“We stand with you…we know you have been suffering and we will do everything we can to help you get justice” Congressman Thomas Suozzi said to Mary McCallan, who spoke about the murder of American citizen Liam Ryan, Willie Loughran, who spoke about the New Lodge Six, and Seana Quinn who spoke about the four Cappagh collusion murder victims.
The three legacy justice campaigners appealed for American help in a live webinar broadcast hosted by the Ancient Order of Hibernians on January 8, on the second anniversary of Britain’s broken New Decade New Approach legacy promises.
A statement by the AOH’s national Freedom for All Ireland Chairman Martin Galvin about the event said: “During the webinar, the murder of an American citizen victim Liam Ryan was described as 'not a murder investigation but a celebration of a successful plan.'
“Congressman Suozzi, a longtime congressional leader on Irish justice issues recently spearheaded a bipartisan letter, along with Congressman Richie Neal and the Friends of Ireland. The letter joined by 21 congressmen urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Biden administration to call on the British government to abandon amnesty proposals.
"The congressman said, ‘We know that President Biden is with us,’ and the administration is waiting to see whether Britain will go through with laws which would deny justice permanently.
“Congressman Suozzi, now also a candidate for New York governor, came on to assure the three justice campaigners and those watching in Ireland that they had bipartisan congressional support.”
Galvin continued, “Mary McCallan of Relatives for Justice described the Royal Ulster Constabulary investigation into the murder of American citizen Liam Ryan and Michael Devlin at the Battery Bar Ardboe, on November 29, 1989, as ‘not a murder investigation but a celebration of a successful plan.’ RUC members laughed and joked at the scene, in front of his wife and family. One sister, Libby Ryan, stayed with her brother’s body, fearing the RUC would try to plant evidence.
“The area had been swamped with British crown forces but patrols were withdrawn. It seemed the killers had been shepherded into and out of the area.
"Bullets were not removed from the wall. The same weapons were used in numerous other murders and, it was widely believed, as Bernadette Devlin McAliskey noted at the time, that the murder gang were members of the British Army’s Ulster Defense Regiment.
“Relatives for Justice had compiled overwhelming proof of collusion to demand an investigation by the PSNI Constabulary Ombudsman. Liam’s widow had applied for a new inquest. However, all such paths to justice would be cut off by the British amnesty proposals.”
Galvin added, “Willie Loughran was the brother of one of six nationalists killed in the New Lodge area of Belfast on February 3 and 4, 1973. Shortly before midnight on February 3, James Sloan and James McCann were shot dead in a drive-by shooting, carried out by an undercover British Army unit.
“Local people who came out to help the wounded were then shot by British Army snipers using night sights. Tony Campbell, Brendan Maguire, and John Loughran and Ambrose Hardy were killed.
“The British Army told the press there was a ‘severe gun battle’ with the IRA and that troopers had killed six armed men. None of the victims were armed and Mr. Loughran described the murders as ‘a totally unprovoked political killing.’
“After years of campaigning a new inquest was ordered by the attorney general. However, the British proposals would take away rights to an inquest.
“Seana Quinn's brother Dwayne O’Donnell was murdered in Cappagh, Co. Tyrone, along with John Quinn, Malcolm Nugent, and Thomas Armstrong on March 3, 1991. These murders were carried out by members of the British Army's Ulster Defense Regiment who, Ms. Quinn said, ‘operated as British soldiers to stop, monitor and harass local people by day and operated by night to murder those same people.’
"She said that the murder of her brother when she was 12 years old was something that she, her parents and siblings would never get over. However, the new British proposals would make a new generation of family members victims of a new British cover-up where they are denied any legal rights or mechanisms to get the truth.
“Other speakers included John Deasy of Fine Gael, who said that 'American congressional activity is having an impact but the pressure has to continue.’
"Ciaran Quinn of Sinn Féin noted that party President Mary Lou McDonald had briefed the administration and congressional leaders on the importance of legacy justice issues. ‘The Stormont House Agreement mechanisms were agreed in December 2014 and pledged again in March 2020, but now we await publication of new British laws that have already met widespread political opposition across Ireland,’ he said.
“National AOH President Danny O’Connell noted the webinar has already been viewed by close to 900 people in more than 30 states, and across Ireland, while Irish American organizations including the Ladies AOH, Irish American Unity Conference, Brehon Law Society, and Irish Northern Aid are now circulating the YouTube links.”
Galvin concluded, “After decades of being denied justice, the British see Irish victims’ campaigners getting close to the truth using British inquests like Ballymurphy, civil actions, ombudsman investigations and other proceedings allowed them under British law. Britain now wants to take away these legal channels for justice and bury the truth under proposed amnesty laws, despite the public opposition of the Irish government and all six county political parties.
“These victims’ families feel America is their best hope for justice and are counting on Irish America to get them that American help.”
*This column first appeared in the January 12 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.