Ballymurphy Families Seeking Justice

Pictured (L-R) Briege Foyle, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) Alice Harper, Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) and John Teggart

On December 9th, 2010, nearly 30 years after eleven people were slaughtered by the British Army in the Ballymurphy Massacre three relatives of the victims have taken their campaign for justice to Capitol Hill. These families have survived without public recognition or legal redress for all this time – meetings with Members of Congress are their latest effort for justice and the light of truth.

The massacre took place in the immediate aftermath of Internment by the British Government on August 9, 1971 – yet the horrific events in Ballymurphy between 9th and 11th August 1971 have remained hidden from public knowledge and focus. With the holding of the public inquiry into Bloody Sunday it has become clear that, had the Parachute Regiment been held to account for the murders in Belfast they could not have gone on to murder 14 more civilians with impunity six months later.

Father Sean Mc Manus, President of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus, said: “I was delighted and honored to meet with John Teggart and his sister, Alice Harper, son and daughter of Daniel Teggart and Briege Foyle, daughter of Joan Connolly”. Daniel Teggart (44) father of 13 and Mrs. Joan Connolly (50), mother of 8 were both murdered on August 9, 1971. The nine other victims were killed over the next two days, August 10 and 11.  Fr. Mc Manus called on all Irish-Americans worth their salt to fully support the campaigners’ just demand of an independent, international investigation into the Ballymurphy Massacre.

The sought after outcome of the families of the 11 murdered include the recognition of the injustice they have all experienced as a result of near 40 years without accountability to this massacre – this through an international investigation examining all of the circumstances. They appeal for the British Government to admit accountability for their horrendous crime and cover-ups, hoping to grant a sense of healing and closure.

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House Hears Human Rights Issue

Aideen Gilmore testifying before the House Human Rights and Oversight Committee

At a September Congressional subcommittee hearing Aideen Gilmore, the Deputy Director of the Belfast based and highly respected Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) testified.  National FFAI Chairman, Sean Pender noted, We can not be lulled into the thought that the work in the North is over. Ms.Gilmore highlighted the fact that while there has been much progress in the North there are still many areas that need continued attention. She testified that many of the main components of the Good Friday agreement (GFA), such as a Bill of Rights have not been implemented; the challenge of dealing with the past has not been addressed as it was envisioned in the GFA.

Additionally, she added that the economic improvement that the North has seen has not resulted in improvements in many of the most deprived areas.  She cited recent economic studies published in March of 2010 that supported these statements.  It is troubling that these studies report that 16 of the 20 most deprived areas are Catholic.  More troubling is that the areas that had experienced the worst levels of violence are economically no better and in some cases worst off than they were during the troubles.  The concern here of course is that if these areas are not experiencing a peace dividend it could lead to disenchantment for the overall peace process.

Father Sean McManus, president of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus rated the House Human Rights Hearing on Northern Ireland a great success. Fr. McManus noted that the witness on Northern Ireland, Aideen Gilmore was entirely excellent.  Ms Gilmore told the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, Chaired by Congressman Russ Carnahan (D.MO), While a lot of progress has undoubtedly been made in Northern Ireland … We would urge continued vigilance and support for the protection of human rights and equality in Northern Ireland as a means of embedding and sustaining peace.  Fr. Mc Manus praised Congressman Carnahan saying, He deserves great credit. Irish-Americans are deeply grateful for his support of human rights and equality in Northern Ireland.

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