Bloody Friday 'never forgotten' by victims

Published Thursday, 19 July 2012
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A man whose closest childhood friend was killed during Bloody Friday has told UTV he has relived the day "many times since", as the 40th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

(Warning: Some viewers may find the content of the video distressing.)

Robin Hogg, who has spoken to the media for the first time, was shopping with 14-year-old Stephen Parker on the Cavehill Road when one of 20 IRA bombs exploded in Belfast on 21 July 1972.

"As I came out of the Co-Op I was hit by a flash and a large explosion followed by smoke and rubble, and dust," he said, quickly realising that a bomb had gone off.

He escaped the blast unhurt.

"There was a lot of screaming and crying... There was general mayhem."

Mr Hogg could not find Stephen, who had gone into a shop across the road, so he went home but later found out his friend had died in the blast.

"In many ways I'm glad I didn't find Stephen because of the condition he was found," explained Mr Hogg, who said he had heard bombs going off during the day, but added "You don't think it's going to be on your doorstep".

It's something that I do not think I really have ever got over. I vividly remember that day. The shock of it. It's something I have relived many times since.

Robin Hogg

"I've remembered him not just on Bloody Friday. The date is significant but I don't think as a close childhood friend you forget and remember just for one day," he said.

Nine people were killed and 130 injured across the city that day, which has become known as Bloody Friday. Stephen was one of three people killed in the bomb on the Cavehill Road, while six people died when a car bomb exploded at Oxford Street station, one of the Belfast's busiest bus depots.

The explosions caused widespread confusion and panic in Belfast as the bombs - which all detonated within an hour and a quarter - could be heard throughout the city. As people moved from one area to another, they were aware that there was no safe place in which they could escape the possibility of being caught up in another explosion.

John Knox's fire crew was based at Castlereagh, but they were drafted in to help at Oxford Street bus station, where a fire was still raging when he arrived.

He helped to put out the blaze, while he said his colleagues "were directed to look for body parts, pick them out from the debris and get them put in plastic bags".

He said he soon realised some people were going "to get very bad news". "Somebody's going to be without a father, somebody's going to be with a husband, a loved one", he recalled.

"They did not know at that time what was going to hit them, but I did and that hit me as well," Mr Knox explained.

I lost a great friend. I lost a soul mate and I lost part of myself in many aspects.

Robin Hogg

Paramedic Andy Jenkins watched as body parts were placed on a tarpaulin following the blast at Oxford Street.

"There were bits and pieces and we were standing looking, the press was there with their cameras and one of my colleagues said 'stand back, stand back and let them see what the bombers have done'. He wanted the bombers to see what they had done.

"It's revolting to think that people could do that," he added.

Although Mr Jenkins said the clear-up operation was just part of his job, and "you just have to get on with it", he told UTV he was deeply affected by what he saw that day.

"It's when you get home at night and you're in bed, it's all in your head. You don't sleep the whole night, you're waking up and seeing it all over again.

"No matter how much you try it's just going through your mind over and over again."

On Bloody Friday, the IRA's Belfast battalion issued a statement accepting responsibility for all the explosions in the Belfast area, and claimed that the Samaritans, the Public Protection Agency and the press "were informed of bomb positions at least 30 minutes to one hour before each explosion".

However, it is thought the paramilitary group had overestimated the police, fire and ambulance service response, as the emergency services dealt with 20 explosions and a number of bomb scares in a geographically limited area over a short period of time.

On the 30th anniversary of Bloody Friday, the Provisional IRA released an apology for the attacks, in which the group said it offered "sincere apologies and condolences to [the] families" of "non-combatants".

"While it was not our intention to injure or kill non-combatants, the reality is that on this and on a number of other occasions, that was the consequence of our actions," they said.

For those caught up in the horror of Bloody Friday, they will never forget what they saw.

Forty years on Mr Hogg, who remembers his friend Stephen as a "smiling, caring, happy-go-lucky person, added: "Over time, the memories fade, but there have been instances where it comes back and it's just as vivid as ever."

© UTV News
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33 Comments
Linda in Enniskillen wrote (636 days ago):
I vividly remember this day as if it was only yesterday, as children we watched and heard the bombs go off all over the city and then the horrific tv coverage on the news that followed.I watched this programme and felt totally disgusted and sick that anyone human being could even think of doing this to anyone. I hope whoever was responsible for this atrocity has a very tortured conscience for the evil they carried out. I sincerely hope that the victims commissioner contacts the victims to help them especially the man who has spent thousands to cope with the ill health this cost him. To tolerate these terrorists in government glorifying their sectarian campaign is too much to accept
NIC in Belfast wrote (636 days ago):
You will not get a multimillion pound enquirey into this because it does not involve the state weither it is Dublin or London involvement. It it had not been mentioned by local politicians or Local papers it would probable past without remembering . when you look at the location of the bombs This was a cold callaus well planned operation to kill people and prevent anyone escaping the bombs
Margaret Smith in Victoria. Australia wrote (636 days ago):
I hope and pray that Northern Ireland People never have to go through these times ever again. Everyone needs to work at building a better future for our children and grandchildren and teach them that there is no place for this sort of violence in their lives.
JAE in Fermanagh wrote (636 days ago):
Let us look at this issue from today's perspective. Sinn Fein and DUP who basically run this country don't want these sort of memories brought to the fore. They want to 'Move on' and away from the embarrasing murders of the past. IRA or Loyalist murders are an embarrassment to DUP and Sinn Fein and victims are no longer relevant to them. The sooner the generations of victims die out; it will make it easier for their conscience
jimmy mac in Canada wrote (637 days ago):
No one, can hide from the horrors of the past, both sides suffered deep pain and sorrow. Damn... the troubles...that brought the worse out in people. I sincerely hope, we never return to yesterdays madness, that divided ordinary decent Protestant and R. C.s. Good luck... to the cross community groups, keep up the good fight to bring our young people together for friendship and peace, and for a better future for everyone.
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