‘Private’ MoD apology should be public Government apology

24 April 2013

oday Mark Durkan MP will be asking the British government to publically apologise for the killing of William McGreanery, who was shot dead by a British soldier on 15th September 1971 at the junction of Laburnum Terrace and Elmwood Terrace in Derry. He was 41 years old. The family have travelled to Westminster this morning with PFC staff member Sara Duddy.

At the time of the shooting, the British Army stated that Billy had been holding a rifle and aiming at an army observation post when the soldier opened fire. In 2010 the McGreanery family received a report from the Historical Enquiries Team that concluded that this was untrue. He was not carrying a gun and did not pose a threat to soldiers.

The HET report also stated that the head of the RUC in Derry at the time, Frank Lagan, recommended that the soldier who shot Billy should be prosecuted for murder. This recommendation was overruled by the Attorney General at the time, Sir Basil Kelly, who stated that a soldier could not be prosecuted for murder because he was “acting in the course of his duty.”

In September 2011 the McGreanery family received an apology from the Chief of General Staff, Sir Peter Wall, who acknowledged that Billy was an innocent man and apologised for his death on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.

In July 2012 the Pat Finucane Centre wrote to the Secretary of State at the time, Owen Patterson, requesting that the apology be officially recognised by government and recorded in parliament. Mr Patterson responded in August 2012 stating that while the apology received from the Ministry of Defence was “on behalf of the government” such correspondence was “private” and “is not placed on any official parliamentary record.” This amounts to an equivocation of the apology received from the Ministry of Defence.

The McGreanery family, supported by the Pat Finucane Centre, have asked Foyle MP Mark Durkan to raise this issue at an adjournment debate in Westminster today. The family have the right to a full and proper apology for Billy’s death, and an acknowledgement that he wasn’t a “gunman” as claimed by the army and widely repeated in the media.