Monday, June 7, 2021

Preparing for Unity: Well done to loyalists trying to keep the peace:

 Preparing for Unity

Hardly a week goes passed without some new aspect or commentary emerging on the issue of Irish Unity. When will the unity referendum by held? What criteria should the British Secretary of State apply when deciding on the date? What is the role of the Irish government? What will the question/s be that will be asked of citizens? How will the referendums be structured and what new laws might be needed to facilitate them.

The fact is that there will be a unity referendum. When it comes it will be the most important constitutional debate about the future of the island of Ireland in 100 years. As we prepare for it, it is worthwhile reflecting on the recent role of referendums in encouraging greater public awareness of and an engagement in democratic decisions that achieved significant positive change.

The referendums on marriage equality and the repeal of the 8th amendment are the most obvious. The Irish Government helped prepare for these by establishing citizen centred mechanisms – the Constitutional Convention and then the Citizen’s Assembly – to examine constitutional and societal change. This process of maximising democratic engagement in the process of change and in the referendum process was a success.

23 years ago the May 1998 referendums that were held north and south came at the end of an intense period of negotiation and a wide-ranging debate on the merits or otherwise of the Good Friday Agreement. Those referendums achieved a massive majority in favour of the Agreement.

In stark contrast the failure of the Tory government of David Cameron to properly prepare for the Brexit referendum in 2016 resulted in an outcome that has sharply divided British society, encouraged the break-up of the British union and created economic turmoil.

The consequences for the North have been especially difficult. The election last week of Edwin Poots as leader of the DUP saw him trot out the same nonsense of his predecessor – that the EU and the Irish government have flouted the will of the people of the North. Poots went so far as to claim that the Irish government is going to starve Northern Ireland people of medicines no less, cancer drugs and other materials, such as the food that's on our table.”

None of this is true of course. It’s a deliberate distortion to heighten fear around Brexit, the Irish Protocol and the growing interest in Irish Unity. The DUP is intent on whipping-up resentment to a Brexit crisis that it has been instrumental in creating. No mention of the DUP’s aggressive support for the Brexit referendum and for the vote to leave in 2016. No mention of the reality that the majority of citizens in the North voted to remain in the EU or that the DUP consistently refused to support any of the efforts by Theresa May to produce an agreement with the EU.

Democracy DUP style, which has its roots in the partition of Ireland a century ago, is a limited philosophy that excludes the rights and votes of nationalists and republicans. It ignores the reality that political unionism is now an electoral minority and holds just 40 out of 90 seats in the Assembly.

United Irelanders have to be inclusive of everyone. As we work to move the process of change ahead and seek to win the unity referendum we must include our neighbours and fellow citizens who identify as British. To do this effectively and democratically we must plan for the unity referendum and plan to win it.

Last week the Irish Times concluded ...”If it is plausible to think referendums on Irish unity could happen this decade, it would be prudent to plan for that possibility.” Last week also saw the publication of the final report from the ‘Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland.’ The working group is based at the Constitution Unit of University College London. It too supports the imperative of preparing for the unity referendum.

The Working Group is made up of 12 academic specialists in politics, law, sociology and history. They were brought together and have spent two years examining what the Good Friday Agreement provision for the referendum means in practice, what technical and procedural questions arise as a result and what steps are necessary to facilitate it and ensure that it fair and democratic. They have also received hundreds of submissions from individuals and organisations.

The report, which will require careful consideration, runs to 260 pages. It suggests what criteria the British government should use to determine when the referendum is held. These are; election results, opinion polls, qualitative research, a vote in Stormont, seats won at elections and demographic data. It asks whether the Irish government should present a clear model of the kind of United Ireland on offer before the referendum or instead propose a constitutional process to determine that after the referendum takes place and if voters say Yes. It asserts that; “A referendum should be called if a vote for unification appears likely, even if by a slender margin.” And it accepts the Good Friday Agreement principle that a Yes vote requires a vote of 50%+1. The reports states: “It would breach the agreement to require a higher threshold than 50% + 1.”

It also looks at the kind of political structures that might emerge as a result of the referendum and constitutional change.

These are big issues for consideration. And there are many more questions and issues raised in this lesson that we can draw from this report is that there is a need to prepare for the unity referendum. The Micheál Martin approach is not good enough. Sticking your head in the sand and hoping that this debate will go away represents a lack of vision and of leadership. An Taoiseach’s starting point like ours has to be the Good Friday Agreement. He needs to read it again.

 

Well done to loyalists trying to keep the peace

Last week the 27 leaders of the European Union met in Brussels to discuss a range of issues, including Brexit and the Irish Protocol. Speaking afterward the European Commission President von der Leyen laid the blame for the current crisis at the door of the Brexiteers, including the DUP. She said: There should be no doubt that there is no alternative to the full and correct implementation of the protocol ... it is important to reiterate that the protocol is the only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the European Union single market... If we see problems today we should not forget that they do not come from the protocol but result from Brexit, that is the reason why the problems are there.”

DUP spokespersons and the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) again claimed that the Irish Protocol – which Boris Johnson negotiated and agreed with the EU – will destabilise the political situation in the North and risks violence. It is “oppressive and undemocratic” said Jeffrey Donaldson.

Much of their ire has been directed at the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The LCC Chairperson David Campbell described Mrs Von Der Leyen as an "ostrich with her head in the sand” and he warned that the North is set to "descend into chaos this summer." Like so many others Campbell decided that the LCC could speak for all the people of the North and not just the loyalist paramilitaries he represents with the claim that the protocol has to go and will go - the people of Northern Ireland will not accept this diktat from yet another unelected German."

It is also important to realise that within loyalism there exist different voices and different opinions on the way forward. There isn’t unanimity of approach around the possibility of “chaos” or violence. There are many within loyalism and the community sector working within loyalist working class areas who oppose unionist politicians using their community as a stick to threaten others with. They see “chaos” being to the detriment of their community.

They are also trying to deal with housing need; unemployment; drug gangs; health inequalities; poverty, deprivation and disadvantage. They are especially concerned at the emergence of an underclass of young people – no hopers – who refuse to listen to anyone. The recent street disturbances at some of the interfaces witnessed a section of unionist youth prepared to tell loyalist leaders who tried to stop the violence where to go.

Tackling these problems in a heightened atmosphere of fear and with unionist parties normally disinterested in addressing these issues, is hugely difficult. There is a commonality of challenges facing our society in both nationalist and unionist working class areas. We are best able to tackle these if we are able to do so together.

So well done to those from within loyalism who are doing their best to keep the peace and to tackle disadvantage.

 

 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Two Fearless Belfast Women; Remembering Rab McCullough; Féile na gCloigíní Gorma.

Winifred Carney

Two fearless Belfast Women

Two Belfast women, Mary Ann McCracken and Winifred Carney, will soon have statues commemorating their heroism, leadership and commitment to social justice and freedom erected in the grounds of Belfast City Hall. It was agreed at the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee last week that the Council will now begin the process of costing and designing the statues.

In 2012 an Equality Impact Assessment confirmed what anyone with eyes already knew – that the grounds of Belfast City Hall were overwhelmingly dominated by white, male, upper class and unionist images. The City Hall did not reflect the reality of life in Belfast and especially of a changing Belfast.

To address this imbalance Sinn Féin brought forward proposals four years ago to transform the City Hall and grounds. The process has been slow as some within the Council have sought to frustrate this new direction. However, last Friday’s Council meeting has now moved the proposal around the two Belfast women a decisive step forward.

Winifred Carney was born in Bangor but was reared at 5 Falls Road. She attended the Christian Brother’s School in Donegall Street where she worked for a time as a junior teacher. She qualified as one of the first lady secretaries and short hand typists in Belfast from Hughes Commercial Academy. Subsequently she worked for a time in a solicitor’s office in Dungannon.

Winifred had a keen interest in the Irish language and culture and joined the Gaelic League. She was a strong advocate for the rights of women and was a committed socialist. She was very close to Marie Johnson who worked as secretary for the Irish Textile Workers’ Union. The union had been established by James Connolly in 1911.

When Marie became ill she asked Winifred to take over the responsibility. Two years later Connolly, along with Winifred Carney, published the Manifesto of Irish Textile Workers’ Union – To the Linen Slaves of Belfast.

Carney was also a member of the Cumann na mBan which she joined with Connolly’s two daughters Nora and Ina Connolly. She was also in the Irish Citizen Army. In 1916 she was the first women to enter the GPO during the Rising. She worked closely with Connolly in preparing dispatches. 

When the GPO was evacuated after five days of fierce fighting Carney was with the wounded Connolly as he was carried to number 16 Moore Street. There five of the signatories to the Proclamation held their last meeting as the Provisional Government. Julia Grenan, Winifred Carney and Elizabeth O’Farrell were present and when Tom Clarke broke down at the prospect of surrender Last Words tell us; “Miss Grenan and Miss Carney went across to him to try and consol him but instead they themselves dissolved into tears and Clarke comforted them.”

Following the surrender Winifred Carney was imprisoned in England. She stood unsuccessfully for East Belfast in the 1918 election and continued to work for the Transport Union. In 1920-22 she was secretary of the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Dependents Fund 1920-22. In 1922 she was imprisoned in Armagh jail.

In 1928 she married George McBride. He had fought in the First World War and was from the Shankill Road. They were both committed socialists although differed on the national issue and the Rising. Winifred Carney died on 21 November 1943 and was buried in Milltown Cemetery, Belfast. Belfast Graves erected a headstone on her grave in 1985.

Mary Ann McCracken was the sister of Henry Joy McCracken, executed for his part in the 1798 Rebellion. She was a radical thinker, social reformer, who was implacably opposed to slavery and poverty, was a friend of the disadvantaged, and an advocate for the rights of women.

She was born in Belfast in July 1870 to a wealthy Presbyterian family. Her Uncle Henry Joy raised the funding for the construction of the Poor House by the Belfast Charitable Society – now Clifton House – in 1774. Mary Ann McCracken was a member of the Board of the Society and retained a close personal and working relationship with it until her death in 1866.

In July 1798 her brother Henry Joy McCracken was sentenced to be hanged for his part in the United Irish Rising. In a letter she later described the events:

“I took his arm, and we walked together to the place of execution where I was told it was the General’s orders that I should leave him, which I peremptorily refused. Harry begged I would go. Clasping my hands around him, (I did not weep til then) I said I could bear anything but leaving him. Three times he kissed me and entreated I would go; and, looking round to recognise some friend to put me in charge of he beckoned to a Mr. Boyd, and said ‘He will take charge of you.’ ... and fearing that any further refusal would disturbed the last moments of my dearest brother, I suffered myself to be led away.”

After the failure of the rebellion Mary Ann dedicated her life to many causes. The breadth of her interests and activism is remarkable. She helped provide education and apprenticeships for children through the Poor House Ladies Committee. In 1847 at the age of 77 she was one of those who established the “Ladies Industrial School for the Relief of Destitution” with the aim of helping those suffering as a result of An Gorta Mór.

Mary Ann was one of the first to support the “Belfast Ladies Clothing Society” and raised money for the “Society for the Relief of the Destitute Sick”. She was a member of the committee that lobbied for a change in the law to end the practice of ‘climbing boys.’ Their work involved scrambling up the chimney’s of the wealthy to clean them. The risk of falling and the impact on the health of the boys as they cleared away soot was significant.

Her opposition to slavery was relentless and total. When Waddell Cunningham, a merchant, proposed in 1786 that the Belfast Slave Ship Company be established the scheme was vehemently opposed by those who later established the United Irish Society. This and the publication of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man and the French and American revolutions hugely influenced Mary Ann her brother Henry Joy and all of those who came to found the United Irish Society in Belfast in October 1791.

In a letter written in 1859 Mary Ann recalls how deeply Thomas Russell despised slavery. He was one of those: “ ... who in the days of Wilberforce (campaigned against Slavery in England) abstained from the use of slave labour produce until slavery in the west Indies was abolished, and at the dinner parties to which he was so often invited and when confectionary was so much used he would not taste anything with sugar in it ...”

Her opposition was such that as a small frail woman she would hand out leaflets opposing slavery to those boarding vessels to sail to the USA. In a letter written in 1859 – a year before the American Civil War began, she describes America: “...considered the land of the great. The brave, may more properly be styled the land of the tyrant and the Slave ... Belfast, once so celebrated for its love of liberty is now so sunk in the love of filthy lucre (money earned dishonourably) that there are but 16 or 17 female anti-slavery advocates, for the good cause paying 2/6 yearly – not one man, tho’ several Quakers in Belfast and none to distribute papers to American Emigrants but an old woman within 17 days of 89.”

Frail in body she might have been but strong in heart and spirit she remained all of her days. Mary Ann McCracken died on the 26 July 1866 aged 96.

 

Rab McCullough.

My condolences to Marian and the family of Rab McCullough. Rab died suddenly last week. He was one of Irelands leading blues musicans. He played with AC/DC, Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Hendrix and other global rock stars. He alsotaught Bobby Sands to play the guitar when they were imprisoned in the 1970s.

I wrote a little piece about this recentlyafter Danny Devenney published his iconic print - The Session- featuring Bobby, John Lennon, Che, Woody Gutherie and others having a music session. Rab gave me some details of Bobbys early efforts to learn how to play the guitar and of his musical influences. He, Tomboy Loudan and Bobby used to jam together faoi glas na gallaimh.

Recently I asked Rab if he would join Tomboy, BikMcFarlane and other exprisoner musicans, post the covid restrictions, in a session of music from the 60s and 70s that they played together with Bobby in the Crum and Long Kesh. Rab was delighted to be asked. He rhymed of a list of potential numbers from Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan,John Lennon and others. Tomboy also signed up. Bik agreed to ramrod that gig and we spoke about it only last week. Unfortunately it wont happen now. Not with Rab  anyway. But his music will live on. Belfast Blues is a classic.

Go deanfaidh Dia trocairear Rab. Mo comhbhrón le Marian agus a chlann.

 

Féile na gCloigíní Gorma.

Last week it was an honour for me to be on a panel discussion about the Belfast Hills. This discussion- on zoom- was part of Féile na gCloigíní and included Lynda Sullivan, Friends of the Earth, Jim Bradley, Belfast Hills Partnership, Maria Morgan, Ligoneil Improvement Association, and Melina Quinn, National Trust.

I recalled the role the local community played in getting quarrying on the mountain stopped and how the campaign for the conservation of the Bog Meadows and Divis and Black Mountain developed. I made the point that none of this would have happened witout local activism and the efforts of Terry Enwrigh Snr, Adrian Crean, Terry Goldsmith and others. Colin Glen has a similar history. Empowered communities can make a differance.

Getting my notes together for this event started me thinking of the time when my family got a house in the late 1950s in Ballymurphy. At that time the Murph was surrounded by green fields. A river, now mostly underground, ran parralell with Ballymurphy. That was one of our favourite places to play when we werent on the mountain.  Springhill was yet to be built. It was a great green space - Husky’s Field- with a big red bricked house used as a clinic, at its centre. We went there for codliver oil and orangejuice. What is now Springhill Avenue was a long tree lined avenue. The powers that be destroyed all that. They eradicated every blade of grass and built Springhill, a grey brick and black taramacked estate with all greenery erased.

Thankfully that too now is gone, following sustained housing campaigns, from Divis to Moyard, Turf Lodge, the Shankill and other remenants of disasterous housing developments from the 1960s.

There were very old houses - The Yellow Houses- at the corner of what is now Springfield Park. They were a reminder that this was a rural area. There were a number of working farms. One opposite Springhill.  Another beside  Corrigan Park. Yet another at the Top of the Rock at the left hand junction of the Whiterock and Springfield Roads. We usually  went up the mountain via the mountain loney.

Therewas an old tin church enroute, opposite Dermot Hill,smaller but not dissimiliar to Saint Matthias’on the Glen Road. Above and behind that there were two flax dams with swans and an epidemic of frogspawn in the earlyspring. At the top of the loney there was a spring of fresh mountainwater, now piped off.  Behind it was a track – now blocked- up to the Hatchet Field. We spent childhood summers on the mountain.That track to the Hatchet Field was our main route upwards towards the acres of buebells which give Féile na gCloigíní Gorma its name.

We also used to walk up to Torneroy - close to Lamh Dearg and listen to the Corncrakes above Turf Lodge.

It is good that Féile celebrates all this. But more importantly it also looks with hope to the future. A future in which humans can live in harmony with nature. In our case as Belfast people in harmony with our Belfast Hills. My thanks to everyone who has made this possible. Many thanks also to all who organise the many events of Féile na gCloigíní Gorma. It is based on the princilples of Community, Solidarity and Wellbeing. Great work and very enjoyable also.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Poots elected; Ballymurphy: A Conspiracy of Cover-up

 There will be constitutional change

Edwin Poots has been elected as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. I want to wish him well. It’s going to be an interesting time as he faces up to the challenges of leadership in these changing times.

I remember when we were negotiating, just before I stood down as Uachtarán Shinn Féin, that in the course of those efforts Edwin was very constructive and positive and I came to like him.

We got to know each other better. This is what happens when you are locked away for long periods in negotiations with each other.

More recently Edwin led the charge to get rid of Arlene Foster and now he will face exactly the same challenges that confronted her. It’s all about positive societal change. Change is coming, including on constitutional matters. Edwin must know by now that the best way to deal with the change is to manage it with others. Standing aside may slow progress down but that will only serve to deepen difficulties and will ultimately fail.

I hope the Edwin who I came to like faces up to this. He may not. If so he will end up like Arlene.

But let’s see what happens.

I especially want to wish Michelle O’Neill well as she leads our team in the time ahead.

 

Ballymurphy - A Conspiracy of Cover-up

I was in Corpus Christie Chapel in Springhill as the Coroner Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan took almost three hours to read out her judgement from the Ballymurphy Massacre Inquest.

Around me sat some of the relatives, victims and witnesses of those terrible events in August 1971 which left 11 people dead. Ten, including a priest and a mother of eight were shot dead. Nine were victims of the Parachute Regiment. The available forensic and other evidence could not confirm that the tenth, John McKerr was killed by the British, although it is widely accepted that he was. All were deemed entirely innocent by the Coroner who described the use of violence by the Paras as “unjustifiable” and “disproportionate.” The 11th victim Paddy McCarthy died of a heart attack after he was assaulted and threatened by British soldiers. His case was not part of the inquest hearings.

Later the families responded with an emotional mixture of joy and sadness at the outcome of the inquest. I was struck by the similarities between this occasion and that almost exactly 11 years ago when the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday in Derry heard the outcome of the Saville Inquiry.

Martin McGuinness and I were in the Guildhall Square that day in June 2010 as the families of the 14 victims of the Parachute Regiment expressed their delight at the conclusion of the Saville Report.

That same day the British Prime Minister David Cameron addressing the British Parliament apologised for the actions of the Paras. However, he then sought to defend the record of the British Army in the North by claiming that “Bloody Sunday is not the defining story of the service the British Army gave in Northern Ireland from 1969-2007.”

The Ballymurphy Massacre which took place six months earlier than Bloody Sunday and the Springhill Massacre in which 6 people proves that Cameron was wrong. Bloody Sunday like Ballymurphy and other killings are exactly the defining story of the British Army’s involvement in Ireland. Over 360 men, women and children were killed directly by the British Army and RUC and many hundreds more were killed as a result of collusion between those forces and unionist paramilitaries.

The response of the Tory government of Johnson, like that of Cameron and of every British and Unionist government for 50 years has been to cover-up the culpability of their forces in the killing and wounding of citizens. On the day that a Coroner found that nine innocent citizens were murdered by the Paras Downing Street issued a statement in which it said that the British government intends introducing a legacy package that delivers better outcomes for victims, survivors and veterans, focuses on information recovery and reconciliation, and ends the cycle of investigations. This package will deliver on the commitments to Northern Ireland veterans, giving them the protections they deserve as part of a wider package to address legacy issues in Northern Ireland.” This is effectively an amnesty.

This is a unilateral breach of commitments made by the British government in the Stormont House Agreement. It is in part the pandering to the right wing English nationalist sentiment that created Brexit and still thinks it has an Empire. It is also the inevitable consequence of a political and military strategy that has its roots in Britain’s counter-insurgency strategies in colonial wars through the 1940s to the late 1960s. It should never be forgotten that British policy in the North was dictated in large part out of this experience and by the policies advocated by British General Frank Kitson.

In 1969, the year before he was sent to the North to take command of the 39th Brigade, which covered the Belfast area, Kitson published, Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency. To defend British national interests Kitson wrote: “Everything done by a government and its agents in combating insurgency must be legitimate. But this does not mean that the government must work within exactly the same set of laws during an emergency as existed beforehand. The law should be used as just another weapon in the government’s arsenal, in which case it becomes little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public.”

The subsequent decades of conflict must be seen in this context. Understand this and you begin to understand the rationale behind British state collusion with unionist paramilitaries; their use of sectarian killings; the torture of citizens and of prisoners; the use of the shoot-to-kill policy; plastic bullet deaths; the extensive human rights abuses inflicted by the state and its agencies; the imposition of emergency powers that stripped away peoples fundamental human rights; and the mass killing of civilians on Bloody Sunday, the Ballymurphy Massacre, the Springhill Killings, and much else.

The reality is that the Coroner’s conclusions in the Ballymurphy case will not have surprised the security mandarins that run the British system. Every government, Conservative and Labour, has known the truth of these events since they first occurred. That’s why they have stalled and prevaricated, rejected and obstructed every effort by the families to get to the truth and to ensure accountability.

Regrettably the Irish government was not much better. In November 2008 the families and I met Dermot Ahern who was then the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs. In May 2010 I facilitated a meeting between the families and the then Minister of Justice Micheál Martin. We visited the sites of the murders and the families told Mr. Martin of the circumstances of the deaths of their loved ones.

After I was elected to the Oireachtas the Ballymurphy Massacre families visited Leinster House on several occasions to lobby for support in their dealings with the British government. In November 2011 I read the names of those killed into the record of the Dáil for the first time.

“I would like, if I may, to read into the record the names of those killed in Ballymurphy: Fr. Hugh Mullan, who was 38 years old; Frank Quinn, 19, a father of two; Joan Connolly, 50, a mother of eight; Daniel Teggart, 44, a father of 13; Joseph Murphy, 41, a father of 12; Noel Phillips, who was 18; Eddie Doherty, 28, a father of four; John Laverty, who was 20; Joe Corr, 43, a father of six; John McKerr, 49, a father of two; and Paddy McCarthy, who was 44 years old. I once again implore the Government to assist and support the families' campaign and their demand for a full independent investigation.”

In March 2015 the Taoiseach Enda Kenny met the families and in July an all-party motion in support of the families was passed. The motion also supported the Stormont House Agreement on legacy issues.

Regrettably, the Irish government never adopted a strategic approach to challenging the British government on the Ballymurphy case. As in so many other instances these issues were generally viewed as an irritant in the government’s discussions with the British.

The response of An Taoiseach Micheál Martin following his meeting last week with Boris Johnson underlines this. Mr. Martin couldn’t bring himself to speak about the murder of civilians by the British forces but waffled his way around what he described as “the Ballymurphy situation.” It was he said a “good discussion” with Johnson and this after the families had been contemptuous of Johnson’s response.

I outline these meetings as evidence of the enormous courage and tenacity of the Ballymurphy families. For decades, but especially in the last 15 years they have never wavered in their determination to prove their loved ones innocent of any wrongdoing and the victims of state murder. I am in awe of their courage.

Finally we should not forget that their journey for truth and accountability is not over. There are more steps ahead as they seek to overcome British government efforts to protect those responsible for the murder of the innocent victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre. We must walk each new step with them on the way forward.

 

A Calendar of Cover-ups

Over many years the Ballymurphy families have met successive British Secretaries of State. This is an example of the record of shame by the British government. Successive politicians have been part of the cover-up of the Ballymurphy Massacre.

·         In February 2009 I facilitated a meeting between the Ballymurphy Massacre families and the then British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward. The meeting took place in Hillsborough Castle and Woodward was visibly shaken by the accounts of the families. He was considerate and seemed willing to help. The families asked for an inquiry. Six months later Woodward wrote to me referring to “those who died” while commending the work of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), a body the families had previously told him they had no confidence in.

·         In October 2010 the families and I met the next British Secretary of State Owen Patterson. Like his predecessor Patterson pointed the families at the HET as the way to resolve their concerns. He did so while wearing a green wristband expressing his support for the Royal Irish Regiment. The families left the meeting expressing their deep disappointment at the attitude of Patterson.

·         Two years later Patterson rejected the families request for an investigation claiming it was “not in the public interest.”

·         In 2011 the Attorney General for the North agreed to reopen the inquests into the Ballymurphy Massacre.

·         In 2012 the Coroner John Lecky suspended the inquests on the grounds that the Attorney General had no authority to order them.

·         In February 2013 the Coroner changed his position when it was pointed out to him that there no legal barriers to the inquests being held.

·         In 2013 the families met the next Brit Secretary of State Theresa Villiers. They asked for the setting up of an independent review panel into the events in Ballymurphy.

·         In April 2014 Villiers dismissed the families request claiming it would not serve the public interest. At an emotional press conference Briege Foyle, whose mother Joan Connolly was one of those killed, tore up the letter received from Villiers. Briege told the media: "We will fight for this until we die and then our young family will come in and they will fight for it, we will get our day."

·         In her letter Villiers said that: “In my view, the balance of public interest does not favour establishing an independent review.”

·         In September 2016 the Ballymurphy Massacre families met the next British Secretary of State James Brokenshire. They specifically asked him to release the funding, requested by the Lord Chief Justice, needed for the scores of inquests that were waiting to be heard. Brokenshire refused and the families walked out.

·         John Teggart said afterward: “It was a terrible meeting. It was just the same old, same old. The families poured their hearts out about what had happened to their late relatives and were basically pleading for him to release the funding, but it was going nowhere.”

 

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