The 1998 RUC killing of an American-born Belfast man is set to become an issue in the new US Congress that will convene in early January.
The death of John Hemsworth, six months after he was assaulted by the RUC police, is to be raised at Capitol Hill in Washington DC by Fr. Sean Mc Manus, President of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus.
Hemsworth was born in New Jersey in the US but after a few years his family moved back to Ireland.
His death from a stroke in January 1998 has been linked to a beating he received six months earlier by an RUC riot squad. Hemsworth was attacked during a standoff over attempts to force an anti-Catholic Orange Order march from the Drumcree Road through the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown.
“We must arouse the conscience of Irish-Americans,” said Fr McManus.
“It is a disgrace that the killing of this Irish-American has received such little attention, and it is an outrage that his family has received no justice.
Fr McManus revealed that he was moved when he received a letter in September from John’s 72-year-old father, Michael, in Belfast, imploring help: “The British Attorney General promised the family that we would have an inquest into my son’s death but eight years have passed and nothing has happened. I wrote many, many letters to American politicians but not one gave me the courtesy of even an acknowledgement. It is hurtful that some of these politicians and the President’s envoy can meet relatives of victims of the violence but never had the time to meet me. You would think that being the father of a natural born American would be enough to give me preference. President Clinton once said, ‘ America looks after its own,’ but sadly this is not the case for my son.”
Fr McManus expressed regret that he had not received the letter sooner but vowed to now take up the issue. “Can any self-respecting Irish-American read these haunting words of Michael Hemsworth and not feel compelled to do justice for his son? Irish-Americans have done many fine things for Ireland, now they must do justice for one of their own. And shame on us if we don’t.”
Fr McManus is calling for the British government to keep its promise to hold an inquest and for the office of the Police Ombudsman to reopen the case.