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23 March 2000 Edition

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Hundreds join Lurgan justice march

BY CAÍTLIN DOHERTY

Every one of the 60 names read out ripped the air like a knife. Last Sunday in Lurgan, hundreds of devastated families, relatives and friends stood in silence, grief written all over their faces. In a voice loaded with emotion, Eamonn Cairns, father of two of the youngest men shot by the UVF in the area, honoured each victim.

Under the eyes of the spy helicopters and British undercover agents, hundreds of people had walked through Lurgan from Killwilkie to North Street and gathered at the spot where republican Sam Marshall was gunned down ten years ago to demonstrate their determination to get answers to the litany of questions surrounding the deaths of their loved ones.

Independent councillor and Garvaghy Road residents spokesperson Breandán Mac Cionnaith talked about the arsenals that were taken out of Territorial Army and Ulster Defence Regiment camps in Lurgan and Portadown and how these British weapons were used to kill the men, women and children of the North Armagh area.

``After all of those murders, not just in this area but all across the North as a deliberate policy encouraged by the British government, we are still no nearer to the truth about who was responsible, who planned it, who executed the murders, who covered them up.

``At the present time, it is estimated that something in the region of over 3,000 crown forces files are in the hands of loyalists. Files of people standing around here today, files handed over by RUC special branch and British military intelligence to encourage the death squads to continue their work and murderous campaign against the nationalist community''.

He added that since the conclusion of the Good Friday Agreement, Catholics are still being killed on the streets of Lurgan and Portadown, ``by organisations which, we are told, have decommissioned their weapons.

``As guilt for those murdered on Bloody Sunday lies with the British government, so too do we today lay the blame for this list of victims fairly and squarely at the door of the British government at Westminster and Number Ten,'' he concluded.

``It is clear that this state only survived because the British government was able to use the entire apparatus of this state in collusion with loyalists,'' said Alex Maskey, Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast. He said it would be easier to identify which loyalists were not entangled in the sinister web of collusion, informers and agents than those who weren't.

``Unionist politicians have also been involved in political collusion through the years. They have flirted with or associated themselves with loyalist death squads. David Trimble was even able to associate with the family of Richard Jameson, but wasn't able, as an MP for this area, to identify with the family of Rosemary Nelson.

``The events of this past year have been a reminder that Britain's dirty little war is not over.''

Members of the campaign have pledged to continue their battle for justice until their questions are answered. ``The campaign isn't about recrimination'', says one. ``Most of the families don't want to drag those who murdered their relatives in front of the courts. All they want is to know what really happened. Who carried out the murder and was there direct involvement from the RUC or British Army? If not, why have they been kept in the dark for so long?

``The relatives of the victims, their friends and the community as a whole need answers to these questions so that they can move ahead and get on with their lives.''

With the help of Relatives for Justice, the campaign also intends to organise counselling for the families of the victims. Until now, the relatives have been offered no advice, help or resources to try and overcome their grief.
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