‘Thousands of Northern Irish people were murdered and their crimes are unsolved – their lives matter too’
A leading Troubles victims’ advocate has questioned why so many people in Northern Ireland are willing to speak up over the death of a single black man in Minnesota, but seem less ready to protest with similar vigour over injustices closer to home.
Kenny Donaldson, the director of services for the South East Fermanagh Foundation, which lobbies on behalf of relatives of fatal victims, declared that George Floyd’s death cannot be “dressed up or excused” and that it seemed a clear-cut case of murder.
He was speaking after a mass gathering of about 2,000 people in Belfast on Wednesday and the killing of black man George Floyd by a white police officer, who kneeled on his neck for several minutes.
More protests were planned for Saturday in Northern Ireland whilst disorder and tension continued to grip US cities including Minneapolis, 3,700 miles away from the Province, where the killing of Mr Floyd took place on May 25.
As well as voicing concern about the treatment of Mr Floyd, Mr Donaldson told the News Letter: “However what we would also challenge people to consider is; why has it taken the death of a black man in the US to bring about a reaction of horror to the crime of murder?
“Why are local people justifiably horrified by George’s murder not also horrified by the brutal actions of terrorists in Northern Ireland who often tortured their victims before stealing away their lives, and often within the glare of wider public view?
“We call for a re-assessment of values of people within this society; to once and for all stop legitimising murder at home whilst shedding tears for murder committed in far off fields.
“Murder is murder is murder and is always wrong.
“We ask for the support of those who have been vocal in recent times in standing up for the life of George Floyd, stand up for the lives of the innocents slaughtered here and as a result of our ‘Troubles’ – because their lives mattered also and had value.”
At least 3,500 people were murdered in Northern Ireland during the Troubles between 1969 and 2001, with the vast majority of the crimes remaining unsolved.
In very rough terms, about 60% were murdered by republican paramilitaries, 30% by loyalist paramilitaries, and 10% were killed by the police or soldiers (many of those being during gunfights with paramilitary gangs or armed individuals).
Many more people were then murdered in the years since, despite supposed ceasefires remaining in force.
NI ASSEMBLY AND COUNCILS PLEDGE SOLIDARITY:
Across Northern Ireland this week councils opened books of condolence to the family of George Floyd, whist an agreement has been struck to illuminate Stormont in support of the Black Lives Matter cause.However, TUV leader Jim Allister questioned why the Assembly Buildings could be lit up specially for George Floyd by the Assembly Commission, whilst his own request to illuminate the building for Innocent Victims of Terrorism Day had been refused.
He said the reason his own request was rejected was because “it supposedly didn’t comply with the commission’s lighting policy”.
He added: “[Friday’s] announcement shows that the policy can be overridden when there is a will to do so. If the policy could be changed for George Floyd why couldn’t it have been changed for the thousands of innocent victims closer to home?”
Newry Mourne and Down District Council opened books for the Floyd family on Friday, as well as Belfast City Council.
This followed similar moves at Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, and Derry City and Strabane District Council, a day earlier.
A number of media outlets have reported that Mr Floyd had a criminal record, though few have gone into details.
Perhaps the most detailed account is on The Daily Mail website, which notes a number of stints in jail.
The most significant crime appears to be as follows.
The Daily Mail website said that it had obtained a legal document (which it has published on its site) showing he had been accused of being part of a group of six men who forced their way into a house looking for money and drugs in 2007.
it says that during the burglary a man – later identified as Floyd – “pushed a pistol against the complainant’s abdomen and forced her into the living room area”.
It goes on to say Floyd was accused of “intentionally and knowingly” putting the woman “in fear of imminent bodily injury or death”.
The documentation states that he was convicted in 2009 of “aggravated robbery [with a] deadly weapon” in relation to that crime, receiving a five-year sentence under a plea bargain agreement.
The Daily Mail has stated that Mr Floyd moved to Minnesota after his release to start afresh, and goes on to state that he was latterly involved in Christian ministry.
Autopsy results – as reported by NPR (National Public Radio in the USA) – showed that “Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death, although the drugs are not listed as the cause” of his death.
That autopsy said death was due to “cardiopulmonary arrest [heart failure] complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression”.
NPR goes on to add that this is a different conclusion than that reached by a medical examiner appointed by the Floyd family, who listed death as “asphyxiation from sustained pressure”.
Mr Floyd was 46 years old at the time of his killing.
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