Families mark anniversaries with new determination

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The family of Eamon McDevitt, who was shot dead by the British Army in Strabane, in 1971 have described the last half century as ‘50 years of injustice’.

Eamon McDevitt (pictured, left) was shot dead by the British Army on August 18, 1971.

At a vigil at 6pm at the spot in Fountain Street where he was killed in the County Tyrone town aged just 28, his family demanded an apology from the British government.

“I have spent 50 years fighting for justice and an apology for my brother Eamon,” they said.

“We want an apology for what happened to Eamon. That a British soldier shot and killed an unarmed man here on this street. That they devastated my family, the people of Strabane and the deaf community across Ireland.

“But we won’t accept an empty apology. The British government must acknowledge not only the actions of their soldiers on that day 50 years ago, but they must also apologise [for] failing to investigate Eamon’s death, for failing to hold anyone accountable and for making our family, like so many other families, suffer for decades waiting on justice. An apology must acknowledge this hurt to be meaningful.”

His siblings referred to how Eamon contracted meningitis as a child, lost his ability to hear and to speak and was educated at a school for the deaf in Dublin.

“When he was shot and killed by the army on August 18, 1971, our lives were devastated. Eamon was the star of our home and doted on by our parents. Following his death, the deaf community in Ireland took to the streets of Dublin in silent protest.

“They delivered a letter to the British Embassy outraged at what happened to their friend.

“When we heard about the protests, my family were overwhelmed. We could see that the community loved Eamon, and that they were angry, just as we were.”

A separate vigil, organised by the deaf community in Dublin, was also held to remember Eamon.

His family condemned the British government’s proposals to introduce an effective amnesty for Troubles-related killings.

“We know the government are pushing for an amnesty for their soldiers who killed innocent people like Eamon on our streets. This shows nothing but contempt for families like ours, and cannot be allowed to happen,” they said.

“We want an apology for what happened to Eamon. But we cannot accept an apology in place of justice.”

JAMES CARSON

Meanwhile, friends and family of west Belfast shopkeeper James Carson (pictured, right), gunned down in his Falls Road shop 30 years ago this week, gathered with residents from the St James’ area this week to demand the truth about his killing.

It has long been believed that a loyalist gang which terrorised shopkeepers in the area — and who also took the lives of St James’ newsagent Larry Murchan in September 1991 and Falls Road hairdresser Sean Hughes in September 1993 — were acting with the protection of the RUC.

Addressing the commemoration outside James Carson’s former ‘7-11’ shop at the Falls Road-Donegall Road junction, his business partner and friend Dermot Kennedy said the family had been treated with disdain by the RUC after the killing and that the inquest had been “a travesty”.

Mr Kennedy said the Carson family had been treated with disdain by the RUC.

Mr Carson’s body was left to lie in the shop for seven hours, despite police being told he had consented to organ donation. The delay in removing his body meant the organs were no longer viable for transplant.

“On the evening news, footage showed James being bundled out in a body bag with his face visible, further adding to the trauma of his family.

“There had been no real investigation of the murder,” said Mr Kennedy. “The so-called police force were co-conspirators in what happened.”

He added: “30 years ago, someone decided to end James’ life. He was targeted because he was from our community. 30 years later his family and friends still have no answers as to why he was murdered or by whom.

“We are here today to send out a message: James is not forgotten. James will never be forgotten and we stand beside all the other families who still fight for justice and truth.”

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