“Recently the families of those murdered in the Ballymurphy massacre finally got access to the truth about what happened to their loved ones. They knew for more than 50 years that their loved ones were murdered by the British state. Now the world knows it.”Paul Maskey MP.
By Paul Maskey, Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast
Many things are relative depending on your viewpoint but truth is absolute.
There will never be an agreed narrative on the conflict in the north of Ireland and it continues to provoke strong emotions and debate.
Last week, the families of those murdered in the Ballymurphy massacre finally got access to the truth about what happened to their loved ones.
They knew for more than 50 years that their loved ones; their fathers, brothers, sons and mother, were murdered by the British state. Now the world knows it.
For five decades they campaigned for truth and for the basic right to the truth about the death of their loved ones. The right to have an inquest should be fundamental and should not be in question but many, like the Ballymurphy families, were denied this basic right.
The families had to fight for that right and they did so with dignity and determination. They faced closed doors and obstacles but continued with their campaign for truth.
They have now received that truth but they are still being denied justice.
And many others are in the same position. Many others are also still being denied truth about the deaths of their loved ones and are still waiting for inquests.
This is because successive British governments have sought and continue to seek to hide their role in the conflict.
In many cases there has never been a proper police investigation into what happened and even in the instances where investigations too place, the British government still placed obstacles in the way of truth and justice.
They do not want attention being drawn to Britain’s dirty war in Ireland. They want to cover it up and continue to deny it.
The history of Britain’s involvement in the conflict in Ireland is shameful. It is the story of state murder, collusion with loyalist death squads and the murder of Irish citizens. The relatives of those killed have fought got truth and justice, as have various campaign groups, and have exposed the extent of British state murder.
But still the British government is intent on continuing to cover up the murderous role its forces, agents and their proxies played in Ireland.
It has announced plans to legislate to put current and former members of the British army beyond the law for crime they committed in the north of Ireland, including murder.
This is unacceptable. No one can be above the law.
These plans are the culmination of the British state’s approach to dealing with the legacy of the conflict.
For decades it has sought to hide the truth and frustrate the efforts of families and campaigners. It is still hiding files on murders committed by the RIC 100 years ago and denying their release to academics and historians.
In 2014 the British government agreed a series of mechanisms with the Irish government and the five main political parties to deal with the past in the Stormont House Agreement.
But to this day it is abjectly failed to implement those mechanisms. Now, with its intention to legislate to put British forces beyond the law it is unilaterally tearing up that agreement.
In doing so it is adding to the hurt, trauma and pain felt by the families of those killed by the British state and its proxies.
It cannot be allowed to do this. The Irish government, as a co-signatory to the Stormont House Agreement must ensure that it is implemented in full.
It has been suggested that in its place the British government will convene some sort of truth commission. This suggestion has already been dismissed by many relatives of those killed by state violence and campaigners.
This British government doesn’t know the meaning of the word truth. Its only intention is to cover up truth.
The British government and media have attacked and undermined those seeking truth and justice including lawyers and even the Crown and Public Prosecution Services.
They continually peddle the false narrative that there is some sort of witch-hunt against ex-British soldiers in spite of the facts.
This is a smokescreen to cover up British state murder.
Instead of the ongoing efforts to frustrate families and hide the truth, the British government needs to live up to its commitments. It needs to honour and implement the agreements it has made, particularly the Stormont House Agreement, in a human rights compliant manner.
The British government may continue to hide the facts, to protect murderers and to deny justice. But it cannot continue to hide the truth. Families and their supporters will continue to campaign for truth for as long as it takes. And Sinn Féin will continue to stand with them in their campaign for truth and justice.