IT has been a long road to justice for the families of the soldiers murdered by the IRA in the notorious Hyde Park car bomb of 1982.
A lifetime of mourning a beloved father, husband, brother or son. Decades of seeing the innocent robbed of their lives while the guilty were free to grow old.
Years of knowing that those who planned the slaughter were lucky recipients of one of Tony Blair’s “letters of comfort” — meaning that under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, known terrorists would never be prosecuted.
And so got away with murder. Until this week.
Mrs Justice Yip ruled in the High Court that the IRA’s John Downey was an “active participant” and “knowingly involved” in the Hyde Park slaughter.
“We’ve got justice,” says Sarahjane Young, who was four years old when she watched from the window of her nursery as her 19-year-old father, Corporal Jeffrey Young, was blown up. “We can call John Downey what he really is at last — a terrorist murderer.”
The images of that terrible carnage are seared into the memory of anyone old enough to remember.
The broken bodies of seven dead horses strewn across the park. The crumpled row of cars destroyed by a 25lb nail bomb that was built to tear apart flesh and blood and families, designed to break hearts and lives and inflict unimaginable human misery.
And the heartbreakingly smiling faces of the dead seen earlier as they posed proudly in their Household Calvary uniforms.
Lieutenant Anthony Daly, 23. Corporal Roy Bright, 36. And two teenagers who were already men.
Trooper Simon Tipper, 19, just back from his honeymoon. And Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, also 19, whose tiny daughter Sarahjane watched her daddy ride by, and then watched him die.
John Downey’s fingerprints were found on car park tickets for the vehicle containing the nail bomb. So why has it taken so long to bring the guilty man to justice?
Because the families of the victims were forced to take out a civil action after the courts failed them.
Criminal proceedings against Downey collapsed at the Old Bailey in 2014 because he was one of 222 IRA members who secretly received one of Tony Blair’s “letters of comfort”.
Blair bought peace with the IRA by assuring the men of violence they were no longer wanted for crimes committed during the Troubles.
It is a bitter truth that you make peace with your enemies and not your friends. But for far too long the peace brokered by Blair has seemed wickedly, unforgivably one-sided.
Hundreds of IRA men were free to live their lives while it took until THIS THURSDAY for Boris Johnson to promise in the Queen’s Speech that former veterans of the British Army who served in the Troubles would finally be free from witch hunts.
That Downey has been brought to book at long last is thanks to the fierce determination of the bereaved families and to the generosity of the public, including Sun readers who raised £85,000 to help fund their cause.
“I want to thank all of you,” says Mark Tipper, brother of 19-year-old Trooper Simon Tipper. “You have no idea what this day means to all of us. My brother can sleep easy at last.”
The verdict paves the way for the families to pursue Downey— currently on remand in Northern Ireland for the murder of two soldiers at Enniskillen — for damages of up to half a million pounds. But their success is inevitably tinged with bitter regret.
Because it is a shameful stain on our justice system that the families of murdered soldiers were forced to wait 37 long years for justice.
And it is a disgrace that these families were refused legal aid four times while Downey was awarded £50,000 of taxpayers’ money to defend himself against criminal proceedings.
And it is mind-boggling — is it not? — that the Labour Party just went into a General Election led by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, two failed politicians who have never made any secret of their puerile hero worship of the IRA.
McDonnell had a plaque commemorating the “martyrs” of the IRA and INLA on the wall of his constituency office.
In 1984, Corbyn caused outrage when he invited Gerry Adams and other members of Sinn Fein to Westminster when there was still blood on the streets of Brighton after the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel.
If Labour is ever again going to be a serious opposition party — let alone worthy of government — then the party must never again chose leaders who have spent their careers licking the boots of terrorists.
And isn’t it a national disgrace that Tony Blair never sent his “letters of comfort” to OUR boys?
Not so Wonderful
PAUL McCARTNEY has made a Christmas record but only his family are allowed to hear it.
Thank goodness! Some of us still remember Wonderful Christmastime — the world’s worst festive record.
We all love Sir Paul. But when it comes to Christmas records, give me Bing Crosby, Noddy Holder or The Pogues.
In fact, give me anybody but the man who thought “simply having a wonderful Christmastime!” sums up the magic of the season.
Bercow's a busted flush...
SUDDENLY the national paralysis is over.
You can feel it in the air. You can see it in Boris Johnson’s grin – especially when Jeremy Corbyn is by his side.
How quickly the world moves on. How suddenly the new day breaks. How abruptly a catchphrase passes its best-by date.
John Bercow’s “ORDER! ORDER!” seems as quaintly ancient as Larry Grayson’s “Oooh, shut that door!” or Dick Emery’s “Oooh, you are awful – but I like you!”
Bercow is reduced to bellowing “ORDER! ORDER!” to the baffled viewers of Italian TV.
He has even been spied shouting his hackneyed catchphrase at his fellow travellers on a south London bus.
It seems like only last week that Bercow took enormous preening delight in bellowing, “ORDER! ORDER!” at the mother of all Parliaments.
Now yesterday’s Speaker is shouting it on the number 38 to Catford.
AFTER all those adorable images of Dilyn the Downing Street dog – going walkies to the polling booth, sitting in a chair like a good boy waiting for the exit poll, licking his master’s face – I can’t imagine any party leader will ever fight a General Election without a pet by his side.
Jeremy Corbyn definitely missed a trick.
He should have borrowed one of Ken Livingstone’s newts.
Kate's right hook
IT has been a bad year for boxing when your favourite fistic moment is Kate Beckinsale demonstrating her stiff right cross for Women’s Health magazine.
At the start of 2019, it seemed inevitable that Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder would have a series of fights to match the glory days of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman.
They somehow all avoided each other.
With the Fury-Wilder rematch allegedly about to be announced for February, perhaps 2020 will be better for boxing.
And if it’s not – well, fight fans have always got Kate Beckinsale’s right hander.
Labour lags behind
WHAT a gloriously fresh-faced and diverse bunch the current tally of 365 Tory MPs are – 215 who went to their local comprehensive, eight MPs under 30 and 89 women, including the youngest, Sara Britcliffe, 24.
And after 119 years, Labour still haven’t been led by a woman!
Giving Gavin a miss
AFTER Mathew Horne’s late-night trolling of the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, I am giving the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special a miss.
You can watch performers you don’t care for.
For example, I can’t stand Benedict Cumberbatch – the eco-activist who advertises cars in China – but I will watch Cumberbatch in Sam Mendes’ World War One film 1917 next year because it sounds unmissable.
But Gavin, Stacey and Mathew? I can live without it.
Horne tweeted: “I really wish I loved myself as much as you, Laura . . . your ‘journalism’ knows no bounds . . . Resign, you disingenuous plopcarpet.”
And plenty more of the same spiteful, semi-literate garbage.
It is mind-blowing how totally lost these right-on Rada revolutionaries are when someone doesn’t write them a script.
They'll be Trumped
THE impeachment of President Trump will backfire and probably guarantee Donald a second term.
Because it smacks of what we have seen far too much of in this country – entitled souls who can’t win at the polls trying to get their way in the courts.
And voters really, REALLY don’t like it.
Luvvies lost it
EVERY one of the candidates who Hugh Grant campaigned for at the General Election lost. Lib Dem, Labour, male, female, anti-Brexit or . . . actually, they were all anti-Brexit.
It didn’t work – just as Steve Coogan telling Brexit supporters that we are ignorant did not make us rush out to vote to stop Brexit.
JEREMY CLARKSONYes, lorry shunt was Daf... but, like Ellie, I feel for the unlucky trucker
JAMES FORSTYHBoris has delivered on Brexit — now it's time to get all the rest of it done
LORRAINE KELLYRuth's right... the sheer number of female sex scenes is too much to bare
ROD LIDDLEWhat hope is there for Labour while the munchkins of Momentum still hold power?
THE SUN SAYSBoris Johnson has finally got Brexit under way with a massive majority
Ally RossThose Channel 4 lefties quit laughing at 10pm - funny that
I have come to believe that luvvie endorsements are totally counter-productive.
They quite literally have the opposite effect that the smug, self-important thespians hope.
The public take one look at Grant and Coogan – then vote exactly the opposite way.