Leaders of the Orange Order and Royal Black Institution will be among those to gather in Dromore on Thursday for the unveiling of a memorial to three murdered locals.
The granite tablet commemorating William (64) and Elizabeth (58) Herron and their daughter Noeline (27) will be unveiled 40 years to the day after they died in an IRA firebomb attack at their Market Square drapery store.
The blaze started by the incendiary device on April 7, 1976, destroyed much of the shop and the family home above it, where the three victims died from suffocation.
Organised by Dromore Orange Hall Committee in conjunction with William and Elizabeth’s surviving children and their families, this week’s memorial ceremony at the hall will get under way at 7.30pm and an open invitation to attend has been extended to members of the public.
There will be no parade during Thursday’s dedication of the commemorative tablet, which is set into the wall at the front of the Orange Hall.
William Herron was closely associated with the Loyal Orders. The banner of his former preceptory, Closkelt RBP 449, carries the inscription: “The late Sir Knight William Herron, a faithful member of RBP 449, who met his death at the hands of the enemies of Ulster, 7th April 1976 – though dead, yet speaketh.” Orange Grand Master Edward Stevenson and Millar Farr, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, will be attending the dedication and Church of Ireland minister, the Rev Stanley Gamble, one of the Orange Order’s grand chaplains, will officiate. The Orange Order said: “Three people (Two Portaferry sisters and a Downpatrick man) including two women, were subsequently jailed in relation to the firebomb attack.
“However, in 1985, the two sisters were given early release by the then Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Douglas Hurd, under the Royal Prerogative.
“The move prompted much anger and caused subsequent hurt to the Herron family, who continue to this day in their quest for justice.”
It was in the run-up to the 30th anniversary of the attack that Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson lamented the government’s continuing refusal to release documents which would provide the Herron family with the reasons behind Mr Hurd’s decision, a refusal, he said, that compounded their sense of injustice t.
Around the same time family members quizzed Historical Enquiries Team detectives on whether their investigations had uncovered any new evidence in respect of what Mr. Donaldson called “other members of the IRA gang who have not been apprehended”.