Relatives of people killed by the British army will meet Belfast Mayor Naomi Long tomorrow, Thursday at 2,30pm Clarendon Dock temporary offices of the Mayor. The meeting will discuss Belfast City Council’s intention to fly the British army flag as part of ‘armed forces day’ and to discuss how the experience of British State violence can be included within Belfast City and its civic spaces.
Speaking in advance of the meeting Relatives for Justice Director Mark Thompson said;
‘For all those affected by the actions of the British army the flying of the flag and the notion of an ‘armed services day’ is seen as triumphalist and even provocative given that the MoD would have been fully aware of the import of its request given the controversy of last year’s ‘welcome home parade’. This is also somewhat aggravated given that Belfast City Council has not officially recognised the legacy of hurt cause by the British army within our city. Indeed historically under the control of unionists the Council has deliberately added insult to injury to the victims and survivors of British army actions by its failure and unwillingness to understand the impact of State violence, instead using the Council as a platform to support these actions and defend the indefensible.
The flying of the flag is also in breach of the Council’s Section 75 duty given that there has been no equality impact assessment carried out and that a number of council employee’s have lost relatives at the hands of the British army.
‘Our city needs to acknowledge all the experiences of the conflict within the city equally and without exclusion. No doubt this is challenging but it is equally a reality that cannot be airbrushed out of our recent history or ignored by our civic leaders.
‘Within City Hall virtually every section of Britain’s armed forces, including the RUC, are recognised – so too are those within their ranks who died during the conflict here. Over the years the Council has held numerous civic receptions, dedicated a window at City Hall to the UDR/RIR in May 1992, and passed motions endorsing British army regiments. This too has included bestowing the freedom of the city on British army regiments, the RUC, UDR and numerous British military leaders.
‘The only sections of people affected by the conflict who are not commemorated within City Hall are those citizens from Belfast whom these very same forces killed.
‘We have the opportunity to address this exclusion and to positively discuss a process in which we can rectify this situation. City Hall must not remain a cold-house for those bereaved and injured by State violence and collusion. Rather than focusing on what divides the citizens of Belfast we want to work towards creating a civic space that embraces all experiences of the conflict.
‘We want to initiate a civic dialogue in which an awareness of the impact of this violence can be understood throughout the city in which dealing with its legacy is not dismissed or excluded but rather properly understood across our city by all of its citizens. There is an honesty and integrity to the depth of feeling concerning this issue from those injured and bereaved by State violence yet a positive and dynamic energy in terms of creating a space in which we can address it. We believe that as Belfast’s first citizen the Mayor can initiate and provide civic leadership on this process.
‘If we are to have a shared city as equals then now is the time for Belfast City Council to take a positive stand in terms of demonstrating that commitment by word and deed to the thousands of its citizens affected by British State violence who currently feel ignored and excluded concerning their loss and injury.
‘We believe that the Mayor can play a positive and pivotal role in achieving that aim and thus the basis of our meeting is to explore how best this can be taken forward. ENDS
The meeting will be facilitated by Belfast’s Deputy Mayor and North Belfast Councillor Danny Lavery who lost a brother and a nephew as a result of the conflict. Cllr. Lavery is also a member of Relatives for Justice.
Relatives are available for comment and media interviews at 2.20pm and at 3.35pm at Clarendon Dock.
Of the 367 people killed by the British army and State forces approximately 70 were children, almost 200 were civilians. Of those killed who were combatants many were unarmed and shot in controversial and disputed circumstances, others were killed in pre-meditated and pre-planned circumstances in which safe and effective arrests could and should have been made yet political and military decisions were taken to kill people. The bereaved of these events live with the legacy of misinformation, vilification, and most of all impunity. This needs to be addressed and recognised officially.