**Today marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Rosemary Nelson.

Rosemary's family angry over Cory delay

--by Susan McKay
Sunday Tribune

Sheila Magee recalls her last conversation with her daughter,
Rosemary Nelson, five years ago. "It was Mother's Day in the evening.Rosie was just back from her mobile home in Bundoran. She was just talking about Mother's Day and the helicopter and how she was freezing," she says. The next day, 15 March 1999, Nelson was murdered,

The helicopter has come to preoccupy her family. "Everyone was commenting on it, that night, the increased security force presence in the area, especially the helicopter," says Rosemary's sister, Bernie. "Everyone was wondering what was going on."

The close knit family all lie in Lurgan. Bernie is a teacher at Tannaghmore Primary School, outside which the bomb under Rosemary's car exploded. She was at her home nearby having lunch when word was brought that her sister was badly hurt. She rushed to the scene. "I held Rosie's hand til the ambulance came," she says. Nelson died in hospital later.

There is a photograph on the hearth in Bernie's home, where some of the family has gathered to talk about the anniversary. There are lit candles on either side of it. It shows her father, Tommy, along with herself and Rosemary, all smiles. "She loved a night out," says Bernie. "She loved a laugh." "She had a razor sharp sense of humour," says Sheila.

Tommy Magee died last year. Rosemary's brother, Eunan spoke of his death at the SDLP conferencea few weeks ago. "The last four years of his life were not happy years," he said. "In fact it would be fair to say, he died of a broken heart. My parents lost a daughter, the children lost a mother, Paul lost a wife, and we lost a sister."

The family feels that their personal loss has perhaps been
forgotten. "All the talk has been about what a brave lawyer and fearless campaigner she was," says Eunan. "To us, she was just Rosie." They can't begin to say how much they miss her.

They recall her pride in herwork. "She told me once a policeman came to her looking a divorce," says Sheila. "She asked him why he'd chosen her. "I hear you're the best," he said." Sheila laughs. "She was tickled about that." Bernie recalls a hairdresser telling her once she went in to Nelson wanting a separation. "Rosemary knew the husband too, and she talked her out of it,"she says. "That couple are still together, ten years later." Rosie was a bit like an agony aunt for a lot of women.

But Rosemary's work was changing, becoming more political. "I used to say to her, 'Keep off that TV,'" says Sheila. "She was becoming too high profile. There were people seeing her, and some of them were hating her." Bernie, too, would urge her sister to be careful. "She used to laugh at me. She'd say, 'You live in a wee cocoon,'" says Bernie.

In fact, the family had no idea of just how virulent the hatred was which was growing towards Nelson in some loyalist, Orange Order and security force circles in mid Ulster. Her clients included prominent republicans like Colin Duffy. She had successfully appealed against his conviction for murdering a UDR man, and had also contributed to getting charges against him of murdering 2 RUC men dropped. She
represented Robert Hamill, kicked to death by loyalists while the RUC sat nearby in a landrover.

She had devised a highly successful legal strategy for the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition in their fight to stop the Orange Order marching through their nationalist area on its way back from Drumcree. Prominent among the raging crowds at Drumcree were Billy Wright and his Loyalist Volunteer Force.

"We knew nothing about the Red Hand Defenders when they claimed they murdered Rosemary," says Eunan. "Or about the LVF. They'd never effected us. Later, we found out Wright was writing about Rosemary in his diaries in prison."

The year before Nelson's murder, she had complained that death threats had been made against her by members of the RUC.

There had also been threatening notes from anonymous sources. The UNcalled for urgent action by the British government. She had spoken of the threats at a hearing of the US congress. But she was never given protection or even security advice.

The RUC began the murder investigation, but, after protests, then chief constable, Ronnie Flanagan, called in the deputy chief constable of Norfolk, Colin Port to head the inquiry. "We met Port in October," says Bernie. "At first we were naïve. We thought he'd catch the murderers."

Gradually, though, the family began to wonder. "There were things that just didn't add up," says Eunan. "Like, they tested Rosie's car for fingerprints but didn't find Bernie's. People were telling them about the helicopter the night before and they weren't even writing it down.

"By the first anniversary, we knew there was a bigger picture. We began to sense that there were things that were a matter of a word, or a wink, or a whisper in a certain direction. But Port was blinkered. It seemed for a time he was going to try and blame the nationalist population for the failure of his inquiry."

Bernie nods. "He wasn't willing to entertain even the possibility of collusion," she says. "It has been a steep learning curve for us, but as time went on, we began to get tough. We began to share information with human rights groups."

Five years on, the £7 million investigation seems to have run into the sand. Port has left. No one has been convicted of Nelson's murder. Last week, Sheila brought a judicial review to try to force the British government to publish the report by Judge Peter Cory, "More importantly," she says, "We want a date for the inquiry to begin. Cory was only ever a side show anyway."

However, the family is angry that while they have not seen Cory's report, members of the security forces named in it, as well as the DPP, have. They are now convinced the RUC and the Royal Irish Regiment knew Rosemary was going to be killed. They believe only an inquiry will show the true role of the security forces.

Cory was forced to reveal late last year that he had told the British government it should initiate inquiries into the murders of Nelson, Pat Finucane, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright. "We don't need to prove the need for an inquiry any more," says Bernie. "That part is done."

The family's campaign has been a quiet one. They've met the minister for foreign affairs, Brian Cowan, successive British secretaries of state for NI, and the chief constable, Hugh Orde, but haven't sought publicity for these talks. "We're private people," says Bernie. "We're not out to batter the system," says Eunan. "All we want is the truth," says Sheila. "If it had been one of us, Rosemary wouldn't have left one stone unturned. She deserves justice."

March 7, 2003

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