The British government has publicly apologised to the family of a 13-year-old schoolboy for the “gross intrusion” caused when Crown forces used “flawed intelligence” to raid his family home eight hours after he was killed in a unionist paramilitary bomb.
Schoolboys James McCaughey and Patrick Barnard, both 13, died when a UVF car bomb exploded without warning as they walked past the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon shortly after 8pm on St Patrick’s Day 1976.
Two local men, Joseph Kelly and Andrew Small, were also killed. Dozens of others were injured in the attack.
James was so badly injured that his father Norbett could only identify him by the pioneer pin he was wearing on his jacket lapel.
Within hours the RUC police and British army raided the McCaughey home claiming they had intelligence that the explosion had been an IRA ‘own goal’ and that the schoolboy had been carrying a bomb that had exploded prematurely.
However, within 24 hours of the explosion evidence emerged that showed the UVF was responsible for the atrocity and identified the suspected bombers to police.
In December 1980 UVF man Garnet Busby confessed to the bombing and a series of other attacks.
It later emerged thaty Busby had named three others involved in the attack, but that police failed to arrest the three, who were only questioned about the bombing after they were arrested for other offences.
In an unusual move British Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward has apologised to the McCaughey family for the “pain and suffering” caused by the raid on the schoolboy’s wake.
“On behalf of the British government I would like to convey my sorrow and sympathy for the loss the McCaughey family suffered,” he said.
Mr Woodward acknowledged that the house raid had “added greatly to the pain and suffering felt by the family at a traumatic time”.
“I am deeply sorry for the hurt caused to the family in this way, he said.
A Historic Enquiries Team (HET) investigation of the British military intelligence used to justify the search of the McCaughey home concluded that it was “clearly wrong”.
“The HET do not know why the family home was searched.~
Revealing that it had been unable to find any records relating to the raid on the dead teenager’s home, the report stated: “The search was a gross intrusion of the privacy of the family home at a time when everyone was grieving lor the loss of James.~
The schoolboy’s father Norbett has welcomed the British government apology for the raid on his son’s wake but demanded a full inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the atrocity.
“Busby identified three other bombers but he was the only one convicted,” he said.
“I have instructed my solicitor Peter Corrigan to begin proceedings to reopen James’s inquest because I don’t believe there was ever any real effort made to bring all those responsible to justice.
“My wife Mary could never get over what the RUC and British army did to our family in the hours after James was murdered.
“She slept with a picture of James under her pillow every night until she died two years ago.
“Her dying wish was that our son got proper justice.
“James and Patrick Barnard were only 13 years of age. “he other two men killed had families too.
“If the British government want to really apologise to the families they should bring all the killers to justice.”
In 2008, the British government publicly apologised to the families of 15 people in the 1971 UVF bombing of McGurk’s Bar in Belfast after it emerged that the British Army had deliberately tried to portray the atrocity as an IRA ‘own goal’.