Launch of new legacy arrangements is ‘day of infamy’, son of IRA victim says

The son of an RUC man murdered by the IRA has said the introduction of new legacy arrangements represents a “day of infamy” for Northern Ireland.

David Johnston and Constable John Graham were shot dead while they were on foot patrol in Lurgan, County Armagh, on June 16 1997. Nobody has been prosecuted.

Mr Johnston’s son Louie was seven when his dad was killed and told how the impact of the shooting would never leave him.

The new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) has taken on the remit of investigating hundreds of unresolved deaths which happened before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Louie Johnston, seven, plays with his brother Joshua, three, and their father David at their family home (Family handout/PA)
Louie Johnston, seven, plays with his brother Joshua, three, and their father David at their family home (Family handout/PA)

Mr Johnston, 34, said he would not be engaging with the commission, pointing out that he should not have to ask for his father’s murder to be investigated.

He said: “My daddy was my hero. Growing up I looked up to him.

“I have very fond memories of my daddy. He was very good to us growing up. To me he was the best.

“He was murdered when I was seven.

“He just happened to be a policeman, he just happened to wear a green uniform and it was only for that reason, as he was out on beat patrol, he was shot from behind with his colleague.”

He added: “I remember a lot of detail about the day. Being taken out of school early to come home to see my mother absolutely distraught and distressed.

“That will never leave me, it is always with me. Growing up as well, it is one of those things that I don’t think until I die will ever leave me.

“It has impacted my life in every way. Every Christmas there is a reminder that my father is not there, every family occasion it always brings it home that there is an empty seat at the table.

“My mum was left at the age of 30 with two young children to bring up on her own.

“We have never seen justice for what happened to my father and John.”

Mr Johnston said if his father had been shot a year later his death would not be included under the new legacy arrangements which deal with Troubles deaths.

Regarding the ICRIR beginning its work, he said: “It is going to be a very sad day. I think it is a day that will live in infamy in the history of Northern Ireland.

“I think in time to come we will look back on it and see it for what it is.

“I don’t agree with what is being brought in.

“I think the very sad thing is in Northern Ireland we will have a hierarchy in our justice system.

“What we will see is that murder and activities that have left so many families without their loved ones will be in a sense justified because every avenue of justice is closed down.

“Anything that happened after a defined period of time, they are saying they will (still) pursue it under the full extent of the law.

“I can’t reconcile that.”

He added: “The Government is asking innocent victims to put themselves in a process whereby they approach the commission.

“So again it is victims that are being asked to put the first foot forward, victims that have already given so much throughout the years and you are asking a victim to be party essentially to the potential for immunity for those who wreaked havoc.

“For that reason I won’t be going forward to engage with the commission, I don’t want to be put in that position.”