Majella O’Hare: Family calls for killing to be re-examined

Majella O'Hare: Family calls for killing to be re-examined

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Media captionMajella O'Hare, 12, was fatally wounded going to church in Whitecross

The family of a young girl shot dead by a soldier in County Armagh in 1976 is calling for a fresh investigation.

Majella O'Hare, 12, was fatally wounded going to church in Whitecross.

Solicitors have written to the PSNI asking it to appoint an outside team to examine the case, stating previous investigations lacked independence.

It comes at a time when there is controversy surrounding proposals to deal with the past, with the government committed to protecting veterans.

Michael O'Hare, the victim's brother, said: "I am fighting for justice for Majella and if it weren't for the actions of the soldier, she would still be with us."

In 1977, a Parachute Regiment soldier, Michael Williams, was acquitted of her manslaughter, claiming he had opened fire in response to an IRA sniper attack.

'Utterly appalling'

In 2011, following a review of the case by the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team, the Ministry of Defence said it was "profoundly sorry" for her death.

It added the explanation given for the soldier opening fire was "unlikely".

Majella's father was a caretaker in the local school, close to where his daughter was shot, and was one of the first to arrive on the scene.

Image caption Majella's father James O'Hare

Michael O'Hare says his father never recovered from the trauma.

"When my father arrived he knew that one of the children had been injured and hurt, but he didn't know it was Majella," he said.

"He ran to provide assistance and found it was his own daughter. The trauma began there and then and it didn't stop."

Amnesty International is supporting the family's call for an independent investigation.

Its Northern Ireland campaign manager, Grainne Teggart, said: "The apology from the Ministry of Defence should have been swiftly followed by action and accountability.

"It is utterly appalling that the family have been left without justice for 44 years."

Image caption The PSNI said the "tragic death" of Majella O'Hare would be subject to "future review"

Mr O'Hare's solicitor, Darragh Mackin, added: "The apology does not negate the need for an investigation – it in fact exacerbates the need for an investigation.

"The apology is tantamount to accepting that mistruths have been told to previous investigations."

The PSNI has previously referred some Troubles cases for investigation to Operation Kenova, the team headed by the former chief constable of Bedfordshire, Jon Boutcher.

'Tragic death'

In a statement the PSNI said the "tragic death" of Majella O'Hare would be subject to "future review" by its own Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB).

"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," a statement added.

The PSNI wants Troubles cases taken off its hands.

Image caption Majella pictured at home with her mother and father

Six years ago the Stormont House Agreement put forward the creation of an independent Historical Investigations Unit, but it has not been implemented.

Recently the government suggested alternative proposals which aim to limit new investigations.

Part of its objective is to "end the cycle of reinvestigations" of Army veterans.

Nationalist parties have expressed strong opposition and the Irish government remains supportive of the original Stormont House plan.

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