Speech delivered by Time for Truth Campaign spokesperson, Ciarán MacAirt, at the Time for Truth March, Sunday 9th June.
My name is Ciarán MacAirt. I am the grandson of John and Kathleen Irvine. Kathleen was one of 15 civilians murdered in McGurk’s Bar on 4th December 1971. Among the dead were 2 children. My grandfather was one of another dozen or so who were buried in the rubble but lucky to escape with their lives.
Over the last year and a half, it has been a great honour of mine to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the families of the Time for Truth Campaign. And today, it is a great honour to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you.
On behalf of all of our families, thank you for walking with us. We are stronger and louder together than alone.
Last year over 7 thousand walked with us on the first Time for Truth March. We then collected nearly 15 thousand consultations on Addressing the Legacy of the Past. Thirteen thousand have signed our petition in support of our 3 modest demands. Do not underestimate how empowered you make our families feel as there are many victims and survivors here who feel that their voice has not been heard up until now.
But there are many victims and survivors who are not who still feel that their voices have not been heard.
Let me be clear: the Time for Truth Campaign does not believe in the myth of blamelessness. All actors in the conflict have their parts to play to help families in their pursuit of truth.
Nor do we believe in a hierarchy of victims. For our families are no different than all of the families who have lost loved ones or who have been injured as a result of the conflict. We all deserve truth, justice and acknowledgement regardless of our background or creed.
We also believe that our 3 simple, modest objectives offer our society the best opportunity to deal with the legacy of the past for all citizens:
- (1) Implement the Stormont House Agreement and properly resource its mechanisms for dealing with the legacy of the past, especially the proposed Historical Inquiries Unit, as many of our families have never received a proper investigation or have had no platform to have our story heard.
- (2) Properly resource the inquest system as laid out by LCJ Declan Morgan as many of our families have had no proper inquest into the death of our loved ones even after nearly half a century
- (3) properly resource the Police Ombudsman’s Office as this may be the only avenue available for many of our families to hold the police – past and present – to account.
- Now our campaigning families reserve the right to critically appraise these proposed and existing organisations to ensure that they are fulfilling their duties and are compliant with human rights legislation.
We need to be very wary as the British state and its police force here have been consistent in their strategy for dealing with the legacy of the past. They have followed a three-pronged strategy of Denial, Delay and Death.
They deny and fail to acknowledge any wrong-doing until such a point that they can deny it no longer; they delay any investigation or legal avenue for pursuing truth and justice; and they hope that in the meantime family campaigners die and campaigns falter.
Do not be complacent, for history in this failed statelet is depressingly cyclical. The pattern is older still: discrimination, sectarianism, repression, rioting, pogrom, paramilitarism and war. We argue to this day which came first and why.
So, our objectives are not only about dealing with the legacy of the past but future-proofing our society so our children and our children’s children do not have to suffer the injustices that our families bore and bear.
Be proud that you stood up and walked here today as this sends a clear message to the British government: we want our rights, we want them now and we will take to the streets again and again if we do not get them.