Bloody Friday Belfast explodes ‘as lively now as it was 50 years ago’ – victim’s daughter

The day Belfast city center was devastated by 22 bombs in around 80 minutes seems as vivid today as it did 50 years ago, the daughter of one of the nine people killed has said.

Lynda van Cuylenburg’s father, Jackie Gibson, 45, a bus driver, died in an explosion at the old Oxford Street bus station.

“That it was 50 years ago means nothing to us as his family, it’s still as alive today as it was the day,” she said, of the day the city was plunged into chaos.

“Our father missed weddings, births, grandchildren, he missed everything.”

The bombings began at 2.10 p.m. on July 21, 1972 in Smithfield and continued through the city center including major thoroughfares such as York Street and Crumlin Road, as well as Great Victoria Street Station, Botanic Avenue, the Liverpool Ferry Terminal. , the Queen Elizabeth Bridge, an M2 bridge, a petrol station and an electrical substation on Salisbury Avenue.

Two soldiers, Stephen Cooper, 19, and Philip Price, 27, and four Ulsterbus workers, Jackie Gibson, 45, Thomas Killops, 39, William Irvine, 18, and William Crothers, 15, were killed in Oxford Street bus station.

A mother of seven, Margaret O’Hare, 34, Brigid Murray, 65 and Stephen Parker, 14, died in the blast near shops in Cavehill Road.

The day has since become known as Bloody Friday.

The Provisional IRA issued an apology in 2002 and said its intention was not to kill “non-combatants”.

Bus driver Jackie Gibson, 45, was one of nine people killed in a series of bombs planted across the city by the IRA on July 21, 1972 (Family handout/PA)

Ms van Cuylenburg was 15 at the time of the attacks.

She remembers returning from a Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade camp on the Isle of Man with some of her siblings.

“We were picked up by friends from church and taken home, and we actually saw dad driving his bus around town, and he saw the cars and waved at us,” she said. to the PA news agency.

“That was the last time we saw him alive.

“I don’t think I can explain the huge impact it had. That was it, he was gone and my mother had to raise five children. It was devastating for our family to lose our father at 45.

Ms van Cuylenburg said her family did not believe they would ever see justice for those behind the bombs.

“Nobody ever gives up but we’re not going to get it. How many families have in all this time? You might be able to count on one hand,” she said.

She described the IRA’s apology as “meaningless”, adding: “if you plant bombs people are going to be hurt or worse”.

She also said that while the atrocity isn’t mentioned as much as she opposes it, footage of the bus center in the aftermath is regularly used in coverage of The Trouble.

A reflection event will take place at Belfast City Hall on Thursday for the relatives of the victims.

Translink, which currently operates Ulsterbus, should also mark the date.

50th anniversary of bloody sunday
Lynda van Cuylenberg speaking at an event to mark the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism at the La Mon Hotel, east Belfast (Rebecca Black/PA)

Ms van Cuylenburg said a plaque will be unveiled at Ballygowan bus station, where her father had collected the bus he was driving that day.

“This is the last time I think we’ll get a chance to say anything because it’s a major birthday,” she said.

Kenny Donaldson, director of services at the South East Fermanagh Foundation, described Bloody Friday as an attempt to terrorize the community and cause widespread destruction.

“However, the biggest and most significant loss that day was the loss of life,” he said.

“Those who died that day were only 14 years old and the oldest was just of retirement age at 65.

“It’s still so powerful 50 years after viewing the footage from that time and the horror and panic that existed as people literally ran from one bomb while potentially colliding with another.

“Bloody Friday never got the attention it should have and although we are in our 50s it is important that this unsolved crime receives genuine attention and concern.”

He added: “We will continue to do so. We will resist the efforts of others who wish to take away the gravity and horror of this day.

A Translink spokesperson said: “Our bus drivers provide a vital service for everyone every day, making them part of the very fabric of our community.

“The Troubles have often brought enormous challenges to public transport and, very sadly, 12 colleagues lost their lives, four of them in the Oxford Street station bombing on July 21, 1972.

“We have a commemorative plaque in our Laganside bus station as a permanent reminder of these colleagues.

“A group of drivers and workers from Ballygowan Bus Depot have laid out a memorial plaque in memory of those who lost their lives delivering public transport on July 21, 1972, which will be unveiled next Thursday morning (July 21) .”

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