Northern Ireland news

Victim's daughter recalls devastating impact of IRA docklands bomb

Bomb debris lays across the streets of London's Docklands following the IRA bomb blast
Lesley-Anne McKeown, Press Association

The daughter of a man left severely brain damaged in the IRA Docklands bombing choked back tears as she described how the explosion "ruined" her family.

Rajaa Berezag (31) told of the gut-wrenching moment she heard her father Zaoui had been caught up in the blast 22 years ago.

"We got a phone call from my brother saying 'daddy's dead, his brain is all over the car'," she said.

Ms Berezag was speaking during an event in Belfast to mark European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Terrorism.

Shopkeepers Inan Bashir and John Jeffries were killed when the half tonne bomb ripped through London's regenerated financial district in February 1996, shattering the fragile peace brokered in Northern Ireland.

Her father, who is now 77, survived but never fully recovered.

"It ruined our family," Ms Berezag told the audience of Troubles victims at Stormont.

"It completely crushed my mum and I was a little child who didn't know what was going on, confused all the time.

"I felt scared all the time because at any moment something could happen. My dad was having strokes, epileptic fits, he would go missing for days on end, it was just continuous fear."

Ms Berezag's mother Gemma passed away in May 2016, aged 58, through "sheer exhaustion" of being her father's core carer.

She added: "They told us he would come out of the coma a vegetable.

"He is no vegetable but he had to learn everything again. He had to learn how to speak and how to walk.

"My job as a daughter is to make sure he is healthy and happy. My mum, on the other hand, didn't have it so easy.

"She struggled for the 22 years, struggled to look after him and she struggled to find carers who would understand his brain injury.

"I tried to understand it. I just learned to live with it; to live with his new personality, because he wasn't my dad any more. He was just a man and I had to learn who he was.

"It was scary at first and as I grew up I learned how to handle it and see the positive in everything that I do."

Meanwhile, Anthony O'Reilly, who lost his sister Geraldine in a loyalist bomb attack on the village of Belturbet, Co Cavan in 1972 spoke for the first time about his loss.

He said: "I didn't even know what had happened. There were cars on fire everywhere around me. I went down the street and I thought I was sort of dreaming."

He was supported by his wife Maria, who added: "From my heart, I hope it should never happen again."

Former police officer Paul Donley, who suffered a broken back during an IRA bomb attack in south Armagh in May 1984 and was forced to retire after being targeted twice by loyalists, also recounted his experiences.

"I had seen a lot of things that had happened to other people but when loyalists came to my house and put a bomb under my car that really finished me," he said.

The event, organised by TUV leader Jim Allister, is in its seventh year at Stormont and was attended by Victims' Commissioner Judith Thompson, DUP MLA Jim Wells and Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt.

Mr Allister said: "Terrorism can never be justified and leaves a horrendous trail in its wake. We have heard enough from the victim makers, we want to hear from the victims."

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