by Martin Galvin
NYAOH FFAI Chair
MARK THOMPSON – RELATIVES FOR JUSTICE
AOH TOUR FOR VICTIMS’ FAMILIES
Mark Thompson ended a week long emergency American tour which generated a new Congressional initiative, five public events and formal proclamations of support by the New York State Senate, Assembly and local governments. Sponsored by the New York State Board Ancient Order of Hibernians, the tour brought together other Irish American organizations, and commitments to help Relatives for Justice and the victims they represent break the deadlock on legacy truth.
The emergency tour was an AOH response to crown moves to give British troopers and constabulary an amnesty, while denying Inquest Courts and Ombudsmen investigators needed funding. Mark Thompson made an emergency appeal for American help, noting that the AOH and Irish-American grassroots had been a driving force behind every American initiative for Irish justice.
Before his first public meeting, Mr. Thompson held the first of several prearranged telephone briefings, beginning with Congressman Richard Neal’s office. These briefings would climax in a meeting with Congressman Joe Crowley and a proposal for a new Congressional initiative to support legacy victims.
Mark Thompson’s first public address took place at the Suffolk County AOH Hall, in Babylon, Long Island, hosted by New York State AOH President Victor Vogel. AOH officers including Past State President Jim Burke, Suffolk County President Jerry Belmont and Nassau County President Pete Begley packed the hall, alongside relatives of legacy victims. Chris Thompson of the Suffolk County Brehon Law Society, and noted MacBride Principles campaigner Patrick Doherty, now with New York State Comptroller DiNapoli’s office, also attended. Here RFJ received the first of many legislative Proclamations of support for its work, sponsored by New York State Senator Phil Boyle.
New York Freedom-for-all-Ireland Chair, Martin Galvin noted:
“the phrase to get away with murder was literally true of British policy. British crown forces, or their paid agents who colluded and carried out murders, were shielded. Now as Relatives for Justice threatens to use British justice mechanisms to get truth for these victims, the British are starving their own courts, inquest judges and Ombudsman investigations of funding while moving towards pardons dressed up as statutes of limitations.”
MANDATED BY FAMILIES
Mark Thompson began by saying that “Relatives for Justice was mandated to represent hundreds of families in the north whose loved ones, were not alone murdered but then slandered to justify their murders”. He pointed in the audience to relatives of Maura Meehan and Dorothy Maguire, killed by British troops in Belfast in 1971,and to relatives of John Boyle, shot by British SAS troops in 1978.He detailed the circumstances of these killings and the legal cover-up which followed, to explain how the British mistreated hundreds of families .
He said, “now as families get near truth after years pushing against a wall of deceit, the British want to use amnesties and a funding cut-off to lock the door on justice. Victims’ families want(a)no amnesty pardons for British forces,(b)funding for legacy inquests and Ombudsman inquiries, and (c implementation of the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House in 2015”.
He quoted an expression that “when America sneezes Britain catches a cold and we want Irish America to sicken the British with demands for legacy justice”.
The next night, Mr. Thompson spoke in mid-town Manhattan at an event co-hosted by Queens, Brooklyn, New York and Bronx AOH.
The crowd included, AOH national officers Jere Cole, Sean Pender Dan Dennehy Jeff Nisler and Tom Beirne, State President Vic Vogel and Treasurer John Manning. Special thanks to Walter Cooper , Jim Sullivan, back from Florida and Parade Committee Chairman Denis McCarthy. Hibernians were joined by Jennifer Frankola of the Brehon Law Society, and Leslie Cassidy of the Irish American Unity Conference.
Here RFJ received a State Assembly Proclamation of support sponsored by Assemblyman Dinowitz and a Bronx Borough Proclamation presented on behalf of the Borough President by Gabriel and Patricia Megahey, friends of long time Bronx resident Liam Ryan. David Tubiolo presented a Proclamation from Westchester County. These Proclamations made special note of RFJ’s work for this American citizen, murdered in his native Tyrone.
This time Mr. Thompson pointed to Malachy McAllister, the proprietor of the Wolfe Tone Pub, who escaped an assassination attempt in Belfast, at the hands of British agents as well as the killing of Liam Ryan in Arboe County Tyrone. He explained the facts of these cases, how the British hid the truth and appealed for AOH and American help.
Mark Thompson then traveled to Rockland County for an event at the Hibernian House, arranged by Dermot Moore and co-chaired by Vincent Tyer and John McGowan.
Again Mr. Thompson met relatives and friends of victims killed by crown forces or crown agents. A cousin of Sam Marshall and friends of Rory and Gerard Cairns were in the audience. Mark Thompson started with an explanation of these killings as well as recent developments in the Loughall inquests. He used these specific cases to illustrate, the obstacles that the British have used to stonewall the families in the battle for truth.
One of the most emotional moments came when one relative asked whether the British would ever allow truth about these murders.
Mr. Thompson replied that “the families will never give up, have gained a lot of progress that once seemed impossible and it is important that RFJ and Irish America never give up supporting them”.
The event also included presentation of a Rockland County Legislature Resolution of support by Vincent Tyer, donations to RFJ and was attended by Past National President Brendan Moore.
Before traveling to Albany, Mark Thompson detoured to Queens and a formal meeting with Congressman Joe Crowley. He was accompanied by AOH members Sean Pender, Bob Nolan, Dermot Moore and Martin Galvin. Here Congressman Crowley agreed to lead a formal Congressional sign-on letter to the British government.
Mr. Thompson then headed to Albany and the AOH Hall in Albany where the prestigious Fr. Murphy award was presented to Ciaran Geraghty, Past NYS FFAI Chair by past State President Tim McSweeney. The event was co-chaired by Dolores Desch and John Levandosky, with National Director Liam McNabb as Master of Ceremonies, State President Vic Vogel piping the dignitaries in and State Vice-President Tom Lambert among a host of State and National officers in attendance.
Here Mark Thompson explained that it was the anniversary of the murder of his brother Peter Thompson. The Thompson family had been laughed at, then threatened when they tried to find out the truth. He explained that that murder, that cover-up and that injustice was the driving force which had motivated him to help form and lead Relatives for Justice, and why he felt so deeply about other families put through the same grief.
Mark Thompson’s final public event at the Quiet Man Pub, Peekskill hosted by National Director Dan Dennehy, FFAI Chair Bob Bolbach, County President Brian Duffy, District Director Aidan O’Kelly Lynch and Division President Clive Cronin. Here Mark Thompson said he was overwhelmed at by support he had received night after night, from Irish America and the AOH. He noted again how grassroots Irish-America had spearheaded every initiative to help victims of British rule that had come from America. He found everywhere he had spoken, a tremendous willingness indeed desire to help. He said he victims’ families will be encouraged by the groundswell of support he found in America.
State President Vic Vogel then presented Mr. Thompson with a special plaque, memorializing the five tour events where Mr. Thompson spoke. The State President, who had authorized the tour attended multiple events as did National officers, Jere Cole, Sean Pender and Dan Dennehy.
A- New British colonial secretary had never been in six counties
British Prime Minister Theresa May appointed Karen Bradley to succeed James Brokenshire to preside over the six counties. Bradley had never even visited the north of Ireland before her appointment. Now she will preside over talks to restore Stormont power sharing despite her lack of interest, much less knowledge of Irish issues. She named former British trooper Kris Hopkins, as a Special Policy Advisor (Spad).Hopkins had survived IRA attacks in Belfast and South Armagh. The appointment was criticized by Mark Thompson of RFJ, who said the selection was made as the “Tory/DUP alliance seeks to push an amnesty for British soldiers through Parliament.”
B- UVF Commander and British Agent Gary Haggerty gets minimum sentence for 5 murders and 202 terror crimes
Former Ulster Volunteer Force loyalist killer and British informer Gary Haggarty, received a sentence in Belfast Crown Court that will free him for a new life under the PSNI/MI5.
The original sentence of 75 years for 5 muders,23 conspiracy to murder and 4 kidnapping counts among 202 terror offenses was reduced to six and one half, allowing Haggarty to walk free to his new life almost immediately. Among the murder victims was grandfather Sean McParland, shot dead in front of his children
two Catholic workman eating lunch on the job, Eamon Fox and Gary Convie, Sean McDermott and John Harbison. Fox’s son Kieran said he was “gutted” by the sentenc. “The man is a serial killer. He was a paid State informer. The RUC knew he was killing at will and let it continue.”
C- Free Tony Taylor calls after 700 days Interned by License
Derry Republican Tony Taylor has now spent over 700 days imprisoned in Maghaberry by order of British secretaries despite repeated calls for his release or due process. Mr. Taylor,a respected Derry Republican was jailed under procedures described as Internment-by-License. He served a sentence for possession of a weapon but was then jailed based on secret information that the British refuse to release to him or his lawyer for defense.
D- Battle to Ban Irish flag from St. Patrick’s Day Parades
While Irish flags are proudly carried around the world and in most of Ireland in St. Patrick’s Day Parades, an announcement was made that the Irish flag would be banned in the strongly Republican town of Strabane on the West Tyrone-Donegal border.
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council announced that the Council wanted a “cross-community” event that would be inclusive and promote reconciliation by banning flags.
When Independent Republican Councillor Paul Gallagher protested, he was told that Irish flags have long been excluded from St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Derry, Belfast, Newry and Downpatrick.
Councillor Gallagher challenged the ban at a Council meeting and is asking why British flags can be flown in events funded by unionist dominated councils but Irish flags can be excluded.
In Strabane the ban on Irish flags may rescinded but uncertainty continues as well as the status of the ban in Derry and Newry.
Special Thanks With Apologies
Brothers I want to thank each of you who helped make the Mark Thompson tour so successful. This tour through the events and publicity in Irish-American papers has gotten a great response, not only from those who attended, or read about it, but perhaps most important from the victims’ families in Ireland who welcome our AOH backing in their fight for truth and justice. We are now working on a Congressional letter and other initiatives including ideas for additional tours.
I apologize to everyone whose name is not included.
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