by Theo Russell
SUPPORTERS OF the Bloody Sunday justice campaign met on Sunday 27 January 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. The meeting was organised by the London-based Wolfe Tone Society.
Cathall McEllhinny, whose brother Kevin died on Bloody Sunday, said he found 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," he said.
Concerns are growing over the delay in delivering the Bloody Sunday Inquiry's report, 4-and-a-half years after the main sessions ended. McEllhinny said it was expected "in the summer", but adding "which summer?". He said this time compared to Widgery, "there are not so many lies, just massive memory loss".
"We know from John major that there were no gunmen or bombers on the march, and we know from Tony Blair that the marchers were innocent. If the truth had been told in 1972 not only the £20m cost of the inquiry, but over 3,000 lives lost in the conflict could also have been saved," said McEllhinny.
Two representatives of another campaign now gaining momentum, the Ballymurphy Eleven, 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. Catholic priest, Fr Hugh Mullan, was shot dead while trying to help an injured man, despite having spoken to the army. 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 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," she said.
Under intense pressure from collusion campaigners, the British government and Northern Ireland Executive are being forced to act. Peter Hain's appointment as of the wife of a part-time RUC reservist 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 was also responsible for set up another group, the Consultative Group on the Past. Made up of seven unionists, one person from the nationalist community and two token international representatives, the group 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.
Speaking on behalf of the Troops Out Movement, Mary Pearson said: "British as taxpayers have a right to know what the British army have 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 now that Sinn Féin are on the Policing Board".
Shelagh Connor of the Wolfe Tone Society said that 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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Copyright © 2008 Theo Russell