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Victims confront Villiers over past

By Francesca Ryan

A LOCAL woman whose mother was gunned down by the British Army in Ballymurphy confronted British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers yesterday over her comments that state murders should be given less emphasis than murders by paramilitaries.

Briege Voyle was one of a number of relatives of the 11 innocents killed in the Ballymurphy Massacre who held a protest in Belfast city centre while Ms Villiers made her controversial comments inside Assembly Buildings in Fisherwick Place.

For 43 years the families have been fighting for justice for the victims of a Parachute Regiment rampage in which 11 people were slaughtered – including a priest – in a 36-hour reign of terror in August 1971.

Unsurprisingly, Villiers’ assertion that there should be “proportionate focus on the wrongdoing of paramilitaries” and less on the activities of the state has been met with disgust by relatives and campaign groups alike.

“I spoke to Theresa Villiers as she was leaving the event,” Briege told the Andersonstown News. “I asked her why it has taken her so long to respond to our proposal for an independent panel to examine the massacre.  She said she will meet with us soon, but I do not believe her.

“It is a disgrace we have been waiting for 43 years with no answer and now we are told the state murders shouldn’t be in focus. Why?  All pain is the same, so why should we be treated differently?

“We were treated like second class people when they came in and murdered all round them and were able to walk away. That attitude still remains, clearly, but we won’t be letting that happen.  I asked her why there has been a hold-up and why David Cameron does not feel it’s the right time for us to get answers. After 43 years, when will be the right time?  We won’t stop fighting this campaign for what’s right.”

Relatives for Justice Director Mark Thompson said an “old guard” agenda exists in the PSNI and NIO which is unacceptable.

“Theresa Villiers’ comments expose a purely self-serving political approach to the past that seeks to divert and shield the British Government from its legal obligations concerning State violence and collusion,” he said.

“The propaganda myth that the state is only responsible for 10 per cent of all killings throws up two key points: it ignores totally the reality of collusion that when factored into the equation accounts for the state being culpable for approximately a third of all killings. And that is only what we know at this point without a truth process.

“Secondly, there has been no proper accounting for state violence and collusion and all those affected by this violence live with the legacy of denial where impunity continues.

“This past number of weeks demonstrates that the agenda of an old guard approach within the PSNI, NIO and DOJ [Justice] is very much alive concerning the past – an agenda that continually pursues non-state actors to the conflict whist continuing to protect their own within State forces. This is unacceptable.”

Mark went on to stress that any examinations of past killings are policed very tightly by Special Branch, hindering the search for truth.

 

Collusion

“Families have repeatedly asked why there have been no arrests of British soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday, MRF or former Special Branch involved in collusion and murder. This stands in stark contrast to other arrests. Within the PSNI there exists a Legacy Unit that is staffed and run by former RUC Special Branch officers who were rehired after retiring with generous severance packages. This Legacy Unit determines all matters concerning the past. We also have a Chief Constable who has totally abdicated his responsibilities by facilitating an RUC agenda within the PSNI concerning the past. It is in this vacuum that former Special Branch and spooks control and determine how the past is policed.  Villiers’ statement must be viewed in this context.”

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