Press Release on the death of RFJ member Sally McErlean mother of Thomas McErlean killed by Michael Stone in Miltown Cemetery attack March 16th 1988
Speaking on news of Sally’s death RFJ Director Mark Thompson said;
‘Sally McErlean was a valued member of Relatives for Justice and for many years we supported her in her relentless plight for the full truth to be known concerning Thomas’s murder.
‘Sally was a determined woman, strong and resilient in her own right – she told things as they were and was very straight – she brought that quality to many meetings and press conferences in her struggle on behalf of Thomas.
‘Sally was also a compassionate woman and always thinking of other families in similar positions who had experienced bereavement through the conflict.
‘Unlike the RUC investigation into Thomas’s murder Sally left no stone unturned pursuing every conceivable avenue and even up until her last breath despite her recent diagnosis she continued to campaign- our staff had spoken to Sally late last week and I was scheduled to call by to meet with her this afternoon and discuss the latest developments in the case.
‘Sally was campaigning to have an inquest into Thomas’s murder opened arguing that at the trial of Michael Stone none of the keys issues which lay at the heart of the attack on Miltown Cemetery were raised – issues concerning the use of weapons imported by MI5 and which were used by Stone that fatal day, the failure of the authorities, despite the heavy security, to prevent the attack, how Stone made his way to West Belfast heavily armed, the White Police Van that was photographed on the hard shoulder just prior to the attack and which then disappeared – and even how she herself was poorly treated by the RUC investigating officers in the hours and days after the murders.
‘Thomas McErlean, John Murray and Caoimhin Mac Bradaigh, reacted instinctively and unselfishly that day and undoubtedly their efforts and pursuit of Stone saved many lives – this was an awful attack and scores of mourners still live with the physical and mental scars of that day.
‘In any other society their acts of bravery and saving of lives would have been posthumously acknowledged and recognised.
‘The death of Sally follows the recent death of Sean Reilly, step-father of Karen Reilly killed by the British army. The failure to put in place a truth mechanism to address comprehensively the past means that many bereaved relatives are passing away without ever seeing a form of transitional justice and recognition of their loss.
‘In many instances these deaths are premature and a direct casual link between the trauma and illness can be made. For others, particularly with the majority of killings taking place in the 1970’s, age too is a consideration.
‘In terms of time we are further away from the beginning of the conflict than that period was from the ending of the Second World War and therefore there is an urgency required to create a real and meaningful truth process if it is to mean anything for families and aging relatives.
‘On behalf of everyone at RFJ we extend our heart felt sympathies to the McErlean family.’ENDS