Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bloody Sunday -- the struggle for justice goes on

by Theo Russell

SUPPORTERS of the Bloody Sunday justice campaign met last Sunday at the London Irish Centre in Camden to mark the 36th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and to discuss the wider struggle over collusion and the murder of civilians during the conflict.
Cathall McEllhinny, whose brother Kevin died on Bloody Sunday, said: “I find it hard to believe that 36 years later we are still waiting to hear the truth which I, the people of Derry and the people of Ireland know to be true.
“The families never gave up the struggle for justice, even when no-one was listening, when they were going through hardship, suffering and personal and family breakdowns”. which summer?
Concerns are growing over the delay in delivering the Bloody Sunday Inquiry’s report, 4½ years after the main sessions ended. McEllhinny said it was expected “in the summer” adding “which summer?”
Two representatives of another campaign on behalf of the Ballymurphy 11, now gaining momentum, also spoke. Relatives Briege Voyle and Alice Harper have been on a speaking tour of Liverpool, Birmingham and London.
The Ballymurphy 11 were murdered in their own streets by the Parachute Regiment during the first three days of internment in 1971. No-one has ever been brought to justice for the shootings, which unlike Bloody Sunday were not witnessed by TV cameras or journalists.
Briege’s father was shot 14 times and then kicked to death and his family could only recognise him from his hair.
Father Hugh Mullan was shot dead while trying to help an injured man, having spoken to the Army, and Frank Quinn was then shot trying to help Father Mullan.
Another victim was finished off at point-blank range after being wounded. This was another example of cold-blooded murder by the infamous Paras.
The families of the dead were later subjected to raids, beatings and taunts about their loved ones.
Harper said the families want an independent investigation into the killings, a statement of the victims’ innocence, and a public apology. “Just tell us the truth – that’s all we want, just the truth”.
Jennifer McCann, a Sinn Féin MLA (Assembly Member) from West Belfast, looked at the wider issue of justice for all those caught up in the conflict.
She condemned the “hierarchy of victims” with the families of the RUC and British military at the top, and said “all victims of the conflict and their families should be treated in the same way, and all are entitled to the truth about what happened.
“In the early 80s Thatcher embarked on a campaign to wipe out any opposition in Northern Ireland, and the British Cabinet rubber-stamped the loyalist death squads.
“Hundreds of Irish people were murdered by loyalist death squads who were armed and directed by the British armed forces. What we have here is a state which was involved in organised murder.”
Pressure from campaigners against collusion is forcing some action from the British government and the Northern Ireland Executive. Peter Hain’s appointment of the wife of a part-time RUC reservist, who was killed, as the Victim’s Commissioner for Northern Ireland in 2005 caused uproar.
This week four Victims’ Commissioners have been appointed representing both sides of the conflict, after agreement between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.
McCann said “There is a need to be pushing the British state. The IRA has acknowledged its role in killing civilians but Britain has never done that. It’s a hard job but you have to keep at it.”
Hain also recently set up the Consultative Group, comprising seven unionists, one person from the nationalist community and two token international representatives, which will report to the British government.
Last week a broad coalition of victims groups released a statement calling for an international independent truth commission. Asked what form such an inquiry could take, McCann said Sinn Féin and the campaigners would support a body run by Canadian judge Paul Cory. lied to
Mary Pearson of the Troops Out Movement said “British as taxpayers have a right to know what the British Army has been doing in our name. We’ve been lied to for generations about what the British are doing in Ireland.
“We still need to be calling for a British withdrawal from Ireland, and a new MI5 headquarters has been built to move their people out of the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] now that Sinn Féin are on the Policing Board”.
Shelagh Connor of the Wolfe Tone Society said collusion campaigners should organise meetings with Ken Livingstone and sympathetic Labour MPs. She said support should be mobilised in the Irish community for Livingstone’s mayoral campaign as he was one of the first to take up Irish issues, and had set up the annual Saint Patrick’s Parade to mark the contribution of Irish people to London.

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