Monday, December 19, 2016

Truth key priority for families of Northern violence – priests

A truth recovery process should be established to deal with ongoing issues concerning Northern Ireland’s past, a prominent Northern priest has said. 

“The British government and the Dublin government have a responsibility to pursue the agreement they made and set up a truth recovery process as far as that is humanly possible at this late stage,” Fr Joe McVeigh told The Irish Catholic. 

Arguing that this might help some families, he conceded that “there would be some families who would not be satisfied with that – there are some families who want justice, who want people put in prison”. 

The Clogher priest’s comments came after the Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed that the team investigating the events of Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 had forwarded a report to the Public Prosecution Service for its consideration. 

“I believe they should follow the South African model and find somebody like Archbishop Tutu to spearhead the thing and invite all the people involved to come forward with their stories, with their evidence being free from prosecution,” Fr McVeigh added.

Another campaigning priest, retired Fr Desmond Wilson, told this newspaper that truth remains the priority for relatives of victims of British military violence. 

“What the families are looking for in the first place is not prosecutions but the truth,” he said, continuing, “they want to know the truth. You’ll always have a difference of opinion about whether prosecutions should follow once you know the truth, but that’s secondary.”

Noting how families of those killed in Derry, Ballymurphy, Spring Hill and elsewhere have struggled for years to discover the truth, Fr Wilson criticised “the failure of the public authorities to facilitate them, even though promises were made”, citing how documents are often produced belatedly, if at all, and often heavily redacted.

Fr Wilson also took issue with efforts in England to prevent soldiers from being prosecuted. 

“It’s a very strong and I think very offensive campaign,” he said, describing as “most unhelpful” Northern Secretary’s James Brokenshire’s claim that current investigative efforts are excessively focused on State violence.

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