Northern Ireland

Tributes on 25th anniversary of murdered human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson

Rosemary Nelson was killed by loyalists in 1999

THE murdered human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson has been remembered on the 25th anniversary of her death.

The 40-year-old mother of three was killed on March 15, 1999, when a booby-trap car bomb planted by loyalists exploded outside her Lurgan home.

She had become a hate figure for many loyalists because of some the clients she represented, including the dissident republican Colin Duffy.

Other clients included the Garvaghy Road residents in Portadown, who objected to an Orange Order parade passing through their area as well as Robert Hamill, a Catholic beaten to death in Portadown by a loyalist mob.

It had also been claimed that among several death threats against her, two had been made by RUC officers.

The Red Hand Defenders group had claimed responsibility for her killing, but concerns about collusion and her treatment by the RUC led to calls for a public inquiry.

A report was finally delivered in 2011, concluding that state agencies did not directly collude with her loyalist killers, but there were failings in the efforts to protect her life.

Among those paying tribute to her on Friday was the author Anne Cadwallader.

“25 years ago today…Rosemary Nelson was cruelly murdered,” she wrote on X.

“When this photo was taken in her office for a feature in ‘Ireland on Sunday’, little did we think her life would end in such tragedy.

“Never forgotten by many.”

Human rights activist Martin O’Brien said he would remember her as a “dedicated and effective lawyer” who would be “very sadly missed”.

In 2019, her children Christopher, Gavin and Sarah wrote a tribute in The Irish News to mark 20 years since their loss

“She loved her family and friends fiercely and through her parents, siblings, husband and children, her greatest fuel was forged,” they said.

“And as the darkness of each night reared, Rosemary gathered her children before her as she wiped off her make-up; chatting, laughing and ensuring that a reaffirmation of love lulled them off to a peaceful sleep.

“We grieve for the milestones which we should have shared; the lessons which we were yet to learn; the unwritten chapters which lay before us with hope and expectation.

“But we’re most grateful for the blessings which Rosemary’s lifetime brought us. And as we continue to pave our own paths, we will always take fuel from her, just as she did from us.

“Thank you, mum, We miss you.”