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Funeral Held for N. Ireland Boys

July 14, 1998

BALLYMONEY, Northern Ireland (AP) _ A Catholic priest faced the delicate task of laying to rest three young brothers, raised as Protestants and killed by a sectarian firebomb in politically charged Northern Ireland.

``It is not the place to be political,″ the Rev. Peter Forde said Monday. ``But three children who had just begun life were lent to us, and we as a society failed in our responsibility.″

Forde said nothing could prepare him for the ``unnatural″ sight of a trio of little coffins in the special funeral Mass today, but he hoped his carefully chosen words would make a difference to the family of Richard, Mark and Jason Quinn, and to the watching world.

The Mass was scheduled for 11 a.m. (6 a.m. EDT) at the Church of Our Lady and St. Patrick, with burial planned in the nearby town of Rasharkin, where the Quinn family has its roots.

Irene Quinn, the boys’ grandmother, said her daughter wanted them buried in Rasharkin so she never again would have to set foot in Ballymoney. Chrissie Quinn’s oldest son, 13-year-old Lee, spent Saturday night with his grandmother _ so he escaped the attack.

Tensions spilling over from a blocked Protestant march outside a rural church near Portadown were blamed for the early Sunday morning firebombing of the Quinn house. Police said they believed the family was targeted because Chrissie Quinn lived there with her Protestant boyfriend.

Two men were being questioned, police said.

Ms. Quinn is Catholic, but was raising the boys as Protestants because she thought it would make life easier for them in Ballymoney, a hard-line Protestant stronghold about 40 miles northwest of Belfast.

Forde said the boys’ mother retreated into shock but she insisted that her sons must receive a Catholic funeral and burial.

``She’s physically incapable of doing anything more than nodding her head and shaking it, it’s all so new to her,″ he said. ``But she was adamant that it all be Catholic. On that point, she had no hesitation.″

Members of the Protestant Orange Order shied away from confrontation Monday in marches across Northern Ireland, weighed down by their own bitter divisions and subdued by the shock of the deaths of the boys, who were 11, 10 and 9.

At each march, Orangemen paused for silence in respect for the siblings.

But skirmishes between security forces and protesters on the barricade that stands between the marchers and their goal resumed early today though the level of violence was mild compared with previous nights, police said.

Officers were beaten back by fireworks and gasoline bombs as they attempted to get at three masked protesters pulling metal sheeting from the barricade and police responded with plastic bullets.

Three Orange halls came under attack by firebombs.

After a speech by Protestant leader Ian Paisley, thousands of protesters left in droves, with less than 200 remaining on site overnight, by far the smallest gathering since the standoff began. By morning the number had diminished to a ``handful,″ police said.

Members of the Orange Order in Portadown are insisting on their right to march through a Catholic neighborhood even though a government-appointed parades commission twice has denied their application.

Hundreds of police and British soldiers have maintained the blockade since July 5, and Prime Minister Tony Blair has insisted the law will be enforced.

On Sunday, after the Quinn boys’ deaths, the Portadown Orange lodges rejected calls from political and religious leaders to call off their protest, though they did move to scale down the size of the crowds, which grew to more than 20,000 last week.

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