Troubles soldier haunted by 1971 shooting of two sisters as daughter of one demands truth
A former soldier says he is still haunted by his involvement in a shooting incident which resulted in the deaths of two Belfast sisters nearly half a century ago.
Colin Rudkin, now 68, realised he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when a historical enquiries team interviewed him about the controversial killings of mother-of-three Maura Meehan (31) and her 19-year-old sister Dorothy Maguire in October 1971.
The women - who were members of Cumann na mBan, the female wing of the IRA - were unarmed passengers in a car which was fired upon by soldiers in the lower Falls area.
"They shot at us and we shot back," said Yorkshire-based Mr Rudkin, who has been receiving counselling and therapy for PTSD.
"Unfortunately the people in the car that died were two girls, both sisters."
But Maura Meehan's daughter Margaret Kennedy, who is taking legal action against the Ministry of Defence over the killings, told the Belfast Telegraph that Mr Rudkin and other soldiers should realise that victims' relatives are suffering similar trauma without getting specialist treatment.
And she added that she is opposed to Conservative MP Richard Benyon's bid to introduce a statute of limitations for former soldiers accused of serious crime while on active duty.
"There shouldn't be a law for them and another for everyone else," said Mrs Kennedy, who says she knows the identities of the three soldiers (Mr Rudkin isn't one of them) who killed her mother and aunt.
"Nobody has any right to take anybody else's life and get away with it."
She added: "I suffer from PTSD myself because of what happened but I'm not getting the special treatment he gets, or the sympathy. He might say his is more traumatic but he chose to join the Army. He wasn't forced into it."
Mr Rudkin, a father of three and grandfather of four, joined the 1st Battalion the Royal Green Jackets in 1970 and was on his first full tour of Northern Ireland the following year when the sisters were shot dead.
Some 40 years later PSNI detectives interviewed him in London about the incident and shortly afterwards he "imploded".
"I just cracked," he told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner.
"It was as if I was back in Northern Ireland and everybody knew it was me and they were coming for me.
"It was the first indication that I'd had of suffering any symptoms of PTSD. I was cowering in a corner. People must have thought I was nuts." He added: "I don't have a clue how I got home on the train. I remember sitting on the train and holding my head in my hands. I was in a right state. It all came on at once. After that the nightmares started." Mr Rudkin said he then started suffering daily flashbacks and hallucinations such as his kitchen turning into a Northern Ireland street that felt "absolutely real".
"I was on my back as if I'd been blown up," he said. "The bath was full of bits of babies. It was horrific. I was a gibbering mess."
Meanwhile, Richard Benyon, a former Army lieutenant who also served with the Royal Green Jackets in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and who introduced his proposed new legislation in the Commons yesterday, says the aim is to have a ban on both criminal and civil action which is based on allegations that are more than 10 years old.
"I think most people in Northern Ireland have moved on," said the MP for Newbury.
"Everyone I talk to says it's crazy continuing to pursue old men to their graves. There is simply no way they can get justice this long after the incident."
Mrs Kennedy, however, says her legal action against the MoD is ongoing, although the 55-year-old mother of five and grandmother of four says she is not seeking compensation and does not expect it to yield a satisfactory outcome.
"Deep down, I know we'll never get the absolute truth, or any of the soldiers being reprimanded for what they have done," she said.
"If we got the truth of what happened that night and the admission that the soldiers literally murdered my mammy and Dorothy, then we can let them rest in peace and we can get on with our lives."
She added: "After it happened, my daddy was sent hate mail, bullets in the post and threatened in his job. They said Mammy was in the IRA but she was actually on the Clonard Women's Action Committee. At that time it was about rallying and banging bin lids."
Tory MP’s blast at ‘retributive politics’
A Tory MP has accused “extreme nationalist-leaning individuals” in the Northern Ireland justice system of reigniting investigations into Army veterans who served during the Troubles.
Richard Benyon said many feared the investigations were “ a form of retributive politics”.
He is introducing draft legislation that would introduce a statute of limitations, imposing a time limit where action could be brought against British troops for their conduct during combat.
He suggested a 10-year time limit under his Armed Forces (Statute of Limitations) Bill.