MY FATHER WILL NOT BE A FORGOTTEN VICTIM

THE cost of terrorism to the Orange Order was this week laid bare in raw emotional terms as several victims told their personal, harrowing stories to politicians and policy makers on a special 'Day of Peace' bus tour organised by the Institution.

One of those victims was Rathfriland man Sammy Heenan who was orphaned at 12 years old when his father was shot twice in the head at point blank range by a lone gunman skulking about outside his Legananny home in 1985.

Today, happily married to Julie with two young daughters Ellie (9) and Katie (5), Sammy is determined that his father will not be another "forgotten victim" of the Troubles which resulted in over 3,000 deaths and left over 40,000 scarred and wounded.

For this reason he was happy to take part in the bus tour and tell his story to around 20 politicians, 'opinion formers' and government representatives from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland when they called at his home on Monday.

The murder of his father William by the Provisional IRA was one of three separate tragedies recounted to the VIP bus passengers on Monday as they toured South Down and South Armagh in the first 'Peace Tour' organised by the Orange Order and designed to coincide with the United Nations' International Day of Peace (September 21).

"I have gone on to make a success of my life and decided a long time ago that what happened to me was not going to brutalize me nor push me down the road to violence and revenge," said Sammy. "But the pain never goes away and I think it is important that people like me are given a chance to tell our stories.

"It is vital that our voices are heard because I think we have an obligation to the next generation to explain what happened. For too long the hurt and pain of my community has been overshadowed by higher profile cases and it is our turn, as rural Protestants, to make our voices heard."

Sammy's story is indeed a hugely distressing one, as the murder of his 52-year-old father, a digger-driver with the DoE, left him orphaned at only 12 years of age. His mother Eva had died only a few years previously and he was being brought up by his grandmother until she passed away also. "That meant there was only my father and me, so when he was so brutally taken from me I had no-one," he says stoically. "I was completely traumatised. I ended up being brought up by my father's cousins and at this time the Orange Order sort of saved me as it was a way for me to express my faith and culture. I also played the drums with Legananny Accordian Band and this helped as my father had also played drums with the band.

"That sense of belonging and community still stands today as my two daughters are now band members and my wife has also joined - after many years of persuasion!

"I feel that my children have missed out dreadfully by not having their grandfather around but I have explained everything to them. There needs to be more awareness and education generally, so the next generation never forget."

Despite the many years which have passed, Sammy remembers the day his father was shot just like it was yesterday. "The memories are forever vivid," he says, "and have not dulled with age. I remember looking out of my bedroom window at about 7am after hearing my father's piercing screams. Then I saw the killer drive off in my father's car. He shot my father twice in the back of the head after forcing him to his knees and then he dragged him about 30 feet along the ground.

"I was so utterly shocked and distressed by what had happened that I started running, crying all the way, to a neighbour's house - the same house I ran to when my grandmother had died. I had completely forgotten that we had had a telephone installed just some days earlier. A week later the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for the murder, but no-one was ever charged.

"I think if someone had been brought before the courts and convicted, it would definitely have helped with the healing process. I would love to see justice having been done, but there are many other people in the same position; so many people still grieving and so many unsolved murders. And, to rub salt into still raw wounds, we have been betrayed by the early prison releases under the Good Friday Agreement which have seen the guilty exonorated from their crimes. Lately, we have been insulted again with the Eames Bradley Report which proposed payments of 12,000 to the familes of all 'victims' - including paramilitaries.

"This Day of Peace Tour goes some way to healing those deep, deep wounds by keeping the names of our loved ones alive and I hope my talk and presentation contributed to a new understanding of what other, ordinary families went through."

David Hume, director of services with the Orange Order, said the day was planned as a memorial to the 300 members of the Order who had been murdered during the Troubles.

"The United Nations has designated September 21 each year as International Day of Peace and the Grand Orange Lodge organised this special bus tour to brief opinion formers about the cost of terrorism," he said. "Our experience has shown that the Protestant community, for a variety of reasons, has been unwilling to publicly tell the story of terrorism's impact on it over the decades. We believe it is important that this story is both told and heard so that a healing process can take place and a level of closure can be brought to bear.

"The future can only be built stronger if the pain and suffering of the innocent victims of terrorism is remembered, understood and appreciated."

Grand Secretary of the Orange Order, Drew Nelson, who accompanied the tour bus on its awareness-raising mission, said the day had been beneficial and helpful, in that victims had had a chance to tell it as it was to those who needed to hear it.

"There are some people who would try to re-write the history of the murders of Orangemen," he said. "We were determined that would not happen and memories would not be swept under the carpet. We hope to repeat the Peace Tour again some time in the future, maybe with a wider audience."