The troops have been in Northern Ireland for 25 years this week. Paul Donovan met relatives of the Troubles' worst atrocities.
IN DERRY AND Dublin the 47 victims of two of the largest atrocities of the past 25 years are mourned by relatives who still seek justice.
Talking to the relatives of those who died on Bloody Sunday and in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, it is as though the tragedies happened yesterday. The fail ure of the two Governments, presently at the centre of the peace process, to bring anyone to justice for these deaths has led some to question the integrity of all concerned. For the relatives of these victims the wound will remain open until justice is done.
John Kelly sits in a chair below the picture of his brother Michael who was just 17 years old when shot dead on 30 January 1972. John Kelly knows intimately the details of what happened on Bloody Sunday and the unsatisfactory Widgery Inquiry.
Looking through the file of correspondence between the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign and representatives of the British Government, the frustration caused by continual rebuffs becomes clear. However, John is deter mined to attain justice for Michael and the other 13 shot dead on Bloody Sunday.
The Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign began two years ago on the 20th anniversary of the killings. Tony Doherty, whose father Paddy was shot whilst crawling along the floor waving a white handkerchief in the air, and Martin Finucane, whose brother Pat was murdered in 1989, gathered the relatives together.
The declared aims of the Bloody Sunday Campaign are that the British Government admit that all those killed on Bloody Sunday were innocent; that the Widgery Inquiry report is repudiated and that those responsible for the murders be brought to justice.
John Kelly talks about the total disrespect shown for the bodies of the dead as they were dumped in the back of the army Saracen vehicles for two hours prior to being taken to the morgue. He also highlights the selective use of state ments by Lord Widgery choosing just one in six of those taken that supported the line of impunity being pursued regarding the role of the Parachute regiment.
But it has been long been believed that the decision that the Parachute regiment would make arrests and that there could be casualties was sanctioned in advance at Cabinet level. On 19 April 1972, Edward Heath admitted that the plan was "known to Ministers." The findings of Widgery followed by the award of an OBE to Lt Col. Derek Wilford, the officer commanding 1 Para on Bloody Sunday merely confirmed for the relatives that this was an operation approved from the highest level of Government. Speaking 20 years later, Wilford was still proud of his actions declaring: "Quite honestly I owned the Bogside in military terms. I occupied it."
The Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign has achieved one admission from the British Government. In a letter to John Hume in 1992, John Major admitted that the victims "should be regarded as innocent of allegations that they were shot whilst handling firearms or explosives." Previously they were regarded as "not guilty" of these allegations. The Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign will now take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
ON 17 MAY 1974 bombs in Dublin and Monaghan resulted in the deaths of 33 people. This incident still amounts to the biggest atrocity of the past 25 years. Until Yorkshire TV produced their most aptly named documentary "the Forgotten Massacre" no individual had been held accountable for this crime and the inquiry appeared closed. The bombing was claimed by the Ulster Defence Association, though the "First Tuesday" programme produced strong evidence suggesting British involvement.
Derek Byrne was 14 years old at the time of the bombing and was twice declared dead. Derek still has 60 pieces of shrapnel in his body and goes into hospital twice a year to have bits of debris removed.
Paddy Doyle lost his son, daughter and two grandchildren in the blast. He remem bers the scene in the morgue as being "like a slaughter house fitting arms and legs to bodies." Paddy Doyle's wife never overcame the trauma of losing so many of her family and died in 1982. Paddy was given £2,000 by the Irish State for the loss of four members of his family but what he wants to know is the truth of what happened on that day and the bringing to justice of the perpetrators of the crime.
Last December Michele Byrne, who lost her mother in the bombing, pledged to her grandmother as she lay dying that she would see justice done. Michele sympathises with those who are bereaved in the North. "I know exactly how those children that lost their parents at Loughinisland feel." Michele, together with the other relatives that form the Dublin and Monaghan Committee, are disgusted with the treatment they have received from Department of Justice. Following promises of full disclosure and a three minute meeting with the Justice Minister, a year ago, there has been no further news.
The relatives do not see any progress from the Dublin Government and are planning an independent commission of inquiry in 1994. Presently they are fundraising for the inquiry which is likely to cost in the region of £100,000.
The fate of those who died on Bloody Sunday and in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings is crucial to the peace process in Northern Ireland. For more than 20 years these crimes have been covered up by successive British and Irish Governments, the same people who now ask for trust in order to broker a peace settlement.
Until the truth of what happened in these two atrocities and others that have occurred over the last 25 years is established then there can be no peace. It is not so simple as forgive and forget.
For more information contact: Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, Pat Finucane Centre, 1 W& End Park, Derry, Ireland. BT 48 9JE Dublin and 'Monaghan Relatives, 11 Lower Match Street, Dublin 2.