Patrick Kielty’s dignity inspired me to speak out about my own father’s murder, says daughter of Michael Stone’s victim
The daughter of a man murdered by loyalist killer Michael Stone has revealed the “torment and trauma” she endured after being released earlier this year.
abrina Sorrie (44) – daughter of Dermot Hackett – said that all victims of the unrest, Protestants and Catholics, “deserve the truth”.
But she wants the country to move beyond the old, entrenched sectarian divide and never return to the dark days of unrest.
Inspired by the “dignity” shown by Patrick Kielty – in a recent documentary exploring the legacy of the Troubles – the Tyrone woman spoke candidly for the first time about her own struggles and her personal life.
Sabrina said: âI thought about opening the inheritance case, but I think it will only hurt me more so I have to try to move on with my life because we may never hear the truth. .
“Believe me, I would love to fight him, but I have my family to think about.”
She pointed to Stormont’s dysfunction and the constant focus on ‘green and orange’ issues to stifle progress in Northern Ireland.
Sabrina said that while her father was gunned down by a loyalist paramilitary gunman in a sectarian murder, she married a Protestant man and raised three unconscious children from NI’s religious division. It is a feat that fills Sabrina with pride.
At home in Strabane surrounded by photos of her family, it is hard to imagine the trauma inflicted on her as a young girl on May 23, 1987.
At the age of 10, her father was found dead in his bread van. Castlederg’s father-of-two has been shot down up to 16 times with a submachine gun.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Sabrina referred to a ‘happy childhood’ and said: ‘I was a real daddy’s girl, he was my hero; when you saw it, you saw me.
âI went to the choir and opera company rehearsals with him. I went to the checkout and take out with it and I was in the bread van on Saturday.
âWe traveled in the countryside, he knew everyone’s order. Good memories you know.
“My heart was broken when he died and there will always be this gap for the love and protection of a father I never grew up with.”
The day he was killed, Dermot followed the same routine as always. He kissed his pregnant wife and daughter on the cheek and said goodbye as he left for work.
Soon after, word returned to the family. âI will never forget the police who came to the door,â recalls Sabrina. âI was standing in the background and my mom’s two brothers were next to her. The cop said we were just confirming that Dermot Hackett was dead.
âThey walked away and I clearly remember one of the officers chuckling at the other, saying ‘we’re not coming back to this house’.
âMy poor mom was devastated.
Sabrina was told they had to visit her father in the hospital because he had been involved in an accident. Even as a child, she realized that the frozen mortuary was not a hospital.
The respect shown by the local community on this return trip from Omagh to Castlederg was like “a movie”. People lined the streets and it’s a memory Sabrina will “cherish” forever.
The 10-year-old girl held her father’s cold hands during the vigil. She remembers blood flowing from her mouth and through bandages on her neck that hid gunshot wounds. Sabrina says, “I wanted him so badly to wake up and give me a hug.”
Sabrina was subsequently hospitalized for several days due to the emotional trauma that consumed her. Soon after, her pregnant and “very ill” mother was also admitted to the hospital with severe weight loss.
âIt’s true what they say, when you lose a parent in such traumatic circumstances, you lose the other parent in a way,â explains Sabrina.
The young girl had been without a parent for three months and felt “abandoned and alone”. Mental health support was virtually non-existent at the time – “we were told to take a few days off.”
It’s only in recent years that Sabrina has asked for help. She said: âI felt all I could do was cry and make people happy and I had some issues in my life believe me but I like to think that I turned out to be one. good person and that my father would be very proud of me. “
To further aggravate the family’s grief, the UFF, which shot Dermott, claimed he was a member of the IRA.
This is a claim that the family has always denied and which was supported by Bishop Edward Daly. Sinn Fein confirmed that Dermot was in no way involved in the IRA and that he had not received any sort of Republican funeral as was customary at the time.
Mr. Hackett was well respected on both sides of the community and would fully support Sabrina’s mixed marriage.
Stone was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of Dermot as well as for the murder of five other people – Thomas McErlean, John Murray and Kevin Brady at Milltown Cemetery in 1988, milkman Patrick Brady in south Belfast in 1984 and Kevin McPolin in Lisburn in 1985.
As part of a BBC Truth and Reconciliation show, the Hackett family came face to face with Stone.
Sitting next to her mother and uncle, Sabrina watched as her father’s killer walked into the room and avoided eye contact. âHe keeps saying my dad was a target. Even to this day he has not said sorry but says he will speak up if there is an amnesty.
Sabrina said Stone told the family that a case had been made identifying Dermot as the target; this revelation led to suspicions of collusion between the UFF and the RUC / Army.
Stone was released on license but was returned to prison after a foiled attack in Stormont in November 2006 when, armed with explosives, knives and an ax, he attempted to get inside to kill Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams.
Sabrina believes Stone should never have been released because he showed “no remorse”.
In his eyes, the former paramilitary mounted the attack on Stormont because he was “terrified that someone was going to kill him” and wanted to go back to prison.
It has been a difficult year for Sabrina, one filled with emotion after seeing her father’s killer be released again. The families of Stone’s victims felt disrespectful throughout the episode and she cried for days.
With this outpouring of emotion, the Tyrone woman realized that she was in mourning for the first time since her father’s death.
âWhy judge us when no one knows the pain and suffering we have had to endure over the years. It was hard enough to see him walk freely, but we all have to get on with our lives as long as he doesn’t hurt any family and get out of trouble, âshe said.
Sabrina felt compelled to speak out after watching Patrick Kielty: One Hundred Years of Union. She was taken aback by the dignity shown by Kielty whose own father was murdered by the UFF.
What struck Sabrina most were the people on opposite sides of the conflict sitting together in a spirit of reconciliation.
Kielty spoke to a former member of the loyalist group responsible for the murder of his father and the two were able to admit that the violence did not work. And in a conversation with Bronagh McConville, granddaughter of provisional ARI victim Jean McConville, she learned about transgenerational trauma.
Sabrina explains the profound impact this has had on her and why there can be no return to violence in Northern Ireland: âTo be honest I was overwhelmed by this show and that’s why I speak now. .
âViolence is not the way to go. I’ve never said that before, but the loyalist paramilitaries killed my father. And now I’m married to a Protestant who, on his own terms, is not a loyalist.
âFor me, this is the way to go. My kids go to an integrated school and didn’t know the difference between Catholic and Protestant until they went to post-primary school – for me it’s an achievement as a parent that these kids don’t. of difference.
âSociety needs courage, sensitivity, respect for everyone and warmth for everyone, that’s what it takes. The way forward is not green or orange.