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31 January 2008 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

Searching for truth

HE told it as it was. How his brother had been shot dead by the SAS, five bullets pumped into his back. The RUC had told his brother he would be dead before Christmas and he was. There were no enquiries or explanations. When they finally got his clothes from the RUC, they were in shreds, torn apart, like his body, by the force of the bullets.
There was no bitterness in the quiet voice of the man when he spoke at the Eames/Bradley consultation meeting at St Columb’s Park House. No anger, no sneers, no words of hate or calls for revenge. But there was no mistaking the pain in the voice of a man whose boyhood had been scarred by the image of his slain brother.
Pain was also there in the voices of others who spoke and one could sense in their words that some had come to terms with their loss while others were still locked into the past.
The objective of this latest consultation exercise is to ask the public, especially the bereaved, how we collectively address the legacy of the past 30 years of conflict. It has already generated its own conflict by leaks in the media over alleged proposals for an amnesty for all protagonists and whether what happened could be termed a war.
It was evident from the meeting that political unionism, representing many of those bereaved, has not moved beyond its own anger and pain to acknowledge that all victims and survivors should be afforded equal respect and recognition. Those with a mindset concerned only with apportioning blame made no positive contribution to the meeting for they cannot see beyond the past any means to achieving a better future.
A veritable industry has grown up around victims that has not resolved the bewilderment and sense of loss of the bereaved, many of whom have never even been afforded an opportunity to ask questions about the deaths of those they loved. At least they are now telling their story, for part of their grief over the years was the wall of silence surrounding the circumstances of many of the deaths. Overwhelmingly, they simply want to know the truth.
At the St Columb’s Park meeting, Denis Bradley revealed that the Consultative Group had access to the Stephens Report on collusion between state forces and unionist death squads, which may have precipitated unionist hysteria around the question of amnesty and the description of the conflict as a war.
The majority of the bereaved, the survivors of the conflict and indeed that vast section of people who suffered the horrors of arrest, imprisonment, house searches, intimidation, harassment and who appear to be excluded from the category of victim, have no fear of such a debate for they want to make peace with all who share this island.   
Can the same be said of the British Government? If they are sincere about addressing the legacy of the past they could start by publishing Stephens.

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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