Oration by Julieann Campbell, Dublin - 17-05-2019

 

Julieann Campbell

Hello. Thank you for the invitation to speak here this morning to mark this anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. The greatest loss of life in a single day during the conflict.

My name is Julieann Campbell and I speak to you today on behalf of the Bloody Sunday families in Derry who have followed and supported your case through all these years.

Today we again offer our unwavering support, friendship and deepest condolences to all those affected by the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. This is a trauma that could last generations. And even after all these years, the full truth about what happened here remains hidden, kept from those who need it most.

I know only too well how State-sanctioned murder can scar families and communities.

My own family campaigned tirelessly to clear the name of my 17-year-old uncle Jackie Duddy – the first person to be shot dead on Bloody Sunday in 1972, the late Bishop Daly running by his side.

Jackie was a champion boxer, but the British Army branded him a nail-bomber. In the hours after Bloody Sunday all were branded gunmen or nail-bombers – enemy of the State. It took four decades for this stain upon our families to be removed.

Now the world knows that our people were innocent civilians who posed no threat to anyone.

Now the world knows that my uncle Jackie was shot in the back while running away, and that so many others were shot while helping the injured or fleeing to safety or waving a white flag of truce.

The terrible shame is that those same campaigning aunts and uncles I watched in admiration growing up are old and grey – having fought for a lifetime.

We have much in common, despite a border. We, too, remain steadfast in the rule of law; insisting that truth be reflected in the courts and in the history books. Like you, we put our hope and trust in the justice system – and like you, we have been let down time and time again.

My family are fortunate in that we received some semblance of truth and an admission of guilt for Jackie and everyone affected by Bloody Sunday – that meant the world to us.

But thousands of other families throughout this island continue to strive for truth and justice - and, for many, time is running out. People grow old and people die without ever finding out the truth about the death of their loved ones.

Some years ago, I was asked to mobilise the island-wide 'In Their Footsteps' campaign on behalf of the Bloody Sunday Trust and the Pat Finucane Centre for Human Rights.

This is a campaign in which relatives are invited to create a 'sea of shoes' representing their lost loved ones which is exhibited in cities like Derry, Belfast and London to remind the world just how many families need answers.

Our first Day of Action was held here in beautiful Dublin, and I remember well the sight of all those pairs of empty shoes along O’Connell Street – a poignant symbol of all we have lost.

It was here on that busy Saturday, among so many bereaved families, that I learned the full horror of what had happened here during the Dublin-Monaghan bombings – just how devastating this was.

O'Brien family shoes

Among our collection of shoes are that of the O'Brien family – John and Anna O'Brien and their infant daughters Jacqueline and Anne-Marie – two generations gone. This little family of shoes, including tiny pink bootees, are a stark reminder of the futility of war. That night I cried.

I realise now that this frustration is visible across the island of Ireland. Over the years in my work as a writer, I have met scores of individuals and families who share similar feelings of hurt and abandonment – by history, by their community, and by the British government.

One of the most important things about events like today or like the shoe campaign is the collective remembering that can happen between people. It gives us a chance to share one’s grief and to pay tribute to innocent lives lost too soon. This is important as families grow and memories fade.

The Bloody Sunday families are thankful for the support and solidarity shown by the Irish government and the people of the republic over the years. Indeed, the Irish government were instrumental in reigniting the international debate around Bloody Sunday back in the 1990s.

Some tend to forget that the conflict spanned both sides of the border, that families and communities across this island continue to suffer – and continue in dogged pursuit of information that might help ease their suffering.

The sheer scale of collusion here is only now beginning to emerge - unearthed from dusty files or, occasionally, someone's guilty conscience as age takes over. More and more facts have emerged in recent years, more claims of collusion, of deliberate and premeditated murder. Much of this evidence has been unearthed by organisations like the Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten – two organisations I have great pride in working with.

However, while we know more than ever – huge questions remain. We must keep pressure on the British government to tell us all they know about their time here.

This is not about revenge – it is about what is right and just. No-one is above the law – regardless of uniform or cause.

47 years have now passed since Bloody Sunday and many in Derry have lost faith in justice.

We have been dealt a devastating blow with news that only one soldier will stand trial for the murder of fourteen men and boys and the attempted murder of 17 other innocent civilians. Sixteen more British soldiers will not be charged for their crimes in our city. Only Soldier F will stand trial – charged with two murders and four attempted murders.

Few remember that Soldier F killed five people that day.

Few remember that the one piece of forensic evidence against Soldier F in 1972 was the SLR bullet taken from Michael Kelly's spine – and yet Michael's family were also denied justice.

Few remember that Soldier F admitted to using a Texas Heart Shot to murder Patrick Doherty as he crawled to safety. Barney McGuigan then walked out to help him, waving a white hankie, and was shot in the head - killing him instantly.

It doesn't matter what prosecutors or courts or the British State says, we know and we have always known that Soldier F is a mass murderer. Now he will face a court of law.

My own family are still reeling from the news that Soldier R wasn't charged - that Jackie won't get his day in court. We are appealing this decision but again, time is running out. This has been deeply disappointing for our family, but the Bloody Sunday families stand together and say that a victory for one family is a victory for all.

Today we stand with you. We need to know what happened here 45 years ago today. Ireland needs to know. The world needs to know.

We join with you in calling on the British state to release all documents related to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. We join you in calling for the Irish government to keep up the pressure in demanding them. Families need to know the truth.

I remind you of the recent headlines concerning classified files in the National Archives relating to several plastic bullet deaths, including children like 15-year-old Paul Whitters, 14-year-old Julie Livingstone and 11-year-old Stephen McConomy, which remain sealed.

The file on Paul Whitters is sealed until 2059. What could be so secret that his own mother can't see? Does the death of a 15-year-old child in Derry threaten the national security of Britain?

Minister … will you please raise this at your next meeting with your British counterpart?

The British military accuse us of a 'witch-hunt'. To this, I say one thing – just listen to the horrific evidence emerging from the Ballymurphy inquest in recent weeks. Clearly serving British soldiers did commit crimes here. Clearly not all in uniform acted in a 'dignified and appropriate' manner, as claimed by British secretary of state, Karen Bradley earlier this year.

We are right to pursue these cases until the very end. History demands it.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Margaret Urwin for inviting me here today, and to commend her passionate, relentless work with Justice for the Forgotten. She is a force of nature and I admire her work greatly.

Before I go, I also want to encourage any families among you to get involved with the In Their Footsteps campaign – please donate a pair of shoes representing your loved one and a note or photograph telling us their story. Help this important campaign grow and grow. We may never know the full extent of what went on here over the past four decades – but we must pursue the truth until we can breathe no more.

Thank you.

Flowers 17052019