Category: Archive

Families call for victims minister to resign

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

In letters sent out on Friday to the families of Stephen McConomy, who was 11, and Daniel Hegarty, 15, Browne claimed the RUC had already answered the relatives’ concerns in detail, although no soldier was prosecuted for either killing.
In each letter, Browne ends with the same sign-off. “The information [in the letter] represents the last substantive response this office is expecting to make in relation to the details of your case.”
School pupil Stephen McConomy was shot in the head with a plastic bullet gun by a member of the Royal Anglian Regiment in April 1982. He died a short time later.
Daniel Hegarty was shot twice in the head by a member of the Royal Scots Regiment on July 31, 1972. His family argues that no proper investigation was ever conducted into the killing.
Browne’s response comes after last week’s High Court judgment in the case of Kathleen Thompson, when it was ruled there had been no proper investigation into her killing by the British army in similarly disputed circumstances.
Hegarty’s sister, Margaret Brady, and the aunt of Stephen McConomy, Rhona Toland, said they were disgusted by Browne’s reaction to their demand for a full investigation.
Brady said: “I think he should resign. He is not worthy of the title and should hang his head in shame. Let all victims be treated equally. He cannot keep covering up for the soldiers.”
Toland said the letter that her family had received was almost identical to that received by the Hegarty family, and challenged its contents. “The letter said that a full investigation had been carried out by the police. If that is the case we want to see the files,” she said.
“The tone of his letter was deeply patronizing. He said he was writing out of good will. What does good will have to do with it? My sister and her two boys have the right to know what happened to Stephen,” Toland added.
Browne lists his interests on the House of Commons website as legal affairs and human rights. He was a member of the Scottish Council for Civil Liberties and the Children’s Rights Group. The families now intend to contact these organizations to alert them to the replies he has given them.
Meanwhile, a Loyalist Volunteer Force man who was involved in the sectarian killing of a Catholic grandmother in Portadown has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Passing sentence, the judge said it was difficult to think of a more “bigoted, cowardly and despicable activity” than persecuting people in their homes because they were of a different religion.
Philip Blaney, 37, of Lurgan, Co. Armagh, was jailed for the manslaughter of Elizabeth O`Neill. She died in a pipebomb attack on her home in 1999 as she tried to save her family by throwing a pipe bomb through a window.
The device landed in her kitchen. She heard the smashing window and rushed in to try and get it out of the house before it exploded, but it detonated and killed her instantly.
O’Neill was a Catholic who married a Protestant. The couple lived and raised their family in a mainly Protestant area.
The judge said it had been a planned attack involving the use of explosives carried out by a paramilitary gang for purely sectarian purposes, directed against families of mixed religion with a view to driving them out of the estate.
Blaney will serve concurrent sentences for three other offences. The judge said these were serious crimes committed by Blaney in association with the LVF. The other members of the gang have yet to be charged.
O’Neill’s family say they are satisfied with the sentence. Her son Martin said: “We’re happy enough, I wasn’t expecting him to get anywhere near 12 years. The wool wasn’t pulled over the judge’s eyes.”
Delivering the verdict, the judge said Blaney had limited intellectual and verbal ability but he was satisfied he knew the activity in which he was participating was wrong.
Also this week, a 13-year-old girl escaped injury after finding a pipe bomb outside her house in Ballymena. The teenager discovered the device in the driveway of the house.
British army explosives experts later defused the bomb and took it away for forensic tests. The police say the motive for the attack was probably sectarian as graffiti was daubed on the family’s garage door.
Meanwhile, the father of murdered loyalist Billy Wright has failed in a bid to gain access to police investigation files on the controversial killing. There have been persistent allegations of collusion in the murder.
Wright, a multiple killer himself, was shot dead inside the walls of the maximum security Maze Prison in 1997. His father was told this week that he did not yet have to see police papers.
Justice Kerr said Wright must wait until a probe by retired Canadian judge Peter Cory into the circumstances surrounding the LVF leader’s death is completed.
“If it’s concluded that such a further inquiry is required in Mr Wright’s case, that will be the occasion on which to determine whether the contents of the police investigation file should be revealed.
“At present it’s impossible to conclude that the file must be released to the applicant in order that an effective investigation take place,” he said.

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