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15 January 2004 Edition

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Canadian thorn in Britain's side

Seven years ago, Robert Hamill, a Catholic, was walking home through Portadown town centre with friends when he was attacked by a 30-strong loyalist mob, just yards away from an RUC Land Rover. The 25-year-old, whose fiancée was expecting their third child at the time, was beaten so badly that he never regained consciousness. He died 12 days after the attack.

His grief-stricken family later contacted a solicitor, Rosemary Nelson, to investigate how Robert could have been murdered only yards away from four RUC officers. Nelson, a prominent human rights lawyer who had been threatened by the RUC, was assassinated by loyalists in 1999.

In 2002, retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory was commissioned by the British and Irish governments to investigate allegations of collusion into six specific cases. These included the deaths of Robert and Rosemary, as well as the killings of solicitor Patrick Finucane and LVF prisoner Billy Wright.

At the time of his appointment, the two governments said he would have their full support during his 18-month investigation. Cory himself said that he would not put up with any interference while he carried out his work, and that if he felt hampered or manipulated in any way, he would make sure everyone knew about it.

Cory submitted his reports to both governments in October last. Following through on its promise, the Dublin Government published its two sections of the report, shortly before Christmas.

The British Government, however, reneged on its commitments. It has refused to publish the reports for 'legal' reasons, and has ignored all demands from the victims' families.

So this week, Peter Cory followed through on his own promise. He personally informed the families that he had recommended inquiries into the deaths of each of their relatives.

With one stroke, he has intensified the pressure on the British to follow Dublin's example and agree to inquiries.

And he has also made it abundantly clear how he feels about the British government's attitude to the four killings.

The Cory Report has to be published, and the British government cannot be allowed off the hook over its state-sponsored assassinations in Ireland.

Its response to the Cory Report and its refusal to cooperate with the Barron Report into the Dublin/Monaghan bombings are damning. But while the British can try to ignore the demands of the families of the victims, they cannot so easily brush off the findings of the man they effectively hired to tell them the truth.

Cory has shown himself to be, in the words of Michael Finucane, a man of "unquestionable integrity" in standing up to the British government in this way. He has given fresh hope to the families who seek the truth about the deaths of their loved ones at the hands of Britain's death squads.

The British Government must be ruing the day they ever agreed to allow this straight-talking Canadian to dig into their dirty affairs.

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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