Belfast Telegraph

Innocent Catholic was shot in back by Army 40 years ago

By John Mulgrew

A young Catholic man shot dead by the Army 40 years ago was innocent, a report has said.

Billy McKavanagh was shot in the back as he ran away when confronted by soldiers in the Markets area of Belfast in the early hours of August 11, 1971, according to the findings in the Historical Enquiries Team report.

It concluded: “Billy's death was an absolute tragedy that should not have happened.

“He was an innocent man who did nothing more than pick up a pair of waders that had been stolen by someone else and then run away when confronted by the Army.”

At the time of his death the Army claimed the young Catholic man was an IRA gunman.

The report also said that Mr McKavanagh was “not associated with any terrorist organisation and was not armed with a weapon when he was shot”.

The soldier responsible for his death said he believed the man he shot was carrying a rivet gun.

However, the HET said it “did not believe that Billy had the rivet gun when he was shot”.

Several members of Mr McKavanagh's family were present yesterday during an emotional Press conference, including his twin sister Margaret Duffy. Ms Duffy said she was delighted with the findings and called for a formal apology from the Government to put a lid on the torment the family has endured for four decades.

“We are delighted after what has went on, but now we are going forward. We want an apology from the British Government,” she said.

“What is the difference? Why shouldn't my brother get an apology? Forty years — we've waited so long to hear he was an innocent victim — and I'm really delighted. This should be the final step of it.”

Oliver Morris, brother-in-law of the deceased, speaking yesterday, said he had no hate or ill-feelings towards the man who shot Mr McKavanagh.

“I can't judge anybody, I'm not here to judge anyone,” he said.

South Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey reiterated the family’s call for an apology from the Government.

“For 40 years the British State has stuck to the lie that Billy McKavanagh was an armed IRA volunteer. The HET report today lays this lie bare,” he said.

Background

Billy McKavanagh was only 21 when he was shot dead. The Historical Enquiries Team determined Mr McKavanagh was “not associated with any terrorist organisation and was not armed with a weapon when he was shot”. The 21-year-old had no previous convictions. The soldier responsible for his death still maintains he was armed.

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