RESIDENTS in a Co Armagh village are set to remember the shocking double murder of two friends 25 years ago on Friday.
Protestant man Philip Allen and his close friend Damien Trainor, a Catholic, were shot dead by the LVF in a bar in Poyntzpass, Co Armagh on March 3 1998.
The savage murder of the life-long pals made headlines around the world.
At the time of his death Mr Allen was engaged to be married to his girlfriend Carol Magill and had asked Mr Trainor to be his best man.
The bar where Philip Allen and his friend Damien Trainor were killed in March 1998 was owned by the family of former Armagh GAA manager Brian Canavan
The killings in the Railway Bar, which was owned by the Canavan family, took place just weeks before the Good Friday Agreement was signed.
In the days after the deadly attack the SDLP’s Seamus Mallon and former UUP leader David Trimble visited Poyntzpass and met relatives of the two men in a rare show of unity at the time.
Former Northern Ireland secretary of state Mo Mowlam also visited relatives.
Bernie Canavan, who died in 2020, was behind the bar in her family’s pub when the attackers struck but escaped serious injury.
Her son, former Armagh GAA manager Brian Canavan, was training with the squad when he was told there had been a shooting. It wasn’t until he reached Poyntzpass that he learned his mother had escaped unharmed.
The Railway Bar in Poyntzpass where Philip allen and his friend Damien Trainor were shot by the LVF in 1998 Picture Mal McCann.
Mr Canavan said those directly impacted continue to suffer.
“I suppose over the 25 years it has slipped further into the background with most people but ultimately, especially when these anniversaries come up, it seems to be coming to the forefront in people’s minds,” he said.
“The people who really suffered at the end of the day were the families of the two guys, Damien and Philip, who were shot.
“They suffered and are suffering until this day.”
Philip Allen’s mother Ethel is the last surviving parent of the two men killed.
“Ethel is the only one of the parents still living and they have had to deal with that since that,” Mr Canavan said.
Bernie Canavan owner of the Railway Bar where Philip allen and his friend Damien Trainor were shot by the LVF in 1998 Picture Mal McCann.
He added that despite the shocking nature of the murders normality eventually returned for some.
“Even the people that were injured in the bar that day, it’s always going to be with them,” Mr Canavan said.
“I remember my mother being interviewed one time…she says ‘you never forget but you have to carry on’.
“I thought that’s just the way it should be put at the time and that’s exactly what happens.”
Mr Canavan said the any links drawn with the double murder and the Good Friday Agreement carry little weight with local people.
“It’s always there and people, especially around this Good Friday Agreement, are always bringing up how important (it was),” he said.
March 4 1998: Tommy Canavan (right), brother of pub owner with UUP leader David Trimble and SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon in Poyntzpass where they visited the two familys of the men killed. Pic Paul Faith/Pacemaker.
“To those people around here it wasn’t important at all about the Good Friday Agreement, it really had no bearing, it was just a coincidence that seemed to happen at the same time and became international news.”
Mr Canavan said the area of the Railway Bar where the murders took place remains relatively unchanged. He added that the people of Poyntzpass will always remember the atrocity.
“It will never be forgotten, not by the people who were around at the time,” he said.
“It was a huge thing at the time, it will always be in our memories I imagine.”
Loyalists Stephen McClean, Noel McCready and Ryan Robley were later jailed for their parts in the attack.
A fourth loyalist, suspected informer David Keys, was murdered in jail by the LVF while on remand.