Speech by RFJ Chair Clara Reilly in New York

Minister Caral Ní Chuilin provides families' information to RFJ Chair and Director

Relatives For Justice was founded in 1991 by a group of human rights activists and bereaved family members who had been working for many years supporting families who were seeking truth and justice concerning the murders of their loved ones.  I was one of the founding members of Relatives For Justice, and am presently the Chairperson.

Relatives For Justice has published pamphlets and books and repeatedly questioned the states involvement in the murders of its own citizens by state forces and loyalists paramilitaries who were on the British government’s payroll.

Relatives For Justice is one of the largest human rights organizations in the North of Ireland who has been working directly with families who have been affected by the troubles.

Relatives For Justice mission is to provide appropriate therapeutic and developmental based support for the bereaved and injured of the conflict within a safe environment. To examine and develop transitional justice and truth recovery mechanisms assisting with individual healing, contributing to positive societal change, ensuring the effective promotion and protection of human rights, social justice, and reconciliation in the context of an emerging participative democracy post conflict.

Niall Murphy and Kevin Winters, who represent the largest law firm in the North, will speak in detail about some of the injustices and the threats on lawyer’s lives……and in saying that, let’s remember the murders our friends and their colleagues, Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, 2 of the most prominent human rights lawyers in the North of Ireland at the time.

In Sept 2005 a Historical Enquiries Team (otherwise known as HET) was set up by the Police Service of Northern Ireland to investigate killings committed by the British Army during the Troubles.  However, after four years of the lack of credible results from this team, Professor Patricia Lundy did her own in depth investigation into the Historical Enquiries Team themselves and discovered that they were actually giving preferential treatment to the British soldiers; they were not impartial and were acting unlawfully.  Professor Lundy brought her report to the chief constable, the Policing board and the government and was severely criticized for its content.  Thankfully after Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of  Constabulary (HMIC) reviewed the work of the HET, they upheld all of Professor Lundy’s report and the critics were forced to apologize.

Last month Relatives For Justice organized 2 meetings with families of victims killed by the British army and those murdered by loyalists in cases involving suspected collusion.  The families said they had no confidence in the Historical Enquiries Team to properly investigate the murders.  The vast majority has been deeply unhappy and has expressed serious concerns about the way in which the Historical Enquiries Team has dealt with their cases.  Families fear that if they do not speak out now and collectively, they will again be subjected to a process that will seek to prevent truth and accountability.  They are not willing to allow this to happen again.  They are very clear; they will not accept another failed British initiative.

I was reading an article a few days ago here in America.  It was about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.  Many of you may remember this story.  This month marks the 50th anniversary of the racially motivated bombing of the Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama.  Four young African-American children were murdered because of the color of their skin.

Now I’m going to read you some excerpts from an article I read in an Irish Newspaper:

A loyalist paramilitary group last night threatened to take “military action” against children attending three Catholic schools in greater Belfast.  A man claiming to represent the Red Hand Defenders issued the threat using a codeword.  The group, who formed in 1998, admitted responsibility for the 1999 murder of human rights solicitor Rosemary Nelson.  In a statement to the Irish News the group said it had “reactivated” and would target 3 schools in greater Belfast.  Quote: “Those 3 Catholic schools are located in Protestants areas and our parades are not welcome in nationalists areas, therefore anything to do with those schools will now be considered as legitimate targets”.

Unfortunately, his article was NOT 50 years ago like the Alabama story……..it was only 5 days ago.  We are still dealing with racist bigotry and sectarianism in the North of Ireland.  We are still dealing with threats to our families and children.  But, these threats will not deter us from continuing to seek truth and justice.   Relatives for Justice will not waiver from our mission.

Now I need to talk to you about a subject that no one likes to discuss…….Funding.  Funding is a large part of what helps us do the important work we do.   Our government funding has been cut and more cuts are expected in the very near future.  We are losing 1/3 of our funding.  We depend on private funds in order to continue.  So, we humbly ask our US friends for help.  Relatives For Justice USA is a registered 501C3 public charity, and all donations are tax deductible.

We still have a long road ahead and our work is not yet completed.  Please be a part of helping us find truth, justice and reconciliation in an appropriate way of dealing with the past.