15 May 2003 Edition

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McConomy family wants truth from soldiers

Members of the family of Stephen McConomy, the eleven-year-old Derry schoolboy killed by a British Army plastic bullet in April 1982, traveled to London on Wednesday to hand deliver four letters to the Minister of Defence, Geoff Hoon MP. The letters were personally addressed to the four British soldiers who were in the Saracen in the Bogside when Stephen was killed, including the soldier who fired the fatal plastic bullet.

McConomy was shot in the head when a British soldier fired on him and a group of friends who were playing at a makeshift barricade on Fahan Street on 19 April 1982. He died three days later in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

Stephen's family want the soldiers to get in touch with the Pat Finucane Centre. They have enclosed a personal statement to the four soldiers with the letters. The family's request to the soldiers is a simple one - that they contact the Pat Finucane Centre and tell them the simple truth about how and why Stephen was killed:

"We know nothing we can do will bring Stephen back. But at the same time it is very hard for us to lay him to rest until we know the whole truth, until the injustice that was done to Stephen and to us is properly acknowledged," wrote the family.

"We have known your name, and the names of all the soldiers involved in Stephen's killing, for a long time. In the absence of any serious help in finding the truth from the Victims Minister we are now asking you directly, as the key people involved in Stephen's death, to come forward and contact the Pat Finucane Centre. We are hoping, after 21 years, now that you are a bit older and wiser, that you will understand how important it is for a family to know the truth about how and why their son and brother died. If you now have children of your own, possibly around the same age Stephen was when he was killed, you will understand the pain that losing him has caused for his family.

"Do you remember that evening? Do you remember the sight of Stephen lying on the ground, just a few feet from your Saracen? Can you help our family by just coming forward and telling us what really happened that evening? Our lives have never been the same since Stephen was killed. They never will be the same. But you can help us to at least get the truth. All you have to do is speak to the Pat Finucane Centre. That isn't too much to ask after the pain that my family has been suffering for the past 21 years."

In the letter to Geoff Hoon, Pat Finucane Centre coordinator Paul O'Connor gives details on the four soldiers and states:

"All of the above were members of B Company 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment based at Fort George Army base in Derry in 1982. The family is anxious to clarify the contradictions that exist between the evidence of the soldiers, the evidence of civilian witnesses and the version of events recently offered by a government minister. To this end we are requesting that you ensure that the enclosed letters are delivered to the above named individuals.

"The experience of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry demonstrates that the MoD is in a position to contact soldiers years after their period of service has ended and we do not, therefore, anticipate any difficulties in this regard. Given the seriousness of the issue and the moral duty owed to the McConomy family by the MoD, we presume that you will treat this request sympathetically and without delay. Members of the McConomy family have travelled to London to personally deliver this correspondence to the MoD and we would urge that this matter be expedited with the urgency it deserves."

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