The murder of Lord Mountbatten, two members of his family and a Fermanagh teenager hours before 18 soldiers were killed at Narrow Water has been labelled “Bloody Monday”.
Mary Hornsey’s 15-year-old son Paul Maxwell was among the slain when the IRA blew up Lord Louis Mountbatten’s fishing boat off the coast of Mullaghmore in Co Sligo on August 27, 1979.
The bomb was detonated by remote control by terrorists watching from the shore as three teenage boys were among the group on the boat which set off from the harbour.
Mrs Hornsey told PA news agency that she believes it was a war crime, and ought to be treated as a war crime.
The massacre claimed four lives – Lord Mountbatten, Lady Doreen Brabourne, the 83-year-old mother-in-law of the earl’s daughter, his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull – as well as Paul who worked on the boat.
Just a few hours later, the IRA struck again – detonating two bombs at Narrow Water close to Warrenpoint in Co Down, killing 18 soldiers.
There was also a 19th victim when William Michael Hudson, 29, a civilian visiting the Republic of Ireland from London, was hit by a bullet fired by soldiers across the Newry River to where he was standing with his cousin Barry Hudson, who was injured.
“They talk about Bloody Sunday, we also had a Bloody Monday,” Mrs Hornsey said.
“There was 18 soldiers at Warrenpoint who were killed, and then the Mountbatten tragedy.
“We’re inclined to forget that, forget about all those soldiers, so many of them were young. It was absolutely appalling, and all those parents, it’s very sad.
“When I think back to that day, my memory is the sheer horror of the whole thing. It is just something we never thought would have happened.
“It was just awful, the whole thing thinking that men had watched these young teenagers getting on a boat, they knew that and quite intentionally they pressed that button and killed them, children.
“We are supposed to love our children not to blow them up. How can anyone do that. It was beyond belief. How can people be so ruthless as to do that.
“Some people have actually said that was a war crime, and I think they are right because they knew these children were on the boat, yet they set out to do it. That certainly was a war crime and I feel it should be treated as such.
“I think people can be brainwashed and I think they must have been brainwashed in order to do these dreadful things.”
Mrs Hornsey said Lord Mountbatten was popular around Mullaghmore and often drew a crowd of visitors as he set off in his boat, the Shadow V.
“Maybe they were expecting someone looking rather smart, but he came in his old Navy boiler suit and got on the boat,” he said.
“People just loved to see him.”
Paul had been a pupil at Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, and was planning a career with the Royal Navy.
Mrs Hornsey said that Lord Mountbatten, a former First Sea Lord, had agreed to write the teenager a reference. However, the pair were both dead before he was able to do that.
“Paul was very good on boats and loved the sea, he had actually hoped to join the Royal Navy and he had asked Lord Mountbatten if he would give him a reference and he had acquiesced,” she said.
“But Lord Mountbatten was dead before he could give Paul a reference, and so of course was Paul so it never materialised.
“It doesn’t really (feel like 40 years ago), it’s still quite sharp. I suppose in my memory, perhaps the edges aren’t quite as ragged as they were but it is certainly still there and it is there every day. Paul is no longer here, I can’t see him, I can’t hear his voice. He is gone. That is difficult.”
Mrs Hornsey has kept the 1,500 letters of condolence she received from people around the world after Paul was killed.
“I’d rather have Paul here with me rather than him being down in the history books, but the fact that since he died so much interest has been shown, that is comforting to think that he hasn’t been forgotten, and the way things are going I don’t think he is ever going to be forgotten,” she said.
Mrs Hornsey will return to Mullaghmore on Tuesday for a service to remember her son and the Mountbatten family, and will see for the first time a cross erected on the coastline close to where the bomb blast happened.
“I was there for Prince Charles’ visit, but I don’t often go back, just for an anniversary,” she said.
“It’s not the kind of place that I could go to and actually have a holiday, I don’t think I could be actually happy there because of what happened.”