“Any ‘fair-minded’ person can see that these people firing were from a ‘renegade unit’ within the British army” – Patrica McVeigh.
RUC/PSNI is to investigate the activities of a shadowy British army unit operating in the North of Ireland in the 1970s – despite earlier ruling out action against former soldiers.
The RUC/PSNI had ruled out an investigation into the actions of members of the Military Reaction Force (MRF) despite alleged admissions of criminality by soldiers during a television documentary. During the Panorrama programme ex-members claimed they “took the war to the IRA” in the early years of the Troubles. Some soldiers from the controversial unit, which apparently disbanded after 14 months, told journalist John Ware about their involvement in the MRF, including shooting dead several unarmed civilians. Director of Public Prosecutions Barbra McGrory, took the unprecedented step of asking police to investigate the contents of the documentary. However, the families of two unarmed civilians murdered by the undercover unit were told there would be no investigation after Chief Constable Drew Harris said there was no evidence of any crime. Solicitor Padraig O Muirigh, who represents the families of Pat McVeigh (44) and Daniel Rooney (18) said at the time they planned to apply for a judicial review into the decision. Mr O Muirigh, had voiced concerns that no investigative steps had been taken and no effort made to trace or question the former soldiers who had participated in the documentary.
However, as they were preparing to launch a High Court challenge to force the police to investigate the contents of the programme, the RUC/PSNI confirmed they would now investigate the army unit. The Public Prosecution Service confirmed in writing this week that they had been given assurances by the RUC/PSNI that a full investigation would now commence and steps taken to identify the soldiers. Senior RUC/PSNI officer Detective Chief Inspector Brian Hanna has been appointed to take on the case and draw up an “investigative strategy”. “I am now satisfied with these steps and I will keep the matter under review”, Mr McGrory said in a letter informing the families this week. Patricia McVeigh’s father Pat, who was one of those murdered by an MRF patrol, welcomed the development. “We hope Brian Hanna will do a good and thorough job in investigating these men. We would also request a meeting with Mr Hanna and the new chief constable as soon as possible. “We were fobbed of for six months as indeed was the DPP Barbra McGrory. “Any ‘fair-minded’ person can see these people firing were from a ‘renegade unit’ within the British army”. Mr O Muirigh said the new investigation must look at the entire 40-man unit and not just isolated incidents. “What we don’t want is for this investigation to be placed into the hands of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET). We’ve been told a senior investigating officer has been appointed and that’s to be welcomed,” he said. “It is also important that the families meet with the senior investigating officer and the incoming Chief Constable George Hamilton at the soonest opportunity for reassurance that a thorough investigation will now be carried out. “We will be calling for this investigation to look at the entire unit and not just those who took part in the Panorama programme.
With many thanks to: Allison Morris, The Irish News, for the original story.
John Copeland died in 1971 after being shot by the British army
THE family of a North Belfast man shot dead by the British army more than 40 years ago is to sue the Ministry of Defence.
Ardoyne man John Copeland was shot as he walked from his mother’s house to his home at Ladbrook Drive on October 28 1971, dying in hospital two days later. He is the father of high-profile republican Eddie Copeland, who himself was shot and wounded by a British soldier in 1993. The family’s solicitor Kevin Winters on Thursday night confirmed that he will also take legal action to ensure British army files connected to the case which are held in England are not destoyed. The records are among a massive haul of Troubles-related documents transferred from the North of Ireland to a warehouse in Swadlicote in Derbyshire several years ago. The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has previously said it was unable to identify two soldiers involved in the shooting and Mr Winters said the family has “serious concerns that the archive material could be destroyed or otherwise subjected to weeding and/or redaction”.
In 2011 it emerged that security force files held at Gough Barracks in Armagh had been destroyed by police, who later claimed they were contaminated by asbestos. During a 1973 inquest into Mr Copeland’s death, three soldiers claimed they opened fire on the father-of-two after he shot at them with a pistol. However, three civilian witnesses later gave evidence that Mr Copeland was not armed. On the same day another Ardoyne man, Michael McLarnon (22), was also killed by the same Green Howard army unit as he stood at the door of his Etna Drive home, while a local woman was also shot and injured. Now Mr Copeland’s widow Isobel is claiming damages from the MoD for the death of her husband, accusing them of a range of failings including negligence. His son Eddie, who was just one when his father was killed, said his death has been “hanging over the family” for four decades. “It’s all about accountability,” he said. “The man who killed my father was eventually promoted and his name has popped up in a few cases. “It’s a case of holding the state to account. I am not worried about an individual person. At the end of the day the state killed him, not an individual.” Mr Copeland was also critical of the Historical Enquires Team investigation.
With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News.
HET findings published as Haass talks break up without agreement -into ‘Shot-to-Kill’ policy’s in the North of Ireland.
TWO IRA men were shot in the back by SAS soldiers in Co Tyrone 30 years ago, a report has found. The families of Colm McGirr (23) and Brian Campbell (19) on Monday 30th December said they planned to sue the British government and wanted fresh inquests into their deaths.
The news came as US diplomat Richard Haass failed to make the party’s in the North of Ireland come to an agreement on dealing with the past, parades and flags. Among the issues holding up the progress have been mechanisms for giving evidence to Historical inquires by bodies taking over the functions of the PSNI‘s/RUC‘s Historical Enquires Team (HET) and the Police Ombudsman. The fresh report into the Co Tyrone killings was carried out by a forensic pathologist for the HET. It appears to contradict accounts given by the undercover soldiers who claimed the pair were shot dead while pointing weapons towards them. Mr McGirr and Mr Campbell, who were members of the Provisional IRA, were murdered by the SAS in a field on Cloghog Road near Coalisland, Co Tyrone, on December 4 1983. A third man was injured but escaped. Their deaths fuelled claims of a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy by the British government against IRA members.
Testimony from the soldiers had claimed that the men were removing weapons hidden in the field and on being challenged “Colm McGirr turned and pointed a shotgun towards one of the soldiers who then fired several shots at him”. Forensic pathologist Richard Shepherd reviewed the postmortem examination scene photographs and statements from four of the six soldiers prescent. He said he did “not believe Colm McGirr would have turned far enough to threaten soldiers” and “no shots had struck Brian Campbell from the front”. In his report, which the families have received, he concluded that because Mr McGirr was right handed, he did “not believe he would have turned far enough to threaten soldiers” if he was holding a weapon. “In my opinion therefore it is more likely that [Mr McGirr] received shots to his right side and back as he was facing into or towards the bush,” he said. The SAS also claimed one of the squad, known as Soldier A, then fired towards Brian Campbell who was holding an armalite rifle and had also turned and was facing them” However, Dr Shepherd concluded that “no shots had struck Brian Campbell form the front”. “I cannot exclude the possibility that the injury to the left upper back was inflicted as he lay on the ground,” he said, without ruling out the soldiers’ version of events in both cases. The IRA men’s families have now called for a fresh inquest into their deaths/murders. Solicitor Padraig O Muirigh, acting on behalf of the relatives said they would also take legal action against the British government.
“This report raises serious concerns in relation to the original soldiers’ statements,” he said. “In light of the disclosure of the Dr Shepherd’s report the families have made an application to the attorney general to direct a fresh inquest into the deaths/murders of Colm McGirr and Brian Campbell. “They will also be issuing civil proceedings against the minister of defence in relation to the unlawful actions of the soldiers.” Colm McGirr’s brother Brian (58), from Coalisland, claimed the British army discovered the arms cache three days earlier on December 1, but the weapons were not removed or disabeled. “We have no doubt that a carefully planned ambush was set by undercover British security forces that evening,” he said. “Through the 30 years that have passed we have sought the truth of what happened. We were led to bbelieve that the PSNI’s/RUC’s Historical Enquiries Team would make every effort to achieve the truth. “As part of this, a second pathologist has confirmed that the shootings could not have happened as described by security forces. Both men, Colm and Brian, were shot in cold blood in the back.” Mr McGirr said the families have been informed that the HSE investigation “is at an end and will proceed no further”. “We lived with a charade of an inquest in early years with no evidence of any sort offered as to what occurred. The McGirr and Campbell families will continue to demand that a new inquest is held to fully investigate all that occourred on that evening.” Reacting to the findings on Monday nnight, Dungannon Independent Republican councillor Barry Monteith said he was “not surprised” by the pathologist’s review and accused the British government of operating a ‘shot-to-kill policy in the North of Ireland. However, Dungannon DUP councillor Samuel Brush said he had no confidence in the HET. “There are dozens and dozens of murders around this area in South Tyrone that have not been looked at,” he said. “It baffles me that these things didn’t ccome to light then and can be turned up. “All we can do is work on reports as they come but is this report any better or any worse than the previous ones?”
With many thanks toto: The Irish News.
Campaign For A United Ireland‘s status update.
Campaign For A United Ireland
The Ballymurphy Massacre Committee is in receipt of a letter from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) announcing that it has suspended its “reviews” of cases involving the British Army due to the damning report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). This acknowledgement by the State publicly and officially validates what the Ballymurphy families have been saying to each British Secretary of State as far back as Shaun Woodward–that the HET is not independent. Due to the great work by Dr. Patricia Lundy they are now having to listen and concede.
It is inexcusable in an environment that is claimed to be a democracy, that from August 1971 til the present day, there has never been an investigation into the murder of 11 innocent civilians from our neighborhood. Successive governments have ignored this atrocity and attempted to divert the cause of justice by offering only a desktop review of the 11 cases through the HET. With the HMIC condemning the HET policies and practices which their report refers to as “illegal,” the State has no excuse not to conduct a proper investigation.
As the HET letter to the Ballymurphy families indicates, there is now no mechanism through which the British State is dealing with Army murders in Ballymurphy. In the 40 year absence of any proper investigation, the Ballymurphy families have designed a formula to address this.
The Independent Panel proposal presented to both governments by the Ballymurphy Massacre Committee is based on the Hillsborough Independent Panel which was fully supported by the British government.
We now call for both the Irish and the British governments to respond immediately to the Ballymurphy Independent Panel proposal.
Ballymurphy Massacre Committee
(John Teggart 07512166867)
Relatives want access to atrocity report
RELATIVES of those killed in the McGurk’s Bar bombing are to issue High Court proceedings to gain access to a Historical Enquires Team (HET) report on the atrocity.
The families were told that the HET investigation into the 1971 bombing of the family-run Belfast pub in which 15 men, women and children died had beencompleted in December last year. The HET began investigating the attack in 2006. The bombing was carried out by the UVF but the RUC brifed media outlets that it had been an IRA ‘own goal’. Despite repeated requests to both the HET and Chief Constable Matt Baggott’s office the report has still not been made available to the ffamilies. They have also lodged a complaint to the Police Ombudsman‘s office. The families claim the report’s release is being deliberately blocked from public scrutiny. Last month HM Inspectorate of Constabulary issued a damning report into the poor performance of the HET which concluded that the body had failed to properly investigate state killings.
There were calls for thecold case murder team to be scrapped in light of the report and because of a lack of public confidence. “We can confirm the families have instructed us to commence legal proceedings in the High Court in Belfast to get access to the report,” solicitor Kevin winters, who represents some of the families, said. “They do so reluctantly but have no choice.” Some of the families also plan to lodge an additional complaint today with the Policing Board. Ciaran Mac Airt, whose grandmother Kathleen Irvine died in the atrocity, said: “The state and its security forces conspired to criminalise our loved ones when they fabricated a story that the bomb was in transit and that customers were being schooled in bomb making. “To clear their good names or families have been forced to campaign against police lies and intransigence for two generations. “By blocking the release of the HET report into the death of our loved ones, the chief constable of the reformed Police Service of Northern Ireland is quite simply retraumatising our family members. “Our families have suffered enough.”
With many thanks to : Allison Morris, The Irish News.
It’s clear that the HET is dead. That means there’s nothing to provide any resolution for families wondering how or why relatives were killed.
IT IS worth reading Patricia Lundy’s first article on the Historical Enquires Team (HET) published in 2009 because it raised a lot of questions above and beyond the fiasco that she revealed the HET to be. She produced her findings under the auspices of the excellent Transitional Justice Institute at University of Ulster so the article examined academically a variety of approaches to dealing with the past in societies that have emerged from conflict.
Her work on the HET took the form of a case study. It now appears the HET is a case study in how not to do it. Dr Lundy was in on the ground floor, so to speak. Hugh Order set up the HET in 2005 and she began her work in August 2005, completing her study in December 2007. Orde gave her unprecedented access to the workings of the HET so she saw how the organisation developed almost from the beginning. Orde left the PSNI in 2009 and was succeeded by Matt Baggott. Did Baggott ever read Lundy’s article and if he did, why did he do nothing about it? Stephen Otter of HMIC said in his report : “What is indefensible is that she did make these findings in 2009, so for four years nothing was being done to address those findings and I do find that is very difficult to believe.” That question needs to be addressed to Baggott. The HET reported to the chief constable. The PSNI controlled its finance and its purse strings. What was Baggott doing? If the HET is a unit of the PSNI then surely there should have been some supervision? Yet Otter makes it clear there wasn’t. Otter said : “I do think [Lundy] deserves an apology from the chief constable on behalf of the PSNI.” What she got from Baggot was, to say the least, less than fulsome. He inserted that weasel word ‘if’, regularly employed nowadays to wriggle out of an outright apology. Baggott offered her an apology “if she felt her concerns were not taken seriously enough”. In fact, the HET and Baggott’s PSNI both rejected her conclusions as recently as the beginning of this year.
Baggott tried to claim to the BBC that the preferential treatment of military killings was ‘on a case-by-case basis’. Otter said it was a ‘policy’ and an illegal one at that. The preferential treatment of military killings exposed as illegal completely vindicates Dr Lundy’s findings but has managed to obscure one of the most damning conclusions in her origional article in 2009, namely that in the HET “all aspects of intelligence are managed by former RUC and Special Branch officers”. They made up the majority of the HET’s intellidence unit. Lundy went on to say “the strategic positioning of former RUC officers and particularly those with a Special Branch background not only undermines actual but perceived independence”. She concluded that for various reasons “the old guard’ kept a grip of the essential areas of HET businness”. That was not any prejudice on Lundy’s part. After a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case – Brecknell v UK – the ECHR required the HET to provide investigative teams who have no previous history with the RUC. Lundy pointed out that they didn’t. Did Baggott, who spent most of this year presnting his own interpretation of Article2 of the Human Rights Act as a reason for PSNI inaction, not know the HET’s practice was not complying with ECHR requirements? Why not? Why did the PSNI ignore her report? Where was Baggott? On the wider front it’s clear the HET is dead. That means there’s nothing tonprovide any resolution for families wondering how or why relatives were killed. The HET was never intended or expected to be the answer but it was all there was. Its ignomijious collapse exposes the failures of the British and Irish governments to produce something along the lines of Eames-Bradley which the previous Labour government ran away from in 2009 using the pathetic pretex of the suggestion of £12,000 per person as a reason for binning the whole report. The two governments have questions to answer but so has Matt Baggott. Sinn Fein are wrong to accept Dave Cox as a scapegoat.
With many thanks to : Brian Feeney, The Irish News.