Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Plastic bullet victim's sister wants body disbanded

Frances Meehan, whose brother Michael Donnelly was shot dead with a plastic bullet in 1981
Frances Meehan, whose brother Michael Donnelly was shot dead with a plastic bullet in 1981

The sister of a man killed by the Army in west Belfast in 1981 has said the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) should be disbanded.

Frances Meehan, whose brother Michael Donnelly (21) was killed by a plastic bullet, said she felt "very let down" after a police watchdog found the HET investigated cases involving the state with "less rigour" than others.

Mrs Meehan said they had put their brother's case "to bed" when the HET contacted them in May last year offering to investigate.

"I was a bit reticent to get involved, emotionally it is draining," she said.

"I talked about it with my sisters and I thought we would only be letting Michael down if we didn't do it ... They told us this was going to be transparent."

Mrs Meehan described the investigating officer assigned to her case as "genuine" but said she was concerned about a number of limitations imposed on the investigation.

She said she was disturbed to learn the HET wouldn't interview one of the soldiers involved as he was living abroad and another as he had a heart condition.

"A number of my family have heart conditions," she said.

Stating that she was "gutted" by yesterday's assessment of the HET, Mrs Meehan said: "They have opened this sore again with the prospect of having it completely healed, and instead they have put a huge big abscess in it. We have been built up and let down tremendously all over again."

Mrs Meehan said her family, who were awarded £8,200 in damages in a civil case against the Army, had always been concerned some people would think Michael had been out rioting on the night he was killed on Leeson Street.

She said Michael, a Queen's University student who wanted to be a social worker, had been returning to the family home on the Lower Falls from his student house in south Belfast when he was killed.

She said Michael had heard there was trouble in the area and wanted to make sure his younger brother Kevin, who had previously been involved in a low-level rioting incident, was safely at home.

"My motivation is still to clear Michael's name," she said.

"People assume if you were killed by the state you must have been doing something wrong."

Just 14 at the time of his death, Mrs Meehan remembers Michael as a popular, open-minded teenager, a "socialist thinker" who worked with community groups across Belfast.

She said her mother Mary and father Michael and six brothers and sisters never fully recovered after his death.

"My family was never the same again," she said. "I remember my father's face as they carried Michael's coffin, he was such a strong man ... I have three girls and I realise how awful it must have been for my mum, I just don't know how she coped."

Looking forward to what should happen now, Mrs Meehan said she didn't think the HET could be recovered in any way.

"I am very clear for us as a family that in relation to Michael's death we want the truth, and we want the truth to be acknowledged, and for the state to show remorse," she said.

"We want a complete and utterly independent body. The HET was supposed to be independent. It must have international weight."

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz