Eamon McDevitt family call for apology after 50 years of ‘injustice’

The family of Eamon McDevitt, who was shot dead by the British Army in 1971, have described the last half century as ‘50 years of injustice’.

Friday, 20th August 2021, 5:19 pm
Sammy McDevitt holds a picture of his late brother Eamon (inset) with Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre and members of the deaf community who travelled from across Ireland

At a vigil on Wednesday at the spot in Fountain Street, Strabane where he was killed aged just 28 on August 18, 1971, his family demanded an apology from the British Government.

“I have spent 50 years fighting for justice and an apology for my brother Eamon.

“We want an apology for what happened to Eamon. That a British soldier shot and killed an unarmed man here on this street. That they devastated my family, the people of Strabane and the deaf community across Ireland. But we won’t accept an empty apology. The British government must acknowledge not only the actions of their soldiers on that day 50 years ago, but they must also apologise for failing to investigate Eamon’s death, for failing to hold anyone accountable and for making our family, like so many other families, suffer for decades waiting on justice. An apology must acknowledge this hurt to be meaningful,” said his brother Sammy.

Eamon’s coffin being carried from St. Mary’s Church in 1971.

The vigil was attended by Aodhán Harkin and Joe Breslin who witnessed a member of the Royal Marine Commandos fire a live round at Eamon from a .303 rifle on the night of his murder. A resident told the ‘Journal’ at the time, a resident said: “This was from a rifle and was nothing less than unadulterated murder.”

A minute’s silence was observed and a lament was played by Nollaig Ó Daimhín. A poem written be Eamon’s best friend David Barr was recited by Laura Winning. Fifty white roses were placed on the fence where Eamon was shot to represent 50 years of injustice.

His brother Sammy referred to how Eamon contracted meningitis as a child, lost his ability to hear and to speak, and was educated at St. Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys in Cabra. “When he was shot and killed by the army on August 18, 1971, our lives were devastated. Eamon was the star of our home and doted on by our parents. Following his death, the deaf community in Ireland took to the streets of Dublin in silent protest. They delivered a letter to the British Embassy outraged at what happened to their friend. When we heard about the protests, my family were overwhelmed. We could see that the community loved Eamon, and that they were angry, just as we were.”

A twin vigil, organised by the deaf community in Dublin, also took place to remember Eamon.

Eamon McDevitt was shot dead by the British Army on August 18, 1971.

Two of the men who organised the original protest, David Breslin and Tony McElhatton spoke about their experience back in 1971 and their friendship with Eamon.

In Strabane Sammy said: “To you I send my thanks. Your solidarity makes us more determined to keep fighting for Eamon. The McDevitt family also want to thank all you come together tonight to honour Eamon’s memory. We are overwhelmed by your support. Thank you.”

His family condemned the British Government’s proposals to introduce a Statute of Limitations for Troubles-related killings. “We know the government are pushing for an amnesty for their soldiers who killed innocent people like Eamon on our streets. This shows nothing but contempt for families like ours, and cannot be allowed to happen,” they said.

“We want an apology for what happened to Eamon. But we cannot accept an apology in place of justice.”