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La Mon must not be consigned to history

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 03/11/2016

The bomb attack at the La Mon House Hotel
The bomb attack at the La Mon House Hotel

The determination of relatives to find out who ordered, planned and carried out what has rightly been described as the barbaric bombing of the La Mon hotel nearly 39 years ago is the story of countless victims writ small.

They are still seeking justice, even if that is very unlikely at this remove, but most of all they want to know as much of the truth about what happened as it is possible to still determine. How often we have written that when referring to the legacy of the Troubles.

The passage of time, the possible death of the planners and perpetrators and the deaths of witnesses and relatives make it difficult to investigate the past effectively in many cases, including this one.

Yet the Police Ombudsman is to be congratulated for agreeing to begin a new probe into the original RUC investigation.

What is most concerning for the relatives of the 12 people killed at La Mon and the 30 people injured are reports that possibly two State agents - one of them Denis Donaldson, the self-confessed agent who was later shot dead - were involved in the bombing.

That raises, at least in the minds of the relatives, the spectre of collusion and the concern that perhaps the original investigation was somehow neutered in order to prevent the State agents from being unmasked.

Fears are further raised by the revelation that the last time this atrocity was investigated by the Historical Enquiries Team, officers found that important documents relating to the original police case were missing.

All these issues will be familiar to many relatives still seeking the truth about what happened to their loved ones. But like the La Mon pressure group, they persist in their demands and it is right that they are listened to.

Grief knows no statute of limitations. It plays on an endless loop in the minds of those bereaved as each anniversary of the event that robbed them of family members comes round, or as they celebrate family events at which there is always an empty chair.

There are those who say that a line should be drawn under the past, but the complexity of finding out the truth, or even better finding the perpetrators, should not be used as an excuse to deny relatives what is rightfully theirs. Nor should the passage of time and the deaths of perpetrators or witnesses be used to consign a horror like La Mon to history unresolved. We should not put a price, in time or expense, on doing what is right.

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