Mother’s tears as British government finally says sorry for daughter's death
The brother of Majella O’Hare says his family does not want to meet the soldier who shot his sister in the back as she walked to church.
Michael O’Hare was speaking as he left a meeting with Secretary of State Owen Paterson yesterday, following a letter to the family from Defence Secretary Liam Fox offering "profound apologies" for the 12-year-old's death.
The Government’s apology followed a report by the Historical Enquiries Team.
Despite the letter of contrition, the O’Hare family said after yesterday’s meeting at Hillsborough that they don’t want to meet the soldier who fired the fatal shot.
Michael Williams was acquitted of Majella's manslaughter in 1977.
Now believed to be in his 50s, the former soldier is understood to live in England. Michael says his family no longer wants to meet the soldier. He said: "Mum always thought she might have wanted to speak to him but a friend suggested to me, why would we want to? If he did agree to meet us now, you would wonder was it more for himself. As a family we have abandoned that idea."
Majella’s mum Mary revealed that she challenged Williams at the end of his 1977 manslaughter trial during which he was acquitted. The frail 88-year-old said yesterday: "I spoke to him. I went up to him in the court and asked him: ‘Are you proud of what you did, killing Majella?’ He just shrugged his shoulders." Mr O’Hare said he was concerned that Liam Fox didn’t completely rule out the possibility of shots being fired by a gunman on the day Majella died.
He said: "In his letter, Mr Fox said he felt it was ‘unlikely’ there was a gunman in the area but we know there was no third-party involvement. Using the word ‘unlikely’ leaves it open that there was someone there, and that was not the case."
The grieving brother said that his family still feels hurt despite the passing of over three decades.
He said: "We have to accept that closure never happens in a case like this. If you lose a child or sibling, closure is a term that never really comes.
"It is not closure, but we have moved along the way. It has been a long time coming. It still does not avoid the fact that Majella is dead as a result of their actions."
In his letter to the O’Hare |family, Mr Fox said he was "shocked and saddened" by the Historical Enquiries Team report into the killing. The letter read: "The soldier’s actions resulted in the loss of a young and innocent life, causing sorrow and anguish for those who knew and loved Majella. On behalf of the Army and the Government, I am profoundly sorry that this tragic incident should have happened."
Jane Winter from British Irish Rights Watch said she hoped the apology would clear the way for more in the future. She said: "This coalition Government does appear to have the word ‘sorry’ in its vocabulary. I have heard them say sorry now three times, both to the Bloody Sunday relatives and Billy Wright’s father, David.
"In the past, ministers were advised that the sky would fall in if they apologised. I am very much hoping this will set a precedent."
The soldier who shot Majella O’Hare, Private Michael Williams, has always maintained he opened fire in response to an IRA sniper attack. He was tried for manslaughter in 1977 but acquitted by Lord Justice Maurice Gibson who accepted there had been a gunman in the area. Williams has never met with the O’Hare family and refused to co-operate with an Historical Enquiries Team investigation in to Majella’s death.