Latest up-to-date news from ‘The Ballymurphy Massacre Victims’ families.

Justice Keegan appoints additional council, Mr Michael McCartan, to “specifically” and “exclusively” deal with military witness issues including tracing.

Ballymurphy Massacre families in court today Wednesday 11th July for another preliminary hearing (PH) in advance of the inquests starting in September. Groundhog day was the feeling as the legal teams reviewed outstanding issues including tracing of soldiers and the ruling on the UVF application for Properly Interested Party (PIP) status, which if granted will give them access to all the documentation, witness statements and they will be able to cross examine witness including family member.

Unfortunately, the Judge will make a ruling on this application at the next PH on the 27th July, but hopefully when the judge has considered all the submissions from the other legal teams she will rule against it. At the last PH Karen Quinliven argued against granting PIP status on the grounds that witness x was not in fact a witness but and third party who was relaying “gossip” and “hearsay” to the court as if it were evidence.

The issue of tracing soldiers remains high on the agenda for families, at every opportunity the MOD have been dragging their heals in relation to identifying those responsible for the shootings in Ballymurphy, losing cipher lists, not knowing the postal address for Veteran’s associations and breaching deadlines set by the coroner to produce information and on almost every occasion handing in information the day before or the morning of the hearing making it impossible for the legal representatives for the next of kin to respond to until the next hearing again delaying the process.

The Coroner Justice Keegan today acknowledged again that the MOD keep breaching deadlines and set the 20th July as the final date for producing information in relation to tracing of soldiers, she also acknowledged that the tracing of military witnesses was of utmost importance and appointed addition council, Mr Michael McCartan, to “specifically” and “exclusively” to deal with military witness issues.

This is good news for families who have been arguing all along for additional resources to be put in place to trace soldiers, wither that be a tracing agency or the appointment of additional council who’s role is to focus on tracing soldiers exclusively.

Q & A – IS THERE A WITCH – HUNT AGAINST EX – BRITISH SOLDIERS? – THE ‘WITCH – HUNT’ PART 2.

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Q & A – Is there a witch-hunt against ex British soldiers?

15 February 2018Prosecutions soldiers amnesties statute of limitations witch-hunt impunity letters of comfort MoD

A quick question and answer guide to the current debate around prosecutions of former soldiers, ‘letters of comfort’ and the alleged ‘witch-hunt’. (Updated February 2018)

Who is saying there is a ‘witch-hunt’ against former soldiers involved in killings during the conflict in Ireland?

Some right-wing newspapers (The Daily Mail and The Sun) have recently published misleading and inaccurate information claiming that there is a ‘witch-hunt’.

A group of MPs and peers (some of whom are ex-military and are sometimes referred to as the “military wing” of the Tory party) along with some unionist MPs, have also raised the issue in parliament.

The Office of the Speaker has conceded some MPs have abused parliamentary privilege in comments they made about the prosecution of a former soldier that is continuing before the courts.[1]

A group of former soldiers has also held a number of demonstrations in London and Belfast protesting against recent decisions by the Northern Ireland Prosecution Service to charge former soldiers.

How many soldiers have been convicted of murder in the Northern Irish courts?

Four have been convicted of shooting civilians while on duty in circumstances where the courts ruled they were guilty of murder[2] (one murder conviction was overturned on appeal).

All four were freed after just five years of their life sentences through the use of the “Royal Prerogative of Mercy”. All were allowed to re-join the British army.[3] This hardly amounts to a ‘witch-hunt’.

Convicted murderers were allowed to rejoin the army?

YES. No other member of NATO and no other democratic country allows convicted murderers to join, or re-join, its armed forces.

But haven’t republicans and loyalists convicted of murder also been freed under the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) ?

Yes. Prisoners convicted of conflict related offences were granted early release under the GFA. Some had only served a short period of their sentence but a great majority had already served lengthy sentences. Tens of thousands of republicans and loyalists spent time in jails (totalling an estimated 100,000 years). As against four soldiers serving less than five years each.

If anyone should be convicted today of an offence that occurred before the GFA they would only serve a maximum of two years.

Would this two year limit also apply to former soldiers or members of the then RUC (police)?

Yes. On January 25 2018 a British Government minister told a Defence Committee meeting that former members of the armed forces would benefit from the early release scheme. See link below

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/b4c512e0-51c4-4251-ad0b-3f6b3f…

But don’t the so-called “letters of comfort” issued to republicans mean that they will not be prosecuted … and soldiers will?

All the ‘letters of comfort’ did was confirm that the PSNI (police) had no evidence against an individual that could lead to a prosecution at that time. Prosecutions are still possible if evidence becomes available in the future.

Prosecutions are now proceeding against a number of former republicans and loyalists.

The handful of cases where errors led to some people being told, wrongly, that there was no evidence against them led to the Hallett Enquiry.

The PSNI Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) is presently reviewing ALL cases where such letters were issued.

But why are military killings being re-investigated all these years later?

The Stormont House Agreement proposes a new police unit to investigate all outstanding homicide cases – but politicians have so far failed to agree its implementation.

In the meantime, the PSNI are investigating a small number of cases. These include military killings.

A large number of killings by British soldiers, however, were NEVER subject to ANY thorough Article 2 (ECHR) compliant investigation as is legally required.

These are not, then, RE-INVESTIGATIONS as – in many cases an Article 2 compliant police investigation has yet to happen.

Is there proof that these deaths were not investigated?

Yes. In the early 70s, an illegal agreement existed between senior army and police officers which meant that soldiers involved in fatal incidents were rarely interviewed by police officers.

The family of Kathleen Thompson, the mother of six whose photo appears in the banner ad, took a judicial review of the Prosecution Service failure to prosecute the soldier.[5]

The judge slammed the lack of investigation and ruled the Chief Constable had no authority to delegate responsibility to the Royal Military Police.

In addition, declassified official documents show that a second illegal agreement was reached in the early 70s whereby the Attorney General would consult with the Ministry of Defence BEFORE prosecuting a soldier, inviting a submission from the MoD on why a prosecution should not proceed.

This was an egregious violation, both of the independence of the Attorney General and the Prosecution Service. [6]

A report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary[7] and judgements from the European Court of Human Rights all confirm that military killings were not investigated as legally required between 1970 and 1973.

Even after this period, killings of unarmed civilians by the British army were not subjected to rigorous and thorough investigations as required by law.

But the British Army was in Ireland to uphold the law and was subjected to daily attacks by the IRA?

This was not the experience of the nationalist/republican community. Where they didn’t uphold the law they should be subject to investigation and prosecution as with anyone else.

It was the actions of some soldiers, who killed unarmed civilians not posing any threat to them or others that inflamed and aggravated the conflict in the early 70s.

The subsequent failure to investigate and prosecute alienated the entire nationalist/republican community, prolonging the conflict.

A recent inquest into a man shot dead by soldiers in 1971 shows a complete failure to investigate the lies and disinformation that was put in the public domain at the time. It took over 40 years for his family to finally have the truth told.[8]

If the British army was only responsible for approximately 11% of deaths why are more resources not devoted to investigating killings carried out by illegal paramilitary groups?

As outlined above, thousands of people spent lengthy periods in jail having been convicted of paramilitary offences, including murder. For over three decades massive resources were devoted to putting people behind bars (and sometimes the wrong people, as with the Birmingham Six and the Guildhall Four).

The Northern Ireland Office has confirmed to The Pat Finucane Centre that there are approximately 170 outstanding investigations into the deaths of British soldiers.

Over 500 investigations into killings of soldiers have been completed. These resulted either in prosecutions, where evidence was sufficient, or to no prosecution if evidence was unavailable.

Why do these families want ‘revenge’ so many years on?

The vast majority of bereaved families whose loved-ones were shot dead by soldiers do not want revenge. They seek truth and justice.

Having been treated appallingly in the aftermath of the death, they now have to endure reporting that borders on the racist – and is certainly inaccurate.

The ultimate insult came when a parliamentary committee called for a “statute of limitations” for members of the British armed forces.

This is Illegal, immoral and certain to contradict both the spirit and the letter of the peace process. It is contrary to the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

What would you, reader, think if your parent or child was killed by a soldier whose only defence is that he was “fighting for Queen and country” ?

Who are we ?

The Pat Finucane Centre provides advice and advocacy to over 230 families on both sides of the border who have been bereaved due to the political conflict. A number of the families have had loved ones killed by the British army and were unarmed and did not pose a threat.

We are involved with families in cases where prosecutions are proceeding against former soldiers. Unlike the Sun, Daily Mail and some Tory backbenchers we do not see it as appropriate to comment on these cases where legal proceedings are on-going.

What can you do?

Join us on Twitter #nomilitaryimpunity

Talk to politicians who canvass at your door during the election.

Make your views known where the issue is debated in the media.

Submit a resolution within your union, political party or community organisation.

Email the Prime Minister https://email.number10.gov.uk/

Donate to the PFC through our web-site via PayPal

[1] Email to Pat Finucane Centre from the Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

[2] A number of Scottish soldiers were convicted for stabbing two men to death in Fermanagh in October 1972. There was no defence that this was a justifiable use of lethal force while on duty.

[3] See for instance- http://www.patfinucanecentre.org/state-violence/chronology-events-case-murdered-teenager-peter-mcbride

[4] http://eamonnmallie.com/2017/03/who-says-the-two-year-limit-on-prison-s…

[5] https://www.courtsni.gov.uk/en-GB/Judicial%20Decisions/PublishedByYear/Documents/2004/2004%20NIQB%2062/j_j_GIRC5085.htm

[6] http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/declassified-documents-reveal-army-lobbied-attorney-general-not-to-prosecute-soldiers

[7] https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/media/inspection-of-the-police-service-of-northern-ireland-historical-enquiries-team-20130703.pdf

[8]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-39707105

Links
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The ‘witch hunt’ part 2. The second of our 2 minute videos series on the theme of the so-called ‘witch hunt’ of former British soldiers. Please share widey

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1597331150377936&id=660666487377745

With many thanks to: The Pat Fincuane Centre for the origional story.

Seán Murry’s powerful and unsettling documentary ‘Unquiet Graves: Uncovering Britain’s Secret War in Ireland’.

Premieres at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh on 11th July 2018.

It will be shown in every major city in Britain from September.

Unquiet Graves: The story of the Glenanne Gang details how members of the RUC and UDR, (a British Army regiment) were centrally involved in the murder of over 120 innocent civilians during the recent conflict in Ireland. It will detail how members worked hand in hand with known sectarian murderers in the targeted assassinations of farmers, shopkeepers, publicans and other civilians in a campaign aimed at terrorizing the most vulnerable in society. Now known as the Glenanne Gang, the group of killers rampaged through Counties Tyrone and Armagh and across into the Irish Republic in a campaign that lasted from July 1972 to the end of 1978.

With many thanks to: Connolly Association for the origional posting.

Please follow: Unquiet Graves: Uncovering Britain’s Secret War in Ireland for more information.

Follow this link to find out more and LIKE or FACEBOOK page:https://www.facebook.com/connollyassociation/

Follow this link to find out more and LIKE or FACEBOOK page: https://www.facebook.com/unquietgravesfilm/https://www.facebook.com/unquietgravesfilm/

Former policeman blows the whistle on mudererous Glenanne Gang in new documentary

West Belfast film maker Sean Murry talks about the documentary Unquiet Graves and the Glenanne Gang to the Irish News Picture by Hugh Russell.

A DOCUMENTARY about the loyalist Glenanne Gang – who were thought to be responsible for more than 120 killings in an area of Mid Ulster once dubbed ‘murder triangle’ – took four years to complete.

West Belfast filmmaker Sean Murray said he could have made the film in two years but said it “wouldn’t have been the documentary he wanted to make”.

The film, which was funded from charitable donations, crowd funding and from the filmmaker’s own pocket, tells the story of a gang of loyalists, that included members of the security forces, involved in a sectarian campaign of terror from 1972 until 1978.

Narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Stephen Rea, it finishes with a reading of the ‘Strand at Lough Beg’, the famous poem by Seamus Heaney he wrote in memory of his cousin Colum McCartney, who was shot dead by members of the Glennanne Gang dressed as UDR soldiers in Newtownhamilton in 1975.

“I contacted Stephen Rea probably about a year after we had started the film,” said Murray, the son of leading republican Sean ‘Spike’ Murray.

“The one condition he had was that he wanted approval from the Heaney family, which of course we needed to do anyway. Once we got that over the line Stephen was amazing and his voice really brings another dynamic to it.”

Catholic priests Fr Denis Faul and Fr Raymond Murray, who started to highlight the activities of the murder gang back in the 1970s, said at the time that the RUC had “a 100 per cent failure rate” when it came to convicting loyalists for murders in the area.

More than a decade ago the Pat Finucane Centre and journalist Anne Cadwallader started to research the activities of the Glenanne Gang.

The book, Unquiet Graves by Ms Cadwallader, provided the basis of the research for the documentary, which also takes the same name.

Howver in the course of the making of the film Mr Murray said he managed to uncover new details of how the gang operated after speaking to ex-RUC man and self confessed Glenanne gang member John Weir.

Former RUC man self confessed Glenanne Gang member John Weir.

That meeting happened after Mr Murray was put in contact with the former RUC man by Margaret Urwin of the Justice for the Forgotten group, who had previously managed to link the gang to the Dublin Monaghan bombings which claimed the lives of 33 people and a full term unborn baby in May 1974.

Weir, who was convicted for the murder of Catholic shopkeeper William Strathearn in April 1977, currently lives in South Africa, where Mr Murray travelled to interview him last year.

“I asked him at the end of the interview did he regret it, and he told me he didn’t regret anything and he’d be a liar if he said did, but he’s very, very frank.

“With any of the people I spoke to it was about leaving some kind of legacy. I think they’ve looked back at what they’ve been involved in and they want to do something positive before they go.”

With the consultation on legacy arrangements currently underway the west Belfast man says storytelling, like the Glenanne documentary, should be a part of that healing process.

“The process isn’t just about the film being released, it was about people putting their trust in others to tell their story, to leave an historic legacy and documented narrative behind for future generations.

“To include some victims in the documentary and not all 120 was a very difficult creative decision to make, but one story is all their stories,” he added.

* Unquiet Graves will premier at Galway Film Festival on July 11, before going on tour.

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.

Army veterans may be protected for alleged historic offences as MPs announce official inquiry

A consultation document drawn up by the Northern Ireland Office on how to handle legacy killings has ruled out protection for Armed Forces veterans.

MPs are to launch a formal inquiry into whether British Armed Forces veterans could be granted amnesty from prosecution for alleged historic offences, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The Commons defence select committee will investigate the possibility of introducing a time limit on prosecutions and will call on high-ranking officials, including the Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, and the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC, to give evidence.

Currently, veterans from the Troubles face prosecution for alleged historic offences committed nearly fifty years ago, and some MPs have claimed that recent prosecutions of former British soldiers amount to a “witch-hunt”.

The disclosure follows proposals made last month by the Northern Ireland Office on how to handle deaths during the Troubles that included ruling out a time limit on prosecutions of servicemen.

Theresa May has previously labelled the treatment of North of Ireland veterans as “patently unfair” but has so far refused to commit to introducing a statute of limitations.

Four senior Cabinet members have expressed their misgivings over the exclusion of an amnesty and Theresa May has labelled the treatment of Northern Ireland veterans as “patently unfair”, but has so far refused to commit to introducing a statute of limitations.

The inquiry, which is expected to last around six months, could put further pressure on the government to include such a provision in any proposals addressing the legacy of the Troubles.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, who has called for the introduction of a statute of limitations on a UK-wide basis which would also cover other conflicts including Afghanistan and Iraq, said he “welcomed” the inquiry.

Sir Jeffrey, a senior DUP member, said: “It’s appropriate that the defence committee should be looking at this rather than the Northern Ireland office … the MoD should be taking the lead in terms of putting in place the kind of protections armed forced needs when going into combat.”

Timeline | The Troubles

  • 1969

    The British Army deploys to Belfast and Londonderry after serious riots. The Irish Republican Army splits into the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA.

  • 1971

    Internment begins. 7,000 people flee, 14 are shot dead and more than 300 arrested.

  • 1972

    Bloody Sunday: 13 civilians are shot dead by the Army during a civil-rights march in Londonderry.

  • 1974

    The Provisional IRA kill 21 in the Birmingham pub bombing, and five in Guildford. Prevention of Terrorism Act introduced.

  • 1975

    Ceasefire between Provisional IRA and UK government until July. Internment ends.

  • 1979

    Airey Neave, shadow spokesman on Northern Ireland, is murdered by an Irish National Liberation Army car bomb as he leaves the Houses of Parliament.

  • 1981

    Republican prisoners in the Maze prison go on hunger strike. MP Bobby Sands dies.

  • 1984

    Provisional IRA bomb the Conservative Party conference in Brighton, killing five.

  • 1985

    Anglo-Irish Agreement signed, accepting that the Dublin government had to have an input into Northern Ireland.

  • 1987

    Remembrance Day service in Enniskillen bombed.

  • 1994

    Loyalist paramilitaries announce a ceasefire negotiated by members and activists across Northern Ireland. It lasts for 17 months.

  • 1996

    Political talks at Stormont begin with Sinn Féin. A bomb in London’s Docklands kills two, ending the ceasefire.

  • 1997

    The Provisional IRA renews the ceasefire in July. Sinn Féin signs Mitchell Principles to start taking part in peace talks.

  • 1998

    Good Friday Agreement ends 30 years of violence. Ulster Unionist David Trimble is elected First Minister. The Real IRA kills 29 civilians in a bomb attack in Omagh. Small-scale violence continues.

Institutions to deal with the legacy of the conflict, including a Historical Investigations Unit to take forward outstanding investigations into Troubles-related deaths, were agreed in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement, although an amnesty was not among them.

However, the agreed proposals have been put on hold due to a small number of outstanding disputes and a public consultation was launched last month by Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to try and break the political impasse.

With many thanks to the: Daily Telegraph for the origional story.

Backlash of the ‘betrayed’ squaddies.

THOUSANDS of British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles have been encouraged to brand themselves “betrayed” on social media as a row over prosecutions escalates. Many are taking to Facebook as they try to garner greater public support for their cause.

Campaigner Alan Barry posted a picture of himself serving in the Army, left, on Facebook

They have changed their profile pictures to photographs of themselves as young men on patrol in Northern Ireland. Stamped across the photos, in capital letters, is the word “betrayed”.

Alan Barry, who runs campaign group Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans, and is fundraising to finish a documentary The Great Betrayal, about the treatment of those who served during the Troubles, said his group has more than 24,000 members.

“We have asked them to put as their Facebook picture a picture of themselves in NI with the word ‘betrayed’ as a banner across it,” he said.

“Quite a few have already done it.”

Former servicemen will gather outside Parliament on June 15, the same day as a reading of a Bill on an statute of limitations on prosecutions put forward by Conservative MP Richard Benyon.

OUTRAGE following Corbyn’s refusal to back NI staying in the UK

We have asked them to put as their Facebook picture a picture of themselves in NI with the word ‘betrayed’ as a banner across it

Last week the Sunday Express revealed that the group was sending white feathers, a traditional symbol of cowardice, to politicians in protest.

Among those targeted were Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley.

The row erupted after ministers dumped a proposed time limit on investigations for those who served during the conflict, which began in 1968.

Critics say that the clandestine nature of organisations like the IRA meant that it was easier to investigate former soldiers than terrorists.

But the idea of an amnesty for soldiers has been opposed by a number of political parties in Northern Ireland.

Some fear the policy could end up with protection being offered to former terrorists as well. But many former servicemen still say that they feel “hung out to dry”.

With many thanks to the: Sunday Express for the origional story.

British Army civil staff also face probe

MORE than 300 retired civil servants who served in Northern Ireland have been placed on a list of material witnesses as British veterans brace themselves for a raft of historic war crime prosecutions.

Conservative MP Richard Benyon served in the North of Ireland as a platoon commander

It follows Downing Street’s recent decision not to insist on a time limit for any prosecution of alleged offences – known as a statute of limitations.

It has also proposed a £150million inquiry into Army shootings in the province during the 1970s and 1980s.

The move was branded a “betrayal” by furious Tory MPs, who accuse the Prime Minister of “pandering to Sinn Fein” as she tries to find a way of reinstating the collapsed devolved government in Stormont.

Hundreds of civil servants, carrying equivalent military ranks ranging from Captain to Colonel, served alongside soldiers as they fought to retain control over the Province during the Troubles.

Many of these men and women, most of whom are now retired, were closely involved in operational matters, such as repairs of crucial communication masts after their destruction by the IRA.

Ireland veterans give out white feathers

Northern Ireland veterans deserve better than this – EXPRESS COMMENT
All of these cases were investigated by the authorities at the time, and those concerned cleared

Mark Francois

Though none were armed, all those sent on duty to the Province were closely involved in operational matters, often working closely with soldiers.

Sources say the list took more than six months to prepare, with staff at both ministries working hard to trace retired civil servants, implying the Government had full knowledge it would not be imposing a statute of limitation long before the surprise announcement last month.

Those on the list, some of whom may well be in their 80s, will be allowed to give evidence behind a screen if called upon – a luxury not afforded to veterans who are prosecuted.

Those who do not willingly agree, sources say, may be compelled to give evidence. Later this month Conservative MP Richard Benyon, who served in Northern Ireland as a platoon commander, will introduce a Private Members Bill to parliament calling for a 10-year statute of limitations for soldiers serving in any theatre.

With many thanks to the: Sunday Express for the origional story.