THIS week the long running campaign for truth and justice by the families of the 10 people killed by the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy during internment in August 1971 was vindicated with the judgement in the Inquest findings.
I sat in Corpus Christi chapel, close to where it all happened and where John McKerr was killed, with relatives of those murdered and other local people  as the Coroners’ verdict was live streamed to us. ‘All the deceased are entirely innocent.’ Mrs Justice Keegan told us at the end.

Her concluding remarks were greeted with a standing ovation and throughout the proceedings as she gave her conclusions in each of the cases applause from other family members in the courthouse and in other venues rippled back to Corpus Christi to be added to by us. I was honoured to be there.
I was also in Ballymurphy at the time of the massacre. It was deeply humbling to be there fifty years later in the company of such heroes and heroines. I want to commend the families for their courage and resolve in the face of fifty years of British government lies and obstruction. Well done to their legal teams and to the Coroner also.

Micheál can no longer turn a blind eye

QUESTIONS: An Taoiseach Micheál Martin

QUESTIONS: An Taoiseach Micheál Martin

IN December 2017 the then Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said: “To the nationalist people in Northern Ireland... You will never again be left behind by an Irish Government.”
That was warmly welcomed by most right-thinking people at that time though some of us thought it was unlikely to be true. We were right to be cautious. Maybe Mr Varadkar meant what he said when he said it. But we need more than fine words, though they are important. We need political leaders to lead. That includes An Taoiseach.  He – and so far they all have been hemales – needs to do his job.
Little wonder, then, in the crucial relationship between the Irish government and the British government Dublin continues to be treated as a junior partner by a British government which has eyes only for its own national and largely English interests.
This was underlined when the Johnson government first briefed last week that it planned to introduce amnesty legislation to protect its military personnel from prosecution arising from murders in the North.  The news was broken initially in “informed briefings” to the main establishment papers in London – the Daily Telegraph and the Times. Those briefings followed just a week after the Overseas Protection Act was signed into law giving legal protection to British military personnel from criminal and human rights violations arising from investigations their behaviour overseas, mainly in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The issue of victims was discussed between the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the British Secretary of State Brandon Lewis when they met in Dublin on Wednesday last week. However, the Irish side were given no hint of such a far-reaching policy shift by the British. Simon Coveney said he was “frustrated” when he read the media reports. A bigger deal!

There was widespread criticism in the North of Johnson’s intention to break previous agreements on legacy, including an international treaty signed with the Irish government in 2015. The Irish government was completely blindsided by the British decision.They got no notice of this briefing even though senior ministers were in discussions with their counterparts just before this development. The current Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “There is an agreement in place with the British government, with the parties in Northern Ireland and indeed with victims’ groups, and that is the Stormont House Agreement of 2014. Any move from that would be a unilateral breach of Trust.” An Taoiseach reducing his role to that of a commentator.  A big deal!
The issue of victims was discussed between the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the British Secretary of State Brandon Lewis when they met in Dublin on Wednesday last week. However, the Irish side were given no hint of such a far-reaching policy shift by the British. Simon Coveney said he was “frustrated” when he read the media reports. A bigger deal!
Responding to the media speculation, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that such a move would be a violation of the Stormont House Agreement. The Irish government, he said, was “very alarmed and deeply disturbed that the British government is even considering such a move.” Another even bigger deal! Im sure Mr Johnson is quaking in his boots.
On Tuesday, as the judgement in the Ballymurphy case was being given by the Coroner, the British government issued a statement in which they said it was their intention to introduce a legacy package that will “end the cycle of investigations. This package will deliver on the commitments to Northern Ireland veterans, giving them the protections they deserve...” In effect an amnesty for past criminal actions by British military and security forces in the North.
The reality of course is that no one will be surprised by this move from the British government. Since the Eames-Bradley Report in 2009 the British government has engaged in a strategy that political parties and others, including this columnist, believe is primarily about protecting its military personnel. This political imperative has increased for the Tories because of the growing numbers of legal cases that have emerged alleging murder and torture by British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The protection of its troops, irrespective of their crimes, has become a political priority as popular support for such a move has gained significant public traction in England.
The relatives of Bloody Sunday victims and the brother of 12-year-old Majella O’Hare, killed by a British soldier in South Armagh, are just some of many relatives who have criticised the British move. British soldiers murdered Irish citizens in all of these incidents and were directly responsible for deaths in many others. In hundreds more killings British agents were responsible for murder through state collusion. The Tory Government is putting the interests of these soldiers and agents above the desire for truth and justice for the victims and their families.
The Irish government cannot sit back and do what it has done so often before. Previous Dublin governments have refused to take a stand when confronted by British duplicity or criminality. One example of this is the Glenanne Gang which killed over a hundred people, including 33 in the Dublin-Monaghan attacks in 1974. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice in its final report concluded that it was “in no doubt that collusion between the British security forces and terrorists was behind many if not all of the atrocities that are considered in this report”.
It also concluded that it was of the view that “given that we are dealing with acts of international terrorism that were colluded in by the British security forces, the British Government cannot legitimately refuse to co-operate with investigations and attempts to get to the truth”. Successive Irish governments chose to ignore this. 
Last week the Police Ombudsman produced a scathing report on the failure  of the RUC  to properly investigate the actions of their own members who killed four people during the August 1969 pogroms in West Belfast.
The Irish government must stop playing second fiddle to the British. It has to use all of the political and diplomatic means at its disposal to oppose an amnesty or statute of limitations in the North. That’s one way to show that no Irish government would ever again leave nationalists in the North behind. Continued refusal to do this is proof that successive Irish governments have failed in their duty and responsibility to defend the rights of Irish citizens here. This is highlighted even more now with a British government, led by an English nationalist who cares even less  for the people of Ireland than his predessors. 
Nor can Micheál Martin continue to turn a blind eye to the imperative of planning for the referendum on unity and for a United Ireland. The Irish government is a member of the Security Council of the United Nations. It is also a member of the European Union. What use is holding membership of prestigious international bodies if it doesn’t use them to challenge British government obduracy and promote lasting peace in Ireland through unity? 

Antrim Gaels abú

IT’S great that our games are back. The Antrim hurlers’ win against Clare last Sunday  was mighty. I am a big fan of TG4 but when I sat down in eager anticipation to watch the game I  quickly grew frustrated at the breakdown in service. Watching on Twitter, while trying to hook up to TG4, is hardly an enjoyable experience. The wee bits I did see showed Corrigan looking  immaculate against the backdrop of Black Mountain. And our hurlers played like the warriors they are. Well done to them all and to Darren Gleeson and  the management team.
Well done also to the three thousand plus Antrim  Gaels who signed the letter to An Taoiseach. The letter itself is straightforward. An appeal to An Taoiseach to plan for the future in an inclusive manner. The Antrim Gaels involved propose that the government convene  a Citizens’ Assembly to “achieve maximum consensus on a way forward” toward an “agreed shared Ireland.”
I think it is a wonderful achievement to get over three thousand Gaels from our county to sign up for this initiative. Those who put it together have done a great service to Gaeldom, to civic society and to the process of agreeing an inclusive future for everyone on this island. This initiative, and the support for it, is also a good indicator of the mood within a section of Nationalism. Gaels contribute in a huge way to communities across this island and throughout the world. Gaelic games are part of what we are. The Antrim Gaels initiative is a gentle reminder that all of us have a stake in the future and that the Irish government has a duty to include us all in planning for that. So well done, Antrim Gaels.