Bereaved families will fight on for justice, campaigner vows

Bereaved families will not give up their long fight for justice, a campaigner against security force abuses, who turned 80 on Friday, said.

The site of the former Andersonstown police station will be named Groves Reilly Corner on Saturday, after Clara Reilly and her late friend, plastic bullet victim Emma Groves, in celebration.

Relatives for Justice chairwoman Ms Reilly established the first monitoring organisation of alleged human rights infringements by the security forces during the earliest days of the Northern Ireland conflict.

She said: “Anybody deserves justice if they lost a loved one and they have not gotten the truth and answers – that is all they want.

“People are not afraid to go up front and fight for justice.”

Ms Groves was blinded by a security force plastic bullet in 1971.

She and Ms Reilly founded the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets.

Clara Reilly
Clara Reilly

Andersonstown was where one victim, John Downes, was killed by the RUC with a plastic bullet in 1984.

Ms Reilly said she was honoured by Saturday’s ceremony.

“They said no matter where you go in West Belfast it is royal this and royal that, they wanted to bring the names back to the ordinary people.”

The married mother of six lived in Turf Lodge in West Belfast in 1969 and was the only person with a phone.

“The red phone, they called it the hotline.

“At that time there were a lot of arrests and complaints of ill-treatment, in Castlereagh and different holding centres, and we felt that there was a need for a human rights organisation monitoring all this.”

They formed the Association for Legal Justice in 1971, in the early days of the Troubles.

“From that day on my house was like an advice centre.

“People were coming to say that their father, their son, their daughter had been arrested and were not getting any information from the police.”

She drew up a list of lawyers, including the murdered Pat Finucane, who could find out what had happened to them.

“He was a solicitor in a million, he went a step further in challenging things in the courts.

“That is why he was selected to be murdered.”

She said Emma Groves was standing in her own living room when a soldier fired a rubber bullet through the window and she was blinded.

Ms Groves went on to lead the campaign against their use.

Ms Reilly concluded: “I was doing this since 1969 and I would do every minute of it again.

“It is our history and what the nationalist people suffered, and I was not prepared to take it lying down.

“I thought you had to speak out no matter what.”