Just five weeks after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher oversaw the British victory in the Falklands, London was coming out of an out of an unseasonal cold spell. Olivia Newton-John was number one in the UK single charts and the talk of the town was of amusement on how Michael Fagan managed to break into Buckingham Palace and have a chat with the Queen in her bed room.
It seemed to be a normal day in London, and as usual The Queen’s Life Guard, that day made up from Blues and Royals, rode from their barracks in Knightsbridge heading to their guard post at Horse Guards. They never made it to their destination.
At 10:40am in Hyde Park the parade rode past a blue Austin Rover packed full of high explosives and nails. The car and its deadly payload was detonated via remote by an Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorist.
Four British solders: Lieutenant Anthony Daly, Corporal Roy Bright, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young and Trooper Simon Tipper were killed. Seven of the regiment horses were killed. The other solders, tourists watching the parade and normal people just going about their business were maimed by the sprayed nails from the explosion.
Two hours later in a different part of London – Regent’s Park – The Band and Bugles of The Royal Green Jackets where playing a rendition of music from the musical Oliver! to an audience of 120 people enjoying a summer’s day. Unknown to them there was a time bomb ticking under the band stand.
Seven solders: Serjeant-Major Graham Barker, Serjeant Robert Livinston, Corporal John McKnight, Rifleman John Heritage, Rifleman Keith Powell, Rifleman Laurence Smith, Rifleman George Mesure were killed. The blast was so powerful one of the soldier’s bodies was found impaled on an iron fence 25 meters away. Members of the audience where wounded by the explosion and were maimed by the shrapnel from the band stand.
The IRA claimed responsibility for murdering the eleven British soldiers and the wounding and mutilation of the fifty other victims.
Prime Minister Thatcher said after the murders: “These callous and cowardly crimes have been committed by evil, brutal men who know nothing of democracy. We shall not rest until they are brought to justice.” Thirty-two years after Thatcher said these words, not only has the British government rested, but we are deliberately not bring about prosecution of the ‘evil, brutal men’ who carried out the attack.
On Tuesday, the charges against John Downey for allegedly murdering the four soldiers and conspiring to cause an explosion in Hyde Park were dropped.
Mr Downey, a convicted member of the IRA, managed not to stand trial due to a letter from 2007 which contained assurances from the British Government that there would not be any charges brought against him.
This letter is in effect a ‘get out of jail free card’ sent to suspects on a secret list. The card emerged from a secret deal between Tony Blair’s Labour government and Sinn Féin (historically the political wing of the IRA). The deal was kept out of the ‘public domain’ as it was a special extended amendment to what was originally agreed in The Good Friday Agreement.
This secret deal was only for IRA members who are on a list made by Sinn Féin. It safeguards those who either escaped jail after being convicted of a crime, or those who were on the run from crimes linked with the Troubles.
The Good Friday Agreement didn’t have this get out of jail free card for unconvicted or escaped prisoners. It did however give criminals who were convicted of crimes linked with the Troubles the eligibility for early release.
The Labour Minister for Northern Ireland at the time of the 2007 letter, Peter Hain, has come out to say the get out of jail free cards were “a critical part of the peace deal”.
We know Mr Hain is doing what is known by ministers of Blair’s Government as speaking an ‘untruth’. We know this as there is no mention of the letter in the The Good Friday Agreement. The deal was made four years after The Good Friday Agreement. The letter to Mr Downey and 178 others was sent nine years after the signing of The Good Friday Agreement.
This secret deal by Labour is a smack in the face to the peace deal, to the victims, and to every British solder serving their nation. The so called ‘loyalist’ side of the Troubles must be asking why IRA are given special treatment.
The victims, their families and friends will now live with the fact the ‘evil, brutal men’ will never be brought to justice. This does not just effect the victims of the Hyde Park and Regent’s Park attacks, but victims of all unsolved brutal crimes by the IRA.
This is also yet just one more example in the long list of how the Labour government of Blair and Brown didn’t appreciate the British military.
On Tuesday, the current government let these heroes down by not pursuing justice. How could we so blatantly disregard our serving boys and girls by making a list which stops the pursuit of justice of the murderers of British soldiers?
Mr Hain has implied this is fine as the secret deal may have stopped Sinn Féin and the IRA from leaving The Good Friday Agreement. This is a scary devilment as it shows terror and murder can be used as a bargaining chip.
It is quite clear to all rational people that Labour’s deal has stopped the pursuit of justice, and in doing so could have given a green light to the use of terrorist activities in negotiations.
An urgent public inquiry is needed to see what Hain and others were doing while Ministers at the Northern Ireland office, and to bring to light any other deals currently not in the public domain.
If it is found that the deal was not needed to keep peace, then the UK Government must make it clear there is no amnesty for those suspected of committing crimes, or for those who escaped from prison after being convicted.
Due to actions by the Blair administration, the government shamefully turned it back on the eleven murdered soldiers. I still hope we can right that wrong.
For now all we can do is remember: Roy Bright; Dennis Daly; Simon Tipper; Geoffrey Young; Graham Barker; Robert Livingstone; John McKnight; John Heritage; George Mesure; Keith Powell; Laurence Smith.