Irish victims' groups to lobby US President Joe Biden

The proposal by the British government to cease all investigations, inquests and legal actions against the murky conduct of its soldiers in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1998, has caused fury. Families of those that died from the guns and bombs of British soldiers as well as Irish and British terrorists, are determined that Boris Johnson will not be allowed to get away with this development, which undermines all the principles of justice in a modern democratic society and stands to let his army veterans off the hook. As Ken Murray reports from Dublin, a number of victims’ groups look set to lobby US President Joe Biden (pictured) in the hope he will lean on the British PM to back down.

Some readers may find it extraordinary that 23 years after the British-Irish Peace Agreement was signed in 1998 and brought a formal end to ‘The Troubles’, families of those that died in the conflict are still wrapped up in costly, frustrating and lengthy legal actions against the UK government seeking compensation but, more importantly, elusive answers!

The British Army’s role in some of the most horrific killings during the conflict include the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry City where 14 innocent victims were shot dead by soldiers from the Parachute Regiment.

Not only did the British make a mess of its explanation for the killings but Lord Widgery in his subsequent Report lied to the World saying ‘the [British] soldiers had been fired on first’!

His poor attempt at a whitewash Report resulted in IRA numbers swelling beyond its wildest dreams which helped to pro-long a conflict which was still in its early days.

After persistent pressure on successive British Governments, a second Bloody Sunday Inquiry lasting 12 years running to 5,000 pages headed by Lord Saville and costing the British taxpayer just under £200 million, produced a different result saying the shooting of innocent victims was ‘unjustified’ resulting in Prime Minister David Cameron issuing a public apology in the House of Commons in June 2010.

In the meantime, the emergence that certain British soldiers and MI5 officers had been working in unison with terrorists in the Ulster Volunteer Force to murder targeted Irish republicans, has seen a growing number of catholic families seeking answers about the controversial killings of their loved ones.

Not surprisingly, the British have been playing hardball in all subsequent legal actions.

As Stephen Travers, a survivor of the 1975 Miami Showband massacre-as seen on Netflix- told Newstalk Radio in Dublin last week, “the British establishment is playing the long game by applying the three Ds, namely, deny, delay and die.”

In other words, if the UK Government can drag out the growing number of legal actions they are facing from victims’ families, the likelihood is that those either taking the litigation or the British soldiers who are defending themselves, will be dead by the time they get in to court thus cancelling the justification for such a case therefore letting the British off the hook for their alleged murders!

In recent months, the pressure has been mounting on the British to come clean on its illegal activities after a Coroner ruled last May that ten catholics shot dead by Her Majesty’s Army in Ballymurphy Belfast in 1971 were entirely innocent.

The Ballymurphy finding has set a precedence that up until last week, was shaping up to be an embarrassment and financially costly one for the London Government, one that has the potential to reveal that certain elements in the British Army deliberately murdered innocent Irish catholics without a valid reason!

To add to the frustration being experienced by families who lost loved ones in the conflict, earlier this month, the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service announced its intention to withdraw proceedings against two former British soldiers – Soldier F for the murder of two men during Bloody Sunday in 1972 and Soldier B for the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty six months later, a signal perhaps that the UK Government is prepared to go to any length to protect its own.

When Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis announced last week that a statute of limitations is being proposed to close down all investigations, legal actions and procedures to deal with actions against British security services as well as catholic and protestant terrorist groups, his remarks provoked outrage across the island of Ireland.

For the first time in a long time, British unionists and Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland were, surprisingly, united for once over the same issue!

Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “the announcement was unacceptable and amounted to a betrayal.”

The Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was somewhat more diplomatic saying, “the Irish government has a very different view… as do NI political parties & victims groups.

“This is not a fait accompli,” he added on Twitter.

To complicate matters, the British actually agreed with the Irish Government at the 2014 Stormont House talks to deal with legacy issues assuring suffering families that their respective issues would be dealt with satisfactorily.

However, last week’s surprise announcement by Brandon Lewis even caused anger on the opposition benches in Westminster.

The Shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Labour MP, Louise Haigh said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson needed to properly explain the move.

“This Government gave victims their word [that] they would deliver the proper investigations denied to victims and their families for so long.

“To tear up that pledge would be insulting and to do so without the faintest hint of consultation with those who lost loved ones would be staggeringly insensitive.”

Meanwhile Victims’ group are looking across the Atlantic Ocean for political pressure to be applied on the British.

Dublin-based Margaret Urwin, who represents ‘Justice for the Forgotten’, said “I’m calling on the Irish Government to lobby US President Joe Biden.

“They have nothing to lose,” she said.

Eugene Reavey’s three innocent brothers were shot dead by the UVF with the support of rogue British Army personnel at their home in south Armagh in January 1976.

He jointly heads up TARP-the Truth and Reconciliation Platform-and has vowed that until the day he dies, he will follow the London Government to the ends of the earth to get justice for his brothers and those murdered by the British Army.

Talking to this week, he said, “I am writing to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and pleading with her to lobby President Biden to lean on the British to ensure this statute of limitations is not implemented.

“Nancy Pelosi’s son in-law is Irish and Joe Biden’s ancestors were Irish. We have influential support in Washington and we aim to ensure to use it to the max to ensure the British don’t get away with this one.

“They’ve been at it for centuries and it’s time their lies and evil deeds were finally exposed to the wider world.”

Margaret Urwin and Eugene Reavey’s calls are unlikely to fall on deaf ears.

Last year as the EU/UK Brexit withdrawal deal was reaching a conclusion, President Biden said he would not support a US trade deal with London if actions by the British undermined the 1998 [Good Friday] Peace Agreement.

It looks like it could be an uncomfortable few months ahead for the stiff upper lips in the British establishment.

EU Reporter