Firebomb victims' family still seeking full truth 30 years on

THIRTY years ago this week terrorists killed a Dromore draper, his wife and daughter and today their family is still seeking the full truth of the firebomb attack.

The Secretary of State recently denied the family's request under the Freedom of Information Act to access documented information about the early release of two sisters convicted in the case.

Mr. William Herron (64), his wife Elizabeth (58) and daughter Noeline (26) died in the resulting fire after an incendiary device was planted in their Market Square drapery store on April 7, 1976.

The fire destroyed much of the shop and the family home above it, where the three victims died from suffocation.

Two Portaferry sisters and a Downpatrick man were jailed in connection with the firebombing, he for 20 years on a manslaughter charge and the women – in 1980 and 1981 - for 12 years each.

But in 1985, then Secretary of State Mr. Douglas Hurd exercised the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to remit part of the women's sentences and they were released from Armagh Prison.

With Friday marking the 30th anniversary of the firebomb attack, Lagan Valley MP and MLA Jeffrey Donaldson said it would be a very poignant occasion for the family, not least the Herrons' surviving children, Noelene's two brothers and two sisters.

It was Mr. Donaldson who wrote to the Secretary of State on behalf of the family, requesting access to documents pertaining to the early release decision.

"The early release of these two women caused a lot of additional pain for the family," he said, "and at the time the Northern Ireland Office refused to explain why the Royal Prerogative of Mercy was granted.

"I regret that the Secretary of State has once again refused to release the documents which would provide the family with the reasons why such a decision was taken and feel this only compounds the sense of injustice and hurt felt by the family, which has not diminished over the years.

"Our thoughts and prayers are very much with the family at this time and I can appreciate just how difficult this anniversary and indeed every anniversary is for them.

"I know that the people of Dromore have not forgotten what happened that night and have not forgotten the family and their suffering.

"I only regret that the government seems unwilling to show more compassion in providing the family with the information that it needs about previous decisions."

Family members also recently met with the Historical Enquiries Team, set up by the police to review murders carried out during the Troubles, and quizzed detectives on whether their enquiries had uncovered any new evidence in respect of what Mr. Donaldson called "other members of the IRA gang who have not been apprehended".

The MP added, "The memories of that t

errible night when the IRA firebombed the family business and home are still very real to those who have been left behind and the family still keenly feel the pain today of the loss of their loved ones in such tragic and devastating circumstances.

"The family are still anxious to find out the full truth of what happened on that terrible night."