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28 January 1999 Edition

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Ministers insulted families

British `Victims' minister Adam Ingram told relatives of the eight IRA Volunteers assassinated by the British Army at Loughgall that he accepted the need for the men to be killed.

Ingram made his crude remarks during the meeting he held with representatives of the families, including the wife and sister of civilian Anthony Hughes, on Monday.

The following day, the mother of Belfast teenager Peter McBride, shot in the back and killed by two Scots Guards, walked out of a meeting with British armed forces minister Doug Henderson after Henderson informed her that the killers would stay in the British army.

An enraged Jean McBride, Peter's mother, said after she stormed out of Castle Buildings that Henderson tried to justify her son's killing: ``he said they were loyal to the army''.

In the week when nationalists will be commemorating the dead of Bloody Sunday these two meetings and the insults meted out to the relatives of dead nationalists are a reminder of the value put on the lives of the 400 or so people killed by the British state.

Ingram and Henderson's arrogance have taken Britain's insensitivity to nationalists to a new depth and demonstrate that British ministers are incapable of dealing with the issue of nationalist victims with any humanity.

Loughgall families `courageous'



by Laura Friel

``Courageous,'' was how Roisín Kelly of the Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign, described the relatives of those killed by the British SAS during an IRA operation in Loughgall in May 1987.

Roisín's brother Patrick Kelly was one of eight IRA Volunteers killed at Loughgall together with a ninth victim, Anthony Hughes, who was caught up in the SAS ambush. Roisín Kelly accompanied a delegation of the dead men's relatives to Stormont for a meeting with NIO minister Adam Ingram last Monday. ``The courage of the families in meeting a representative of the state who sanctioned the deaths of their loved ones should be acknowledged,'' said Roisín. ``It was a distressing encounter for all of us.''

The delegation included mothers, Amelia Arthurs and Letitia Donnelly, whose young sons, Declan aged 21 and 19-year-old Seamus, were both killed at Loughgall. Also present were Francie O'Callaghan, brother of Gerard, sisters of Patrick Kelly, Roisin and Mairead, Roisín Gormley and Bridget Hughes, a sister and widow of Anthony Hughes. A small crowd of about 20 DUP supporters heckled the relatives outside Castle Buildings.

Describing the meeting with the British minister as ``disappointing'', Roisín said there is still a long way to go before equality of recognition is afforded to all the victims of the last 30 years. ``The delegation felt that Adam Ingram did not fully understand aspects of what we were saying,'' said Roisin. ``The minister obviously finds it difficult to offer the same empathy towards relatives of the victims of state violence as he affords to those whose political allegiance is pro British.''

The relatives are to request another meeting with Ingram to impress further the importance families place on establishing the full facts about the circumstances in which their relatives were killed. ``The truth is an important part of the grieving process,'' said Roisin, ``it is also a fundamental prerequisite in the quest for reconciliation.'' The British minister refused to be questioned about the circumstances of the SAS killings on the grounds that he was meeting the delegation in relation to his responsibilities on the issue of victims and not in his capacity as Security Minister.

A report into the Loughgall killings following a year long inquiry by a team of American experts with international experience has been given to the British government. The report concludes that the SAS operation was not intended to prevent an attack on Loughgall RUC barracks but instead was intended ``to kill all IRA personnel involved in the incident.''

The independent inquiry shows that the SAS knew of the planned attack at Loughgall at least one day before it took place. Despite being deployed in the area one hour before the attack, the SAS made no attempt to prevent it. The area was not cordoned off and there was no efforts made to minimise the risk of civilian casualties.

The report of pathologist Dr Hiroshi Nakawaza said the wounds on the bodies of the nine deceased are consistent with weapons being discharged close-up and this is consistent with an ``execution-type killing''.

The meeting between the families of Loughgall and the NIO minister came amidst a storm of Unionist protest. Ingram's decision to meet the families prompted Ulster Unionist Ken Maginnis to dismiss the NIO Minister as ``an absolute wimp and an idiot.'' Orange Order minister Reverend William Bingham described the meeting as ``grossly offensive''. It was ``absolutely shameful'' said UUP Assembly member Danny Kennedy.

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