Congressman Eliot Engel
By Irish Echo Staff
Congressman Eliot Engel, who is expected to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the 116th Congress, has written to the British ambassador in Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, expressing his concerns about the ongoing Ballymurphy Massacre inquest.
Congressman Engel, recently reelected in New York’s 16th congressional district, wrote to Ambassador Darroch after twice meeting Carmel Quinn of the Ballymurphy Campaign and Relatives for Justice during her recent U.S. visit, organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians with Relatives for Justice, and supported by an array of Irish-American organizations, including the Irish American Unity Conference and Brehon Law Society.
Congressman Engel, who has a long record of interest in Irish affairs, highlighted his concerns in the letter about issues including withholding of key British army records, and British calls for a statute of limitations amnesty, or special laws for British soldiers.
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“The Ballymurphy inquest, as Congressman Engel put it, is a ‘fundamental test of justice in cases where British state forces were involved.’ His letter raises crucial questions,” said AOH Freedom-for-all-Ireland Chair, Martin Galvin.
“Why are the British hiding documents and debating new forms of immunity for British troopers? Surely if their killings were justified, the British military would want to disclose all records to exonerate their troopers,” said Galvin.
“Why would the British consider new forms of immunity unless the crown believes that the testimony will show their troopers need immunity for murdering eleven people including a Catholic priest and grandmother?
“The AOH believes that American congressional scrutiny can help make a difference for Ballymurphy and all legacy victims in their long fight for truth and justice.
“We welcome Congressman Engel’s letter and also welcome the interest of other members who are closely monitoring this inquest.”
In his letter Engel wrote that he had heard concerns that the inquest might fail to ensure that justice will be done, “leaving open the wounds from a conflict that all want to relegate firmly to the history books.”
And he continued: “I understand that there is growing apprehension among the Ballymurphy families that the Ministry of Defense may be deliberately withholding documents and disclosure items crucial to the investigation.
“Additionally, I am aware that some Britons have recently called for changes to the statute of limitations laws. Such changes could result in the absolution of anyone judged guilty and could fundamentally taint the inquest.
“As a Member of Congress who has a continuing interest in Northern Ireland, I am compelled to relay these concerns to you and would welcome any response you may have.”