By Kevin Mulligan
Outside the streets
their way home from work. Some eagerly anticipating a meal and a
drink with colleagues. Others, their minds working overtime, were
in search of a gift in return for an unexpected present.
Suddenly there was a
Hopefully it was yet
another incident along the Border of which there had been a number
in recent months.
Somehow it sounded
different . . . louder, closer . . . too close for comfort. Was
that a glow of fire in the night sky or just a reflection from
Was that the sound of
siren? Perhaps it was an accident. . . hopefully there is no loss
of life or serious injury. But there’s another siren echoing
through the eerie silence. . . it must be the fire brigade this
It must be serious . .
. and it was.
At 6.22 p.m. six days
before Christmas in 1975 the excitement of a Dundalk Christmas was
shattered. A car bomb, the weapon of the lily-livered, exploded
without warning outside of Kay’s Tavern in Crowe Street.
It shattered lives,
maimed others and disabled the judgment of a community that
somehow felt they were immune from the northern violence.
It took years for the
pain and shock of that night to recede. For the families of the
two victims, Jack Rooney (61) and Hughie Watters (51) and those
injured by the blast, the events of December 19th, 1975 will never
Last Monday night the
relatives of those victims, their friends and a good smattering of
townspeople assembled inside the Town Hall for a simple, moving
It took place at the
exact time and on the same date as the bombing thirty years ago.
Outside Kay’s Tavern
was dark and lonely. Rebuilt now after it had its face blown off,
but closed awaiting re-development . . . a silent, poignant,
memorial to an awful night in Dundalk’s history.
Along Crowe Street and
stretching into Earl Street there was the normal pre-Christmas
bustle . . . people partying . . . people shopping . . . just as
they did at the same time thirty years ago.
Some, old enough to
remember, may have interrupted their busy routine to share a
prayer with those inside of the Town Hall, led by Redemptorist
priest, Fr. Dan Bray who spoke of two men “caught in the wrong
place at the wrong time” who never came home to join their
families for Christmas.
His comforting words
led relatives to hope that Jack and Hughie were in a better place
. . . waiting to be joined by their loved ones.
It was a remembrance
without enmity, without blame . . . no mention of the cowardly
perpetrators, the ineptitude of the investigation, the complicity
of the northern security forces or the acquiescence of the British
in refusing to co-operate.
Not a night to be
bitter, but to remember. Relatives held back the tears as they
read suitable passages from scripture. Others couldn’t.
The haunting strains of
the violinist’s strings ended the ceremony. Many too young to
remember . . others anxious to forget the pain and the fear,
They departed leaving a
striking message . . . we must never forget, never stop searching
for answers at least until those who shattered the magic of
Christmas in Dundalk in 1975 are at least identified, if never
likely to be punished.
As a community, as a
country we owe that to the relatives of Jack Rooney and Hughie