In a statement issued through Relatives for Justice and Padraig O’Muirigh Solicitors the family of Fergal McCusker, murdered by the LVF in Co. Derry twenty-years ago this month, have spoken about the murder of their son and brother, it’s impact, the failure to hold an inquest, and their continuing search for truth and justice.
The McCusker family said:
“Fergal had just returned from the US where he had been working for a period when he was cruelly murdered.
“The LVF claimed responsibility. They also falsely claimed Fergal was a republican. Like so many of those killed by loyalism Fergal was murdered simply because he was a Catholic. This was a purely sectarian murder.
“Tonight marks the 20th anniversary of Fergal’s murder. There isn’t a day that goes by without us thinking about Fergal, missing him terribly, and mourning his loss. He is always with us in our thoughts and prayers. His killing has left an aching pain – a terrible gap in our lives that can never be filled or replaced and like so many families bereaved in the conflict we struggle each day to come to terms with our loss. Like so many families we too have good days and not so good days. Birthdays, weddings, births, and family occasions are when he is missed most. We often think about what he’d be doing today, how his life would have been. We love and miss him so much.
“What makes it more difficult is the many unanswered questions and the failure to bring to justice those who at the time were responsible.
“No one was ever charged with Fergal’s murder and twenty-years on we still await an inquest to find out details of his murder, the investigation, the suspects, the weapon, the forensics, the ballistics, and why no one was ever held to account. We have many unanswered questions that hopefully an inquest can assist in answering.
“Yet it is frustrating that unionist politicians are blocking the funding sought by the Lord Chief Justice for the coroner’s court, supported by a British Secretary of State.
“A number of Catholics were killed by the LVF in the aftermath of the killing of its notorious leader Billy Wright – and of course hundreds of Catholics had been killed beforehand through the UVF. Those blocking the inquest into Fergal’s murder were to the fore in arguing and securing a public inquiry into Wright’s killing and whilst his family too is entitled to truth and justice these same politicians practice double standards.
“How can Arlene Foster justify blocking the funding sought by the highest legal authority in the criminal justice system whilst her party funded groups with links to loyalist paramilitaries? It just beggars belief and yet this is exactly what is happening. It’s unacceptable.
“We are not getting any younger. This just adds to our overall anxiety and trauma; the waiting and not knowing when the inquest will be held properly.
“The LVF were a small organization and much has been written and said of those who led it. They were state-run agents and collusion was a key feature of how they carried out attacks and murders. Their agenda was to break the emerging peace process and thwart any change for the better for everyone in this society. Thankfully they failed and peace prevailed. However, a peace without justice for Fergal is somewhat bittersweet. Families in our position from across the community deserve answers, truth and accountability.
“It’s important to also understand the wider political context of the time. Fergal’s murder, like many of that period, was designed to instill a deep sense of fear within the wider nationalist community and to exert pressure on their political representatives to accept less in the then ongoing peace negotiations. There was a palpable sense of fear back then.
“This became known as a ‘securocrat’ agenda driven by those within the British political, security and intelligence community opposed to a peace settlement that was not based purely on their terms.
“Securocrats bear a significant responsibility for at best creating the environment that facilitated Fergal’s murder, and many others, and at worst directing those who carried it out including protecting – insulating – them from detection and prosecution. The LVF was their creation.
“Despite the notoriety of the individuals in this murderous LVF gang why were they able to roam freely across Mid-Ulster and in Maghera at a time of so-called ‘heightened security’ when ordinary nationalists and unionists were stopped regularly.
“Fergal’s killers were spotted in Maghera acting suspiciously for at least an hour prior to the murder. It was approximately six hours before the RUC responded to telephone calls after the shooting. One witness who said he could positively identify one of three men acting suspiciously who he believed to have been responsible later gave the RUC a statement. The witness said he could identify a man who had a swallow tattoo on his neck. Plain clothed RUC personnel later approached the witness and noting two republicans from the area they asked the witness if he’d be willing to working for the RUC.
“Key evidence was also ignored such as a footprint left on cardboard near the scene and cigarette butts left by the men seen acting suspiciously.
“The more we see and learn in recent weeks in the courts the picture of events becomes clearer with the above seemingly appearing to be the norm. There has to be someone somewhere in authority at the time that knows something about Fergal’s murder and we’d appeal to anyone with information to come forward.” ENDS
Editor’s notes: We ask that no direct contact be made with the McCusker family. They are a private family who in twenty years have not solicited or responded to media requests for interviews. Relatives for Justice and Padraig O’Muirigh Solicitors, who represent the McCusker family, can be contacted for comment. Please accredit Relatives for Justice and Padraig O’Muirigh Solicitors when using this statement.