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Funeral Held for N. Ireland Boys

July 14, 1998

BALLYMONEY, Northern Ireland (AP) _ As a church bell tolled mournfully, the small coffins of three young brothers were carried into a rural church today near the home where they died in a firebomb attack, victims of a war of hatred in Northern Ireland.

A crowd outside the Church of Our Lady and St. Patrick stood in silence, some wiping away tears, as the remains of Richard, Mark and Jason Quinn were borne into the Roman Catholic church followed by their grief-stricken mother and surviving older brother.

Pictures of the boys _ age 11, 10 and 9 _ lay atop the white coffins, alongside brass nameplates and crosses. Floral tributes rested against the church’s stone wall. One card read: ``Sleep in peace little angels.″

Friends and neighbors sobbed as the boys’ coffins were carried from their grandmother’s bungalow in Rasharkin, 7 miles away, to hearses for the journey to the church. Their mother, Chrissie Quinn, 29, her eyes red, led a procession that included dozens of relatives and friends as well as the firefighters who tried to save the boys.

Tensions spilling over from a blocked Protestant march near Portadown were blamed for the 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 in connection with the attack, police said.

During the Requiem Mass, the boys’ aunt, Amanda Ramsey, read a poem she wrote with two other people called ``Little Lips″ that reduced the packed congregation to tears and drew spontaneous applause.

``Why would someone do this is a question on our lips? Who would have such evil at their fingertips?″ she asked in a ringing voice. ``Richard, Mark and Jason, in our memory you will stay. I can still feel the cold, wet lips from when I kissed you and you were on your way.″

The poem included a line, ``Please let the evil people be brought to justice soon.″

The Rev. Peter Forde told the congregation that many people were undoubtedly asking whether it was God’s will that three young boys would be killed by a firebomb.

``But of course it is not God who commits murder, or any evil act. ... God would not have chosen it this way. I’m sure he had good and interesting plans for Richard and for Mark and for Jason. But someone, certainly not through God’s will, stopped those plans,″ the priest said.

At the end of the 90-minute service, pallbearers carried the three coffins to the hearse. Hundreds of people followed, including Seamus Mallon, Catholic deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s new government.

Irene Quinn, the boys’ grandmother, said her daughter wanted them buried in Rasharkin, where the family has its roots, so she never again would have to set foot in Ballymoney. The oldest Quinn boy, 13-year-old Lee, was sleeping at his grandmother’s on Saturday night and so escaped the attack.

The mother of the dead boys was raising them as Protestants because she thought it would make life easier for them in Ballymoney, a hard-line Protestant stronghold 40 miles northwest of Belfast. Still, Forde said she insisted that her sons receive a Catholic funeral and burial.

The Most Rev. Patrick Walsh, Bishop of Down and Connor, told the congregation that in the wake of the horrific killings ``voices have been raised _ voices of sanity, voices of reason. Agonizing words, words of self-examination, courageous words, words of strength, words of healing have been spoken.″

``The time for words is over. It is now time for silence, a silence in which we will hear the voice of God,″ he said. ″

Members of the Protestant Orange Order shied away from confrontation Monday in hundreds of marches across Northern Ireland, weighed down by their own bitter divisions and subdued by the shock of the boys’ deaths. At many marches, the Orangemen paused in silent homage to the boys.

The 12th of July is the biggest Orange holiday, celebrating the defeat of Catholic King James II by Protestant William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Monday’s marches celebrated that victory.

Many Catholics consider the Protestant marches a provocative confirmation of their minority status in Northern Ireland.

Skirmishes between security forces and Protestants resumed early today along the barricade blocking the Orange Order’s attempts to march down Garvaghy Road, a predominantly Catholic area in Portadown. The level of violence was mild, however, compared with previous nights, police said.

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

After a Monday night speech by Protestant leader Ian Paisley, thousands of protesters left the pasture alongside Drumcree church outside of Portadown, with fewer than 200 remaining overnight. It was by far the smallest gathering there since the Protestant standoff with police began July 5. By morning, only a few protesters were left.

Elswehere, three Orange halls came under attack by firebombs.

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