Belfast Telegraph

Family of first child (9) killed during Troubles continue to seek prosecution 50 years on

Troops line Divis Street, Belfast, during the Troubles
Troops line Divis Street, Belfast, during the Troubles

The family of Patrick Rooney, the first child to be killed during the Troubles, continue to seek a prosecution 50 years on from the fatal shooting in Belfast.

Patrick was nine years old when he was shot dead on August 15 1969 in his home in Divis Flats at the bottom of the Falls Road in west Belfast.

He was hit by a bullet fired by the RUC outside on the street.

Seven people died or were fatally wounded before the army's deployment in Belfast restored calm following rioting in Belfast in August 1969. 

Patrick's mother Alice told the Irish Times how she had her husband Neely contemplated their escape from their home in the Divis Flats during the violence.

"I saw all the flashes of the tracer bullets going past the flats, and as I opened the door, I must have been grazed with one of them," she said.

"It was like a burning sensation. You couldn't have gone outside."

Patrick had been allowed to stay up late to watch a movie.

Con, Patrick's brother, who was eight years old at the time, said: "You could see all of the bullets flying about the place. The next minute my daddy says to my mummy, 'Alice, I'm shot', and then Patrick slumped down the wall."

"I said, god, he's fainted'," said Alice, "because he slid down the wall, but when I lifted him up the blood was coming from the back of his head."

Con remembers his mother at the door screaming that Patrick had been shot as the family tried to drag him back in.

Alice picked Patrick up and placed him on the bed. The family knelt around him and prayed.

Patrick was the first child to die in the Troubles.

The bullet had been fired by the RUC.  IN 2016 the Police Ombudsman began an investigation and interviewed a former member of the RUC as part of that inquiry. It is understood a file is now the the Public Prosecution Service, which is deciding whether a prosecution should be brought.

"They (RUC) were firing indiscriminately, just opening up anywhere," said Con. "The bullets ripped through the place, they came through the windows and ripped through the plasterboard, everything."

The Scarman Report found there had been no justification for the firing which killed Patrick.

Patrick's father Neely, who was also struck by a bullet, campaigned his whole life on his son's behalf. He has since passed away.

"Justice and compensation was what my daddy said," said Con. "He wanted to know who fired the shots, why they fired them, things like that.

"You can’t forget about it. Of the [RUC men in the] three Shorelands who came in that night, I think there is only one still alive. So he’s probably in his 70s now, and people say sure he’s an old man, but I say: 'How would you like it if I shot your son and years later you found out it was me and I said, ‘Ah just forget about it, it happened so many years ago'".

He added: "It would be brilliant if we did have a case brought. To know that we beat the establishment and the truth is going to come out. It would be like the weight of the world lifting off our shoulders."

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