Ireland: Doubt thrown on British Army claim

July 19, 2008

The family of Aidan McAnespie, shot dead by a British soldier after he passed through a checkpoint on the Monaghan/Tyrone border between the Republic of Ireland and the six counties of British-occupied Northern Ireland 20 years ago on his way to a football match, say a new report into his death heralds another phase in their campaign for the truth.

The investigation, by the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) historical enquires team (HET) challenges the British Army's version of events, which maintains the killing was caused by an accidental discharge from a general purpose machine gun (GPMG).

After the report was released on June 24, Aidan's sister, Eilish, said: "We welcome the fact that the HET has highlighted the glaring inconsistencies in the official version of events."

McAnespie's family has now called for Irish justice minister Dermot Ahern to release the report of the separate Garda investigation into the killing.

On February 21, 1988, McAnespie was shot and fatally wounded by a soldier firing a GPMG from the permanent British Army checkpoint at Aughnacloy. Grenadier guardsman David Holden was charged with manslaughter, but the director of public prosecutions later withdrew the charge.

Holden claimed that he was moving the GPMG when his wet fingers slipped on to the trigger, which resulted in the discharge of three shots, one of which struck McAnespie in the back.

The HET report said that this version of events, reiterated by the British Army, "could be considered to be the least likely".

McAnespie was routinely stopped and harassed by the British Army as he passed through the Aughnacloy checkpoint on his way to work or going to his football club. He had made numerous complaints to the Royal Ulster Constabulary about harassment and had raised this in the media.

In the minutes before the shooting, there is incontrovertible evidence that he was being tracked as he walked through the checkpoint.

Backing the family's call for the findings of the Garda investigation to be released, Sinn Fein Cavan/Monaghan parliamentarian Caoimhghin O Caolain said: "During the course of that inquiry I ... outlined the litany of harassment Aidan had endured. Like many others who participated in that inquiry I find it totally unacceptable that the report is still being kept secret after over 20 years."

[Reprinted from An Phoblacht (Republican News).]

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