Fifty years a secret

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The family of a Derry city man who died after he was attacked by police 50 years ago has renewed calls for files about his death to be released.

Sammy Devenny died on 17 July 1969, three months after he and his family were assaulted by members of the then RUC police. He is often regarded as the first fatality of the conflict, although his passing came three days after pensioner Francis ‘Pól Beag’ McCloskey died after a police baton charge in Dungiven, County Derry.

A report about Mr Devenny death is being kept secret until 2022 at the earliest.

The 42-year-old Mr Devenny was assaulted when the RUC ran into his home on Derry’s William Street after a group of nationalist youths. He died as a direct result of the injuries he sustained at the hands of the RUC.

His son Harry, who was in the house at the time of the attack, said the family does not understand why the report about his death, compiled in 1970, cannot be released.

“Why are they still refusing to give us those files after 50 years?” he asked.

“We are not asking for names or looking for prosecutions - we just want the report and they refuse to do it.”

The report into Mr Devenny’s death was compiled by London Metropolitan police. Twelve copies of that report were delivered at the time to the then RUC Chief Arthur Young and government figures.

It established that the attack on the Devenny family had been carried out by the RUC, but failed to identify those involved. In 2014, the Metropolitan Police turned down a freedom of information request for the report to be released.

A special Mass to remember Mr Devenny was held last weekend at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry. This was followed by a minute’s silence at a memorial in Willliam Street.

Mr Devenny’s son Harry said his family wants to know what happened.

“Why are they still refusing to give us those files after 50 years?” he said.

“We are not asking for names or looking for prosecutions - we just want the report and they refuse to do it.”

He said his family will continue its campaign.

“Even on our worst days, we are never going to give up, we are never going to go away,” he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the Devenny family said the family should be given access to information.

“The way this family has been treated is grossly insensitive and unfair but sadly it’s a common theme as the apparatus of the British State continues to resist disclosure of documents which could provide a degree of truth for victims.”

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