By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST – A turnout of 81 percent and resounding victory for the “Yes” campaign of 71.12 percent has paved the way for a historic new dawn in Northern Ireland. But for many in the North, the result is too late. They are the families of the more than 3,200 victims of the Troubles. For them, this moment of victory had a tinge of the bittersweet.
They were among the tens of thousands who queued to get into the polling booths from early morning Friday, and kept on coming throughout the day. By nightfall, more people had voted than in any election north of the border since 1921.
But there were no street celebrations afterward. Especially among the surviving relatives.
Rita Restorick, whose son Stephen was shot dead by the IRA in South Armagh, said it was a “fantastic result” and said she supported Sinn Fein’s commitment to peace.
Michael McGoldrick, whose son, also Michael, was the first victim of the LVF in 1996, also praised the result. Hugh O’Toole, of Loughinisland, Co. Down, in whose bar six men were shot dead by the UVF, said he hoped it meant the tragedy was over once and for all.
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Kathleen Duffy, whose 15-year-old son, Stephen, was shot dead by a plastic bullet in 1989, said she hoped and trusted that the vote will provide a real and meaningful step forward and that plastic bullets, which have killed nine children, would be banned.
Terry Enright, whose son, also Terry, was shot dead in January this year by loyalists, said the vote was a signal for change and that this generation owed it to future ones to work the process through.
But, as with the politicians, not everyone will be pleased. Aileen Quinton, whose mother was blown up by the IRA at Enniskillen, campaigned for a “No” vote.
Lorraine Baggley from Derry, whose sister and father were both in the RUC and shot dead by the IRA, said she was disappointed.
“It’s a sad day for Northern Ireland,” she said. “It only holds a bright future for the terrorists.”