Sunday, October 16, 2016

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I Will Not Let Anyone Forsake My Brother

A piece Eamon Sweeney wrote for the Derry Journal on the British Army killing of Manus Deery.

‘I will not let anyone forsake my brother’ says British Army victim’s sister

A long awaited fresh inquest into the British Army killing of 15-year-old Manus Deery almost 45 years ago will finally begin at Derry’s courthouse next Monday, October 17. However, it has emerged that despite the fact that the soldier who fired the fatal shot is dead he will still be granted anonymity during the inquest. Still known only as ‘Soldier A’ the dead ex-serviceman’s colleague, ‘Soldier B’, who is still alive, will also receive anonymous status during the inquiry.

On May 19, 1972 a single round discharged by ‘Soldier A’ from the city’s walls into the Bogside ricocheted and struck Manus Deery on the head killing him. An initial inquest into the incident held in 1973 recorded an ‘open verdict’ and therefore left a blemish on the teenager’s character by implying he was involved in illegal activity at the time. Now, the Deery family hope that the fresh inquiry will permanently expunge that open verdict and at last see his total innocence officially declared.

Speaking to the ‘Derry Journal’, Manus Deery’s sister Helen said that she is experiencing trepidation as the start of the inquest looms.

I am anxious about it. I am nervous and also very emotional. But, I am also hopeful that the truth will finally come out now. I know exactly what happened that night. He went out to meet his friends and went to the chip shop. They were behind the Bogside Inn when a shot rang out and he was hit with a ricochet. Another lad, Ned Divin was wounded as well.

Asked why she believed that it has taken so long to finally get a new enquiry into her brother’s killing Helen Deery continued: “I think the British justice system is set up to protect itself and set up in such a way here that it can break its own laws and get away with it.”

The non-jury inquest will be heard over a two-week period by Lord Justice Adrian Colton. Mr Colton, previously a High Court Judge was appointed Presiding Coroner earlier this year by Northern Ireland’s most senior judge, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan who has described the current coronial system here as “not fit for purpose.”

Part of Lord Justice Colton’s remit is to attempt to deal with 56 stalled Troubles Legacy cases that involve the deaths of almost 100 people. In January this year, a two-week series of hearings into the stalled legacy cases took place at Laganside Court in Belfast. The hearings, presided over at that point by Lord Justice Sir Reg Weir, outlined to organisations such as the British Ministry of Defence that perceived delaying tactics involving their personnel would no longer be tolerated and that hearings would proceed irrespective of the attendance or non-attendance of state witnesses or crucial pieces of evidence.

Helen Deery told the Journal:

I was very optimistic listening to the judiciary at that stage and hopefully they will now act upon what they said at that time. I don’t think there will ever be what is called closure now because it has gone on too long, but my hope is that his name is cleared and the open verdict is overturned.

Solicitor for the Deery family, Richard Campbell of law firm Quigley, Grant and Kyle said:

We have spent so long trying to get this into court that we are quietly confident but naturally apprehensive. The Coroner ruled that the soldiers will remain anonymous, despite the fact that ‘Soldier A’ is dead. And, we are still awaiting rulings on two other witnesses even at this late stage. However, we are assuming that they will not be anonymous to balance out the soldiers’ anonymity. I think overall however, that this is a momentous event especially given the fact that this inquest will take place in a court house only a very short walk away from where the killing took place.

Asked what effect that the decades off delays in the case has had upon her and her family, Helen Deery said:

I’ve always felt as if Manus didn’t matter. It was recorded in newspapers at the time that from 1972-1974 our family home was one of the most raided houses in the Bogside by the Army and RUC. My father was terminally ill at the time and we watched him being kicked into the back of Landrovers regularly. All my brothers were arrested. They tried to go down the propaganda route that all of us were republicans, which was not the case. Because they murdered my brother, they tried to implicate my entire family. Where is the process of justice in that? Things have to change. People can’t move on. There will not be any progress in this place until all of the injustices are tackled. They say ‘move on’, but move on to what? People here have been forsaken and that’s why I will not let anyone forsake my brother. I loved him dearly.

The Manus Deery inquest will begin at 10.30am on Monday morning. It is expected that the first portion of the day’s proceedings will establish ground rules about how the inquest will be conducted over the next 14 days, but the afternoon should hear the first actual evidence being given including that of Helen Deery, the deceased teenager’s sister.