DESPITE the fact that over forty years have now elapsed between Majella's death at the hands of the British Army's third parachute regiment , Alice Campbell recalls the events of the day in which Majella lost her young life in 1976 so vividly that one could be forgiven for thinking that they happened only yesterday.
She relates the beginning of her story just after she had finished a night shift working at Daisy Hill Hospital doing what she has always done best throughout her life, attending to the needs of the ailing and weak in her role as a nurse.
"I had been on night duty in Daisy Hill the previous evening and Seamus Reavey along with his late father Jim picked me up once I had finished my shift to lay flowers on Brians grave in Ballymoyer Cemetery as the 14th of August was the day I was to be married to him. Also in our company was Colleen Reavey, Brian’s younger sister who would have been around 15 at the time.
"We travelled up to the graveyard and when we arrived, we saw soldiers on patrol in the area. Seamus advised us to act is if they were not there and to just go about our business as usual. So, we proceeded to head down to Brian’s grave to lay some flowers and pay our respects.
It was after having paid her respects to her late husband to be that Alice and the surviving relatives of the Reavey family ran into difficulty with the British Army personnel in the cemetery who demonstrated absolutely no empathy or compassion for Seamus and his father Jim, proactively mocking the fact that both Seamus's beloved siblings and Jims cherished sons had been murdered only six months prior in Whitecross.
"After visiting the gravesite, we returned to the car. While we were approaching the cemetery gate a soldier stopped both Seamus and Jimmy. They were heckling them and making fun of the fact that Seamus brothers had been killed earlier in the year. I remember specifically that one soldier said to Seamus "Oh, you were down to see your brothers today, weren't you?" They were also getting quite aggressive. At this point Seamus advised both myself and Coleen to get into the car while he challenged the soldier on the comments that he made.
“It was while Seamus was engaged in conversation with the soldiers and discussing the comments that he had made regarding his deceased brothers that Alice first saw Majella, perfectly happy and healthy as any 12-year-old girl should be travelling along with a group of other friends to attend confessions at Saint Malachy's Catholic Church.
"While we were sitting in the car a group of girls going to confessions in the nearby church, Majella amongst them, walked past the vehicle while Seamus was speaking to the soldiers. The next thing we heard this unmerciful bang, and Seamus shouted "get out of the car! So, we immediately left the car and lay down alongside it for cover. At this stage the soldiers became very, very aggressive.
"While we were laying down next to the car, we saw a soldier running back up the road shouting "There has been a little girl shot!" Seamus realised that in all likelihood the girl who was shot was probabaly part of the group that passed by the car while we were sitting in it.
"When I heard the soldier shout out that there had been a little girl shot, I informed him that I was a nurse and that they should allow me to go down the road to see if there was anything I could do to help. I will not repeat the language that he used in response to my offer of help but suffice to say he told me that I would be staying right where I was for the time being.
"Seamus also pleaded with him, informing the soldier that I was a nurse from Daisy Hill, but this still did not persuade the soldier to let me head down the road to tend to the injured girl. We pleaded with him and I remember that he pushed me back with the butt of his gun. He was Saying things like "This is your f**king Provo's for you", and that "You will stay right where you are."
Alice however did not allow the paratroopers insistence that she would remain "right where she was" to deter her from carrying out here duties as a medical professional, with persistent effort she persuaded the soldier to bring her down to the sight were Majella had been wounded, a prime example of completely selfless behaviour having now entirely disregarded any consideration to her own personal wellbeing. Her mind was now entirely preoccupied with the thought of how she was going to attend to the wellbeing of the person who had been wounded.
"I responded "Please, please, I am begging you let me go down the road and see if I can do anything to help". Eventually I managed to persuade him and he said "alright then come on". I remember thinking to myself running down the road that the next bullet was going to be for me, but this did not deter me from seeing what it is I could do to help so I just kept running down the road. I don't know where it is I got the strength from that day but I was determined to get down to Majella and do my job as a nurse.
Alice claims that the sight of Majella's father Jim cradling the little wounded girl in his arms will forever be ingrained in her psyche and that even to this very day it is impossible to blind that image from her mind's eye.
"Majella's father, also called Jim, had been cutting the grass at the side of the school near the church and he had heard the gunshot as well. When I arrived down to where Majella had been shot, I saw him cradling Majella in his arms. Even after 45 years I can still see that image in my mind, Majella being held in Jims arms on the road. The army did not help matters because they were so rough with him. When he first found Majella and picked her up one soldier asked him "What the f**king hell are you doing here". When Jim explained that he was Majella's father, he was told by the soldier to "close his f**king mouth.”
“When I arrived down, they were pulling him away from his child and I told them "This man is the child's father, this child needs to get help." Majella had placed her hand up to near Jims right shoulder and I remember hearing her say faintly "Daddy, Daddy."
"After a short period of time an army medic arrived on the scene with primitive bandaging and we tried to dress Majella's wound which was horrific. The bullet had made its entry point through her back and exited through her abdomen. Despite this I did the best that I could to stem the bleeding and keep Majella comfortable. Jim was in total shock, the situation was so unreal to him.
"An army helicopter then landed on the road to carry Majella to Daisy Hill. Majella was still alive at this stage and I was talking to her, trying to console her. The soldiers said that they would get Majella of to the hospital.
Alice believes that although the wound that Majella had sustained at the hands of the paratrooper who shot her was ultimately what caused her to die, the treatment that both Majella and Jim received at the hands of the British Army paratroopers at the time did not in any way help to alleviate their suffering with the paratroopers effectively treating Majella as if she was a rag doll in the way they handled her into the army helicopter that was to take her to Daisy Hill.
"The soldiers were still in a frenzy following what happened and were so, so abusive to poor Jim. The put him into the helicopter first and then they literally threw Majella in headfirst. They threw her in in such a way that they cut of her air supply. Instead of keeping her head elevated to allow for her to breath, they threw the poor girl' in head facing down. It was myself and Jim that raised her head up. Although the gunshot wound that she received was a mortal wound, the rough handling that she received did not help her in any way. I remember that her legs were still dangling out of the helicopter while it was taking off.
“ It was a very small helicopter; I think only designed to carry cargo and so there was very little space for me but despite this I decided to get on board anyway and stay with Majella and Jim throughout the whole flight to Daisy Hill.
"I will never forget it. To this day it still feels like it was the longest journey that I have ever made. The cold steel touching my knees while I knelt next to Majella, the fact that I had to use one of my hands to brace myself in place with a handle to prevent me from falling out of the helicopter because there were only two seats, like I said I think it was a cargo helicopter and not a personnel carrier.
“Neither myself, Jim or Majella were braced in place. I could hear Majella groaning and I said the act of contrition into her ear. It felt like we would never get there in time. I remember Jim kept saying "She's gone, She's gone". I kept trying to reassure him regardless of the situation.
Despite the best efforts of the staff at Daisy Hill hospital to be ready to treat the 12 year old immediately as soon as she arrived at the hospital, Majella O'Hare died en route to the hospital in the arms of her grieving father Jim.
Alice, still imbued with some small amount of hope that she could be saved from the brink of death implored the on-call Doctor to prepare an IV drip to help treat Majella, but was informed rather somberly that "there was nothing he could do" and that "Majella was already gone."
In shock herself from the experience Alice relates the fact that she could not bring herself to tell Majella's mother Mary who had arrived at the hospital, that her beloved daughter had died, well aware of the fact that it only took Majella's brother Michael one look at her tear strewn face to know that this was indeed tragically the case.
"The soldiers radioed through that we were coming and the staff in Daisy hill had a stretcher ready out in the forecourt were the helicopter landed and they transferred Majella out from the helicopter onto the stretcher onto the trolly very quickly into A and E. The on-call Doctor told me that he couldn't do anything to save Majella, she was already gone.
"Majella's Mother, Mary then arrived at Daisy Hill. I remember that Mary asked me at the entrance to the hospital, "tell me honestly, is she dead," but I couldn't tell her, the words just would not come out of my mouth.
"To this day Michael will still say that when he looked into my face when he arrived at the hospital with his mother that day, he knew that Majella was gone.”
Alice reiterated the point that although, like so many other people who lost loved ones as the result of the innumerable atrocities committed during the troubles, she is vehemently opposed to the proposed statute of limitations, she is sure that regardless if the motion makes it through parliament or not that "Michael and his family will still continue to campaign to ensure that Majella receives the justice that she deserves.
"It is sickening when you think about it. Forty-five years have passed since Majella was killed and we are no further in acquiring the justice that she deserves. Both her parents Jim and Mary have gone to their graves without ever seeing their daughter's killer being held responsible for robbing them of their beloved child
"I admire Michael and his family as despite everything they have campaigned tirelessly since 1976 for justice to be done and I have every confidence that they will continue to do the same regardless if the statute of limitations makes it through parliament or not. I wish both him and everyone else who lost loved ones as the result of the troubles the best of luck in securing justice for the relatives they lost as a result of the conflict.