100 Relatives Commemorate Victims of State Violence at Belfast City Hall; Protest Provocative and Insensitive Flag Display
From Relatives for Justice:
Speaking at the vigil Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice said, “It is important that we gather here today in a dignified way to remember our loved ones who were murdered by the British army, those who were injured, interned without trial, those brutalised and tortured – in our own country.
“Of course tomorrow the City Hall will fly a flag to the British armed forces as part of an ‘Armed Forces Day’. Under unionist domination the council has bestowed the freedom of the city on various regiments and individual members of the British army and the RUC. Within City Hall and other civic spaces throughout our city there exists numerous commemorative plaques, art, dedicated windows, and commissioned sculptures to the British armed forces. All this has been created without any recognition of the impact, illegality and impunity of the violence perpetrated by British armed forces.
“The only people not officially commemorated within civic spaces are those citizens of Belfast affected by the actions of British armed forces.
“In this context the flying of the flag is insensitive and provocative and we must make our voice heard in a positive, constructive and inclusive way – which we always do.
“The stark reality is that unionism refuses to acknowledge our experience instead preferring to vilify us. Of course this is something that, as a section of people who have suffered disproportionately, we have never did nor wish to do on any other section of our society. We acknowledge all those who have been affected by the conflict no matter their circumstances, religion or politics. Inclusive and equal recognition is the only way forward. That is our strength.
“Yesterday we led a delegation of people bereaved by the British State violence to meet with Belfast Mayor Naomi Long. We conveyed the deep sense of exclusion of our experience within civic spaces including City Hall.
“Belfast must reflect equally the breadth of experience of the conflict of all of its citizens.
“We are hopeful that over the coming months ahead that the process of change in terms of our experience being officially recognised within our city can begin.
“At today’s vigil over 70 black balloons were released by children who had relatives killed by the British armed forces in Ireland. Each balloon representing a life taken by these same forces.
“This experience cannot be airbrushed out of our history. It must and will be reflected.”