A call by Sinn Féin for the publication of a report of Deputy Garda Commissioner Eugene Crowley on the shooting of Aidan McAnespie has been rejected by the Dublin government.
The twenty-four-year-old from the County Tyrone border town of Aughnacloy was shot down in broad daylight in 1988, less than 300 yards from a permanent British army/RUC checkpoint in the town.
He had been hounded and harrassed by the crown forces since 1981 and right up until the morning of his death, when he and his mother Elizabeth were stopped and detained at Aughnacloy British Army base for two hours on their way back from the wake of a relative.
Minutes before his murder, Aidan McAnespie had left his car on the Aughnacloy side of the checkpoint to avoid harassment from Crown forces and instead walked through on his way to attend a Gaelic football match taking place some 500 yards down the road.
He had been the target of systematic harassment since the age of 17. On the day of his death, his movements would have been routinely noted by the Crown forces as he passed through the checkpoint.
The widespread belief was that a British soldier carefully took aim through a small observation hatch in the watchtower and delberately shot to kill an identified target.
Almost immediately, the British attempted to whitewash the true circumstances of McAnespie’s death. The British army issued a statement saying he was killed as a result of an “accidental discharge” from a machine gun.
A recent report of the Historical Enquiries Team of the PSNI concluded that this version of the shooting, given by the British soldier responsible, was not credible.
In a Dail adjournment dabate on the subject this week, Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Caoimhghin O Caolain called for truth and justice for the McAnespie family.
“After many years of official silence the Historical Enquiries Team of the PSNI has published its report on the shooting of Aidan McAnespie,” he said.
“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.
However, responding to the call, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said he would not release the report, ostensibly to protect the identity of witnesses.
Despite the refusal, Sinn Féin has said it will continue to campaign for the truth in the case.