who died. It’s a time when we can thank God for his sustaining grace over twenty years and also a time when we can look forward, trusting God for the future.

Our God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home.”

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