Congressman Eliot Engel, who is under consideration to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the next Congress, has sent a formal letter to British Ambassador Kim Darroch expressing his concerns about the ongoing Ballymurphy inquest, considered a "fundamental test of justice in cases where British state forces are involved.”
Engel acted after twice meeting Carmel Quinn of the Ballymurphy Campaign and Relatives for Justice. His letter reflects the growing American interest in the Ballymurphy inquest following Quinn's multistate tour organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians with Relatives for Justice and supported by an array of Irish American organizations including the Irish American Unity Conference and Brehon Law Society.
Engel, with a long record of interest in Irish issues, highlighted his concerns about issues including withholding of key British Army records and British calls for a statute of limitations amnesty or special laws for British troopers.
“The inquest into these deaths has been described to us as a fundamental test of justice in cases where British state forces were involved. I have heard concerns that the inquest may fail to ensure that justice will be done, leaving open wounds from a conflict that all want to relegate firmly into the history books,” Engel wrote the Darroch in a letter dated December 7.
“I understand that there is growing apprehension among the Ballymurphy families that the Ministry of Defense may be deliberately withholding documents and disclosure items crucial to the investigation. Additionally, I am aware that some Britons have recently called for changes to the statute of limitations laws. Such changes could result in the absolution of anyone judged guilty and could fundamentally taint the inquest.
“As a Member of Congress who has a continuing interest in Northern Ireland, I am compelled to relay these concerns to you and would welcome any response you may have.”
AOH Freedom for All Ireland chair Martin Galvin noted, “The Ballymurphy inquest, as Congressman Engel put it, is a 'fundamental test of justice in cases where British state forces were involved.’ His letter raises crucial questions.
"Why are the British hiding documents and debating new forms of immunity for British troopers? Surely if their killings were justified, the British military would want to disclose all records to exonerate their troopers. Why would the British consider new forms of immunity unless the crown believes that the testimony will show their troopers need immunity for murdering 11 people including a Catholic priest and grandmother?
"The AOH believes that American congressional scrutiny can help make a difference for Ballymurphy and all legacy victims in their long fight for truth and justice. We welcome Congressman Engel's letter and also welcome the interest of other members who are closely monitoring this inquest.”