MP’s visit a “compassionate gesture” to bereaved mother

June 4, 2013

Last week’s visit by shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland Vernon Coaker to Whitecross, was a compassionate gesture by a man keen to touch base with those affected by the Troubles.

That’s the opinion of Michael O’Hare whose elderly mother Mary met with Mr Coaker in her home on Thursday 23rd May.

Mrs O’Hare’s 12-year-old daughter Majella was shot dead by a British soldier as she made her way to church in August 1976.  Two years ago the family received an apology from the British government acknowledging Majella’s unlawful killing and discounting army claims that she had been the victim of crossfire.

Mr Coaker’s visit to Mrs O’Hare, and Mrs Sadie Reavey – whose three sons were shot dead by loyalists – was a significant gesture by a politician genuinely interested in those who have been affected by the Troubles, Michael O’Hare said.

Praising the Labour MP for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with his mother, Mr O’Hare said: “The purpose of the visit was to acknowledge the suffering she, and others who lost children as a result of the Troubles, have experienced.  He’s a very decent man who is trying hard to touch base with the people he hopes to represent.”

Although appreciative of the visit, Mr O’Hare says nothing can make a difference to the suffering felt by his mother through the years although the government apology was an important step.

“The reason that we pursued getting the official apology was to make sure the history of the case was written and documented properly,” Mr O’Hare said.  “Up until that apology came, what was said at the time and what Michael Williams was acquitted on – the basis that Majella was a victim of crossfire – was the way it was reported.  Now we’ve eliminated that by receiving the public apology from the government.  It was important for the family that the truth is documented for future reference.

“Vernon Coaker is very aware of the fact that a lot of people have been injured and have suffered as a result of the Troubles in south Armagh.  He has a compassionate nature in him that he wants to try and help people and he’s preparing himself for the post he hopes to hold.  That’s what he needs to do, he needs to touch base with the people.  He is making an effort to know his people and know who he will represent and hear their story,” he added.