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  • Christina Drummond

Private Frederick Starrett and Private James Cummings, the Ulster Defence Regiment

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1988, Private Frederick Starrett and Private James Cummings, the Ulster Defence Regiment, were killed in Northern Ireland.

They had arrived in the late evening at Royal Avenue in Belfast city to close the security gates. A 200 lb bomb had been placed behind the hoarding at the building site of the Castle Court shopping centre - when it was detonated Private Cummings was killed instantly, and Private Starrett was taken to hospital where he died several hours later. Another bomb was found nearby, believed to have been intended for the police and army personnel who would attend, but it failed to detonate.

Private Cummings had been a member of the Regiment for two years – from Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, he was 22 years old.

Private Starrett had joined the Regiment only four months earlier; he had been a lay preacher with the Free Presbyterian Church, which set up a scholarship in his memory – from East Belfast, he was 22 years old.

Each year there is a memorial parade, service of remembrance and wreath-laying ceremony for them. Private Cummings’ brother, Neill, who walks with a bannerette in memory of both men, was interviewed at the parade in 2018, saying that the anniversary was “as poignant as ever. It is another year, another important day. Time doesn’t really come into it. The fact is it is 30 years [since the attack] and everybody still makes an effort to remember means a great deal to my family. I’ve always thought throughout the years I have participated in the parade, these people get out of their beds on a Saturday morning to remember James and Fred – it is overwhelming. It means a lot to the families that our loved ones are not forgotten.” He was asked if he would forgive the perpetrators, to which he responded: “Absolutely never – there is no forgiveness for that. It changes the whole family and things are never the same again. My late father and mother were never the same. You are no longer a family doing ordinary things – you become the family of a murdered victim. It changes everything.”

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