IN the weeks ahead think about some families who will be facing difficult anniversaries.

The dates will include the 50th anniversary of 14-year-old Philip Rafferty. He was coming home from band practice on the Andersonstown Road when he was abducted by a vicious UDA gang, who tortured his beautiful body and dumped it at the Giants Ring. Philip was the image of his mummy Maureen, who turned 90 just before Christmas. To know Maureen is to benefit from knowing grace, generosity and strength personified.

Also marking a 50th anniversary will be the family of Patrick Heenan. Patrick was a hero who jumped on top of a bomb in his work van, saving all of the others. He was a victim of the British army General Frank Kitson’s dirty war tactics and the emerging policy of collusion which was to mark the entirety of the rest of the conflict. The Heenans of West Belfast have survived the horror of their husband and father’s killing to become beacons of hope for other families as they bring civil action against the General, 50 years later, not letting him rest easy.

The New Lodge and the families of IRA volunteers James McCann, James Sloan, and Tony Campbell, with John Loughran, Brendan Maguire and Ambrose Hardy will remember the 50 years that have passed since the British army embarked on a killing spree, using a covert unit and their troops. They will remember the lives of brave heroes who tried to defend their community and each other on a night of utter savagery. The families will remember those who have passed on their journey through censorship and silence towards the measure of justice that will be a fresh inquest.

These families have so much in common. Not just the year when they were all violently bereaved and their lives changed forever, but their undying march through decades of denial of truth, and denial of justice. These families and all families deserve our attention, and our solidarity. They also deserve our commitment to the issue of legacy. And when I say “our” I mean society as a whole. The entire infrastructure of law, education, health, church and community in which victims and survivors dwell and contribute. The fabric of a society which should not permit the indecency of the Legacy Bill.

Our peace process has delivered much but nowhere has it failed more than when young people, not even born when the peace agreement was signed – let alone at the time of the violations – mark 50th anniversaries demanding truth, justice and accountability for loved ones they only know through story and struggle.

It is a matter of weeks before the shameful British “Bill of Shame” is passed. It will be passed despite the opposition of every party on this island, every victims' group, all international human rights bodies, the United States Congress, the United Nations, the European Court of Human Rights. It will be passed with ignominy in the name of “Reconciliation”.

The legacy bill is an affront to democracy and the rule of law. It threatens peace and stability. But most of all it denies the memory of the New Lodge 6, Patrick Heenan and Philip Rafferty. It tells us that they and the thousands of others do not matter. Well they matter and this issue can never rest. We can never rest.