Paul Gallagher was 21 years of age when UFF gunmen burst into his home on the Stewartstown Road in west Belfast in January 1993. They were apparently looking for former Republican prisoners who lived nearby.
In a room at Queen’s University, Belfast, Paul recalled the horrific events from that day which were to dramatically alter his life.
“I had just come home from a day’s work. My family and I had just sat down for our dinner around 6pm. The TV was on and The Crystal Maze was about to start. There was a knock on the front door and my sister opened it.
“Four men entered the room. They were all wearing balaclavas and carrying automatic weapons. They claimed to be members of the IRA. They held us in the house for around an hour.
Paul said he done his best to try and keep calm in a “very tense situation”.
One of the gang then said ‘operation over’ but as they left the house they opened fire at Paul, his mum and dad and his sister and younger brother.
“I’m told they were specifically aiming at me. I was hit six times. I was basically dying in front of my family and could start to feel myself fading away. I could hear my family phoning the ambulance and my brother was slapping me in an attempt to keep me awake.
“Towels were shoved into the bullet holes. A wooden spoon was also pushed into my mouth to stop me biting my tongue. I can also remember being brought into the hospital but nothing else until I awoke a few days later in intensive care.”
Paul, who was left paralysed, described how he still lives in constant pain. “I am sitting with you now and from my waist down it feels like I am burning and my feet are getting crushed in a vice. It feels like I’m sitting in a pool of lava. You have to learn to live with it.:
He talked about the effects of the shooting on his family and how they had to became his “doctors and nurses” when he was released from hospital six months later. They and my wife are now my carers.”
Paul did receive some compensation for his injuries but had to wait for about 10 years until it came through.
He is now a strong advocate for a pension disability fund along with others at the Wave Trauma Centre who were severely injured during the Troubles.
“We feel that we have been forgotten about. I personally thought that the Eames-Bradley proposals could have worked for a lot of victims.
“When you have become severely injured it as if you are a new person. You have to learn how to walk again, how to dress yourself. You need people to help you go to the toilet.
“I was shot because I was an easy target and I was a Catholic. The pension fund is required for people who were left with life-changing injuries. The compensation that was paid was totally inadequate to victims’ needs.
“I want the pension fund to be as inclusive as it can. It needs to be set up.”
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