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13 March 1997 Edition

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O'Neill campaign launched

By Peter Middleton

In THE EARLY HOURS of Monday 23 September 1996 Diarmuid O'Neill was gunned down by the British police. John Major declared himself ``delighted'' while Clive Soley, Labour MP for Hammersmith where O'Neill lived, proclaimed London a safer place. ``Don't cry for him,'' urged the Daily Mirror.

A disinformation campaign was put in place. Police leaks had ``guns and bombs in the house''. One witness said police ``were shouting, `throw down your gun'''. Another said, ``it seemed there was an exchange of fire. I heard a policeman say, `I have the gun, I have the gun' ``. The police, the public were assured, had only one course of action open to them, ``shoot-to-kill''.

The truth mattered little. O'Neill was unarmed and no weapons or explosives were found. The police, as the Times sheepishly admitted, ``had no concrete evidence of any intended target''.

The fact is, it was the gratuitous killing of a young man and it embodies the British state's habit of flouting every democratic principle which it claims to uphold. While lecturing republicans about the use of violence the British government unashamedly executes unarmed republicans.

If we allow the British state to get away with the murder of Diarmuid O'Neill then we may as well flush the whole concept of a judiciary down the toilet, we may as well accept that there is one law for the British state and another for the Irish people. It gives the British state the right to murder its opponents.

Thus it is crucial that the British are called to account for this murder, that an independent public inquiry is held to investigate both the behaviour of the police inside Diarmuid's flat and their subsequent misrepresentation of events to the press. The Justice for Diarmuid O'Neill Campaign will be demanding such an inquiry of the British government and will be asking, ``when was the decision taken to kill Diarmuid O'Neill and by whom? Why was he denied possibly lifesaving medical treatment at the scene? Why did the police lie to the press about a non-existent `shoot-out'? Was this operation part of the on-going shoot-to-kill policy?''

These questions have to be addressd.
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