T HE family of two West Belfast brothers targeted in separate INLA shootings within a month of each other have accused the paramilitary group of “spreading lies” to justify their actions. In a letter to the Andersonstown News this week, the Slane family accuse the INLA of shooting Joseph (22) and Barry Slane (28) over a fight that took place between Joseph and members of the paramilitary group in a Falls Road bar in May. They also claim the group have lied about the circumstances of the shootings “in order to protect their reputations”.
The Slane family say that they have chosen to write to the Andersonstown News about the punishment attacks on Barry and Joseph to counter rumours circulating about the shootings after they took place at the beginning of the summer.
This is not the first time the Slane family have been targeted by paramilitaries. In 1996 Barry and Joseph’s father John was murdered by the UDA at the same house where the family still live in Thames Court in the Broadway area.
The sensational letter begins by stating that after his altercation with the INLA members at the Falls Road bar in May, Joseph was subsequently chased by a gang of five armed men to the family home where he threw a hammer at one of his attackers to defend himself.
Another Slane brother present in the house at the time managed to calm the situation down and the gang left. At that point Barry Slane passed the man who had been hit with the hammer while he was walking towards his home and asked if the injured man was okay. The letter adds that an ambulance arrived at the top of Broadway to treat the man for his injuries.
The family go on to say that “masked men” returned to Thames Court the following night and shot Barry three times in the leg and attacked with him hatchets and ‘flick sticks’, telling him that his younger brother would be “getting a bullet in the head”.
Barry Slane was hospitalised for three weeks after the horrific attack and was left with an infection of the brain – the bullet is still in his leg.
“How can an attack like this be authorised by an organisation, supposedly on ceasefire, within such a short space of time, with no warning to the family?” asks the family. “Why was Joseph or our family not given the chance to put across our side of the story to prevent this happening? It seems like some egos were badly bruised, and these men wanted to save face in the community so used their organisation as a front. This has backfired, as most of the community see this attack for what it was.”
The letter adds that the Slane family complained to “a local representative” about the issue. They were told that “there was no death threat against Joseph”, but that “they [INLA] still wanted him to meet them for a punishment shooting”. The family say the reason given for this was “on the night of the (bar) fight Joseph and Barry had gone back up to where the ambulance was and attacked the injured man with a knife while he was in the ambulance”.
“Barry and Joseph deny this ever happened,” states the letter.
“Barry was not even aware the ambulance was there. Joseph was not in the area as he had phoned a taxi to his girlfriend’s house. No-one wanted to stay in the mother’s house after the men attacked the house. This is a blatant lie to try and justify their actions. The NI Ambulance Service is required to write an incident report if anything like this should occur, and inform the police to investigate. We contacted the NI Ambulance Service who have no record of any such incident, and there were no police investigating this with neighbours the next day. You would imagine something as serious as a knife attack in the confines of an ambulance would have warranted some sort of investigation.”
The family state that three weeks after Barry was attacked and subsequently released from hospital, the INLA “sent word that they wanted Joseph to meet them to be shot in the legs”.
“Our family once again complained, but the decision had been made,” reads the letter.
“Joseph was told if he did not go willingly that his ‘punishment’ would be far worse, and there was no guarantee that really bad damage would not be done. He decided to go to meet these men, since he really had no choice.”
Joseph presented himself to be shot near Whiterock Leisure Centre on July 6.
“He was shot twice, once in each leg, and was told he was being ‘let off lightly this time’ due to his circumstances,” said the letter.
“A rumour was spread afterwards that Joseph was attacked for mugging an 82-year-old woman.
“Our family would like to make it clear that this rumour is completely untrue. The reason for the paramilitary attack, allegedly by the INLA, was to protect their reputations.
“Why are members of the organisation allowed to stand behind the name of their organisation to enact vengeance for a personal fight?
“Who does that benefit? The community? Or the member of the organisation who can strut about the road knowing no matter what he does he will not be punished, but can punish others if they stand up to him?
“This family, like a lot of others, suffered heavily at the hands of loyalists during the troubles and have been left to live with our grief.
“We should not have to live in fear of these so-called ‘revolutionary socialists’.”
We had obtained no response from the INLA we went to print.