A ‘conspiracy of silence’ 50 years on from Sammy Devenny’s death

A Derry priest has spoken of the “conspiracy of silence” that has prevented the family of Sammy Devenny securing full disclosure about events that led to their father’s death 50 years ago.

Friday, 19th July 2019, 7:53 pm
Updated Friday, 19th July 2019, 8:53 pm
Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the late Sammy Devenny hold a minutes silence at his memorial on William Street on Wednesday evening last.  Mr Devenny died after he was attacked by members of the RUC, in his home, 50 years ago. DER2919GS-031
Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the late Sammy Devenny hold a minutes silence at his memorial on William Street on Wednesday evening last. Mr Devenny died after he was attacked by members of the RUC, in his home, 50 years ago. DER2919GS-031

Father Paddy Baker was speaking to hundreds gathered at St Eugene’s Cathedral on Wednesday night in memory of the Derry father-of-nine who died at the age of 43 from injuries he sustained when he was severely beaten in his home by the RUC on April 19, 1969.

The Devenny family recently repeated their call for the British government to release classified files on their father’s death which they believe could contain crucial information but which the State have said will remain under wraps until, at least, 2022.

Cable Street native Father Baker spoke of how he grew up with the children of Sammy Devenny and was “honoured” to be officiating at the special Mass.

He told those gathered: “It’s almost difficult to believe it’s 50 years since Sammy Devenny lost his life here in the city. As a wee boy, I can just about remember what happened in William Street, but I am sure the family here tonight have vivid memories of that fateful night in their home and I’m sure that, for those 50 years, those memories have stayed with them all those days, months and years, compounded all the more by the fact that, in 50 years, there has never been an apology, an acknowledgement, just simply a conspiracy of silence.”

“Here, in Derry, this is nothing new to us. Truth and justice has not been served in the case of Sammy Devenny.”

Speaking about the ordeal the Devenny family have endured, Fr Baker said: “Sammy Devenny died three months after he was so savagely beaten by the RUC. To lose a father, to lose a husband, to lose a friend in this manner was unbearable for the Devenny family.

“Sammy’s wife, Phyllis, was a strong character. She was full of wit and humour and she had great faith and perseverance and she did an outstanding job in rearing the nine children who, at that stage, were aged between three and 21: Harry, Ann, Cathy, Philomena, Danny, Colette, Christine, Jim and Caroline.

“Phyllis did a tremendous job in the family single-handedly and those were very difficult days in the city, those were very dark days.

“The Troubles were an awful, awful time for all of us who had to live through that.

“But Phyllis and the family persevered. In all those years, they have sought answers to their questions which have, sadly, never been answered but they will still, I have no doubt, continue on their quest to get answers.”