Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Hyde Park verdict offers some closure


John Downey
John Downey

Editor's Viewpoint

It is often said that the wheels of justice grind slowly and that was certainly true in the case involving John Downey. It's been 37 years since an IRA bomb exploded, killing four members of the Household Cavalry in Hyde Park and wounding another 31 people.

In a civil case brought by relatives of the soldiers killed, Downey was found by the judge to have been an active participant in the terrorist attack. The civil case was brought after a criminal case against him in 2014 collapsed when it was revealed that he had received an 'on the run letter', which said he was not being sought for any terrorist incident. It was later ruled that he should not have received the letter.

As some of the relatives acknowledged, the verdict in the civil action is both justice and closure in some measure. It does not bear the penalty that would have been handed down in a criminal trial, although an order for compensation can be made against Downey. Whether that ever results in any money being paid is a moot point as the Omagh bombing bereaved found after a similar civil action.

What this case has brought to public attention yet again is the yearning of people bereaved by terrorism to find some closure, if not justice, after decades of grieving.

In Northern Ireland, how to deal with the legacy of the past has been a fraught subject. Various reports and proposed institutions have been produced, yet little has been done to convince the bereaved that their suffering really matters.

Perhaps given the location and target of the Hyde Park atrocity, the authorities will listen more carefully to what the bereaved relatives of the atrocity have to say. They want to ensure that no other relatives are treated in the way that they were, having to fight ceaselessly and raise money by public donation to cover legal fees - although public funds were eventually granted.

The scales of justice must have seem skewed against them as it does for so many hundreds, even thousands, of bereaved people in Northern Ireland, who have long since given up hope of seeing those who killed their loved ones appearing in the dock, but who still cling to the faint hope that perhaps they will learn how and why those loved ones were killed and by what terror group.

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Only those who have felt the loss of bereavement know exactly how deep their grief runs and how time can never erase it, only enable them to live with it.

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