Below is a copy of the excellent speech by Nicole McKeown at the Time for Truth protest (29th March 2023).
I am Nicole McKeown, the granddaughter of Frankie McKeown who was murdered 50 years ago by the British state in July 1972 on the Shaws Road in West Belfast.
I want to thank the Time for Truth Campaign for organising today’s protest to express the opposition of Families yet again to the British government Legacy Bill which is being debated today in the British House of Lords.
My Granda was on his way to open his shop in West Belfast. When removing part of a barricade on the Shaws Road to get to his shop in Carrigart Avenue he was shot twice by a member of the British Army.
No medical assistance was offered by the British army platoon despite requests from a gathering crowd and my granda had to wait for over 20 minutes until an ambulance arrived.
Our Family, like so many others, lost so much. Family life shattered.
So many Family memories lost. So many lives ruined and broken.
On days like this my thoughts today are with, each and every family, who lost a loved one during the conflict.
Families who lost so much.
Families who now see the British government pulling down the shutters on their campaigns with their Legacy Bill.
The Legacy Bill is evidence that the British government have much, much more to conceal and cover-up from their dirty war in Ireland.
Be in no doubt the British government’s Legacy Bill is about:
Amnesties for state forces’
Avoiding accountability and,
At its core this Legacy Bill prioritises the demands of the British military lobby above those of victims.
This Bill is about the British Cabinet denying us our basic legal rights and as such represents a full-frontal assault on basic legal process and the administration of justice.
This Bill will in law deny any family their legal right to an investigation in line with human rights law, or an inquest, public inquiry, or ability to pursue a civil action.
These are the actions of a rogue state who fears the truth that basic legal process will deliver for families.
But that is their very clear intention. And the explanation is simple.
The British government intent is to protect both those in uniform and those in suits in Whitehall who were involved in the murder of Irish Citizens. Those in the political echelons – in Downing Street and Whitehall – know what is coming down the line.
And they are doing all they can to block the truth.
So, let’s be clear this Bill is unworkable, it will not deliver for victims and survivors, it is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, and that it is incompatible with international human rights obligations.
But it is the price that the British government is prepared to pay to protect those in Downing Street who know the extent of collusion and State murder because it was, they, and their predecessors, who planned it.
We are here today again to protest at the denial of our basic human, legal rights.
Chris Heaton-Harris and Rishi Sunak need to hear that we will not allow our rights to be cherry-picked or traded by any British Government.
They must now bin this flawed legislation without further delay and return to the Stormont House Agreement.
We are not on our own.
The criticisms of this Bill are also shared locally by the Irish government, the Churches, the Victims Commissioner, the Human
Rights Commissioner, the Queens University Model Bill Team, and NGOs.
These concerns are also shared internationally by the UN Special Rapporteurs on the promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, and senior US politicians.
Just last week the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights published their report hitting out at the flawed Legacy Bill and added their voice to calls for its abandonment.
You would be mistaken to think that these documented serious human rights concerns would be heard by any reasonable government.
Not this Tory government which is intent on trampling and dismissing the rights of victims.
We all know that this solo run on legacy is the action of a rogue state, a state that fears independent investigation, scrutiny, and oversight.
And furthermore, if enacted this Bill will have far reaching implications for confidence in the rule of law, the administration of justice and policing.
To date, this criticism have been ignored by a British government that cares little for the rights of victims or international law.
Yet we are not giving up.
Rishi Sunak needs to hear that this Bill is unworkable, and it cannot be made workable under any circumstances via amendments which amount to no more than elaborate window dressing.
Fact is simple. The Legacy Bill is not human rights compliant and as such does not command our confidence.
Our message is clear. We are not giving up. We are not going away.
We will be seen, and we will be heard.
Standing here with us means our loved ones will never be forgotten.
That’s what our loved ones deserve.
I just want to finish by thanking all of you for coming here today and in standing in solidarity with the Families