Collusion across the border

Last year, we heard the word ‘collusion’ uttered countless times. It’s tied to the past and ‘weaponised’ as another way of inflicting damage.

One aspect of collusion concerns what happened in the Republic of Ireland.

Did a member or members of An Garda Síochána work with PIRA to murder RUC officers and part-time members of the security forces who were abducted, taken to the Republic of Ireland, brutally interrogated and then their remains returned to a ditch on the Northern Ireland side of the border?

Why were there poor or no murder investigations carried out by the Gardaí in all such cases?

Was there a series of cover-ups? Why is important documentation not being made available?

What was the role and involvement of Irish Military Intelligence with the PIRA during the ‘Troubles’ to see to it that the violence was confined to ‘the north?’

It’s right we should ask these questions of authorities in the Republic of Ireland. Sadly, the level of assistance and cooperation we get from Dublin is significantly less than what we receive in Belfast.

We would like to see greater openness from Dublin. We represent victims of terrorism whose relatives were murdered across the border and they deserve to be treated with respect and decency by Mr Martin’s government.

No word yet on La Mon Public Inquiry

A few months ago, Ulster Human Rights Watch appealed to the Government to conduct a Public Inquiry into the PIRA La Mon atrocity which claimed twelve lives and injured thirty others in 1978.

So many questions remain unanswered about the investigation that followed this cowardly attack. We are aware of the existence of official documents that identify some of the PIRA terrorists involved in the incendiary attack.

There was a review of the investigation conducted by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET), and we know that documents held by the Public Records Office (PRONI) bear redacted names and nicknames which more than justify a Public Inquiry.

Our request to Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, is made on behalf of fifteen victims of La Mon who live in Canada, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

When we made the detailed Submission to Mr Lewis, we stated publicly: “This is one case that won’t go away and we believe there is sufficient new material now available to warrant such an inquiry.”

UHRW says it wants to find out the identities of all IRA terrorists involved in ordering, planning and executing the bombing and provide a full account of their involvement.

Crucially, it wants to know why IRA suspects identified by the only person convicted of the bombing were not arrested and questioned by RUC CID and why the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team (HET), in its Summary Report, took the decision to conceal the names of suspects including the identity of the man who planted the bomb when they were known to the police.

We asked the Taoiseach to back our call for a Public Inquiry. That was in November last year. So far, there has been radio silence from the Taoiseach’s office in Dublin.

Victims’ Payments still not resolved

Welcome to the first Ulster Human Rights Watch blog.

First, we hope 2021 will be a lot kinder than the turbulent, worrying and wearisome year we have just come through.

2021 is an important year for Northern Ireland – a time to reflect on the first 100 years and a chance to look forward as we set out on our second century.

Events that are planned will reflect on what happened in Northern Ireland since 1921. Sadly, on a number of occasions, the first 100 have been marred by terrorist violence. Within living memory, we had the republican campaigns of the fifties and sixties, but nothing compared with the sustained and murderous 25 years of terrorism from 1969/70.

This last and most prolonged campaign claimed 3,700 lives and left close to 50,000 injured. The period was characterised by appalling acts of barbarity. Protestant and Roman Catholic civilians were ruthlessly targeted. RUC officers and members of the military were prime targets for the blood-thirsty killers.

This is the legacy we deal with today. Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) is a voice for those who still bear the wounds, physically and mentally, of the ‘Troubles’. Relatives of hundreds of people murdered or maimed still don’t have closure: they don’t have full disclosure of what happened; why investigations were incomplete or deficient; who the perpetrators were and what level of Irish State collusion there was to protect the bomber or gunman who escaped to the ‘save haven’ of the Republic of Ireland.

We advocate on behalf of innocent victims. We search official documents. We sometimes ask awkward and uncomfortable questions. We campaign for a fairer deal for victims who for too long have been pushed to the side lines of our troubled past. Too many are content to pay lip-service to victims and too few are willing to do what’s right.

Take the Victims’ Payment Scheme, for example. It was meant to come into effect in May last year. It then became bogged down in a political row over funding. Was the devolved administration to be responsible for making payments or should that be the responsibility of the national Government as the scheme?

We’re still no further on. The Northern Ireland Justice Department has taken ‘ownership’ of the scheme but without agreement on who pays, our victims are left hanging on. It is shameful. It is wrong.

It has to be brought to a close to save victims further anguish and distress. The money will bring some little relief to many who struggle financially. It will never bring closure, but it would be a first positive step in acknowledging their life-long suffering and pain.

We continue to make representations to both Secretary of State Brandon Lewis and Minister Naomi Long.

We will update you on progress or the continuing failure of our local administration or Government to resolve this year-long squabble.

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