14 October 1999 Edition
Relatives demand justice
BY TARA O'LIATH.
A new relatives group, Border Relatives, was launched earlier this week at a press conference in Dublin.
Border Relatives represents five families of victims of loyalist attacks along the border, mainly in Louth and Monaghan, throughout the 1970s.
These attacks, in which four people were killed and 34 were injured, were carried out by known loyalists from Down and Armagh, none of whom have ever been charged.
The Border Relatives will work closely with Justice for the Forgotten, the group representing relatives of the 1974 Dublin and Managhan bombings.
While the group welcomed the Dublin government's interest and cooperation with the various families, they had reservations about the prospect of the private inquiry that has been announced in relation to the Dublin and Managhan bombings. They called for public sworn inquiries into all such cases.
Speaking at the conference on behalf of the Border Relatives were Maura McKeever, Gerard Watters , James Sharkey, Anna McEnaneney and Peter O'Connor, all of whom have lost relatives. Also present was journalist Joe Tierney, who has been involved with researching and reporting the cases.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, James Sharkey said he was dissapointed at the sparse media turnout and by TDs, but said he was encouraged by Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin's attendance and said the organisation was grateful for his ongoing interest.
Who killed our loved ones?
By Pádraig MacDabhaid
``Firstly we want to know where are the people who killed our loved ones? Are they still in the RUC? Are they still in the British Army? More importantly, will they be members of the new police service proposed by Chris Patten? We believe they should not be.''
Such are some of the concerns of the new relatives group, Survivors And Victims for Equality (SAVE).
SAVE was launched at a press conference in Belfast on Friday 8 October and is made up of people who have had relatives killed by the RUC and feel they have been ignored because the killers were members of the British Army, the RUC or of loyalist death squads acting in collusion with the crown forces.
``Over the past few weeks, a number of us have been meeting to discuss how best we can make a positive contribution to the peace process,'' said Rosemary Rooney, whose brother, IRA Volunteer Colum Marks, was shot dead by the RUC in 1991. ``We concluded the best and most effective way is to secure justice for our loved ones who were killed. Our group is made up of people whose relatives were killed by plastic bullets or shot dead by the RUC, the British Army or loyalists. It involves people whose relatives were in the IRA and who were deliberately killed.
``The British crown forces had prior knowledge about the operation in which my brother Colum was involved. They blocked all the escape routes, shot him and handcuffed him. He was only minutes away from the hospital but they would not take him there. Why did they decide to murder him rather than arrest him? We demand to know the truth.''
Hugh Jordan, whose son, IRA Volunteer Pearse Jordan, was also killed by the RUC, explained that his son was unarmed when he was shot almost seven years ago.
``The inquest hasn't been completed. The only result that can come out of the inquest is when and where Pearse was murdered and who he was. I want to see the inquest system changed so that people can be brought to justice,'' he said.
``Patten's proposals are inadequate,'' said Eddie Maginn, whose 17-year-old brother Gerard was shot dead by the RUC. ``It's not one or two rotten apples. It is more a case of the whole orchard being rotten from root to branch. The RUC must be disbanded.''
This was a sentiment echoed by Sam McLarnon, whose father was murdered by the RUC in his Ardoyne home in 1969.
``We were never given the name of the man who murdered our father. Quite simply, Patten's report does not meet our needs.''
The relatives intend to ccontinue their campaigns to find out who murdered their loved ones and expose ``those who did the shooting, those who ordered the shooting and those who failed to carry out a thorough investigation into the killings''.
Members of SAVE were extremely angry at those in the establishment who have told them to move on and not to hark back to the past.
``We have lost our young ones in circumstances unknown to us. How can we move on without knowing the truth?'' said Rosemary Rooney.
The relatives went to great pains to stress that they were not about countering other victims groups. ``We have no difficulty with other relatives groups, irrespective of what part their loved ones played in the conflict,'' said Hugh Jordan. ``We are merely seeking the same opportunity to argue our case.''
Marks family seeks truth and justice
By Pádraig MacDabhaid
On Wednesday 10 April 1991 29-year-old Colum Marks, an IRA Volunteer of the South Down Brigade, was shot three times, once in the head, in an RUC shoot-to-kill operation in Downpatrick. He was unarmed. Marks was handcuffed and held at the side of an empty house for around 20 minutes before he died.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Rosemary Rooney, his sister, explained the circumstances surrounding his killing as well as the family's fight for justice, which has resulted in her becoming one of the founder members of Survivors And Victims for Equality (SAVE), a new relatives group for the families of those murdered at the hands of the RUC, the British Army, or as a result of collusion.
Rosemary began by explaining Colum's activity on the night he was shot dead. ``Colum was an IRA Volunteer,'' she began. ``He was on active service at the time of his murder but he was unarmed. A mortar was found 200 yards away from where he was killed, but forensics showed that he had not been in contact with it.
``He was walking across a field which was often used by locals as a shortcut when the sky was lit up by flares and RUC officers with torches attached to their guns murdered Colum. With all that light, they would have seen he was unarmed. Eyewitnesses said no warnings were given.
``The RUC then handcuffed him and dragged him to a nearby empty house where they left him for 20 minutes. No medical attention was called, even though the hospital was only about one minute away. An eyewitness at the time said that he saw Marks being trailed behind an empty house. He heard one RUC man say `that bastard's still kicking'.
``At the inquest, we heard that the RUC had prior notification of Colum's movements that night. They sealed off all escape routes from the area and lay in wait for him. The RUC have said that they were confronted by three `terrorists' and that they shot one and arrested another. However, as far as we have been made aware Colum was alone that night and nobody else was arrested.
``Our family wants to know the truth. Why did the RUC choose to kill an unarmed man rather than arrest him?''
Asked about her own personal choice to become involved with SAVE, she explained: ``Many similar groups have sprung up lately and everybody is giving them a chance to tell their stories. We believe that we also have a right to tell our stories and, so, over the past two weeks we got together. There is more than one side to the grief here. RUC members and British soldiers were not the only ones to die here.
``People try to deny us our grief and our claim that injustices were done, but Colum was a product of the conflict here. The British make their rules and then break them themselves - they claim to try to arrest people first and then they carry out a shoot-to-kill operation against Colum.
``We intend to campaign to find out who was responsible for the death of our loved ones, who fired the shots that killed our loved ones, who ordered the killings and who failed to investigate these murders thoroughly. We have already begun to send applications to Brice Dickson at the new Six-County Human Rights Commission to look into our cases.
``We feel that Chris Patten didn't take our concerns on board. Patten heard the feelings of those who had lost loved ones, people broke down and cried while telling him their stories, but he just appears to have ignored them - inaccuracies in the Patten Report appear to justify our concerns on this issue. It is our belief that only the disbanding of the RUC can alleviate our fears.
``Our hope is that other families will join us, because we are stronger as a group and can share our experiences. This, however, will not be an easy task, as many people still cannot talk about their experiences.''
The campaign can be contacted at:
c/o Relatives for Justice,
235A Falls Rd,
Belfast BT12 4TE