by Martin Galvin
NYAOH FFAI Chair
FFAI ISSUES UPDATE
A-False claims raise Legacy Consultation concerns- British Prime Minister Theresa May’s patently untrue claims that British crown forces were the only ones being investigated for legacy killings, sparked charges that she misled Parliament, and raised concerns about legacy bad faith. Statistically investigations of British killings amounted to less than a third. Unlike Republicans such as Gerry McGeough and Seamus Kearney, no British trooper has been jailed. May’s appointee Karen Bradley published a consultation paper for hundreds of legacy killings, outlining four devices: (1) Historical Investigations Unit-(HIU),taking over investigations done by the Ombudsman and Historical Enquiries Team; (2) Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR)for private requests by family members about the deaths of loved ones; (3) Oral History Archive (OHA) collecting research and new and existing oral history on the Troubles; (4) Implementation and Reconciliation Group (IRG) to review implementation. Bradley took plans Britain agreed in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement and put them up for renegotiation, then offered 150 million pounds in legacy funding, set aside years ago but never released. Bradley echoed May’s false claims and said “that is why we needed a consultation”.
Nationalists and human rights groups reacted angrily. Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre took out a half-page ad in the GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER publicly charging that May had misled Parliament. She was even refuted by former Justice Minister David Ford, current Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson and PSNI constabulary statistics. May’s rhetoric raised questions about whether Britain intended the new legacy mechanisms to give truth to victims or cover to crown forces. A potential national security blanket, DUP veto, or quota on investigations of British killings which ignores collusion, provide opportunities for a state forces cover-up. Meanwhile the British have refused to stop veterans groups from instructing former troopers to ignore requests for cooperation by the Ballymurphy Massacre Inquest.
B-Foster wants military covenant as Stormont absence hits 500 days- Democratic Unionist Party head Arlene Foster wants the “military covenant” in the north as another concession to get talks restarted, 500 days since the collapse of the Stormont Assembly. The military covenant would give preference to former British troopers and Ulster Defense Regiment members in housing, school placements, and medical waiting lists etc. Martin McGuinness resigned over Foster’s refusal to stand aside while her Renewable Heat Initiative, “money to burn” scandal was under investigation. Foster approved a plan which pays a profit to burn fuel, costing 500 million pounds. She blames her advisors. Talks had ended in a Valentine’s Day breakup after a compromise that would have allowed an Irish language act with Ulster Scots and an overriding Respecting Languages Bill. That compromise dropped objections to Foster, despite the continuing inquiry. Now Foster wants more concessions.
C-Corbin neutrality not enough for Unionists- Jeremy Corbin, of the British Labour Party made his first visit to the north since becoming leader of the opposition. He was slammed by unionists for saying he would be neutral in any border poll under the terms of the Good Friday agreement and that he regretted all deaths in the conflict, without one-sided condemnation of the IRA. Corbin, who had visited the north and Sinn Fein during the conflict, took pains to state that he was not advocating a border poll and that he was against all violence. He was merely saying he would abide by the agreement. However this even-handedness brought angry reaction from Unionists, led by Gregory Campbell of the DUP who wanted a special meeting with relatives of those killed by Republicans. Campbell is one of ten DUP MPs propping up Theresa May as Prime Minister.
D-RUC partied in the back of Loughgall death van-A former member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary bragged about holding parties in the bullet-ridden van where IRA Volunteers were killed by the SAS in a May 1987 ambush. The revelation was posted on a Facebook page administered by former SAS members. It appeared alongside photographs of the van and slain Volunteers. Eight IRA members and a civilian were killed in the incident now due for a legacy inquest. Some members of this feared IRA Unit were believed shot after capture. The van was hit by 125 bullets. The post boasted that RUC members held parties in the van during continuity training in 1988, while a former SAS member posted underneath “it was one of the best nights of my career”. Relatives of the dead were shocked and hurt. A sister of one of those killed, Mairead Kelly said it was “depraved” and “no one with common decency would make fun of the dead”. Brian Arthurs said his brother Declan “gave his life in a struggle for the freedom of his country.” Meanwhile, the DUP continues to condemn dignified commemorations for slain IRA members.
REMEMBERING PATRIOTS WITH PRIDE
Special congratulations to George McLaughlin, Seamus Boyle and all of those who helped dedicate headstones for Thomas Darragh and Robert Cranston, two of the six Fenians rescued in a great escape from imprisonment in Australia and brought safely back to America on the Catalpa. The ceremony took place on May 5, 2018 in Philadelphia.
Congratulations also to all those in Suffolk County who were responsible for the Thomas Clarke-Kathleen Daly Clarke and who were honored by the Tyrone AOH in Thomas Clarke’s hometown of Dungannon. A full account of the ceremony is posted on the New York State web site and am arranging to deliver their plaque from Ireland.
On July 22, 2018 the anniversary of Robert Emmet’s rebellion, there will be a special rededication and unveiling of a monument to the Emmet family in Beechwood Cemetery, New Rochelle at 3pm.
The family plot includes the graves of Thomas Addis Emmet, a United Irishman leader, among other family members who were patriots of Ireland as well as the United States. There will be a reception afterwards at the Heritage on McLean Avenue. For information call-718-877-0345.
YOUR FFAI EFFORTS ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!
Having just returned from Ireland, I was deeply moved by how much our AOH FFAI work has meant to victims of British rule. At a meeting with Mark Thompson in Dungannon about a dozen families turned up. Each of them mentioned how important Mark’s Emergency Tour in January, the Congressional letter, and Congressional hearing were to them. They feel they have been told lies and stonewalled by the British for decades, when they ask for the truth about the murders of their loved ones. These families think that the British will use the DUP to cancel out any pressure for justice in the north, but that American pressure can make a difference.
These families, who have suffered so much, are grateful for our AOH FFAI help and are counting on us to continue. Mark is willing to return and also to enlist speakers from families of campaigns like the Ballymurphy Massacre which will be making headlines as the inquest begins this fall.
Every County who hosted an event last year had a tremendous success. I would like to host more tours and need your help for venues so I can propose something for our State President’s approval.
Looking forward to the National Convention, meeting FFAI leaders from around the Country and sharing some of the ideas that have worked for us in New York with other states!
Please contact me at MGALVINESQ@AOL.COM.