Aged just 18, Andrea Brown was left seriously injured in the Lisburn fun run bomb of June 1988.
he attack left her in wheelchair and she still suffers pain and has injections to her spine every three weeks. She has never had assistance in dealing with the trauma she suffers every time she wakes up.
Five years before the bomb, when she was 12, the IRA murdered her RUC sergeant father.
She said no words of apology from Martina Anderson would ever be enough to ease the hurt and insult caused to hundreds of victims like her.
On Tuesday, Ms Anderson took to Twitter to criticise a payment scheme for people injured during the Troubles, sparking a furious backlash from unionists and the SDLP.
Sinn Fein had previously refused to back the pension, claiming it excluded republicans with past convictions, until Michelle O’Neill was sharply criticised by a High Court judge who ruled last week that the delay was unlawful.
Ms Anderson tweeted: “£800m 4 pensions mainly for those who fought Britain’s dirty war in Ireland. £800m mainly 4 those involved in collusion.
“£800m mainly 4 British troops like Paras who murdered people on Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy. £800m mainly to discriminate and criminalise and exclude.”
Politicians rounded on the Foyle MLA, with the DUP and TUV urging the Sinn Fein leadership to sanction Ms Anderson for comments that were deemed “deeply offensive.”
Justice Minister Naomi Long said the tweet was “an outrageous, gratuitous insult”.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described Ms Anderson’s comments as “unacceptable, disgusting and grossly insulting to hundreds of victims who sustained life-changing physical and psychological injuries”.
UUP MLA Doug Beattie said Sinn Fein seemed determined to “slur” IRA victims and was showing it was shameless and had “an appalling lack of humanity”.
While the political storm continued, Andrea, from Moira in Co Down, said she could no longer sit in the background as part of the silent majority.
“It’s only now that I’ve realised just how many people have been left in the same position as me. I struggle financially, emotionally and physically on a daily basis,” she explained.
“It costs £190 every three weeks for the spinal injections. The pension would help. Without it, I will probably end up in a care home. As it is, I have help coming in four times a day.
“That’s the life sentence I live every day – that and the memory of my father, who was murdered by the IRA five years before I suffered my injuries. Only we know the knock-on effects on our family.”
Only after Ms Anderson’s comments were criticised was an “unreserved apology” offered on Wednesday morning.
It was lunchtime before Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill addressed the issue on social media.
“I contacted my party colleague Martina Anderson yesterday evening and told her that her tweet was ill-considered and would cause hurt and offence to victims. I told her that she should delete the tweet,” she said.
The MLA for Foyle said her comments were “clumsy” and not directed at the “people who suffered serious harm during the conflict”.
“It was never my intention to cause them any hurt,” she said.
“All victims of the conflict deserve acknowledgement of their pain and loss.
“I support them in their efforts to get their pension.”
But after decades of suffering, Andrea said no apology could paint over the words which were there in black and white.
“For someone like Martina Anderson to think that what someone like me is going through equates to someone who did this is horrific,” she said.
“It’s an apology the party forced her into making. It’s not sincere. It was rushed out. No words can retract what she said in the first place.
“Getting a name or a date wrong, that’s clumsy. We, the victims of people like her and her comrades, know she meant what she said.
“As a child I was not brought up to be bitter. I was brought up to be decent and respectful. I’m sorry that I can’t say the same of others.
“I listen to people saying they were brought up in west Belfast or wherever and they had to put up with injustice, but no matter where people come from, the majority are decent people.
“I know some in the RUC, some soldiers, do have questions to answer, but the truth is the majority of RUC officers were decent people. The majority of paramilitaries were evil and it’s hard to comprehend how people can be so full of hatred.
“I have watched over the years how Sinn Fein have got what they wanted bit by bit and have never shown any remorse for the suffering caused by the IRA and other paramilitaries to the people of this country.
“This is like the Bobby Storey funeral all over again.
“The fact that another victim like myself, Jennifer McNern, had to go to court to show up Sinn Fein and our government was shameful.
“But this pension, if it finally does come, will make my life better. There’s no doubt about that.
“For so long I felt that I was alone, the only one going through this, no matter how many family or friends I had around me.
“I now have four wonderful grandchildren and my life is dedicated to making happy memories for them, but unless I can afford to continue paying for the injections, I’ll end up lying in a bed. That will be my life.”
Andrea remembers little of the blast which left her facing life in a wheelchair.
“I was in the bridal shop. We were due for a fitting for bridesmaids’ dresses. Another party was in the back and was running late, so we had to wait. I can remember sitting on the floor as there were no seats.”
Her mother, sisters, fiance’s sisters and mother-in-law to be, who were also in the shop at the time, escaped with only minor injuries when the blast hit.
“The force of the bomb lifted me into the air and I landed on the concrete floor. That’s all I know,” Andrea said.
The hairdressing student suffered spine, neck and leg injuries. Six soldiers were killed.
Despite suffering life-changing injuries she went ahead with her wedding three months later, having to remove her neck brace for the service and photographs.
Andrea knows her mental scars go back beyond that June evening in Lisburn.
“Everything in my life stems from my dad’s murder,” she said.
Her father Eric (41), an RUC sergeant, was murdered by the IRA along with Constable Brian Quinn (23) when they stopped a suspicious car outside a post office in Rostrevor on January 6 in 1983.
“I live with a double life sentence,” Andrea said. “But it’s not just me. It’s a daughter who became a carer to a mother who felt like a burden on her family.”
Source: Irish News