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Girl shot in back by soldier ‘treated like a piece of meat’

Majella O’Hare, aged 12 and from the village of Whitecross in Co Armagh, had been walking to church in August 1976 when she was struck by two bullets.

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A girl shot in the back by a soldier in Northern Ireland was treated like a piece of meat, an eyewitness said (Family/PA).

A girl shot in the back by a soldier in Northern Ireland was treated like a piece of meat, an eyewitness said (Family/PA).

A girl shot in the back by a soldier in Northern Ireland was treated like a piece of meat, an eyewitness said (Family/PA).

A girl shot in the back by a soldier in Northern Ireland was treated like a piece of meat, an eyewitness said.

Majella O’Hare, aged 12 and from the village of Whitecross in Co Armagh, had been walking to church in August 1976 when she was struck by two bullets, Amnesty International said.

Her family has demanded an independent investigation into her death.

Amnesty is helping organise the campaign for justice as part of its wider effort to ensure former armed forces members during the 30-year conflict are not “above the law”. It has taken testimony from witnesses to the killing.

Majella was lifted just like a piece of meat and thrown in head firstAlice Devlin

Nurse Alice Devlin went to Majella’s aid and described the schoolgirl’s treatment after a helicopter arrived to bring her to hospital.

She said: “Majella was lifted just like a piece of meat and thrown in head first.”

She alleged: “They just wanted to get her off the road, get rid of her, get her out of the way.”

She travelled in the helicopter with the child but she was pronounced dead upon arrival at Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital.

Ms Devlin added: “I know now that on our way in Majella had passed.”

At the time soldiers claimed the shooting had been in response to an IRA sniper attack.

A soldier was later charged by the Royal Ulster Constabulary with manslaughter but acquitted in court.

But that is my babyJim O'Hare

In 2011, the UK government issued an apology to the O’Hare family in a letter which acknowledged the soldier’s courtroom explanation was “unlikely”.

The family want the record set straight on what happened to Majella and have written to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) requesting an independent investigation.

Ms Devlin said she saw Majella lying on the road with her late father Jim kneeling over her.

“You can imagine what it was like for that father to see his child lying dying on the road.”

She said the soldiers told him to get away.

He said: “But that is my baby.”

She said the child was badly wounded and she was giving her CPR on the road when the helicopter landed to bring her to hospital.

Police said the death sits within the caseload of its Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) for future review in accordance with a case sequencing system.

A spokeswoman added: “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.”

She said in the absence of such alternative arrangements, PSNI will continue to fulfil its statutory obligations and remain committed to providing the best possible service it can to families who lost loved ones.

The girl’s brother Michael O’Hare said: “The truth cannot be concealed any longer.

“We need an investigation, there must be justice for Majella.

“The truth must out.

“My family deserve accountability for what happened.”

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Grainne Teggart from Amnesty International said justice must be done (Liam McBurney/PA).

Grainne Teggart from Amnesty International said justice must be done (Liam McBurney/PA).

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Grainne Teggart from Amnesty International said justice must be done (Liam McBurney/PA).

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, said it had been 44 torturous years for Majella’s family.

“Justice must be done.

“Witnesses to the horrific events of that day are ready to help with an independent investigation, the passage of time has not diminished their memory.

“Their appeal to the PSNI to establish this long overdue investigation must be heard.

“The family have had an apology from the UK Government, but this rings hollow without action and accountability.”

PA