Eamon Sweeney talks to Helen Deery in the wake of the inquest into death of her brother Manus, slain by the British Army in Derry in 1972.
Helen Deery pictured outside Derry's courthouse following the announcement that the her brother was 'totally innocent'.
The sister of a teenager shot dead by the British Army in Derry 45 years ago has contended that politicians do not genuinely care about how to deal with the legacy of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Manus Deery was just 15 years old when he was struck by a bullet fired from Derry’s walls on May 19, 1972.
The final verdict into the killing announced in the city’s courthouse yesterday found that the victim was totally innocent of the accusation by the British state that he was a gunman. The presiding coroner dealing with legacy inquests related to the conflict, Lord Justice Colton, yesterday concluded that:
Neither Manus or anyone close to him was acting in a manner that could reasonably have been perceived as posing a threat of death or injury to Private Glasgow (the soldier who fired the fatal round or any other person.
Speaking outside the court after the decision was delivered the sister of the state victim, Helen Deery sent a sharp message to the Stormont politicians currently engaged in trying to resurrect a devolved government in Northern Ireland before this Friday’s talks deadline. The issue of dealing with the legacy of the conflict is a major thread running through the talks.
They are pretending to care about legacy cases in order to advance their own agendas. Throughout the years not one political party, despite their assurances, actually did anything to advance my brothers case. Personally, I don’t think politicians give a damn about victims. I have no faith in Stormont. I now hope that other families now see that they can get the truth and justice can be achieved.
Manus Deery died of drastic head injuries as a result of the discharge of a single round by a now deceased British soldier previously known only as ‘Soldier A’ as twilight fell over the Bogside almost exactly 45 years ago. However, during the ten day inquest last year the soldier was identified as Private William Glasgow. Asked why she felt the need to pursue the case for all these years, Helen said:
It’s the end of a long, drawn out process. I do know that five of Manus’ and my siblings and my mother and father are not here to see his innocence declared. I loved him. It’s as simple as that. We had a typical brother and sister relationship, but I genuinely loved him with all my heart and I wasn’t going to let anybody blacken his name.
However, reaching the point of a declaration of innocence which will has finally come after four and half decades been far from straight forward she said. And, Helen maintains that the many years of stalling by the Ministry of Defence has had a drastic effect not only on the Deery family but also on the friends of the young victim who witnessed his killing.
Some news organisations at the time portrayed Manus as a gunman. The result was that even some our neighbours turned their backs on us. Many of those present that night have suffered severe mental health issues throughout the years as well. I am sentimental today but I feel peaceful. I will probably go his grave at the cemetery today. I am delighted that the judge has said that the shooting was unjustified. We knew he wasn’t a gunman, we always knew that he and his friends that were there that night were innocent. There were lots of hurdles placed in our way along this road but it was worth it. In a way it brings closure. “Manus had his whole life in front of him and I think he’ll be proud of me. For all of those still seeking justice, I would say keep going, don’t let them grind you down. Have respect and honour for the loved ones that you lost and keep on until you get the truth.