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1 April 2004 Edition

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Victims' families lobby TDs and Senators on collusion

"All I want is the truth, not so much for me but for my kids," said Theresa Slane through tears as she pleaded with TDs and Senators in Leinster House to help campaign for the truth from the British Government in relation to collusion between British state agencies and unionist death squads.

Theresa's husband, Gerard, had been shot five times by loyalist gunmen in the family home, in West Belfast, in front of her and their children in September 1988.

Theresa Slane was part of a 30-strong delegation visiting Dublin last Thursday from An Fhírinne (The Truth), the victims group campaigning for the truth about British collusion in the killing of Irish citizens. They were in Dublin to protest at the British Embassy and to visit Leinster House to meet and brief members of the Oireachtas on their campaign. While primarily a Six-County based organisation, they were joined in their protests by relatives of murdered Donegal Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton.

Before arriving in Dublin, An Fhírinne spokesperson Mark Sykes, who lost his 19-year-old brother-in-law in the loyalist attack on Graham's Bookies on the Ormeau Road and was seriously injured himself, explained the reason for the visit.

"Irish political parties and leaders have a duty to defend the rights of Irish citizens living in the North," he said. "The British Government must be confronted on the issue of collusion. The cover-ups and stalling must stop.

"In the mid-1980s, the British Government adopted a policy which gave them greater control of these death squads. The unionist paramilitaries were reorganised, rearmed, resourced and directed by the British Intelligence services to ensure that their targeting, to quote a British intelligence report, was 'more professional'."

Speaking after the Leinster House briefing, Brendan Curran, a former Sinn Féin councillor, whose partner Sheena Campbell, a law student at Queens University, was killed by loyalists in the York Hotel bar in 1992, said: "We had a very good meeting with the TDs and Senators. We received a very positive response.

"All we are asking is for the British Government to come clean. We want it to admit its involvement in the murder of nationalists. All other groups have admitted and accepted their involvement in the conflict except the British Government," he said.

"I'm not interested in the individual who pulled the trigger and killed Sheena but it is necessary for the families to hear the truth of who was behind Britain's policy of collusion. It is also necessary for the British government to dismantle all the apparatus involved in what happened - the secret service, the NIO, the Special Branch and the numerous other bodies."

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, who hosted the group in Leinster House, later thanked the cross-party representation of TDs and Senators who came to meet the families and he praised the courage and dignity of the relatives who related their individual testimonies "at great emotional cost" to those gathered.

He concluded by saying, "The British agencies, which executed this policy, remain in place today. The policy of employing the loyalist death squads was endorsed at the highest political level. The British response to the Barron Inquiry and their refusal to act on the Cory report prove this. The British Government has never accepted its responsibility for the deaths that resulted from the policy of collusion. Instead they are expending enormous energy in trying to conceal the truth. Irish politicians and political parties have a key role and responsibility in exposing the campaign of British state murder that was inflicted on Irish citizens, not just in the North but in this state also."

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