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27 November 2008 Edition

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Aidan McAnespie murder - need for truth raised in Dáil

Aidan McAnespie

Aidan McAnespie

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin this week secured a Dáil adjournment debate on the need for truth and justice on the murder of Aidan McAnespie by the British Army at Aughnacloy in 1988.
Ó Caoláin called on Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to publish the report of Deputy Garda Commissioner Eugene Crowley on the shooting in light of the Report of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) of the PSNI which has concluded that the version of the shooting given by the British soldier responsible was not credible.
The Cavan/Monaghan TD extended sympathy Aidan McAnespie’s family, including his late sister Eilish McCabe who died earlier this year. “She never gave up her struggle for truth and justice”, he said.
Aidan McAnespie was shot dead as he walked from Aughnacloy, County Tyrone to a football match at Aghaloo Gaelic Football Club on 21 February 1988. Aidan was shot in the back and killed after passing through a permanent British Army checkpoint at Aughnacloy. The weapon was a general purpose machine gun fired from the British sangar.
The British soldier who fired the shot, Grenadier Guardsman David Holden, claimed his finger slipped on the trigger. In a report published in June of this year the Historical Enquiries Team of the PSNI has found that this is the least likely explanation of what happened, giving the lie to the soldier’s account. No-one was ever charged with Aidan’s murder.

Such was the outrage at McAnespie’s death that the then Fianna Fáil government ordered a Garda inquiry. During the course of that inquiry Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin met Deputy Garda Commissioner Eugene Crowley and outlined a litany of harassment Aidan had endured at the hands of the RUC and British army. A spokesperson for the Progressive Democrats went on RTE radio to say that the Garda inquiry should not listen to anyone connected with Sinn Féin, even if they had witnessed the murder. That PD spokesperson was Mary Harney.
Speaking in the Dáil:
“After many years of official silence the Historical Enquiries Team of the PSNI has published its report on the shooting of Aidan McAnespie. The HET has found that the version offered by the British soldier who fired the fatal shot was the least likely explanation of what happened. The murder of Aidan was compounded by the lies that were told by the British Army afterwards. The soldier who fired the fatal shot claimed his finger slipped onto the trigger when he was moving the General Purpose Machine Gun. This lie has been exposed by the HET report. The McAnespie family and the community have been vindicated.
“However, the Crowley Report has not been published. It should be opened immediately to the family and then published. Like others who participated in that inquiry I find it totally unacceptable that the report is still being kept secret after over 20 years. The Minister should release the report now.”
In his response Minister Dermot Ahern claimed that it was “not possible” to release the report, alleging that it was necessary to protect the anonymity of witnesses. Deputy Ó Caoláin said this response was “very disappointing”. “Despite the Minister’s negative reply we will continue to pursue full disclosure and justice in this case”, concluded Ó Caoláin.

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