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4 November 1999 Edition

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Death, denial and Ballymoney

by Laura Friel

Garfield Gilmour murdered the three Quinn children because they were Catholics. He wasn't alone. Other men, named by Gilmour as accomplices, still remain free. The murder was sectarian. It took place at the height of the Orange Order's Drumcree protests.

In the run up to the fatal fire bombing of the Quinn family's home, over 140 families living in predominently Protestant estates had been targeted in similar sectarian attacks. A further 155 nationalist-owned businesses had also been attacked.

Men wearing Orange sashes and masks blocked roads and hijacked cars. Orange supporters rioted in loyalist areas. DUP Leader Ian Paisley had been out whipping up sectarian hatred.

In the early hours of 12 July last year, three small boys were alseep in their Ballymoney home when Garfield Gilmour drove three other men into the Carnany estate.

In statements referred to by presiding Judge McCollum, Gilmour described ``how Johny McKay and Raymond Parke... left the car in which he had driven them... leaving Ivan Parke with him in the car...'' He knew the Quinn home was going to be petrol bombed and waited in the car to enable a swift getaway.

Gilmour had seen the petrol bomb glistening in the hand of the man who threw it. Gilmour described how the petrol bombers had returned back to the car ``pumped up as if they had done a hard workout.'' For the next ten minutes the murder gang drove around Ballymoney before returning to the Carnany estate to watch the blaze.

Gilmour and the bombers would not have heard the cries of 10-year-old Richard Quinn pressed against an upstairs window with his feet on fire. Another child shouted for help ``I'm in the corner''. Gilmour may not have stayed to hear their screams but he knew there were children living in the Quinn household and at 4.30am he must have known they'd be in their beds.

The children's mother Chrissy had woken to their cries for mummy. The killers may have returned in time to see the house engulfed in flames. They may have seen Chrissy Quinn and her boyfriend jump through a window to escape the inferno. I doubt they waited until the three charred bodies were carried from the ruins.

The murder of the Quinn children was an obscenity. A year later and the reaction to the conviction of one of their killers has been equally obscene. ``My son very innocently gave a couple of boys a lift,'' says Irene Gilmour. Despite the murder conviction, Irene insists her son is a ``decent, caring and well brought up young gentleman''.

Perhaps a mother's loyalty can be forgiven. What mother would want to accept that a child she reared could burn three small boys to death just because they were born to a Catholic mother living in a Protestant estate. But in Ballymoney, Irene Gilmour is not the only one in a state of denial.

The residents of Ballymoney are angry. They are angry, not with the young men who in the name of their religion killed three children of another faith. They are angry, not with the Orange protesters who terrorised Catholic families in the name of Drumcree. They are angry, not with their local DUP Assembly member who preaches sectarian hatred but washes his hands of the consequences. The people of Ballymoney are angry at Chrissy Quinn.

``It was a disgrace. She went out of her way to blacken the Orangemen at Drumcree when it was nothing to do with them. There is nobody who has any time for her in this town.''
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