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Armagh schoolgirl's family call for independent investigation into Army killing

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Michael O’Hare, whose schoolgirl sister Majella was shot was she walked to church in 1976

Michael O’Hare, whose schoolgirl sister Majella was shot was she walked to church in 1976

PA

Majella O'Hare

Majella O'Hare

Michael O’Hare, whose schoolgirl sister Majella was shot was she walked to church in 1976

The family of a Co Armagh schoolgirl shot dead by the Army more than 40 years ago has called for an independent investigation into her death.

Majella O'Hare, from Whitecross, was 12 years old when she was shot in the back by a soldier as she walked to church in August 1976.

An Army officer was charged with manslaughter after the initial RUC investigation, but was acquitted in court. The officer claimed he had fired in response to an IRA sniper attack.

In 2011 a letter signed by the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox apologised on behalf of the government and acknowledged that the soldier's explanation was "unlikely".

Now, ahead of the 44th anniversary of Majella's death, her brother Michael O'Hare is calling for an independent investigation.

A letter has been sent to the Legacy Investigation Branch of the PSNI calling on the Chief Constable to ensure a "prompt and independent investigation".

Mr O'Hare remembers his sister as a beautiful young girl with a love of music, who "never got to fulfil her potential".

"I fight for justice for Majella. If it weren't for the actions of the soldier, she would still be with us," he said.

"We live with the pain that we will never know the potential of her life. The apology acknowledged the wrongdoing, but neither this nor the historical enquiries report which prompted it provided us with the full truth of what happened. It didn't give us the justice and accountability we are entitled to.

"I hope this will now come and give my family and I the peace we seek."

He said his family want a fresh independent investigation to correct the public record.

"I am not on a vexatious crusade here, all I want from this is that the history of Majella's killing is written honestly," he added.

"I don't know what lies ahead but we are raising the issue again to see if we can get another investigation into it and we can make amends for the wrongs that were done.

"I couldn't possibly say that I want to persecute anyone because it is a long time ago and perhaps the person who committed the offence is persecuted already if they are human at all.

"It's not about a blame game, it is just keeping things in order and getting the acknowledgment. If that comes then who knows what the next phase will be, if there is to be another phase."

The PSNI said it could not give a timeframe for when a review would take place.

A spokesman said:" The tragic death of Majella O'Hare currently sits within the caseload of Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) for future review in accordance with LIB's Case Sequencing Model.

"Regrettably, due to the LIB caseload, which extends to more than 1,100 incidents touching on over 1,400 deaths, we are unable to give any undertaking as to when this review will commence.

"PSNI supports the establishment of alternative legacy architecture. However, responsibility for that rests within the political sphere. In the absence of such alternative arrangements, PSNI will continue to fulfil its statutory obligations and remain committed to providing the best possible service we can to families who lost loved ones."

Amnesty International UK is supporting the family. Its Northern Ireland campaign manager Grainne Teggart said: "This tragic story should be a matter of national shame for the UK. It is utterly appalling that the family have been left without justice for nearly 44 years."

Belfast Telegraph