Brother vows to continue justice struggle for sibling killed by British soldier

‘My brother was murdered, an 11-year-old child was murdered at the hands of the British army, and no one was held accountable’

For Emmett McConomy, the passing of the British government’s controversial legacy legislation turned Wednesday into a “traumatic day”.

“It’s a sad, sad day for victims and victims’ families, it’s a sad day for justice on these islands,” he said. “Mum always held on to the hope that something, that someone would see sense, that someone would put a stop to this, but the fight is not over, the fight is definitely not over.”

Emmett was about to turn eight when his oldest brother, 11-year-old Stephen, was killed in 1982. He was out playing near his home in Derry’s Bogside when he was hit in the head at point-blank range by a plastic bullet fired by soldiers from inside a British army Saracen car.

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He was fatally brain-damaged and spent three days on a life support machine before it was switched off.

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“Mum and the rest of us were absolutely traumatised at the death of our older brother, we never recovered from that,” said Mr McConomy. “My brother was murdered, an 11-year-old child was murdered at the hands of the British army, and no one was held accountable.”

The McConomy family has always felt those responsible should face prosecution, but the legacy legislation means this prospect has been closed down.

“We are entitled to justice the same as any other person in society is entitled to justice, regardless of the passage of time,” he added. “The British government has painted a picture that they’re doing us a favour by ‘drawing a line’ under the past for us. Victims have never been the blockages to truth. The blockages to truth have always been the [Ministry of Defence] and the British army and the British government, those are the organisations and peoples who have systematically blocked avenues to truth and justice.”

Under the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, criminal and civil investigations and inquests will be stopped and replaced with inquiries carried out by a new body, the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery, which has the power to offer conditional amnesties for perpetrators.

Legal advice

It is opposed by the North’s five main political parties, victims and human rights groups, the Irish Government, other parties in Ireland and in Britain, and internationally. It is supported by veterans’ groups.

It is expected that the Bill will be challenged in the courts. And the Irish Government is taking legal advice about the possibility of taking the British government to the European Court of Human Rights over its concerns that the law breaches international human rights law.

“Families need someone to stand alongside them,” said Mr McConomy. “We know that the British government is not prepared to stand alongside us, so the onus falls now on the Irish Government to step up to the plate … and publicly state what they are prepared to, and what they are willing to, do to support victims across this island to achieve truth and justice.

“They can’t stand idly by and let the British government run roughshod over this whole process and trample across the memory of our loved ones.”

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times