Northern Ireland news

Enniskillen bomb survivor tells of suicide attempt

The aftermath of the 1987 IRA Remembrance Sunday bombing in Enniskillen. Picture by Chris Bacon, Press Association
Michael McHugh, Press Association

A SURVIVOR of the Enniskillen bombing attempted to take his own life after he was left "haunted" by the IRA attack.

Joe Holbeach, from Lurgan in Co Armagh, was metres from a massive Remembrance Sunday explosion at the war memorial in the Co Fermanagh town in November 1987.

Twelve people died in the bombing.

Mr Holbeach was left suffering from depression.

He said: "I attempted suicide because I'm haunted by what I saw and still feel. The Government has abandoned me and all the other victims.

"If UK and Irish victims had US passports we would have been compensated by Gaddafi.

"These US victims managed to get better healthcare. I had to beg Victims Support Service (VSS) for a cooker."

Mr Holbeach has backed a campaign for better support led by London-based group the Docklands Victims Association (DVA). The DVA has highlighted the "vast" number of Troubles suicides.

The London Docklands IRA attack on February 9 1996 killed two people and injured more than 100.

The DVA looked at the problem of suicide as part of its response to the Government's consultation on addressing the impact of past violence.

It is due to hand-deliver its report to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) in London on Tuesday.

Since last year individual support workers have helped victims in Great Britain and elsewhere, the organisation said.

Its report added: "However, due to the recent increased suicides by a number of victims of the Troubles in mainland GB and the Republic of Ireland, we feel all support workers must have mental health awareness training which could identify those who may be at risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. "

The DVA said it had been very distressed by some responses to its own legacy consultation.

"The DVA has been astonished to discover that a vast number of victims have attempted suicide or committed suicide many years after the initial terrorist incident due to debilitating mental health conditions such as PTSD or other mental health conditions.

"The reluctance of UK governments, including government-funded support groups, to address these increasing mental health conditions has contributed to the stigma associated with suicide.

"Therefore, this must be addressed and a specialist unit staffed by accredited mental health workers must be established."

A public consultation process on the legacy of the Troubles was launched by the Government in May.

It includes an Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) which would have a caseload of about 1,700 Troubles related deaths and aim to complete its work in five years.

Jonathan Ganesh, president of the DVA, was severely injured in the Docklands attack.

He said victims based in Northern Ireland have received superior support, care and funding which has been denied to those elsewhere.

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