Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

2 November 2014 Edition

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What is justice?

Daughter of murder victim Harry Holland on the impact of her father’s killing

• Sarah Holland and Harry’s brother-in-law, John Devlin, speaking at a vigil after the killing

Reverting to the dark days of punishment shootings is not a solution and is a massive step backwards


WHEN MY FATHER, Harry, was murdered in September 2007, my sisters and I felt as though we had stepped into an alternate reality. The safe walls of our home had been smashed down; we were set adrift without our anchor and had to find our own way back to reality and normality.

It was the shocking violence of his death that left us traumatised. I walked into the Royal Victoria Hospital to see my strong Dad hooked up to machines, fitting and shaking with blood spattered on the floor around him and my mother white-faced and crying.

Our emotions veered from horror to rage to a bleak emptiness and back again, and this went on for months as we scrambled to hold on to normality. His death scraped us down to the bare bones of ourselves and we had to start to rebuild.

What occurred to me most during this time was the idea that I had to hold on to my humanity. The people who did this to my father were less than human to me – devoid of empathy, they became monsters in my mind. However, over time I identified that this dehumanisation could lead me to become like them. We rejected outright any thoughts of revenge or retribution and concentrated on bringing them to justice through the courts.

The murder investigation team built a compelling case. People from the area came forward in record numbers, at a time when acceptance of the PSNI was still on shaky ground, in order to help us bring the murderers to justice. The Public Prosecution Service let everyone down – us, the murder investigation team, the entire community were aghast when box-ticking civil servants let three of the accused wander off into the ether.

Now, years later, Patrick Crossan, one of the gang, has been shot, reportedly by a ‘dissident’ group. The young man in question has been in and out of jail for most of his adult life for a variety of violent offences. He has addiction problems and could be regarded as vulnerable due to his lower-than-average intelligence.

We want to see an end to violence on our streets. We want our kids to grow up free from fear. We want to be able to place our trust in the institutions that form part of a normally functioning society – police, courts, prison services.

Our focus should be on reforming these institutions and making them fit for purpose. Reverting to the dark days of punishment shootings is not a solution and is a massive step backwards.

Those who shot Patrick Crossan are as devoid of empathy as Patrick Crossan himself and we say, loudly and clearly – not in our name, and not in our father’s name.

SARAH HOLLAND is a Sinn Féin councillor in Dublin.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1