Northern Ireland

‘Justice postponed is justice denied’: Outgoing president Larry McCarthy makes plea for justice for murdered GAA members

GAA President Larry McCarthy
Outgoing GAA president Larry McCarthy made his final speech to Congress at the Canal Court Hotel on Saturday

OUTGOING GAA president Larry McCarthy called upon Congress to endorse the campaign for justice for families of murdered GAA members Seán Brown and Patsy Kelly.

In his final address at Newry’s Canal Court Hotel, McCarthy outlined the need for a “proper investigation” into Mr Brown’s murder, saying “justice postponed is justice denied”.

A father-of-six, the Bellaghy chairman was attacked and beaten by an LVF gang as he locked the club gates in May 1997.

Collusion is suspected, and several of those thought to be involved are believed to be state agents.

Mr Brown’s inquest has been held up due to PSNI delays in producing disclosure material.

All inquests must be at their findings stage by May 1 or they will be halted under the British government’s controversial Legacy Act.

Mr Kelly, who was a member of Omagh District Council, is thought to have been killed as he returned home from work at a bar in Trillick, Co Tyrone, in July 1974.

A Police Ombudsman’s report published last year found there was collusive behaviour on the part of some RUC officers and that there were a series of “significant” investigative failings in the case.

Murder victims Patsy Kelly and Sean Brown
Murdered GAA members Patsy Kelly and Sean Brown

“Twenty-seven years ago, the GAA lost a great servant,” said McCarthy.

“I must admit that the news shook me to my core. It was the fact that Seán was doing that most mundane of GAA acts, closing the pitch, that was horrifying to me. How could this happen to a person who was so committed to his community that he was the man closing the pitch at the end of the night? To me it was, and still is, unfathomable.

“Seán was hugely involved in his community. Aside from Wolfe Tones there was the Ballyscullion Big Pedal Club, the Credit Union, he was a great mechanic, and a teacher.

“These were simply outward manifestations of what he was, a kind, caring individual who looked out for his fellow man with no heed to creed or colour.

“There has never been a proper investigation of Seán Brown’s murder. That most basic of post death examinations, an inquest, has been denied the Brown family by the British government for 27 years.

“Whether it is on the streets of the Bronx, the lanes of west Cork or the rolling hills of Derry, justice postponed is justice denied. It behoves the public authorities to ensure that all unsolved atrocities are resolved no matter the length of time it takes.

“I ask Congress, by acclamation, to endorse the campaign being led by Bellaghy Wolfe Tones for justice for Seán Brown, and the campaign for justice for Patsy Kelly of Trillick.”

McCarthy also asked that delegates endorse the Irish government’s decision to take an inter-state case to the European Court of Human Rights to prevent the implementation of the Northern Ireland Legacy Act.

“The Legacy Act proposed by the British Government is fundamentally wrong because it will have the effect of shutting down avenues to truth and justice, including inquests, for historic cases,” he added.

“This will prevent us from ever knowing what happened to one of our club chairmen.”