Victim: IRA's Collie Club killings should not be swept under the carpet

A woman whose parents died when the IRA bombed a dog club meeting 40 years ago has said their deaths should not be swept under the carpet for political expediency.

Twelve members and friends of the Irish Collie Club were killed on February 17 1978 at the La Mon hotel on the outskirts of Belfast.

Dr Andrea Nelson, 54, travelled to Northern Ireland from Yorkshire for a 40th anniversary service in memory of those who lost their lives, followed by the re-dedication of memorial stained glass windows and seating at Lisburn's Lagan Valley Island.

She said: "We are in the middle of remembering the First World War - we need to remember those nearest and dearest and not be swept under the carpet for political expediency."

La Mon explosion and fire in which 12 people died. The aftermath showing the extent of the damage.

She was only 14 when her parents Paul, 37, and Dorothy Nelson, 34, died.

Before the attack, she has memories are of beachcombing on the Ards Penninsula near her home or dancing to the hits of the time.

Her parents were keen for their children to go as far as they could in life, with an education they themselves had been denied, Dr Nelson said.

Her father and mother had friends in the Collie Club. It was their first time attending a social event for the group, as their children were getting older.

The 12 people killed at La Mon included three married couples. Dozens more were seriously injured after a massive fireball broke out.

More than 30 people were arrested during the Royal Ulster Constabulary investigation.

West Belfast man Robert Murphy was sentenced to life imprisonment.

After their parents' deaths, Dr Nelson and her sister Melanie, 13, went to stay with their grandparents in Knocknagoney in Belfast and a "patchwork" of different places before leaving Northern Ireland for good.

She said: "In some sense life has had to move on, but you still miss them every day and it is important to keep the conscious memory of the way in which they died because it was so awful, so unfair.

"They were out for a night out, just at a dinner dance, and it is that sort of evil and cruelty that drove a lot of people out of Northern Ireland."

She said she had "sealed off" feelings about the killers so they do not affect the rest of her life.

"That was an evil thing to do, there was absolutely no justification for a collie club to be the target of anything, the stupidity and evil combined.

"I try not to get consumed and that is one of the reasons for moving away from there."

The mayor of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Councillor Tim Morrow, said the service which will take place in the council chamber will see floral tributes placed in memory of the 12 innocent people who lost their lives.

They will unveil and rededicate the La Mon Window and the Innocent Victims of Terrorism stained glass window.

He added: "We know that the La Mon bombing forever changed the lives of those who were left behind and that the families have travelled many a hard road over this long period of time.

"We are of course thinking of them particularly at this very poignant time."

- PA

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