It was a cold house for a long time but Stormont welcomed families of victims murdered by the British state and its loyalists yesterday (Thursday 30th October 2014).
Clara Reilly of Relatives for Justice hosted the event which included a keynote address by the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin.
Family representatives included those from the Ballymurphy, McGurk’s Bar and New Lodge 6 campaigns to name but a few. Níall Ó Murchú, the nephew of Ciarán Murphy who was murdered by state agents in 1974, accompanied leading academic Hew Bennett. Among the leading human rights lawyers too was Niall Murphy, partner at KRW Law.
It has been a particularly difficult year for families who have been campaigning for simple truth and justice for decades – for two generations in our case.
It is blatantly obvious that the British state is running scared and trying to close every avenue open to ordinary people to access even basic rights. Article 2 compliance has always been a problem for it though.
The British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has denied families an inquiry into the murder of their loved ones by the British Army. The Police Service of Northern Ireland continues to be intransigent. If it cannot withhold evidence, it destroys it. Inquests have slowed to a halt.
After a successful legal battle against the police, we have had to bring the state and its forces to court again and this is slowly winding its way through the legal system now.
We are all chipping away at a monolith of lies.
The Deputy First Minister put it succinctly:
There is a sustained and coordinated strategy to cover up the state’s role in the conflict. The British state fears the truth.
The families who attended have fought long and have faced a state which has murdered and maimed, covered-up and lied. You would think that after all of this time that they would be dismayed and disheartened.
But they are not.
I see in them a bullishness and a defiance stronger today than it has ever been. There are younger family members too who are stepping up to take their place. All are prepared for the fights ahead.
And it is needed…
For information is the new battlefield and our families are on the front line again against the British state.
Part to Play
But this does not mean that Irish Republicans can abdicate responsibility either, and this was underscored on the day by the politicians there. All sides have their part to play.
So who’s afraid of the big, bad truth?
Ciarán MacAirt is an Irish writer and author of The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Collusion, Cover-Up and a Campaign for Truth.
He also manages Paper Trail, an innovative charity and social enterprise which offers legacy archive research services and helps families unearth the truth hidden in public records.