On Sunday March 7, over 2,000 people gathered to commemorate the life of Lurgan republican Sam Marshall and to demand the truth about British collusion with unionist death squads in his murder.
Among those in attendance were other families who are seeking answers to questions relating to the role of the British state and its intelligence services in the murders of their loved ones as well as scores of eirigi activists and supporters from all over Ireland.
The large procession retraced the route Sam and his two comrades, Colin Duffy and Tony McCaughey, took the night that he was murdered.
In March 1990, the three friends had just finished signing bail at the nearby RUC barracks when two masked gunmen emerged from a car and opened fire. Miraculously, both Duffy and McCaughey escaped death. In the days leading up to the attack, both Duffy and McCaughey and their neighbours noticed that a red maestro vehicle had been following them. On the night of Sam Marshall’s murder, the three republicans observed the same car on two occasions, once outside St Peter’s Chapel and again outside the RUC barracks.
Since that night questions have been asked about the Maestro car and the role it had to play in the attack. In 1994, during an extradition hearing in north America, RUC inspector Alan Cregg admitted that the car spotted in Lurgan did indeed belong to the British intelligence services and that it was part of an undercover RUC operation on March 7 1990, the date of Sam Marshall’s murder. However, he failed to divulge any other evidence, using the pretext of “national security”.
Shortly after Sam’s murder, a camera which bore the symbols of the British Ministry of Defence and NATO was discovered to have been spying on the home of Colin Duffy.
In her address to the crowd, Fra Marshall, a sister of the Sam’s, laid the blame for his brother’s murder squarely at the door of the British establishment: “The policy makers in the NIO, the politicians in Whitehall and Downing Street, the senior people in Special Branch, in MI5 and British Military Intelligence - that’s where the blame and the guilt rests.”
Below is Fra Marshall’s speech in full.
“Exactly 20 years ago, my brother Sam was murdered by faceless gunmen at this spot.
“Twenty years on from that tragic event, I and the rest of my family are still awaiting the full truth to be told as to why Sam died on that terrible night. Like many people here, my family knows certain details about what happened. We know of the death threats issued by the police force in the weeks before his murder. We know of the three unmarked cars belonging to the British security forces that were seen in Lake Street and here in North Street along the route that Sam and his two friends took that night. We know about the red Maestro car. We know about the unidentified men in the sangar at Lurgan barracks.
“We know that this is the spot where Sam died. And we know only too well that, 20 years later, there still has not been any proper or full investigation into his murder.
“Twenty years on from our brother’s murder, there still has been no inquest. Nor has there ever been any public explanation given as to what three unmarked security force vehicles were doing in the vicinity of the murder scene that night immediately before the attack. In the absence of any other explanation, the only conclusion that we, as a family, can come to, is that those vehicles and the undercover police and military personnel in them were there to assist and to provide cover for those who murdered our brother.
“We have many unanswered questions which still remain into Sam’s murder, particularly the whole aspect of state forces conspiracy and collusion with those who pulled the triggers. Responsibility for the murder of Sam rests with those who armed, directed and controlled the killers - those who sent them to target Sam and many other victims in this and other areas - the blame rests with the British government and its forces in Ireland. The policy makers in the NIO, the politicians in Whitehall and Downing Street, the senior people in Special Branch, in MI5 and British Military Intelligence - that’s where the blame and the guilt rests.
“The same people decided who would live and who would die - and these are the same people who controlled the investigations and the courts, and, who, today, remain accountable to no-one. Those who decided who would live and who would die, those who have blocked the investigations and the inquests, those who have prevented the truth being told - those are the same people who today peddle the notion that truth is bad and that we and other families should draw a line under the past. This is their new policy of burying the truth about their policy of collusion and state sanctioned murder in Ireland.
“We should not need to have to remind ourselves time and time again - the British state and its forces organised and directed death squads. The British state and its forces have lied, and still lie, about that fact. Today, the state continues to cover-up and to use every legal mechanism to try and bury that fact.
“In Sam’s case, we know that an inquest will not be permitted to uncover all of the facts. It will be legally ambushed along every step of the road by those who wish the truth to remain hidden. Sam’s death weighed heavily on the mind of our mother, Alice, for many years, right up until she died on November 12 2006. The pair of them were very close, always joking and carrying on. After Sam was murdered, it was obvious to all the rest of us that his loss had hit her very hard. Mum always asked herself and asked us if there was something else which could be done, or if there was something else which we should be doing, in order to find out the truth behind what took place on that night in March 1990. Our mother went to her grave with the many questions which she had still unanswered. Like so many other mothers, she did not receive either closure or justice.
“We are also conscious that there are many other families in the same position as our own - who are still suffering from the pain and grief of their loss - and who still have not known truth or justice during the long years since the unexplained deaths of their own loved ones.
“The truth must finally be told so that all our families can, at long last, receive the justice which has been so sadly and tragically denied to so many. Twenty years on from Sam’s murder, it is time for the truth to be told. The full truth of why so many other families lost their loved ones is the very least that relatives and survivors are entitled to. We can, and we do, take inspiration from the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972. Thirty-eight years after the mass murder of their loved ones, they continue with their unparalleled campaign for justice and truth. Even now, the British government is refusing to state whether it will finally publish the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
“The truth is all that those families have asked for. The truth is all that we ask for. The truth is all that so many other families in the same position as our family are asking for. Without the truth in each and every case, then none of us can have justice.”