London hears O'Neill inquiry demand
BY FERN LANE
IThe family of Volunteer Diarmuid' O'Neill, who was killed by the
Metropolitan Police in September 1996, were at Westminster on
Thursday 8 February for the launch of a booklet, Another Case of
Shoot to Kill, produced by the Justice for Diarmuid O'Neill
Campaign. The booklet presents the case for an independent public
inquiry into the shooting. The launch was hosted by Labour MP
John McDonnell and was addressed by Sinn Féin Assembly member
Gerry Kelly, human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, who knew Diarmuid
personally and who now represents the O'Neill family, and Shane
O'Neill, Diarmuid's younger brother.
This young man could have had a different life. He made a
decision to go away and fight for other people. He gave up his
life in the end, but he was prepared to give it up when he made
that decision. I think it is important to understand that young
people who make such decisions make them from a position of
compassion, not of hate. They want to help other people.
Gerry Kelly said that although he did not know Diarmuid, ``I know
where he comes from. I know, in a way, what was in his head. I
say that because as a young man I came over to England as well. I
was a member of the IRA. I think it is important to say that
because I know it [membership of the IRA] is one of the big
issues in this case.
``One of the reasons that is given not to give a public inquiry is
that Diarmuid was an IRA Volunteer. But people need to know - I
mean all people need to know - that this is a very proud thing to
be. I was proud to be in the IRA. This young man could have had a
different life. He made a decision to go away and fight for other
people. He gave up his life in the end, but he was prepared to
give it up when he made that decision. I think it is important to
understand that young people who make such decisions make them
from a position of compassion, not of hate. They want to help
``Diarmuid had the right to live. His family have the right to
grieve and they have the right to have the truth. This is an
attempt to take away all of those rights and to demonise Diarmuid
as an excuse not to get to exactly what happened.
``That is what this booklet, Another Case of Shoot to Kill, is
about. Nothing can bring Diarmuid back, but I think his case is
important. The facts of it are simple. Diarmuid and his comrades
were unarmed - nobody is disputing any of this. They were almost
naked. And they were in the act - because they were unarmed and
because it was a heavily armed group of people going in to them -
of surrendering. Those who stormed the hotel knew all of that.
``Diarmuid was shot twice - and after being shot twice, no matter
who you are, you're not going to be able to do much - they shot
him another four times because they meant to kill him.''
Referring to the subsequent investigation into the killing, Kelly
said there was a ``wall of recurring evidence'' insofar as ``all
those who were asked about it did say something, but they all
said exactly the same and they were all telling lies''.
John McDonnell reminded the audience that Diarmuid's case, along
with others, had been raised before the House of Commons
something like half a dozen times. ``It is just incredible the
resistance that there has been to any form of independent
investigation into any of these cases. You almost despair at
times at the ability of the British state to be able to close
``I don't suppose it is just self-protection; I do link it to the
Irish struggle. There is a position within the Metropolitan
Police where they believed themselves to be waging war and, to be
honest, they were because there was a war going on. The Met were
geared up as a military force, because that was their role; to
wage war just as much as the British Army in the Six Counties.
They then pursued that to its logical end. They shot and murdered
people who they thought were the enemy.''
A public inquiry, he said, should be linked to the peace process
because ``peace will not be achieved until we know what went on;
we will not have confidence in the peace process unless we know
who ordered the execution of Diarmuid O'Neill''.
Shane O'Neill told those present that his family had a number of
questions to which they wanted answers. ``Diarmuid, along with a
number of other people, had been under intense surveillance for
many weeks prior to the raid,'' he said.
``Every move he made had been watched by the police and
intelligence services. He could have been arrested at any time
and brought before a court to face his accusers, but a decision
was taken that, rather than arresting him, officers from unit
SO19 of the Metropolitan Police would mount an armed raid. My
family wants to know why this decision was taken, and by whom.
There are also many, many other questions about Diarmuid's death
that we would like to have answered.
``We want to know why, when Diarmuid could clearly and repeatedly
be heard to be giving himself up and that he was unarmed, an
order was given to open fire. My brother was shot six times at
close range as he was in the process of surrendering.
``We know all of this from the surveillance tape, which is
transcribed in full in the booklet. I defy anyone to read this
and tell me that officer `Kilo' credibly can claim, as he did at
the inquest, that his life appeared to be in immediate danger
when he opened fire.
``We want to know why the Metropolitan Police deliberately lied to
the press about what had happened, and why no action was taken
against them when these lies were uncovered. The media was told,
as we all know, that a shoot-out with the IRA had occurred and
that room 303 had been an arms and ammunition store.
``We, Diarmuid's family, believe that all of these questions can
only be properly addressed through an independent and public
inquiry into the events. If the Metropolitan Police really
believe that they did nothing wrong, then they have nothing to
fear from such an inquiry.''