27 August 2009 Edition
Ballymurphy families slam HET 'whitewash' intervention
Ballymurphy families have been forced to go public urging eye-witnesses to the massacre of their relatives by the British Army in 1971 to be “mindful not to undermine their efforts for independent investigation” by engaging with the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET).
The HET made direct contact with a number of eyewitnesses to the killings of 11 unarmed civilians over three days during the imposition of internment from 9 to 11 August 1971 by the British Army’s Parachute Regiment. This HET intervention prompted the families’ spokesperson Briege Voyle, whose mother Joan Connolly was one of those deliberately shot dead, to issue a letter setting out the families’ case for a full independent international investigation.
We are indebted to the people of West Belfast and beyond for the huge amount of public support and goodwill concerning our campaign for an independent international investigation into the murders of our loved ones by the Paras during internment.
The private and public support that we have received from political representatives from all backgrounds is a direct result of the compelling case for an independent international investigation into the deliberate murders of 11 unarmed civilians – a case that absolutely no one can argue with.
We have met representatives from every single political party on the island, members of the US Congress, MEPs, members of the British Labour and Conservative parties and both governments.
Enabling all of this has been our own West Belfast MP Gerry Adams and Relatives for Justice (RFJ). Earlier this year, accompanied by Gerry Adams MP and RFJ, we met with British Secretary for the North Shaun Woodward MP in what can only be described as a marathon session recounting the chronology of the 11 killings, our immediate and subsequent experiences, and our demands for an independent international investigation.
This was a very emotional meeting for all involved including Shaun Woodward who was genuinely shocked at the oral evidence presented to him and the nature and barbarity of the murders. The evidence was based upon several years of research, official documents and public records, pathology and autopsy reports, and first hand eye-witness statements that completely contradicted the ‘official’ government version of the killings at the time.
During this meeting we outlined our total and collective opposition to the PSNI’s HET, underlining that it did not meet the necessary requirements regarding independence – one of our key demands. We equally pointed out that the HET had previously conducted a ‘review’ and ‘investigation’ into two of the killings below the radar and concluded that the Paras had no case to answer. This was an appalling statement and a direct indictment of the failings of the HET in what can only be described as an attempt to whitewash the truth concerning the Ballymurphy Massacre.
In the past two years our campaign message has been communicated across Ireland, Britain, Europe and North America by us, the surviving relatives of the Ballymurphy Massacre dead.
As international and domestic pressure mounts regarding our call for an independent international investigation, the British response is to again seek to appoint the PSNI’s discredited HET, despite our adamant position that we will not accept such a process. It flies in the face of the natural rules of justice and of the British Government’s domestic and international legal obligations concerning independence, given that those responsible for the murders were acting under the direct orders of the British Government at the time. Not least is the concerted drive on the part of the British Government to prevent an independent investigation and examination of these killings. Why and what do they have to hide?
Any investigative process must equally examine links between the killings of our loved ones and those killed during Bloody Sunday. The chain of evidence indicates that some of the same Paras were involved in both massacres of unarmed civilians. By using the flawed HET process the British Government seek to neutralise and stall our campaign demands whilst also controlling what does and does not emerge about official governmental policy at the time of these killings. Official governmental and military documents uncovered in London prior to sending in the Paras cite directives to use ‘shock and stun’ tactics.
There can be no doubt that part of the policy was to inflict such devastation and carnage that would suppress the community and/or turn it in on itself. Other examples of this military approach are Bloody Sunday, and the multiple killings in Springhill and New Lodge in which a total of 36 nationalist lives were claimed within an 18-month period, whilst at the same time a total of 92 people were also killed in separate incidents by the British Army. A further 6 people were killed by the RUC. All with impunity.
The HET process equally avoids examining similar and linked multiple killings by the British Army that would draw focus to the thematic approach, tactics and policy of the British government during this period which is essential to any proper investigation. These figures do not include loyalist attacks on the community including Kelly’s and McGurk’s Bar bombings in which official misinformation and lies were also peddled with the aim of further fracturing and dividing the community. That all of this was occurring during the posting to Belfast of key British military strategist Frank Kitson, who wrote and published five manuals on low intensity warfare and infiltration tactics, is no coincidence.
It is our considered view that the HET has been engaged in what can only be described as an elaborate exercise of serpentine weaving aimed at managing and suppressing the truth concerning the Ballymurphy Massacre. This includes the Ballymurphy Massacre Campaign having to continuously address HET meddling around the periphery of those with information as they attempt to seek legitimate means to justify their involvement despite the families of those killed directly and repeatedly informing them that we do not want them to be involved for the reasons outlined above.
No doubt that those who have been proactively contacted and lobbied by the HET have engaged in good faith believing that they are making a worthwhile contribution to our campaign, obviously unaware of the true nature of how we view the HET. We have no doubt that those who have had contact with the HET are, and would be, horrified at what is going on with the HET.
We want to state publicly that this is not about those who have had contact with the HET but rather informing the wider community and creating an awareness about what is actually happening on a number of levels both on the ground with the HET and more importantly politically in terms of the British Government’s drive to keep the lid on the truth about the killings in Ballymurphy.
It is in this context that we have now decided to go public outlining exactly what we believe that the PSNI’s HET are up to in their cynical and perfunctory exercise on behalf of the British Government who now feel the need to respond to international and domestic calls to address the Ballymurphy killings; and to request that if anyone is approached by the HET that they first speak with us and our lawyers if they are unsure.
We are asking people to be mindful of what we are trying to achieve and of the current approach of the British Government in seeking to prevent us in fulfilling our aims concerning the murders of our loved ones. Engaging the HET could unintentionally undermine or setback our efforts towards an independent international investigation.
Currently we are in the process of compiling a key legal document for the purposes of establishing an independent international investigation and anyone with evidence should, if they want to assist, contact us via Relatives for Justice on 02890 220100 and we can arrange to chat privately and possibly for legal statements to be taken by our lawyers. This will be carried out in the strictest of confidence and in a meaningful and professional way, observing all the normal and associated protocols with statement taking. Professional support can also be provided if the process is found to be traumatic and/or re-traumatising.
Once again we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us, attended events, wrote letters, lobbied, organised meetings across the country and abroad, handed out leaflets, shown solidarity and expressed interest in what we are trying to achieve. Everyone can play a part and we want the community to remain involved. Anyone wishing to find out more or to make a positive contribution can do so by contacting us via RFJ.
Is mise le meas
On behalf of the Ballymurphy Massacre Campaign