16 December 2005

Family want the truth over 1971 British army Ardoyne murders

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The British government’s Historical Enquiries Team are set to re-examine the case files of Ardoyne men Joseph ‘Jo Jo’ Parker and Barney Watts who were brutally murdered by the British Army in 1971.
The sister of Jo Jo Parker and wife of Barney Watts has spoken for the first time about how the British soldiers who gunned down two of the most important men in her life have never been brought to justice.
“I’ll never see justice in my lifetime for what they did to Jo Jo and Barney.
“No one has ever been prosecuted and I don’t think anyone ever will,” said Theresa Watts.
“It was murder plain and simple. Its what happened in those days. It was swept under the carpet.”
Theresa Watts was only 26 when her life was torn apart at the height of the Troubles.
Her husband Barney was shot dead in February 1971 by British paratroopers in Chatham Street and less than ten months later, on December 12 her brother Jo Jo was shot dead in Toby’s Dance Hall by the British Army.
Theresa had just finished dancing with her brother when soldiers entered the Butler Street dance hall saying there were ‘wanted men’ inside.
A row broke out and the British soldiers, according to Theresa from the Royal Irish Fusiliers shot into the air to disperse the crowd.
The British army units outside the dance hall thought their men were being shot at and rushed in shooting.
It’s now 34 years later and the pain of losing two of the most important men in her life is as fresh as it ever was.
“I remember it as if were yesterday.
“I just couldn’t believe it when I was told it was 34 years ago this week that Barney was shot dead and Jo Jo.”
Both murders will now be investigated by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) which is due to start work on January 28, 2006.
The British government announced earlier this year that they were setting up a team to investigate over 2,000 deaths, which occurred throughout the Troubles.
The team will be headed up by Dave Cox and Phil James, who previously worked with John Stevens on his investigation into the murder of Pat Finucane.
The HET will operate chronologically starting with cases in 1968 and working towards 1998.
Tom Holland of the Ardoyne Commemoration Project said it was time the Parker family was told the truth.
“No inquiry was ever set up to investigate the circumstances of Jo-Jo’s killing. No one was held answerable for the tragic events that fateful night.
“In the on-going debate over whether there should be a truth recovery process, and if it is the right time to deal with the past and talk of amnesties for British security force members, the Parker family’s simple quest for the truth, like hundreds of others throughout the North, needs to be properly addressed.”

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

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