Every Troubles death left ‘injustices and tragedies’, says Michelle O’Neill

Micheál Martin says Kenova report shows PIRA’s campaign of violence ‘essentially an attack on its own community’

Every death during the Troubles left “injustices and tragedies” and a “deep legacy of suffering and trauma” in society in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

However, she did not respond directly to PSNI chief constable’s Jon Boutcher’s call for “a full apology” by republicans for the IRA’s abduction, torture and murder of those it accused as informers and acknowledge the “loss and unacceptable intimidation” faced by their families.

In a prepared statement issued in the wake of the long-awaited publication of the interim Kenova report, Ms O’Neill said she was “sorry for all the lives lost during the conflict”.

Saying she had not known Freddie Scappaticci, Ms O’Neill said she was a child when the events occurred: “We must never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families.”


The First Minister said the “suffering, the hurt or the political violence of the conflict” could not be disowned by republicans.

“People’s lives from every section of the community were trespassed upon during the conflict by British state forces, republicans, loyalists and unimaginable grief, hurt, pain and suffering was inflicted,” she said.

However, she said an apology from the British government “should be forthcoming” following the findings of report.

“I think the report speaks to the need for an apology and I think that that should be forthcoming from the British Government,” she said.

The conclusion of the interim Kenova report on the activities of the British agent Stakeknife suggested that the “republican leadership should apologise both for PIRA’s disgraceful treatment and murderous acts and for inciting and encouraging communities to intimidate and abuse families of people often innocent of the claims it made against them”.

In response, Ms O’Neill said at a press conference in Belfast: “Yes, I’ve said it before and I’m going to repeat it again today for all those families out there that lost a loved one.

“I am sorry for every single loss of life and that is without exception. That’s for every person who was hurt or impacted by our conflict.

“I think it’s important that today as the Sinn Féin new generation, Good Friday Agreement generation, that I would repeat that for those families.

“I can only hope – because this is ultimately their day – that they can take some comfort from that.”

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said the hurt of the past including that inflicted by the Provisional IRA cannot be “changed or undone. While the conflict is long over, intergenerational trauma and the search for truth and acknowledgment continues for many families”.

“Hardly a day or week goes by that there is not an anniversary of a past tragedy. Each such occasion evokes painful memories and as leader of Sinn Féin, I am committed to doing all that I can in healing the wounds of the past and achieving reconciliation.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said Kenova showed that the Provisional IRA’s campaign of violence was “essentially an attack on its own community”.

He suggested that Sinn Féin should accept that the campaign was “wrong and futile” and it reminded the public that the PIRA was responsible for the most deaths in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, over 1,700.

“The interim report is similarly unsparing in describing the actions of its so-called ‘Internal Security Unit’ as representing ‘the worst of what one human being will do to another’.

“These assaults and human rights violations were perpetrated to intimidate and subjugate the (nationalist) community.”

The British government did not respond directly to the substance of the report because of a number of civil action that are before the courts arising out of it.

Instead, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Christ Heaton-Harris said the British government will respond once the full report is published.

He noted that the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in the North has declined to prosecute 32 people associated with Kenova “which once again goes to show how difficult it is to achieve criminal justice outcomes in legacy cases.”

DUP leader Jeffery Donaldson said Kenova had lessons for the British government, but it also served as a reminder that British intelligence services had “infiltrated the PIRA to such an extent that they rendered the organisation almost inoperable.

“Working within the security forces was a role of honour in the Troubles. It was a courageous role undertaken by people who wanted to defeat terrorism, protect the entire community, and secure peace for us all.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said the interim report outlines “the litany of horrors committed by the IRA internal security unit, sanctioned by the IRA leadership and allowed to happen by the British Government and security services.”

It demonstrated that the IRA had been infiltrated by the British security services at every level, he added and he called on both the IRA and British government to make specific apologies to the families involved.

“Vague or general sadness are, I am afraid, deficient and will be viewed as such by victims and survivors,” he said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times