Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Family may seek prosecution over 1971 Army killing

General Sir Peter Wall issued an apology for the 1971 shooting of Billy McGreanery
General Sir Peter Wall issued an apology for the 1971 shooting of Billy McGreanery

The family of an innocent man shot dead in Londonderry just before Bloody Sunday said they have not ruled out seeking prosecution after securing a public apology.

Relatives of William ‘Billy’ McGreanery travelled to Westminster with Foyle MP Mark Durkan and staff from the Pat Finucane Centre to make the case for a recorded apology.

Mr McGreanery’s nephew, Billy McGreanery, said they were surprised but elated that Defence Minister Andrew Robathan agreed to the request in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Billy said they were relieved at having ensured their uncle’s innocence would now become a matter of public record for generations to come — a request that has previously been turned down by the Government.

Speaking to the Telegraph, however, Mr McGreanery said he wanted his uncle’s killing registered on the military record of the soldier who pulled the trigger.

The local RUC commander at the time believed that the soldier had acted unlawfully and a file was sent to the chief Crown prosecutor recommending that the soldier be tried for murder. However the case was dropped on the word of the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland.

The Historical Enquiries Team also rubbished the claims and concluded the Derry man was posing no threat at all when he was shot.

The Army apologised privately in a letter to the family in September 2011, but a request for this to be made public so it could be recorded on official Government records was rejected.

Mr Robathan’s shock public apology this week was offered during a 30-minute adjournment debate on the issue that Mark Durkan had secured at Westminster.

The case of Robert McKinney, shot dead by paratroopers in the Shankill area in 1972, was also raised.

Mr McGreanery said that it was “high time the British Government take responsibility for the crimes that soldiers committed while serving in Northern Ireland”.

“They should also start to accept the fact that terrible injustices were carried out in Northern Ireland on behalf of the British government and we have no doubt whatsoever that with the passage of time a lot more cases like our own will be proved,” he said.

The McGreanery family praised the work of Mr Durkan and the members of the Pat Finucane Centre who worked on the case.

Mr Durkan said f the family after the apology was secured:

“I hope as well as achieving vindication for themselves and their uncle, that their campaign – supported so effectively by The Pat Finucane Centre – can educate the British government to a better standard of treatment for other families.background

Billy McGreanery (41) was shot by a soldier from the 1st Batallion Grenadier Guards in the early hours of September 15, 1971. The shop manager was crossing a junction when one of two soldiers inside a fortified defensive sangar near the Bogside opened fire.

The soldier had claimed Mr McGreanery was armed. The claim has been rubbished.

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