Son of pub bomb victim urges Stormont to ‘act collectively’

·3-min read

The son of a pub landlord killed by an IRA bomb has urged Stormont politicians to “act collectively”.

John Lavery died on December 21, 1971 as he carried a bomb out of his pub on the Lisburn Road.

The death of the popular landlord sparked outrage at the time, with business owners and people lining the busy thoroughfare on the day of his funeral to pay their respects.

Mr Lavery is also remembered in a poem by Seamus Heaney, who, at the time of the incident, lived on nearby Ashley Avenue.

Publican John Lavery, who was killed carrying a bomb out of his pub in south Belfast (Lavery family/PA)
Publican John Lavery, who was killed carrying a bomb out of his pub in south Belfast (Lavery family/PA)

Speaking around the 50th anniversary of his father’s death, Peter Lavery said he is disappointed that decades on more progress has not been made.

He was 18 at the time and described feeling touched at the response to his father’s death, with people making it clear to his family how well loved and respected he had been.

Stormont politicians remain divided on how to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s troubled past and the most recent proposals put forward by Secretary of State Brandon Lewis which attempt to draw a line under the past by ending prosecutions have sparked outrage.

Mr Lavery said Stormont is not functioning for the people.

“We haven’t learned very much,” Mr Lavery told the PA news agency.

“In Northern Ireland we have had two sets of Nobel peace prize winners and yet in 30-odd years of beating the hell out of each other, we managed to kill 3,000 people, which was the same number lost in one incident in New York, and about 70% of the number of people who were killed by Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

“I was mercifully lucky, even though my dad died, a lot of people have lived under extraordinary pressures, being forced by paramilitaries to hide guns in their attic and so on, and in brutal conditions and enduring paramilitary brutality for decades.

“We haven’t learned very much in 50 years, and in 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement we have learned sod all.

“Stormont is not functioning for the people.

“The Good Friday Agreement was voted for overwhelmingly by the people and it gradually unravelled and people went back into their little boxes and pointed fingers at each other.”

He urged politicians to behave with collective responsibility.

A letter written to the Belfast Telegraph following the death of John Lavery (Lavery family/PA)
A letter written to the Belfast Telegraph following the death of John Lavery (Lavery family/PA)

“Can you imagine an Assembly in Northern Ireland behaving collectively and saying, ‘we have health issues, and transport issues and education issues, let’s behave collectively’, and they don’t.

“A lady wrote a letter to the Belfast Telegraph after my dad died, saying if politicians behaved like Jack Lavery did, we’d be in a better place … and 50 years on the politicians have not behaved any better, I feel.”

Mr Lavery said he has never given any thought to justice for his father.

“Whether these guys should be caught, if they’re being chased, if police have given up, I’ve never given it a thought,” he said.

“The bar had been attacked before, it was petrol-bombed by the IRA, petrol bombed by the UDA or the UVF during the worker’s strike when my father refused to close it.”

He said time is a great healer but regrets that his father did not get to meet his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

John Lavery on his wedding day (Lavery family/PA)
John Lavery on his wedding day (Lavery family/PA)

“My instinct is not to look back … my family have always looked forward,” he said.

“I will be 69 in a couple of weeks, at my age I’m still looking forward because my future, whatever is left of it, is with my children and my grandchildren.

“It is always about the future.

“My biggest regret about my dad is that he never saw our kids, he never met my wife and he never met my grandchildren, and never will.”

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