An American human rights lawyer, who came to Ireland to attend the Rosemary Nelson inquiry visited the New Lodge this week as part of the ongoing New Lodge Six campaign.
Ed Lynch was at the Ashton Centre to review the campaign, which was started by the families of the six men to try and uncover the truth as to why they were killed.
It was claimed at the time and carried in the media that the men Jim McCann, Jim Sloan, Tony Campbell, John Loughran, Brendan Maguire and Ambrose Hardy had been killed in a shoot out with the IRA, but the families instantly rubbished the claim.
Several other people were wounded, but it wasn’t until a Community Inquiry was held in November 2002 that people could give their accounts of what happened. At that time an international panel found that the killings of the six men had never been properly investigated and that there had never been a full accounting of the tragedy.
It was found that the men had been killed without any justification. However, despite the best efforts of the families and their legal representatives, all attempts to get the British government to acknowledge the injustice have been ignored.
A petition to the United Nations to have the case reinvestigated is currently being considered. The meeting in the Ashton Centre was attended by one of the original members of the international panel, Ed Lynch.
Also in attendance were the families of the men, New Lodge Six committee members, Claire Reilly of Relatives for Justice, Gerry Hyland of Madden and Finucane and local Councillor Carál Ní Chuilín.
Ed Lynch said the lack of movement was disappointing, but added, “it is important that we do not lose heart”.
“While it may be over 30 years ago the families continue to endure immense pain and loss. These events are also symbolic of other such state killings of defenceless people in this community and elsewhere,” he said.
“The State cannot be allowed to permit its forces to murder citizens with impunity. This should be an indisputable universal principle for any government that says that it values human rights. This must apply everywhere whether the culprits are US forces in Iraq or British forces in Ireland. The killing of unarmed citizens is abhorrent”.
Willie Loughran, brother of John Loughran said despite the lack of movement the case had been worth it.
“To be absolutely honest I never expected justice from the State. However, this campaign has been worth it,” he said.
“The inquiry proved beyond doubt what everyone already knew. The important thing for me is that the people have spoken, we have documented the facts and the truth is there for everyone to see.”
Copies of the New Lodge Six Community Inquiry Report can be obtained at the Ashton Centre 90-742255 from Paul O’Neill.
Meanwhile Relatives for Justice spokeswoman Claire Reilly has asked people whose loved ones were killed by the state to get in touch.
“While I was in the New Lodge I was struck by the fact that there are a lot of people sitting there without support.”