WASHINGTON –U.S. Representative Christopher H. Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), chaired a hearing on the continued search for justice in Northern Ireland. During the hearing, entitled, “Northern Ireland: Why Justice in Individual Cases Matters,” Smith heard testimony from victims of past violence who have called for independent investigations and justice for the murder of their family members.
“Today family members of people killed in Northern Ireland will tell us about their efforts to learn the truth about possible British government collusion or complicity in their loved one’s murder,” said Smith, who is also Chairman of the House Human Rights Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs, as he opened the hearing. “I join my voice with theirs to say: enough obfuscation and stonewalling. We must continue to press for the truth –wherever it leads – and continue to press until justice has been served and those responsible have been held to account.”
Families of those killed in the violence were among those to call for independent investigations and accountability for past abuses and collusion between security forces, the military and paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. The hearing also touched on implementation of key provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, including those relating to policing and the administration of justice in the region.
Testimony included statements by:
John Finucane, son of Patrick Finucane, human rights lawyer murdered by loyalist paramilitaries;
John Teggart, son of Daniel Teggart, victim of the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre;
Ciarán McAirt, grandson of Kitty Irvine, McGurk’s Bar bombing victim; and
Jane Winter, Director, British Irish Rights Watch.
Raymond McCord, Sr., father of Raymond McCord, Jr., murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, submitted a statement for the record.
“Equivocating on the issue of truth and justice for past crimes will only embolden those elements responsible for them from the resulting impunity,” Smith said. “The time has come to focus truth’s light on the murky relationships and collusion that existed between the security forces and paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland and hold those responsible to account.
“We are all grateful to family members and others who have travelled from Ireland to be with us,” Smith said. “Their commitment to justice is moving and is a key factor building a brighter future for all of the people of Northern Ireland. The other factor, which we are here to work on, will be the British government’s willingness to deal more openly with the past.”
Following the hearing, Smith met with Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to convey concerns voiced at the hearing, including the need for credible, independent public inquiries into the Finucane case and others.
A complete record of the hearing, including witness statements, is available on the Commission’s website, www.csce.gov.