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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Remembering Teebane
Soldiers begin removing one of the watchtowers in south Armagh
Soldiers begin removing one of the watchtowers in south Armagh
All over Northern Ireland people are preparing to see the Army scale back its presence after the IRA's historic beginning to decommissioning.

In some places it is already happening, in others it may be years in coming.

But there are also families who lost fathers, sons and brothers - construction workers contracted by the authorities to build the bases in the first place.

In January 1992 the IRA blew up a minibus at the Teebane crossroads near Omagh carrying construction workers working on a security base. Eight men died, another six were severely injured.

As far as the IRA was concerned the men were "legitimate targets".

Lives never fully rebuilt

The men who died worked for Karl Construction. Cedric Blackbourne, the firm's managing director, said that while the watchtowers would come down, there were lives inextricably linked to them that would never be fully rebuilt.


We felt duty bound to play our part with the government forces in defeating terrorism. No one ever said that we should stop

Cedric Blackbourne

The events also marked a double tragedy for him - six years before his own son Karl, a 19-year-old member of the RUC, had been shot dead by the IRA.

"I am very pleased that we are in a situation where the peace process looks reasonably stable for the future," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"Bringing down the bases is part of that and we are happy with that. I think that we have to distinguish between the past and the future."

Mr Blackbourne said that he and many families touched by the tragedy believed that not only should those responsible have been brought to justice but they should still be in jail.


Sometimes I look back and think that I don't remember the summers, that it was always winter time, always dark

Cedric Blackbourne
But he added that many also accepted that the peace process meant that there would be some things people wanted that they would not necessarily get.

Reflecting on the events, Mr Blackbourne said that it had never crossed the mind of the company or its employees that they should stop working on military contracts.

"We felt duty bound to play our part with the government forces in defeating terrorism," he said.

"No one ever said that we should stop. After Teebane there were many who encouraged us to continue. At the board meeting after Teebane it was not even brought up. There were dangers there but there were also principles and integrity

"Sometimes I look back and think that I don't remember the summers, that it was always winter time, always dark. That's the past and we have a future.

"We have something to aim for."

Grieving and anger

The Reverend Ivor Smith, who had worked with the families after the killings, said that he had been overwhelmed by their capacity to deal with grief - but angered that those responsible for the deaths would never be brought to justice.

A soldier dismantles part of an army base
Dismantling: A long process ahead
"I have been impressed greatly with their courage and dignity when over the years they were forgotten about by the authorities because no one was interested in victims.

Mr Smith said that the families' memorial to the dead men had been defaced, destroyed but had been restored as they had remained determined to remember the loss of the men.

But he also said that perhaps now there was an opportunity for all to start to look to the future.

"As a society we need to move forward if the future is a future without guns," he said. "I certainly hope and pray that this future will be very different.

"But the families are going to be very deeply hurt and will not be able to find closure because people will not be brought to justice."


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