By Jim Gibney (for Irish News)
Long before the deadly word ‘collusion’ entered into the public vocabulary of the conflict; long before the importation of weapons from South Africa by British intelligence agents and loyalists, used to kill hundreds of Catholics in the north, and long before the Canadian Judge Peter Cory issued in 2004 his consummate definition of what collusion means, Teresa Kelly and her family experienced ‘collusion’ in all its grotesque forms.
The collusion nightmare for the Kelly family began on the night of July 24 1974 and has not abated some 45 years later.
When it started Teresa Kelly was a mother of four children and pregnant. Today, Teresa is a grandmother with a grown up family all of whom are understandably consumed by the horror that occurred on the Badoney Road, a short distance from the family home in Trillick, County Tyrone.
Teresa’s husband, Patsy, an independent councillor on Omagh District Council and a tireless civil rights campaigner, was abducted on his way from work to his home.
Two weeks later his weighed-down body was discovered in Lough Eyes, near Lisbellaw in County Fermanagh.
Thirty years later following the investigation into six killings in the north, this is how Judge Cory defined collusion, “to deliberately ignore; to overlook; to disregard; to pass over, to take no notice off; to condone; to look the other way; to let something ride.”
This definition in every detail applies to all aspects of the killing of Councillor Patsy Kelly and the investigation into it.
The account of Patsy’s abduction and murder; the appalling treatment of his wife Teresa and family by the Crown forces and the systemic cover-up by state authorities reads like the script of the 1988 film ‘Mississippi Burning’. It told the story of the 1964 abduction and murder by the Klu Klux Klan of three black civil rights campaigners and the attempt to cover up their murders.
From the moment of the abduction of Patsy Kelly, through the search and discovery of his body and the 45-year campaign for truth one obstacle after another has been placed in the family’s way.
The family’s solicitor, human rights campaigner, Pat Fahy said: “The state authorities have conspired to shield the killers from discovery.”
Shielding the killers from discovery began the moment Patsy Kelly was forcibly removed from his car and it continues.
Five investigations involving the RUC, PSNI, an inquest, the Historical Enquiries Team and the Ombudsman has not brought the Kelly family any closer to the truth about who abducted and murdered a much-loved husband and father.
However the finger of suspicion points firmly in the direction of a UDR patrol on duty that night on the secluded Badoney Road.
Local people reported seeing a UDR patrol close to the scene of the abduction; the week previous a UDR patrol had stopped Patsy and a friend at the same location. Patsy told his wife Teresa about the incident when he got home.
Some weeks after the killing an anonymous letter naming members of the UDR, it claimed, killed Patsy was sent to the ‘Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association’. The letter was written on the back of an official, police-issue form, known as T6, used to record traffic accidents.
It took 29 years before any of those named in the letter were arrested and questioned about the killing; the late Oliver Gibson, a former member of the UDR and MLA for the DUP was arrested and questioned about the killing.
UDR personnel on duty in Trillick on the night of Patsy’s killing were interviewed by British soldiers but the MOD has refused to tell the family why.
Before he died, former UDR man David Jordan claimed publicly that he was involved with other UDR members in the killing.
For years crucial evidence from the scene of the abduction and murder was wilfully ignored or withheld from the family and the inquest. This crucially included the cast of a foot-print similar to an ‘army-issue’ boot and 97 rounds of ammunition discovered in Lough Eyes – some of which matched those used to kill Patsy.
The family have met the Irish and British governments with two reasonable demands: a new inquest, with all the facts presented to it, and the immediate publication of the Ombudsman’s report.
The UDR cannot be regarded as being above the law.