Bitter or Better

Published Monday, 05 November 2012
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You can get bitter, or you can get better: - that was the advice Claire Gallagher's mother gave to her daughter after learning that surgery to save her sight after the Omagh bomb had failed.

Claire would never be able to see again. She was just 15 years old.

A piece of metal, the size of a matchbox, had severed Claire's optic nerve, yet this remarkable young girl decided she did indeed want to get better and went on to play her beloved music for a President and popstars, graduate from Queen's University, get married and become a mother.

Claire told me her mother's words of wisdom, during an interview with me for UTV Live, not long after the atrocity.

Claire's incredible bravery and dignity is one of the many stories which I have tried to recount in The Troubles I've Seen....

To be honest, at first I was uneasy about being interviewed myself, instead of the other way round.

Like many jobs, mine too demands that I am professional, while completely empathising with the people I am talking to. Emotions are meant to be confined to home.

Yet, when I began to look back over the 20 years I have worked at UTV, I was shocked to find that even though time has passed, it was still painful to recall the many occasions when my colleagues and I attended murder scenes and bomb attacks.

Our task then, in the middle of the mayhem, was to talk to those who had lost loved ones, or to people like Claire Gallagher and Donna-Marie Keyes, who had been horrifically injured in the Omagh bomb.

Donna-Marie, who nearly died several times, spoke to me just before she was discharged from hospital. Like Claire, this amazing woman survived against the odds and happily I was able to help out doing dishes in her home on the morning of her wedding as we filmed a UTV Insight programme! It was a very special day.

Over the years it has never ceased to amaze me how people, raw with grief, want to speak to you about the person they have just lost. Of course there are times I have been told to go away and I respect that - but invariably, I have found they want to let everyone know how truly incredible their loved one was. I feel privileged to have been permitted to tell their story.

I recall talking to Philomena Morgan about her 16-year-old son James, the day after his body was discovered. He had been murdered and thrown into an animal pit. Her eloquent and moving tribute to a son she clearly loved immensely is forever imprinted in my memory.

After the Good Friday Agreement, I talked to Mrs Morgan about the prospect of prisoners being released - and again I was dumbfounded by her acceptance that this was the price for peace and should be embraced.

Mrs Morgan and many, many like her throughout Northern Ireland deserve to be remembered.

© UTV News
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Jane Loughrey
Jane Loughrey

Jane has been at UTV for 20 years, having first joined the company in November 1992.

After graduating from Queen's University she lived and worked in England, where she trained as a journalist before returning to Northern Ireland and joining UTV.

Outside work, she is kept busy with her 5 year old son, who is always entertaining!

Her motto is: Actions speak louder than words.

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