Belfast Telegraph

Bloody Sunday soldier who shot our father will answer to God

Kevin McKinney, whose father Gerard died on Bloody Sunday
Kevin McKinney, whose father Gerard died on Bloody Sunday
Gerard on his wedding day with his wife Ita
A casualty is carried away on Bloody Sunday
Mr McKinney’s daughter Regina McLaughlin
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

The son and daughter of Bloody Sunday victim Gerard McKinney have said the soldier who killed their father will have to "answer to God" and they are not pushing for his prosecution.

Father-of-eight Mr McKinney (35) was shot in the chest at Abbey Park in the Bogside, and 13 other people died after paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights march in Londonderry on January 30, 1972.

At the weekend it was revealed that Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to bring forward legislation to protect soldiers from prosecution for alleged historic abuses.

It was reported that he is to propose a 10-year limit for the prosecution of military veterans.

It comes after claims that four veterans are expected to be charged with murder over Bloody Sunday.

Witnesses said that when he saw a soldier, Mr McKinney stopped and held up his arms shouting 'Don't shoot! Don't shoot!' before being gunned down.

The bullet went through his body and struck Gerard Donaghy behind him.

Mr McKinney's daughter Regina McLaughlin said: "What's the point in putting them in jail? Their children and grandchildren are going to lose them, just as I lost my daddy."

Her brother Kevin, a father-of-six who now lives in Donegal, was just 11 years old when his dad died.

Mr McKinney said his family had forgiven the soldier, as he "was not to blame, rather it was the British Establishment, who sent him there".

St Mary's Church, on the Creggan Estate, during the Requiem Mass for the 13 who died on 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry.
St Mary's Church, on the Creggan Estate, during the Requiem Mass for the 13 who died on 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry.
30th January 1972: An armed soldier and a protestor on Bloody Sunday when British Paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians on a civil rights march.
A young Fr Edward Daly carries a blood-soaked hankie as he leads a group of men trying desperately to carry John 'Jackie' Duddy to safety. Duddy (17) was the first fatality of Bloody Sunday after being shot from behind by paratroopers
A young Fr Edward Daly (now Bishop Daly) carries a blood-soaked hankie as he leads a group of men trying desperately to carry John 'Jackie' Duddy to safety. Duddy (17) was the first fatality of Bloody Sunday after being shot from behind by paratroopers
Bloody Sunday
A scene showing a British paratrooper near Glenfada Park in Derry where Bloody Sunday took place.
Hugh Gilmore (third left) seen clutching his stomach as he is shot during Bloody Sunday.
Paddy Doherty, who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
William McKinney, killed on Bloody Sunday.
Scenes from 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Lt Col Derek Wilford, the former commander of the members of the Parachute Regiment involved in the Bloody Sunday shootings
A protest parade in was staged in Londonderry in January to mark the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday
Hugh Gilmore who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Michael McDaid who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
:Bloody Sunday.
Soldiers taking cover behind their sandbagged armoured cars during Bloody Sunday
Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery in his room at the Old Bailey as he looks through his report on the "Bloody Sunday" shootings
Jim Wray who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
John Young who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
William McKinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Kevin McElhinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Gerard McKinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Gerald Donaghey who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Alana Burke who was eighteen when she was run over by an armoured personnel carrier on Bloody Sunday.
Bloody Sunday. January 1972
Patrick Doherty who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Bloody Sunday. Funeral. Mrs Ita McKinney, 9 months pregnant cries behind the hearse carrying her husband James from St Mary's, Creggan. 2/2/1972.
Michael Kelly who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
A man receiving attention during the shooting incident in Londonderry, which became known as Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
JAMES WRAY IN HIS HOME IN THE BOGSIDE DERRY HOLDING THE COAT WITH BULLIET HOLES IN THAT HIS SON ALSO CALLED JAMES WRAY WAS KILLED ON BLOODY SUNDAY
The start of a grim day in Derry. Civil Rights marchers make their way through Creggan. They defied a Government ban and headed for Guildhall Square, but were stopped by the Army in William Street. 31/1/1972
Bloody Sunday 1972
Linda Nash carries flowers with the number 14 inscribed during yesterdays annual Bloody Sunday Parade in Derry. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 29.1.12
A memorial to those killed on Bloody Sunday in the Bogside area of Derry
The memorial to the 14 people who died on Bloody Sunday in Derry rises from among the sea of umbrellas as all the families came together in an ecumenical service. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights mark.The service included contributions from Father Michael Canny and Reverend David Latimer, left. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 29.1.12

"We are a very religious family, and as such I believe in forgiveness," he said.

"In my work as a trade union official I represent workers.

"And the only way you make someone pay is by taking the monetary value off them.

"That is the reality that we live in."

Kevin's 80-year-old mother Ita was awarded £625,000 in compensation last year over her husband's death.

Kevin said the Government, politicians and all those involved in the day's killings should be put on trial, and that the "soldier played only a small part in a bigger machine".

"The money that my mother got last year was too little, too late," he added.

"She raised us, all eight of us, on a shoestring, on a widow's pension.

"And she got a measly £13,000 at the time.

"So when I look at where my bitterness lay in all of this, the soldier was the person who pulled the trigger, but the people who were responsible for it, as far as I'm concerned, are the Establishment. Most of the people who were involved in the day are all dead, and good luck to them, whether they went up or down.

"They all had a hand to play in it.

"The soldier was just a small part in the bigger cog, and to me that is what the issue is.

"Putting a soldier in jail wouldn't make me happy whatsoever.

"Put the British Establishment on trial, as well as the unionist politicians of the day who were instrumental in the organisation of the paratroopers coming in.

"General Michael Jackson, the generals, all the majors and the politicians who caused this as much as anyone else.

"Those are the people who should be put on trial.

"It will never happen though."

Kevin said that he lives with the memories of what happened in Derry on Bloody Sunday every day.

He said that although he was a prime candidate to join the IRA after the murder of his father, he resisted because he didn't want to hurt his mother, and he needed to look after his baby brother - born seven days after his father was killed and named after him - who tragically died in a car accident.

"I have forgiven the soldier who shot my father," he said.

"But when I was 15 and 16 years old I was a very bitter young fella towards the soldiers and towards the police.

"When I started driving I was tortured and I was getting stopped everywhere.

"It was just harassment.

"The house was always getting raided by soldiers and I was arrested.

"They were marking my card from the point of view that I was an absolute candidate to join the IRA.

"But there were a few things that stopped me from joining up.

"I couldn't have done that to my mother, I couldn't have hurt her like that.

"It would have killed her altogether.

"My brother Gerard was born a week after my father was killed.

"He became like a son to me in some senses, because I was the oldest and he was the youngest.

"I was very protective of him. I taught him to drive, got him working for me.

"He was 27 years old when he was killed in a car accident 20 years ago near Magherafelt.

"He was killed in August, and his own son was born three months later. He never saw his daddy, just like Gerard never saw his daddy."

Kevin said that his family have a strong faith that has helped them endure the tragedies that have befallen them.

And that faith has allowed them the space to forgive.

"Our faith is very strong," he said.

"Whatever these soldiers did, they will have to answer to God.

"If the soldiers are prosecuted, so be it. If they are not, so be it.

"From a religious point of view as a family, we know that their day will come and they will have to answer to God.

"And maybe they have answered already.

"Maybe they've had a hard life, maybe they have had regrets that we can't see.

"At the end of the day people deserve forgiveness if they have retribution."

Kevin said that the potential legal protection for military veterans just "makes a mockery of the British justice system".

"It doesn't make sense," he said.

"Murder is murder, if it happened 20 years ago or five years ago or 40 years ago.

"Why should they be protected and given this safety net just because they are military?

"It makes a mockery of the justice system.

"How can anyone say from a legal or a justice point of view that that was acceptable?

"In the case of Bloody Sunday, if there are prosecutions or there are no prosecutions, I don't care.

"It's not about the soldier.

"You can put the blame on the soldier who fired the shot, but he is not to blame.

"There was more to it than that.

"What is on trial here is the British legal system."

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