20 March 1997 Edition
Loyalists kill innocent Catholic
By Mick Naughton.
``Unequal in life, unequal in death,'' was how a neighbour of the latest victim of the loyalist death squads described the callous and random slaying of Catholic father of ten John Slane.
The Thames Court man was speaking last Friday 14 March at the scene only minutes after two loyalist gunmen entered the open front door of Mr Slane's home, went into the kitchen where their victim was making night time bottles of milk for his twin baby daughters and shot him five times with handguns.
The shooting was witnessed by John Slane's son who had just made his Confirmation and his wife who had been sitting in the living room. Shocked neighbours gathered around the Slane family home. They described him as a well-liked family man. He was a cousin of Gerard Slane shot dead by the UDA in his Watervillve Street home in 1988. His widow later took a court action after it was revealed that British UDA intelligence agent Brian Nelson had informed his military handler that Slane's name and personal details had been gathered together marking him out as a potential target for the death squads.
Second class in life, less in death
By Peadar Whelan
WHEN JOHN SLANE was buried the funeral dirge that escorted his coffin along the Falls Road to the City Cemetery was the `sound of silence' as the ``usual condemners'' (as a friend described them) avoided their ritual of condemnation and virulence such as we heard not more than a month ago when the IRA killed British soldier Stephen Restorick in Bessbrook.
That this `sound of silence' could drown out the tears and the anguish of John Slane's wife and his children, because it was so overbearing, reflects the truth of this conflict where nationalists are less equal than everyone else.
The story of the last few days has for me been the story about the killing rather than the killing itself. While the media has been quick off the mark and blamed loyalists, they are very reluctant to point out the political costs of their armed actions. Maybe there are none when ``the British government has chosen to connive in the loyalist tactic of `no claim, no blame''', as suggested by Sinn Fein Vice-President Pat Doherty.
And having run with the idea of the ``phoney war'' before the IRA killed Bombardier Restorick the media now have a fixation with the loyalists `phoney ceasefire', what else can it be?
When David Ervine and Gary McMichael were struggling to get the chocks away and head for St Patrick's Day in the USA the media could only look on agog as they both assured us that, ``no, it wasn't the CLMC behind the killing''.
The English Guardian and Independent, supposedly quality papers, simply did not report the killing at all. BBC's main news on Saturday at 1pm mentioned John Slane as their fourth or fifth item, just news and no comment. And that was how the BBC, in the main, handled the killing. It was simply news with John Slane not afforded the family photograph that would put a human face to the name and not for him the anecdotes that would round off the man's personality and make him a human being that we could feel for.
Both the Newsletter and the Irish News, when they editorialised about the killing, found that while John Slane was the victim of ``an appalling murder'' (Irish News) or ``foully murdered'' (Newsletter) the ultimate sanction, that of being described as evil, was levelled solely at the IRA.
The Irish Times has yet to give an editorial view and RTE didn't even mention Slane's funeral on its main evening news on Monday.
More worryingly there was the muted political and religious response. While in the States John Bruton could still call on the IRA to stop its ``violence'' and the newly invested Archbishop of Armagh, likewise, found room in his sermon to call on the IRA to call a ceasefire, but neither found room for John Slane.
So as the laying of flowers has come to symbolise expressions of support and solidarity from a community to a bereaved family the lack of interest in the killing of John Slane must symbolise that our community, being somehow less worthy, deserves what it gets.