The Provisional IRA has said it was responsible for a gunshot that killed schoolgirl Kathleen Feeney during a battle with the British Army in Derry in 1973.
At the time, it was believed that the girl had died as a result of shots fired by British troops. However, family members have long insisted the shot that killed Kathleen was fired by an IRA Volunteer.
The statement, released in Derry this week, reads in full:
“On 14th November 1973, 14-yearold Kathleen Feeney was shot dead in Quarry Street, Derry.
“The IRA in Derry, in a statement, denied that any of its volunteers were responsible for the death of Kathleen Feeney. In a further statement, the IRA in Derry claimed to have carried out an operation against the British Army in retaliation for the death of Kathleen Feeney.
“The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has been asked by the Feeney family to examine the circumstances surrounding the death of their sister and to publicly acknowledge that she was killed by the IRA.
“The IRA leadership agreed to do so. We found, as the Feeney family have always believed, that Kathleen was hit by one of a number of shots fired by an IRA Active Service Unit that had fired upon a British army foot-patrol in the Lecky Road area.
“The IRA accepts responsibility for the death of Kathleen Feeney. Our failure to publicly accept responsibility for her death until now has only added to the hurt and pain of the Feeney family.
“The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann wish to apologise unreservedly to the Feeney family for the death of Kathleen and for all the grief that our actions have caused to them.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams welcomed the move.
“The most important element in all of that is the Feeney family,” he said.
“I would hope that the statement helps to bring closure to that family and I therefore welcome that statement.
“At least the IRA is prepared to stand up and take responsibility for something that they did.
“There is an absence of that both in terms of armed organisations and in terms of politicians,” Mr Adams said.
In a statement yesterday, the Feeney family said they had sought an unconditional apology for the death of their sister.
“It is the family’s wish that this will help bring closure,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Dublin and London governments are to appoint a forensic expert to help find the still-missing remains of victims of the conflict, known as the ‘Disappeared’.
The appointment of an expert skilled in finding human remains was suggested to the governments more than three years ago.
Speaking in Dublin, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams questioned why the governments had taken until now to follow up on his party’s proposal. “I welcome that they have finally moved but there’s a question mark as to why it took so long,” he said.
Mr Adams said he hoped those bodies still to be found would be located and returned to their families for burial.
“I’m fairly certain, without raising expectations, that we will eventually get those remains and give them back to the families,” he said. “We have never stopped trying to help. I understand that this is a horrendously difficult issue, particularly for families who are being denied a funeral.”
He made his remarks as the families of others who have gone missing, presumed dead, also called for such a government-appointed specialist to help investigate their cases.
The IRA has attempted to identify the graves of nine victims whose remains have not been recovered, but five have still to be found.