Former President joins calls for transparency on some of the most controversial murders of ‘The Troubles’
The “edifice of lies and untruths” surrounding so many of the deaths during Northern Ireland’s dirty war should be torn down and democracy will be stronger for the truth being told, former President of Ireland Professor Mary McAleese told a London conference on the legacy of Northern Ireland’s violence, last Saturday.
Professor McAleese chaired the conference, Troubles, Tragedy and Trauma: Northern Ireland’s Historic Legacy, organised by St Mary’s University in Twickenham, where she is a Distinguished Professor, the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith and the Commons All Party Parliamentary Group on Irish in Britain.
Professor McAleese said: “It tells us something about the shelf life of these stories, the shelf life of grief, and of sadness and of these people who have been what you might call, I believe, patiently impatient.
“There are people who become impatient for change. They do not want their story to be the subject matter of spores that create hate for the future and recreate stories like this in every generation.”
Coincidentally, the long-arranged conference happened the day after the conclusion of a two-week review of dozens of the most highly-disputed murders which are still awaiting inquests decades later.
Lord Justice Weir, who is leading the review, has said solving controversial questions about Northern Ireland’s violent past will help the North move on.
Saturday’s event was devised by St Mary’s MA Irish Studies student Michael O’Hare whose twelve-year old sister, Majella, was killed by the British Army in 1976.
Participants and contributors included Alan McBride, whose wife Sharon was killed in the Shankill Fish Bar bombing of 1993, Steve Travers, surviving member of the Miami Showband massacre, Joe Campbell whose father, an RUC sergeant, was killed in Cushendall, and Eugene Reavey, brother of the Reavey brothers killed in their home in South Armagh in 1976.
They were joined by Dr Tom Clonan former Irish Army officer, now security analyst for the Irish Times, journalist Eamonn Mallie, Jane Winter of British Irish Rights Watch, Guardian journalist Owen Boycott, Joe Campbell recalled the murder of his RUC sergeant father and the subsequent cover-up and said he believed there will be no real political progress until there is greater transparency about the collusion of the security and intelligence services in Northern Ireland with terrorists in various murders on both sides of the communities.
Sergeant Campbell, a father of eight, was shot dead as he closed a police station in 1977. A police ombudsman’s report subsequently said the murder could have been prevented by senior RUC commanders, but said it did not believe there had been collusion.
Mr Campbell said true reconciliation would always be extremely “difficult when the system will not acknowledge the wrong that was done”.
“In order that the political institutions in Northern Ireland can make progress, people need to come to an understanding that issues like ours have to be dealt with in the public eye.”
He praised Lord Justice Weir’s acknowledgment that the Campbells had been waiting too long for the truth. He said that when his mother, Rosemary, heard that “the lights came on” for her.
He said: “It is the first time in 39 years my family has felt this is someone on the side of attempting to get to the truth, and he’s dealt very robustly with the notion some organisations over there cannot provide the necessary correspondence in order that the cases can be progressed.”
“We’re resilient people and we will continue until we find the truth,” he said.
Lord Justice Weir is compiling a report on almost a hundred deaths for the head of Northern Ireland’s judiciary, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan.