Northern Ireland Legacy Year in Review – Heroic Battles Against Deception and Delay
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For much of the past 20 years or so, Northern Ireland was not used to being at the forefront of international headlines. But thanks to the DUP and other die-hard Brexiteers, this is exactly where it was at the start of 2021. And also thanks to a Conservative Brexiteer government, the north has made headlines for another reason. This time for the conflict which, for the most part, ended in 1998.
As I wrote a lot for The Canary, the peace we have had in the north over the past 23 years has been precarious. Part of what makes him so uncomfortable is the tin ear the UK government is giving to the families of the victims.
The government’s callousness and deafness were particularly strong and clear in July. Because it was the month that Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis confirmed amnesty plans that could allow British forces to escape justice for their crimes in Ireland. And not only that, as if to consolidate its vision of the past, the British government announced in November its intention to rewrite the history of this conflict. the Telegraph said the government feared “creeping revisionism around the role of the IRA and the atrocities it has committed”. Oh the irony!
However, whatever Britain’s tactics to cover up its dirty past in Ireland, the families of those who died at Britain’s hands have not backed down. They continued their quest for justice for their loved ones until 2021. And it is their bravery, not the insensitivity of the UK government, that will be the lasting remembrance and message of the legacy issues in 2021. This article is another in The year in review series. You can read the many other journal articles here.
But it was the work that was the first
The year actually started with an example of historic revisionism from the Labor Party. This was evident when Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh ran an online “education program” on the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement.
Haigh invited Professor Jon Tonge from the University of Liverpool to speak at his first seminar. According to Tonge, the conflict began with the collapse of the 1973 Sunningdale Accord. Sunningdale was an attempt to share power in the north that collapsed after five months following British loyalist opposition.
As I wrote at the time, in addition to ignoring the first five years of the conflict, Tonge completely overlooked the concerns of Irish Republicans and the brutal British crackdown on Catholics and Irish Republicans. The Republican paramilitaries – as they had wished since the War of Independence over a hundred years ago – were fighting for a united Ireland. Tonge was also unaware that the 30-year conflict was partly born out of the repression by the British state and its agents of the peaceful protests of 1968.
Read on …
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Blood drenched journey
In March, when Connla Young from Irish News revealed the ‘bloody journey’ of a British Loyalist gun, it has revealed a double standard in mainstream media reporting on the north. Loyalists imported this weapon, along with many others, to assassinate Irish Republicans and innocent Catholics during the conflict.
Sadly, Young’s journalism is an exception in the mainstream. Because his colleagues do not display an ounce of his courage. Instead, they present today’s loyalists who oppose the current post-Brexit arrangements in the north as an ‘umbrella group’. Lobbyists, if you will. Yet these loyalist groups are a direct descendant of the gangs, which once acted as the British state’s death squads. But that hasn’t stopped the mainstream media from giving them pride of place. What is the Telegraph say “revisionism”?
As they admit one, another resurfaces
In May, a coroner declared 9 of the 11 victims of the Ballymurphy massacre, shot dead by the British military, innocent. The families of the victims already knew this just as they knew all 11 were innocent. These innocent people died as a result of the invasion of more than 600 British troops in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast between 9 and 11 August 1971. This British invasion marked the beginning of the British policy of consistent to imprison Irish Catholics and Republicans without trial – internment.
Following the coroner’s announcement, we were reminded how far from unique Ballymurphy was. Thanks to the relentless diligence of the Paper Trail legacy researchers, new evidence indicates that “a major British military operation is about to begin in the vicinity”, as 13-year-old schoolgirl Martha Campbell was murdered in May 1972. But with this amnesty proposal in place, would anyone be tried?
Conservatives formalize their crimes
Don’t believe anything until it’s been officially denied, the saying goes. Well, the Tories weren’t denying anything as such, they just don’t want anyone to talk about British crimes in Ireland.
In July, a series of announcements came that amounted to a denial of any wrongdoing. In early July, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced that it would drop charges against two British soldiers for the murder of three Irishmen in Derry in 1972. The PPS claimed there was no reasonable chance that the one or the other of the soldiers be pursued.
Later that month, Lewis announced his intention to grant amnesty to British forces and paramilitary groups, who have fought for 30 years of conflict. As I wrote at the time:
And while some in the mainstream media, and Labor Leader Keir Starmer, say Lewis’s proposal means an amnesty “for terrorists”, the reality is quite different. Because given the lack of prosecution of a possible admission of wrongdoing by the British establishment, it appears the British establishment is trying to whitewash its record during this 30-year conflict.
The UK state continued to whitewash when it met with a human rights group representing victims of UK state violence shortly after Lewis’ announcement. From this meeting, it seemed that the British government was trying, at best, to play down its role in the conflict in Ireland. He claimed that British security forces were responsible for only “around 10% of unrest-related deaths” and that “the vast majority … were legal”. A state of complete and deliberate denial.
Human rights groups continued to expose the lies of the British establishment through their research and a nationwide day of action in Ireland in September.
It is undoubtedly thanks to the tireless campaign of a dedicated few that the British camouflage campaign will never be normalized. We have been reminded of this throughout the year and especially every December when we remember the 15 people murdered in the bombing of McGurk’s Bar in Belfast in 1971. Activists continue to exhibit Britain’s role in this act of bloody massacre, and its role in and falsely blaming Irish Republicans for the carnage.
It is therefore somewhat fitting, if not poignant, that the year ends with the UK Supreme Court highlighting a cover-up over allegations of torture in Ireland. The court ruled that the police’s failure to investigate the torture allegations against the “hooded men” was illegal. In 2014, the Irish state broadcaster RTÉ, show these men had indeed been tortured by the British state. The British also reproduced these torture techniques in Iraq in 2003.
British state traumatizes families
Despite their best efforts, the British establishment will not succeed. Because the campaign for justice continues. And the more the British cover themselves, the more these activists fight. As such, it is fitting that the last word be left to them. Ciarán MacAirt from Paper Trail said The Canary that 2021 was “very much a double-edged sword”:
The British state has once again traumatized families across these islands over its endless threats to unilaterally dismantle the Stormont House agreement and enact its pernicious Legacy Bill. The mask of the British state has slipped and it wants to bury its war crimes and protect its killers while denying bereaved families equal access to justice. The British media’s lie in reporting this attack on basic human rights has also been damaging to families.
Nonetheless, the dignity, courage and bravery of these ordinary families have been beacons throughout the darkness and deception of 2021. These heroes are my highlight because they demolished the lies of a powerful state and succeed without release into that state’s own courts. It was their heroism in the fight for truth and justice that prompted the British state to violate international and national human rights law. The treacherous British state is afraid because it has murdered its own citizens and covered up its crimes, but has ignored a basic human emotion – love. This is what motivates every member of the family and this is why Britain is in such a situation.
We at The Canary look forward to recognizing this bravery and heroism in the years to come.
Featured Image via – Screenshot YouTube – ThamesTv & Pixabay – TayebMEZAHDIA
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