Justice for victims of the Troubles
Sir, – The conviction and sentencing of two men for the murder 18 years ago of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence in south east London (World News, January 4th) has raised a number of extremely important questions for the British state in relation to the unresolved murders of innocent non-combatant victims of the Troubles in the north of Ireland.
In relation to the Lawrence case, at last some justice has been done. Unfortunately, this is disgracefully not the case for the many victims of sectarian hate murders in the north of Ireland. One such victim is my 17-year-old brother Patrick who was brutally murdered by a loyalist death squad in 1972.
Like most, if not all, murders of this kind, it remains unresolved. My brother’s killing was never investigated, and requests from my family for relevant reports and information have drawn a complete blank from the RUC/PSNI. They informed my family that no paper work or forensic reports in relation to Patrick’s murder exist. They were apparently destroyed in a police station fire! A number of years ago I raised these concerns with the chief constable of the RUC/PSNI and the Historical Enquiries Team. I can only describe its response as abysmal.
Also of deep concern to my family are the number of allegations that have surfaced in recent times about possible security force collusion in the murders of innocent Catholics in the North, especially in North Belfast.
These allegations ought to be thoroughly investigated and should cause great concern for the judicial integrity of the state. Such concerns should also address the rampant institutionalised sectarianism in the RUC during the Troubles.
The fact that many murders remain un-investigated and unresolved should be a cause of deep shame to the British state, and to all political parties in the North that supposedly value truth and justice. It represents a monumental failure on their part that the demands of justice have been so pitifully disregarded down through the years.
In the Lawrence case, because of evidence showing the initial police investigation had failed through institutionalised racism, a public inquiry took place under Lord Macpherson. Surely the time has come for the UK government, including its Assembly at Stormont, to order a public inquiry into the failure of its police to investigate and to bring to justice those responsible for the sectarian murders of innocent non-combatant victims.
This June my family will mark the 40th anniversary of my brother’s death. I will celebrate a Mass at his grave where we will remember all the families who have lost loved ones during the Troubles. We hold no desire for revenge and God knows our openness to offer forgiveness. Like many other families, and informed by the truth and values of our faith, “we turn the other cheek”.
Nevertheless, justice delayed is justice denied. The Stephen Lawrence case should be a signpost for the state to follow in addressing the institutionalised sectarianism in the police that has left so many murders unresolved, and those responsible unrepentant, unaccountable and free. – Yours, etc,