Twenty five years ago on February 14, South Derry Sinn Fein councillor John Davey was assassinated. I had known John well since 1980. He was central to republicanism throughout counties Derry and Antrim, and an important leader, particularly for younger Sinn Fein members.
Two days previously Pat Finucane, a human rights lawyer, was assassinated in Belfast. Pat was a fearless exponent of human and democratic rights.
John and Pat were executed by loyalist death squads controlled by British intelligence agencies. Their killings were politically designed to deter those of us opposed to injustice, repression and inequality.
The opposite happened.
Sinn Fein became stronger in Derry, Antrim and across the north. Eight years later Martin Mc Guinness became Mid-Ulster’s MP.
Others were inspired by Pat’s legacy. Many new human rights advocates emerged, such as Rosemary Nelson.
In the face of a growing political and sectarian assassination campaign, the momentum for progressive change became irreversible.
John and Pat led different lives, but they were both deeply committed to equality and justice; dedicated husbands and fathers, and examples for all who knew them.
Their families' loss will never go away. They continue to seek the truth.
British and unionist politicians contributed to a political context which led to the executions of John and Pat; the killing of other Sinn Fein members, many Catholic civilians...and also Rosemary Nelson
Last weekend some victims groups mounted a twitter campaign during the Sinn Féin Ard Fhéis. Their sense of grief is also very deep.
There is no hierarchy of victims or humanity within our community. The pain of all victims is the same.
This Sunday at 2.30pm in South Derry, we will commemorate John Davey with great dignity.
John’s family’s continued suffering deserves the respect and equality today, which the northern state denied to John in life.