A copy of the full statement by the families released today in Relatives for Justice offices:
Families of IRA Volunteers call on British government to come clean on Shoot-to-Kill
We, the families of Peter Clancy, Sean O’Farrell, Patrick Vincent, and my own brother Barry O’Donnell, killed in a pre-planned, pre-meditated SAS shoot-to-kill ambush on February 16th 1992 at Clonoe, County Tyrone, this morning publish for the first time details of the circumstances surrounding these killings in this new report. (For full copy of report please go to https://relativesforjustice.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/clonoe.pdf
Let us say from the very outset these deaths were completely avoidable.
This report entitled Ambush, Assassination & Impunity was compiled with the assistance of Relatives for Justice and examined previously unseen material concerning the RUC, British Army and SAS operation disclosed as a result of challenges and submissions by lawyers acting for us at preliminary inquest hearings. Documents that I have here this morning.
Our relatives – our brothers – were IRA Volunteers. They were on active service but that is only part of the facts. These documents show that the British authorities had precise information concerning a planned attack by the IRA, the principle weapon to be used, including its location prior to removal, the lorry vehicle that was to be used, and the movements of those involved days in advance. They even stopped some of the men in the hours prior to the attack and were told to let them go.
Let’s be absolutely clear this was never an arrest operation – it was an operation to kill.
Recently the MoD controversially withdrew from a High Court action contesting damages awarded to a man injured in the SAS ambush that claimed the lives of our relatives. After hearing evidence about the shooting by the lead SAS soldier, ‘Soldier A’, the High Court Judge described ‘A’s” evidence as ‘utterly implausible.’ Four other SAS soldiers scheduled to also give evidence then withdrew. The Judge also stated that the shooting of this individual had not been justified. An inquest into the shootings has yet to properly commence and a transcript of ‘A’s’ evidence will form part of any future inquest proceedings.
Earlier this year we brought our campaign to the US where we held a series of meetings with influential Irish Americans and US politicians including members of the US Congress at Capital Hill.
During that visit we also met with and lobbied Justice Minister David Ford and British Secretary for the north Owen Patterson and a number of other British and Irish politicians whilst in Washington DC and New York.
Both David Ford and Owen Patterson were given advance copies of the report and during these meetings the families outlined their demands. We also told them we wanted the truth to be finally told. The truth is known as to why our relatives were there but not about the sanctioning of their killings.
The whole issue of truth concerning the conflict and the many incidents that make-up that conflict dominates daily life here especially for the bereaved and injured. As bereaved families we are no different. Every family’s pain and grief are equal. We support all victims’ right to truth.
It could well be argued that our demands for truth and justice have a greater emphasis and focus, as those responsible for the killings were the forces of law and order operating under governmental control. Yet somehow our voices, our calls for truth have been drowned out in deliberately contrived hierarchies of victimhood where politicking and war by other means continues to form part of daily life here. We all deserve better.
Unionist politicians oppose examining the past when concerning actions on the part of the state yet call for inquiries and investigations when republicans are responsible. They talk about the rule of law being applied yet complain when it is applied to the state. All sides to the conflict need to face up to their responsibilities and those they hurt and that includes unionists. They have responsibilities and need to provide leadership.
The British government must stop hiding behind unionist refusal to face that past by citing that there is no consensus whilst at the same time seeking to abdicate their own responsibility, present themselves as neutral, and evade culpability – they too have responsibilities.
For our families the British government has created the greatest blockage to truth through a series of processes that are essentially controlled and largely perfunctory not to mention delayed. And this too brings into play the key agencies involved in killing our loved ones and covering up the facts – the PSNI and the MoD.
Twenty years on and we still await an inquest into the killings. That is because the British state is responsible. However, that doesn’t make it right, it is still unacceptable.
This new report shows beyond doubt that the killing of my brother and his three comrades, including the injuring of two other men, was completely avoidable and that those within the British political and security system decided they would be ambushed, killed and that impunity would be granted. As I have already said this was never an arrest operation.
These actions are contrary to domestic and international law violating the most fundamental of human rights the right to life as enshrined in Article 2 of the ECHR and to which the British government is a key signatory.
We will continue to challenge that impunity and to seek truth including accountable justice by applying human rights standards. In this report we have set out how we intend to legally take forward our case.
However, and in the wake of significant statements from republicans concerning Claudy and Bloody Friday, the British government could come clean and as part of addressing the past acknowledge that they operated a policy of shoot to kill.
By facing up to their responsibilities in such a way the British government could potentially play its role in kick-starting a more meaningful process that goes beyond finger-pointing and blame.
Such a statement would move us all to new ground creating the much-needed political generosity necessary for a genuine and independent process aimed at addressing our collective past. It might create a space where families would no longer need to engage in adversarial courts settings. Such a development would also allow for ageing relatives an element of healing rather than the sense of perpetual litigation, challenge and counter-challenge. For example we have buried loved ones during our long wait for an inquest. The truth can set us all free.
We all face challenges and for us the challenge of contemplating forgoing the formal justice route in context of such a statement from the British government would be a huge challenge. However the greater dividend we believe can outweigh the choice to take that path.
That challenge too now exists for David Cameron and Owen Patterson and hopefully they will reflect on this opportunity by responding to our position positively.