Politics, Religion, Violence
May 19, 1998
MIKE BARNICLE IN THE BOSTON GLOBE: Where it’s too late for peace


May 19, 1998

POYNTZPASS, Northern Ireland — She came into the pub through a back door that led to a courtyard alongside a stone house that is actually an extension of The Railway Bar, where two men were murdered a few months ago in a rural village that had always provided residents with great pride because faith never infringed on friendship and blood never spilled due to religion. She came past a door shattered by bullets, carrying a pot of tea and a plate of sausage.

“My supper,” she smiled. “It has to last me the night. “Who was working then?” she was asked.

“Who do you think?” Bernadette Canavan said. “Me. I was right here behind the bar. They put the lads down on the floor and killed them. Both of them. Damien and Philip, killed them for no reason. Just hate.”

Bernadette Canavan is 69. She and her husband, Des, along with their son Brian, 39, run the place plus the grocery next door. At 9 p.m. on March 3, Damien Trainor, a 26-year-old Catholic, and Philip Allen, a 35-year-old Protestant, were murdered inside the Railway, a snug stop with five stools and a 20-foot bar that attracts customers throughout the quiet area.

“They grew up together,” Brian Canavan said. “Damien was going to be best man at Phil’s wedding. There was never any religious war here.”

The Allens live 50 yards from the tavern. Their son, a truck driver, is buried 200 yards up the road, behind the Presbyterian Meeting House.

“I’ll never be right again,” his mother, Ethel, said. “I can think of nothing else. I don’t know that I can bring myself to go vote.”

The country is days from a referendum aimed at reducing the terror that has haunted Ireland, a measure that would drastically alter how people live. But the ballot arrives too late for a place so small it remains crushed by the type of mindless murder that created a violent claustrophobia within the culture of the North, keeping people apart on the basis of religion and fear. Always, the village seemed immune to the illogical reality around them, until two of their own died on a barroom floor.ative to a land hardened by dark shadows of gunmen.

“I was sitting right here at home,” Trainor said in her living room. “I ran up to the pub. I leaned over and told Damien I was there with him.

“He’d been shot four times, three in the chest, one in the head by those savages. They took him to the hospital in Newry, but he died. I told them I wanted to see him. They brought me to him. I put my forehead on his and kissed him. I shut his eyes. I pulled back the white sheet and straightened the crucifix around his neck. Philip was there in the same room, the two of them dead side by side. I never cried.”

“Having Damien was hard work,” she continued. “Raising him was hard work. And he’s still hard work because it hurts so much to think about him. My friends send me memory cards, but I don’t need any cards to remember how wonderful my son was. To everyone.”

“I’ll tell you something,” the victim’s mother announced. “There might be peace in Northern Ireland someday. But there will never be any peace for me.”

The men charged with the murders of two friends who lived yards apart in a hamlet where news arrives by word of mouth, and there are no secrets, were caught within a week. In jail, seven days later, one of them was executed by Catholic inmates. Killing is contagious here.

Yesterday, Ann Trainor walked sadly up the hill from her home to St. Joseph’s Cemetery where Damien is buried. She stood in silence, and when she looked up from her son’s plot, out past a low stone wall, she could see Philip Allen’s grave 100 yards away, behind the Presbyterian church; the two men together forever, in a village scarred and ruined by a historical hate that finally found the last few innocents of Poyntzpass.