Urgent need for collusion inquiry as three family members die

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A mother and family members of two other collusion victims have separately passed away this week without seeing justice for their loved ones.

Maria McShane “fought day and night and to her dying breath” for justice for her son Gavin, said campaign group Relatives for Justice.

Gavin (pictured, left), aged 17 and from Markethill, was murdered as he stood with a friend in a taxi depot in Armagh town on May 18 1994. The killing was carried out by a unionist gang which was infiltrated by the British intelligence agencies, and which operated with impunity.

“Maria described Gavin as her miracle baby,” RFJ said. “She was in an explosion at the Step Inn in which she lost her eye, but her biggest concern was for her unborn baby - Gavin. Following his brutal murder she campaigned for justice, knowing there was state collusion in his killing.

“A Gael and a dedicated GAA woman she was known up and down the country and even visited the White House. She supported other families and encouraged other mothers who also lost their children.

“Our hearts are broken for her family and extend our heartfelt condolences. Ní beidh a leithéad ar ais arís. Go ndéana Dia trócaire uirthí.”

Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy said her passing was “devastating news”.

“Maria was a champion for her son Gavin after he was killed by loyalists. So sad that she has gone to her rest before receiving truth & justice. The campaign will continue. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis.”

Tributes have also been paid to victims campaigner Willie Loughran, described as an “example to us all”.

Willie Loughran was heavily involved in a campaign for truth and justice around the New Lodge Six killings in north Belfast.

Six men, including Willie’s brother John, were shot dead within hours of each other between 3-4 February 1973 in the New Lodge by the British Army and loyalist gunmen.

In a statement, Relatives for Justice said: “It is with the heaviest of hearts we share the news of Willie Loughran’s passing.

“We simply cannot put into words our devastation. Sending our love to his wonderful family at this time.

“Willie was an example to us all. He fought for truth and justice with dignity and unwavering fortitude. He was generous to all families and saw everyone, in every role they played as equal.

“He would be unending in his encouragement, and so generous with his experience. We were always better for being in his company and learning from his wisdom. Where he stood was where we all wanted to be.

“Ní beidh a leithéad ar ais arís. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.”

Sadly, the wife of murdered Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan (pictured, right) has also passed away. Mr O’Hagan was investigating unionist paramilitary gangs when he was killed in 2001.

The shooting was claimed by the LVF, and despite the identities of the killers being widely known, no one ever faced a murder charge. A television documentary investigation found informers involved in the killing were protected from prosecution.

Mrs O’Hagan bravely chose to remain in Lurgan following her husband’s murder. His former newspaper colleague, Jim McDowell, paid tribute to Marie.

He said: “She was a very private but resolute individual. She never went public in her and her family’s pursuit of justice for Martin.

“Tragically, more than 20 years after his murder, she has died without getting the justice she deserved.

“But she was always, and remained until her death, a loving mother and grandmother. And her last words to her daughters when they mentioned Martin’s name were: ‘We were happy...’”

A plan to delay proper investigations into British war crimes has long been seen as a ploy by the British state to avoid culpability for its actions.

Now a law to introduce a blanket amnesty for conflict killings, advanced by the current Tory government, is to be put before Westminster within the next six months, according to the latest reports.

This week Aontú published a bill in Dublin which it said would set up a comprehensive all-Ireland inquiry into British collusion, a Commission of Investigation. Aontú Deputy Leader, Councillor Denise Mullen said a similar motion would go before Stormont following the upcoming election in order to facilitate the gathering of evidence from witnesses in the North.

“Many of the families that have been effected are reaching older age. Time is running out for many to get to the truth. There is an urgency to this,” she said.

“This Aontú Bill would empower the Commission of Investigation to compel witnesses in the south of Ireland. It would have the power take evidence from people outside of the state also. It would have the power to consider information collected from other published state investigations from outside the southern Irish state. This evidence could help fill in key elements of the bigger collusion picture.

“If citizens or state organisations from outside of the state resist in assisting with the Commission of Investigation, political and diplomatic influence could be brought to bear to encourage participation.”

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